back to article 2011's Best... Smartphones

The modern smartphone is the true Swiss Army knife of gadgets. Want to listen to music? Watch a video? Browse the web? Read a book? Keep up with your friends? Take a picture? Make a video? A smartphone can do all those things, with ever increasing competence. In 2011, the smartphone just got better and better, with the arrival …


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  1. tmTM

    Galaxy S II??

    No mention of the Samsung that pretty much ruled the roost for most of 2011??

    With the eventual ICS update there will be little to choose between it and the Galaxy Nexus.

  2. fLaMePrOoF
    Thumb Down

    No SGS2?


    1. ZankerH


      Seriously, wtf? THE best selling and repeatedly highest rated phone of this year, and not even a mention?

  3. Arctic fox
    Thumb Up

    Nice selection.

    Something for everybody here and I can't myself really quarrel with the selection. Must say that the Razor is indeed a beauty. What in fact strikes me about this is the choice of genuinely good quality phones at a fair range of price points. Doesn't matter which os you prefer there is some decent kit available, be interesting to see what 2012 brings us.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I was going for a Nexus but O2 couldn't get stock and only 16GB internal space with no SD support, I plumped for the S2 instead. Very pleased with it indeed. Alright I might miss out on slightly faster CPU cores and a slightly better screen but my peepers ain't that good anymore and my brain is certainly way behind the power of the modern smartphone! Samsung have promised ICS on S2 in the new year and if it doesn't arrive, I'll do it myself from the usual hacking sites.

  5. G Murphy

    Does this even make sense?

    "Sure, the 800MHz CPU can’t handle Flash video well but then neither can can the iPhone or Nokia's Lumia"

    "There’s no doubt the Lumia is a fine phone: it’s superbly made ... goes like the clappers thanks to its 1.4GHz CPU"

    So, in the section on the Lumia, no mention that it has problems with Flash as indicated in the section on the Monte Carlo? Seriously confused by this!

    1. Mick Stranahan


      Flash is mentioned in the Monte Carlo review because it's an Android phone that doesn't play Flash video and the comparison is just to point out that the absence of Flash is not necessarily a reason to discount it. At least that's how I read it.

      The Lumia doesn't have a "problem" with Flash, it's just not part of the OS spec. for good or ill. Ditto the iPhone.

      As for SGSII not getting a look in, why should it? The Razr is thinner, lighter, tougher and the Galaxy Nexus has a bigger screen and shiny new version of Android. Yes it's a fine handset but the Android competition is now a little better.

    2. Spearchucker Jones

      It makes sense, sort of.

      The Lumia's got more than enough grunt for Flash, but WP7 doesn't support it. There's arguably no need to repeat in the Lumia writeup what was already said in the Monte Carlo writeup.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Err the problem with flash is the same as the iphone problem with flash as in it isn't supported on that platform

    4. Fuzz

      Re: Does this even make sense

      Makes perfect sense, the Lumia can't do flash because it's a windows phone not because it isn't quick. The monte carlo has flash because it's on Android but the 800MHz CPU makes flash video sluggish.

      1. Paul Shirley

        Adobe finally released ARM6 support a few months back

        ...actually, Flash is sluggish on the Monte Carlo *because it uses an ARM6 CPU*. It does less work per clk than ARM7 designs and worse yet, doesn't support features the programmers at Adobe relied on (unaligned memory access is the big one).

        So the actual performance is closer to a 400Mhz ARM7 (I'm being generous) *and* the ARM5/6 optimised Flash build Adobe finally released about 2 months ago is inherently much slower. Despite that it actually is usable on a lot of sites and of course Flash can bring any mobile CPU to its knees on some.

        It doesn't help that Adobe failed to tell anyone about the ARM6 release, presumably why so many commenters don't know about it ;)

    5. dogged

      it doesn't do Flash. At all. Not that this is necessarily a bad thing.

  6. Peter 48

    what, no love for the galaxy s2?

    i'm surprised that the best phone of 2011, the Galaxy S2 has been left of the list.

  7. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

    Flash on the iPhone


    since when has the iPhone ever been able to handle flash?

    At the risk of being shot down in flames, the lack of Flash on an iPhone is one of its biggest selling points. Even the Android makershave to thank Apple for that decision.

    Flash is buggy CPU intensive POS (at its best.)

    If this is one of the critical points in a phone review then sorry, you deserve to fail badly.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      maybe Flash is all those bad things, but, as it's a trivial matter to stop it loading when you visit a website, just as you can using Flashblocker in FireFox, unless I specifically want to see the Flash object, it doesn't load.

      But, at least I have the choice to view it.

      Choice... imagine that.

    2. Goat Jam

      "since when has the iPhone ever been able to handle flash"

      Since iphone4 I believe.

      Works as a great flashlight too!

    3. Peter 48

      love it or hate it it

      Love or hate flash it still doesn't change the fact that there is still a vast amount of websites that rely on flash for media and interactive displays, without it you will only ever experience part of online life. Even if flash is a massive resource hog and crashes every 5 seconds, if you want to access all of the web and not just some of the web you will have to forgo iOS based products. Buying an iOS device to surf the web is like buying a car that isn't allowed on motorways, a pointless compromise. Hopefully, in a few years time flash alternatives will finally offer the same features that flash has and we can finally retire flash completely and purge it from the system (yay!!!), but until then you will have to live with it.

      1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

        Lol poor analogy

        Having a handset without flash is more like having a car that can't go abroad.

        Inconvenient for a few utterly meaningless for many.

        Anyone who thinks Flash is an essential part of online life needs to get a life.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ROFLMAO. Tell me you didn't come up with this list just to annoy the Galaxy S2 owners :-)

  9. BristolBachelor Gold badge

    Siri: "The absence of local information for the UK aside"

    USER: I'd like a curry

    SIRI: The nearest curryhouse is the Raj, Boston. Distance 3820 miles.

  10. Peter Gordon

    My dream phone..

    Razr + webOS

    Oh well, I can dream :)

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sony Ericsson Live?

    For the money, the SE Live Android phone is way better than the Monte Carlo, no bloat, better specs and you can get them for under £150 on eBay. Plus I think they look better than the Monte Carlo.

  12. Paul Shirley

    Xperia Play

    Little surprised the Play didn't make the list at it's new £150-200 price point.

    @£500, then £350 it was a lame duck, now it's reached a sane price there's not much to compete with it for gaming jollies, at least till we find out if there's a Play 2 sometime in March. The ludicrous number of free HD games SE keep throwing at it improves the value as well.

  13. ramblog

    Galaxy SII?

    Seriously? Where is it? Is there a page missing from this guide or what? Most other manufacturers were trying to catch up with SGSII for most of the year including the fruit themed company and yet its not featured here.

    Is Alun trying that hard to feature in 'Xmas Guide: 2011's El Reg Bloopers' thats gonna come anytime now?

  14. johnnytruant

    So you review the Sony Ericsson Arc S at 95%

    But somehow that doesn't make this list of 90% phones?

  15. PassiveSmoking

    The Razr if FUGLY!

    Something that's all the more shocking considering what a solid piece of design the classic RAZR was, it was a thing of beauty.

    What the hell went wrong in the industrial design dept?

    1. sisk


      are all opinion based. Personally I find the iOS to be the most fugly thing in the mobile market, with the phones it runs on being not far behind, but I can guarantee you that a whole lot of people will disagree with me.

      As for the RAZR, I wouldn't call it elegant by any stretch, but neither was the original RAZR (I had one for a couple years and it was just plain uncomfortable in my hand). I also wouldn't call it fugly. A little odd with that hump for the camera, sure, but fugly? Nah.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Could I suggest that in all future reviews of Android hardware that you say if a phone is easy to root or not?

    Why? Well in case you hadn't noticed, manufacturers have the horrible habit of delaying Android releases whilst they insert their own interface on the top. I'd much rather get the new stuff without the cruft.

    And maybe a bit of info about how long the manufacturer have supported previous models... HTC seem just be hovering round 12 months. As were Nokia with the old Symbian phones.

    Reviewing a nice shiny new phone is one thing, but being stuck with it for 24 months on contract with unfixed bugs and a locked down platform is no fun what so ever.

    1. aThingOrTwo

      Google sail by without any blame

      Those OEMs only get their hands on the software once the first phone with the new shiny version of Android has shipped (most recently the Galaxy Nexus)... so they are already behind.

      The time to integrate the release sources with their own customisations and patches is relatively short. The carrier testing and approval is what takes the longest time and causes delays. This is why Sony won't be upgrading their devices to ICS until Spring.

      Sony and Motorola Mobility both released public statements to explain just this and there is no reason not to believe them. Google have said nothing to refute these explanations either.

      It irks me that people are so quick to give credit to Google for the good things in Android, yet quick to excuse them for any faults the platform has and point the finger elsewhere.

      Microsoft did a WORLDWIDE roll out of Mango (Windows Phone 7.5) on ALL devices and ALL carriers in a matter of weeks. Phones at retail which were sold with 7 got bumped up to 7.5. Incidentally that release involved working with the same OEMs who apparently "horrible habit of delaying Android releases".

      It's not about being closed, its not about denying choice, it's about taking responsibility for your platform and doing the right thing by customers who have brought into your platform. Microsoft do it, Apple do it, but as far as I can see, Google isn't interested in taking any responsibility for its platform.

      1. Steve Evans

        This is true, but aren't I right in saying that Microsoft aren't allowing anyone to customise their mobile OS? So the certain manufacturer who takes a while to release Android *cough*HTC*cough* don't have a sense skin to crowbar onto the new release (and eat all the resources!).

        Maybe google could get a version out to the manufacturers a bit earlier, but if they are releasing it to the public the instant it is finished, giving the manufacturers a head start would actually mean delaying the vanilla release to everyone else.

        The fact Cyanogen manage to get builds out faster than manufacturers speaks volumes in my book.

        Sent from my HTC Desire Z running Cyanogen 7.1, gingerbread 2.3.7 kernel. Try getting that from HTC... Oh you won't, the phone is a year old, so they've forgotten about it.

        Can't wait to try ICS in the new year.

        1. aThingOrTwo

          Google should be working with OEMs during development

          You've almost underlined my point by replying and pointing the finger at one OEM, whilst giving Google pass.

          > "Giving the manufacturers a head start would actually mean delaying the vanilla release to everyone else."

          But who exactly falls into this "everyone else". I would have though the vast majority of Android users brought their phone from HTC, Motorola, Samsung or Sony. Surely manufacturers are the main group who need to be aware of future Android releases. As "open" Android is developed in secret, surely Google should be working with OEMs during development?

          > "The fact Cyanogen manage to get builds out faster than manufacturers speaks volumes in my book."

          It just means they don't have to go through carrier approval and testing. It doesn't speak volumes at all.

          To say Microsoft is not allowing any OEM/carrier customisation of Windows Phone is incorrect, although they are being a bit more selective about what can and can't be altered.

  17. Mike Green
    Thumb Up

    Acer Liquid Metal for AU$128 (84 quid)

    I got this phone pay as you go in Oz and while it's not the fastest chip on the market, it handles flash pretty well on it's 480x800 screen, has a 5MP camera with HD video recording and a micro SD slot so you can stick as much memory as you like in it. I was seriously suprised by the price for those specs.

  18. borkbork

    Galaxy Nexus linux-usb support

    Ubuntu dev Bilal Akhtar wrote up a guide to connecting it using MTP mode recently, so I'm expecting most major distros to support it out of the box in their next releases. For those that can't wait and don't mind a bit of command-linery here 'tis:

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I found MTP to be slow, unreliable, a ball-ache to set up, and generally just a bit shit. So I switched to SSH instead. It's no quicker, but it is reliable and you don't need a USB cable.

      With a little hunting / rooting you can find a proper dropbear build for android, failing that there is an ad supported SSH server on the marketplace.

  19. Mikel
    Thumb Up

    Excellent article

    Had to know there would be rage.

  20. Lord Midas

    Only 5 phones

    I was lead to believe that El Reg lists are always 10 strong. You'd have been able to fit the SGII and the SGNote.

    And perhaps the HTC Titan. Wasn't feeling the love for HTC in this 'guide', and they make some of the best\most popular smartphones out there.

  21. geekclick

    Someone is always..

    .. going to be all pishy that their phone isn't included. People generally believe that their choices are better than everyone else's and thus must be "teh best". I have an SGS2 and a Desire. Both are cracking bits of kit. I would have put the SGS2 in, but then my choice is better than everyone else's.......

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Sensation XE?

    Galaxy S2?

    They're the equal of the Razr/Lumia surely?

    As for the Lumia 800 not costing and arm+leg... Well it's in the same ballpark as all other high end handsets (£450-550), albeit at the lower end. Not many people would/could spend £450 SIM-free on a phone. (I would, I can, and I consider it money well spent for the use I get out of it over 12-18 months).

  23. Chris 211

    what no nokia e6

    The Nokia e6, the phone I rate over all android phones.

  24. AB

    What, no Nokia N9?

    The culmination of Nokia's 7-year, 5-step plan running a brand new and highly innovative UI which has garnered rave reviews from basically every quarter ("It's great but I'm just worried that Nokia won't be supporting it" - sigh).

    No, you had to go with the changeling WindowsPhone Lumia - the replicant copycat hardware, bizarre/restrictive OS, the X-Box connectivity. I went into the Telus flagship store here in Toronto last week and asked (as neutrally as I could manage, mind you) "How are you guys finding WP?" (based on the large display in the Window).

    "Oh, no-one ever asks about them. I'm not sure we've actually sold any at this location."

    ...and even though I don't own one, I'm as surprised as my fellow commentards at the lack of SGS2. It is a stunning bit of kit.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Give it 6 months and flash will be pretty much dead - I would not be surprised if most of the big web sites were already encoding for 'better' formats.

  26. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    People miss the point - 99% of users do not want to room or re-ROM their phone - that is why the iPhone is so popular - 3 year old 3GS and it runs iOS5 - will your 3 year old Galaxy II still run the latest Android. Too many Android handsets get obsoleted too quickly as they can't run the newer software.

    Brand new Samsung Galaxy Note - does it run the latest Android = NO = FAIL

  27. Iceman

    Stupid article omits SGS2

    See title

  28. Jason "Foxdie" Gaunt

    Where the fsck is the Galaxy S2 in this list??

    Dual core 1.2 GHz, 1GB RAM, 16GB Internal Flash + MicroSDXC slot, Super AMOLED+ screen, runs Flash like a boss and overclockable to a stable 1.4 GHz, nearly p***ing over a Quad Core Transformer Prime :)

    Pics or it didn't happen? (90 KB PNG)

  29. eSeM

    Did You Forget Anything?

    Almost everyone else votes the Galaxy S II as the best phone of the year ...... Reg Hardware's 'Best Of' is becoming a bit of a joke.

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Surely some mistake?

    Arc S, £300, 90% El-Reg rating, yet not included, despite plenty of mediocre 80% ers and a lame iPhone 4s....

  31. eddiewrenn


    El Reg, you need to sort your reviews out. Not necessarily the ratings or your viewpoints, but the lac of internal consistancy in regards of scores/comparisons... It just makes me think you don't have an expert phone reviewer.

    Anyway, yes, this article misses the SGS 2 hard... Especially as your headline is "2011's best smartphones", not just "of the last six months" etc...

  32. Dave 15 Silver badge
    Thumb Down


    Where did the %'s come from? No explanation just random numbers. A good number of very good phones not mentioned at all. What a piece of *****

  33. cexcells


    The Samsung Galaxy SII was omitted from the selection because it would have to be given a 95%+ score in comparison to the others and rating anything above the crapple is just not done.

  34. Bonus

    Monte Carlo or Skate?

    Why feature the Orange Monte Carlo when the ZTE Skate (ie the same phone without the Orange branding) is available SIM-free (as are the other 4 phones in this review) for around £220?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Galaxy Nexus

    Bought a Nexus from no import duties from eu.. came with a euro plug but I have 3 uk adapters anyway. paid a mere €525 (its cheaper now) so including exchange fees about £460 same as the razor! well worth shopping around(abroad).

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