Leaders of the Pack
As 2011 begins, Google's Android mobile operating system appears poised to change the face of the tech world in the year to come. From groundbreaking phones to early attempts at tablets to TV integration, here are some of the most important Android-based products of the past year.
HTC Nexus One
In January of 2010, Google and HTC released the Nexus One (which many people know as "the Google phone"). In addition to being the first handset to feature Android 2.1 ("Eclair"), the Nexus One broke through the carrier barrier as Google sold unlocked versions of the device directly through its own site.
HTC Droid Incredible
As the second major Android offering on Verizon (not counting the budget-priced Droid Eris, which launched in unison with the Motorola Droid at the end of 2009), the Droid Incredible came configured with Android 2.1. Aided by its snappy 1GHz Snapdragon processor and HTC Sense UI, the Incredible quickly became the number-one Android phone in PCWorld's rankings.
HTC Evo 4G
Despite limited service availability on Sprint's WiMax 4G network when it launched in June 2010, the HTC Evo 4G hit the ground running as the top-selling launch-day phone in Sprint's history. Its massive screen made surfing the Web and watching videos on it a pleasure, and it was the first Android phone in the United States to ship with a front-facing camera.
Samsung Galaxy S
The Samsung Galaxy S turned heads at its June launch thanks to a 4-inch, 480-by-800-pixel Super AMOLED display. Though critics had mixed reactions to Samsung's TouchWiz interface overlay, the phone quickly spread across all major U.S. carriers in variants bearing such monikers as "Vibrant," "Captivate," and "Fascinate."
As the most-anticipated Android-based slate at the time of its June 2010 debut, the Dell Streak suffered ignominiously at the hands of tech critics--primarily owing to Dell's questionable decision to ship the device with a customized version of Android 1.6 ("Donut") installed. Though the hardware itself was competitive with other Android devices, few users could look past the Streak's wildly outdated operating system and kludgy interface modifications to enjoy its 5-inch display.
Motorola Droid X
As Verizon Wireless continued beefing up its Android lineup in 2010, the July release of the Motorola Droid X drew crowds to Verizon stores. Unlike the original Moto Droid, the X sported a 4.3-inch display with no physical keyboard. Like the original Droid, however, the X included Texas Instruments' eFuse technology, which many users worried would limit the device's customizability. But Motorola has not used the technology to brick any phones, as far as we know.
People of Lava Scandinavia TV
Android isn't just for tablets and phones, apparently. In September, Swedish TV maker People of Lava released the Scandinavia TV, the first commercial HDTV to run Android.
LG Optimus T
While most Android handsets command premium prices with major carriers, the LG Optimus T brought the platform to budget-conscious customers on T-Mobile's network, selling for $35 with a two-year contract (after mail-in rebate).
Samsung Galaxy Tab
In a bid to take on Apple's iPad, Samsung released the Galaxy Tab, a 7-inch tablet sporting Android 2.1. Available on all four major U.S. carriers, the Galaxy Tab sports front- and rear-facing cameras and comes in a Wi-Fi-only model. It has yet to put a meaningful dent into iPad sales, however.
Samsung Nexus S
In the Android universe, 2010 ends the way it began--with a Nexus product announcement from Google. Built by Samsung this time, the Nexus S is the first device to ship with Android 2.3 ("Gingerbread"). Most of the Nexus S's hardware is unremarkable, but it does have the distinction of carrying a near-field communication chip that could pave the way for Android devices to replace credit cards at retail counters (though it remains to be seen whether that innovation will have much impact in 2011).