Christmas gift guide to mobile devices

Looking for a snazzy new handheld to surf the Web, do e-mail, and run apps? Start here.

The iPhone started it, but everyone and his brother now seem to have a fancy smartphone on offer. If it's time to join the "mobile 2.0" generation, we can help you make the right choice. We've reviewed the new generation of mobile devices and sussed out their strengths and weaknesses.

Here's what you need to know about each of the top contenders.

Our tests rank the iPhone 3G, BlackBerry Storm, T-Mobile G1, AT&T Fuze, Palm Treo Pro, and HP iPaq 910c in a near-tie, with scores ranging from 8.3 to 8.6 on our 10-point scale. So clearly they're all worth considering, but they do have real differences that will determine which one is right for you.

Apple iPhone 3G: The iPhone reinvented the smartphone as a Web-savvy, touch-based device that also could run lots of cool apps and handle the basics such as e-mail, calendars, and contacts. Plus, it offered the same groundbreaking music and video player as Apple's wildly popular iPod line. The 3G model pushed these advantages even further, and it's no wonder the iPhone is the most-used mobile device to surf the Web in the US. The iPhone's negatives are the dependence on iTunes, UI limitations such as lack of copy and paste, and weak security.

RIM BlackBerry Storm: The BlackBerry long ago set the standard for secure business messaging, and the Storm carries on that tradition with an innovative touchscreen added to the mix. It also adopts the Web friendliness of the iPhone, though its Web browser does not render pages as well as the iPhone does. RIM says the Storm will support third-party apps later in 2009. Oh, and it does music and videos, too. But it doesn't do Wi-Fi, so when you can't get a cellular signal, you're out of touch even if there's a wireless LAN where you are.

T-Mobile G1: The first mobile device based on the Google Android platform has a lot of promise, though it's definitely a smartphone for geeks (there's even a command prompt). The Web browser is simply stunning, and the e-mail clients are great, but they're limited to Google's Gmail and POP/IMAP. The hardware, though, is middling, and the third-party apps are largely unimpressive.

Windows Mobile: There is a solid trio of Windows Mobile devices to consider: the AT&T Fuze, Hewlett-Packard iPaq 910c, and Palm Treo Pro. All have the pros and cons of Windows Mobile. The pros include support for Office apps and Microsoft back ends, while the cons include a difficult interface. The Fuze provides a slick interface to overcome Windows 6.1's UI shortcomings. The iPaq 910c also helps overcome Windows Mobile 6.1's complexities with interface tweaks. And the Palm Treo Pro bypasses the need to delve in the Windows Mobile UI by bringing many common functions into hardware controls. The Treo Pro's touchscreen is a winner as well.

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