Which phone should I buy? "Make it Do This!" edition

Noah Kravitz
 from  Oakland, CA
| July 20, 2010

Last time around we looked at the current wave of Summer Smartphones and listed some features, pros, and cons for each one. This time we'll slice and dice today's mobile tech offerings from a different perspective: You want something that can do this? Then buy that! Sounds easy enough, huh?

You Want:

The best cameraphone out there.

Then Buy:

Apple iPhone 4G (AT&T)

Forget megapixels, it's all about image quality. Megapixels only matter if you're actually making prints from your photos, and if you're worried about that you should be carrying a real digital camera, anyway.

That said, the new iPhone delivers when it comes to still and moving images. Five megapixels is plenty of image to share via Email and social networking, Apple finally added a flash to their neato touch-to-focus system, and the camcorder delivers the best 720p HD video on the market right now. Plus, now you get that front-facing camera for super awesome self-portraits.

In a few months Nokia's N8 may dethrone iPhone 4 for the cameraphone crown. But not yet.

iPhone 4G Product Hub »

You Want:

Everything. Except commitment

Then Buy:

BlackBerry Curve 8330 or Motorola i1 (Boost) -OR-

Samsung Vibrant (T-mobile)

You don't actually have to sign a two-year contract to get a smartphone, you know. You only have to sign the multiyear agreement if you want the cheaper, subsidized up front price on your new gadget. But if you're willing to take last year's model, or put up more cash up front, you can have your cake and eat it, too thanks to Boost's small but growing smartphone lineup and T-Mobile's Even More Plus plans.

Boost offers the BlackBerry Curve 8330 for $199 up front and $60/month, contract free, and the Android-powered Motorola i1 for $299 up front. That BlackBerry's a pretty good deal if you want smartphone functionality and BlackBerry power and don't mind getting a slightly old model.

T-Mo's Even More Plus plans offer great monthly value, no annual contract, and access to newer, shinier devices - and more of them. The catch is that you'll pay more up front. Samsung's new Vibrant - T-Mo's Galaxy S device - is a super whiz-bang Android phone with a gorgeous display and wide array of features. You can buy a Vibrant through T-Mo for $499.99 up front, which is quite a bit more than the $199.99 it'll run you with a two year commitment. BUT ... You'll pay $20 less per month for service, and you can drop your service (and sell the phone) at any time with no penalty.

And if you do wind up staying with your Even More Plus plan for the whole 24 months? You'll have saved yourself a few bucks versus having gone with the subsidized plan to begin with. Do the math - it's true!

Samsung Vibrant Product Hub »

You Want:

Smartphone + Internet for your laptop (minus) Breaking the bank

Then Buy:

Palm Pre Plus (Verizon)

For as long as they keep offering it, Verizon's Palm Pre Plus is a great smartphone with a killer hidden deal to sweeten the pot: Free Mobile Hostpot service. Yup. Since Palm's Pre and Pixi phones were hamstrung by a less-than-stellar launch on Sprint, the public lost interest in them and by the time Sprint's exclusivity ran out and the phones got picked up by Verizon, nobody was buying them. So Palm and Verizon threw in free Hostpot service, a $20/month value, in an attempt to boost sales.


Now that HP's gone and bought Palm, there's life left in the webOS platform, and Verizon's Pre Plus refined the original Pre's design with a few minor design tweaks that really help usability. And webOS is a great platform. So you get a good smartphone on a not-dead platform with free mobile tethering on Verizon's 3G network. Works for me.

Don't like the Pre Plus? The deal's good on Pixi Plus, too, for as long as it lasts.

Palm Pre Plus Product Hub »

You Want:

Power, not size

Then Buy:

HTC Aria (AT&T) - OR

Sony Ericsson X10 mini (Unlocked)

My favorite thing about this new trend towards oversized smartphones like Droid X and Evo 4G? The fact that someone had the good idea to make tiny phones trendy, too!

HTC's Aria packs the same Android/HTC Sense operating system found on Evo into a pint-sized package that slips into a pocket or purse without a second thought. While the device suffered from a weak battery when I reviewed it, it should get all but the heaviest power users through a day's use before a recharge is needed. And you'll get the full Web, a media player, and the flexibility of Android without having to carry a "phone" that looks more like a small computer.

SE's X10 mini is even smaller than Aria, what with it's 2.55" screen and all. In fact, Sony Ericsson calls mini the smallest Android phone in the world, and I've got no reason to doubt them. While X10 mini runs an older version of Android (1.6), its dressed up in a very clever custom interface perfectly suited to one-handed - and one thumbed! - use. Power users will likely pass X10 mini over, but for the fashion conscious person who wants to make a statement while checking Email and Websites on the go, this a very cool little smartphone. And you get a capable music player and 5MP camera with flash, to boot.

HTC Aria Product Hub »

Sony Experia Product Hub »