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Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Cell Phones

Even though 2009 was a difficult one for many in regards to finances, the mobile phone market continued to grow and manufacturers continued to roll out some excellent phones for the consumer. In this issue of the 2009 Holiday Gift Guide we will take a look at two selected mobile phones from each of the four major US wireless carriers. I know the lines between feature phones and smartphones are no longer clear cut, but we will have another Guide edition for smartphones that will include those devices running Windows Mobile, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, Apple iPhone, Symbian, and Palm WebOS.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on

Even though 2009 was a difficult one for many in regards to finances, the mobile phone market continued to grow and manufacturers continued to roll out some excellent phones for the consumer. In this issue of the 2009 Holiday Gift Guide we will take a look at two selected mobile phones from each of the four major US wireless carriers. I know the lines between feature phones and smartphones are no longer clear cut, but we will have another Guide edition for smartphones that will include those devices running Windows Mobile, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, Apple iPhone, Symbian, and Palm WebOS.

QWERTY keyboards are quite popular today due to the heavy text messaging practices that many people take part in while standard phone keypad models don't seem to be as common. That said, there are also some very powerful and functional devices without keyboards that appeal to consumer for other strengths. The phones we will cover in this Guide range from $49.99 to $199.99 in price.

T-Mobile

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Samsung Memoir

This first selection from T-Mobile brings a feature not seen in many phones and that is an 8 megapixel digital camera. I find the saying that the best camera to have is the one that is always with you and with the Samsung Memoir in hand you really don't have to compromise when it comes to taking photos. The Memoir also has a Xenon flash so you can take decent photos in low and no light conditions too. In addition to the 8 megapixel camera you will find a large 2.64 x 1.61 inch 240x400 pixel resolution touch screen display with haptic feedback. Samsung throws on their cool TouchWIZ user interface and the decent NetFront web browser to round out the device.

You will find it supports T-Mobile's 3G data network, has integrated Bluetooth, and integrated GPS receiver for navigation. The Samsung Memoir is quite a powerful mobile phone for those looking to take lots of photos on the go.

Price: $199.99 with 2-year contract and rebate/discount or $499.99 with no contract (T-Mobile's new Even More Plus plan)

[Read my review and check out the ZDNet Reviews page]

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Samsung Gravity 2

My teenage daughters spend about 95% of the time with their cell phones sending and receiving text messages so when it came time to upgrade we looked primarily at QWERTY devices. One of my girls was pretty pleased with the Aqua Gravity and so I decided to take a look at the Metallic Orange Samsung Gravity 2 and found it to be an excellent text messaging machine. There were a few major improvements in the Gravity 2, including an updated camera, 3G wireless data radio, integrated GPS receiver, and four row keyboard.

I actually found that the Gravity 2 worked pretty well at accessing some websites like Twitter and basic Google Reader while the device was very snappy and responsive. The TeleNav GPS Navigator software worked well at navigation and the device acts much like a smartphone at a fairly low price.

Price: $49.99 with 2-year contract and rebate/discount or $229.99 with no contract (T-Mobile's new Even More Plus plan)

[Read my review and check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Metallic Orange and Berry Mauve Gravity 2 devices.]

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AT&T

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Pantech Reveal

There are different ways to include QWERTY keyboards on phones and Pantech has one on the Reveal that is hidden below the display in a vertical orientation. The phone looks like a fairly standard phone with a 12-key keypad and other hardware buttons on the front below the display, but then you can slide the display up to reveal a full QWERTY keyboard for faster text entry.

The Pantech Reveal has a fairly basic camera, integrated Bluetooth radio, 3G data support, and integrated FM radio. Some AT&T services are supported (MusicID, AT&T Mobile Music, and MEdiaNet so you can perform some basic web surfing too.

Price: $79.99 with 2-year contract and rebate

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews pages for the red model and blue model]

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Samsung Solstice

Samsung has some pretty compelling touch screen devices and brings their intuitive UI experience to the Samsung Solstice. A full QWERTY keyboard is available on the touch screen with haptic feedback. 3G data is supported along with integrated GPS and their subscription GPS navigation solution. A fairly basic 2 megapixel camera is provided with an integrated microSD card slot. You can connect via Bluetooth for wireless stereo playback.

The Solstice has a 3 inch 240 x 400 pixel resolution touch screen display. There are also a couple of hardware buttons below the display for quick navigation and control of the phone.

Price: $49.99 with 2-year contract and rebate

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Solstice]

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Sprint

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Samsung Instinct HD

The Samsung Instinct had a huge marketing effort behind it last year and I couldn't go to a movie theater without seeing an ad for this phone. By most measures, it did quite well in stores and this year we see the upgraded Samsung Instinct HD from SPrint. I had the chance to spend a bit of time with the Instinct HD and it feels rock solid in your hand with a beautiful 3.2 inch HVGA capacitive touchscreen display. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Samsung also included the Opera Mobile 9.7 web browser on the device because we have only seen this version on Windows Mobile devices in the past. You will also find a 5 megapixel camera, Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi on the Instinct HD.

You may be wondering why the HD label is applied to this device and what you will find is that the Instinct HD can record video content (onto the 4GB removable memory card with support up to 32GB cards) and then output that content in 720p HD quality to an external display using compatible cables.

Price: $249.99 with 2-year contract and instant savings/rebate

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Instinct HD]

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Samsung Reclaim

If you have someone on your holiday shopping list that would appreciate an environmentally conscious, aka "green", gift then you may want to check out the Samsung Reclaim phone from Sprint. The Reclaim is made with organic components (corn-based bio-plastic) and wrapped in organic packaging, along with $2 from each purchase going to The Nature Conservancy's Adopt an Acre program.

Similar to the Pantech Reveal mentioned earlier, the Reclaim has a QWERTY keyboard hidden under the front panel and display. There is no phone keypad on the front though, but there are a few hardware buttons and a directional pad to help with navigation and control in closed mode. A 2 megapixel camera, stereo Bluetooth radio, 3G wireless data, Sprint TV, Sprint Navigation, and web browser support are all included on the device.

Price: FREE with 2-year contract and after instant savings/web rebate

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews pages for the Earth Green and Ocean Blue devices]

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Verizon Wireless

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Samsung Rogue

The Samsung Rogue is another in the QWERTY messaging form factor with a keyboard that appears when you slide the display from left to right (or up in landscape orientation). The Rogue has one of those newer 3.1 inch AMOLED displays so colors pop on the screen. It has a 3 megapixel camera with several camera modes, including multi-shot, panorama, and mosaic. Samsung includes their TouchWiz user interface as well so there are widgets for you to manage on the device.

A full HTML-capable web browser is installed on the Rogue and you can subscribe and enjoy content from V CAST Music and V CAST Videos. VZ Navigator is also supported with the integrated GPS receiver. I like seeing the standard 3.5 mm headset jack too.

Price: $79.99 with 2-year contract and instant savings

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Samsung Rogue]

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LG enV3

The LG enV line is quite popular and I see teens and adults using them everywhere I go. The enV3 continues the tradition of a good messaging phone with a large QWERTY keyboard and internal 2.6 inch display. I have seen many people banging away on the keyboard and for the most part they are quite pleased with its performance. The enV3 also has a 3 megapixel camera, full phone keypad in portrait mode, integrated GPS receiver, and Bluetooth stereo support.

Visual voicemail, V CAST Music, VZ Navigator and V CAST Videos can all be accessed from the enV3.

Price: $129.99 with 2-year contract and instant savings

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews pages for the Maroon and Slate Blue LG enV3 devices]

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