Call it the eye of the storm: CES teased us earlier this month with a few new handsets from Sony Ericsson and Motorola (not to mention the official debut of Nokia's N95 8GB US model), and all sorts of sexy new phones should be unveiled at next month's World Mobility Congress (aka 3GSM) in Barcelona. And then there's CTIA Las Vegas, which kicks off on the last day of March.
This break in the action seems like a good time for some Top 5 lists. Here are my picks for the best in currently available cellular phones:
1. Apple iPhone - GSM (US Carrier: AT&T)
It lacks 3G, has a mediocre camera, and can't do MMS. But it's still the best all-around cellular experience available, particularly if you jailbreak yours and delve into the ever-growing world of iPhone shareware. The display is incredibly sharp and the multitouch-based UI is head and shoulders above anything else out there. Apple's forthcoming SDK and rumored 3G model will only up the ante.
2. Nokia N95 8GB - GSM (US Carrier: Unlocked)
Nokia unveiled the North American version of their flagship N95 8GB handset at CES earlier this year. With a bigger display, more internal storage, and North American-band 3G on board, N95 is perhaps the most capable handset on the planet. I give iPhone the edge for all-around usability, but if you're looking for a smartphone that can literally do it all, the 8GB N95 may well be at the top of your list.
3. Helio Ocean - CDMA (US Carrier: Helio)
Ocean is the flagship device offered by the United States' most innovative network operator. Helio leverages Sprint's EV-DO network to offer all sorts of Web and streaming multimedia content, and Ocean was custom built to get the most out of Helio's offerings. Clever software, comprehensive messaging features, and one-touch search from the Home screen are backed by a unique dual-slider format that offers dedicated QWERTY and dialing layouts. Ocean's been around for long enough now that it's due for a face lift of some sort - could we see a slimmer, touchscreen-based superphone from Helio this year?
4. BlackBerry Curve - GSM (US Carriers: AT&T, T-Mobile)
Despite the still-glaring lack of a 3G variant, RIM's BlackBerry Curve is the go-to smartphone for corporate Email types who want a little fun with their Inboxes. Adding an audio/video player with stereo Bluetooth and 3.5mm headphone jack and a 2-megapixel camera to BlackBerry's legendary email client means that geeky execs and their corporate IT departments can both live happily with Curve. The AT&T 8310 model adds GPS while T-Mobile's 8320 features Wi-Fi connectivity along with myFaves and HotSpot@Home (UMA) compatibility.
5 (tie). LG Voyager - CDMA (US Carrier: Verizon Wireless) and Sony Ericsson K790a GSM (US Carrier: Unlocked)
Voyager is the new king of VZW's feature phones. Adding a touchscreen and VCAST TV to the platform built by the V and enV before it, Voyager packs just about every feature a media and messaging maven could want into a chunky but pocketable form factor. There's no WiFi to be found on Voyager, but VZW's solid EV-DO network provides high speed data in so many places you likely won't miss it.
The K790a is still my favorite cameraphone thanks to its combination of excellent picture quality, true Xenon flash, and reasonable price. SE's new flagship cameraphone, the K850, ups the megapixels and adds HSDPA to the mix, but it's still pretty pricey. Rumor is SE may have an 8MP shooter and/or "iPhone Killer" touchsreen device in the works for the near future. Stay tuned ...