January 13 2011|01.49 PM UTC

Samantha Eckles

iPhone 4 Still the Phone to Beat in 2010 — But It Has Fierce Competition Come 2011

Category: Wireless

2010 was a rapid-fire year for smartphones. In November, 45 percent of recent acquirers chose a smartphone over a feature phone, according to Nielsen.

U.S. consumers have purchased a total of 89 million iPhones, more than any other smartphone. The long-awaited announcement that the iPhone will be available on the Verizon network, combined with the rumored iPhone 5 release in summer 2011, will further boost Apple sales. Nielsen reports that despite Android’s surge among recent acquirers, Apple still takes the lead in overall consumer market share by almost 3% at 28.6%.

Although the iPhone is still hot as the smartphone to beat, it’s meeting fierce competition and sold 4 million fewer phones than Android-powered phones in the second half of 2010 (USA Today). It seems like every few days, another model came out, making it extremely challenging to keep up with the latest and the greatest. But all the innovations in technology have made for some very exciting new gadgets that people can’t wait to get their hands on. Let’s check out the very best that the smartphone world has to offer.

Apple iPhone 4 (AT&T and Verizon coming soon)

This is the smartphone with the most brilliantly clear display going. At a resolution of 960 x 640 pixels (which are each 78 micrometers wide, too small for the human eye to distinguish), Apple is leading the pack. When you want to check out something on your iPhone, you know it’s going to look its very best. Not only does the iPhone 4 have the sleek design that characterizes all iPhones (at 9.3 millimeters thin, it’s the world’s thinnest smartphone), but also this model is especially sturdy. In order to protect the screen from scratches (and make it recyclable), Apple encased the iPhone in aluminosilicate glass, the same type of glass used in the windshields of helicopters and high-speed trains. The front-facing built-in camera is convenient for making FaceTime calls and shooting self-portraits.

HTC EVO 4G (Sprint)

This is the world’s first 4G phone and comes packed with impressive things like two cameras over the iPhone 4’s single camera (an 8–megapixel primary and a 1.3–megapixel front-facing one for more photo options), HDTV connectivity, and the ability to download, edit, and use HD content right on the phone. Another interesting feature is that the EVO has a kickstand on the back, rather like a bicycle. The difference is that this is a “bicycle” that can watch YouTube videos and search Google Maps in high-definition. Sprint Navigation’s turn-by-turn driving directions and HTC Sense’s Friend Stream, which integrates social media updates into a single flow, make life on-the-go easy.

Samsung Focus (AT&T)

This is a phone that feels great in your hand. It also features a sweet little 480 x 800 pixel display, which makes the Windows Phone 7 operating system look very nice. The best part of this phone isn’t its physical features, but that it’s based on Microsoft’s new portable OS. Microsoft has taken People, Pictures and Camera, MS Office, Music and Videos, Marketplace, and Games, and turned them into “hubs,” or the centers of organization for the phone. This, plus the complete customization you can do on the start screen (including adding your favorite programs, playlists, and websites, as well as removing anything you don’t want), makes the Focus a great productivity device.

Motorola Droid X (Verizon)

The Droid X is easy to use in all different kinds of lighting conditions, even out in bright sunshine. And in spite of the hump for the HD camera, the Droid X is a svelte, beautifully designed machine. Motorola has even included a neat little keyboard program that allows you to type without lifting your fingers off of the screen, known as Swype. Its large display and fast TI processor make web browsing and gaming awesome.

Up to Bat in 2011

We’re excited to see what the mobile industry has to offer as we usher in a new decade. Released in the last couple weeks of 2010, Nexus S improves on the somewhat failed Nexus One and showcases Gingerbread, the latest 2.3 version of the Android OS. Lots more devices were unveiled at 2011 International CES (Consumer Electronics Show, the world’s largest consumer technology tradeshow). Mashable covers CES news and reviews here.

Smartphones came a long way in 2010. What are your favorites, and what do you think would be cool to see in 2011? How about favorite apps?

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