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Phones

Best phones of 2010

Join Flora as she takes a look back at her favourite mobile phones of 2010. We laughed, we cried -- it was 2010: A phone odyssey.

It was the best of phones, it was the worst of phones, and I had to review them all. And happily for me, there was a bucketload of awesome delivered to my desk this year.

Each phone gets reviewed objectively, with a Spock-like control over my emotions. But once a year, it's time for a metaphorical pon farr, when I let my feelings run rampant -- on the topic of mobiles, of course. So grab a glass of mulled wine, turn down the Christmas carols, and read on as I take a personal look at my favourites of 2010.

HTC Desire HD

When the HTC HD2 came out, I offered £100 on the podcast to anyone who could port Android on to this phone so I could have its huge screen, but not its Windows Mobile 6.5 OS. In 2010, HTC answered that call -- although I never did give it the £100.

At 123mm tall and 68mm wide, the Desire HD is a beast, and it's far too big to tuck in a pocket or purse. But for surfing the Web it's the next best thing to a tablet computer, especially with Android 2.2 Froyo and its fantastic Flash support on board. 

I also have to love the Desire HD's cunningly machined metal case, with various hatches for getting at the battery, SIM card and memory card, despite its contribution to the phone's 164g weight.

For most people, the HTC Desire is perfectly practical, but for me, bigger is better and the Desire HD is as big as they come. Yes, I'm just talking about mobile phones here. 

Apple iPhone 4

Love it or hate it, Apple's one and only phone was the one to beat for the fourth year running. It's got plenty of annoyances, including a disturbing lack of ability to receive phone calls -- but that's been true since the first iPhone, whether thanks to network overload or poor hardware. 

So, if the iPhone is the worst phone in the world, why is it also the greatest gadget of the 21st century? Simply put, after a long day of hacking into the deepest, darkest secrets of some prototype Android phone, picking up the iPhone 4 is like getting into a warm bath.

The crystal-clear screen makes your eyeballs relax, and the chilled, if simplistic, array of icons makes your brain go to mush. And the iPhone's smooth scrolling and multi-touch zoom is as buttery as a croissant covered in foie gras. Delicious.

Google Nexus S

I wasn't so sure about the Samsung Galaxy S when it first arrived, because of its oddly cheerful but useless Samsung quirks. But I grew to love it because it has that indefinable gadget X factor that makes it fun to use, especially after it got its update to Android 2.2 Froyo.

But the Nexus S is the Galaxy all grown up, with none of the childish Samsung additions. Pure, cold and beautiful Android 2.3 Gingerbread does everything with steely efficiency, belied only by its flirtatiously curved screen.

It's even available from actual shops, instead of Google's previous attempt at an own-brand phone, the Nexus One, which was only sold from Google's own website. I still think that probably few people will buy it as it feels mysteriously geeky, but it's still one of the year's best phones.

The also-rans

Sometimes a phone comes along that has something special -- that gadget X factor -- but it just doesn't catch on. Wrong place, wrong time, or just wrong -- who knows, but these are the phones that I loved that never quite made the big time.

The HTC Legend was an update to the HTC Hero, and it made one of my favourite phones of 2009 even better. With a great-looking aluminium case, a usable and beautiful interface, and a pocket-friendly size, I thought it would go all the way to the big show. But it never got out of the shadow of the HTC Desire, and ended up playing out its days in the bush leagues.

The Huawei Ideos was pipped to be the first Android phone for less than £100 on pay as you go. Despite its cheap, plasticky looks, it rocked the party with pure, untouched Android 2.2 Froyo, Wi-Fi and HSPA. Sadly, the networks didn't agree, and the Ideos never found its way into high-street shops. It could still make it on to shelves, but now it's up against competition from the Orange San Francisco and the LG Optimus One. Alas, poor Ideos, we hardly knew ye.

Honourable mention goes to the Palm Pre 2, the best phone no-one ever wanted, and the Windows Phone 7 phones, which suffered from the Christina/Britney/Pink syndrome of being way too similar.