CTIA Wireless 2009: Fall's Hottest Handsets

While Android phones are starting to invade carriers, the majority of the new phones launched at CTIA were Windows Mobile 6.5 phones. A few inexpensive--but well-equipped--feature phones also debuted, further blurring the line between what is and isn’t a smartphone.

Samsung Moment (Sprint)

By far, the most exciting new handset announced at CTIA was the Samsung Moment on Sprint. This is the second Android handset Samsung announced this week, following the Samsung Behold II on T-Mobile. The Moment will be available on November 1 and will cost $180 with a two-year contract. It costs the same as the HTC Hero, Sprint's other Android offering.

The Moment’s best feature is its 3.2-inch AMOLED display. In my quick hands-on review of the Moment, I found that colors looked bright and accurate, animations were smooth, and details were crisp during video playback. It also has a very wide viewing angle so you can view video with the phone on a flat surface with no distortion or color change. The Moment doesn’t have a fancy interface like the Hero or Cliq, just the standard, out-of-the-box version of Android. If you’re looking for slicker software, check out Samsung’s other Android offering, the Behold II.

Samsung Behold II (T-Mobile)

Like the Moment, the Behold II has a 3.2-inch AMOLED screen. While I didn’t get to see the screen in action, we can pretty much assume it will be of the same caliber as the Moment’s--the technology is similar. The Behold II runs Samsung’s widget-based Touch Wiz interface, which has been refreshed for the Android platform. One new feature is a slick-looking cube menu that provides shortcuts to the top multimedia features: music, photos, videos, the browser, and the Amazon MP3 store.

In terms of hardware, the Behold II looks a lot like its predecessor, the first-generation Behold. There’s no hardware keyboard, so you’ll have to rely on the somewhat imperfect native Android software keyboard. The Behold II also has a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus and a flash as well as Wi-Fi connectivity. Pricing and availability has not yet been announced, but T-Mobile says that the Behold II will arrive just in time for the holidays.

HTC Pure (AT&T)

The attractive HTC Pure improves significantly on its predecessor, the Touch Diamond, with better specs, a more sophisticated design, and new features supported by Windows Mobile 6.5. The Pure’s design is minimalist and sophisticated with only a few hardware buttons and no physical keyboard. A gorgeous 3.2-inch WVGA touchscreen with 800-by-480-pixel resolution dominates the face of the phone.

The HTC Pure runs Windows Mobile 6.5 with HTC's TouchFLO 3D interface overlay. Unfortunately, the phone is lacking in multimedia features while retaining WinMo's trademark sluggishness in certain applications. I was impressed, however, with the Pure’s 5-megapixel camera, which snapped great-looking images both indoors and outdoors. At $150 with a two-year contract from AT&T, the HTC Pure is a good deal considering all the features you get. If you’re looking for something a little more entertainment-oriented from AT&T, however, you might want to go with the $100 iPhone 3G.

HTC Tilt 2 (AT&T)

As far as business-oriented handsets go, the HTC Tilt 2 is a solid pick. This eye-catching smartphone has one of the best full-QWERTY keyboards I’ve ever used. Button placement is intuitive, and the phone offers a number of other useful keys, including browser and SMS shortcut keys, a Ctrl key, and page up/down keys. Other hardware perks include a 3.6-inch widescreen WVGA display, dual speakers and microphones for extra noise cancellation, and HTC Straight Talk for conference calling. (When I reviewed the Tilt 2’s unlocked twin brother, the Touch Pro 2, I wasn’t impressed with its 3.2-megapixel camera.)

The Tilt 2 is further enhanced with Windows Mobile 6.5, which is speedier and more touch-friendly than 6.1. It also runs HTC’s custom TouchFLO 3D user interface. I found the Touch Pro 2 with 6.1 sluggish on certain applications, but hopefully 6.5 improves the phone’s performance. The Tilt 2 will be available within the next few weeks from AT&T, and will set you back $300 with a two-year contract.

Samsung Intrepid (Sprint)

If you’re not willing to shell out $300 for a phone running Windows 6.5, check out the Samsung Intrepid on Sprint. If the Intrepid looks familiar, it's because the Intrepid is the successor to the Samsung Ace, which the Intrepid will replace on Sprint. The Intrepid sports a 2.5-inch touchscreen with a full QWERTY keyboard below it. One of its biggest draws for business customers is its support for international roaming. It also supports stereo Bluetooth, and has Wi-Fi connectivity and a 3.2-megapixel camera with video recording.

The Intrepid is the first Windows phone to support Microsoft's TellMe service for voice dialing and texting, which my colleague Jared Newman found to work quite well. It also comes loaded with Sprint Navigation, Microsoft Office Mobile, and the Smart Read business card scanner. The Intrepid is now available from Sprint for $150 with a two-year contract.

Motorola Cliq (T-Mobile)

The Cliq was announced a few weeks before CTIA, and we saw a lot of this intriguing handset at the show. While I used the Cliq only briefly, I already knew that I liked its design best out of all the Android phones. Like the Samsung Moment, it has a keyboard and a touchscreen. A physical keyboard is necessary, as the native touch keyboard on the current version of Android is far from perfect (as we found out in our review of the T-Mobile myTouch and the HTC Hero). I got some more hands-on time with the Cliq at CTIA and loved the keyboard’s ergonomics and bubble-like keys.

The Motorola Cliq will also be the first phone to showcase MOTOBLUR, Motorola's skin for Android. In my quick hands-on tests, I found the MOTOBLUR interface to be clean, intuitive, and responsive. MOTOBLUR has a lot of cool features, such as a Happenings widget that gives you instant access to your social networks from the home screen. It also aggregates all your contacts and their information from various sources and displays them in one seamless client. The Cliq will be available later this fall from T-Mobile and will cost $200 with a two-year contract.

HTC Imagio (Verizon)

With a multitude of both business and entertainment features, the HTC Imagio is one of the most intriguing phones on Verizon’s roster. The attractive handset has a sturdy build that feels great in the hand. The large 3.6-inch touch display nicely shows off HTC’s TouchFLO 3D interface and bolsters the phone’s capabilities as a multimedia device. The Imagio is Verizon’s first smartphone to support the V Cast video and music services as well as V Cast Mobile TV (these are typically seen on Verizon’s feature phones, like the LG enV Touch).

Because it runs Windows Mobile 6.5, the Imagio is packed with features that will appeal to more business-minded users. The phone comes loaded with Microsoft Office Mobile Suite and Adobe Reader LE, and it includes support for Exchange, Microsoft Direct Push technology, and more. The Imagio is currently available for $200 with a two-year contract.

T-Mobile Tap

Not all of the phones debuting this fall are expensive smartphones. Aimed at a slightly younger audience, the stylish touchscreen Tap has a variety of multimedia features including T-Mobile’s Web2go browser; a 2-megapixel camera with video recording; a music player; TeleNav GPS; stereo Bluetooth; and support for e-mail, SMS, MMS, and an unannounced IM client.

T-Mobile says that the Tap will be available at an affordable price later this year.

Pantech Reveal (AT&T)

Heavy texters looking for an affordable handset should check out Pantech’s latest messaging device, the Reveal. What’s different about the Reveal from the dozens of other messaging phones out there? This slider phone’s QWERTY and numeric keyboards stay active simultaneously, giving you quick access to both. The QWERTY keyboard is a bit on the small side, but in my hands-on time, I found it easy enough to type on. I also liked its slim design, sturdy build, and attractive red-and-gray color scheme.

The 3G Reveal has a media player, a microSD slot for expandable memory, and a 2-megapixel camera with video capture. For $80 with a two-year contract, that isn’t a bad feature set. The Reveal will be available on October 18.

Samsung Mythic (AT&T)

Like the T-Mobile Tap, the Samsung Mythic is a midrange touch feature phone. One standout feature, though, is its generously large 3.3-inch touchscreen. The Mythic will feature Samsung’s intuitive TouchWiz interface, but no word on whether it will have the cool cube feature we saw on the Behold II. The Mythic will carry AT&T’s new WAP browser, which gives you quick access to your bookmarks, location-based search results, and top news stories.

The Mythic will be available in November, but pricing has not been announced.

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