Best phones: Motorola Droid Razr

As we approach the holiday weekend and CNET editors catch a breath before CES, it's time to pause and look back at the mobile year that was. Throughout 2011 your trusty cell phone reviews team evaluated 165 handsets, from simple models that made calls to complicated smartphones than can run your life. Recapping each of them would take a lot of time (and more slides than you could handle), so we're going to show you the highs and the lows instead. So here they are, the best and worst cell phones that CNET reviewed in 2011.


Editors' note: Though the best and worst phones are separated into distinct groups, the devices within each category are listed in no particular order.


In my eight years at CNET, Verizon's Droid Razr was the first cell phone I can remember to reach a score of 9.0 out of 10. But it was with good reason. Our former reviews editor Nicole Lee loved almost everything about it including the slim and sturdy design, the gorgeous display, the 1.2GHz dual-core processor, and the loaded feature set. Sure the camera wasn't stellar, but everything else about the Droid Razr was. And speaking of Droids, Moto's Droid Bionic also impressed.


Editors' rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


The bottom line: With its razor-thin design, jam-packed features, and blazing speed, the Motorola Droid Razr is easily one of the year's top Android smartphones.


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Best phones: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The only other phone to receive a 9.0 out of 10 score this year, Verizon's Samsung Galaxy Nexus barged onto the mobile scene late in the year. But even during that crowded time, the Galaxy Nexus caught our attention with its sleek design, top-notch performance, and Ice Cream Sandwich operating system. Its camera faltered as well, and Android 4.0 has a learning curve, but it greatly improves on previous Galaxy models like the Galaxy S II Skyrocket and the Galaxy S II (both of which were pretty cool to begin with). Like the Droid Razr, the Galaxy Nexus also won our Editor's Choice Award, a title we withheld for the unlocked version.


Editors' rating: 4.5 stars out of 5


The bottom line: As the first U.S. phone with Ice Cream Sandwich, Verizon's Samsung Galaxy Nexus takes a coveted, solitary step forward. However, once other premium handsets receive the updated Android OS, the Galaxy Nexus will lose some of its competitive edge.


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Best phones: Apple iPhone 4S

Though the iPhone 4S was Apple's fifth iPhone model, it was the first version with CNET's Editor's Choice Award. What's more, it was the first iPhone to land on three carriers at launch: Sprint, Verizon Wireless, and AT&T. No, it wasn't the iPhone 5, but the 4S still had a lot to offer including an upgraded camera, more speed, and the quirky Siri.


Editors' rating: 4 stars out of 5


The bottom line: The iPhone 4S isn't the king of cell phones, but it's part of the royal family nonetheless. Even without 4G and a giant screen, this phone's smart(ass) voice assistant, Siri, the benefits of iOS 5, and its spectacular camera make it a top choice for anyone ready to upgrade.


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Best phones: HTC Sensation 4G

Even as AT&T threatened a (now unsuccessful) merger, T-Mobile kept up the pace with one awesome phone after another. The Sensation 4G wowed the normally hard-to-impress Bonnie Cha with a dual-core processor, a killer qHD display, and an improved HTC Sense interface. So who cares if the speakers weren't great?


Editors' rating: 4 stars out of 5


The bottom line: Its excellent design and user experience, coupled with its solid performance, make the HTC Sensation 4G one of the best Android phones yet and a top pick for T-Mobile customers.


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Best phones: T-Mobile G2X

T-Mobile then followed with the award-wining G2X by LG. It also brought a dual-core processor and raised the bar with plenty of multimedia features, a sharp design, and support for T-Mobile's zippy HSPA+ network. Call quality was one of the few things that we wished we could have improved.


Editors' rating: 4 stars out of 5


The bottom line: The T-Mobile G2x's simple Android interface, blazingly fast speeds, and polished look make it the phone to beat in T-Mobile's lineup.


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Worst phones: Samsung Trender

We have nothing against messaging phones, but Sprint's Trender wouldn't be anywhere near our top choice. Samsung's interface was user-friendly, but it felt dated and it paled in comparison to similarly priced Android handsets. Even worse, the keyboard was flat, the camera took dull photos, and the Trender was saddled by slow 3G speeds.


Editors' rating: 3 stars out of 5


The bottom line: If you're trying to avoid a data plan, the Samsung Trender is one affordable messaging option, though one of Sprint's budget Android phones could prove a better value.


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Worst phones: HP Veer

Oh, what a missed opportunity for HP. It could have reinvigorated (before eventually killing) WebOS by bringing the superior Pre 3 to a U.S carrier, but it opted for the hopeless Veer instead. Yeah, it was cute, but the tiny screen made even the simplest tasks frustrating. The proprietary headphone jack and adapter made no sense and AT&T's data speeds were slow. It was a disappointment all around.


Editors' rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


The bottom line: The HP Veer 4G looks cute and packs in a good amount of features for the price and size, but ultimately the smartphone's compact design hinders usability and limits its appeal.


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Worst phones: Kyocera Domino S1310

Call quality was "fairly reliable," as Jessica Dolcourt put it, but that's hardly a ringing endorsement. Instead, she remembers the MetroPCS device more for its tiny and low-res screen, cramped controls, and weak construction.


Editors' rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


The bottom line: The Kyocera Domino offers portability and decent call quality, but there are so many design drawbacks, you'd do better to choose a different entry-level phone.


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Worst phones: LG Cosmos Touch

Verizon's Cosmos Touch was supposed to build on previous LG messaging devices like the original Cosmos. The problem was that it didn't offer any new features and the touch screen wasn't responsive. Would we pay $79? No.


Editors' rating: 3 stars out of 5


The bottom line: The LG Cosmos Touch is an average messaging phone without a lot of multimedia features, which we don't think is worth its retail price tag.


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Worst phones: Huawei M835

Huawei has yet to hit it out of the ballpark with a U.S. device and it had no chance with the Android-powered M835. The camera was poor, the display was small, performance lagged, and the battery life was too short. When the only nice thing that you can say about a handset is that it's "one of MetroPCS' least expensive Android phones," that's not good.

Editors' rating: 2.5 stars out of 5


The bottom line: While it certainly isn't our top pick, the Huawei M835 is one of MetroPCS' least expensive Android phones.


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