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Summary:

There’s much to like about Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone 4, but not everyone wants an iPhone, either due to the lock-in to Apple’s software ecosystem, issues with AT&T’s network or some other reason. Here are eight iPhone alternatives to consider — a pair for each carrier.

There’s much to like about Apple’s newly unveiled iPhone 4, notably its front-facing camera for video calls, high-resolution Retina Display screen and thin form factor housed in glass and stainless steel. But not everyone wants an iPhone, either due to the lock-in to Apple’s software ecosystem, issues with AT&T’s network or some other reason. Spec for spec, no two phones are exactly alike, but below are eight (two from each major U.S. carrier) of the best iPhone alternatives either currently or soon to be available. While they may fall short by comparison in some areas, they rival or exceed in others.

Verizon Wireless

HTC Incredible ($199) — This is the current flagship phone for Verizon, and with good reason. The 3.7-inch, 800×480 touchscreen is slightly bigger than that of the iPhone 4 and while it doesn’t offer a high-resolution Retina Display, it’s still stunning thanks to OLED technology. The Incredible comes with 8 GB of internal memory but can also use memory cards containing up to 32 GB. It also sports an FM radio —  a feature that iPhone 4 lacks. HTC included a beefy 8-megapixel camera with auto-focus and dual flash, so stills or video are a snap, although it can’t yet do full 720p video like the iPhone 4. One negative: that OLED screen is difficult to see in direct sunlight.

Palm Pre Plus ($49.99) — At $50, you’re paying a lot less than you would for an iPhone 4, but you get a solid smartphone experience. Pre Plus offers a touchscreen with the same resolution as prior iPhones but also includes a slide-out keyboard for text entry. The device runs on the webOS platform, an interface that rivals or exceeds that of Apple. And long before the iPhone gained multitasking — it’s arriving in a limited form with the new iPhone — the Pre Plus multitasks with ease; programs run as “cards” that can be swapped around or flicked off the screen to close an app. The phone also provides a notification system like the iPhone for incoming messages and upcoming appointments, but it’s far less intrusive. Another huge plus: Verizon includes a free mobile hotspot service with 5 GB of data included, allowing you to share the 3G connection with five Wi-Fi devices. One downside to this phone is a vastly smaller number of software titles available — a few thousand as compared to the 250,000 in Apple’s iTunes App Store.

T-Mobile

HTC HD2 ($179) — One of the first phones to use a peppy 1 GHz Qualcomm processor, the HD2 is thin and all screen — the 800×480 touchscreen is a whopping 4.3 inches. HTC developed a touch-friendly interface called HTC Sense for the HD2, which runs atop Microsoft’s Windows Mobile operating system. That opens up the device to a large number of third-party applications and great integration with other Microsoft products such as Office, but Windows Mobile is in need of an overhaul. Still, when paired with HTC Sense on a big screen and a fast processor under the hood, this is a contender, as shown in our hands-on video overview. And it’s one of the first Windows Mobile devices to use a capacitive display, not a resistive one, like the iPhone. Although Microsoft is releasing the new Windows Phone 7 operating system later this year, the HD2 is not slated at this time to receive an upgrade to the new platform.

myTouch 3G Slide ($179) — The latest Android 2.1 handset to arrive on T-Mo looks like last year’s model model with a keyboard and optical trackpad added, but it’s much more. Three software features take it beyond the iPhone in some ways: extensive voice control, social network updates from favorite contacts and multiple phone themes that automatically switch based on time or location. The phone has access to more than 50,000 applications in the Android Market and T-Mobile offers its own App Pack for the device. Although the Slide has a full 3.4-inch touchscreen, the 4-row QWERTY keyboard is highly usable for those that prefer a hardware keyboard. Like the HD2, this phone has the Sense user interface, which hides some of Android’s blandness. The myTouch 3G Slide doesn’t run on the fastest available phone processor, but it keeps up quite admirably in everyday use and can use T-Mobile’s speedy HSPA+ network.

Sprint

HTC EVO 4G ($199) — The EVO  offers something that no iPhone has, or will likely have for at least a full year: access to a fast, next-generation network. This 4G phone connects to Sprint’s WiMAX network, offering real-world speeds that are roughly three times greater than today’s 3G phones. Like the HD2, the EVO has a generous 4.3-inch display and like the iPhone, can record 720p video thanks to the 8-megapixel camera and speedy processor. Like many other Android phones built by HTC, the EVO offers the pretty Sense interface. A front-facing camera for video calling and the ability to use the device as a 3G or 4G mobile hotspot are key advantages, but be forewarned: Using the device on 4G eats up  the battery far quicker than most would like. See our recent review for more details about the EVO.

HTC TouchPro 2 ($199) — This handset is a bit long in the tooth, but it’s one of the better Windows Mobile touchscreen devices on the market, plus it offers a stellar, 5-row slide-out keyboard and the best speakerphone I’ve ever used. It comes with Microsoft Office Mobile for productivity, but can still play your favorite audio and video clips when it’s time for fun. Even though it’s an older model, it does have a high-resolution, 3.6-inch display and 3.2-megapixel camera. I especially like how the 800×480 screen tilts forward, so you don’t need a stand when watching media. The biggest downside is that this phone is unlikely to see any future upgrades from Microsoft and given that, it’s priced high compared to newer, more powerful handsets.

AT&T

Dell Streak (TBD) — This tablet-like phone is due out for a late summer launch and could be worth waiting for. The Streak is big, with a 5-inch touchscreen display, but that size brings a better experience for reading, browsing or watching media. Like many other manufacturers today, Dell opts to use Google’s Android platform for the phone, but also created an in-house, finger-friendly shell for it. The Streak also offers two cameras: 5 megapixels in the back and a lower-quality sensor for the front, to be used for video chatting. The Streak also supports the fastest AT&T 3G speeds currently available, just like iPhone 4. Unfortunately, Dell is planning to ship the Streak with Android 1.6, which is already outdated. The device can still access most software in the Android Market and with the user interface shell, it may not matter much. The question now is: Will you want to hold a 5-inch phone to your ear or rely on a Bluetooth headset for all of your calls?

iPhone 3GS ($149 -$199) — What’s this? Last year’s iPhone is an alternative to this year’s iPhone? For those who want to save some up-front money when purchasing an iPhone it is. The iPhone 3GS is still an excellent device and will actually gain many features of the iPhone 4 thanks to an Apple software upgrade expected later this month. That upgrade will teach the old iPhone to do new tricks like running multiple applications at one time or in the background, organizing apps with folders and creating music playlists. Most all of the iPhone 4 software features will work on the older iPhone, the only exceptions being where there’s a hardware limitation. If a higher-resolution display and front-facing camera aren’t on your “must have” list, for example, the less expensive iPhone 3GS just might work for you this year — especially if you expect next year’s iPhone to run on a faster network.

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  1. myTouch 3G Slide is a solid device. It’s a shame it doesn’t get as much press as its other Android brother. Also a shame that T-Mobile is not selling it at a lower price point.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel A S Saturday, June 12, 2010

      Totally agree, which is why it made the list.

  2. Have you actually used the “next generation” 4G network? the speeds are no where near what sprint has claimed, and are closer to 3G speeds, and that’s if you can ever find a 4G network…

    lets run through the real “features” atleast for the EVO the other’s don’t even come close… not that the EVO does…

    let’s really compare the real features, the ones a consumer/Business person would actually notice when buying the phones:

    1. battery life: by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better battery life than the Evo.
    2. screen Resolution: by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better screen resolution than the Evo.
    3. Motion tracking: by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better motion tracking than the Evo.
    4. playing video/movies/trailers: by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better load time and quality of video than the Evo.
    5. flash: 65% of all flash sites crash or do not work on the Evo’s implementation of flash.
    6. number of apps: by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better the number and quality of apps than the Evo, for instance in the last 2 months, the Apple AppStore has gained 25,000 apps, compared to the total number of Android apps of 50,000, yet of the 50,000, only a fraction can actually be used on the Evo, due to the unbelievable fragmentation of the Android market into different form factors and OS’s that these form factors are forced into using. 90% of which are already out of date… So those developers are all out their investment. 90% of them.

    7. HD video recording, again by far and away the iPhone has an order of magnitude better HD video recording quality than the Evo.

    8. Camera photos: this might actually be close, the iPhone has a much better censor, while the Evo has more megs.. we’ll have to see on this one.
    9. HD video Editing: the Evo doesn’t even have this capability.
    10. Ease of use of all the features: not even close, by far..
    11. Evo only comes with 9gigs of memory, most of which can not be used with apps, iPhone 4 comes standard for the same price with 16gigs of memory all of which can be used for storing and running apps.
    12. The Evo’s 4G network, is so limited in coverage and such a battery hog, the 4G network see’s limited use, and when it does, it has been shown to not nearly be the speed that sprint has claimed. only showing marginal gains to 3G.
    13. By far and away, the ATT coverage is far superior than Sprint coverage.
    14. Evo runs an old version of the Android OS, (fragmentation again) and will not be updated for months according to HTC.
    15. MultiTasking: the iPhone 4 version of multitasking does not drain the battery as the Android version of multitasking, making the Android version untenable, and useless when people have to turn off this feature to preserve their battery.
    16. The A4 processor in the iPhone 4 has been shown to be on the order of 36% faster than the snapdragon processor in the Evo.
    17. instead of “breaking records” like HTC claimed in “sells” of the Evo, it was revealed that the EVO only sold 150,000 in the weekend… The iPhone 4 will likely sell that many in the first hour.
    18. instead of Android “outselling” the iphone os in a recent month, it was revealed that the carriers had 2 for 1 deals, and counted those sales as two sells distorting those claims, then it was further revealed that the iPHone had 3 times the market share in the same time period as the claims by these “sales” figures.

    but hey, the Evo has a kickstand, so it’s got that going for it. :0)

    1. Thank you! I bet my editor that one of the first few commenters would do what you just did – Daddy needed a new pair of shoes, so thanks again! Now please go back and read the last sentence of the first paragraph. ;)

      The post isn’t meant to say that the EVO or any of these phones are better than the iPhone, so let me pose this question to you: for a non-AT&T customer, what phone would you recommend?

      1. No, what this proves is that Daddy is a little too quick to load up his website with linkbait, instead of doing some research first and giving us some real news. How hard is it for non-AT&T customers to figure out what the alternatives are, just by beginning at the Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile websites (to name the biggest alternative providers) and then checking for reviews? Your linkbait works because you are promising to do some COMPARATIVE analysis, which doesn’t happen at all.

      2. Where in the post exactly was the promise of comparative analysis? I seem to have overlooked that in my reading. ;)

        Not everyone has the time, nor wants to hit up three carrier sites and then further seek out reviews. If you do, that’s great. This post is simply a starting point to narrow things down a bit for those that don’t. And I’ve included several links to our reviews and hands on videos of some models.

        A thought: rather than be critical of a post that you apparently don’t need, why not help the community by offering suggested additions to the list?

      3. Anonymous, drive by commenter who doesn’t have enough courage in their convictions to put their real name on a comment issues a point by point “rebuttal” of arguments that someone didn’t make in the first place.

        Just another day on the Internet, folks. Apparently, it’s making us all smarter or something.

        Kevin, I admire your patience :)

      4. +1, Ian. It sort of comes with the territory and once I realized that, my patience level improved greatly. ;) In all seriousness, I’m all for great debate and conversation – it makes my writing better, provides worthy alternative views and we all get smarter.

      5. no, i’m specifically looking at the last line of that paragraph where you say: “they rival or exceed in others [areas]“:

        there really are no areas where “they” rival or exceed, which i was pointing out…. there just isn’t even a close comparison yet.

        I need to update the number 8: all the Professional reviews are in on the camera done with blind tests…., and the iPhone 4 even outperforms the 8gb cameras on the only rivals that are even close. because the iPhone 4 camera has a better sensor…

        and for the other poster:

        an “order of Magnitude” can mean many things, including moving a decimal point, but also can mean “doubling” in some types of uses, where “doubling” or quadrupling is more appropriate in terms of what is being used or consumed or viewed.

        i’ll give an example, in some situations while an EVO is actually being used, on a 4G network, and multitasking it has a battery life of 1 hour… literally in some situations…. the iPhone has been shown to have a battery life in many cases of 10 hours of actual use. an “order of magnitude” using the decimal point…

        the screen resolution on the iPhone, if it were 10 times the resolution it is actually, the human eye, even if it had 20/10 vision at 12″ away, would not see the difference between what the iPhone 4 actually has in resolution, and having 10 times the resolution…

        in otherwords, it has reached an “order of magnitude” better resolution, since the EVO can not say the same thing, we would actually notice if the EVO had 10 times the resolution… get it? the iPhone has reached an “order of magnitude” better screen resolution… which is revolutionary… no one will try and make a better screen resolution, because they would be WASTING THEIR TIME AND MONEY….. the evo can not say the same thing.

        how about the HD video: the iPhone records it at 30 fps full HD recording, which the human eye has a hard time trying to see individual frames.. it looks like well… a real life recording of what is going on.

        the EVO records at 25 frames per second, which a child can see the lagging frames… it is so bad that a baby would look away from such a hard to watch video….

        in otherwords, the iPhone has achieved an “order of Magnitude” better HD video recording than the EVO

        i’d go on, but you get the idea…. there REAL IS NO SUBSTITUTE, if you were on Verizon, your choice it to… literally wait for an iPhone on Verizon, so that you are not stupidly locked into a 2 year contract with some horrific excuse of a phone, like the EVO.

    2. So how any shares of AAPL do you own?

    3. honkj: Another elitist douche-bag from Apple. Who cares if the iPhone is an “order of magnitude” better? What if your not on AT&T? What if you don’t want a 2 GB capped plan? What if you prefer Android to iOS? What if you prefer larger phone like the EVO?

      Plus many of your points are just off the mark and inaccurate. The iPhone remains the Lexus RX of phones. Its one the must uninspiring and boring phones on the market, their just continuing on from an initial good idea. While Android innovates and comes out with new cutting edge hardware and software features, Apple looks at the best and just copies them on the iPhone every June like clockwork.

      The iPhone 4 is a great smartphone for AT&T. Buts its not the one and all, and if your a media junkie or power user like me, you can’t get by on a 2GB capped plan. The EVO is in many people eyes “an order of magnitude” better than the iPHone 4 no matter what distorted reality honkj lives in. Each phone offers pros and cons that might suit people needs differently. However honkj is completely clueless of the fact that people might think differently than he does.

      If everyone though like honkj here, and based their purchasing decisions based on what other people (marketing, branding, product placement, endorsing) say is the one and only best, then we’d all still be using Blackberrys, XP computers, original iPods, and CRT TVs. Because no one would appreciate innovation from other competing technologies and companies.

      If you’ve ever used both an iPhone and an Android device, you’d realize that both have a lot of advantages over the other. Plus Android remains open source, and doesn’t have to rely on banning legitimate technology competitors to preserve it’s business model. And even though Android phone like the EVO may not sell as well as iPhone, it still has been very successful because not every wants an iPhone. My Verizon android device can much better suit my needs than the iPhone 4 on AT&T.

    4. honkj, thanks for completely missing the point of this article.

    5. An order of magnitude better? Do you even know what that means? An order of magnitude is a multiple of 10. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Order_of_magnitude Educate yourself so you don’t make posts in the future that make people think you are an idiot. Also, a lot of your points are quantifying aspects of the phone that cannot be easily quantified. For example, number of pixels. Very easy to quantify. Quality of the apps? Quality of video? Quality of video recording? What is your criteria for that? And where in the world are you getting your numbers? Evo can only run a fraction of the apps? What is the fraction exactly? 1/2,9/10,3/4. Those are all fractions. Android Market has 70k. Not 50k. How do you define an app as out of date? You forgot to mention the Evo can store an additional 32GB of data. And when it gets updated, apps can run off of the SD. You do realize fragmentation is only noticeable right now because Google is moving at a very fast pace. Once they get the core of Android finalized, fragmentation won’t even be an issue anymore. Google already has stated they plan to slow down the pace very soon. Here’s how I save my battery on my Android phone: I press two buttons on my screen and I’m done. I know it sounds super complicated but really it’s not. Froyo 2.2 update has shown the nexus one to be 2-5x faster. So what 1.36x faster really doesn’t matter now does it? Also, I can’t help if a large majority of Americans are brainwashed by Apple. It’s a shame they don’t understand how evil Apple really is. They treat their developers like absolute crap. They do everything in their power to stop competition whether it is versus another platform or within their own platform. There is a reason that the US Government is looking into investigating them for 4 completely separate issues. iPhone has been around since 2007. Until late 2009 there was really only 1 crappy Android phone. It’s mid 2010. Look how much the landscape has changed in that very short amount of time. The writing is on the wall. This is PC vs Macintosh all over again.

      1. Beat me to that one:)

      2. No, don’t think so. it’s “Windows vs Linux” story repeated this time and Apple is the new Microsoft. Android (free OS) is going to go the Linux way…Suse, Ubuntu, RedHat etc etc.

    6. Raymond Padilla honkj Saturday, June 12, 2010

      That’s awesome that you know how fast the iPhone A4 is when its clockspeed hasn’t been revealed. Few people think it will be the same speed as the iPad’s.

    7. Are you describing a PHONE?

      Much of your list is NOT what someone in business would need / use.

      Let me wave my hand and see what I can come to view as advantages.

    8. I’m a so called apple fanboy. But I have no problems with Android’s success. It has no negative bearing on Apple’s customers like myself. Maybe the company may suffer lowered profits or whatever. But as far as we are concerned, it’s only a good thing because it will keep Apple on it’s toes. Can you imagine Apple delaying the introduction of a camera in iPod touch for this long if there was a credible competitor in that space? Besides if Apple does something really stupid and pisses me off, I know there is something out there which would be a good alternative (not a Sprint Instinct or some resistive screen WinMo phone). And this may just even prevent Apple from doing just that.

      And for the Android fanboys, you don’t have to hate Apple to be able to enjoy your phone. For the love of god, they caused the revolution which has enabled so many of us to finally enjoy mobile devices, so cut them some slack. We know Android will be the majority OS in a few years so you don’t have to feel insecure. Both platforms have enough developer support that neither is going away anytime soon. So sit back and enjoy what you have! You have the power to vote with your wallet every 2 years. That’s all that’s needed to keep both companies to do the best they can.

      Sent from my iPhone and pissed off that the white iPhone 4 is not available for pre-order :(

      1. Kevin C. Tofel Jerry Tuesday, June 15, 2010

        Well said, Jerry! The more good competition there is the mobile space, the better most, if not all, products can be. In essence, we all win because whatever device or platform we choose works best for us.

  3. This post is “by far and away…” and “has an order of magnitude…”

    Sorry, honkj couldn’t help myself. Your points are spot on when putting the EVO and iPhone 4 side by side. Other phones try to “out spec” the iPhone but that doesn’t mean that they out preform it and as you pointed out the iPhone does have some much better specs.

    “but hey, the Evo has a kickstand, so it’s got that going for it.” Awesome!

  4. “And it’s one of the first Windows Mobile devices to use a capacitive display, not a resistive one like the iPhone.”

    I think you may wanna rewrite this sentence for clarity. Or just add a comma before “like the iPhone” because its seems you are claiming that the iPhone has a resistive screen!

    1. Good catch on the missing comma, Jerry. I’ve just added it for clarity as of course the iPhone has always used a capacitive display. Sorry for the punctuation omission, which totally altered the intent of the sentence! :)

  5. I’m holding out to see where the Samsung Galaxy S lands.

  6. Ok, first of all there’s a couple facts that are all over the place on these reviews. No iPhone has ever had a resistive screen. The HD2 is one of the first WinMo phones to have a capacitive screen. Every other OS has been on capacitive phones for quite a while.
    Second, the Apple fanboy over there needs to calm down. the EVO is a really sold device, w/ a huge high resolution screen, multitasking OS, and extremely fast hardware. When the phone receives the Android 2.2 update it will also be benchmarking faster than both the iPad and iPhone 4 on both WebBrowsing and system operations. I have no idea where you go that the A4 is “36%” faster to the Snapdragon. It also has Flash Lite and will soon sport Flash 10.1 and have access to a host of media content that Steve Jobs doesn’t think you should have. I’m not saying the EVO isn’t a shining diamond of perfection, but it’s certainly a very viable iPhone alternative. You say no phone on the list even comes close besides, and yet the VZW Incredible is w/out an even match to the iPhone 4, and Verizon’s network kills ATT in every way. I know you iPhones guys hate to see the marketshare slipping away, pulling that feeling of superior smugness along w/ it but wake up, you ain’t the only show on the stage anymore.

    1. Correct, no iPhone has ever had a resistive screen. See my comment above, as that error was introduced by a missing comma.

    2. I have no idea where you go that the A4 is “36%” faster to the Snapdragon

      there are a few tests now to compare…. i used the only comparison possible which was the iPad A4, next to the snapdragon of the Nexus one, which was 36% faster..

      now that we have real tests of the iPhone 4, compared to the Evo directly… and that came out to 30% faster for the iPhone 4, it appears that apple has throttled down the A4 processor slightly to conserve battery… an admiral trade off considering the horrific battery life of the EVO where they did nothing for the poor sucker who actually buys the phone, where having all these “features” active will literally drain your battery within 1 hour in some cases…

      thanks for the opportunity to update the list…

      for the person asking how much stock i have, well, AAPL has increased by some 2000% since SJobs started making decisions for Apple again, so it really doesn’t take much… does it….

      what has Verizon stock done recently (or since Steve jobs had a little conversation with them)? (you know the idiot network that turned Steve Jobs down for the exclusive on the iPhone)

      that was about 100 million devices ago…

  7. Great article! I so appreciate your forthright tone and clarity. I’ve been reading many articles on the topic as I’m still considering what smartphone to buy (leaning toward EVO). This is the best one I’ve read. I can’t believe all the slanted and poorly written articles out there. It’s refreshing to see that there are still objective journalists out there.

  8. :O Kevin…. you missed out on some great phones for your list:

    Nexus One – how could you leave out the Google phone
    HTC Desire – in my opinion it’s the best 3G android handset
    Motorola Droid – the most loved android handset on the planet
    HTC Legend – a great looking well designed handset

    Sigh… ok honkj… I was gonna make a list of the features that android has that the Iphone is lacking… but that would require me to think, and since your post was created without any kind of thought process, ill do the same.

    1. Motion Tracking???? lol noob

    2. IPHONE has better load times of videos? you mean on the internet that Steve Jobs couldn’t get working on the IPHONE4G? Quality of video files…. ummm pretty sure that depends on the file itself and not on the device.. lol noob

    3. The flash currently on EVO is LITE… the full mobile version (10.1) is get released shortly, but i bet you already knew that right?

    4. Sigh… “unbelievable fragmentation” pretty much explains my point

    I could go through them all but i really can’t be bothered… nearly all your points contain little to no substance. Just because you think that something is the case, and you write about it in blogs… doesn’t make them correct.

    Your post could be used for the definition of Fanboi…

    By far and away you are a noob fanboi that has little to no knowledge regarding the EVO, android or the IPHONE.

    Have a nice day

    1. Shaun, +1 on the Nexus One! I left AT&T and my iPhone after 2.5 years and went with a full price N1 on T-Mo in January. I haven’t regretted that choice yet and run at least a dozen different custom ROMs, including those with HTC Sense, since then. I left it off the list simply because it’s not currently available directly from the carriers. But you’re spot-on that it’s a great handset.

  9. I’m glad honkj is as happy with his iPhone as I am with my EVO. After a couple tweaks, I’m getting very good battery life, the 4.3″ screen is gorgeous (for video podcasts, movies, etc), has all the apps I need (admittedly an order of magnitude fewer fart apps), being able to video Skype with my family while away for business without carrying a computer around is awesome, I like Android 2.2 right now as much as you like iOS 4 (neither have been released), far and away Sprint coverage is far superior than ATT coverage (my biased opinion can match your biased opinion), but the key feature for me is choice. Choice of hardware, choice of software, choice of carrier. The iPhone is an impressive device and I hope those who buy one are happy with their choice. Don’t spend all of your 2 GBs in one place (without paying another $20).

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