I am a huge fan of smartphones that let me work and play on the go and this holiday season there are some very compelling choices available. I have personally tested most of the models I'll be listing in this Guide and I am finding it tough to decide between which one is the best so I have a couple myself. Most of these smartphones will cost you a few bucks with a 2-year contract, but they are all extremely powerful and are much less than models I have purchased in the past. I recommend you try to get your hands on one of the devices in stores before making the purchase so you can see if the device will meet your needs and desires.
Keep in mind that the prices in the following Guide are either SIM-unlocked prices or carrier prices after rebates and contracts. You may also find many of these high end smartphones on sites like Amazon or Buy.com for free or at a much lower cost after new service activation and rebates so if you see one you like check those sites out too.
There are also several more fine smartphones that may meet your needs, like the Palm Centro, Samsung Blackjack II, RIM BlackBerry Curve, Nokia N96, Samsung OMNIA, Palm Treo Pro, and more.
The HTC Touch Diamond showed us all what HTC could do with Windows Mobile to improve the user interface and functionality. They then took it to the next level with improvements in the hardware and software, as well as the addition of a QWERTY keyboard in the HTC Touch Pro/HTC Fuze. The HTC Touch Pro from Sprint is slightly different (mainly in the keyboard design) than the HTC Fuze from AT&T, but they are both variants of the HTC Touch Pro. These devices pack in 3G wireless radios, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and more in a compact solid form factor with a beautiful 640x480 VGA display.
Price: $299.99 after rebates and contracts
Google, HTC, and T-Mobile are all part of the Open Handset Alliance and last year HTC promised to bring the first Google Android Linux-based smartphone to market before the end of 2008. HTC achieved that with the T-Mobile G1 and after using one for over a month I have to say the device and operating system are extremely stable and functional, especially considering the G1 is a first generation device. The T-Mobile G1 has a capacitive touch screen like the iPhone, a trackball like a BlackBerry, and a full QWERTY keyboard that appears when the display slides up like a Windows Mobile device. The devices supports T-Mobile's new 3G data service and has integrated WiFi, Bluetooth, and GPS.
The operating system provides highly functional notifications (better than on ANY other mobile OS), on-device Android Market to browse and download mobile applications, Gmail functionality very similar to the full desktop version, and 3rd party applications like the Amazon MP3 store, price scanner/checking application, and much more.
Price: $179.99 after rebates and contracts
RIM continues to roll out devices that appeal to both the enterprise user and consumer and the BlackBerry Bold is the current champion of the BlackBerry world. After using it for a couple of weeks, I believe the Bold is the BEST BlackBerry device on the market with a beautiful 480x320 display, large QWERTY keyboard and 3G radio, WiFi, GPS, and Bluetooth wireless connectivity. With a 1500 mAh battery, the RIM BlackBerry Bold can easily take even the most advanced user through the entire day. A 2 megapixel camera, 1GB of onboard flash memory, and microSD card slot round out this powerful device. If you use a BlackBerry, then you really can't go wrong with the Bold and will fall in love with the display the moment you turn it on.
Price: $299.99 after rebates and contracts
Apple raised the bar in the smartphone market and forced all the others to accelerate their development and come out with more compelling devices. The iPhone 3G improves on the original iPhone with a wireless 3G radio and integrated GPS receiver. The device was also updated for enterprise users with support for Microsoft Exchange. The Apple App Store also sets the bar for mobile application stores and is a quick and easy way to purchase applications right from your mobile phone. The software continues to be updated on both generations of the iPhone and gets better with each release.
More than just a phone, the iPhone is a fantastic digital audio and MP3 player so you can enjoy video and audio content on the go. There are still a few annoying limitations on the iPhone (limited Bluetooth usage, no MMS support, etc.), but when Apple feels you need it then maybe it will be updated.
Price: $299 (16GB) after rebates and contracts Price: $199 (8GB) after rebates and contracts
While the BlackBerry Bold made strides to add more consumer functionality, the new BlackBerry Storm takes it even further with a full touch screen interface and no physical keyboard. This is the first BlackBerry device with no physical QWERTY or SureType keyboard so it will be interesting to see how well it does in the market. The touch screen is also unique because it uses RIM's new SurePress technology where a user physically pushes in on the display to activate buttons and keys. The display is beautiful and the touch interface works well in most cases.
The device lacks WiFi, but it does have a 3G EV-DO radio, Bluetooth radio, and GPS receiver. A 3.5mm headset jack is used so you can easily enjoy your favorite music or video content on the device.
Price: $199 after rebates and contracts
There is quite a bit of enthusiasm surrounding the Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 because it is the first SE Windows Mobile device and it has some unique design elements. The 800x480 wide VGA display is the first thing that stands out, followed by the unique curved slider and underlying keyboard. The X1 will initially only be available as a SIM unlocked phone at Best Buy and is quite expensive, but reviews online state that the metal frame and design are high quality. Like HTC has with TouchFLO 3D, SE added a layer on top of Windows Mobile to appeal to the user more than standard Windows Mobile.
Price: $799.99 SIM unlocked only
I have tested several Nokia S60 3rd Edition devices and my favorite model over the last couple of years is clearly the Nokia E71. The device is designed for the enterprise and is part of the Nokia Eseries family, but it also has a few consumer focused features like the 3.2 megapixel camera and mode switching functionality. The E71 is stainless steel and feels rock solid in your hand with a very slim size. The full QWERTY keyboard makes entering text much easier than an on screen keyboard too. The E71 comes with a US 3G-compatible wireless radio (for use on AT&T), WiFi, Bluetooth, and a GPS receiver. If you are looking for a BlackBerry alternative and have an Exchange server then you should consider this rather low cost SIM-unlocked device.
Price: $409 SIM unlocked only
When you first glance at the Samsung Epix you may think it is another Samsung Blackjack device since it has that same QWERTY keyboard form factor similar to a BlackBerry or Treo. However, the Epix is a Windows Mobile 6.1 Professional device with a touch screen display and unique touch-sensitive directional pad. The Samsung Epix is a powerful device with a 624 MHz processor, 256MB flash ROM, 3G wireless radio, 2 megapixel camera, WiFi, Bluetooth, and integrated GPS receiver. It also has an 1800 mAh battery so it isn't plague by the low runtimes that were present on older Blackjack devices. Everyone I talk to who has it loves the device and recommends it to me so it is definitely a device to consider this holiday season.
Price: $199.99 after rebates and contracts