Best of 2011 - Mobile Web Devices

The year 2011 was a pivotal one the Web, particularly as it relates the way people go about connecting to their favorite sites.

The advent of fast-emerging and rapidly growing technologies in the mobile sector has led to many users regularly accessing the Web from mobile devices such as smartphones, tablets and even feature phones. 

But not all of these mobile devices are created equally, so iPhone 4S
When news of the iPhone 4S first dropped, some were disappointed -- to say the least. Users wanted an iPhone 5, and instead they got a revamped version of the iPhone 4. (Oh, and Siri.) Still, in the end, it was the best-selling iPhone ever despite the initially lukewarm response.

The smartphone runs on the brand new iOS 5 and offers much of the same functionality with which Apple fans and diehard iPhone users are familiar, including the old standby Safari mobile browser. With the introduction of the voice-controlled Siri, Apple also gives users a whole new way to interact with the Web on their mobile phones, as information can be accessed almost immediately. It's likely that 2012 will finally see the release of the iPhone 5, which will possibly be a drastic reinterpretation of the device with even more sophisticated Internet capabilities.

iPad 2
Apple's other major contribution of industry-changing technology is the iPad 2, the successor to the device that standardized tablet usage. It's probably not a stretch to say that when people talk about tablets and tablet browsing, they're likely thinking of using an iPad, and that kind of presence is what makes it such an important (and revolutionary) gadget.

Much faster than its predecessor, the second generation iPad is actually quite similar to its big brother when it comes to navigating on the Web, but it also presents itself as more of a content creation tool for publishing on the Web, making it a device much better suited for two-way Web needs. Like the iPhone, it comes equipped with a built-in, tablet-optimized Safari browser, and there are some impressive third-party browser options available for interested users. The second version is also powered by iOS 5.

Galaxy SII
Although it's not nearly as revered or idolized as Apple, Samsung has proven itself to be a beyond-competent mobile developer, and the Galaxy SII is a great example of its acumen. Some have claimed that it is actually the "world's most powerful phone to date," backed by a dual-core 1.2GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor and running on the Android Gingerbread operating system (with an Ice Cream Sandwich update on the way).

And while being a powerful tool is critical to the demands of Web users today, the Galaxy SII goes the extra mile by providing users with a great interface for browsing that consists of a 4.3 inch Super AMOLED Plus display. One review called it "the yardstick by which every other phone competing [this year] in terms of hardware specs was measured."

Galaxy Nexus
Running on the Android Ice Cream Sandwich OS, this is widely considered to be the best Android phone ever created. By building on the successes of the Galaxy SII, Samsung was able to craft a superb device that is "everything Android ever aspired to be."

Featuring a 4.65 inch HG Super AMOLED Contour Display and a powerful processor specifically built for faster Web browsing and multitasking, this phone is ideal for browsing the Web. So far, no better iPhone alternative has presented itself or, perhaps more importantly, had the opportunity to challenge Apple's dominance in terms of the general public's perception of what a smartphone can be.

Kindle Fire
No product was more hotly anticipated this year than Amazon's Kindle Fire tablet. At $199, a considerably lower price point than the iPad 2, the 7-inch tablet is a great alternative to Apple's industry-dominating device, especially as it allows for easy access into any of Amazon's other online properties, most notably the Kindle Store, Amazon Prime and Amazon Cloud Storage.

The Kindle Fire runs on a customized version of the Android Gingerbread OS and features a brand new Web browser, Amazon Silk, which has received mixed reviews so far. Though the Kindle Fire may not be the optimal mobile device for using the Web, there is no denying the impact it has had on the tablet market. By dropping the price point significantly, Amazon has opened up tablet adoption to a whole new range of consumers, and the screen size was successful enough that there isn't any shortage of rumors that Apple will release a 7 inch "mini" version of the iPad 3 in 2012. In short, thanks to Amazon and the Kindle Fire, tablet consumption is becoming even more mainstream.