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Innovation

Holiday Gift Guide 2009: Smartphones

The lineup of cell phones has expanded a bit, but a significant number of what we see in that category are updates to existing models. The real innovation in the mobile phone world is in the area of smartphones where we see the Apple iPhone, Palm WebOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows Mobile devices taking us to places we have never been before. This holiday season there is a huge selection for you to choose from on every carrier and several exciting devices will be launching throughout November. There are so many to choose from that we can't cover them all here so I will present you with one smartphone from each carrier and one SIM-unlocked one.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer on

The lineup of cell phones has expanded a bit, but a significant number of what we see in that category are updates to existing models. The real innovation in the mobile phone world is in the area of smartphones where we see the Apple iPhone, Palm WebOS, Google Android, RIM BlackBerry, and Microsoft Windows Mobile devices taking us to places we have never been before. This holiday season there is a huge selection for you to choose from on every carrier and several exciting devices will be launching throughout November. There are so many to choose from that we can't cover them all here so I will present you with one smartphone from each carrier and one SIM-unlocked one.

Even though I am only presenting one phone from each carrier, I highly encourage you to visit your local carrier's retail store to check out all the offerings available since they are quite compelling. The great thing for buyers this holiday season is that such intense competition lends itself to good prices and changing carrier plans and services.

T-Mobile

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Motorola CLIQ

T-Mobile is my personal wireless carrier and I was going to talk about my current favorite device, the T-Mobile Touch Pro2, but I think another new device is more exciting and interesting for the holidays. Motorola's new CLIQ Google Android device with MOTOBLUR integration that tightly integrates social networking feeds and data in the device. The CLIQ has a beautiful capacitive touch screen, 5 megapixel camera, support for T-Mobile's 3G data network, GPS, WiFi, Bluetooth, and full QWERTY keyboard.

The device is highly optimized for social networking with Facebook, MySpace and Twitter apps built right into the Android OS. Android is an exciting new platform with thousands of applications and capability to meet all your needs.

Price: $199.99 with 2-year contract and rebate

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page]

Check out my AT&T recommendation »

AT&T

iPhone 3GS

AT&T has some excellent BlackBerry and Windows Mobile options, surprisingly no Google Android devices, but it is hard to argue against the Apple iPhone 3GS being the best smartphone on this carrier. The iPhone 3GS is a very fun device and this latest model improves on the speed while adding a very functional 3.2 megapixel camera that captures video footage with ease. Everything is easy with the iPhone 3GS and the number of available applications continues to increase exponentially.

The iPhone 3GS is a good phone, but an even better media player so if you are buying for someone looking to take their music or movies on the go then the iPhone 3GS is the one. Social networking tools are also very well done on the iPhone and IMHO they are more functional on the iPhone than on a web browser in most cases.

Price: $199 for 16GB with 2-year contract and $299 for 32GB with 2-year contract

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews pages for the White 32GB, Black 32GB, White 16GB, and Black 32GB models.]

What do we have from Sprint? »

Sprint

HTC Hero

If you are a Sprint customer, then I have to admit I envy you and have thought about adding a Sprint account to my mobile collection because they have the best voice and data plans and IMHO currently have the most exciting lineup of smartphones. You can choose from the Palm Pre, upcoming Palm Pixi, HTC Touch Pro2, HTC Hero, upcoming Samsung Moment, and BlackBerry Tour. I was going to choose the Palm Pre, but I was not extremely pleased with the build quality of the device when I owned one for three weeks and after spending time with the HTC Hero I think this is the leading device on Sprint. The customizations that HTC has made with their Sense UI make the Hero a device that will meet all your needs.

The HTC Hero has it all with EV-DO Rev. A, WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, 3.5mm headset jack, capacitive touchscreen, accelerometer, trackball, thousands of Android apps, amazing Google experience, support for all the greatest Sprint services (Sprint TV, NFL Mobile Live, NASCAR Sprint Cup, and Sprint Navigation), and a solid 5 megapixel camera capable of capturing still images or video content. Like I said, I found the the HTC Hero so compelling I almost signed up with Sprint just to have one for myself.

Price: $179.99 with 2-year contract, instant savings and rebate

[Take a look at my review and check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the HTC Hero]

Does Verizon have a compelling smartphone? »

Verizon Wireless

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HTC Imagio

It has been a while since Verizon Wireless has had some exciting smartphones, but this holiday season they are looking to make quite a comeback with their two Google Android devices, HTC Touch Pro2 (regularly sold out), and RIM BlackBerry Storm 2. Looking at what is currently available though I have to say the HTC Imagio is the clear leader. While the Touch Pro2 has a QWERTY keyboard, the HTC Imagio has the latest Windows Mobile 6.5 operating system, 5 megapixel camera, 3.5mm headset jack, 3.6 inch 480x800 pixel display, WiFi, Bluetooth, EV-DO Rev. A and UMTS/GSM for true worldwide usage. It supports Verizon services such as V CAST Music, V CAST Mobile TV, V CAST Video, Visual Voicemail, and VZ Navigator.

If you don't need a keyboard and need a sleek device with support for wireless bands around the world then the HTC Imagio is a good choice. The V CAST Mobile TV is a FLO TV-based live streaming video service and the antenna on the back acts as a kickstand for the device so you can enjoy video content with the Imagio resting on a table.

Price: $199.99 with 2-year contract and online discount

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Imagio]

SIM-unlocked choice is a bit unique »

GSM SIM-unlocked

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Nokia N900

If you are with AT&T or T-Mobile, then you have the option to buy SIM-unlocked devices from various online vendors without having to worry about any contracts or mail-in rebates. This flexibility does come at a bit higher price, but sometimes the device is well worth that price. I have had the pleasure of using a pre-product Nokia N900 device and this smartphone is much more of a mobile computer than a phone, although the phone part is actually quite strong as well. The Nokia N900 is scheduled to be released in mid-November and supports the 3G data frequency found on T-Mobile USA. If you want to learn a lot more about this amazing device, then I recommend you check out my Definitive Nokia N900 Guide.

The Nokia N900 runs a Linux-based operating system called Maemo 5 and sports such high end specs as a 600MHz ARM Cortex A8 processor, 3D graphics accelerator with OpenGL ES 2.0 support, 1GB application memory, 32GB integrated Flash drive with microSD card slot to add up to 16GB more memory, 5 megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, 3.5 inch 800x480 resolution touchscreen display, integrated WiFi and Bluetooth, integrated GPS receiver, and full Mozilla-based browser that supports Adobe Flash 9.4.

The device is snappy, supports a growing number of applications, is very well connected and has the ability to run multiple applications at once. The phone functionality was not forgotten with a proximity sensor, one touch multi-access to your contact's different connections (cell, IM, text, email), and much, much more.

Price: $559.99 from online retailers with no contract or rebates (MSRP $649)

[Check out the ZDNet Reviews page for the Nokia N900]

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