Pick the Perfect Cell Phone

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Few gadgets are as ubiquitous as cell phones. And with so many to choose from, separating the junk from the jewels is increasingly difficult. We tested a broad range of cordless phones, including PDA hybrids, to help you find the perfect device.

We evaluated various models offered by the four biggest nationwide carriers--Cingular, Sprint Nextel, T-Mobile, and Verizon Wireless--and the PC World Test Center gauged each phone's talk-time battery life.

For our chart we separated the standard cell phones from the PDA hybrid models based on the individual units' operating system, display, and inclusion (or not) of a QWERTY keyboard.

The rankings are only part of the story, of course. When picking a cell phone, you want to know what it will do (beyond making calls, that is). Are you looking for a unit that takes quality pictures? How about an easy way to send e-mail? Do you need speedy access to the Web? Are you looking for a handset that can double as an MP3 player? While some models aim to be all things to all people, we found that most of them perform one or two tasks exceptionally well. The following pages highlight which phones do which of these jobs the best.

Note: The prices in this story are for a two-year service agreement (before any rebates). Many of the phones are available from multiple carriers, but we list only the company serving our test unit.

In addition to the charts included in the list below, go to our Full List of Cell Phones for all products evaluated for this article and links to full reviews.

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