Seeking the smartest smartphones:
We search for the ultimate smartphone
(Review by urban75 for Digital-Lifestyles updated Jan 2009)
Look, we'll come right out with it. We're gadget freaks.
We like to strut around with the latest gizmos throbbing in our pockets, and tote the latest technology. When it comes to smartphones, we want the best, but what is the supreme smartphone right now?
We take a comprehensive look at what's on offer in the top end of the market and chew over bagfuls of specs in our quest to find the perfect smartphone.
Apple 3G iPhone
The obvious choice would be the Apple iPhone, with its beautiful interface and sleek form factor and a user experience that makes other phones look like stone tablets. Installing apps is a breeze, and using the phone is a joyous experience from start to finish.
The trouble is that we're really not digging the company's power-crazed, control freakery approach. We like to choose what we install on our phone, thanks Mr Jobs.
Moreover, we simply can't get on with a tippety-tap virtual onscreen keyboard, and we also need a removable battery and memory card, and a smartphone without copy and paste and video would drive us up the wall in no time.
urban75 score: 89%
As long time aficionados of Palm's no fuss, fast and simple approach to smartphones, it hurts us to type this, but the future of the platform now looks exceedingly bleak. There's no prospect of the promised new operating system arriving any time soon, and with the all-important developers buggering off in droves, we can't see how it can hope to compete, even if the new phones turn out to be awesome.
With the company suffering Amiga-like corporate self destruction, the one-time giant of the smartphone scene has been reduced to knocking out average WM smartphones and endless reworked reruns of the ancient Treo 600. We'd be deliriously happy if the Palm came back as a contender, but we fear it's all over.
urban75 score: 75%
This deliciously shiny phone caught our eye when it was first announced, and we loved the look of its big, high-res, half-VGA display and generous QWERTY keyboard. When we got to have a play with the thing, we were bitterly disappointed: the thing felt huge in the hand and we couldn't get on with the interface.
Worst of all, there's no touchscreen and only an average 2MP camera onboard, so despite the solid build, Wi-Fi and 3G, this wasn't for us.
urban75 score: 86%
Sony Ericsson C905
It's quite a beefy affair at 136g but it's got a King Dong of a camera, serving up no less than 8MP of resolution plus a full suite of 'proper' camera features like face detection, autofocus, 16 x Zoom, Xenon Flash, image stabiliser and Bestpic.
There's also EDGE, USB, Wi-Fi, aGPS, Bluetooth, video calling, TV-Out and HSDPA onboard, plus an accelerometer and a no-nonsense user interface. Although we're digging the design of the chunky slider, the lack of a QWERTY keyboard displeases, as does the disappointing 2.4" 240 x 320 pixel screen and lack of a 3.5mm headphone socket.
urban75 score: 86%
Now, this one got us really excited with its big screen, innovative 'soft touch' technology and huge pile of features.
All our 'must-have' boxes were being ticked off with gusto: GPS, 3G, Bluetooth v2, removable battery, accelerometer, desktop sync, memory slot, good browser, 35mm headphone slot, quad band and a decent camera with flash and video.
It was all there except for the one thing we absolutely, absolutely need: Wi-Fi. Aaaargh!
Moreover, after playing with the phone for some time that innovative 'clicky' screen soon began to irritate, and try as we might, we couldn't feel the love for Blackberry's dark interface.
urban75 score: 87%
When it comes to features, this fella very nearly has the lot: GPS, quadband, Wi-Fi, FM radio, MicroSD, 16GB internal memory, 3.5mm slot, a great camera and video but then falls desperately short with a rubbish screen resolution - a near neolithic 240×320 - and no QWERTY keyboard.
We could almost overlook these failings if it wasn't for the puny 950 mAh battery which falls disappointingly short.
What's the point of having a feature-stuffed phone when it all conks out miles from home?
urban75 score: 86%
It's as thin as a supermodel riding a stick insect at just 10mm and comes with a QWERTY keyboard, HSDPA/3.5G, Wi-Fi, 3.2MP camera with video, built in GPS, a microSD card slot and a stunning battery life courtesy of a beefy 1500mAh battery.
It's all looking like an express trip on Smartphone Superhighway to Nirvana until your eyes hit the diminutive 320 x 240 screen.
The fact that it won't charge over USB is ruddy annoying too, and if it wasn't for that squinty screen, the E71 could have been the phone for us.
urban75 score: 85%
Windows Mobile (HTC Touch/ Touch HD, Samsung Omnia, Palm Treo Pro and others
Now there's some fantastically featured Windows Mobile phones out there, with HTC in particular producing some glorious handsets, including their Touch HD which comes with an outrageously large 3.8" 480 x 800 pixels screen, 5MP snapper and more functionality than you can chuck a GPS guided stick at.
There's no shortage of great applications either, but even when you're using sleek interface 'skins' you'll eventually end up being dumped into the hideous world of Windows Mobile (although the new HTC HD skin really is exceptionally good and almost good enough to tempt us).
The WM world is a place so grim and bleak that it makes Windows 3.1 look like a Bollywood version of Vista. Despite its power and flexibility and some beautiful looking handsets, WM remains an absolute dog of a mobile interface which makes using your phone as much fun as root canal surgery with an arthritic dentist.
HTC Touch: 86%
HTC Touch: 88%
Samsung Omnia: 84%
Palm Treo Pro: 84%
LG KF750 Secret
Looking way slick with its carbon fibre battery cover and tempered glass display, the Secret is a neat sliderphone packed with a ton of multimedia gizmos wedged into its slimline frame.
There's a 5MP autofocus camera with AF-assist light onboard, backed by VGA video recording at 30 fps, plus SloMo and Fast video recording options.
There's 3G with HSDPA, USB, Bluetooth, hot-swap microSD card slot and a FM radio inside, with an ambient light sensor and accelerometer. The dab-magnet screen, however, is a disappointing 320 x 240 QVGA job and we couldn't get on with the haptic feedback which just felt gimmicky. Worst of all, there's no Wi-Fi to be found, so it's off our list.
urban75 score: 78%
Sony Ericsson Xperia X1
Featuring a fully customisable panel interface and a neat slide out QWERTY keyboard, the Xperia is a stylish and fairly compact handset packing a healthy 3-inch touch screen supporting 800×480 pixel resolution. We love the 3.5mm headphone jack, Bluetooth 2.0, Wi-Fi, quadband, 3G and support for the 850/1900/2100 UMTS/HSDPA bands, assisted GPS, high quality 3.2MP camera and video, FM radio, expansion slot, decent battery life and healthy media support but aren't so keen on the fiddly buttons and reports of sluggish performance.
Despite its funky interface, scratch a little deeper and you'll soon be dumped into the Stygian horrors of Windows Mobile, which inevitably means battling with incomprehensible dialogue boxes with an itty-bitty stylus. Nice phone, shame about the OS.
urban75 score: 88%
Of all the new smartphone options, this is the one that's got us most excited, mixing the goodness of Google with an exciting new open source mobile platform. The phone, although not a looker, has almost all the features we want: 3G, quadband, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, memory card slot, GPS 3MP camera, big 480 x 320 screen, slide out QWERTY, a decent battery life and a clever digital compass. We love the idea of being involved with such an innovative new platform, and some of the early apps look very exciting.
In fact, we were so stoked up we were ready to splash out our hard-earned moolah and buy one, but that was before we encountered T-Mobile's indescribably awful customer service department. They decided that as loyal customers for 10 years we were not only not worthy of a single dime of discount, but could expect a £300 excess for our troubles. We're still interested in the G1, and perhaps the phone's disappointing sales figures will force T-Mobile to get their heads out of their greedy backsides and start offering more attractive deals.
urban75 score: 89%
In the meantime, we'll battle on with our Palm Centro, a neat, powerful little handset that can run rings around many of the latest phones for speed and usability, but the lack of Wi-Fi and fast-disappearing developers means that it's sadly not a platform we feel inclined to continue investing in.
JAN 2009 update: Palm announce killer new handset!
Just when we thought we'd made our minds up, Palm introduced their incredible new Palm Pre phone powered by their revolutionary new webOS software.
If it delivers on its promises, this is going to the the phone for us - it looks fantastic!
Check out the preview here: Palm Pre: Hitting Back With Stunning New Phone And WebOS
Let's hear your opinion!
Have we missed any handsets? Disagree with our verdicts? Which phones would you recommend? Or are you as frustrated as us with what's currently available? Post up your comments on our busy bulletin boards
« Back to tech homepage