This 3-in-1 Ice Cream Sandwich device covers all bases as it attempts to be a mobile phone, tablet and netbook. Oh and there’s a stylus which you can use as a handset to answer calls. What’s not to like?
The Asus Padfone release date is set for April in the UK.
Read our hands on: Asus Padfone review
Huawei Ascend P1 S
At just 6.68mm thick the Ascend P1 S is the world’s thinnest phone. That’s not all though; Huawei has managed to squeeze a 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 4.3-inch qHD Super AMOLED and 8MP camera into the slender, plastic body.
The Huawei Ascend P1 S release date is expected to be at the end of March.
Read our hands on: Huawei Ascend P1 S review
The budget Motorola Motoluxe comes with a 4-inch FWVGA screen, 800MHz processor, 8MP camera and runs Android Gingerbread, but an update to Ice Cream Sandwich will arrive later this year.
The Motorola Motoluxe is available now for around £230.
Read our hands on: Motorola Motoluxe review
Motorola Defy Mini
The dust- and water-resistant Motorola Defy Mini is a rugged entry level phone, built to survive – not to wow. You’ll get a 600MHz processor, 3.2-inch screen, Android 2.3 Gingerbread, 120MB internal storage and a 3MP camera with LED flash.
Motorola has said the Defy Mini release date is set for Spring, but has not given us any further clues on an actual month.
Read our hands on: Motorola Defy Mini review
LG Optimus 4X HD
Stomping into the quad-core party the LG Optimus 4X HD hurls itself at the top end market with a 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 1GB RAM, 4.7-inch True HD IPS display, NFC, 8MP camera and Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The LG Optimus 4X HD UK release date will be during Q2 2012.
Read ourhands on: LG Optimus 4X HD review
HTC One X
Another pretender to the quad-core throne is the HTC One X with its 1.5GHz quad-core processor, 4.7-inch Super LCD touchscreen, 8MP camera, 32GB of internal storage and Android Ice Cream Sandwich with the new HTC Sense 4.0 overlay.
The HTC One X release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: HTC One X review
Samsung Galaxy Ace 2
The sequel to the original Ace, the Galaxy Ace 2 brings an 800MHz dual-core processor, 3.5-inch screen, 5MP camera and runs Android Gingerbread.
We reckon the Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 will come in at around £200-£300, and it’s been suggested it will arrive in late April.
Read our hands on: Samsung Galaxy Ace 2 review
Nokia 808 Pureview
Want a phone which takes amazing pictures? Then look no further, for the Nokia 808 Pureview comes packing an astonishingly gigantic 41MP camera! The rest of the specs are slightly less impressive, with a 1.3GHz single-core processor, 512MB of RAM and it comes running Symbian Belle.
According to reports the Nokia 808 Pureview release date will be 23 April and will cost around £450.
Read our hands on: Nokia 808 Pureview review
Sony Xperia P
The mid-range Sony Xperia P brings together sleek design and pleasing specs into an affordable package. You’ll get a dual-core 1GHz processor, 4-inch (540 x 960) screen, 8MP camera, NFC and Android Gingerbead – with an ICS upgrade coming later in the year.
The Sony Xperia P release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: Sony Xperia P review
HTC One S
The HTC One S is a decent mid-to-high end handset with its 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 4.3-inch AMOLED display, 8MP camera and Ice Cream Sandwich with Sense 4.0 operating system.
The HTC One S release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: HTC One S review
ZTE Mimosa X
The middle of the road ZTE Mimosa X boasts a dual-core processor, 4.3-inch qHD screen, 5MP camera and Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich in a plastic body which has a certain Nokia-esque look.
The ZTE Mimosa X release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: ZTE Mimosa X review
Nokia Lumia 610
The Nokia Lumia 610 is an entry level Windows Phone offering from the Finnish company and comes with an 800MHz processor, 256MB of RAM, 3.7-inch LCD screen, 5MP camera and runs the new Windows Phone Tango operating system.
The Nokia Lumia 610 release date is expected to be during Q2 2012 and we’ve heard it could come in at under £100.
Read our hands on: Nokia Lumia 610 review
Huawei Ascend D Quad
Huawei may still be a minnow in the mobile phone pond, but it’s not afraid to mix it with the big boys and the quad-core powered Ascend D Quad signals its intent. It runs Android Ice Cream Sandwich and also offers a 4.5-inch HD screen and 8MP snapper.
The Huawei Ascend D Quad release date is set for April.
Read our hands on: Huawei Ascend D Quad review
Samsung Galaxy Mini 2
The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 is a budget handset that performs pretty well given its modest specs. The feature list includes a single-core 800MHz processor, HVGA display Android Gingerbread and 3MP camera.
The Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 release date is still unclear, but it could cost around £100.
Read our hands on: Samsung Galaxy Mini 2 review
Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus
We didn’t see it at MWC 2012, but there is still a chance that the Samsung Galaxy S2 Plus could make an appearance prior to the much-hyped Samsung Galaxy S3 launch.
The Galaxy S2 Plus is rumoured to pack a quicker 1.5GHz processor and run Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
LG Optimus Vu
The LG Optimus Vu provides a different take on mobile computing as it boasts a unique 4:3 aspect ratio screen. The 5-inch IPS display (1024×768) display can be controlled by hand or using the bundled stylus. It’s powered by a 1.5GHZ dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM and 8MP camera while running Android Gingerbread.
The LG Optimus Vu release date is still unclear, as LG is unlikely to bring the LTE enabled Vu to the UK, but are not ruling out the possibility.
Read our hands on: LG Optimus Vu review
LG Optimus L7
The daddy in LG’s new L-style range, the LG Optimus L7 brings angular looks along with a 1GHz processor, 4.3-inch screen, 5MP camera and Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The LG Optimus L7 release date is currently unknown.
Read our hands on: hands on: LG Optimus L7 review
Sony Xperia U
The Sony Xperia U comes in at the bottom of Sony’s new phone line up, but still offers good looks and a dual-core 1GHz processor, 3.5-inch TFT display, 5MP camera and Android Gingerbread with an Ice Cream Sandwich update planned for Q2.
The Sony Xperia U release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: Sony Xperia U review
HTC One V
The HTC One V sports the design found on the Legend and slides in at the bottom of HTC’s 2012 range. It sports a 3.7-inch screen, 1GHz processor, 5MP camera and Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The HTC One V release date is set for Q2 2012.
Read our hands on: HTC One V review
Orange Santa Clara
The Intel manufactured Orange Santa Clara is the UK’s first mobile to include Intel’s new Medfield mobile processor. You get a single-core 1.6GHz Intel processor, 4-inch screen, 8MP camera and it runs Android Gingerbread, but will receive an Ice Cream Sandwich update after launch.
The Orange Santa Clara release date is set for summer 2012.
Read our hands on: Orange Santa Clara review
Samsung Galaxy Beam
The Samsung Galaxy Beam comes complete with integrated projector capable of beaming a 50-inch picture onto the wall of your choice. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and packs a 1GHz dual-core processor, backed up by a 2000mAh battery.
The Samsung Galaxy Beam release date is unclear, as we’re unsure if it will ever make it to the UK.
Read our hands on: Samsung Galaxy Beam review
Pansonic Eluga Power
The waterproof and dustproof Eluga Power is Panasonic’s new flagship mobile device packing a huge 5-inch HD display, 1.5GHz dual-core processor, 1GB of RAM, NFC, 8MP camera and running Android Ice Cream Sandwich.
The Panasonic Eluga Power release date is set for late Q2 / early Q3 2012.
Read our hands on: Pansonic Eluga Power review
ZTE’s first major offensive on the mobile market this year is the ZTE Era, a quad-core Tegra 3 running smartphone with a 4.3-inch qHD screen to boot. You will also get an 8MP camera and some tasty Ice Cream Sandwich action with the Era.
The ZTE Era release date is set for the second half of 2012.
Number 20: HTC Wildfire S
20. HTC Wildfire S
The HTC Wildfire S might only be an evolution of the popular Wildfire, but it’s proven to be an attractive handset in its own right.
It was a little bit too pricey when it first launched at over £200, but subsequent price drops have seen it come in at a much more palatable £130.
It’s got the same Sense UI as it’s bigger brothers, and a neat-enough screen too. It’s not the fastest handset in the world, but we’re still fans.
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Not a behemoth by any stretch of the imagination, the Wildfire S is definitely worth considering if you want a smartphone experience without shelling out the cash.
- HTC Wildfire S review
- Compare HTC Wildfire S offers
Number 19: HTC ChaCha
19. HTC ChaCha
The glut of Facebook phones promised at Mobile World Congress last year might not have materialised, but the ones we have been given aren’t half bad.
Our favourite is the HTC ChaCha, with a highly-usable keyboard and a dedicated Facebook key for publishing whatever it is you’re doing to the social network.
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It’s not the most advanced smartphone around, but one that’s nicely entrenched at the cheaper end of the scale and still runs the latest version of Android.
The HTC ChaCha is primarily a Facebook phone, but even if you’re not a huge fan of the blue social network you’re getting a decent BlackBerry rival and a snappy OS to boot.
- HTC ChaCha review
- Compare the best HTC ChaCha offers
Number 18: HTC Rhyme
18. HTC Rhyme
When deciding on the top 20 best mobile phones in the world, it’s sometimes tempting to only look at the super-skinny, action-packed expensive phones that promise you unlimited power and status just by owning them.
But equally, there are those that serve another purpose, which is to provide a half-decent smartphone at a more than half-decent price – and the HTC Rhyme achieves that.
Maybe it will only appeal to women (which appears to be the focus), although a second non-purple colour might save it from that fate. Still, we have a lot of love for HTC and even for ‘mid-range’ phones they have a lot of capability – the HTC Rhyme simply displays that to a tee.
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We liked the solid build and swish soft-feel/aluminium unibody design. We even liked the purple colour, which we think looks pretty classy.
The Sense 3.5 update had some nice touches, such as the lockscreen shortcuts. The camera is only 5MP but still produces some nice shots, and the phone is essentially a capable blank slate with some cool accessories that you can customise to your heart’s desire.
While the HTC Rhyme is a stylish version of a phone that’s already great in its own right, this mid-range smartphone doesn’t bring anything new to the table except a few fancy accessories – but will attract those stylistas looking for something that isn’t yet another iPhone clone.
- HTC Rhyme review
- Compare the best HTC Rhyme deals
Number 17: Google Nexus S
17. Google Nexus S
The first Android 2.3 phone to land on the market was also one of the first with NFC capabilities and a curved chassis with Super AMOLED screen from Samsung.
It’s a ‘Pure Google’ experience, which means no messing about waiting for networks to bring you the update; if Google likes it, you’ll have it (for the foreseeable future, with the Ice Cream Sandwich update landing).
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The build quality might feel a little suspect at first, but it’s robust enough and sits in the hand well, and that screen is just superb for the internet and media.
It’s now a darn sight cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Nexus too – so if you’re hankering for a pure experience on a budget, it’s definitely worth checking this out.
It’s not the best handset on the market by any stretch, and it’s not much better than a simple update to the Samsung Galaxy S. But what we do like about this phone is the simple Google experience – if you’re after Ice Cream Sandwich on a budget with no frills, then this will be the way to do it.
Plus the NFC chip means you can do some cool stuff in the future too, like using Android Beam to send links or YouTube videos to friends by bumping phones.
- Google Nexus S review
- Compare Google Nexus S offers
Number 16: Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini / Mini Pro
16. Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini / Mini Pro
Sony Ericsson managed something of an underground hit with the original Xperia X10 Mini range, and has predictably brought the line-up back with a powerful refresh.
The new line-up (the Mini Pro features a keyboard, but is otherwise pretty much identical to the Mini) has a 1GHz processor under the hood and a much bigger 3-inch screen compared to last year’s model, which makes a big difference.
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That improved processor also means things like Flash player support too, and while HD video recording isn’t the best on test, it’s still a decent option to have over other smartphones.
The Xperia Mini range is a quirky offering that will appeal to those that love the idea of a teeny smartphone.
The price tag is a little too high to dub it truly budget-busting, but if you’re after a phone that will fit in any pocket, with or without a keyboard, then this duo is definitely worth checking out.
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini review
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro review
- Compare the best Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini offers
- Compare the best Sony Ericsson Xperia Mini Pro offers
Number 15: iPhone 4
15. iPhone 4
The iPhone 4 was the most impressive iPhone ever when launched, and a big step up from the iPhone 3GS.
The iPhone 4′s 960×640 Retina Display was a revelation when it was launched in 2010. It’s got 326 pixels per inch, and we’re talking tiny pixels, only 78 micrometers wide.
The Retina Display, especially, is hands-down one of the clearest, most enjoyable screens we’ve seen on a handheld, and the sheer amount of technology packed into the device might no longer be surprising, but it’s still worth a gander.
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The 3G reception disappearing problem is gone now with newer builds (although Apple would never admit to it being a problem) and you can finally get the darned thing in white.
But the big win for the iPhone 4 is the fact it runs so much better in the new iOS 5 – it’s faster and the battery lasts longer, with a whole heap of functionality making it feel like a brand new phone.
While the iPhone 4S is clearly the superior device in terms of technology, the lower price of the iPhone 4, plus the fact it looks almost identical to the new version, means this is still a fantastic phone.
Sure, you don’t get the likes of Siri’s voice recognition on there, but iOS 5 is still a fantastic upgrade to the handset, so if you don’t want to splash the cash but want to stay in Hotel Apple, this is a great phone to check out.
- Apple iPhone 4 review
- Compare iPhone 4 offers
Number 14: Samsung Galaxy Note
14. Samsung Galaxy Note
Is it a phone? Is it a tablet? Samsung wants us to believe it’s a whole new category of device – but let’s be honest, it’s essentially just a really big phone. Or a really small tablet – depending on how you like your gadgets.
Given the penchant for so many to browse rather than make calls on their pocket device, something with a huge 5.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with industry-leading internals (1.4GHz dual core processor, no less) is always going to impress.
There are very few things we can complain about with the Galaxy Note. Samsung has taken what is already a brilliant handset (the Galaxy S2) and built on it to make an even better one.
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We can’t see Samsung successfully creating a new product category with the Galaxy Note though – we just don’t imagine that many businesspeople who hate paper and love media enough to consider carrying this around, even if it doesn’t replace a smartphone.
However, if you’re a fan of smartphone brawn or can’t handle the larger screen sizes of today’s tablets, then this device is likely to please on many levels – and we haven’t even mentioned the opinion-polarising S-Pen stylus either.
- Samsung Galaxy Note review
- Compare the best Samsung Galaxy Note deals
Number 13: BlackBerry Curve 9360
13. BlackBerry Curve 9360
The Curve range has been something of a saviour for RIM in the last few years, with the immensely popular Curve 8520 still selling years after its launch.
The new Curve takes things to another level though, with the new handset offering a superbly sleek chassis, a well-designed keyboard and next-generation functionality thanks to the inclusion of NFC to connect up to other BlackBerry devices, as well as letting you pay for goods on the go.
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It’s not got the fastest processor nor the biggest battery on the market, but that doesn’t stop it being a cost-effective and useful device, especially when it comes to messaging.
You’d be forgiven for thinking the BlackBerry Curve 9360 is a premium handset, and we wholeheartedly recommend you consider this if you’re looking for a half-decent messaging device. It’s not as cheap as the other Curves out there, but a definite contender for those not looking to splash £40-odd a month on a contract.
- BlackBerry Curve 9360 review
- Compare the best BlackBerry Curve 9360 deals
Number 12: Orange Monte Carlo
12. Orange Monte Carlo
We’ve had the Orange San Francisco down as our favourite budget handset for ages now, but it’s time in the sun has finally come to an end with the announcement of the Orange Monte Carlo.
Also made by ZTE and badged by the citric network, the Monte Carlo is a superb effort for not much dollar, with a well-integrated processor and a large 4.3-inch screen seeing it fit in well with the current crop of massive smartphones.
The Orange San Francisco 2 surprisingly doesn’t make it onto the list – the much-vaunted upgrade lacks the clout of the original.
That screen isn’t the best on the market though, especially in bright sunlight, and the camera has been downgraded a little to lower the cost too.
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However, for the price we’re more than happy to forgive this, and the Monte Carlo still delivers a decent large-screen viewing experience (if you’re indoors…).
Not every phone needs to cost thousands of pounds to use, and for those that want the latest version of Android, a big screen for movies and a few pounds left over at the end of each month, the Orange Monte Carlo is one of the best phones to go for.
- Orange Monte Carlo review
- Compare the best Orange Monte Carlo offers
Number 11: Sony Xperia Arc
11. Sony Ericsson Arc S
When we talk about a Phoenix Phone, it will forever be the Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, and despite only being a few months old, it’s already been upgraded to the Xperia Arc S, which makes things even better.
It’s taken a right old tumble down our rankings thanks to now being usurped as a flagship device by the Sony Xperia S – but given it’s now got a lovely low price, it’s only just outside the top ten still in our eyes.
From the beautiful Reality Display with Bravia Engine to the powerful-yet-simple 8.1MP camera with Exmor R technology, this is one of the phones that people actually want to hold and play with when you show it off – plus it now boasts a 3D panorama mode, although you have to hook it up to a compatible big screen TV to view.
The Sony Ericsson overlay has cool features like an ‘exploded widgets’ view, and the integration of YouTube searching for videos of songs currently playing is super cool too – plus the Xperia Arc S is now rocking deeper Facebook integration and the latest version of Android: 2.3.4.
OK, it’s not dual-core powered, but Sony Ericsson has looked to fix that with a boost to a 1.4GHz processor, and until we start seeing some applications that really start to challenge these smartphones, we’re happy to recommend a phone that is slick under the finger, slim in the pocket, satisfying in the hand and kinder than many on the wallet to boot.
The hardware is extremely impressive, both in terms of looks and performance. Forget the fashionable dual-core phones – when done right, a single-core processor can still do it all, nearly a year after the tech was announced, and it costs a whole lot less.
As it is, we’re prepared to overlook the Xperia Arc S’ minor flaws thanks to its stunning good looks, superb screen and very decent photo performance. You can’t help but love it once you’ve held its magically thin body and gazed adoringly into its dazzling Reality Display – but it’s best checking out the new HD display on the Xperia S before deciding if this is the phone for you.
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S review
- Compare the best Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc S offers
Number 10: Motorola Razr
10. Motorola Razr
Don’t be thinking you’ve got caught in a time vortex – the Motorola Razr of old is back, but in a totally new form factor.
The Motorola Razr is one of those phones that, like the Atrix, we instantly looked forward to when we saw it launched.
A super thin body, oodles of RAM, Kevlar casing and a top end processor are all things we want to see in a phone of this ilk, and it’s good to see Moto attempting to compete with the likes of Samsung and Apple.
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Motorola needed a phone like the Razr in its arsenal, and now it has one to be proud of. It’s got all the dual-core power of the Atrix, plus a superior screen; more importantly, it’s jumped from a squat chassis to a sumptuous slimline affair that glides into the pocket.
The Motorola Razr is something of a Galaxy S2 clone in a number of ways – but that’s no bad thing for a smartphone. It has a decent identity of its own, with Smart Options in particular automating your phone in clever ways.
It’s a trifle expensive and doesn’t really offer too much in the way of a unique selling point – but it functions well in all areas and those looking for a slightly sharper screen will find a decent pocket-mate here.
- Motorola Razr review
- Compare the best Motorola Razr deals
Number 9: HTC Desire S
9. Desire S
The Desire S has surprised us all with its popularity – decent price drops already have seen it become a valuable proposition and place it as a good HTC alternative to the dual-core power of the HTC Sensation.
Excellent call quality, a decent camera, strong build and clever-as-ever social networking integration make this a class-leader once more, despite it no longer being the HTC top dog since the Sensation has landed.
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The HTC Desire S is a slick, compact and attractive handset that’s an improvement on its predecessor with more compact lines and an improved Sense experience – which has now been updated to the Sensation-matching Sense 3.5 offering.
It may only have a 5MP camera, but it’s got a budget-busting £20 price tag, so that means it’s still going to have a decent customer uptake even though the HTC Sensation has arrived – and we rate it ahead of the Incredible S thanks to a smoother design, greater pocketability and more advanced software upgrades, even though the camera is poorer.
- HTC Desire S review
- Compare HTC Desire S offers
Number 8: Nokia Lumia 800
8. Nokia Lumia 800
The Nokia Lumia 800 is the Finnish firm’s first handset to use Windows Phone, and it’s been a quite success – a million devices have been sold worldwide so far.
The size, shape and weight of the Nokia Lumia 800 provides a quality feel, and is a unique shape compared to many other phones on the market.
The GUI feels intuitive with a very impressive speed of response, providing a continuity of feel between applications.
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Essentially, the Nokia Lumia 800 takes the best of Windows Phone – Xbox Live integration, fantastic Office tools and a clever tile-based user interface – and adds in a great quality screen with a nice-feeling chassis.
The Nokia Lumia 800 certainly isn’t an iPhone 4S or Samsung Galaxy S2 beater – but it’s the best Windows Phone device out there. If you’re a fan of a simple interface with some quality add-ons, then you should definitely look at Nokia’s new flagship.
- Nokia Lumia 800 review
- Compare the best Nokia Lumia 800 deals
Number 7: Samsung Galaxy Nexus
7. Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The first ‘Google phone’ to come without the search giant’s branding, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus is meant to be the device that preaches the power Ice Cream Sandwich to the awe-struck Android masses.
There’s something great about having a ‘pure Google’ phone and the show-off factor is strong here since few will be able to get their hands on this. It’s got a fantastic screen, a superb new OS and extra elements like Android Beam for sharing photos, contacts or (in the future) connecting to peripherals.
And as a smartphone or even mini computer, it’s a great size with a nice weight that doesn’t feel too cumbersome to carry or use.
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The screen, when lit up, looks fantastic. Its 4.65-inches with a resolution of 720 x 1280, giving a ppi of 316. It really is super sharp. We would have expected nothing less with Samsung’s mobile displays among the best out there but it’s cracking for internet and video.
The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is mostly buoyed by the presence of Ice Cream Sandwich, but the high quality screen, slim chassis and fast processing speeds make it a top device in our eyes. It’s not worthy of the top spot, but it’s a great pre-cursor to the Samsung Galaxy S3.
- Samsung Galaxy Nexus review
- Compare the best Samsung Galaxy Nexus deals
Number 6: BlackBerry Bold 9900
6. BlackBerry Bold 9900
RIM’s been in the doldrums a little in 2011, but that hasn’t stopped it doing what it does best: bringing out the industry’s top messaging devices.
The Bold 9900 is the best BlackBerry ever created, with a solid chassis, easy to use keys, a superbly hi-res screen and touch capabilities too.
BB OS 7 might not be much of an upgrade, but it still just works on a phone with a QWERTY keyboard / smaller screen combo.
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The internet is faster (although not market leading), the camera has been improved and NFC capabilities push the Bold 9900 into next generation territory.
If you’re a BlackBerry fan, this is the phone for you without doubt. Well, that is if you can afford the oddly high price tag – it’s only this that’s stopping us ranking the Bold 9900 higher in our definitive guide.
- BlackBerry Bold 9900 review
- Compare the best BlackBerry Bold 9900 offers
5. Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray
Sony Ericsson has had something of a smartphone reboot in 2011, with the likes of Xperia Arc and Xperia Mini proving big hits.
But there’s another winner from the soon-to-be-just-Sony brand, with the Xperia Ray winning more than a few admiring glances.
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It’s got the innards of the Arc, plus the same pixel count – in a much smaller screen. That means the display is pin sharp, and while a little small compared to the competition, it’s a very pocketable affair indeed.
The 8MP camera isn’t as strong photographically as its rivals, but it still delivers quality snaps for a cheaper price tag.
Well-packaged and packing in a host of top-end Sony tech, the Xperia Ray is a smaller smartphone that squeezes a large amount of power into a pocketable package.
- Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray review
- Compare the best Sony Ericsson Xperia Ray offers
4. Sony Xperia S
We used to love the Xperia Arc S – but we’re a fickle bunch, and now Ericsson has been cast aside, we’re all over the new brand like a cat on a fresh set of curtains.
The Xperia S almost has too many positive points to list, with a new HD screen, 12MP camera and dual core processor all combining to make one of the finest smartphones of 2012.
If you want to see the new phone in action, you can check out our fancy hands on video as well:
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As you may have gathered from our review, the Sony Xperia S has both an amazing screen and a dual core processor that never slows down – plus that 12MP camera is really one of the best out there.
Sony has also very kindly bundled lots of software with the Xperia S out of the box, which saves you having to dash to Google Play as soon as you turn on to grab vital apps.
Battery life is the only slight wobble (if you don’t mind a plastic casing) but it will generally last a day under normal conditions, and that’s a solid enough benchmark for is.
There are still some niggles with the Xperia S but we think it says a lot that when deciding on the pros and cons for the device, we really struggled with the cons section.
This handset may not be the cheapest (although still costing less than the likes of the iPhone 4S and Samsung Galaxy S2 when it launched), and it may feel like a Sony Ericsson without the Ericsson bit printed on the front, but we are really impressed with what Sony has done for its first solo foray.
- Sony Xperia S review
- Compare the best Sony Xperia S deals
3. HTC Sensation XE
We know it’s terribly geeky, but the battle between the HTC Sensation and the Samsung Galaxy S2 was one we were salivating over.
Both are dual core powerhouses, both have cutting-edge software and both the brands behind them have been enjoying success with Android in recent times.
The HTC Sensation is a cracking piece of kit despite being behind the S2 (and now the iPhone 4S), with Sense 3.0 being a real joy to use.
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The camera is quality, browsing and UI speeds are lightning fast and the overall build quality is sure to entice a number of users to pick up the Sensation and play with it in their local phone outlet.
And HTC has now added a faster processor into the mix, boosting it to 1.5GHz and increasing the battery size – and more importantly adding Beats Audio processing into the mix.
The HTC Desire was the phone that showed the world what HTC could do, and the Sensation is a big step change once more. The dual-core power really shows, and the HTC Watch service is one to, well, watch as bringing movie downloads to a phone on the go could be the next big thing.
A Beats-style upgrade brought red flashes and helped make up for the disappointment of the HTC Sensation XL – and cements its place as the third best phone in the world.
- HTC Sensation XE review
- Compare the best HTC Sensation XE deals
2. iPhone 4S
You might have noticed that Apple recently announced a new phone – it’s the iPhone 4S though, and not the iPhone 5 as many were expecting.
But a phone by any other name would smell as sweet, and despite being identical in looks to the iPhone 4, there’s enough here to warrant its high place in our rankings.
Siri voice recognition has shown itself to be more than a novelty, the dual-core processor has made phone operation even slicker and we’re salivating over what the seven times more powerful graphics chip will be able to do.
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We were hoping for a larger display and things like a lack of Bluetooth transfer, no Flash integration with the internet browser and an uninspiring contacts app still grate – but they’re no match for the sheer ease of use and general operation of Apple’s best smartphone to date.
OK, so it doesn’t feel different in the pocket, and the updates don’t seem to be that ground-breaking – but that doesn’t matter for Apple, and the amazing camera, slick iOS 5 platform and superb display are still the things other phones should benchmark themselves against.
It’s one of the most expensive phones on the market, so have a think whether you really want the latest features, as the iPhone 4 and 3GS are cheaper alternatives… but make no mistake, this is another cracking smartphone from Apple, and while many will be undoubtedly upset it’s not number one, if you’re an Apple fan: this is your number one phone.
- iPhone 4S review
- Compare the best iPhone 4S offers
1. Samsung Galaxy S2
Did you think it could hold onto the crown and see off the challenge of the iPhone 4S? Well, despite Apple releasing its best smartphone to date, we still have to recommend Samsung’s challenger for its mix of good looks and functionality.
What we love about the Samsung Galaxy S II is the sheer amount of stuff that’s packed in under the chassis – but more important is the way Samsung has used all that tech to create a phone that just works near-flawlessly.
Check out our Samsung Galaxy S2 video review:
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The dual-core 1.2GHz processor, the Super AMOLED plus screen and the excellent sonic performance of the media player all combine to make a real doozy of a mobile phone.
Recording in 1080p is a nice touch (given that it actually works most of the time) and the camera is more than enough to take great shots in a short space of time – although we suggest you check out the iPhone 4S, as we rate the camera on Apple’s device that little bit higher if you’re not bothered about tinkering with a number of settings.
In short, be it internet browsing, navigation, media, or social networking- the Samsung Galaxy S2 is our pick of the bunch for all those functions in one phone.
The Samsung Galaxy S2 is a phone we’re excited to whip out in a pub and show off to our friends – and millions of people already are.
It’s the ultimate media mobile, the next generation in web browsing thanks to slick Flash integration, a very good replacement for a pocket camcorder and, goshdarnit, it makes calls pretty well too.
The Samsung Galaxy S II not only set a new bar for smartphones in 2011; it smashed the bar, recreated it in its own image and even managed to see off the competition of an Apple smartphone that doesn’t drop signal all over the place.
Citing an undercover investigation by The Sunday Times, the Daily Mail said the data is being sold by “corrupt Indian call centre workers” to criminals and marketing firms.
The report said that two Indians, claiming to be information technology workers at call centres, met undercover reporters and boasted of having 45 different sets of personal information on nearly 500,000 Britons.
The data included names, addresses, and phone numbers of credit card holders, start and expiry dates as well as the three-digit security verification codes, the report said.
Much of the information is related to customers at major financial companies, including HSBCand NatWest.
An Indian named Naresh Singh, who met the undercover reporters in a hotel room in Gurgaon near Delhi, was allegedly carrying a laptop full of data, it said.
“These are ones that have been sold to somebody already. This is Barclays, this is Halifax, this is Lloyds TSB. We’ve been dealing so long we can tell the bank by just the card number,” Singh was quoted as saying.
He said much of the data would be less than 72 hours old.
Other information being sold was about mortgages, loans, insurance and mobile phone contracts.
According to the report, call centres are a $5 billion industry in India, with an estimated 330,000 people employed by them. Many British companies outsource services to India.
Conservative MP and member of the House of Commons’ public accounts select committee,Richard Bacon said this was not only a matter for the organisations involved but also the authorities.
Gestalt psychology attempts to understand psychological phenomena by viewing them as organised and structured wholes rather than the sum of their constituent parts. Thus, Gestalt psychology dissociates itself from the more ‘elementistic’/reductionistic/decompositional approaches to psychology like structuralism (with its tendency to analyse mental processes into elementary sensations) and it accentuates concepts like emergent properties, holism, and context.
In the 30s and 40s Gestalt psychology was applied to visual perception, most notably by Max Wertheimer, Wolfgang Köhler, and Kurt Koffka who founded the so-called gestalt approaches to form perception. Their aim was to investigate the global and holistic processes involved in perceiving structure in the environment (e.g. Sternberg 1996). More specifically, they tried to explain human perception of groups of objects and how we perceive parts of objects and form whole objects on the basis of these. The investigations in this subject crystallised into “the gestalt laws of perceptual organization.” Some of these laws, which are often cited in the HCI or interaction design community, are as follows.
Law of proximity
Figure 1.A: A real-world example of the law of proximity from MTV Music Awards 2002
Figure 1.B.: An example of the use of the law of proximity in interface design – Kazaa Media Desktop
Figure 1.C.: A typical “text-book way” of exemplifying the law of proximity
The law of proximity posits that when we perceive a collection of objects, we will see objects close to each other as forming a group. In figure 1.A., we perceive the MTV logo and the logo for the Europe Music Awards as forming a group in the top left corner and the logos of the sponsors as forming a group in the bottom right corner. The white space separating the two groups of logos is used to indicate ‘grouping’, and the proximity of the logos of each groups is thus used to this end. Thus, a semantic separation of ‘organisers’ from ‘sponsors’ is achieved via structuring the graphical layout in accordance with this simple principle of perceptual organisation.
Figure 1.B is taken from Kazaa Media Desktop, where the law of proximity is used in designing the user interface of the popular peer-to-peer (P2P) software. As shown by the screen dump, the user can choose between P2P and web search. The group of radio buttons underneath are only associated with the P2P search and not the web search. To signal this association to the user, the vertical row of radio buttons are placed comparatively closer to the P2P-search radio button.
Figure 1.C is a typical textbook example, exemplifying how the law of proximity groups the items into 3 groups as opposed to 8 individual items.
Law of similarity
Figure 2.A.: The “preferences window” of the Opera browser
Figure 2.B.: A typical textbook example of the law of similarity
The law of similarity captures the idea that elements will be grouped perceptually if they are similar to each other. In the “preferences window” of the Opera browser (figure 2.A), colour is used to make the user group the menu items on the basis of their background colour. The grey background of the first four menu items thus “tie them together”. Figure 2.B. is a typical textbook example of the principle of similarity, whereby we see the circles and triangles as forming four horizontal rows (or at least some configuration where triangles and circles are grouped depending on their shape). Objects similar to each other thus tend to be seen as a unit.
Law of Prägnanz (figure-ground)
Figure 3.A: The logo of visitnorway.com
Figure 3.B: The logo of the Gnome Desktop Environment
Figure 3.C: The logo of the Macintosh
Edgar Rubin, a Danish psychologist, was the first to systematically investigate the figure-ground phenomenon. The phenomenon captures the idea that in perceiving a visual field, some objects take a prominent role (the figures) while others recede into the background (the ground). The visual field is thus divided into these two basic parts. This effect is often used by smart logo makers, as figure 3.A, B, and C suggest: The logo of visitnorway.com can be viewed as both three separate elements of blue, green and navy colour. It may, however, also be viewed as a person stretching his/her arms into the air. Similarly, the logo of the Gnome Desktop Environment (figure 3.B.) can be viewed as both a “G” and a footprint. Lastly, the Macintosh logo can be viewed as a regular happy face and a happy face in profile (looking at a computer screen).
Common to these logos is that you can focus on only one “interpretation” at a time; you cannot observe both the figure and ground at the same time, as ground will become figure when shifting the focus.
It should be noted that the figure-ground is most often exemplified using the Rubin Face/Vase Illusion, named after Edgar Rubin.
Law of symmetry
Figure 4.A.: CSC Finland’s logo.
Figure 4.B.: A typical textbook example of the law of symmetry
The law of symmetry captures the idea that when we perceive objects we tend to perceive them as symmetrical shapes that form around their centre. Most objects can be divided in two more or less symmetrical halves and when for example we see two unconnected elements that are symmetrical, we unconsciously integrate them into one coherent object (or percept). The more alike objects are, they more they tend to be grouped.
In the above (figure 4.A), CSC Finland’s logo is perceived as an integral whole although the two constituent geometrical shapes seem to be pointing in different directions and have differing colours.
A typical textbook example of the law of symmetry (figure 4.B.), consists of a configuration of a number of brackets. When perceiving the configuration, we see three pairs of symmetrical brackets as opposed to 6 individual brackets, or two pairs and two singles. This happens despite what is suggested by some of the brackets immediate proximity to each other.
Law of closure
Figure 5.A.: IBM’s logo.
Figure 5.B.: Half of the book cover of Paul Thagard’s book, “Coherence in Thought and Action”
Figure 5.C: A typical textbook example of the law of closure
The law of closure posits that we perceptually close up, or complete, objects that are not, in fact, complete. In the above, we perceive the letters ‘I’, ‘B’, and ‘M’ although the shapes we see, in fact, are only lines of white space of differing length hovering above each other. Similarly, we see the figure on Paul Thagard’s book (figure 5.B.) as forming a three-dimensional box although all we see, in fact, is 24 dissimilar red shapes (count for yourself!) on a dark red background. Figure 5.C. is the typical textbook example of the law of closure; we perceive a circle and not 8 individual circles.
The Gestalt approach can be said to be a “bottom-up” theory as it starts from the bottom (the aspects of the stimuli that influence perception) and work its way up to higher-order cognitive processes. An example of another bottom-up theory (of perception) that is well-known in the HCI community is James Gibson’s theory of “direct perception” (see affordances and perception).
Ten principles that contribute to a Google user experience
Focus on people–their lives, their work, their dreams.
The Google User Experience team works to discover people’s actual needs, including needs they can’t always articulate. Armed with that information, Google can create products that solve real-world problems and spark the creativity of all kinds of people. Improving people’s lives, not just easing step-by-step tasks, is our goal.
Above all, a well-designed Google product is useful in daily life. It doesn’t try to impress users with its whizbang technology or visual style – though it might have both. It doesn’t strong-arm people to use features they don’t want – but it does provide a natural growth path for those who are interested. It doesn’t intrude on people’s lives – but it does open doors for users who want to explore the world’s information, work more quickly and creatively, and share ideas with their friends or the world.
Every millisecond counts.
Nothing is more valuable than people’s time. Google pages load quickly, thanks to slim code and carefully selected image files. The most essential features and text are placed in the easiest-to-find locations. Unnecessary clicks, typing, steps, and other actions are eliminated. Google products ask for information only once and include smart defaults. Tasks are streamlined.
Speed is a boon to users. It is also a competitive advantage that Google doesn’t sacrifice without good reason.
Simplicity is powerful.
Simplicity fuels many elements of good design, including ease of use, speed, visual appeal, and accessibility. But simplicity starts with the design of a product’s fundamental functions. Google doesn’t set out to create feature-rich products; our best designs include only the features that people need to accomplish their goals. Ideally, even products that require large feature sets and complex visual designs appear to be simple as well as powerful.
Google teams think twice before sacrificing simplicity in pursuit of a less important feature. Our hope is to evolve products in new directions instead of just adding more features.
Engage beginners and attract experts.
Designing for many people doesn’t mean designing for the lowest common denominator. The best Google designs appear quite simple on the surface but include powerful features that are easily accessible to those users who want them. Our intent is to invite beginners with a great initial experience while also attracting power users whose excitement and expertise will draw others to the product.
A well-designed Google product lets new users jump in, offers help when necessary, and ensures that users can make simple and intuitive use of the product’s most valuable features. Progressive disclosure of advanced features encourages people to expand their usage of the product. Whenever appropriate, Google offers smart features that entice people with complex online lives – for instance, people who share data across several devices and computers, work online and off, and crave storage space.
Dare to innovate.
Design consistency builds a trusted foundation for Google products, makes users comfortable, and speeds their work. But it is the element of imagination that transforms designs from ho-hum to delightful.
Google encourages innovative, risk-taking designs whenever they serve the needs of users. Our teams encourage new ideas to come out and play. Instead of just matching the features of existing products, Google wants to change the game.
Design for the world.
The World Wide Web has opened all the resources of the Internet to people everywhere. For example, many users are exploring Google products while strolling with a mobile device, not sitting at a desk with a personal computer. Our goal is to design products that are contextually relevant and available through the medium and methods that make sense to users. Google supports slower connections and older browsers when possible, and Google allows people to choose how they view information (screen size, font size) and how they enter information (smart query parsing). The User Experience team researches the fundamental differences in user experiences throughout the world and works to design the right products for each audience, device, and culture. Simple translation, or “graceful degradation” of a feature set, isn’t sufficient to meet people’s needs.
Google is also committed to improving the accessibility of its products. Our desire for simple and inclusive products, and Google’s mission to make the world’s information universally accessible, demand products that support assistive technologies and provide a useful and enjoyable experience for everyone, including those with physical and cognitive limitations.
Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s business.
Those Google products that make money strive to do so in a way that is helpful to users. To reach that lofty goal, designers work with product teams to ensure that business considerations integrate seamlessly with the goals of users. Teams work to make sure ads are relevant, useful, and clearly identifiable as ads. Google also takes care to protect the interests of advertisers and others who depend on Google for their livelihood.
Google never tries to increase revenue from a product if it would mean reducing the number of Google users in the future. If a profitable design doesn’t please users, it’s time to go back to the drawing board. Not every product has to make money, and none should be bad for business.
Delight the eye without distracting the mind.
If people looked at a Google product and said ”Wow, that’s beautiful!” the User Experience team would cheer. A positive first impression makes users comfortable, assures them that the product is reliable and professional, and encourages people to make the product their own.
A minimalist aesthetic makes sense for most Google products because a clean, clutter-free design loads quickly and doesn’t distract users from their goals. Visually appealing images, color, and fonts are balanced against the needs for speed, scannable text, and easy navigation. Still, ”simple elegance” is not the best fit for every product. Audience and cultural context matter. A Google product’s visual design should please its users and improve usability for them.
Be worthy of people’s trust.
Good design can go a long way to earn the trust of the people who use Google products. Establishing Google’s reliability starts with the basics – for example, making sure the interface is efficient and professional, actions are easily reversed, ads are clearly identified, terminology is consistent, and users are never unhappily surprised. In addition, Google products open themselves to the world by including links to competitors and encouraging user contributions such as community maps or iGoogle gadgets.
A greater challenge is to make sure that Google demonstrates respect for users’ right to control their own data. Google is transparent about how it uses information and how that information is shared with others (if at all), so that users can make informed choices. Our products warn users about such dangers as insecure connections, actions that may make users vulnerable to spam, or the possibility that data shared outside Google may be stored elsewhere. The larger Google becomes, the more essential it is to live up to our “Don’t be evil” motto.
Add a human touch.
Google includes a wide range of personalities, and our designs have personality, too. Text and design elements are friendly, quirky, and smart – and not boring, close-minded, or arrogant. Google text talks directly to people and offers the same practical, informal assistance that anyone would offer to a neighbor who asked a question. And Google doesn’t let fun or personality interfere with other elements of a design, especially when people’s livelihood, or their ability to find vital information, is at stake.
Google doesn’t know everything, and no design is perfect. Our products ask for feedback, and Google acts on that feedback. When practicing these design principles, the Google User Experience team seeks the best possible balance in the time available for each product. Then the cycle of iteration, innovation, and improvement continues.