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Smart Phones for Everyone

A new crop of 3G phones take a bite out of Apple.

The wildly popular iphone has raised the bar among smart-phone makers. We put the wannabes to the test and found three worthy contenders: the Samsung Omnia, sold through Verizon; the G1, from T-Mobile; and the BlackBerry Bold, from AT&T. The downside? Prices for these handsets remain high. For a two-year plan, you can expect to pay $200 to $300, plus another $70 or more per month for voice and data services.

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This slim handset has a large touch screen and is svelte enough to slide into a shirt pocket. Its interface isn't quite as slick or seamless as the iPhone's, and the touch-screen keyboard is a bit cramped for finger-tapping. The bright and sharp 3.2-inch color display quickly shifts from landscape to portrait view when you rotate the phone.

The Omnia ($200 online when you sign up for a two-year Verizon Wireless plan) has all the latest goodies, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and a 5-megapixel camera. The phone also offers GPS navigation for $10 a month (or, for occasional users, $3 a day). Broadband performance is impressive; streaming Web videos play smoothly with few hiccups. The external speakers sound a bit tinny, however. Bottom line: For Verizon customers who would rather fight than switch to the AT&T network, the Omnia is a respectable iPhone alternative.


The G1 is the first smart phone to feature Google's Android software, which will soon appear on mobile phones from other vendors. This sturdy handset ($179 with a two-year T-Mobile plan) includes some clever features, among them a physical (not touch-screen) qwerty keyboard that appears when you flip up the 3.2-inch display. (Note: Reports at press time indicated that a G2 model was nearing completion.)


The Android interface is a winner. It is clean, simple to navigate and customize and, not surprisingly, has quick links to popular Google tools. G1 users can download additional applications, including games and travel guides. Although the pickings are pretty slim, the number of Android applications should increase as other Google phones hit the market. So even if the G1 isn't your first choice, watch for other Android-equipped handsets as they come out.


Research In Motion recently joined the touch-screen revolution with its iPhone-like BlackBerry Storm. But the sleek and powerful BlackBerry Bold is a better choice ($300 handset with a two-year AT&T Wireless plan). That's because the Bold provides excellent connectivity to office e-mail√Ďa BlackBerry strong point -- and it has a physical keyboard. The Bold's traditional BlackBerry design is sure to please longtime users of the handset. And although the keyboard is small, its raised keys have an ergonomic, tactile feel that make typing surprisingly easy and accurate. Plus, it boasts the latest video, GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities.

The Bold's 2.5-inch diagonal color display, though a bit on the small side, is crisp and vibrant. The external speakers are quite good for a mobile phone, and the audio quality during phone calls is first-rate. Broadband speeds vary by location, but we found the Bold's data speeds to be fast overall.

The optional GPS feature ($10 per month or $3 per day) works well. Overall, the Bold is an excellent mobile companion for anyone who prefers a physical keyboard to a touch screen.