In my view, smartphones are all about the future, and the best handsets are usually the ones with the freshest, slickest mobile technology. Android 4.1 Jelly Bean, Google's latest and greatest operating system though remains frustratingly out of reach unless you own an unlocked Samsung Galaxy Nexus. Even so, the number of phones running Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich software is growing.
That means the chances for getting your hands on an advanced Android device has never been better. Here's my hit list of smartphones including everything from cutting-edge handsets just now rolling off assembly lines to battle-tested favorites that only recently received fresh ICS updates.
Samsung Galaxy S III (Verizon), July 13, 2012
I couldn't make a short list of ultra-hot ICS handsets without including Sammy's flagship Android for 2012. Having stormed American shores and securing a spot in the lineups of five major U.S. carriers, the device is poised to be this summer's runaway smartphone hit. The phone boasts an even bigger screen (4.8 inches) than the one on the Evo 4G LTE, and it's got an AMOLED display as well (1,280x720 pixels). Also, not only does the Galaxy S III have Android ICS, but the smartphone's software is driven by the latest dual-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 processor. Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy S III.
Many said that no phone on earth could outdo the legendary Evo 4G, let alone a sequel. The new HTC Evo 4G LTE proves that the doubters were wrong, at least mostly. With killer good looks, a massive 4.7-inch screen, fast dual-core power, and Android ICS paired to HTC's revamped Sense 4 UI, this Evo has almost everything. If Sprint's 4G LTE service expands beyond 15 initial markets, we may have a real winner on our hands. Read our full review of the HTC Evo 4G LTE.
Want to know what the best Android phone on AT&T is? You're looking at it. The HTC One X for Ma Bell is essentially the inspiration for Sprint's new Evo 4G LTE and a dual-core clone of the international HTC One X (quad-core Tegra 3). But don't let its lower core-count fool you, the U.S. One X is plenty fast, also comes with a lovely 4.7-inch screen, plus links to AT&T's smoking 4G LTE network. Read our full review of the HTC One X.
Superslim and carved from a single block of anodized aluminum, the HTC One S for T-Mobile is a true smartphone vision. Also easy on the eyes is its gorgeous 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen (960x540 pixels) that paints movies and pictures in stunningly vibrant colors and dark blacks. Of course Android ICS is onboard, along with HTC's Sense 4 interface plus a connection to T-Mobile's quick 4G HSPA+ data network. Also, like all the other phones in HTC's One line, the One S has a fast and feature-packed 8-megapixel camera. Read our full review of the HTC One S.
Finally, the unstoppable Motorola Droid Razr Maxx now flaunts Android 4.0 ICS to match its amazingly long battery life and Verizon 4G LTE data connection. Verizon and Motorola pushed the recent software update to eager Razr Maxx owners and I can vouch personally that it makes this phone even better. Read our full review of the Motorola Droid Razr Maxx.
It's hard to talk Ice Cream Sandwich without mentioning the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. This phone is by no means new but it was the flagship Android ICS device and offers a mostly pure taste of Google's second-best OS. Also, although the Sprint version supports the Google Wallet mobile payment system, the Verizon model is 4G LTE capable now, which personally matters more to me. Sprint's GNex sadly is still waiting for the carrier's promise of LTE in the future. Of course, I'd trade all that in for a pricey, unlocked Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean, but hey I'm a dreamer. Read our full review of the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.
Want specs and pricing? Compare these devices head-to-head.