Monday, May 17, 2010

There’s Much to Compare When it Comes to Smartphone Shopping

Basically, if you don’t have a smartphone, consider yourself far removed from the inner loop. The wireless market is being dominated by the latest and greatest devices that have brought the convenience of a laptop to the palm of your hand. If you haven’t dug deep down in your pockets to get one, perhaps it’s time you conform to what is becoming the norm for today’s fast-pace, on-the-go society and buy a smartphone.

You’re first instinct tells you to observe which smartphone seems to the most popular among your friends and coworkers. However, you should know that AT&T’s iPhone isn’t the only option just because it’s the only one you see in the palm of everyone’s hand. I’m not trying to suggest that the iPhone would be a poor choice. It’s just that you have some great options to choose from if you happen to belong to another network like Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint. To give you a simple summary of the top smartphones on the market today, I will break this down by carrier so that you are able to gain some insight on a smartphone with your network.

No carrier has a better selection than another. It all depends on what kind of applications you’re looking for, if performance is an important attribute to you or if you just need a smartphone that will help improve your organization. Right now, the No. 1 phone on the PCWorld Top 10 Android Cell Phones chart is the HTC Droid Incredible on the Verizon network. The Incredible has one of the most impressive displays among any smartphone, has a slick user interface and a blazing-fast processor. And if you’re in the market right now, you can get the Incredible for $50 less than Verizon’s in-store price if you’re willing to wait on shipping and go through Amazon. Verizon also lays claim to the third-ranked Motorola Droid, the first Android 2.0 phone. It has a strong suite of Web features and a striking 3.7-inch display. Some users of this device have an issue with the shallow keyboard; however, it does a physical keyboard if that’s a selling point for you, which all other Android smartphones on Verizon are lacking.

Additionally, Verizon also offers the Palm Pre Plus. This device is a definite improvement over the original Palm Pre, with its expanded memory and new software capabilities. And with HP’s recent acquisition of Palm, you can purchase with it full confidence that the operating system will continue to be supported into the future. Research in Motion (RIM) is represented at Verizon by the BlackBerry Tour 9630, which boasts an attractive ergonomic keyboard and display similar to the original BlackBerry Bold 9000 on AT&T. The only hesitation we have with the 9630 is that Verizon is reportedly getting an updated version of the popular smartphone (the 9650) which will bring the phone up to the standards of the current Bold 9700 on AT&T. Verizon also has the carrier-exclusive BlackBerry Storm 2, which received substantially improved marks over its last generation family member when it launched. Lastly on Verizon’s slate is the Samsung Omnia II. This device has a variety of multimedia features and is a solid Windows phone, but its lethargic performance is a negative. Verizon has a great lineup of smartphones, and it’s great to see Privus Mobile working on all these devices, with the exception of the Palm Pre Plus.

Next up is T-Mobile. This may surprise you considering T-Mobile hasn’t had much to show for in the past. Remember, though, I’m not ranking carriers. The gem in this network’s lineup is Google’s Nexus One. This device is ranked No. 2 on PCWorld’s Top 10 Cell Phones chart with its AMOLED display, fast performance and fresh tweaks to the Android OS. The only bad side here: Even Google is saying to buy an Incredible over the Nexus One so if you’re not stuck with T-Mobile, you’re probably better off with the better phone and better carrier. If you’re a social butterfly and so happen to be under contract with T-Mobile, you might want to check out the Motorola Cliq. This phone hosts a number of easy-to-navigate social media applications through Motorola’s customized Blur user interface on top of the Android OS. RIM also teamed up with T-Mobile with its BlackBerry Bold 9700. Some unbiased users deem this to be the best BlackBerry available because of its multitude of features, including its sophisticated, slimmed-down design.

Not on a budget? T-Mobile offers the Samsung Behold II. Like Google’s Nexus One, the Behold II has an AMOLED display as well as an excellent camera on top of the Android operating system. If you’re big on multimedia and have deep pockets, this is the phone for you, although you might check out first-hand what Samsung has done to the OS with its TouchWiz refinements as they seem to be a pretty big hit or miss with people. Last, and you might say least for T-Mobile, is the HTC HD2. This device has notable hardware and superb specs, but isn’t a great choice because of its soon-to-be-obsolete operating system Windows Mobile 6.5.

Then there’s AT&T, and no, the ‘A’ does not stand for Apple. The pride and joy of this network is, of course, Apple’s 32GB iPhone 3GS. When you think of smartphones, you may always think of this device as the must have among all smartphones. If you’re looking for a collection of thousands upon thousands of applications, here’s your dream phone. Aside from that, the iPhone 3GS’ performance enhancements distinguish this otherwise evolutionary step-up from its previous iteration, the Apple 16GB iPhone 3G. With a lower price, 3G radio and GPS, the iPhone 3G is an ideal device for anyone on the AT&T network. If you prefer a physical keyboard or a little more robust business functionality, RIM also has two devices with AT&T, including the BlackBerry Bold 9700, which I already mentioned with T-Mobile. AT&T also still carriers the Bold 9000, but it’s the previous generation of the phone so it suffers from mediocre call quality and a lackluster camera when compared. Lastly for AT&T is the HTC Pure. This device is touch friendly and inexpensive. Surprisingly, the HTC Pure does not have a headphone jack and is made even more of an outcast because of its dull multimedia features. The one great thing about all of T-Mobile’s and AT&T’s devices is they all support the only true Mobile Caller ID application, Privus Mobile.

Finally, we come to Sprint. Sprint’s current offerings aren’t as notable as those of the other carriers I’ve mentioned. Hopefully the arrival of the HTC EVO 4G will help Sprint catch-up to the rest of the pack. Sprint has two Palm devices – Palm Pre and Palm Pixi. The Pre webOS software is touch-friendly and fun, but the cramped QWERTY keyboard detracts from the phones functionality. That being said, the device offers a truly new experience smartphone experience in terms of functionality and user interface that users clamor for. However, if you’re really in the market for a Pre, it’s best to go with the Pre Plus from Verizon. The Pixi, the newest addition to the webOS family, has a nice design, but it too could benefit from improvements on performance and the keyboard. And again, if you’re in the market for the Pixi, you can pick up the improved version of it for free with a two year contract over on Verizon. Sprint, like Verizon, also offers the RIM BlackBerry Tour 9630, a device that has a great keyboard and display, but lacks in the Wi-Fi department.

The two phones that are exclusive to Sprint include the Samsung Moment and HTC Hero. While the Hero marks a significant leap in innovation of the Android platform, not to mention serves as Sprints only Privus Mobile-friendly device, and the Moment impresses with a vivid AMOLED display and roomy QWERTY keyboard, both devices are nothing special when it comes to performance. Sprint seems to be the caboose of smartphone providers, for now.

There you have it – a rundown of your network’s, whichever one that maybe, top smartphones. No device is perfect, but each one has enough of the right features to make it the right smartphone for you. It’s all a matter of getting out there and determining which one meets your expectations and needs the most.

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