It's time for another round of Top Messaging Phones. Of course, we have our list of the top three messaging phones from each of the four major U.S. carriers, but this list brings all of those phones together so I can recommend the top five. I've decided to tweak this list a little bit, too. Instead of just considering the top four carriers, I took into consideration the top ten carriers, according to various research sources, including prepaid carriers. Now that prepaid carriers are starting to release top-notch phones, it's only fair that you, the consumer, have all of the facts so that you can truly make the best decision. So, all the way from Verizon Wireless to Cricket and MetroPCS, here are the top five messaging/featurephones as of March 2011.
1. KIN TWOm - Verizon
Shutting down all of the "KIN" services was probably the best thing that Microsoft could have done for the KIN phones. Granted, it doesn't bode well for the longevity of this device, but honestly, this is what the KIN phones should have been from the beginning.
The KIN TWOm has a great 8 MP autofocus camera that even captures HD video, WiFi support that makes the already exceptional web browsing experience even better, a built-in Zune music player (a seriously underrated feature), an excellent physical keyboard, and a pretty impressive email client.
Now, I have to give the disclaimer that we don't really know how much longer Verizon will offer these phones. It could be another year, it could be another month. It's starting to look like this could be on the market for a while; however, if you're looking at this list in four months and the KIN phones are no longer available, jump down to number two.
2. HTC Freestyle - AT&T
HTC is known for making some of the best smartphones, so the Freestyle had a lot of promise right from the start and it didn't disappoint.
It features HTC's Sense UI which makes it look and almost function like one of HTC's smartphones. Sense UI also adds a lot of customization features, something that is missing in a lot of featurephones these days. Thanks to the 528 MHz processor (actually pretty decent for a featurephone), performance is very smooth. The web browsing experience is also pretty decent and the capacitive touchscreen even supports multi-touch for pinch-to-zoom capabilities.
I was a little disappointed by the camera quality, but the Freestyle is still a great phone for someone who's dying to get a smartphone, but just can't afford the monthly bills.
3. Samsung Craft - MetroPCS
The Craft is unique in that it's a messaging phone that supports 4G data and WiFi. Granted this doesn't improve the phone a whole lot in real world use, but it sets the bar pretty high for the rest of the phone's features.
The build quality on the Craft is excellent and the AMOLED display is beautiful - perfect for watching the full-length Star Trek film that is included on the SD card. The camera is one of the best I've used on a featurephone. Picture quality was stunning. The physical keyboard is also great. Battery life wasn't the best, but it should last long enough to get you through at least a day of use.
4. Pantech Laser - AT&T
The Laser also features an AMOLED display just like the Craft, though it's not quite as stunning and the display is actually a resistive touchscreen, unlike the first three phones on this list. However, that doesn't hold the phone back from still being an excellent messaging phone.
It's super-thin and sleek, has a very fresh and fun UI, and an excellent physical keyboard. I was disappointed by the lack of a 3.5mm headphone jack and the camera quality was unimpressive, but the phone makes up for it in other areas.
5. LG Rumor Touch / Banter Touch - Sprint, Virgin Mobile, MetroPCS, U.S. Cellular
The Rumor Touch has been around for a while now and is consistently listed in these Top Messaging Phones lists. That's because, despite its weird UI and disappointing camera quality, the physical keyboard is simply spectacular. Though the UI does require a slight learning curve, it does add some nifty features, including a useful notification bar.
It may be the oldest on this list, but it has withstood the test of time and is still a great phone for a serious texter.