The Rise of Android Hardware

Steve Jobs didn’t create the first smartphone but he did create the first modern smartphone that we recognize today. Earlier incarnations of the emerging device category had clunky, built-in mechanical keyboards and ugly user interfaces. He shook up the mobile industry with the introduction of the iPad, or its smaller brother, the iPhone. It was a device truly ahead of its time–it took years for competitors to offer copycats–and even then, Android as a platform often lagged behind iOS. Applications crashed frequently on Android and the phones were susceptible to cruddy skins applied by the specific manufacturer. Developers soon learned that more compensation was to be had on Apple’s App Store compared to Google’s Play Store, so applications were often optimized for Apple’s hardware and released on iOS first. These reasons simply allowed Apple to charge the premium price tags that are associated with the brand to this day.

However, it has been more than ten years since the release of the first iPhone, and manufacturers have had plenty of time to play catch-up. Samsung has created stunning phones like the Galaxy S8 and even the owners of Android, that being Google, has entered the market with their Pixel line-up. As an owner of a Samsung phone, I appreciate the flexibility I’m afforded on Android. Sure, the TouchWiz skin on Samsung phones add a bunch of features that I couldn’t care less about at the expense of a streamlined user experience, but I easily switched to the Nova launcher and was allowed to customize my phone to my liking. I suspect not everyone will be so willing to tinker with their phone’s software but for that like-minded crowd, I think Android offers a plethora of phones that are particularly eye-catching in 2018, even when placed side by side with the latest Apple flagship, namely the iPhone XS.

Huawei Mate 20 ProThere are plenty of reasons to reach for a Samsung offering. The company has proven itself as a consistent innovator in display technology, offering some of the best screens available on the market. On top of that, Samsung has garnered the attention of audiophiles by keeping the 3.5 mm headphone jack around and it is such a well-known commodity that most people understand what they are getting with their flagship devices. However, for people who enjoy the flexibility of Android but still admires the aesthetics of iOS from afar, the Huawei brand might be more appealing. Aside from beautiful design choices, the Huawei Mate 20 Pro boasts a three-camera lens system calibrated from Leica, a legitimate optics company in Germany. In an age where mobile photography has taken off, the Mate 20 Pro seems like an ideal choice for aspiring Instagram celebrities. The primary camera has an astonishing 40-megapixels to work with and the selfie camera is no slouch, clocking in at 24-megapixels. The other two cameras placed proudly at the rear are at different focal lengths to allow more or less into the frame of the shot without the use of shotty, quality-compromising digital zoom.

Some of the other specifications are noteworthy–including its incredibly large 4,200 mA battery–and it has all the modern perks of IP68 water resistance and USB-C connectivity but manages to add some unexpected crinkles to the specs sheet. It can wirelessly charge another phone through its dual wireless charging technology and also has a built-in optical fingerprint scanner to assist in its bezeless pursuit at the front. Huawei’s Android skin known as EMUI is often criticized for mimicking iOS down to its more rectangle application logos compared to the circular design emphasized on Google products and services, but that can be perceived as a plus for the right demographic. Chinese brands are sometimes difficult to trust on the software side of things, especially when it is not sold natively in the states, but on paper, this is a phone worth internationally shopping for.

Nubia XThere have been many attempts by phone manufacturers to try to obtain the first truly bezeless design. One of the frequent obstacles that inhibit the screen from encasing the entire front of the phone is the placement of the selfie camera. Apple opted to place a notch, or a small cut-out at the top of the screen, to make room for the camera alongside other important sensors but other companies have been less compromising. There are working models you can purchase right now that pops up the front-facing camera mechanically. For consumers who value creative design choices, this may be worth applauding, but even the most enthusiastic of tech-enthusiasts have expressed concern about its reliability over extended use.

That’s when we meet the Nubia X, a phone that completely ditches the front-facing camera for another screen at the back. This way, when you want to take a selfie of yourself, you simply flip the phone to the rear-facing camera activating the screen on the back for important guidance as you frame your shot. Not only does this remove any mechanical aspects to the phone which may fail over extended usage, but it also adds a design element that makes this phone especially unique. Gone is the notch that was ushered in by the iPhone X. Gone are the bezels. And what’s left is an Android phone worth taking a look at. None of the Android phones mentioned are particularly cheap, that is another strength of the Android market that was completely neglected in this discussion of the rise of Android as a mobile platform. In truth, there are plenty of Android phones worth your time and money, but these are the ones that highlight the lack of innovation coming out from Apple as of recent years.