Connectivity, Storage, and Battery
This year's smartphones are the best yet at conserving battery life. Large screens (like those on the iPhones and on the HTC Touch Pro2) tend to guzzle power, but handsets such as the Samsung offerings (which feature OLED screens) achieve long battery life. HTC claims that its HTC Hero will last for up to 10 hours of talk time hours or 750 hours of standby.
Smartphones that support multitasking--such as the Palm Pre, the Nokia N97 and the HTC Hero--tend to have shorter battery lives, owing to the power strain on the CPU. The only touchscreen smartphones in our review that come equipped with a nonremovable battery are the iPhone 3GS and the iPhone 3G.
The models with the largest amount of storage space out of the box are the iPhone 3GS and Nokia N97, each of which has 32GB of built-in storage (the iPhone 3GS comes in a 16GB model as well). Except for the iPhone models and the Palm Pre, all of the smartphones support expanded storage via microSD cards; you can pick up a 4GB SanDisk microSD card today for $5 (excluding shipping and handling) from any of several online merchants.
Wi-Fi connectivity has become a standard across the board, as has 3G (except on the Nokia 5530). Even better, all of the phones support A2DP stereo Bluetooth connections, so you can listen to music on wireless headphones, in your car, or over other devices that support this technology (see "Next-Generation Stereo Bluetooth Headsets").
Another major factor to keep in mind when selecting a touchscreen mobile phone is applications. All of the phones discussed here run on sophisticated operating systems, and application stores are at the core of improving their features. Apple pioneered the mobile app store with its iTunes App Store, which has tallied more than 1 billion downloads and contains more than 50,000 apps. Palm, Nokia, and Google have followed Apple's lead by opening their own app stores, but as yet these have not attained the popularity or the number of applications that Apple's store enjoys. Microsoft is set to introduce its Windows Mobile Marketplace later on this year.
The right touchscreen smartphone for you depends on your tastes, needs, and budget.
If you want lots of storage space so you can carry your music around with you, the 32GB iPhone 3GS or the Nokia N97 is a strong candidate.
If you take a lot of pictures, choosing a phone with a 5-megapixel camera--like the Samsung Galaxy, the Samsung Omnia or the Nokia N97--is a good idea. If capturing video is more to your liking, the iPhone 3GS may be a good match: It shoots great video that you can edit on the fly and share with your friends or upload to YouTube.
If you do lots of e-mailing, texting, and twittering, a phone with a physical keyboard--such as the Palm Pre or the HTC Touch Pro2--is very useful. Typing on a virtual keyboard can become comfortable over time, but some people never grow to like it.
Whatever your preferences may be, look for a phone that complements them. And don't forget that you're not just buying a phone--in many cases, you're also committing to a particular wireless service for the next two years. Take your time and focus on getting the best combination of smartphone and carrier for your needs.
Made up your mind about which touchscreen smartphone you're going to buy? Tell us about it in the comments.