Our favorite smartphones at CES 2012

The Consumer Electronics Show has come and gone. Though there were few revolutionary new products at the show this year, in the smartphone space, we saw a number of promising new devices, many from companies that haven’t been performing well in the United States in recent years, including Nokia and Sony. Huawei and Fujitsu also had impressive showings, but overall, Windows Phone may be the winner at CES 2012. While it still has a tiny market share here in the US, Windows Phone devices held their own, right up there with Android. 

Nokia Lumia 900


It may be an improved version of the Lumia 800, but Nokia came out strong at CES with the Lumia 900. The Finnish manufacturer’s second US Windows Phone will be released on AT&T in the near future and run on the carrier’s newly launched 4G LTE network. Better, Nokia has upped the screen size to a cool 4.3 inches, and has a number of new apps in the pipeline, including a new app that lets you use augmented reality, in conjunction with your phone’s camera, to find nearby restaurants and places. Combin that with actual turn-by-turn navigation thanks to Nokia owning Navteq and it may be difficult to resist giving Windows Phone a try. 

Read our full hands-on impressions

Check out our full review of the Nokia Lumia 900.

Motorola Droid 4

Motorola Droid 4 - CES 2012

Like Nokia, Motorola has been learning from its mistakes. The Droid 3 was a good phone when it came out this past summer, but releasing a 3G phone as Verizon was pushing its 4G LTE network was a mistake. Those who wanted a keyboard, but didn’t want to be stuck with 3G for two more years, were left in a bind. Well, no more. Motorola let me play around with the LTE-enabled Droid 4 at CES and it made me miss my years with a full QWERTY keyboard. The Droid 4 has what might be the best looking QWERTY on any phone right now, complete with five rows of keys (yes, a number row) that are each individually backlit. The only downside is, as usual, Motorola’s somewhat bland blue and grey Android interface. (The camera is also likely a downer, though I didn’t get to test the camera, so I’m only assuming based on older models). Still, for a great slide-out keyboard, I’d sacrifice a bit of interface. 

Read our full hands-on impressions

Check out our full review of the Motorola Droid 4.

Huawei super-thin ICS phones

Huawei Ascend P1 S CES 2012

Huawei doesn’t yet have much of a foothold here in the United States, with the exception of a deal with Cricket (and maybe some other carriers), but its lineup has improved so dramatically from last year that I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some of its phones creep into the market in 2012. At CES, Huawei showed off the Ascend P1 S, the “world’s thinnest phone,” complete with an unmodified, very pretty version of Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich). None of the major manufacturers showed off devices with ICS, likely because it’s so new, but Huawei proved it can move fast. The phones ran quite well with Google’s new OS. I don’t know a whole lot about Huawei yet, but I expect that I’ll have to brush up.

Read about Huawei’s Ascend P1 S

LG Spectrum

LG Spectrum 4G LTE phone for Verizon - CES 2012

You have to give LG props. Even though Super AMOLED screens are clearly dominating the market, and are a hit with consumers, LG went out of its way at CES to prove why AMOLED is inferior to LCD IPS displays, which have been around for a long time. In many ways, the argument is valid. Though AMOLED produces more vivid colors and much deeper blacks, LCD can produce more accurate images. The LG Spectrum is proudly named for its HD LCD screen. This dual-core phone runs on Verizon’s 4G LTE network and really isn’t the most fabulous smartphone at the ball, but it’s $200 launch price point is nice, and should make it one of the most attractive devices available on Verizon for less than $300. 

Read our full hands-on impressions

Sony Xperia Ion

Sony Xperia Ion

Sony is no longer tethered to Ericsson. Though the Xperia Ion actually had some display units at the show with Sony Ericsson logos, representatives assured me that it will only bear the Sony name. This brand change should give Sony a chance to reboot its smartphone lineup here in the US. The Xperia Ion doesn’t revolutionize the smartphone, but Sony’s implementation of Android is pleasant to look at and the phone itself is quite thin. Sony has even stolen a good feature from Windows Phone. You can hold down the camera button even if the phone is on standby and the phone will snap a picture. We’re not fond of the fact that it always instantly snaps a picture instead of just opening the camera app, but something is better than nothing. We’d be happy to see Sony start competing in the US better. Hopefully, this will be one of the first devices to reach beyond AT&T. 

Check out our full review of the Sony Xperia Ion

Check out our picture gallery

HTC Titan II

HTC Titan II Windows Phone

HTC didn’t invest in a giant booth at CES this year, but it did announce a new Windows Phone. The Titan II is the sequel to the just-released Titan and will be another choice for AT&T users looking at Windows Phone in the coming months. It improves on the basic look and design of the Titan, bumps up the camera to an amazing 16MP resolution, and has 4G LTE connectivity. Couple that with the huge 4.7-inch screen and you have a great phone that pushes the limits in a number of ways. 

Read our full hands-on impressions

Fujitsu Toshiba IS12T

Fujitsu Toshiba IS12t Japanese Windows Phone - front

This device will likely never hit shelves in the United States, but I wish some US manufacturers (and wireless carriers) would have the guts to release devices that had a bit of color. This Fujitsu and Toshiba collaboration has a 12-megapixel camera and an impressively thin feel. It doesn’t push the boundaries on specs or reinvent Windows Phone, but it would make a great option and seems to be the perfect colors for a Sprint phone.

Check out our picture gallery

Samsung Galaxy Note

Samsung Galaxy Note - Apps screen

The Galaxy Note is not my favorite phone at CES. Far from it. But it is something new, and that’s worth something. With the Galaxy Note, Samsung has pushed the limits to how large a smartphone can be, with a huge 5.3-inch screen. The phone is so much like a tablet that it comes with its own stylus and a screen cover. During my 15-30 minutes with the device, I just didn’t find the huge size to be worth the hassle of having a phone that you can hardly hold or fit in your pocket. Many of you came to the Note’s defense though, and I look forward to writing a full review when the device hits AT&T shelves sometime in the next few months. 

Check out our full Samsung Galaxy Note review.

Read our full hands-on impressions