Tax Refund Special: Smartphones

Tax Refund Special: Smartphones

Summary: The average tax refund for 2008 was about $2,500 and with the shape the economy is in here in 2009 it may be a good idea to spend some or all of that to give the economy a bit of a boost. It is also important during this time to stay in touch with family and friends to provide support and communication. What better way to stay in touch via voice or text than with a new mobile phone. So as you consider spending that money on a new mobile phone, I wanted to give you five suggestions to consider.Since there are four major wireless carriers in the U.S. (Alltel is now part of Verizon) I will give you my top recommendation from each carrier and one SIM-unlocked device to consider.

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2009 ZDNet Tax Refund Special

The average tax refund for 2008 was about $2,500 and with the shape the economy is in here in 2009 it may be a good idea to spend some or all of that to give the economy a bit of a boost. It is also important during this time to stay in touch with family and friends to provide support and communication. What better way to stay in touch via voice or text than with a new mobile phone. So as you consider spending that money on a new mobile phone, I wanted to give you five suggestions to consider.

Since there are four major wireless carriers in the U.S. (Alltel is now part of Verizon) I will give you my top recommendation from each carrier and one SIM-unlocked device to consider.

There are very few mobile phones priced at $2,500 so you will have plenty left to save and use to pay the monthly fees, buy some accessories (cases or microSD cards) or software, buy something else, or save for a rainy day.

AT&T: Apple iPhone 3G

AT&T has one of the largest selections of features phones and smartphones available and it is difficult to choose which one fits your needs. That said, it is also tough to argue that the Apple iPhone is not one of the most enjoyable mobile phone experiences available today. The iPhone makes operating a phone a breeze while also giving you the power of a computer in the palm of your hand. It is a fantastic media player and gets better with every update that Apple issues. There are now over 15,000 applications in the App Store many great applications are available for free. Just about every new phone purchase in my office has been the Apple iPhone and it is easy to see why after you have had a chance to use one.

Price: $199 for 8GB after 2-year contract and $299 for the 16GB models

[Read the review (16GB black)] [(16GB white)] [(8GB black)]

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2009 ZDNet Tax Refund Special

T-Mobile: RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900

T-Mobile has a few great offerings for mobile devices, but the two top smartphones are the T-Mobile G1 (see my review) and RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900. I think the G1 is a good device, but is still a "beta" and don't recommend it for all people in its current configuration. The T-Mobile RIM BlackBerry Curve 8900 is a fantastic choice and one of the BEST mobile phones available today. It gives you an updated and very functional keyboard, amazing high resolution display, great connectivity (WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS), and decent mobile camera. The only thing missing from the new Curve 8900 is a 3G wireless radio, but T-Mobile is still rolling out 3G and coverage is quite limited at this time.

Price: $199.99 with a minimum data plan and 2-year contract

[Read the review] [Check out my hands-on impressions of the Curve 8900] [Check out our image gallery]

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2009 ZDNet Tax Refund Special

Sprint: HTC Touch Pro

If you want to save up your money for a bit, then you should wait for the Palm Pre device. We do not have any information on when it will actually be available though so let's recommend an available device for now. HTC is the main producer of Windows Mobile devices and has done an excellent job with the HTC Touch Pro. This device packs in 3G, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth to give you a complete experience with very little limitations. HTC adds TouchFLO 3D for a smooth user experience that is graphically pleasing. The slide-out QWERTY keyboard is one of the best on the market and lets you enter text with ease.

Access is provided to several Sprint services so you could use some of your money for things like Sprint TV or the Sprint Music Store. The Touch Pro is a solid offering that lets you get a lot done on the go.

Price: $299.99 after rebate, savings, and 2-year contract

[Read the review] [Check out my hands-on impressions of the Touch Pro] [Check out our image gallery]

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2009 ZDNet Tax Refund Special

Verizon: RIM BlackBerry Storm

One of the newest devices on the Verizon Wireless network is the RIM BlackBerry Storm and while I personally did not like using a BlackBerry without a physical keyboard, it is a unique user experience and the device is pretty amazing. The display is fantastic and the device feels good in your hand. It is the first touch screen BlackBerry and comes with 3G, Bluetooth, and a GPS receiver. The device doesn't have WiFi though so keep this in mind if you need that for your usage. Several Verizon services are also supported on the Storm.

Another good choice from Verizon is the Samsung OMNIA touch screen device running Windows Mobile Professional 6.1.

Price: $199.99 with a 2-year contract

[Read the review]

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2009 ZDNet Tax Refund Special

SIM unlocked: Nokia E71

The device I currently use the most is the Nokia E71. If you haven't held this rock solid metal encased phone in your hand, I highly recommend you find someone with it just to hold it and feel it for yourself. It has almost the exact same dimensions as the Apple iPhone, but is targeted towards the person who is a heavy texter or email sender. The device is slim, has a high resolution display, supports 3G, has WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS, and is based on Symbian S60 3rd Edition. There are thousands of applications available for it, but out of the box it is ready to go. The battery lasts a long time, the QWERTY keyboard is very capable, and the devices operating system is stable. The only issue with the E71 that I want to see in an updated model is the camera that captures images with a purple tint.

I have yet to see a negative review of the Nokia E71, even from those who don't really like using the Symbian mobile OS. Nokia produced a device with the E71 that is low cost and highly functional and it will be a tough one to beat moving forward.

Price: As low as $340 with NO contract or rebate

[Read the review (gray)] [(white)] [Check out my full review]

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Topics: Apple, Hardware, HTC, iPhone, Mobility, BlackBerry, Smartphones, Telcos

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  • smartphones

    Why is the entire tech community ignoring the issue the availability of a non-camera, non-recording smart phone for those of us whose work prohibits such?
    lbeberdick