Which Cellphone (Or Smartphone) Should I Buy?

This is a very common question that I get nowadays, being a huge mobile gadget geek and all.

Question:  Which cellphone should I buy?

Seems like a pretty simple question - buy what you like, right?  However, this is all too common of a mistake.  Once you purchase your shiny new communicator, you feel pretty good toting it about like a proud new parent... only to discover months later that it's missing a crucial feature or has some extremely annoying habits that you can't stand.  As such, the question of which mobile to purchase is more complicated than it seems... especially with all the new (and sometimes wacky) choices out there.

Answer:  It depends.  How do you use your cellphone?

Start first with how you think you will use the cellphone, then go from there.  I've come up with some common scenarios and phones that best fit your usage profile.  There's literally dozens and dozens of choices, but I wanted to point out some of my favorites to get you started.

Jack-Of-All-Trades:  Apple iPhone

I'm going to kick this off with what I feel is the king (or queen) of mobile phones: the Apple iPhone.  I won't lie, I'm a bit biased.  But if you're looking for the ultimate blend of fun, flexibility, and multimedia features, the iPhone won't disappoint.  It isn't without caveats, though, as you'll discover.

The iPhone handles SMS text messages like a champ, displaying them in chat client fashion, and can easily handle multiple conversations at once.  The built-in email client is smooth as silk and the Safari mobile web browser is best-in-class.  It's blazing fast with 3G data speed and functions as a full-blown iPod Touch with one of the slickest interfaces I've had the pleasure to use.  Finally, you get to choose from one of the best application libraries for mobiles out there, the Apple App Store.

However, there are many downsides.  Battery life isn't so great with the 3G version, so if you're a travelling executive, you might find yourself dead in the water if you make a lot of calls.  You're stuck with AT&T (for now) and service plans are pretty pricey.  In addition, the iPhone is missing some crucial features, such as MMS and cut & paste.  Finally, the iPhone is not cheap, and even with a new contract will run you back $200 plus fees.

Corporate Executive Or Email Addict:  BlackBerry Bold

The BlackBerry is the quintessential corporate drone's phone, and it's a great way to go if you don the suit and tie every day, struggling to climb the ladder in search of a golden parachute.  The BlackBerry handles email better than any other phone on the market, with true push functionality.

BlackBerries usually feature full keyboards in lieu of the "soft" keyboard featured by iPhone, making them even better for texting and emailing frequently.

Downsides of the BlackBerry models include second-rate web browsing and clunkier form factors (generally.)  I would recommend the BlackBerry Bold out of all the models I've seen, it's a thing of beauty.  BlackBerries are currently available through multiple cellphone providers, so you'll have lots of choices for service.

Frequent Texter: Pantech Duo or Pantech Slate

You've seen it.  Teenagers with their nose buried in their mobile phone, fingers flying at the speed of light, texting multiple friends simultaneously with enthusiasm and skills surpassed only by the most skilled of typists.  To really get the most mileage out of text messaging, you need a phone with a full keyboard, but you may not need the full functionality of the iPhone or BlackBerry.  Pantech offers two great choices for the texting addict.

First comes the Pantech Slate.  It's truthfully very basic and focuses on instant messaging (AIM and others) along with texting, and not much else.  If you're looking to text like a pro on a budget, this is a great choice for you.  Downside of this phone is the lack of high-speed data, but again, if you're just looking to text, that isn't a concern for you.

For those who need a little bit more, there's the Pantech Duo.  It sports a "dual slide" mechanism allowing you to get a standard 13-key phone layout or a full QWERTY keyboard.  You also get the Windows Mobile OS for more advanced programs and features, but at a lower price than other smartphones such as the iPhone or BlackBerry.

Don't limit yourself to just Pantech, however.  Many other manufacturers offer great phones for texting, such as the Samsung Blackjack II and the Peek mobile device.

I Like To Take Pictures: Samsung Omnia or Motorola ZINE

Among other super-impressive features, these two photographic powerhouses will serve you best if you like to snap a lot of photos with your mobile.

The Samsung Omnia boasts a 5 megapixel built in camera as well as a modified Windows Mobile interface that is optimized for touch and even includes the Opera web browser.  The Omnia is being offered in the States through Verizon Wireless.

The Motorola ZINE has similar functionality, employing 5 megapixel technology by Kodak, and the ability to wirelessly transmit photos to various web services.  The ZINE is currently being offered through T-Mobile.

I Just Want A Phone, Really (Or I'm On A Budget):  Any Flip Phone

It's hard to recommend a particular "non-smartphone" since there are so many.  Even just browsing through AT&T's selection of flip phones, you're met with dozens of choices from various manufacturers.

I have to say that I do recommend a flip style phone if you're looking mainly to talk on your mobile, for reasons of comfort and convenience.  Some of the more popular flip phones are the Motorola RAZR, which I have years of experience with and is really a solid phone.  Other popular choices are the Nokia 6650 and the Samsung A237, among many others.

Simple flip phones can almost always be had for free with a new contract, but remember, you'll have to text on a standard phone pad with T9 and you won't get a good web browser, either.  You said you only wanted to talk!  The beauty of the flip phone, though, is that with so many choices, you can pick a model that offers music functionality, GPS, and many other fancy features... or just the bare bones.

There's So Much More

We've only scratched the surface here... everyone has different tastes and there are dozens and dozens of phones out there, some exclusive to individual carriers, some not.  I hope this simple guide has helped you narrow down what type of phone to look for.  Please let us know what yor buying experience is like and what you chose in the end!

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