CTIA Wireless 2009: New Cell Phones for Spring

Widgets and touchscreens galore in the latest crop of cell phones announced at CTIA.

Motorola Evoke QA4

With a 2.8-inch full touchscreen, a widget-based user interface, and a full HTML browser, the Motorola Evoke QA4 has some pretty impressive specs for a handset that doesn't qualify as a smartphone. The Evoke comes preloaded with seven widgets--MySpace Mobile, Follow Me Weather, Google Quicksearch, Google Picasa, RSS Reader, USA Today Mobile, and YouTube--each of which has its own panel. You can flip through the panels with a swipe of your finger.

In my hands-on evaluation, the Evoke QA4’s touchscreen seemed quite responsive. The silky interface reminded me a little of the “deck of cards” model that the Palm Pre uses to manage apps. The Evoke also has haptic feedback, which sends a light vibration to your fingertip when you tap an on-screen key. Haptic feedback is an especially useful enhancement for the Evoke QA4’s landscape QWERTY keyboard, which I found to be surprisingly comfortable and easy to use. Motorola has not announced carrier, availability, or pricing for the Evoke QA4.

LG Electronics Xenon

The LG Electronics Xenon is a nice option for someone who is looking for a combination touchscreen and QWERTY keyboard, but not necessarily for a smartphone. The Xenon has threaded messaging, a bright 2.8-inch touch display, a 2-megapixel camera, GPS integration, Bluetooth 2.0, and Wi-Fi connectivity. The user interface isn’t terribly exciting (it's almost identical to that of the LG Electronics Vu), but I found it easy to navigate in my hands-on examination. The physical keyboard resembles the ones on other LG devices, but the company also threw in a handy space bar for the Xenon. The Xenon will be available on April 8 in three color choices--black, blue, and red--for $100 with a two-year AT&T service contract.

LG Electronics Neon

The LG Electronics Neon is a less expensive, 2G version of its sibling, the Xenon. The Neon has a slightly different design, with a smaller, partial-touch display and a navigation toggle beneath it. The Neon comes with a built-in 2-megapixel camera that can also handle video recording, a microSD card slot, a music player, and stereo Bluetooth support. The Neon will debut on AT&T’s network, but pricing and availability has not yet been announced.

Samsung Impression

Equipped with the first commercially available AMOLED (active-matrix organic light-emitting diode) screen, the Samsung Impression conserves energy without compromising the visibility of its display. The included all-purpose Web browser lets you take full advantage of the Impression's bright, 3.2-inch screen. The Impression also has an accelerometer, assisted GPS, and a full slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

I was a little disappointed, however, at the skimpiness of the camera specs. A 3-megapixel camera is fine, but I wish that I could have viewed higher-quality photos on the fantastic display? Even so, the Impression is an attractive device, and I’m looking forward to reviewing it in detail in the future. The Impression will be available from AT&T on April 7 for $200 with a two-year contract.

HTC Snap

HTC’s latest Windows Mobile smartphone takes some design cues from the BlackBerry Curve, as evidenced by its full QWERTY keyboard and trackball navigation. In fact, this slick smartphone is thinner than RIM’s slimmest model, the BlackBerry Curve 8900. But the Snap's headlining option is a new e-mail management feature called Inner Circle. By pressing a dedicated key on the Snap’s QWERTY keyboard, users can bring e-mail messages from a preselected group to the top of their inbox. This feature could help you avoid missing high-priority messages, as well as cutting down on the time you spend searching through a full inbox.

The HTC Snap has 3G connectivity, a 2-megapixel camera with video capture, and a vendor-rated talk time of 8.5 hours. An unlocked HSDPA version marketed under the name HTC S522 will be available in the United States this summer. HTC says that the Snap will be priced competitively.

Samsung Mondi

The Samsung Mondi was definitely the standout of the CTIA Wireless 2009 show, thanks to impressive specs such as a 4.3-inch LCD touchscreen, 4GB of on-board memory, a hardware QWERTY keyboard, and (most important) support for WiMax. The Mondi runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 and comes preloaded with Opera 9.5 and Route66 for turn-by-turn GPS. It will also be bundled with a mounting kit for car use.

The Mondi will feature Samsung's second-generation version of the TouchWiz overlay, which runs over Windows Mobile 6.1. TouchWiz gives users one-touch access to certain apps via movable and customizable widgets on the home screen of their phone (see this YouTube video from PhoneScoop for a look at TouchWiz in action). The next generation of TouchWiz will support not only native applications, but Internet applications as well. The Mondi will be available in the second quarter of 2009, but Samsung has yet to determine price and carrier.

Nokia E71x

Last fall when I reviewed the unlocked Nokia E71, I praised its svelte 0.4-inch profile and sophisticated design. In fact, my biggest gripe about the E71 was its hefty unlocked price. So when I heard that it would be available this spring at a subsidized price, I figured it would still be fairly expensive. Not so: The E71x will be available to AT&T customers within a few weeks at the amazingly reasonable price of $100. The E71x has a black steel finish (as opposed to the unlocked version's silver finish); it comes with 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity, a 3.2 megapixel camera, and integrated A-GPS, and it runs the Symbian S60 platform.

Samsung Instinct S30

The Samsung Instinct has undergone a facelift and a rechristening as the Instinct S30. Though rumor had it that the new Instinct would be a miniature version of the original, the dimensions remain almost identical. The new Instinct does have a slightly slimmer profile, however, and feels a bit more natural to hold than its predecessor did. The new Instinct will come preloaded with Calendar Sync, IM, and will support up to 32GB in expandable memory. The Instinct S30 won't run the new TouchWiz overlay, though. Samsung explained that the user interface for the Instinct S30 is a collaborative effort with Sprint. The Instinct S30 will be available from Sprint on April 19 for $130 with a two-year contract.

Samsung Propel Pro

The Samsung Propel Pro has the same design as its non-smartphone predecessor, the Propel, but it benefits from a bevy of upgrades. Powered by Windows Mobile 6.1 the Propel Pro sports a slide-out full-QWERTY keyboard, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 3-megapixel camera, an optical joystick, and expandable memory up to 32GB. It's not the slickest device, but it has a nice balance of business and entertainment features. And it's affordable: The Propel Pro is available in April for $150 with a two-year AT&T service agreement.

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