Mobile phones and apps: Best of 2010

The Android 2.2 OS, the Samsung Epic 4G phone and a host of interesting apps top our list.

Call 2010 the year of the smartphone and mobile software. Phones like the Motorola Droid X, the HTC Incredible, and the Apple iPhone 4 -- and the many creative apps we liked this year -- made this the largest category of products in the PCWorld 100.

Google Android 2.2

Smartphone operating system; included with phone Mobility led the tech industry in innovation in 2010, and amid a flourishing array of great mobile products, we found one consistent standout this year: Google Android. Expected to eclipse Apple's iOS in market share by year's end, Android brings powerful apps, a slick interface, and extreme customizability to a host of phones and tablets available across a multitude of carriers. As a result, Android provides selection -- the one thing that the iPhone platform can't promise. Add to that mix a flexible browser with Flash 10.1 support, OS-wide voice control and dictation features, and a rapidly expanding app ecosystem, and Android 2.2 (aka "Froyo") is the OS to beat in the burgeoning mobile age. (#1 in the PCWorld 100)

Google Android 2.2 coverage | android.com

Samsung Epic 4G

Smartphone; $249 with Sprint contract Out of all the Android phones that launched this year, the Epic 4G is definitely the best. The nicely designed physical keyboard -- paired with the 4G-network goodness and front-facing camera -- makes it hard to beat. Additionally, the gorgeous display and Samsung's MediaHub make it the ultimate entertainment smartphone. (#8)

Samsung Epic 4G review | sprint.com

Instapaper

Mobile app; free This app, available for many platforms, pulls just the words and images from a site and sends them to your mobile device, so reading on the go is a snap. With Instapaper's browser plug-in, you simply find an article you're interested in and click 'Read Later' to make the cleaned-up version show up on your phone or tablet. (#9)

Instapaper coverage | instapaper.com

Apple iPhone 4

Smartphone; starts at $149 with an AT&T contract Despite initial concerns, the latest iPhone is a stylish, attractive groundbreaker. This phone screams design elegance and has the software and gorgeous display to match, as well as the richness of the Apple App Store at its command. (#13)

Apple iPhone 4 review | apple.com

HTC HD7

Smartphone; $200 with T-Mobile contract It's too early to determine the success of Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 OS, but the HTC HD7, which uses it, is one impressive handset with its 4.3-inch WVGA display, kickstand, and 16GB of memory. Throw in Netflix streaming, Xbox Live, and the Zune player, and you have a fantastic entertainment phone. (#15)

HTC HD7 coverage | htc.com

Motorola Droid X

Smartphone; $199 with Verizon contract The follow-up to Motorola's wildly successful Droid on Verizon, the Droid X was one of the hottest phones to debut this summer, sporting a 4.3-inch display and 8-megapixel camera. And it got even better with the Android 2.2 OS upgrade, which delivered Flash content to its speedy Web browser. (#25)

Motorola Droid X review | verizonwireless.com

Bump

Mobile app; free Need to send a song, a contact, or even a PayPal payment instantly between two smartphones? Just launch this app and bump the phones together, and the item transfers. It even works between iPhones and Android devices. (#36)

Bump coverage (Android) | Bump review (iPhone) | bu.mp

Flipboard

Mobile app; free With this iPad app you can turn your Facebook and Twitter feeds into a personalized magazine, on the fly. Swipe through pages of photos, videos, and your friends' pearls of wisdom, or choose from feeds featuring content aggregated from popular Web destinations. (#44)

Flipboard review | flipboard.com

Handcent SMS

Mobile app; free The next time an iPhone user scoffs at your Android handset's ability to replace core phone elements such as the SMS client, show them Handcent SMS. It's configurable and simple to use, and it sports features that put nearly all other SMS apps to shame. (#46)

Handcent SMS review | handcent.com

HTC Droid Incredible

Smartphone; $200 with Verizon contract This Android phone impressed us with its easy-to-use interface, gorgeous AMOLED display, and fun Sense overlay. The Droid Incredible also sports an excellent camera and slick design, making it one of the best Android phones on Verizon to date. (#47)

HTC Droid Incredible review | verizonwireless.com

At Bat 2010 for iPad

Mobile app; $7 This indispensable Major League Baseball app lets you monitor every big-league game, watch highlights, and listen to each game live. If you subscribe to the MLB.tv service, you can watch every out-of-market (nonlocal) game. (#49)

At Bat 2010 for iPad review | mlb.com

Rovio Angry Birds

Game; $1 Great and weird. Your objective: Catapult peeved birds into the fortress of an egg-stealing gang of pigs. Angry Birds combines simple physics with sheer luck, and skillfully utilizes the iPhone 4's display and multitouch controls. (#54)

Rovio Angry Birds review | rovio.com

Lookout Mobile Security

Mobile app; free Triple-threat protection for your Android phone. The Lookout app runs a virus scan for every app you download, helps you track your handset if you lose it, and lets you back up your phone's data. It's so easy to use, you'll hardly know it's there--until you need it. (#56)

Lookout Mobile Security review | mylookout.com

Plantronics K100

Bluetooth speakerphone; $80 This speakerphone with easy-to-locate buttons clips to your car's visor to manage your phone calls. It also allows you to listen to streaming audio through the car speakers. (#65)

plantronics.com

Taptrix Brushes

Mobile app; $8 This painting app for the iPhone and iPad includes layer support, various brush types, and more. It's easy to use, but powerful enough for professional artists: One such person used the iPhone version to produce a New Yorker cover. (#66)

Taptrix Brushes review (iPad) | Taptrix Brushes review (iPhone) | brushesapp.com

Alphonso Labs Pulse News Reader

Mobile app, $4 Rather than using an e-mail inbox-style layout where you tick off many unread items one by one, Pulse News Reader is designed to be more visual, promoting leisurely reading. It's an attractive--and enjoyable--alternative to traditional RSS apps. (#67)

Alphonso Labs Pulse News Reader review | alphonsolabs.com

Jabra Clipper

Bluetooth headset; $50 This stereo headset attaches earbuds to a unit that clips to a shirt and can switch between calls and music. If you prefer, you can use your own headphones with it. (#74)

jabra.com

FitNow Lose It

Mobile app; free When you want to lose weight, faithfully recording what you're eating is a big help. This straightforward app lets you enter your food intake right after each meal on your iPhone or iPod Touch. (#76)

FitNow Lose It review | itunes.apple.com

PopCap Games Plants vs. Zombies HD

Game; $10 This zombie-bashing defense title appears on several platforms, but the iPad version is arguably the best. Excellent multitouch support and the frenetic pace will keep you tapping frantically, while a wide variety of minigames keeps things feeling fresh. (#79)

PopCap Games Plants vs. Zombies HD coverage | itunes.apple.com

Jabra Extreme

Bluetooth headset; $80 Jabra's latest, highly effective noise-cancellation audio technology is planted inside this headset's lightweight shell, which fits snugly in your ear. Offering excellent sound quality, it easily overcomes the clatter of the big city or a busy household. (#82)

Jabra Extreme review | jabra.com

Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk Plans

Prepaid service; $25 to $60 per month Get unlimited messaging, unlimited broadband, and various tiers of voice service on a smartphone using Sprint's reliable and reasonably fast 3G network. Bonus: no contract to sign. (#83)

Virgin Mobile Beyond Talk Plans coverage | virginmobileusa.com

Grooveshark for Android

Streaming audio service; $3 per month iPhone music fans, eat your hearts out. Only Android has Grooveshark, which streams any song you want right to your phone. A best-of-both-worlds cross between Pandora and iTunes, Grooveshark supports playlists, and you can even download songs for offline mode when you don't have service. (#85)

Grooveshark for Android review | mobile.grooveshark.com

Polar WearLink+ Transmitter Nike+

Fitness gadget; $70 This awkwardly named chest strap transmits your heart-rate data to Nike+ devices for upload to the Nikeplus.com Web service for tracking over time. It's compatible with the fifth-generation iPod Nano and the Nike+ iPod Sport Kit. (#87)

polarusa.com

RideCharge Taxi Magic

Mobile app; free Use this program to request a cab, see how far away it is on a map, and pay for the whole ride on your Android, BlackBerry, iPhone, or PalmOS handset. (#88)

RideCharge Taxi Magic coverage (Android) | RideCharge Taxi Magic coverage (iPhone) | taximagic.com

Bitalpha Taska

Mobile app; $5 With an elegant interface and great functionality, this app stands out among the many task-management apps available for the iPad and iPhone. The drag-and-drop operation makes task tracking simple, and the powerful tagging, search, and sorting features keep you organized. (#90)

Bitalpha Taska coverage (iPad) | Bitalpha Taska coverage (iPhone) | bitalpha.com

Tags MotorolasamsungAppleGooglehtcapple iphoneconsumer electronicsPhones

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