5 great smartphones from 5 years ago

5 great smartphones from 5 years ago
When it comes to smartphones, things can change dramatically in the course of several years. Sure enough, Apple may want to disagree, as it recently released the iPhone SE, which looks just like an outdated iPhone 5, but this is an exceptional exception (if we may put it that way). In case you didn't notice how much things have evolved lately, let us remind you what top of the line smartphones we had 5 years ago, in 2011.

2011 was an important year for the mobile industry, as Nokia lost its spot as the leading smartphone vendor to Samsung and Apple. In February that year, Nokia announced that it would use Windows Mobile as its main smartphone OS, and, almost immediately, Symbian sales plunged. Needless to say, this negatively impacted the company's business, especially since its first Windows-based handsets - the Lumia 800 and Lumia 710 - weren't particularly exciting. Eventually, Nokia sold its Devices & Services unit to Microsoft - which is now making its own Lumia smartphones - and Symbian was abandoned (to be fair, the OS was becoming old-fashioned). It was in this environment where Apple, Samsung, and others introduced new and compelling smartphones, some of which we're going to present now. Naturally, today's high-end smartphones are larger, faster, more powerful and polished, but the handsets included below were great for 2011 anyway, and helped the industry move forward. In chronological order: 

Samsung Galaxy S II


The original Galaxy S (launched in the first half of 2010) played a massive role in establishing Samsung as the leading Android vendor across the globe. Its successor, the Galaxy S II, was released starting April 2011, offering better specs and an enhanced design, becoming an almost instant hit. In the US, the Galaxy S II arrived later than in other markets - starting September 2011 - and each major carrier (minus Verizon) had its own version of it.

At 8.49 mm, the global variant of the Galaxy S II was one of the thinnest smartphones of 2011. Thanks to features like a dual-core 1.2 GHz Exynos 4210 processor and 1 GB of RAM, the S II was also one of the most powerful handsets that money could buy. Moreover, its 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus display (or 4.5-inch on the T-Mobile and Sprint variants) was eye catching - though not as sharp as an iPhone Retina Display, having a resolution of only 480 x 800 pixels. The Galaxy S II ran Android 2.3 Gingerbread (upgradeable to Android 4.1 Jelly Bean) with TouchWiz UI - which may have been a bit too cluttered, but provided plenty of extra features compared to stock Android. In less than 1 year since launch, Samsung sold over 20 million Galaxy S II units around the world.



HTC Sensation


Launched about a month after the Samsung Galaxy S II, the HTC Sensation (known as Sensation 4G in the US) was arguably one of the best-looking smartphones of 2011. Partially made out of aluminum, the Sensation had a curved, funky back that made a great combo with the slightly bevelled glass covering the display. Speaking of the display, this was a 4.3-inch S-LCD one with 540 x 960 pixels (the highest pixel resolution you could get at the time on an Android handset) - not as vibrant as an AMOLED screen, but still OK. Once again, we're talking about a dual-core smartphone (using a Snapdragon S3 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz), though this one only had 768 MB of RAM. Nevertheless, that was still enough to handle Android 2.3 (upgradeable to 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich) and Sense UI quite well.


Apple iPhone 4S


Resembling the glass-and-metal iPhone 4 from 2010, the iPhone 4S hit the market in October 2011, bringing upgraded specs and new software features. The most important new software feature was Siri - the innovative intelligent personal assistant that (probably) prompted Google and Microsoft to release their own personal assistants: Google Voice Search (eventually merged with Google Now) and Cortana, respectively.

Other enhancements that the iPhone 4S came with include a dual-core Apple A5 CPU (this was the first dual-core iPhone ever), and an 8 MP rear camera with 1080p video recording. The handset only had 512 MB of RAM, but that was enough for a speedy user experience. Of course, the iPhone 4S was a bit too small when standing next to other 2011 flagships, sporting the same 3.5-inch Retina Display (640 x 960 pixels and 326 ppi) found on the iPhone 4. Fortunately, this was Apple's last handset to offer such a small screen (the following year, the company introduced the 4-inch iPhone 5).


Motorola Droid Razr


A long time ago, Motorola made super-thin clamshell phones called Razr, selling tens of millions of them. But, with the rise of smartphones in 2007 and 2008, their popularity dwindled - the entire flip phone category lost its appeal. And yet the Razr brand was resurrected in November 2011, when Motorola and Verizon Wireless released the Droid Razr: an LTE-capable Android smartphone that was considered by many as being "impossible thin" (measuring only 7.1 mm, though the camera bump was significantly thicker).

Thin profile aside, the Droid Razr also stood out thanks to its Kevlar back cover (which added extra protection). The smartphone was splash-resistant, sporting a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED screen with 540 x 960 pixels, while being powered by a dual-core 1.2 GH TI OMAP 4430 processor. It also offered other features that customers were expecting from a high-end handset in 2011, including 1 GB of RAM, and an 8 MP rear camera with 1080p video recording. The Droid Razr was available outside the US as a GSM/UMTS phone under the name Motorola Razr.


Samsung Galaxy Nexus


Like the Motorola Droid Rarz, the Galaxy Nexus was released in November 2011, but it was a very different smartphone. This was the world's first handset to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich out of the box - introducing features like on-screen navigation keys, facial recognition, NFC support, and a cleaner UI design. The Galaxy Nexus was also one of the world's first smartphones to sport an HD (720 x 1280 pixels) screen: a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED one with high contrast, nice colors, and sharp details (316 ppi). Alongside the stock Android experience, a dual-core 1.2 GHz TI OMAP 4460 CPU and 1 GB of RAM made the handset very snappy - one of the fastest at the time.


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22 Comments

1. Rafishant

Posts: 396; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

Nokia N9, BlackBerry Bold 9900? N9 was the most beautiful phone in 2011

4. Rafishant

Posts: 396; Member since: Oct 13, 2015

MeeGo was a very powerful and great OS, which was killed by e-flop (MS trojan horse)

7. danny_a2005

Posts: 361; Member since: Oct 06, 2011

oh the sensation, what a beautiful phone

17. monoke

Posts: 1161; Member since: Mar 14, 2015

It was truly a great innovative os for its time. Wish somebody could resurrect it with today's hardware somehow.

11. seh82

Posts: 17; Member since: Sep 03, 2014

The N9 was one of my favorite smartphones ever. This list really has nothing to do with "great" smartphones and a lot more to do with popular smartphones.

14. SayMobile

Posts: 157; Member since: Jan 29, 2014

this article is about smartphones not dumb phones . Stop dumping nokia on every yesteryears articles .

3. Arch_Fiend

Posts: 3951; Member since: Oct 03, 2015

The first Samsung Galaxy Note?

6. zeeBomb

Posts: 2318; Member since: Aug 14, 2014

I had the S2...the phone's definitely up there for one of the greatest of all time.

20. palmguy

Posts: 982; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Oh how I miss my Sprint Samsung Galaxy S II Epic 4G Touch........ I'm tired now. Good night.

8. gskelter

Posts: 7; Member since: Mar 23, 2016

I had a moto razr, awesome phone in all aspects.

9. BobLawblaw unregistered

I'm not an apple fan but the Iphone 4 and 4s were pretty amazing phones. Even to this day they still have a brilliant quality feel to them.

21. palmguy

Posts: 982; Member since: Mar 22, 2011

Yeah. It weighed a ton. Glass, metal, insides, more glass. Anyone I saw in public without a cover had a cracked screen or back.

10. seh82

Posts: 17; Member since: Sep 03, 2014

This really has nothing to do with "great" smartphones and a lot more to do with popular smartphones. Not one and the same.

12. killerpollo

Posts: 89; Member since: May 15, 2015

Ahh the S2, it'd be proud of the current S line.

13. Metamorphosis

Posts: 15; Member since: Oct 20, 2014

Sony Xperia S

15. IgorEfremenko

Posts: 108; Member since: Nov 30, 2011

Agree

16. XaErO

Posts: 353; Member since: Sep 25, 2012

S2 .. probably the best phone that time around .. proud; I owned it !!

18. Rocket

Posts: 653; Member since: Feb 24, 2014

I still have two and they work like new.

19. teloji

Posts: 32; Member since: Feb 21, 2016

iPhone 4s was very big revolution

22. gaming64

Posts: 234; Member since: Mar 22, 2016

Back when Apple was raping Android.

23. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3137; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

HP Pre3. Long live webOS.

24. yoosufmuneer

Posts: 1518; Member since: Feb 14, 2015

Galaxy S2. One of my favourite phones ever

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