Top 5: The Top 5 Phones I've Actually Used

Noah Kravitz
 from Oakland, CA
Published: September 23, 2008

Two Top 5 lists today.  This first one is the Top 5 handsets I've actually gotten my paws on in some final or close to final form.  The second will be the Top 5 I haven't used, or have only groped semi-functional demos of.  Clear enough, right?  Good, let's get started:

1. Apple iPhone (AT&T) 

Problems abound with the new iPhone 3G, from lag during text entry to horrific voice and data service on AT&T in major metropolitan areas.  But iPhone is still the best all-around handset in the game, which means it's still the phone I carry every day and still rests atop my Top 5.  The closely monitored App Store extends iPhone's functionality into smartphone-meets-mini computer land, and the best-in-class touchscreen, Web browser, photo viewer, and media player make iPhone the easiest and most fun to use multimedia-rich feature phone out there.  Beware, though, Apple: the competition is creeping closer and I personally am jonesing for a QWERTY board on my phone.  Lucky for you T-Mobile and Google botched what should have been a home run in the G1 (see my Top 5 I Haven't Yet Used list).

2. BlackBerry Bold 9000 (Rogers - Canada; Coming Soon to AT&T) 

I never thought I'd actually lust after a BlackBerry but the Bold changed all of that when I tried it out at CTIA a few weeks ago.  It's everything a business phone should be with a healthy dash of style to boot.  Slim, powerful, and multimedia-rich thanks to a gorgeous new display, gussied up media player and Web browser, and integrated 3.5mm headphone jack and camera w/flash.  Could I actually leave my multitouch iPhone experience for the trackball and QWERTY board of Bold?  Ask me after it launches in the US; the answer might just be Yes.

3. HTC Touch Pro (Unlocked GSM; Coming Soon to Sprint)

If the Touch Pro had an integrated headphone jack it just might be my #1 right now (what can I say, I listen to music on my phone daily and hate Stereo Bluetooth (recharging + inferior sound quality = I'll stick with wires, thanks)).  Thanks to a potent combination of the gorgeous TouchFLO 3D interface and a slide-out QWERTY keypad, the Touch Pro serves up the best Windows Mobile experience I've seen to date.  The VGA touchscreen is small but super high-res, which caused me some data entry issues on Pro's kid brother, the Touch Diamond.  Not so here, thanks to that QWERTY board.  Pro also adds a flash to the 3.2 MP camera, which is a nice touch.  Look for Touch Pro to rule the WinMo roost on Sprint, VZW, and AT&T here in the States ... at least until Sony Ericsson finally launches the Xperia X1 (another device HTC had a part in creating).

4. Nokia E71 (Unlocked GSM)

Sexiest Nokia ever.  I know the hardcore phone phans will cry foul on this one, claiming that the N96, N95, and/or N85 should all be ranked higher than the E71.  But for me the E71 gets the nod for three reasons: Style, All-Around Functionality, and Mass Appeal.  The E71's metal body is shiny and sleek, the QWERTY board is entirely usable, and the phone packs a ton of connectivity and functionality.  While the other Nokias I mentioned may have higher-res cameras or larger displays, the E71 brings plenty to the table and provides a legitimate BlackBerry/iPhone alternative for the power user and more style and pocketability than the oversized N95/96.  If only Americans could learn to embrace Symbian ...

5. LG Lotus (Coming Soon to Sprint) 

This is my wildcard and it could come back to haunt me :-)  I was really impressed with Lotus when I tried it out at CTIA.  Why?  LG and Sprint packed a ton of functionality into a relatively small, easy to use phone.  QWERTY?  Check.  HTML Browser?  Check.  High-speed data?  Check.  Sprint Music and TV?  Check.  Camera?  Check.  Dual-displays?  Check.  The big questions here are, 1) How will it perform under daily usage in the real world, and; 2) Will people take to the somewhat strange square shape of the thing?

Honorable Mention:  LG Dare (VZW), LG Voyager (VZW), BlackBerry Curve (Multiple Carriers), Nokia N96 (Unlocked GSM), HTC Touch Diamond (Sprint), Samsung Instinct (Sprint), Nokia XpressMusic 5310 (T-Mobile)