Sprint Touch -- Trying to Be an iPhone
This handset isn't the iPhone, but HTC--the manufacturer behind Sprint's version of the Touch--certainly does what it can to introduce iPhone-esque swipes and glides to the Touch's Windows Mobile 6 interface. The company does so with hardware tweaks and its own software, written to integrate with Windows Mobile yet provide a very different, more simplified experience. The result includes screens such as this one: a home screen that's easy to read and navigate compared with a typical Windows Mobile home screen. Other screens include a weather shortcut and a customizable quick-launcher. The TouchFLO interface is single-touch, as opposed to Apple's multitouch design, and you can't pinch and squeeze. What it does do, though, it does well: Swipe your finger from the Sprint logo on up, and you'll activate the cube interface; swipe your finger again from left to right (or the reverse) to rotate through "faces" of the three-dimensional cube. The interface has a dialing-shortcuts screen (up to nine contacts with images); a screen with six large square shortcut buttons to Sprint's software store, instant messaging, Internet Explorer, SMS messaging, the device's Comm Manager, and e-mail; and a Sprint shortcuts screen leading to Sprint Music and TV shopping services, plus Sprint On-Demand for current news, weather, sports, and finance information (customized by zip code). You can use touch to scroll or page through options in many of the Windows Mobile applications, including contacts, calendar, and e-mail.
Sprint Touch -- Design and Storage
The Touch has an elegant, streamlined design that makes it stand out from the crush of new phones that have crossed my desk. It's slim and easy to hold, in part because of its contoured shape and in part because of the textured paint on the removable back plate. The phone has few buttons: Rectangular talk and send buttons flank the five-way navigation pad, a power button sits up top, and a camera shutter button resides at lower right, shown here to the left of the flip-open door that conceals the microSD card slot (a 512MB card comes with the device). The door cleverly melds into the mirrored trim of the phone--unless you know it's there, you wouldn't see it. The Sprint Touch will ship on November 4, and will cost $250 with a two-year contract and a $100 rebate.
Samsung u470 Juke -- Unusual Design
Closed, the Samsung Juke looks nothing like a cell phone: It's about the same thickness as a Palm Treo 680, but it's half the width. The unusual, stylish design certainly sets this phone apart, but whether the design will prove more than a gimmick remains to be seen. The phone is a sliver that's eminently pocketable; the clever design means the phone's display is visible even when the keypad is tucked under the display. You navigate with the five-way wheel. As on the second-generation LG Chocolate VX8550 phone, the nav wheel is mechanical, and scrolls through selections as you use your finger to move it around. Press anywhere around the periphery to activate a directional button; when appropriate, the center button serves as an Enter button.
Samsung u470 Juke -- Swivel Rock
When closed, the display shows the date and a clock. Push the screen to the right, clockwise, and the display swivels open, just as a Swiss army knife might. The now elongated, uncommonly narrow phone is fully accessible; beneath the display you'll find a standard 12-key keypad plus two menu soft buttons, a button for the VGA-resolution camera, and clear, send, and end buttons. The phone's design centers on simplicity, as the only other buttons are the volume controls and the lock slider, on either side of the unit. Verizon Wireless sells the phone, and emphasizes this device's music-playback capabilities. The handset comes with a USB cable (for transferring music, among other things, to the phone's impressive 2GB of on-board storage) and a pair of wired headphones. The unit also has built-in GPS for use with VZ Navigator local services. Unfortunately, the phone lacks EvDO connectivity, which means no high-speed downloads of music or maps. The Juke comes in black, red, and teal. Verizon sells the Juke for $150 with a two-year contract (knock off another $50 for the current "online discount" promotion).
T-Mobile Sidekick LX -- Sleek Update
With all of the activity in the smart phone market, the T-Mobile Sidekick has been ready for an update. This week T-Mobile unleashes the first of two new Sidekicks: the Sidekick LX, which builds upon the traditional Sidekick's strengths, including data entry and its signature swivel screen. (Due out on November 7 is the Sidekick Slide, a smaller and less expensive device that replaces the swivel screen with a slider design.) The Sidekick LX, shown here, is sleek and snazzy, with a slim profile and a textured, rubberized back that makes it easy to hold. T-Mobile sells the LX for $299, with a two-year contract. The phone comes in dark blue or coffee brown.
T-Mobile Sidekick LX -- Flip the Screen 'Round
Catch the Sidekick LX's screen just so to flip it around and up, revealing the QWERTY keyboard underneath. Sharp manufactures the Sidekick; given Sharp's display prowess, it makes sense that the high-quality, 3-inch, WQVGA (400-by-240-pixel) display would draw on Sharp's Aquos LCD technology. You can customize the device's alert lights--which include the trackball positioned at the right--to illuminate depending on the activity (for example, when you have an incoming SMS, MMS, IM, e-mail, or phone call). Sharp equipped the slide with support for up to 4GB of microSD memory (a 128MB card comes included). The unit also has a built-in 1.3-megapixel camera with flash. Additionally, an integrated MySpace application (delivered over the air) is part of the Sidekick's instant-messaging experience. Messaging and MySpace are huge components of the Sidekick: According to T-Mobile, 85 percent of all Web page views on the Sidekick are to MySpace.com, and typically more than 1000 IMs are sent per month.
AT&T Tilt -- Hidden Power
From this head-on view, AT&T's latest slider phone looks quite ordinary. But the AT&T Tilt (also known as the HTC 8925) angles for a niche spot among Windows Mobile devices. This model features some cosmetic and physical updates over its predecessor, the Cingular 8525, but this phone is less about design than it is about versatility and powerful Windows Mobile-based computing (this model is AT&T's first Windows Mobile 6 device). It's a flexible phone, too: The Tilt is a quad-band GSM world phone compatible with EDGE/GPRS and with high-speed 3G UMTS and HSDPA broadband networks. As a result, it's a great phone for travelers, especially if they can take advantage of high-speed networks. The Tilt costs $400 when purchased along with a two-year contract from AT&T; unlimited data plans are $45 a month.
AT&T Tilt -- A Rocking Display
The aptly named AT&T Tilt has a hinged display designed to accommodate various viewing scenarios. When open, the roomy adjustable screen gives the phone the look of a tiny laptop, complementing the phone's use for computing or entertainment. The hinge permits a tilt of 40 degrees, making the unit far more functional than competing handhelds are. The design makes it feel a bit like a smaller cousin of the Psion Series 5 PDAs of a decade ago. Thanks to the screen tilt, I could rest the unit on my desk and type more quickly using my index fingers, instead of having to hold the device in my hands and use my thumbs. The tilting screen also makes the device more conducive to use with a Bluetooth keyboard, as well as to hands-free sessions of video or TV watching (the MobiTV 2 app comes preinstalled). The AT&T Tilt's spring-loaded screen feels slightly sturdier than the screen on the T-Mobile Wing, another HTC slider phone of similar size. The tilting hinge appears relatively strong, as well: I could hold the unit by the screen and not feel as though it might detach from the phone at any moment.
Nokia N95 -- Feature Laden
Now available in a North American, 3G-specific release, the Nokia N95 is a feature-laden device with premium features: WCDMA HSDPA and quad-band GSM connectivity, assisted GPS, 802.11g Wi-Fi, a music player, stereo speakers, and a 5-megapixel camera (plus a secondary camera, seen here at upper right, for videoconferencing). From the back, the N95 looks just like a slim point-and-shoot camera; when I tried it, I found that its images were livelier and of far better quality than those of competing camera phones. Images looked great on the phone's 2.6-inch, 240-by-320-pixel (QVGA), 16-million-color display. The screen can sit vertically or horizontally (more on that later), and it shows sharp text and bright, colorful images.
Nokia N95 -- Generous Keyboard
The phone's dual-slider design helps the device better accommodate both phone and multimedia applications. Slide the display portion of the phone up to reveal a numeric keypad with generously sized, easy-to-press keys. Slide it all the way down, and the screen and button orientation shifts to horizontal (the N95's large screen is a huge benefit when playing videos)--and at the top of the phone, you'll see four multimedia-playback buttons (for play/pause, forward, back, and stop). The slider design impressed me, as it felt solidly constructed and convenient to move one-handed, even with my weakling thumb. The unlocked N95 sells for $699.
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