What Smartphone Should I Buy?

UPDATE: To assist in providing the best possible recommendation, here is some background:

Current Phone: (A highly modified 2 year-old HTC 8925/ AT&T Tilt smartphone running a non-standard radio and “Cooked” ROM courtesy of the fine folks at XDA Developers that leverages AT&T’s HSDPA network using the Windows Mobile 6.5 OS, Skyfire Browser & 8GB MicroSD. Windows Mobile provides reading & creation of MS Office documents, as well as syncing with Outlook 2010. The phone supports native YouTube video, music player, Flash Lite, GPS, enhanced Bluetooth pairing and full QWERTY keyboard. It is not exceptionally fast, but provides acceptable capability to simultaneously take calls using a Bluetooth headset while receiving e-mail and running Google Maps in GPS mode.

Telephone: I use my mobile as my combined office & personal phone, so I require high quality reception, background noise filtering if possible, and a nice loud speaker-phone. Do not want dropped calls.

Data: Monthly, I consume between 500MB and 1GB of data. Mostly web, e-mail & social networking, but some Google Maps GPS & video as well. Need fast data access.

Travel: I travel extensively, predominantly throughout the US, but periodically internationally. My TripIt account tells me that for the first 6 months of 2010, I will have taken 15 trips covering 27,000 miles over 49 days to 15 cities in 2 countries. My guess is that the ratio of international travel will be increasing over the next two years.

Future Needs: Ability to run Apps in addition to mobile web to enhance consulting capabilities, provide instant feedback to clients and for usability improvements. Ideally want the smartphone & platform to sustain me at a high level of functionality & efficiency throughout the 2-year agreement term. May decide to post more Qik/UStream content for blog / social networks in future.

That’s all – In short, I am looking for a high quality, reliable, fast smartphone for heavy voice and data usage.

It’s finally official – after over five years of failed predictions, 2010 has finally become, drum roll, please… The Year of Mobile.

With legions of swooning fans and impassioned critics, the mobile turf battles have erupted beyond the mobile carriers and have simultaneously broken out between handset manufacturers, operating systems and rich media platforms.

I have run a lot of polls recently on the Views from a Corner Suite blog, but as silly or nonsensical previous topics may have been, this question is serious, as it will be asked by a growing army of consumers over the coming months. Smartphones not only lock buyers into multi-year financial commitments, but the adoption of a piece of technology that is bound to be made inferior by newer models within a few months.

Given that I will be freed from the chains of my two year-old cell phone contract at the end of the month, the burning question is: What Smartphone Should I Buy?

After the jump are a variety of comparisons, videos, specs and reviews of the hottest current smartphones and previews of several eagerly awaited models arriving in time for the holidays. Please select carefully – I’ll be stuck with the damn thing for 2 years!

If the poll does not display above, please try this link.

Voting closes at 11:59pm US Central Time Friday, June 25. Only one vote is allowed per person, so only one smartphone may be selected.

Is there a handset I missed? Feel free to comment or send me a tweet at @RobertKCole. Make your case and I’ll consider adding it to the poll.

For specification freaks, GadgetsDNA has two charts that compare today’s hottest smartphones. The first one presents the leading contenders from each major US cellular network: AT&T Apple iPhone 4 | Sprint HTC EVO 4G | Verizon HTC Droid Incredible | T-Mobile Google Nexus One.

The second, provides the top offerings for each operating system: Apple’s iOS iPhone 4 | HTC’s Android EVO 4G | Nokia’s Symbian^3 N8 | Palm’s webOS Pre Plus | HTC’s Windows Mobile HD2.

Here is some more detail on the candidates:

CURRENT PHONES

Apple iPhone 3GS (AT&T)
Strengths: Good Battery Life; Fast; Large Number of Apps
Weaknesses: Poor Call Quality; No Multi-tasking; No Flash Support
Apple iPhone 3GS Review

Apple iPhone 4 (AT&T)
Strengths: High Res Retina Display; HD Video Recording; Multi-Tasking
Weaknesses: AT&T Network; No Unlimited Data Plan; No Flash Support
Apple iPhone 4 Preview

Google Nexus One (T-Mobile)
Strengths: Good Phone Quality; Fast; Receives Android Updates First
Weaknesses: Average Media Player; Can’t Sync Outlook Calendar; No Hands-free Bluetooth
Google Nexus One Review

HTC Droid Incredible (Verizon)
Strengths: Fast; HTC Sense Interface; Upgradable to Android 2.2 (Froyo)
Weaknesses: No Simultaneous Voice & Data; Average Multimedia
HTC Droid Incredible Review

HTC EVO 4G (Sprint)
Strengths: First 4G smartphone; Large Screen; Tethering for 8 Devices
Weaknesses: Limited 4G Service Areas; Poor Battery Life, Poor Call Quality
HTC EVO 4G Review

Palm Pre Plus (Verizon)
Strengths: Good QWERTY Keyboard; Touchstone Inductive Charging
Weaknesses: No Landscape Keyboard; Soft Speakerphone; No Streaming Music or Video Support
Palm Pre Plus Review

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 (T-Mobile)
Strengths: Compact Size; Good Display; Optical Trackpad
Weaknesses: Marginal Web Browser; Small Display; Small Keyboard
RIM BlackBerry Bold 9700 Review

FUTURE

Dell Lightning (AT&T|T-Mobile)
Strengths: Windows Phone 7 platform; Supports Flash & Silverlight; Integrated Zune & Xbox Live
Weaknesses: Available 4th Quarter 2010; AT&T Network; Vertical Slider Keyboard
Dell Lightning Preview

Nokia N8 (AT&T|T-Mobile)
Strengths: Symbian ^3 Operating System; 12 mega-pixel Camera; HD Video With Light
Weaknesses: Not available until September 2010; Bulky; 1st Gen OS
Nokia N8 Preview

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9800 (AT&T)
Strengths: OS6; WebKit based Browser; Virtual Horizontal Keyboard
Weaknesses: Available July 2010; AT&T Network; 1st Gen OS
RIM BlackBerry Bold 9800 Preview

Samsung Galaxy S (AT&T|T-Mobile)
Strengths: Similar processor to iPhone 4; Centralized Social Hub, Large HD Screen
Weaknesses: Not available until July 2010;
Samsung Galaxy S Preview

Many challenges face the global travel industry. New business models, competitive marketing strategies, emerging mobile technologies, interactive customer engagement and the constant need to drive profitability create complexities that were never previously imagined by hotels, destinations, airlines or online travel companies.

Each month, RockCheetah and the Views from a Corner Suite blog will present a new poll to gauge the sentiment of the travel industry, and of course, allow respondents to comment on the issues at hand.

About Robert Cole

Robert Cole is the founder of RockCheetah, a hotel marketing strategy and travel technology consulting practice. He also authors the Views from a Corner Suite Blog and publishes the Travel Quote of the Day. Robert speaks regularly at major travel industry conferences, authors articles for leading travel industry publications, advises travel-related startups and the equity investment community. He is an evangelist for the global travel industry.

  • Having traveled with an iPhone the last several months, I'd have to vote against the iPhone.

    There is nothing wrong with the iPhone, but because it is locked, you have no choice when traveling outside the country other than unlocking your phone or paying outrageous rates to ATT.

  • erichoffman

    If you want the best recommendations, I think you need to provide a bit more information on how you intend to, or even currently, use your smart phone, email access, video/photo, audio (music), geolocation all can make a big difference in terms of which device would be best. Also, whether you'll be travelling internationally and even where you typically travel domestically as some networks are certainly better from region to region.

    Personally I've been really enjoying my MotoDroid, but I also still like a physical keyboard – another question there I suppose too…good luck!

  • Excellent question. So good in fact, that I have updated the post with a big highlight at the top that summarizes my needs. That should help narrow down the choices considerably – or at least, help to more clearly identify the compromises…

  • Hi Robert, because you mention that you are going to be adding to your international travel schedule, I think that unfortunately would drop your Verizon phone offerings off the list. However, I do think the Android OS would really fit your needs and it looks like the Samsung phone will offer Quad band international support.
    I wish I were in your spot, but as I mentioned, I picked up the original Droid back in November and have a long way to go until my new every two kicks in again…good luck!

  • Verizon includes 5Gb worth of tethering for people using the Palm Pre at no extra cost. I pay $40/mo for my Novatel MiFi for the same 5Gb from Verizon. You can also use it as a USB modem for faster connectivity.

    Also, the Palm Pre does support streaming video in RTSP, H.263 and H.264 formats. I've been told that the unit will work in Europe and Australia, but I've not been able to confirm that yet.