I didn't do any formal testing for sound quality, but to my ears two phones led the charge in audio capture. I found that the iPhone 3GS picked up the clearest, loudest sound, closely followed by the Droid. The other two phones were much quieter and not as clear. We'll follow up with more-precise sound tests in the next camcorder smackdown.
The clear winner among this group is the Apple iPhone 3GS, owing to its video quality in both bright and dim indoor lighting, as well as to its on-board editing features. Though the colors were consistently washed out in my iPhone test videos, this phone handled motion the best out of the four, with the least amount of pixelation.
Though the Motorola Droid is a great phone in other respects, its camcorder performed dismally--especially in dimly lit environments. Droid owners, if you're planning on shooting video at an upcoming concert or recording clips at your friend's birthday party in a bar, you might consider bringing along a stand-alone pocket camcorder.
In terms of video quality, smartphones aren't a real threat to dedicated video cameras, or even to pocket camcorders. If you're willing to sacrifice a bit of video quality, however, these smartphones offer real benefits: instant wireless sharing, editing tools, and the ability to shoot video with a device you're already carrying everywhere.
But all of that might change. The HTC EVO 4G, coming to Sprint in a few weeks, has HD video recording. The iPhone 4G is rumored to have HD video capture, as well. We'll revisit these tests once we get both of those phones in house and see how they stack up against the best pocket camcorders.
Here's how the video quality of the iPhone 3GS and the Palm Pre Plus compares to that of two of our highest-rated pocket camcorders, the 1080p-shooting Kodak Zi8 and the solidly built Flip MinoHD. (You can see the highest-quality video from each pocket camcorder by choosing a higher resolution from the drop-down menu at the bottom right of each video player.)