CES 2012: Smartphones round-up

The Superbowl of smartphones? Why, that would be Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month. But that didn't stop the mobile industry's heavy hitters from giving us a taste of the year in wireless to come at CES. With Windows Phones finally getting LTE, Intel's Medfield CPU making its handset debut, Sony synergizing under its mega brand umbrella and fringe manufacturers wowing attendees with stock Ice Cream Sandwich and super-thin profiles, it appears phone aficionados have plenty to anticipate. So, while you sit slack-jawed in front of that computer screen, let's revisit some of the highlights of this past week.

HTC Titan II

AT&T threw a curve ball at its keynote when it announced this Titan refresh would be hitting the states with support for 4G LTE -- a much welcomed first for devices running Microsoft's Mango OS. And as if access to those sweet wireless speeds wasn't enough, HTC's leapfrogged its US competition by beefing up the camera module on this 4.7-incher, bumping it to 16 megapixels with an f/2.6 lens and setting a new standard for imaging on stateside handsets. Unfortunately, that signature, elegant build has gone by the wayside, replaced here by a more traditional encasing.

Nokia Lumia 900

Its LTE-packing thunder may have been stolen by AT&T's Titan II announcement, but Nokia's high-end Lumia still managed to hit a few high marks -- namely, for its 4.3-inch screen. The 900 is the first of Espoo's Mango pack to tread into large screen territory and it's headed for American mitts on AT&T sometime this spring (if the release rumors are indeed true). Inside, not much has changed, as we're still dealing with a single CPU. So, if you were holding out for a dual-core WP7.5 phone, you'll need to sit tight just a little bit longer.

Huawei Ascend P1 S and P1

Things are looking up for Huawei stateside. While brand recognition may still be somewhat low for the Chinese company, its fortunes could indeed about-face with the launch of its more premium Ascend line. The 4.3-inch P1 S and P1 are near identical twins, separated simply by thickness -- the former cuts a 6.68mm profile. And, perhaps heeding the call of Android fans everywhere, both phones are loaded up with stock Ice Cream Sandwich. If you like your devices unlocked and ultra-svelte, you might want to give these a go this April.

Lenovo K800

Lenovo certainly took us by surprise when it snuck this gem onto the showroom floor. Heralding the smartphone debut of Intel's Medfield chip, the K800 is a heavily customized Android smartphone bearing 2011 specs, like a 4.5-inch 720p display, Gingerbread, 8 megapixel rear camera). In fact, users not well-versed in the finer aspects of CPUs, would be hard pressed to note the 1.6GHz revolution taking place under the hood. We've only just skimmed the surface of this Asia-only device, so stay tuned -- a US bow can't be far off.

ASUS PadFone

It's phone. It's a tablet. It's a... PadFone? No shockers here. We've had fair warning ASUS' slatephone combo was headed to market, and have had plenty of time to warm to the idea. The concept? A 4.3-inch handset that neatly docks into a 10.1-inch tab, transitioning its display seamlessly to the larger screen and giving you more real estate for that ICS OS. It's an effective solution for users that don't want to port around two separate devices, and it also doesn't hurt that the dock packs an extended battery.

Sony Xperia Ion

After swallowing Ericsson hole and dispensing with the brand, Sony's reorganized its mobile house. And with that new face comes a new era of premium handset design. The Ion is one of two smartphones issued by the Japanese giant that features solo Sony branding, a solid build (bye, bye creaky plastic) and some very respectable specs: 4.6-inch 720p HD Reality display, AT&T LTE and a dual-core 1.5GHz CPU.

Sony Xperia S

Not to be outdone by the Ion, the Xperia S appears poised to truly wear Sony's new mobile crown. Featuring a transparent illuminating bar, which actually functions as the antenna, this dual-core handset is what we consider to be, bar none, the apogee of CES mobile phone reveals. The 4.3-incher's not carrier-locked (yet), so fanboys and girls hoping to add this sleek beauty to their arsenal can get those credit cards at the ready come this March.