Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Fall’s iPhone wannabes

Motorola Cliq

Motorola needs a hit – big-time – and the Cliq just may provide it when it goes on sale in the coming weeks (T-Mobile; no pricing announced yet). It’s Motorola’s first Android phone using Google’s open-source operating system. But this is more than a Google phone; it aims to incorporate some of what the Palm operating system’s social-centric spin includes. Motorola’s “MotoBlur” software will sync contacts, messages and photos from Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and MySpace, as well as work and personal e-mail, Motorola says. And while the Cliq has a 3.1-inch touch screen, it also comes with a physical QWERTY keyboard that slides out from its side.

Samsung Omnia II

Samsung’s smartphones, from the well-regarded Instinct to the high-end Omnia, have been hits. The Omnia II (Verizon Wireless, no price announced yet) is definitely on the luxe list. The retail, unsubsidized price is in the $1,000 ballpark. What makes it so hot? Several features: a 3.7-inch, active-matrix OLED touch screen (the iPhone’s is a 3.5-inch LCD screen); a 5-megapixel camera with autofocus, face detection and geo-tagging; the popular TouchWiz user interface as an overlay on the Windows Mobile operating system; Wi-Fi, and versions with 2, 8 or 16 GB of internal memory, as well as a micro-SDHC expansion slot for a 32GB card.

myTouch 3G

The myTouch 3G (T-Mobile, $199.99 with two-year contract), released in August, is a sleeker, all touch-screen version of the original Google phone, the G1, which is also made by HTC. The myTouch, with a 3.2-inch screen, comes in black, white and merlot, and represents more of an evolution, than a revolution in both the device and Google’s Android operating system. One of the big differences is the lack of a physical QWERTY keyboard; those who like having both options may find it hard to adjust to a touch screen-only device. Unlike the G1, the myTouch comes with built-in support for Microsoft Exchange Active Sync, so work e-mail can be received on the phone (Msnbc.com is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC Universal).

BlackBerry Storm 2

Pictured is the original Storm, with a 3.25-inch screen, but a new one is coming this fall (Verizon Wireless), and word is it will strongly resemble its older sibling. The first all touch-screen BlackBerry won a considerable amount of scorn and frustration from BlackBerry fans for its clunky screen keyboards, almost unthinkable for a product line known for its outstanding hardware keyboards. Maker Research In Motion has been working hard to improve the Storm’s successor. No word yet on pricing.

Palm Pre

The Pre represents a huge step forward when it comes to a smartphone that is really smart. The Pre (Sprint, $150 after two-year contract and rebate) handily multitasks and unifies calendar listings, e-mails and contacts so that you don’t have to spend time hunting for such data. The company’s Zen-like product design and ads are further testament to the notion of simplification, and the phone is ergonomically comfy for most. The Pre, with a 3.1-inch touch screen, also has a slide-down QWERTY keyboard. So far, Palm has lagged in the “app” side of the smartphone equation compared to Apple, Android, Research In Motion and Windows Mobile. There are only dozens of applications, or programs, available right now, but that should change soon with some tweaking of Palm’s App Catalog.

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