A few readers asked me for a Top 5 Smartphones of 2009 list. One even suggested that I'd promised such a list a few months back. I don't remember that, but I believe him … and am happy to oblige, as tough as it's been to settle on such a list.
So here you go, sorta. My Top Ten Smartphones of 2009 is actually two lists: The Top Ten Business Smartphones and the Top 5 Consumer Smartphones. Considering that smartphones are becoming more and more mainstream, and that subtle differences between "productivity smartphones" and "entertainment smartphones" are becoming more and more important to consumers, a dual list seemed like the way to go.
Bear in mind that this list will likely be close to obsolete before the first three months of 2010 have come and gone - that's how fast the marketplace changes. But for now, looking at 2009, I've made my picks.
And so here's one half of the list, my ten favorite business smartphones of 2009:
1. HTC Touch Pro2/Tilt 2
For business use, you can't beat the QWERTY thumbboards on HTC's flagship WinMo phones. And when it comes down to it, if you can't tap out meaningfully dictatorial emails on the road, your smartphone won't be good for much business use. The Touch Pro2/Tilt 2 is big and bulky, but the QWERTY board is that good and the speakerphone is second to none. Add to that a huge display, Opera Mobile web browser, and HTC's increasingly useful Sense UI on top of the aging but still widely deployed Windows Mobile OS, and you've got the ultimate smartphone for road warriors.
2. BlackBerry Bold 9700
Best BlackBerry going, thanks in large part to the flexibility of GSM networks to handle global roaming and simultaneous voice and data. Plus, the Tour (see #3 below) lacks WiFi. What up with that? I'm a big fan of T-Mobile's HotSpot@Home UMA calling feature, so I'd give the nod to the TMo version here.
3. BlackBerry Tour
The modern BlackBerry that CDMA users waited a long time for. And it delivered on all counts save that head-scratching decision to omit WiFi. As great as it is, don't buy it - wait for the Essex, which is more or less a Tour with WiFi, and should start shipping in early '10.
4. Motorola Droid
Me, personally, I was so disappointed in Droid's hard QWERTY board that I fell out of love with the device pretty quickly. But that doesn't mean it's not a stellar smartphone. There are issues with the quality of the slider mechanism, amongst other things, but Droid is still the fastest, most robust Android device on the market (for now). That means you get solid Web browsing and Email capabilities backed by Exchange support, social networking integration and free navigation via Google Nav. All of that means that while I'd opt for a Droid Eris or iPhone 3GS over Droid, Moto gets the nod above those devices when it comes to business use.
5. Apple iPhone 3GS/3G
iPhone is due for a serious upgrade/revision in 2010, but it's still a whale of a mobile device. Despite its entertainment first, productivity second nature, Apple's smartphone caught on this year in enterprise circles, due to its upgraded Exchange support, top-notch virtual QWERTY board, and ever-growing App catalog. The fact that executives who year to be cool demanded that their IT staff start supporting iPhone didn't hurt Apple's cause, either.
6. Palm Pre
If only Pre had shipped with Pixi's keyboard, it might have placed a few notches higher in this list. I'm high on WebOS, and am hoping for big things from Palm in 2010 once it gets on to more carriers with refined and all-new devices. WebOS can do it all. It just needs some UI/feature refinements and more developer support to really have a shot at the big time.
7. Nokia E72
Full disclosure: I haven't actually used an E72. But the E71 was so awesome, and Symbian users are so many in their numbers and so hardcore in their faith, that I had to put E72 on the list. I eventually gave up on E71 because I just couldn't deal with S60's old school ways any more. But I never lost my affection for the device's sleek, sleek lines, comfy QWERTY board, and German luxury sedan-type build quality. From what I hear, E72 is a worthy successor, and thus it gets a spot on my list.
8. LG Expo
Expo just came out, and it's not quite as peppy as I thought it'd be given the Snapdragon processor lurking inside of it. But that seems to be Windows Mobile 6.5's fault as much as anything. That said, Expo is kind of like a mini Touch Pro2 - side slider with a full touchscreen, comfy QWERTY board, and specs to burn. Expo's optical trackpad is all but useless, but the display is nice and the keyboard is great.
9. HTC Droid Eris/Hero
My favorite Android phone of the moment lacks the physical keyboard that business users often need, and "Me too" appeal that placed iPhone ahead of it on my list. So what? It's an awesome device. Droid Eris is slimmer than either version of Hero, which I like, but that unlocked GSM Hero has that geek chic angled look to it. No matter which version you choose, you'll get integrated multitouch support out of the box - something your Droid-toting pals won't be able to match.
10 (tie). Samsung Moment / Samsung Jack
Personally, I preferred the old Samsung Epix to the new Samsung Jack. But Jack is a solid, if not super-exciting, addition to Sammy's long line of QWERTY-packing WinMo devices. And lots of people love them a Samsung running Windows Mobile. Moment suffers from a keyboard with an odd, odd layout, but it's still the most tactile-y pleasing hard QWERTY to be found on any Android phone anywhere. Whether or not tactile-y is actually a word, when you're using your smartphone for business, the feel of your keyboard matters.