Android in 2011: Bigger, faster, thinner, lighter

The next generation of Android phones looks to be not only more powerful with larger screens, but lighter and thinner at the same time.

Scott Webster
Scott Webster has spent the better part of his adult life playing with cell phones and gadgets. When not looking for the latest Android news and rumors, he relaxes with his wife and son. Scott also is the senior editor for AndroidGuys. E-mail Scott.
Scott Webster
3 min read
The 4-inch screen, 1GB RAM, dual-core processor, and 1930mAh battery will likely make the Atrix 4G one of 2011's top phones. Motorola

After taking a few days to decompress and wrap my head around the Android news from CES 2011, I started to notice a couple of trends with the new devices. Not only are these phones getting substantially faster with bigger screens, but they are growing thinner and lighter at the same time.

As expected, the next Android phones are going to be much faster than today's handsets. We have dual-core smartphones like LG's Optimus 2X and the Motorola Atrix 4G on the horizon, and companies such as Samsung are pushing out single-core processor handsets with impressive 1.2GHz speeds.

And when you factor in 1GB memory capacities, you have two ingredients for 2011's "superphone." Well, at least for the first half of the year. At the rate things are moving, it's pretty difficult to forecast beyond six months.

With screen size, big is in. What started with HTC's Evo 4G continues this year in force. In fact, it appears that the minimum display size for touch-screen phones now hovers around 4 inches or higher. Not only does a quick look show that some of the key handsets announced at CES have screens of 4.3 inches or larger, but Samsung's Infuse 4G is headed for AT&T with a 4.5-inch screen. Anything larger and we'll be into Dell Streak and tablet territory.

It's really funny considering that last summer, plenty of people balked at the Evo because it was considered too big. Was the success of the Sprint phone a driving factor in the new designs, or are handset makers simply moving the needle whether we like it or not?

As screen sizes grow, the technology behind them is improving as well. Motorola introduced us to qHD displays on its Droid Bionic, whereas Samsung is ushering in the era of the Super AMOLED Plus screens. Without doing a full comparison between the different screen types that are available, it's sufficient to say that each will be brighter, more efficient, and better for outdoor visibility.

Somewhat conversely, these new handsets are becoming thinner and lighter. Though most people might not be able to detect it right away, the next generation of Android smartphones has an average thickness of around 0.39 inch (10mm) or less. Maybe I'm wrong, but I could swear I heard at least three companies announce the thinnest smartphone on the planet at last week's CES.

The Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc, for example, has a 0.34 inch (8.7mm) profile while the iPhone 4, which Apple hailed as the "world's thinnest smartphone" last year, compares at 0.36 inch (9.3mm) thick.

Looking at LG's Optimus Black, we have a phone that starts at 0.36 inch (9.2mm) at its widest point, but dwindles down to as low as a very trim 0.23 inch (6mm) at its narrowest. If a 0.12-inch (3.3mm) difference doesn't sound like much, consider this: the Optimus Black is 33 percent thinner than the iPhone 4 in certain spots.

Things look promising on the battery front with Motorola's Atrix 4G. Indeed, Moto has squeezed a 1930mAh battery into a feature-laden handset. Promised talk time is 9 hours plus a rated standby time of 10.4 days. Though that's in perfect-world conditions, it's most welcome over the Samsung Nexus S' 1,500mAh battery.