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July 31, 2012

Round-up: Top 10 Flagship Smartphones

If you were wondering who makes the best flagship handsets, we’ve come up with a master list of the top 10 flagship handsets. Feel free to read on after the break.

We’ve narrowed down a list of current flagship phones from some of the most popular vendors/OEMs to see how they all stack up against each other.

Note: Not all of the phones on this list are officially available locally but we’ve included them just for comparison purposes. Some, however, can be purchased from grey market sources.

1) Samsung Galaxy S3 i9300
A cocktail of Exynos goodness, great display and a sizable battery — that’s what the Galaxy S3 is. We’ve already made a review of this monster a while back and we were pretty impressed with it. No wonder Sammy has sold 10 million of these babies in 60 days.

Pros:
• Fastest phone currently out on the market (quad 1.4GHz Cortex A9, upgraded Mali-400 GPU)
• Great Camera
• Good 4.8 inch Super AMOLED HD display
• Wolfson DAC = great audio quality
• Good battery life (2100mAh battery)
• S-Voice works well
Cons:
• Somewhat gimmicky features
• Pentile matrix panel
• Pricey
• Plastic construction may feel cheap to some

Read our review of the Samsung Galaxy S3 here.

2) Apple iPhone 4S
Despite its small-ish screen and half the amount of processor cores compared to some of the high-end Android powerhouses out there, the iPhone 4S can still keep up with them thanks to Apple’s tight hardware and software design synergy making the iOS platform very zippy and stable. The pleasing industrial aesthetics is not just a bonus but a key selling feature too; Apple’s cutting-edge designs often stands out among the rest – thus, its loyal army of users.

Pros:
• Fast and rock-solid platform
• User-friendly
• Feels very well-built
• iOS app store
• Siri
• Great audio quality
• Retina display

Cons:
• OS is too restricted
• No storage expansion options
• Non user-removable battery
• Display is a bit cramped (if you’re used to 4.3” or bigger ones)

Check out our review of the iPhone 4S here.

3) HTC One X
The One X is a perfect indicator that HTC has changed its smartphone design philosophy (somehow). The slim, polycarbonate construction feels great in the hand and it packs the Tegra 3 processor inside to keep the Android experience as smooth as possible. The gorgeous HD LCD display is also one of the most beautiful screens we’ve come across and the Sense 4.0 is no longer as bloated, so what’s the only letdown? It’s the average battery life and the fact that it’s built-in.

Pros:
• Quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor is great at crunching numbers, built-in GeForce GPU makes for a solid HD gaming experience
• Sublime HD LCD panel
• Beats audio is not a gimmick – it does make some tracks sound better
• Unibody construction
• Great camera and in-camera software

Cons:
• Underwhelming battery life (quad core processor and an 1800mAh built-in battery doesn’t match)
• No storage expansion options

Read our review of the HTC One X here.

4) LG Optimus 4X HD
One of the best contenders in the quad-core department, we were able to experience LG and NVIDIA’s latest love child at Computex 2012 a few weeks ago and we liked its overall fit and finish. The HD screen though is something that didn’t impress us.

Pros:
• Tegra 3 processor
• Expandable memory
• Zippy and very capable internet browser
• Supports a plethora of video formats
• Uncluttered UI
• Good battery life with a large 2150mAh power pack

Cons:
• Screen isn’t as great as its competitors
• Silver trimming seems cheap
• Low volume (audio output jack)

Read more about it here and here.

5) Motorola Razr Maxx
Its predecessor — the svelte Razr XT910 — was a complete departure from Motorola’s previous design cues and it was certainly great news to many of us. Unfortunately, despite all the Kevlar and metal hoopla, the XT910′s 1780mAh battery proved to be inadequate and that’s where the newer [slightly thicker] Razr Maxx’s 3300mAh fuel tank is put into good use.

Pros:
• 3300mAh battery can keep the phone alive for a long time even with very heavy use
• Still thin at 8.99mm
• Succeeding firmware updates are close to stock Android (i.e. latest ICS update)
• Still zippy despite the slightly slow OMAP 4430 SoC
• Very solid build quality

Cons:
• TI OMAP 4430 processor can be limiting to some
• Broad chassis (can be difficult to hold for people with small hands)
• Low-resolution, Pentile matrix AMOLED display makes for an unpleasing viewing experience

6) Sony Xperia Ion
Sony is known to own the “always one CPU generation late” title and the Xperia Ion is no exception. Despite the aging Snapdragon S3 processor, the flagship Xperia Ion [in the Philippines] is one of the better-looking smartphones locally available and is basically an upsized Xperia S. Call quality is great and its HD Reality display is just an icing on the cake, the phone feels very solidly built and overall performance is adequately zippy but the 12-megapixel Exmor-R camera is a bit disappointing to say the least.

Pros:
• Good quality 4.55” display
• PlayStation Certified
• Great build quality
• Zippy UI
• Expandable storage
• Smooth 1080p video recording

Cons:
• Image quality from the 12 megapixel camera is rather disappointing
• 1900mAh battery is non-removable
• Comes with Gingerbread out of the box (ICS update to come)

Read our review of the Sony Xperia Ion here.

7) Nokia Lumia 900
Undeniably the biggest lad in its family — Nokia’s current flagship, the Lumia 900 has managed to impress smartphone reviewers all over the globe (even us) with its snappy UI and general performance. The Windows Phone OS and its Metro UI is something to either love or hate depending on the person, the hardware is pretty old for the asking price too but we’d be pretty happy to use the 900 as our primary phone.

Pros:
• Very fast overall performance (Perfect example of optimized hardware and software like iOS)
• Great camera
• Great display (deep blacks and very rich colors)
• High quality apps
• Very functional and easy to use
• Great Nokia build quality
• Good battery life

Cons:
• Hardware is not worth its price tag
• 4.3” display resolution pretty low for its size
• Marketplace still lacks content
• No storage expansion slot

Check out our review of the Nokia Lumia 900 here.

8) Blackberry Bold 9900
Despite its old-school QWERTY form factor, the antiquated internal hardware, OS and pretty much everything else; the Blackberry Bold 9900 is still one of the best smartphones out there. Nothing beats the email, IM and SMS typing experience on the Bold 9900. The small touchscreen display makes navigating the UI a breeze and the keyboard is to die. The Blackberry OS too is one of the most secure mobile platforms out there; it’s so secure that there have been no known viruses or malware for the Blackberry platform to date.

Pros:
• Bright, high resolution display
• Keyboard (need we say more?)
• Pretty good battery life compared to most Android smartphones, mediocre if compared to older Blackberry phones
• Top notch build quality
• Fast and highly secure platform
• Very straightforward to use

Cons:
• Severely outdated hardware
• Paltry 5 megapixel EDOF (extended depth-of-field) camera
• Clunky OS, suffers from frequent slowdowns (can be resolved with a battery pull)
• Lacking app store

You can read our review of the BlackBerry Bold 9900 here.

9.) Huawei Honor
The Huawei Honor doesn’t possess all the bells and whistles that other smartphones out there have but the Chinese ICT giant didn’t make this a flagship phone if it doesn’t have what it takes to compete with some of the best. The Honor is pretty fast, solidly built and has a good battery life although the phone does encounter some hiccups every now and then but it’s something that’s unavoidable in the world of Android phones – it’s very affordable too.

Pros:
• 5 second boot up
• Lightweight
• Great display
• Wide range of apps and feature
• Amazing battery life
• Low price

Cons:
• Android Gingerbread out of the box instead of Ice Cream Sandwich
• UI still needs some tweaks
• Camera quality can be improved

Check out our review of the Huawei Honor here.

10. ZTE Skate
ZTE’s successor to its previous Blade smartphone the Skate, doesn’t boast bleeding-edge hardware or a customized UI with lots of bling. The company’s local flagship device is essentially a mainstream smartphone that opens the gate for those who want a decent Android experience. No more, no less.

Pros:
• 1GHz processor
• Dual LED flash
• Roomy 4.3” LCD display
• Expandable storage

Cons:
• Uninspiring 1400mAh battery
• Runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread out of the box

We’ve basically reviewed almost all of the top flagship smartphones listed above. Of the lot, only the Optimus 4X, the Razr Maxx and the ZTE skate are the ones we have not published a review yet. Fortunately, we already have all 3 with us and are scheduled for review soon. We’ve also considered including the Cherry Mobile Magnum 2X as a local contender as well as the Lenovo P700.

Also, take note we are only listing the top flagship handset for each manufacturer (just one per brand). They are listed in no apparent order but we limit it to just the ones that have been released, about to be released or available in the grey market.

We hope this round-up will give you a good overview of what the mobile phone manufacturers can offer as their best handset so far.

Editor’s Note: Original research and story by Kevin Go with additional inputs and revisions by Yuga.

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44 Responses to “Round-up: Top 10 Flagship Smartphones”

  1. John says:

    Can’t wait for the next iPhone seeing how it’ll stack up with these devices. None of these (except. the iPhone 4S) is that excellent though… I’d rather get Galaxy Nexus as it is a true model of what Android really is. Nice article !! Good work.

    • Bods Tolentino says:

      Great survey and analysis! Can you make a comparo of the local (China) branded phones? I have a Cherry Mobile and it is really LOUSY! A total waste of my hard earned P8000!!! &*%+@! that phone!

  2. ksm023 says:

    Hi Yuga,

    Why is Galaxy Nexus not mentioned? :)

    • yuga says:

      Because Samsung’s representative in this list is the Galaxy S3, the Galaxy Nexus takes the back seat.

    • Boy says:

      I agree with ksm023. Yugatech, of all bloggers should know that the Galaxy Nexus is not a Samsung flagship since it is a Google phone. It’s only manufactured by Samsung

    • Marcelino says:

      How come some people don’t understand the term ‘flagship’? Geez.

      The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is not a flagship smartphone. It has just the latest version of the OS. Nothing else.

      When you say ‘flagship’, you consider the TOTALITY of the smartphone. From the design, to hardware, to the features, and of course, the software. It is best of what a company can offer.

      Galaxy Nexus, on the other hand, only featured the latest OS at that time, ICS. However, it only had mediocre specs, like 5 MP camera and a not-so-new processor.

      Gets?

    • yuga says:

      It was a Samsung handset. It never was a flagship of any manufacturer. Google did not manufacture the GNex. To put it in perspective, Samsung Philippines was the one who distributed the GNex in the country, not Google. Also, during the time of the GNex, the flagship handset is the GNote.

  3. Edan
    Twitter: isoepsamano
    says:

    Yuga, what about Lenovo’s flagship phone?

    • yuga says:

      We initially had the P700 in the draft along with several other handsets. We think it’s the best in its class but it only made it to the top 12. The trimmed down the list to 10.

  4. Mel says:

    great one… can’t wait to a revamped version of this list once the upcoming flagships are out :D

  5. Alexus says:

    Why is Alcatel One Touch 995 Sapphire HD not included? This flagship phone is really nice, feature-packed and impressive at a low price..

    • Kevin Go says:

      Sorry about that, we may have overlooked a couple of devices…

      :(

    • yuga says:

      We considered the one from Alcatel and Lenovo. Unfortunately, we tried to borrow a review unit and wasn’t given the opportunity so we can’t really vouch for it. As we said earlier, we only considered handsets that we have personally tried and tested.

      As for the Lenovo P700, it was part of our initial list (top 12) but we cut it off to just the first 10.

  6. sleepsus says:

    The iPhone 4S made the list while the GNex didn’t?

    This article has suddenly lost credibility :P

    • Kevin Go says:

      I did include it. It was supposed to be the fifth device on this list but our editor has decided to take it off so as to not confuse the readers due to the S3′s existence.

      “5) Samsung Galaxy Nexus

      Google’s current flagship (in partnership with Samsung) may be on its way out but it’s certainly one of
      the most versatile and best smartphones out there. With Android 4.1 Jellybean in tow, the Galaxy Nexus
      runs like a completely different device so for us, nothing beats the optimized Vanilla Android experience
      and that’s one of the reasons why we love Nexus devices – they’re completely in a league of their own.

      Pros:

      -Firmware updates are directly provided by Google
      -New Galaxy Nexus purchases come with Android 4.1 ‘Jellybean‘ out of the box
      -Pure Android experience (no bloatware, no custom UI, etc.)
      -Adequately fast 1.4GHz TI OMAP 4460 SoC partnered with PowerVR SGX540
      -Super AMOLED HD panel
      -Zero-shutter lag

      Cons:

      -Underwhelming 5 megapixel sensor
      -Battery life is pretty average
      -Pentile matrix panel
      -Aging processor
      -Vanilla Android can bore some people”

    • yuga says:

      Again, we’d like to stress that we only pick the flagship. The GNex is not a flagship handset. It’s just a Samsung phone that got an early version of Google Android.

      If Google picked the Galaxy Y and put Jellybean in it, I think you’ll get the point.

    • sleepsus says:

      Kevin, thanks for taking time to explain and post the unedited version. Hooray for journalist integrity, even if it is from your own editor :P

      Yuga, I get it now. The article is about the “Manufacturers” and GNex is made by Samsung. That though puts the GNex at a disadvantage as it was never Samsung’s flagship. It’s got to be someone’s flagship?

    • kei says:

      Galaxy Nexus is not just a Samsung phone, it is more of a Google phone. Google didn’t just pick a phone from a manufacturer and put the latest android on it. Google just picked Samsung over other manufacturers probably because it was the most feasible choice that time, to make their phone just like the Nexus One which is made by HTC. It was even Google who chose the chipset from Texas Instruments for their phone. If it’s really a Samsung phone, why would they even bother to use a chipset from another company if they can make their own (Samsung Exynox). And official Samsung stores don’t sell Galaxy Nexus. Nexus is a flagship phone from Google. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Google_Nexus

  7. Marcelino says:

    Make a new list by the end of the year!

    No doubt about the Top 3 flagship smartphones. :)

    Can’t wait for Samsung Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 5!

  8. Riley says:

    You guys mentioned that the phones weren’t
    listed in any particular order so why does the title
    say “Top 10″?

    • Kevin Go says:

      It is actually. If you’ll try too look at the list closely, we’ve arranged the phones starting from the top performing one to the least (in our opinion).

      We just mentioned that at the end to prevent negative feedbacks since every person has a different opinion.

  9. deuts
    Twitter: deuts
    says:

    I wonder why “no expandable storage” is a con when it actually offers some advantages? Think about it, no “Couldn’t install on USB Storage or SD Card” error: http://deuts.org/post/24184538051/yeah-you-couldnt-possibly-install-that-what

    • yuga says:

      Based on many customer complaints, lack of storage expandability is a huge setback which would-be buyers pointed out in the HTC One X.

    • deuts
      Twitter: deuts
      says:

      Well, then, it’s a choice between reliability and expandability. But then, if you’re used to an erratic performance of a phone with an expandable storage, you can’t complain enough.

    • Bronx says:

      In most things, you can always see something positive (or negative) from a thing that is negative (positive, as the case maybe). One time, someone argued it’s better not to have a good viewing angle because who would want a seatmate to read/see what you’re seeing in your phone. It’s kinda absurd but its a valid argument.Once upon a time, being a big phone is a negative attribute, but now it’s the opposite. Point is you can see it on both sides but when you weigh in pros and cons of something,you need to consider the number of people who agree with it and the general purpose of the subject. It doesn’t always follow that when you expand your storage the phone becomes erratic. But it always follow that the when you expand storage, you get additional space.So it’s more a + than a negative. My two cents.

  10. Tabbyrawr
    Twitter: Tabbymon
    says:

    There’s so many complaints ’bout the GNex. Not to offend you guys, but I really agree with Marcelino. GNex is not considered as a flagship. Yeah, Samsung just manufactured it, and then it’s considered as a Samsung phone, but a PURE GOOGLE software. And now, with S3 released, it’s now Samsung’s flagship. Got it guys? ^^

    And, for some that’s confused, “why isn’t (phone name) listed above”, or “(phone name) should be there”, blah blah, is it’s because, the post is all about “TOP 10″. And for them(referring to the publishers), of all the phones they’ve reviewed, THAT’S THEIR TOP 10.

    Hey, It’s not my intention to offend. Just statin’ my opinion.

    Anyway, lookin’ forward for the upcoming phones. GNote II! =))

    • jacob says:

      The “complaints” are valid. The Gnex is a GOOGLE flagship phone, manufactured by samsung, just as the iphone 4s is the apple flagship phone, manufactured by foxconn. The only difference is that the iphone is BRANDED as apple, while the Gnex is co-branded as samsung and google (via the NEXUS brand).

      Unfortunately, not everyone knows wtf the NEXUS brand is/means, but everyone knows apple. Now, if we’re talking about “manufacturers’ flagship,” then why was apple given special consideration. Sure, much of the engineering design is by apple, but working hand in hand with foxconn engineers. As for google, most of the hardware parts are off the shelf, but assembled to meet their and the os’ requirements.

      But more importantly, when it comes to smartphones, the battle is as much software as it is hardware. Therefore, it is a little disappointing that the google/android flagship/reference phone was left out especially when you consider that it is the only android “flagship” with the latest version of the OS, 4.1 jelly bean. Kevin actually got it right, methinks, when he included the GNex in the list.

      The better route would have been, FLAGSHIP by BRAND. Then, we can argue whether the gnex falls under the samsung or google/nexus brand.

    • kei says:

      jacob is right. at last… someone with accurate knowledge about nexus

    • Kriz says:

      As a Nexus owner, I totally agree with Jacob.

  11. color says:

    Why is pentile a “cons”? Users don’t look at the screen that close.

    can you site an example where users can easily see the difference?

  12. obob says:

    sino nakaexperience na late dumadating ang mga articles? after one week saka lang dumarating mga post na nakapublish ng different dates?

    • ola says:

      Pakitype po sa web address yung buong “www.yugatech.com”
      Ganyan din po akin nung una naka bookmark yugatech.com lang akala ko late lang pero di pala. Ewan ko kung bakit ganun.

  13. Jortz says:

    im still inlove with the beast (Galaxy Note)
    awaiting the 2nd beast to conquer the S and the X.
    :)

  14. gears says:

    May I request for a list of “top rumored smart phones” until end of 2012 ? I am planning to get the latest phone this coming Christmas!

  15. PuppyMonster says:

    Anticipating to see Nokia back at number 1 after windows phone 8 release. go LUMIA!!

  16. hamster says:

    been waiting for the Razr Maxx since I’ve 1st heard bout it. too bad that it’s not yet released here in the Philippines.

  17. ronald says:

    There i a better htc one x called the HTC ONE X+. Good thing i did not buy the now obsolete htc one x – http://www.engadget.com/2012/08/03/rumored-htc-one-x-with-1-7ghz-tegra-3-revealed-in-nenamark-repo/

  18. Bj says:

    THIS OBVIOUSLY BIASED!

    COME ON? IPHONE 4‘S ??? LOL!!!!!

    LG OPTIMUS 4X IS BETTER THAN HTC ONE X

    I-PHONE 4′S SHOULD NOT IN THE TOP-3………….

  19. Dave says:

    great! list of top 10 smart phones. sumsung achieved the rank 1 because of great innovation.

  20. mike says:

    pang anung top ang sony acro S pagkasali dito??

  21. Nur Fahmy says:

    Don’t you forget about quality of NOkia 808?I know that the processor of nokia 808 lesser than any gadget you’ve comparised, but tell me where’s the rank nokia 808 in image quality if comparised with all gadget above ? deeper in take photo and video experience. thx – regards.

  22. Ukin Inau Amin says:

    The only sore thing in the list is the crappy old tech surplus parts assembled by foxconn yet very overpriced apple that is idolized by all idiots out there who belong to the one percent of the population.

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  24. Hi! What is the namje of that blog template?

    Or it’s custom?

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Kevin is a blogger, avid gamer and always keeps himself updated with the latest trends in technology. He's still a bit shy so no Twitter and Facebook link here.

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