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The 411: Choosing between Androids

Every two weeks, Senior Associate Editor Nicole Lee answers your questions about cell phones, smartphones, and all things mobile.

Nicole Lee Former Editor
Nicole Lee is a senior associate editor for CNET, covering cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, and all things mobile. She's also a fan of comic books, video games, and of course, shiny gadgets.
Nicole Lee
4 min read

Welcome to the 411, my column answering all your questions about cell phones and cell phone accessories. I receive plenty of questions about these subjects via e-mail, so I figured many of you might have similar queries, too. At times, I might solicit answers from readers if I'm stumped. Send your questions and comments to me at nicole.lee@cnet.com. If you prefer to remain anonymous, let me know in the e-mail.

My contract with AT&T is up and I am looking to upgrade my phone and contract out for two more years. I currently have the iPhone4, 3G. It is just fine but the battery life is terrible. In this order are my needs: 1. Battery life! 2. I use the phone almost exclusively for e-mail. 3. Big buttons because i have big fingers (I can't push just one button on a BlackBerry...). My mom got the HTC Inspire last week. I like the big size. -- Mike, via e-mail

We'll be blunt: most smartphones tend to have battery life of about a day's worth of average use. By which we mean the usual checking of e-mail, browsing the Web, listening to music, and occasional use of GPS for mapping software. Usage can fluctuate depending on how much you use power-intensive applications, and you can try to save battery life by turning off the screen when not in use, or making sure you're not running power-intensive applications in the background (GPS-dependent apps are notorious for sucking up battery life). It's very rare for a smartphone to last longer than a whole day, however. We actually think the iPhone 4's battery life is pretty decent when compared with most smartphones out there, so we just want you to set your expectations appropriately.

With that said, I do think there are a few options for you to look at. Since you said you like the HTC Inspire, I assume when you say "big buttons" you mean a virtual keyboard, not a physical keyboard. Indeed, the HTC Inspire is a good option if you like large phones with decent battery life.

I would also encourage you to look at the Samsung Infuse 4G and the Motorola Atrix 4G if you want to stick with AT&T. For T-Mobile, I like the Samsung Galaxy S 4G and the T-Mobile G2X, and I've heard good things about the Motorola Droid X2 from Verizon Wireless.

If you can wait a little longer for the Samsung Galaxy S II to arrive on our shores, that's one of my favorite new Android phones too. Certainly feel free to shop around!

Quick phone question for you. Which phone should I choose on Sprint around September? Evo 3D: "like Sense think 3D is a waste." Nexus S 4G: "getting a little old but love the screen." Photon 4G "I don't like Blur and could have a locked boot loader." HTC Kingdom? New Samsung phone that is in Sprint's road map? -- David, via e-mail

Since I can't speak about the unreleased phones (the Photon 4G, the Kingdom, and the new Samsung phones have yet to launch in the U.S.), I can only offer you my opinion of the Evo 3D versus the Nexus S 4G. Like you, I'm not a huge fan of 3D, but the HTC Evo 3D is actually a pretty excellent Android phone even if you don't care about 3D. We also really like the display, and the Sense user interface is one of the better manufacturer skins out there.

The Nexus S 4G does have a slightly more compact body, with its curved shape and smaller size. We also like that it has Vanilla Android, so it's easier to update. However, the Nexus S 4G has had some WiMax problems recently, with Sprint hopefully rolling out an update to fix that in the near future. I would probably opt for the Evo if you like the Sense UI, and opt for the Nexus S 4G if you like the smaller form factor. Either way, definitely see if you can check them out in the store or at least be sure your local store has a good return policy.

With all the buzz about Gingerbread coming to the U.S., do you know when the Samsung Epic 2 will arrive? Do you think it's worth waiting for or will the Epic 4G be upgraded from 2.2 to 2.3? -- Di, via e-mail

I think you're referring to the Samsung Epic 2, which has been rumored as a successor to the Samsung Epic 4G for Sprint. It might indeed have Android 2.3, but we really don't know a lot about it at this point. As for the Epic 4G, I have heard that Sprint might be releasing an Android 2.3 update for that soon, but again, we don't have any official word about it. However, I have seen a few online sites that have managed to load Android 2.3 on their Epic 4Gs already (albeit with a few complications, like WiMax not working), so it's possible that it can be done. All I can suggest to you is to stay tight and see what develops in the next few months!