Android 2.3, as our readers might recall, offers several enhancements over 2.2 Froyo. They include user interface refinements, a redesigned multitouch keyboard, better power management, and more. As many carriers and manufacturers are finally rolling out Android 2.3 Gingerbread firmware updates to compatible phones, we thought we would highlight the select handsets that actually ship with the Gingerbread OS from the very start. The list of phones below is by no means comprehensive, and only reflects a representative sample from each of the four major carriers.
The very first handset to ship with Android 2.3 is the Nexus S for T-Mobile, which is a pure Google phone from the very start. It has no fancy skins on it despite the fact that Samsung is the manufacturer. It has a very simple candy bar shape with a slight curve to the design, and one of its unique features is an NFC chip. However, we do lament its lack of a notification LED and memory card slot. The Sprint version of the Nexus S--the Nexus S 4G--also ships with Android 2.3.
Another T-Mobile phone to ship with Gingerbread is the HTC Sensation 4G, which earned top marks for its dual-core 1.2GHz processor, 4.3-inch qHD display, and a great HTC Sense user interface. It also comes with T-Mobile's HSPA+ 4G network, which is a great bonus.
One of the key features in Android 2.3 is enhancements for game developers, which means manufacturers can now add physical game controls to their Android phones. Sony Ericsson leaped at the opportunity and created the Sony Ericsson Xperia Play, which is the first PlayStation-certified phone, and it ships with Android 2.3. It has a full-on slide-out game pad, with buttons that are similar to that of a PlayStation controller. The Xperia Play features a few PlayStation classics too, like Crash Bandicoot.
Another Verizon Wireless phone that ships with Android 2.3 is the Motorola Droid 3, which packs a dual-core processor, 16GB of internal memory, an 8-megapixel camera with 1080p HD video capture, and more. It's also a dual-mode phone so you can use it with a GSM carrier when traveling abroad.
If you're more of a Facebook fanatic, you might want to look at the HTC Status, which is actually the first AT&T Android phone to ship with Android 2.3. It has a dedicated Facebook button so that it's that much easier to post updates and upload photos to the popular social network. The keyboard is spacious and clicky, and the phone has a slight bend for better ergonomics when texting. Unfortunately, it's hampered by a tiny landscape-oriented display.
Even if you're not into 3D, the HTC Evo 3D is a pretty good phone that also comes preloaded with Gingerbread. It has a powerful dual-core 1.2GHz processor, dual 5-megapixel cameras for either 3D or 2D video capture, and a front-facing 1.3-megapixel camera. The glasses-free 3D display is a neat trick, but it can get tiring after a while. Still, even without the 3D, the HTC Evo 3D is a solid Android smartphone.
While it didn't make the list (we only have room for six products), we're also very enthusiastic about the Samsung Galaxy S II, an unlocked phone with simply one of the best looking smartphone displays out there. The Samsung TouchWiz interface doesn't interfere with the core Android 2.3 experience too much, and we like that it supports HSPA+ speeds. It's only available unlocked, however, and you can only use it with either T-Mobile or AT&T in the U.S; if you want to take advantage of the fast 3G/4G speeds, you'll have to go with AT&T.
Check out the full list of the phones mentioned in this article.