Choosing an Android Phone

My phone contract ends in a few months, so I’m looking at getting a new Android phone. I want a big Android phone (in both physical size and resolution) that has a physical keyboard, a digital compass, A-GPS and at least a 5MP camera with geo-tagging.

I want to be able to read PDF files and run ssh sessions, so a big screen is required and a physical keyboard avoids wasting screen space for a soft-keyboard. My pockets will fit something about 10.5cm wide by 17cm high but I don’t expect anyone to manufacture such a large phone. High resolution is a good thing too, it seems that the best available at the moment is 854*480 (with 800*480 being reasonably common).

I want Wifi and all the 3G and GSM data transfer standards. It would be ideal to have a phone with the dual networking stack needed to do both voice and data at the same time.

I’m not interested in anything that runs a version of Android older than 2.2 as native tethering is important. An option to upgrade to post 2.2 would be a really good thing.

Here are the nearest options I could find:

Phone Resolution Screen Size (inches) Camera Resolution Notes
Motorola Milestone 854*480 3.7 5MP
Motorola Droid 854*480 3.7 5MP
LG VS 740 800*480 3.2 3.2MP no GPS or compass
Lenovo LePhone 800*480 3.7 3MP no GPS or compass

It seems that Motorola makes the phones that best suit my needs, does anyone know of any better options?

18 comments to Choosing an Android Phone

  • The only problem is that the Motorola phones are the least open of all the brands producing android phones. The practical downside to this is that you’re at the whim of the manufacturer to provide updates to Android, rather than being able to install them as you desire.

    HTC are probably the best brand; they make the most reliable phones, release new models (lots of them) every quarter, and are highly recommended by most custom firmware distributors. The G2 looks like it meets your requirements ( — it’s just come out in the USA, so should be available by Mail order now, or alternatively, you can wait until it shows up here (maybe early next year?), probably under a different marketing name.

  • Following up from my previous comment, the G2 is called the “Desire Z” in Australia, and is due out in October —

  • etbe

    Thanks for the suggestion, the Desire Z sounds good.

  • The Motorola Milestone is still on 2.1, and due to Motorola wanting to drive the market to its Droid X, will not be updating it to 2.2 for some time. I wouldn’t be surprised if 2.2 is the last version that runs on the Milestone.

  • Matthew

    If you haven’t seen googles update phone page. has been revamped and should be able to help you find what you are looking for.

  • etbe

    Matthew: Thanks a lot for that! It’s good to have a site with a summary of what’s available in my region.

    It’s a pity that they don’t let me search in any way or provide even the most basic details on the main page. I have to “compare” phones to learn anything about them. In terms of their usability it’s not much better than the Wikipedia page that lists all Android phones.

  • arod0405

    There’s no android phone with a good camera. They *all* suck at taking decent pictures compared to (Sony or Nokia).

    Motorola phones are known to be pretty close regarding custom ROMS (but the same applies to the new G2 from HTC). I’d skip the Milestone (it’s not GE as the Droid) and the Droid too (256Mb RAM only). They’re old models and probably they will not be supported soon.

    I got an Acer Liquid because it’s really cheap, has some good features (CPU, display) and it’s well supported by the community (unofficial Froyo, official to come this month). It has downsides (256Mb RAM, slow official Eclair ROM, bad camera and no flash). I’m ok with it but I wouldn’t recommend it right now (except for the price).

    Keep in mind that battery life suck in every Android phone.

    So… not an easy choice.

  • Anders

    SonyEricsson has good camera and camera software (as important as the quality of the lens etc).

    So if camera is important for you, have a look at SE Xperia X10 in a local store.

  • I’m surprised you overlooked the vanilla “HTC Desire”!

  • Anders

    Oh yes, and if you want a smal one, SE Xperia X10 mini pro might be a good choise too. X10 mini pro has a 5 M pixels and X10 8.1 M pixels

    This link will help you compare Xperia X10 and Xperia X10 mini pre:
    I own a X10 min myself, and is quite happy with it.

  • John will sell you an unlocked Desire-Z (well at least allow you to preorder one right now). A friend bought a Nexus one through them without any trouble.

  • nlkjlkjkjlkl

    if you feel like some hackery n900 with, good camera no compass, get to play with meego as it develops… not a great phone but a fantastic toy :)

  • Andrew D.

    Just a note if you’re seriously considering the G2:

    If you’re looking to be able to load custom firmware onto it, at the moment it’s currently broken. A root of the device doesn’t “stick” around on reboots. Cyanogen, a dev whose handle you might be familiar with, posted this a few days ago regarding the G2 rooting situation:

    I have a HTC Hero (CDMA) from Sprint here in the US and I’m very happy with it, and have hacked it all to bits. :)

  • Russell Coker

    Anders: I’ve just looked at the specs of the Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 mini pro. It has a 240*320 screen that is 2.6″ in size. While it does sound like a nice phone in many ways it’s not the phone for me.

  • Anders

    Yes, I saw that you wanted Android 2.2, and that wont happen this year. Waiting for Android 2.1 any day now.
    SE do serious testing befor sending out software, which is good. There are even some blogs about that, which I don’t have the address to now. :(

  • etbe

    The Telstra T-Touch tablet has a 7 inch 800*480 screen, it’s described as a “tablet” but can apparently make phone calls too. It doesn’t have a keyboard but maybe a Bluetooth keyboard would work well with it.

  • The ideal size for me is 10.5cm*17cm == 20cm diagonally or 7.87 inches. 7 inches seems to be a common size for tablets.

    The Samsung Galaxy Tab is 19cm*12cm and might just fix. Pity it doesn’t have A-GPS or a digital compass.

    The Huawei Ideos Tablet S7 (known in Australia as the Telstra T-Touch Tab) is also a possibility. The Wikipedia page (which I just created) needs a lot of work.

    The comparison of tablet PCs Wikipedia page would be a useful resource if more details were added and it was divided into sections.