Top 5 Featurephones - November 2007

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| November 27, 2007

The turkey is digested and those insane Black Friday shoppers have taken their loot and gone home - now it's time to think about what to get for those naughty and nice folks on your holiday shopping lists.  Just in case someone you love is hoping for a high-end cell phone this December, here's my current Top 5 Featurephones list.  Featurephones give you everything but the kitchen sink, bringing calling, Email/Web, and media player functionality to your mobile life:

1. Apple iPhone - AT&T GSM
iPhone is the best all around featurephone on the market today, thanks in large part to it's state-of-the-art multitouch display and excellent user interface.  Though it lacks 3G data, GPS, and a few other features we've come to expect from high-end handsets, iPhone makes up for it by providing a start-to-finish user experience that's head and shoulders above the competition.  The form factor is near perfect, the touchscreen is responsive and rugged, and the high-res display is big and clear enough to make mobile movie watching enjoyable.  Here's hoping Apple takes the wraps off of a significant upgrade to iPhone at MacWorld in January and makes good on that promise of an SDK in February.  A 3G iPhone with third-party application support (and a reconfigured headphone jack) would be music to Steve Jobs' accountant's ears.

2. Nokia N95 - Unlocked GSM
With the release of an 8GB model with a larger display and sleek black finish, and a version compatible with 3G in the United States, Nokia updated their flagship smartphone without really revising it much.  No matter, though, as the N95 is still the most feature packed handset in the world.  Previews of S60 software optimized for touchscreens have N-Series fans wondering when Nokia's "iPhone Killer" will hit the streets, and how magical it will be.  But S60 is very different from Apple's Mobile OS X, and N95 is a different beast than iPhone.  iPhone is mainly for the masses, whereas N95 is a geek's dream come true.  $700 is a lot to pay for an unlocked cell phone, but one look at N95's spec sheet will tell you this is no average cell phone - it's more like a handheld computer that also makes phone calls.

3. Helio Ocean - Helio CDMA
Ocean is chunky and its display is starting to look small in the face of all the full frontal touchscreens appearing on cell phones as of late.  But Ocean just might be the best value in featurephones when you consider all it can do and what Helio charges for an "All In" monthly service plan as compared to similar offerings from the other carriers.  Ocean's integrated search and messaging features are the best in the business, and the combination of 3G data (on Sprint's speedy network), GPS, full Web browsing, and a slideout QWERTY thumboard make this innovative handset Generation MySpace's dream come true.  Helio doesn't offer many devices, and the "Mysto" slider is already on deck as their next offering, but I can't help but wonder what they've got up their sleeve as far as an Ocean replacement goes.  Imagine an Ocean-esque device, but slimmer and with a larger, touch-friendly display ... mmm.

4. LG Voyager - Verizon Wireless CDMA
Voyager is kind of like the ultimate Sidekick.  It's big, it's a little ungainly, and it's expensive.  But it's got that nice, roomy full QWERTY keyboard, two full-resolution displays, and just about every feature you could want on a non-smartphone.  External touchscreen?  Check.  High-speed network with full Web browsing, mobile music store, and mobile TV?  Check.  Email, SMS, IM, GPS, Stereo Bluetooth, Camera with video capture?  Check.  Fully ready to send your monthly service bill well into the three digit range if you activate all those services?  You betcha!

5. HTC Shadow - T-Mobile GSM
There might be some blind loyalty clouding my judgement here since I am still a T-Mobile customer (can't beat that $5.99/mo T-Zones Web access!).  In all objectivity, though, I think Shadow is an excellent device.  HTC and TMob have managed to take the best parts of the ill-fated Samsung Blast and the way too complex Windows Mobile 6 OS and merge them into a tricked out yet easy to use sliderphone.  Shadow features a SureType-style QWERTY thumboard for easy text input, integrated WiFi for fast Web browsing, and a very well thought out user interface that makes it easy to manage your connectivity, update your calendar, and change your Five without having to delve into the awful land of WM6.  Shadow's small, sexy, and easy to use.  And considering all it does, it's reasonably priced, too.  Just make sure you ditch IE for Opera to get the best possible Web browsing experience.