Smartphone Video Camera Smackdown

With ever-improving sensors, on-board editing tools, and wireless sharing features, smartphones are a popular option for capturing video on the go. But not all smartphone camcorders are created equal: In my head-to-head tests, I found that certain phones handled motion more skillfully than others, some performed better in dim lighting while others floundered, and some produced noticeable pixelation in my test shoots.

The Contenders

I tested the camcorders on four popular smartphones: the Palm Pre Plus (Verizon), the Google Nexus One (T-Mobile), the Motorola Droid (Verizon), and the Apple iPhone 3GS (AT&T). (Unfortunately, I wasn't able to test the HTC Droid Incredible's video skills, as I had to return that handset to HTC before I could shoot test footage.) The camcorder specs for each are as follows:

  • Palm Pre Plus
    3-megapixel sensor, 640-by-480-pixel videos, up to 29 frames per second
  • Nexus One
    5-megapixel sensor, 720-by-480-pixel videos, up to 20 frames per second
  • Motorola Droid
    5-megapixel sensor, 720-by-480-pixel videos, up to 24 frames per second
  • Apple iPhone 3GS
    3-megapixel sensor, 640-by-480-pixel videos, up to 30 frames per second

The Droid and the Nexus One, both running Google's Android 2.1 OS, do not have any on-board video-editing features. The Palm Pre Plus and the iPhone 3GS, in contrast, allow you to trim video length by dragging a handle through a series of thumbnail-size stills. All four phones let you upload directly to YouTube or send clips to friends via e-mail or MMS; the Palm Pre Plus also permits you to upload directly to Facebook.

Which smartphone camcorder had the best video quality? Read on.

At a Glance
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