Editorial

Paul's Top 5 Favorite Looking Smartphones

When it comes to smartphone designs, everyone has their own favorite. Each company is keen to make their design look more enticing than the rest, and tastes differ. Each company wants to be making the phone you want to own, and they do come up with some excellent design styles in doing so. Design is a divisive topic. You need only look at styles such as Bauhaus and Art Deco to see that, while tastes differ, you can follow a style and make it look good.

With design alone in my mind, I've tried to select my five favorite looking smartphones over the past few years. Where possible, I've also tried to depict the model with the color I would choose. One thing you'll quickly notice is my preference for phone colors. Your views will differ, so feel free to discuss them in the Neowin forums.

 

5. HTC Desire S

 

This is an oldie in comparison to the others. I don't know why I like this phone's external design so much. I just do. The Desire S beats the original Desire by having touch buttons as opposed to the physical buttons.

Other than that, their designs are similar enough to me that I could have accepted any of the HTC Desire. The Desire Z was a phone I wanted to play with due to the physical QWERTY keyboard, but I never saw one anywhere. The only sliders I've ever used with physical QWERTY keyboards were the LG KS360, which I owned for about two or three months, and a friend's Xperia X10 mini pro.

I would have included HTC's One X here. I was actually sorely tempted to make this first listing "HTC Desire S / One X", but I felt that might have been too much of a cop-out. With a list like this I can't really say "I don't know". I'm meant to have an opinion, and that's exactly what I'm putting forth. Plus, since this is my first phone listed I don't want it to seem like a weak choice. I went with the one I preferred, after some more deliberation. After some deliberation I settled on the Desire S, because I think I prefer the design just that little bit more.

I consider the Desire S to be an evolutionary step for the original Desire, and an improvement. If an eccentric millionaire made me buy either a One X or a Desire S, I know I'd buy the One X. It's the better phone. But this is a countdown of my five favorite smartphones based on appearance alone. With HTC seemingly eager to maintain the Desire branding, I'd like to see something nice done with it.

 

4. iPhone 4/S

The design here was always going to be on the list. The metal band, sandwiched between two sheets of glass, isn't done better anywhere else. There are lots of other phones with metal bands running around their exterior, but none of them look quite so good with it.

The design of the iPhone 4/S is incredibly distinctive. If you see one, you can definitely identify it. If you see part of one, you can identify it. Unless you're a lawyer in a trial against Samsung, whereupon you'll pick up the Galaxy SII. Apple's design aesthetic shines right through this one.

Say what you will about the company but their designs are extraordinarily pretty. The iPhone and iMac are two of my favorite designs for any hardware in the world, and I own neither. At the same time, there are things I consider more highly. It's an older design here too, but it's a great one. I like it, even though I see it around enough for it to be less unique. It still hasn't become mundane by being common, somehow.

 

3. Samsung Galaxy Nexus

I'm surprised my favorite Android phone of 2011 has dropped to third here. When I saw this phone last year I wanted one badly. The completely blank face of the phone was just the greatest thing I'd seen in the market. The air of mystique the completely blank 'face' of the phone provided was jaw-dropping. The front of the phone was writing checks the back couldn't cash. It was very disappointing in comparison.

The Nexus still stands as one of the best looking smartphones in my opinion. Whether it came with a better or worse rear cover, I don't think its position would move. That front is just extraordinary. I wish more manufacturers would take the same approach. Verizon's 'Droid' campaign was all about being futuristic, yet the Galaxy Nexus just manages to look more futuristic than anything they offered.

This design style could be a winning formula for Samsung. It's distinctive, surprisingly ergonomic, and seriously pretty. I want more phones looking similar to this.

 

2. Sony Xperia S

 

I don't know anyone who actually owns an Xperia S, with the notable exception of Neowin's own Ambroos. This is another design I dig. I like Sony's Xperia designs in general, but this one seems to show off everything that attracts me to their design style. The buttons running along the bottom of the phone are classy and understated. It's distinctive. Every design here is distinctive, but it also looks outstanding.

The more squared design of the phone is something companies seem eager to remove however they can, rounding down corners for the sake of 'user friendliness'. The user isn't an idiot. If the user owns an Xperia S, they most definitely aren't. The Xperia S has a big and beautiful screen, like the other flagship Android handsets, but the Xperia S manages to beat even the Nexus in terms of beauty. And that's really high praise.

The metal strip towards the bottom of the phone just adds a more premium image to something that's already pretty sharp looking.

 

1. Nokia Lumia 800

To say I 'like' the appearance of the Lumia would be a massive understatement. The unibody is fantastic looking on the phone, and the bright colors help make it more appealing still. Between Sony's Xperia S and the Lumia 800, you have the two best looking phone designs I can think of - and they're both very different. Get Android running on one of these beauties and I'd be in like a shot. I don't think I could ever grow tired of the design of the Lumia 8/900.

I was seriously considering buying a Lumia 800 at one point. If I could find one going for a low price I'd still entertain the idea, even with the Lumia 800's lifespan having been promptly kneecapped. If Nokia are planning new WP8 Lumia handsets, making them prettier is going to be a challenge.

I understand the Lumia's appearance is similar to the Nokia N9, but I do prefer the removal of the hardware camera button. I haven't got one on my current phone, and as someone who doesn't actually take pictures too frequently, I'm comfortable with the removal.

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29 Comments

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Well my phone did not make the list but I really liked the Sony Xperia ion. It looks a lot like the Xperia S short of the light up bar on the bottom plus it has a dual core 1.5ghz CPU 720p 342ppi display and a 12-megapixel camera. Now if Sony would only get ICS rolled out it would be perfect. For me it was not bad for only $29.00 dollars with my phone upgrade. I had looked at the Lumia 900 but for some reason Windows Phone just did not appeal to me.

I know looks are subjective, but come on you left out probably the prettiest phone out right now the HTC X.

I'd put the Galaxy Note on there instead of the Nexus. There's nothing that stands out about the Nexus. It's just an ordinary phone that I doubt many people could pick out from a crowd. The Note, on the other hand, is huge and ridiculous, but it's still a neat design. Not to mention is catches everybody's eye.

The higher spec WP8 devices going to be dual cores is not totally true. Many of them will be but HTC's top notch is going be a quad core cus the specs were leaked month or 2 ago.

I love my lumia 800 looks good and the molded to fit rubber case that comes with it makes it look good to.

The Desire-Z is a nice phone but it's stuck on Gingerbread (officially), I think because it's underpowered. The processor is actually clocked slower than the original Desire, but has a better graphics chip with it. The keyboard is pretty nice when you get used to having to press the FN key to get numbers (which is a bit of a pain), and some symbols.

Personally I would have rated the iPhone higher, I just love the simple and sleak design. Even though it's fragile.

But I'd agree, the Lumia 800 does look quite nice. If they release a WP8 device with the same style, I might consider it.

I've got the Xperia S in Black (also previously had it in white) and it's a great looking phone.

Just for reference though, that "The metal strip towards the bottom of the phone just adds a more premium image to something that's already pretty sharp looking." is actually a transparent strip with notification lights.

With the exception of nexus I definitly agree with the list.
Lumia is indeed the best looking phone. Im hoping that nokia will stick with this design for their Windows 8 release, which with a Quad Core and 12MP camera would simply complete my wish list.

Liaqat_ali said,
With the exception of nexus I definitly agree with the list.
Lumia is indeed the best looking phone. Im hoping that nokia will stick with this design for their Windows 8 release, which with a Quad Core and 12MP camera would simply complete my wish list.

But the Galaxy Nexus is probably the best Android phone? And the higher spec WP8 devices are gonna be dual-cores.

HTC Sensation - clean and fluid design, almost looks liquid
iPhone 4s - rock solid simple contemporary design, classic Apple
BlackBerry Bold 9900 - Top notch build quality, unmistakable signature Blackberry aesthetics
HTC One X - Massive beautiful display, thin profile, polycarbonate unibody, quad core CPU
Sony Xperia U - Fun, futuristic and high tech looking

Agree with the list, but a hardware camera button is a must in all smartphones, makes them a quick snapper and gives a good feel + one can be more stable with a hardware button. I will put S3 instead of Nexus and Lumia 900 instead of 800 though.

WaqasTariq said,
Agree with the list, but a hardware camera button is a must in all smartphones, makes them a quick snapper and gives a good feel + one can be more stable with a hardware button. I will put S3 instead of Nexus and Lumia 900 instead of 800 though.

I disagree respect to 900/800. Lumia 800 is more than slightly better looking than 900. Size is perfect, curved design, feels more solid, and covered usb port (doesn't mean more functional).

WaqasTariq said,
Agree with the list, but a hardware camera button is a must in all smartphones, makes them a quick snapper and gives a good feel + one can be more stable with a hardware button. I will put S3 instead of Nexus and Lumia 900 instead of 800 though.

The Lumia 800 and 900 are amazing. Nokia are still the worlds leading handset manufacturer.