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Summary:

As we head towards the end of the calendar year, it’s a great time to be a smartphone buyer thanks to improving hardware, software and mobile broadband networks. Here’s a brief refresher of our thoughts and highlights on some of the latest handsets currently available.

blackberry-torch

As we head toward the end of the calendar year, it’s a great time to be a smartphone buyer. Hardware is improving with new processors and better cameras. Software is maturing too, thanks to three brand-new operating systems and new features in existing platforms. Better hardware and software can also take advantage of faster mobile broadband networks: T-Mobile is rolling out handsets that can use its speedy HSPA+ network and Verizon is about to light up a 4G network in 38 markets for devices now, and for smartphones next year.

I’m finding the pace of innovation in smartphones exciting again, which is vastly different from how I felt back in June, when I said the recipe for a successful smartphone was getting a little bland. Between then and now, we’ve had a chance to look over some of these newer phones, and we have more review devices on the way. If you’re in the market for a smartphone, here’s a brief refresher of our thoughts on a few of the latest handsets:

Nokia N8 ($549 without contract): This extremely well-built touchscreen phone offers what’s arguably the best smartphone camera solution available: a superb 12 megapixel sensor and premium optics for incredible still shots and 720p video. The Symbian operating system still shows room for improvement, but software can be enhanced far more easily than hardware, giving the N8 future potential as well.

T-Mobile G2 ($199 with contract / $499 without): The G2 is one of the first Android phones that ships with version 2.2, the latest edition of Google’s software. A new processor keeps the device performance high while also helping to extend battery life. In the right coverage areas, the mobile broadband speeds are top-notch due to the 14 Mbps radio capabilities. And the slide-out QWERTY keyboard is among the best we’ve used.

BlackBerry Torch ($199 with contract / $499 without): Research In Motion revamped its BlackBerry software for the Torch, creating a better touch interface to compete against the iPhone and others. It still needs work, but shows promise. Of course, the famous BlackBerry hardware keyboard is excellent, so the Torch is worth a look for heavy email users. The hardware specifications aren’t cutting edge, but the optimized software doesn’t make the phone perform like a model from last year.

HTC EVO 4G ($199 with contract / $449 without): Although Sprint launched the EVO 4G months ago, it’s still a contender with a generous 4.3-inch touchscreen and access to Sprint’s 4G network. Users can surf the web with speed, but also use the EVO as a 4G mobile hotspot to share the quick connection with Wi-Fi devices such as laptops, iPads and more. A front-facing camera (in addition to the 8 megapixel sensor on the back) works with third-party video-calling software which isn’t limited to Wi-Fi use.

Motorola Droid X ($199 with contract / $569 without): Verizon has a winner in the Droid X, another 4.3-inch slab of smartphone. It too, can be a mobile hotspot, but only on Verizon’s 3G network. The still camera doesn’t offer the highest picture quality, but it should suffice for most and does have a unique landscape photo software for super-wide view shots. The high-resolution display is super for surfing, apps and email. And as a speakerphone, the Droid X excels thanks to a three microphone system to help eliminate background noise.

AT&T Captivate ($199 with contract / $499 without): This is AT&T’s version of the Samsung Galaxy S, which has already enjoyed 5 million sales globally, and is perhaps the best alternative to the iPhone on AT&T’s network. A Samsung processor keeps Android 2.1 humming along nicely and Samsung is expecting to offer an upgrade to Android 2.2 next month. High-definition video recording looks good as does the display, even in the sunlight. Even with great performance, the Captivate can run all day on a single charge for most users. Customers who want an iPhone-like experience without the lock-in of Apple’s ecosystem should definitely spend some time with the Captivate.

If these devices don’t offer enough choice, don’t worry because even more are right around the corner. A number of smartphones running Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 software are soon available (stay tuned for our reviews) and HP is launching a new Palm Pre with both hardware and software improvements. Of course, it feels like there’s a new Google Android handset launching every week too, so don’t count Android out either. And with a recently announced quarterly record of 14.1 million iPhone sales, the iPhone 4 is surely a contender too. Yup, the smarpthone space is starting to get exciting again!

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  1. Nokia N8 is a poor excuse for a smartphone. Considering how frustrating the usability of the phone is, I’d rather put it in the category of a feature phone.

  2. Why there is no iphone listed. I am surprised.

    TKs, Nag

  3. It definitely shocked me to see the N8 up there with no iPhone. The N8 is barely functional thanks to the outdated Symbian OS. Then again, the iPhone launched months ago.

  4. Top Posts — WordPress.com Sunday, October 24, 2010

    [...] Latest Smartphones Reviewed: Something for Everyone As we head toward the end of the calendar year, it’s a great time to be a smartphone buyer. Hardware is improving [...] [...]

  5. Why is it that everyone is quick to critisie the N8? I know that it has flaws but with the new OS -the devices will recieve OS updates in the future making them better each time. I say give them a few months and then see. The iPhone 4 was also riddled with problems, or have we forgotten that??

    1. Why will anyone buy a crappy phone hoping that OS updates will fix things in the future?

  6. You also left out all the Windows Phone7 devices.

    1. Kevin C. Tofel Job Monday, October 25, 2010

      From the post: “A number of smartphones running Microsoft’s new Windows Phone 7 software are soon available (stay tuned for our reviews)…”

  7. The N8 finally makes Nokia cool again. iPhone is great, but it is unisex and almost like one size fits all. It just ain’t new anymore.

    After years of struggling with Sony Ericsson’s Smartphone series, from the P990I to the Windows Mobile based X1, I think I am finally ready to go back to Nokia, not least because there is now finally a phone which can directly read a USB thumb drive.

    Another interesting thing here, is that it can directly sync with other Nokia phones, such as my wife’s N97 mini.

    Finally, we can be, laptop free :p

  8. I like the motorola the most. I think it’s the winner at the moment.

  9. The iPhone is soooo outdated, that’s why it’s not on the list. It’s 4 years old and each new “version” is a poor excuse at including basic features the previous incarnations lacked. Video calling? Ha, my 5 year old Nokia had that. It’s 2010, there’s tons of new ids on the block, step aside iPhone!

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