Feb 14 AT 3:03 PM Nick Sarafolean 24 Comments

The flagships that drive Android

HTC phone next to Samsung phone

Every now and then, it’s refreshing to take a step back and look at the big picture. Let the panorama of things wash over us. That what this editorial is hoping to do. To look at the broad spectrum of Android and what brought it to where it is today. How Android achieved the title of “Most popular operating system on the planet.” So sit back, make yourself comfortable, and read on.

Let’s hearken back to a simpler time when Android was nought but a young beta operating system. The first phone to launch with it was the HTC Dream, or depending on your location in the world, the T-Mobile G1. Now, if you’re like us, you’re probably something of an Android nerd. We all know about the G1 and remember it with a kind of nostalgic fondness. For the mainstream consumer, however, the G1 isn’t something memorable in the least.

The first phone that really put Android on the mainstream map was the Motorola DROID. The DROID was intended as an alternative to the iPhone, and the ad campaigns were quite heavy-handed in emphasizing that fact with the infamous, “iDon’t _________” slogan. That was followed up with the motto that cemented Android as “Droid” in many people’s minds, “DROID Does.”

The DROID brand continued on with success ranging all the way from dismal flops to hits such as the DROID X. But a new Android family had moved in on the block, the Galaxy family.

Samsung started out gradually with the Galaxy S phones and their release on all four major carriers in the US. At the time, that was a new feat that hadn’t been seen with smartphones. While having some flaws, the Galaxy S phones made some waves in the consumer Android market. Unfortunately, the branding wasn’t complete–every Galaxy S phone had a different name, depending on their carrier. There were also some hardware and software differences between each version. There was no unity within the Galaxy S family.

The next year, if anything, made the unity within the Galaxy S family even more dysfunctional. The phones failed to launch on every carrier, yet still had different names on the carriers that did supply them. To make matters worse, they spawned a veritable swarm of knock-off phones made by Samsung that also carried the Galaxy name. It wasn’t until the next year that consumers really began to understand the true family behind the Galaxy moniker.


The Galaxy S III was where Samsung struck gold with the family. The phone launched on every major carrier, as well as a slew of smaller carriers, within just months of its release. Better yet, every version of the phone shared the same name, and aside from the difference between LTE and HSPA+ models, the same hardware. Consumers throughout the market actually knew that they were buying from a family of phones. The Galaxy family became just as popular as Apple’s iPhone. And with it, Android became more popular.

The same trend has carried over to Samsung’s Galaxy Note family, as well as further Galaxy S phones. But Samsung wasn’t the only carrier to release flagships that brought Android into the mainstream. We’ve already mentioned Motorola and their DROID family, but what about HTC?

HTC also did their part, but they’ve oft struggled to secure a strong, unified family of mainstream phones. In the lower end spectrum, however, HTC has established their Desire line-up which has helped to spread Android further in markets outside the flagship devices. They also had a good run with their Sprint family of EVO phones. If you were on Sprint, the phones to get were HTC’s EVO phones. Just ask Richard Yarrell. (We love you, buddy).

We hoped that HTC would have begun a new family with the One name that’s been found in their past couple of flagships. They certainly worked hard to make sure that the HTC One got consumer attention by releasing it on every carrier with the same name and hardware, just like Samsung did with their Galaxy series. But with the release of HTC’s latest flagship on the horizon, we’re not sure if they’ll be sticking to the One family.

The HTC M8. That’s the oft-rumored name for HTC’s flagship phone of 2014. If the phone sticks to that name, then HTC will have a time on their hands to get consumers fully aware of the fact that it’s the successor to last year’s HTC One. But, what are the going to call it? The HTC One II? Nonetheless, if the M8 is released on every carrier with the same hardware, it will still be bought, and most likely in large amounts. It will be HTC’s flagship that will continue to drive Android forward.

The same goes for Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5. The phone will sell in droves to consumers and continue to bring Android to the masses.

The entire point of this lengthy look back in time is to show that, while it’s great how many options there are for Android, the entire operating system is steered in the market by the flagships. Without these flagships, many consumers either wouldn’t know or wouldn’t care about Android. While we can fault them for their flaws, they serve an important role in the market as they push Android further into the market. With this next generation coming due any day now, we’re excited to see how they continue to bring Android forward.

What’s your opinion? Do you agree that Android is steered by the flagships? Are you excited to see what they bring to the table with this latest generation?

A nerd at heart, Nick is an average person who has a passion for all things electronic. When not spending his time writing about the latest gadgets, Nick enjoys reading, dabbling in photography, and experimenting with anything and everything coffee. Should you wish to know more about him, you can follow him on Twitter @nsarafolean.

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  • Joshua

    Back in the day when Android wasn’t popular yet. My first phone was an HTC Droid eris. Followed by the Motorola Droid x. After that I bought the HTC thunderbolt, the worst Android phone possibly ever. It was so horribly slow it was unreal. I rooted and ran custom firmware. With the processor overclocked to 1.96 get. This phone was very reliable, even being way o/c. When Samsung launched the s3 I finally bought that and since then I’d never look to HTC ever again. I’ll agree HTC helped start Android, but they’re phones were horrid. Build quality was awesome but the experience not so much. Samsung has a huge advantage anymore, many don’t like the build quality I can stand for it bc I have dropped my s4 so many times and has so many nicks outta it. It’s never broke though, believe it or not the plastic is much stronger than many believe.

    • redraider133

      Those are the exact phones I had at first. Ah the droid eris, man that was a beat little phone. The thunderbolt is the device that turned me off from HTC

      • SGB101

        DROID is a US brand name, it wasn’t used in the UK. The HTC Desire and the sgs1 was the first ‘consumer’ devices.

        I had the g1,its wasn’t a prime time device, but loveable, the HTC hero came out shortly after it and was OK ish, but the desire (nexus1 sister) was great, but had limited intern memory, and was th need for apps2sd, and the sgs1 was the real decent attempted.

        Android never really hit mainstream in the UK until the sgs3,that thing exploded, and was everywhere, still is.

        • redraider133

          US brand or not. The “DROID” campaign was what got the android name and OS mainstream. All those other devices were nice devices, but none had the driving force and adoption rate like the droid(s) did at first. It also got more carriers on board as well, and started Blackberry’s downfall.

  • redraider133

    I loved those droid does, iPhone doesn’t ads, wish moto would have stuck with those rather than the sci fi like robot ads.

  • Jake H

    Haha, love the mention of Richard Yarell…. Love him or hate him, the guy keeps me combing through the comments just to see what that crazy sucka is gonna say next.

  • jerrbomb

    This is an awesome editorial.. Keep it up.. This definitely highlights what drives Android.. I remember the HTC Evo.. I still miss the OG Evo.. HTC definitely dropped the ball somewhere between there and the One.. But hey.. It’s all about what drives Android.. Because that Ms why we live android.. It’s ability to be driven by multiple sources.. Not just Samsung or HTC.. Right Richard.. Lmao..

  • donger

    It’s definitely G1 then the Nexus One for me. After owning each and every Nexus phone, Android has been great.

    • SGB101

      We have a nexus 4 in the house, but I’ve never owned a nexus phone. Had the g1 (rest in my info tab), but always found the nexus phones fell down compared to other avalible at the time. The lasted two being battery the previous battery and sd, especially when they wasn’t Google price. I would of had the nexus 1,but it want avalible in the UK (to begin with) , and import made it very expensive. So I chose the HTC Desire, which I loved and kept returning to for 27months. If it wasn’t for the note2, I’d of returned to the desire, when I got sick of the one x battery.


    HTC one 2 would be a really stupid name. Not sure what M8 stands for. While many Android faithful love all the choices, its a reason why many stick with iPhones. You know what you’re going to get, you are guaranteed a free update annually, and every 2 years, you get your new device e and transferring everything is simple and pain-free. (you dont lose a lot of app history like so many Google apps)… With all the skins, you don’t really know what Android is. You might have a Samsung or HTC and love a feature only to get a device from someone else & then realize that wasn’t an Android feature after all. I know you all say that’s the beauty of Android and on many ways it is. But you have to realize the majority of people aren’t mobile OS experts who read blogs like this one on a regular basis. Ive never understood the argument that Android is somehow difficult. Ad someone who has a Mac and has used Android for 3 years now, I dont find anything hard. But the fact each device is so different does make it confusing. (plus, no where near the support Apple provides, esp with live people in stores).. I’ve also had tons of problems & glitches w Androids which makes me want to maybe try iPhone 6 if it does have a larger screen & maybe opens up a little (I am used to my Swiftkey). I must say when I pick up an iPhone at a Apple store, I dont know how to immediately use it since I’ve been used to a Nexus device for the last 18 months. Thanks for listening even tho I realize most of u will strongly disagree with tbis

  • sere83

    To be honest I actually though last year and the year before flagships were generally pretty weak. The HTC one had the build but software let it down a bit and the camera not up to par. The year before that the One X was again an average perfromer.

    Both the s3 and s4 have been weak in my honest opinion, samsungs insane marketing budgets have meant they have shifted significant amounts of units but it does little to take away from the fact, the hardware on both these phones was underwhelming and cheap feeling and lag wiz is still one of the worst android skins out there.

    Sony and LG showing signs of promise now but these are recent developments.

    People may not like this but I also think android was sub par until the introduction of jellybean at which point its starts to become a much more cohesive and together OS.

    In terms of the future, the whole nexus line ending rumour is worrying to say the least particularly for camera optimization on the proposed google play editions that will replace.

    However for actual high end flag ships running manufacturer skins i’m only really excited but the Chinese manufacturers like xaiomi, meizu and oppo. Xiaomi in terms of price points and the progress of lets face it probably the best build of android along with stock – MIUI. Oppo again for build quality and meizu for their unique UI design and attention to detial.

    I would really like to see an all round ROCK SOLID performer from build quality, to software to cameras as i think to date we have seen many decent flagships but very few that can be considered very good all rounders.

    • SGB101

      My g1 shipped with 1.1, it wasn’t until 1.5 I stopped looking at the wife’s iPhone 3g thinking I’d backed the wrong horse. Apps store was great in 2008, a ball maze game,a cumpass, k9 mail and clone fb app, those where the days.

      I think 2.3 was the first solid android, ics looked prettier but was full of bugs in comparison, jellybeans 4.2 nailed it,and made the solid platform we have now

      Let hope 5 doesn’t attract bugs!

  • BlazeHN

    My Android Phones:

    1) Galaxy S Captivate
    2) HTC Evo 3D
    3) Samsung Galaxy S3
    4) HTC One X
    5) Samsung Galaxy S4
    6) Samsung Galaxy Note 3 (current one)

  • Jeffrey

    I currently own a Galaxy Note 3. Since departing from BlackBerry, I have owned the Galaxy S I, SII, SIII & S4. To this date, I am still not impressed with the Android OS. I would most likely jump to another OS except Apple in a heartbeat if they put it on a Galaxy. The Note 3 is by far the best phone on the market. Now keep in mind I despise Google. First of all, I don’t like the fact you have to join Google + to leave a review for these hard – working app developers

    • redraider133

      You don’t need to join Google + to leave an app review..

  • Bonedatt

    I think the flagships help push custom UI rather than stock. My HTC touch Diamond and HD2 runs an overlay on top of Windows mobile, my HTC Amaze (my first venture into Android) ran an overlay (sense), my Galaxy S2 ran an overlay (Touchwiz at first then ended up with CM 10.1), my Galaxy note 2 is running Touchwiz and my HTC ONE currently has sense 5.0 over Jelly bean 4.3. Now that I think about it, I believe even my first smartphone, the Motorola A780, ran an overlay over Linux. My HTC radar surprisingly doesn’t run an overlay on Windows phone. I bet you the average Joe has no idea how naked android runs because of the custom UI being placed on them. Now if you produce hardware and software like Apple and BlackBerry then that’s a different story altogether.

  • Igaal Naouri

    The best Android phone of all times was the HTC Desire! Nothing came close

  • Tommy

    And I believe LG is naming their next flagship “G3″
    I agree, though, that keeping a consistent name for all of these flagships does help the everyday consumer make a decision. Not everyone reads all these blogs and keeps up with all the specs and model numbers, so it does make it easier for them to know just the name “iPhone”, or “galaxy” phone. It would pay dividends for these other companies to make it easier on these people.

  • Richard Yarrell

    Thanks for the lovely mention I have loved this site for close to 5yrs now.

    Android has changed so much since my famed Htc Evo 4g and Evo 3D days on Sprint.

    I have owned the Htc Evo 4g, Evo 3D, LG Revolution, Galaxy Nexus, Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3, Galaxy Note 2, and now the Galaxy Note 3.

    I will be purchasing the Galaxy Note 4 and Galaxy Gear 3 in October 2014 it’s only Galaxy Note products for me from hear on out.

    Brand products are definitely key to the day to day experience users endure.

    Android has definitely benefited from various brands over the years.

    • squiddy20

      “I have loved this site for close to 5yrs now.” No you haven’t. Not with comments like this: “This site has tuned into a pretty sad place that’s for sure.” http://androidandme.com/2013/09/news/samsung-announces-the-galaxy-note-3-their-newest-entry-into-the-phablet-space/comment-page-1/#comment-1171549 What a hypocritical suckup.

      I love how you claim there’ll be a Galaxy Gear 3 in 2014. It makes absolutely no sense to release a “smartwatch” (and a limited one at that) twice in the same year. But of course, you claimed how your “legendary” Evo 3D would be “Sprint’s flagship device well into 2012″, despite it having poor sales when you said it, and Sprint eventually canning the device not even 2 months into the year, so why should I be surprised that you make completely unfounded and ridiculous comments.

      I also find it hilarious that you say here “Android has definitely benefited from various brands over the years”, and in previous comments have been bashing all “brands” except Samsung. If it’s not made by Samsung, you automatically label it as “crap”, “useless”, an “optical illusion device” (whatever the hell that is), and countless other ridiculous phrases/insults. And a few days/weeks from now, will be posting the same crap again. Your name gets mentioned here once in a positive light, and suddenly you’re all kissy kissy to everyone. Reminds me of your comments on that Evo 3D article you supposedly wrote here at A&M: http://androidandme.com/2011/07/reviews/richard-yarrell-reviews-the-evo-3d/ As I said before, what a hypocritical suckup.

      • squiddy20

        Also, according to your profile, you’ve been a member here for all of 3 years. Far cry from the “close to 5yrs” you claim here. http://androidandme.com/user/richard-yarrell/

        In fact, according to your comment history, your first comment on this website was on June 6th 2011, just a little over two and half years ago. http://androidandme.com/2011/06/news/at-last-htc-evo-3d-and-evo-view-4g-get-official-price-and-release-date-pre-orders-galore/comment-page-1/#comment-109244 Even if you do some crazy rounding, you still can’t get the “close to 5yrs”. Good god you are delusional.

        (Have I mentioned how I hate there’s no edit button?)

      • Richard Yarrell

        Good Ole die on the wool squiddy20 the coward who hides behind an ass without a face.

        Gotta feel sorry for your non purchasing ass a person who couldn’t buy anything if his life depended of it.

        I gotta love it while you willow in obscurity behind fake names and cowardice I remain true to form.

        If you ever need Capitol a real loan let me know cause we know in 2014 you won’t be buying as well

        You are truly a sad pitiful conclusión. Mr.Obsurity ducking his mother’s tits

        • squiddy20

          1. The amount of misspellings and ridiculous phrases you have used here is absurd. Seriously, 8 year olds could not only spell better, but come up with more varied insults than the same stale old ones you’ve been using on me for years, like how I “can’t afford new devices”. Here’s a few of the things you’ve got wrong from a spelling/phrasing standpoint: “die on the wool” should be “dyed in the wool”, “willow” should be “wallow”, and “capitol” should be “capital”. Finally, what the hell is “ducking [my] mother’s tits”? Did you mean to put “fucking” but chickened out?
          2. You’ve obviously never heard of actually *liking* your phone, or a 2 year contract. You know, those things virtually every carrier besides T-Mobile still has? I got the Galaxy Nexus on Sprint a month after it was released, that was around May 2011. I’m currently eligible to upgrade, but my current phone serves me well, and have no desire to get anything “better”.
          3. To all of your childish retorts about my “cowardice” or “hiding behind an ass without a face” (whatever the hell that means), I merely have 3 words: security though obscurity. While you claim to “remain true to form”, I can look up every single post you’ve made on every single website, because you have so stupidly used your real name. I also know that 6 years ago, you were living on the streets of NYC before the Bowery Mission took you in. Because you used your real name. I’ve seen your ridiculous self-made Youtube videos you posted of yourself rambling about nonsense while aimlessly roaming the streets of NYC before you took them down/made them private. Because you used your real name. I know if I were in your position, I wouldn’t want my real name associated with even half the comments you’ve made. In most of them, you tell people their *opinions* are wrong, that they’re “useless”, or make blanket statements that are usually horribly wrong. And because you used your real name to submit all of those comments, any future employer you might have can see them, because most businesses do indeed look up a possible future employee online. Which might explain why your LinkedIn profile (if that really is yours), shows that you’re still employed by the Bowery Mission, more than 5 years after they took you in. Here I am, throwing your own comments back at you, and all you do is insult me like a little 4th grader. Realllll mature there buddy. Try acting like the 50+ year old man your profile picture makes you out to be.

  • Dudlé

    Why not just call the new HTC phone “HTC Two”?