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1. The iPhone 5: Obsolete Before Release?

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

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Since the original 2G model launched back in 2007, Apple's iPhone products have typically been the King of the Smartphone Hill. Whether you're talking about the 3G, 3GS or the iPhone 4, there is no denying the success that Apple has enjoyed in this space, much of which is thanks to the potent hardware Apple puts into its products.

But what about Android devices?

The iPhone 2G and 3G wore the Best Hardware crown up until the release of the following model, but that started to change when the iPhone 3GS was arguably bested within several months by devices like the Motorola Droid and Google Nexus One. The iPhone 4 was the fastest smartphone for less than a month when the Samsung Vibrant launched with a larger screen, similar-but-faster CPU, and more potent GPU.

This year the iPhone 5 may be outclassed before it even launches, all thanks to the massive progression of the Android platform as well as the effort put in by chipmakers like Nvidia (Tegra), Texas Instruments (OMAP) and Qualcomm (Snapdragon). We've rounded up 15 high-end Android phones - some of which are already available while others are expected sometime later this year - that are ready to give the iPhone 5 (or iPhone 4GS, whatever it's called) a run for its money. We will give each phone an "iPhone Threat Level" of Green, Blue, Yellow, Orange, and Red; Green being little to no threat to the iPhone 5's success, and Red being a severe threat.

This article is predominantly about the hardware within Apple and Android smartphones...but we do address software, design and UI layers to a certain extent, especially when we're talking about specific manufacturers like HTC. It's hard to talk about smartphone hardware without mentioning other factors, so keep that in mind as you read on.

2. A Peek Inside The iPhone 5

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

No one outside of Apple knows for certain what kind of specs the iPhone 5 might have, given the company's secrecy (Apple is even vague on the specs of its released products), but there are plenty of rumors and speculation. You can be fairly certain that it will feature the same dual-core A5 processor found in the iPad 2, though the speed could be anywhere from 800 MHz to 1.2 GHz (for reference, the iPad 2's A5 is clocked at 900 MHz).

You might remember when Steve Jobs said no one would want a big smartphone, referring to those with screens 4-inches and larger. Well, all signs suggest that the iPhone 5 will have a 4-inch screen, though the overall size of the phone won't be much bigger than the iPhone 4, thanks to potentially slimmer borders around the display. While a resolution bump is always a possibility, odds are it will still sport the same 960x640 resolution to help with backwards compatibility with apps in the App Store. This is further bolstered by the fact that even the newest Quarter HD, or qHD, displays found on Motorola and HTC devices are "only" 960x540 (which is a 16:9 aspect ratio, by the way).

Will it have 4G? Who knows! AT&T's 4G LTE network won't be anywhere near ready for the iPhone 5 if the device comes out in 2011, and development constraints of building a Verizon 4G LTE version also make it unlikely. It should feature HSPA+ compatibility, however, which does count as a 4G standard (ITU standards excluded) and is capable of speeds up to 21 Mbps.

Other rumored features include a 12MP camera with 1080p video recording, an NFC (Near Field Communication) chip, facial recognition through the front facing camera to automatically unlock, and some very impressive battery life. Using previous iPhone releases as a barometer, the iPhone 5 will probably launch sometime in or after June, and before October of 2011. There are rumblings about a 2012 release...but we are ignoring that for the sake of this article.

3. HTC Sensation

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

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Challenger: HTC Sensation

Processor: 1.2 GHz Snapdragon MSM8260

Screen Size: 4.3-inch qHD (960x540)

iPhone Threat Level: Red

With a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor, the HTC Sensation already trumps even the most auspicious iPhone 5 rumors, though the formers Adreno 220 GPU likely won't outperform the SGX543MP2, should the iPhone 5 get it. The Sensation will be launching on T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network, meaning it will rocket past the iPhone 5 on AT&T's HSPA+ or Verizon's CDMA 3G networks.

All of that is only the tip of the iceberg, however; with HTC's Sense UI, users can expect a smooth experience and many iPhone-like features as well. The Sensation also offers a very feature-rich environment, with things like DLNA, Wi-Fi printer support, 1080p recording and playback, and even integrated editing software.

The HTC Sensation is looking to be the perfect device for anyone in the market for a high-end smartphone, but perhaps more importantly it offers a very easy transition for anyone interested in switching from the iPhone.

4. LG Optimus 3D

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

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Challenger: LG Optimus 3D

Processor: TI OMAP4430 dual-core 1 GHz

Screen Size: 4.3-inch 800x480 Stereoscopic 3D

iPhone Threat Level: Yellow

Glasses-free 3D displays are something everyone seems interested in today (personally, I don't think the technology is ready). The Optimus 3D is the very first phone not only to feature this 3D display technology, but record 3D movies and photos as well. With its dual 5MP cameras, it can record 1080p 2D or 720p 3D video.

Its dual-core 1GHz processor may or may not be more powerful than the iPhone's A5, depending on its configuration. If the iPhone 5 is clocked at 800 MHz, the Optimus 3D will have quite an edge, but if we end up seeing a 1.2 GHz clock, the Optimus will lag behind. The iPhone 5 should best the Optimus 3D in terms of gaming performance, but the 3D display will undoubtedly be an attractive option to some.

It really all comes down to consumer interest in 3D displays and whether or not it detracts from the quality of the image when using it in 2D mode.

5. HTC EVO 3D

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: HTC EVO 3D

Processor: 1.2 GHz Snapdragon MSM8660

Screen Size: 4.3-inch qHD Stereoscopic 3D

iPhone Threat Level: Orange

The EVO 3D is very similar to the Optimus 3D except that it has a nicer display, and Sprint's WiMax 4G. The biggest concern with the Optimus 3D is that it's 3D display will have a negative effect on 2D content. This is much less of an issue with the EVO 3D since it has a higher resolution qHD screen. The EVO 3D should be able to keep up with the iPhone 5, even at its highest rumored clockspeeds, and because it features HTC's SenseUI, the EVO 3D also offers a very iPhone-like experience. Just like the Optimus 3D, the EVO 3D also has dual 5MP cameras for recording in 3D, capable of 1080p 2D and 720p 3D video.

When it comes to network speed, it'll support Sprint's WiMax 4G network, which doesn't quite compare to Verizon's 4G LTE speeds, but still manages to trounce AT&T's HSPA+ offerings expected with the iPhone 5.

6. Motorola Atrix 4G

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: Motorola Atrix 4G

Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2, dual-core 1 GHz

Screen Size: 4-inch qHD (960x540)

iPhone Threat Level: Orange

As the first dual-core smartphone released in the US, the Atrix 4G is a substantially powerful device. Nvidia's Tegra 2 platform not only provides ample general processing power, but also leverages Nvidia's graphics technology for advanced 2D and 3D capabilities. It's difficult to say whether or not this will make the Atrix more powerful than the iPhone 5. If the iPhone 5 is clocked at just 800 MHz or if it only has a single core GPU, the Atrix 4G would certainly be the victor; however, if the 1.2 GHz rumors are to be believed, the Atrix will take the silver medal.

As far as 4G is concerned, the Atrix features AT&T's HSPA+ network connectivity. Compared to Verizon's 4G LTE or T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+, you can barely consider AT&T's current offerings 4G. In all likelihood, the iPhone 5 will feature identical, if not better, network speeds.

The real threat comes from the fact that the Atrix 4G is available now, with a slew of unique accessories, including a laptop dock. Anyone looking for a dual-core upgrade without waiting for the uncertain launch of the iPhone 5 may jump aboard the Atrix gravy train...if they don't mind a slightly bulkier phone and foregoing the smoothness of iOS.

7. LG Optimus 2X

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: LG Optimus 2X (aka T-Mobile G2x)

Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2, dual-core 1 GHz

Screen Size: 4-inch 480x800

iPhone Threat Level: Orange

The Optimus 2X was actually the world's first dual-core smartphone and was just released for T-Mobile as the G2x. It features many of the same specs as the Atrix 4G, including a nearly identical processor. The reason the G2x is a bigger threat that the Atrix is because of the 4G network it's on, its sleeker design, and pure Android interface that isn't bogged down by a hit-or-miss manufacturer UI layer.

T-Mobile's 4G HSPA+ network is far faster than AT&T's. On top of that, the G2x is not only compatible with AT&T's HSPA+ network, but most European carriers as well, making it an excellent world phone...which happens to be another possible iPhone 5 feature. Unlike the Atrix, the G2x has an attractive and compact design, nearly as thin as the iPhone 4.

Perhaps most importantly is the G2x's unadulterated Android interface. Unlike the Atrix, which occasionally lags due to un-optimized and resource heavy animations and transitions, the G2x offers a vanilla Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) experience just as smooth as Apple's iOS.

8. Motorola Droid X^2

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: Motorola Droid X² (aka X^2 or X-Squared)

Processor: Nvidia Tegra 2, dual-core 1.2 GHz

Screen Size: 4.3-inch qHD (960x540)

iPhone Threat Level: Yellow

The original Droid X was a massive success, and the Droid X² (previously known as the Droid 2X) is a nearly identical phone but with some extensive internal upgrades. Going from a single-core 1 GHz processor to Nvidia's latest dual-core 1.2 GHz Tegra 2 SoC creates a massive leap in performance, certainly on par with the offerings expected from the iPhone 5. Like its predecessor, it'll have just about every additional feature a smartphone can, such as HDMI output, dual LED flash, and potentially 1080p video recording.

On the downside, it doesn't seem that the Droid X² will get to play on Verizon's super fast 4G LTE network, though the Verizon iPhone 5 likely won't either. You're also going to have a slimmed-down version of Motoblur running atop Android 2.2 (Froyo), which might turn some potential buyers off. There's also the small issue that the Droid X² release date is completely unknown, though still expected before the iPhone 5.

9. Samsung Galaxy S II

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: Samsung Galaxy S II (or S2)

Processor: 1.2 GHz Dual-Core Exynos

Screen Size: 4.3-inch 800x480

iPhone Threat Level: Red

The original Galaxy S was a raging success world-wide. In the US, it is available on all of the major carriers; as the Fascinate on Verizon, the Captivate on AT&T, the keyboard-equipped Epic 4G on Sprint, and the Vibrant on T-Mobile. The Galaxy S II will likely take a similar approach.

Regardless of the processor speed in the iPhone 5, the Galaxy S II already has it 1-up'd, using an almost identical chip as the A5, but with a much faster Mali-400MP video processor. Samsung did this same thing with the original Galaxy S and the iPhone 4's processor (that's what Apple gets for sourcing Samsung for their chips).

As far as styling goes, the Galaxy S II is large, but also very thin, on track to become the world's thinnest smartphone when it launches April 25th in South Korea (as well as May 1st in the UK and TBA in the US). It really does have the iPhone 5 beat in every aspect and definitely has the potential to break some of that Apple loyalty.

10. HTC Droid Incredible 2

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: HTC Droid Incredible 2

Processor: 1 GHz Snapdragon MSM8655

Screen Size: 4-inch 800x480

iPhone Threat Level: Blue

The original Droid Incredible was a powerful and uniquely attractive phone with plenty of features which made it very successful. While the Incredible 2 does improve on the original, it's nowhere near groundbreaking.

It offers a 4-inch screen and remains a sleek looking device, but only features a 1GHz single core processor which, while significantly faster than the original, won't stand a chance against the iPhone 5. It does have a very nice 8MP camera with dual LED flash and is expected to be world phone capable, though without Verizon's 4G LTE. When it comes out on the 28th, it really won't be drawing anyone's attention away from the iPhone 5, apart from those who fell in love with the original Incredible.

11. HTC Thunderbolt

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: HTC Thunderbolt

Processor: 1GHz Snapdragon MSM8655

Screen Size: 4.3-inch 800x480

iPhone Threat Level: Orange

The HTC Thunderbolt is Verizon's very first 4G LTE smartphone, and it has gotten a lot of attention because of it. With real life download speeds hitting around 25Mbps, the iPhone 5 simply won't be able to compete, even if it turns out to be HSPA+ capable. The Thunderbolt is also an extremely well built device, with solid construction and thoughtful kickstand.

Network speed is the only place where it has the iPhone 5 beat though. Apart from the 4G LTE antenna, the Thunderbolt is really nothing more than a tweaked EVO 4G, even sharing a similar 1GHz single core processor. It is a fast and capable processor, but it just pales in comparison to the iPhone 5. As many reviewers pegged it, the Thunderbolt is a 2010 smartphone with a 2011 network radio.

12. Samsung Infuse 4G

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: Samsung Infuse 4G

Processor: 1.2 GHz Hummingbird

Screen Size: 4.5-inch 800x480

iPhone Threat Level: Yellow

When Steve Jobs said no one wants a big phone, the Infuse 4G may have been more of what he had in mind. Its 4.5-inch is both its biggest selling point as well as its biggest deterrent. It's not quite as big as the failed Dell Streak, but it's stil larger than virtually any other smartphone currently on the market. With the backing of Samsung, however, it certainly stands a chance to steal away any prospective iPhone buyers looking for a slightly larger device.

Its 1.2 GHz Hummingbird processor is fast, but it's really nothing more than a refreshed version of last year's tech. In short: the Apple A5 CPU will smoke the Infuse 4G. Then, of course, there's the issue of 4G; just like the Atrix, the Infuse 4G uses AT&T's 4G HSPA+ network, topping out at just 14Mbps under ideal (read: impossible to achieve in real life) conditions. There's no reason the iPhone 5 wouldn't be able to achieve the same speeds.

13. LG Revolution

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

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Challenger: LG Revolution

Processor: 1 GHz Snapdragon MSM8655

Screen Size: 4.3-inch 800x480

iPhone Threat Level: Yellow

The LG Revolution is basically just another 4G LTE smartphone for Verizon. Its specs are nearly identical to the already released HTC Thunderbolt, even using the exact same Snapdragon processor. All in all, it's a decent phone, though it can't really compete with the iPhone 5 on any aspect other than network speed and screen size. The Revolution has a strong following of interested potential buyers, and with an expected release date closer to Apple's iPhone 5 launch than any other 4G LTE phones, it might pull a little bit of attention away from the iPhone 5.

14. Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

ZoomChallenger: Sony Ericsson Xperia Arc

Processor: 1 GHz Snapdragon MSM8255

Screen Size: 4.2-inch 854x480

iPhone Threat Level: Yellow

Another device that focuses more on features than performance, the Xperia Arc is a very unique find. In terms of processor performance, the Arc really doesn't fit in with the other 2011 smartphones, being better suited with phones released last year...but that isn't what makes it special.

Sony Ericsson put a lot of effort into the advanced features of the Xperia Arc. For starters, its display uses technology derived from Sony's top rated Bravia TVs, creating a extremely vivid and crisp image. It also includes Sony's latest Exmor R image sensor which allows you to take amazing quality photos in nearly zero light situations. The Arc is also a super thin phone - second only to the impending Galaxy S2 from Samsung - with great lines and a unique look. All of these are features the Apple markets heavily in the iPhone, and the Arc is definitely some strong competition.

15. Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

The iPhone 5 may or may not be coming out in 2011. Assuming it does, there will be plenty of Android-based competition to deal with.

Challenger: Sony Ericsson Xperia Play

Processor: 1 GHz Snapdragon MSM8255

Screen Size: 4-inch 854x480

iPhone Threat Level: Orange

Many people purchase their iPhones almost primarily as gaming devices, and Apple certainly plans to market the iPhone 5 as such, pulling for game developer support in the iTunes App Store. The Xperia Play can single handedly bring this dream crashing down, simply because it has two things the iPhone doesn't: a slide out gamepad and access to Sony's library of PlayStation games.

While it's not exactly the PlayStation Phone everyone thought it was going to be, the Xperia Play is a PlayStation Certified Device and stands to bring a lot of PlayStation caliber games to the Android market. It's not an end-all for Apple though, since the iPhone 5 is massively more powerful than the Play, and with the possibility of Bluetooth and snap-on gamepads, the iPhone can easily make up its disadvantage.

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