In the last six months, the major Android manufacturers have released a variety of great smartphones, like the Sony Xperia Z1, the Motorola Moto X, the LG G2, and the Google Nexus 5. Each has its own benefits and drawbacks — but they are all, in essence, the same “phablet” form factor that is currently popular among handset manufacturers.
However, if you're not satisfied with the prevailing design wisdom, or perhaps you're just looking for a last-minute unique technology gift, there are devices outside of the mainstream.
Samsung Galaxy Golden smartphone
The Samsung Galaxy Golden is a dual-screen flip phone running Android 4.2 with two 3.7” Super AMOLED screens at 480x800, a 1.7 GHz Snapdragon 400 dual-core processor, 1.5 GB RAM, 8 MP rear camera, 1.9 MP front camera, FM radio, and 16 GB of onboard storage. In terms of design, it's reminiscent of the Motorola RAZR3 V13, a late-model RAZR flip phone which featured an external touch screen. The Galaxy Golden is available in South Korea for 790,000 won ($750 USD) or in India for 51,900 Rupees ($838 USD).
A stateside release is not anticipated, although importers can look up the specifications and hope for compatibility with your mobile network, provided you aren’t on Verizon or Sprint.
Acer DA241HL desktop
The Acer DA241HL is a device that brings Android to the desktop, but it would more easily be described as a monitor that happens to run Android. It sports a 24” 1080p display with a capacitive touch screen, an NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor of unspecified speed, 1 GB RAM, 8 GB Flash, and an SDHC card slot. Somewhat remarkably, it can be connected to a computer via HDMI and USB for use of the touch screen with Windows, according to the overview provided by CNET Berlin.
The DA241HL is available for €429, with stateside release information pending. However, with a change in leadership at Acer, hopes for a U.S. release may be dashed. Of note, this is not Acer’s first foray into Android on the desktop, with the slightly smaller DA220HQL presently available. Rival firm HP sees a market for this form factor and has quickly released their competitor, the HP Slate 21.
ASUS Transformer TF701T
The ASUS Transformer 701T is the fifth generation of the popular ASUS convertible tablet series. It features a 10.1” 2560x1600 IPS display, 1.9 GHz Quad-Core NVIDIA Tegra 4, 2 GB of DDR3L RAM, 32 GB Flash, and a microSDXC card slot. At present, it ships with Android 4.2 out of the box, though an update to 4.3 is now available. The downside to the TF701T is that ASUS has opted to downgrade the cameras to 1.2 MP front and 5 MP rear, down from 2 and 8 from the previous model — and the design of the device hasn’t changed appreciably from previous iterations, as reported by CNET.
The standard model goes for $449.99 MSRP (USD), and for an extra $149.99 (USD), you can get the TF701T keyboard dock, which features a full-size SDXC slot and additional battery. Of note, previous Transformer docks are incompatible with the TF701T. While this seems like a bit of price gouging compared to ASUS’ own Transformer Book T100 — an Intel Atom-powered Windows 8 convertible tablet that includes the keyboard dock for $349 (USD) — the display on the T100 is a paltry netbook-quality 1366x768 and is powered by a low-cost Atom processor, not a top-of-the-line Tegra 4. As it is, the TF701T and matching keyboard dock are cheaper than the Samsung Galaxy Note 10.1 2014, which also features a 2560x1600 IPS display.
ASUS New PadFone Infinity
The New PadFone Infinity is the fourth generation of ASUS’ distinctive phone-tablet convertible. Prior to this revision, the PadFone series had been relegated to a limited-availability experiment available in Taiwan and with spotty occasional availability in Europe. The phone portion of the New PadFone Infinity packs a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 at 2.2 GHz, with 2 GB RAM and a 5” IPS 1080p display, plus 2 MP front and 13 MP rear cameras. The tablet dock features a 10.1” IPS display at 1920x1200 with a 1 MP front camera. Notably missing in this revision is the option for a keyboard dock to attach to the tablet portion, which was previously available on the PadFone 2. Aloysius Low has a full review of the New PadFone Infinity at CNET Asia.
Jerry Shen, the CEO of ASUS, indicated that they are working with a “major U.S. carrier” to bring the PadFone to the US in Q2 2014.
These unique Android devices aren’t just for malcontents who want something a little different than the mainstream; they serve a purpose for people who want to get something a little more feature-rich than the current standard. If you're seeking something a little more economical, be sure to check out these budget-friendly Android tablets. Or, for home theater PC or embedded uses, check out these embedded Android devices.
Have you purchased a new Android device for the holidays? If so, tell us in the comments section below how you made your decision.
James Sanders is a Tokyo-based programmer and technology journalist. Since 2013, he has been a regular contributor to TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research.