Take a walk down the Android memory lane to find what we consider the best phones over the past decade.
Android was first released on September 23, 2008. Since then, Google’s platform has come an incredibly long way. From those sad underpowered and buggy first devices (such as my first Android device–the HTC Hero) to the magnificently powerful handsets we see today.
Over the years, there have been some seriously groundbreaking Android phones, but which stand out? Here are my picks for the best Android devices of the decade.
SEE: Hiring kit: Android developer (TechRepublic Premium)
Release date: September 23, 2008
No list of Android devices would be complete without the one that started it all: The HTC Dream. Announced along with the initial Android offering, the HTC Dream offered a slide up screen that revealed a physical keyboard along with some pretty impressive specs for the time, such as 256 MB of internal storage, 192 MB of RAM, a 320 x 480 pixel 3.2″ display, a rear-facing 3.15 megapixel camera, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and Quad-band GSM 850, 900, 1800, and 1900 MHz GPRS/Edge, and a 1150 mAh lithium-ion battery. Although this was the first device to sport the Android operating system (version 1.0), it was a thing to behold.
Release date: October 17, 2009
The Motorola Droid was another Android device with a slide out keyboard. The Droid shipped with Android 2.0 and had a spec sheet that included an Arm Cortex A8 600 MHz CPU, a PowerVR SGX 530 GPU, 256 MB of DDR SDRAM, 512 MB internal storage, and a 1390 mAh battery. The Motorola Droid was promoted as the iPhone alternative, and was the first mobile device to claim multitasking support. Analytics firm Flurry estimated that over 250,000 Droids were sold during the first week of release. The Droid was also the first Android device to be successfully rooted.
Release date: June 4, 2010
If you remember anything about the HTC EVO, it should be that it was the first 4G phone released in the US. The EVO had a 4.3″ display with a pixel density of 217 and is considered one of the first true multi-touch Android devices. The size and pixel density combination was quite the innovation back in 2010. The specs for the HTC EVO included a 1.4 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9, an ARM Mali-400 MP GPU, 1 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, a microSD external card, an 8 Megapixel rear camera, a 2 Megapixel front-facing camera, a massive (for the time) 2500 mAh lithium-ion battery, and Android 2.1.
Samsung Galaxy Note
Release date: October 29, 2011
The Samsung Galaxy Note was one of the first “phablet” form factor phones to hit the market—it was big, and it was beautiful. The Galaxy Note was also the first Android device to include stylus support. The Note brought to market some serious specs for the time, including a 1.4 GHz dual-core processor, a Mali-400 MP GPU, 1 GB or RAM, either 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, a 5.3″ Super AMOLED display, an 8 Megapixel rear camera, a 2 Megapixel front-facing camera, and was originally released with Android 2.3.6. Although reception of this device was divided because of its “gargantuan” size, the original Galaxy Note launched a line of Samsung devices that would become serious game changers.
SEE: Cheat sheet: Samsung Galaxy Note 10 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
HTC One M7
Release date: March 22, 2013
The most memorable thing about the HTC One M7 is that it was one of the most beautiful smartphones to have ever been released at the time. With its all aluminum body and 1080p full-HD display, this device turned heads. On top of the beautiful design, the One M7 had the best sounding speakers on the market. The specs for the One M7 included a Qualcomm Snapdragon 600 CPU, an Adreno 320 GPU, 2 GB of LPDDR2 RAM, 32 or 64 GB of internal storage, a 4 Megapixel rear camera, a 2.1 megapixel front-facing camera, a 2,300 mHa Li-Po battery, and Android 4.1.2.
Release date: April 23, 2014
The OnePlus One launched the first-ever affordable flagship Android device. Selling a high-end device at $299 for the 16 GB version and $349 for the 32 GB version was unheard of at the time. The release of this device profoundly changed the Android game–a number of companies began attempting to bring to life similar flagship devices at non-flagship prices. The specs for the OnePlus One included a 2.5 GHz CPU, an Adreno 330 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, 16 or 32 GB of internal storage, a 5.46″ 1920×1080 display, a 13 Megapixel rear camera, a 5 megapixel front-facing camera, a 3100 mHa Li-Po battery, and Android 4.4.2.
Release date (preorder): October 29, 2014
The Nexus line of devices promised to bring the latest, greatest version of Android (version 5.0) to the users before anyone else had their hands on the platform. This smartphone fell into the phablet realm, with a 5.96″ display. What makes this particular Nexus stand out is that it was the first device to support Google’s Fi network. The specs for this device included a Qualcomm 2.7 GHz quad-core CPU, an Adreno 420 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, 32 or 64 GB of internal storage, a Sony IMX214 Exmor R camera with dual LED ring flash, a 2MP front-facing camera, and a 3220 mAh battery. The Nexus 6 was also one of the first Android devices to support wireless battery charging.
Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge
Release date: April 10, 2015
No other phone raised the aesthetic bar as high as the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge. With rounded glass edges that extended the display beyond the standard bezel, this device seriously changed the Android display game. No other device looked as polished or as professional. Period. The specs for the Galaxy S6 Edge included an Octa-core 2.1 GHz Cortex-A57 CPU, a Mali-T760MP8 GPU, 3 GB of RAM, 32, 64, or 128 GB of internal storage, a 16 Megapixel rear camera, a 5 MP front-facing camera, a 5.1 Super AMOLED display, a 2600 mAh battery, and Android 5.0.2.
SEE: Cheat sheet: Samsung Galaxy Tab S6 (free PDF) (TechRepublic)
Google Pixel 3
Release date: November 1, 2018
The Google Pixel 3 is still considered by many to include the finest phone camera on the market. Although the Pixel 4 does include a better zoom and a much-improved Night Sight experience, the poor battery performance and lack of a fingerprint scanner prevents it from bumping the game changing Pixel 3 from this list. Yes, the Pixel 3 had its problems, but many consider the camera alone to be worth enduring the issues. The specs for the Google Pixel 3 include Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 2.5 GHz quad-core CPU, a 5.5″ OLED display, 4 GB of RAM, 64 or 128 GB internal storage, a 12.2 Megapixel rear camera, dual 8 megapixel front-facing cameras, a 2915 mHa battery, and Android 9.0.