There was no debate here at Mobile Choice - Taiwanese manufacturer HTC is easily our Manufacturer of the Year, for a string of premium phones that include the best Windows phone the world has ever seen, and an unrelenting series of perfectly executed Android phones. Its hardware design is unique and recognizably HTC - phones like the stylish Legend (page X - stylish phone award) wear the 'chin' debuted in first-ever Android phone (and HTC make) the T-Mobile G1, while the Hero and Desire are quirkier with a warm Teflon back. Meanwhile, the charming, intuitive Sense UI just got a refresh, with even more of the little flourishes the company is known for, as well as a slew of handy new features to back up and access phone content from afar. With five five-star phones this year and nothing that warrants less than four, this manufacturer is on fire.
With a portfolio that covered Android, Windows and Symbian phones, Samsung expanded its horizons even further this year with the launch of its own OS, bada, in the well-received Wave (page X). They'd cornered the low-cost touch-phone market with handsets like the Genio Slide, but what put Samsung in this shortlist was its five star Galaxy S, an Android superphone that blew most of its competitors away and showed just what Samsung is capable of - in hardware and software. We think Samsung just may have hit its superphone stride - and that makes a serious contender for Manufacturer of the Year.
Give it up for the makers of BlackBerry - once the handset of the stuffy businessman, the 'Berry had an image overhaul when RIM brought out the Curve 8520, an entry-level smartphone that snagged a whole new demographic - the blithely texting 'youth', who couldn't get enough of BlackBerry Messenger's free IMs to any other 'Berry owner in the world. Funnily, it's a common sight in the hands of the Sloane Street socialite too. Though RIM's first attempts at grabbing some of the touch-screen market didn't work so well - Storm 1 and 2 anyone? - the company surprised the mobile market again with the recently launched BlackBerry OS 6, an unprecedentedly media-focused OS that still retained the BlackBerry style. With its own tablet, the PlayBook, set to take on the iPad, we're pegging RIM as one for next year.
Long-timer Sony Ericsson has hit some rough patches, with its multimedia handsets sounding better on paper than they played in the hand. But this year, the company has rallied magnificently, starting with the powerful Xperia X10, loaded with Android 1.6 but skinned with Sony E's unique interface that lent extra social and media features. We started to believe when out popped two follow-ups, the Xperia X10 Mini and X10 Mini Pro, the smallest Android phones on market, and blessed with an intuitive navigation we'd begun to think Sony E had lost. We're waiting to see more of this from Sony Ericssson.