In the world of smartphones, two distinct camps have started to form. On the one side, you have the infamous Apple devotees. These folks like having a simple, neat and tightly controlled user experience; they like what Steve Jobs hands them, and they're OK with doing things the Apple way.
On the other side, you have the rapidly growing Android army. These users don't want to be locked into one phone, one design or one set of options. They appreciate being able to pick a mobile device that suits their needs -- and then being able to use it the way they want, installing the programs they choose and customizing the phone as they see fit.
It's no surprise that more and more people are opting for the latter approach -- after all, who wants to pay good money for a piece of technology only to be restricted in how you can use it? The numbers speak volumes: A report released this week finds Android has officially become the top-selling smartphone platform in America, surpassing Apple in terms of global sales as well. Even the launch of the iPhone 4 (and Apple's accompanying attack-based antenna defense) has done little to dampen Android's momentum.
Still, thanks to the wide range of choices, getting started with Android can be a bit overwhelming. That's why we've created this visual guide to the five finest Android phones you can find this summer. The devices are all top-of-the-line, and they all do everything an iPhone does and more. If you're looking for an alternative to Apple's grasp, these are some of the best bets around.
Remember: Letting go of Steve's hand may be scary, but it's also empowering. If you're ready to make the leap, read on -- and get ready to take back control.
1. Motorola Droid X
If you want a rugged and powerful phone with all the bells and whistles, Motorola's Droid X is a tough option to turn down. The Droid X boasts a 4.3-inch display and packs a superspeedy 1-GHz processor.
Available through Verizon Wireless; $199.99 with a two-year contract. (Smart shopper note: Also available for $149.99, with contract, from LetsTalk.com.)
2. Samsung Galaxy S
Who knew one phone could have so many different personalities? Samsung's Galaxy S is slowly invading America, with pimped-out handsets making their way to all the major carriers.
The Galaxy S phones are sleek, powerful Android devices that'll meet nearly any user's demands. The phones' smaller profiles should provide a worthy alternative to Android converts looking for something less bulky, and with the various features added in by each carrier -- Sprint's edition will have a slide-out keyboard and front-facing camera, for example -- there's no shortage of options to choose from.
Samsung Captivate available through AT&T; Vibrant from T-Mobile; both $199.99 with a two-year contracts. (Also now available for $49.99-$99.99, with contract, from Amazon.com.) Samsung Epic 4G available starting August 31 from Sprint; $249.99 with a two-year contract. Verizon's Fascinate -- pricing and availability not yet announced.
3. Motorola Droid 2
The Droid 2 has a 3.7-inch display and a completely redesigned slide-out QWERTY keyboard. And it's the first device to ship with Android 2.2, or Froyo.
Under its hood, the Droid 2 features a fast new 1-GHz processor and twice the RAM of the previous model. Plus, its battery was boosted big-time: The Droid 2 offers an estimated 9.6 hours of talk time on a single charge. The iPhone 4, for perspective, offers seven hours of talk time.
Available through Verizon; $199.99 with a two-year contract. (Also now available for $99.99, with contract, from NewEgg.com.)
4. HTC Evo 4G
HTC's Evo 4G is a true powerhouse that's sure to please any multimedia-minded smartphone fan. The Evo has a plus-sized 4.3-inch screen and features 720p HD-quality video recording. It's also one of the few Android phones that offers a front-facing camera, making on-the-go video chatting a snap.
The Evo is capable of running on Sprint's 4G data network -- if you're in a city that supports it -- and can be turned into a mobile hot spot for an additional monthly fee. (You can also tether it to a single device for free, if you know how.)
In terms of software, the Evo 4G was just upgraded to Android 2.2 this month. It has HTC's popular Sense user interface on top of the stock operating system, giving you seven home screens, a special "Leap" navigation function, and an aggregated social network streaming tool.
Available through Sprint; $199.99 with a two-year contract.
5. HTC Droid Incredible
It may be overshadowed by other newer models these days, but HTC's Droid Incredible is still, well, pretty incredible.
You can think of the Incredible as a halfway point between the Droid X and the Droid 2: You get the slim, slate-like form of the Droid X with the small, manageable size of the Droid 2. And of course, you get the same 1-GHz processing power both those phones possess.
The Incredible, like the Evo, uses HTC's Sense interface. It currently runs Android 2.1 and is expected to be upgraded soon.
Available through Verizon; $199.99 with a two-year contract. (Also now available for $99.99, with contract, from LetsTalk.com.)
Author JR Raphael writes Computerworld's new Android Power blog. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.
This story, "Summer of Android: Top 5 IPhone Rivals" was originally published by Computerworld.