GCN LAB REVIEW

5 smart choices in smart phones

Android models emerge on top in the GCN Lab’s latest reviews

Given the success of the iPhone and the rapid changes in the smartphone market, how do you choose the right devices for your agency with all the flux that is going on with this disruptive technology?

The answer is simple. First, teneo vestri vexillum — know your enterprise! Don’t get bogged down by hype. If you need the ability to improve your agency’s collaboration tools, it would benefit you to find a smart phone that offers the latest in collaboration integration, such as videoconferencing or real-time enterprisewide instant messaging.

Second, get a feel for the trends and direction of the mobile industry. For example, if Cisco’s recent announcement of the Cius is any indication of a trend, it’s that virtualization and cloud computing are moving into the mobile scene. The idea behind this trend is that your mobile device will one day be a dumb terminal connected wirelessly to a host that contains all your data and processing capabilities in addition to your features and apps. That will let you do more computing, faster and more securely with a smaller device and minimal hardware.

To better illustrate our mobile computing suggestions, we’ve tested five of the latest technologies from three of the largest cell phone providers: Sprint, Verizon and AT&T.

NEXT: iPhone 4.0

iPhone 4.0 a great device that deserves better reception

Apple iPhone 4

The iPhone’s easy-to-use navigation and sleek construction makes it easy to overlook any antenna nightmares. It’s easier to appreciate the simple point, flick and zoom features of the iPhone OS, especially after you have spent as much time as I have perfecting my stylus skills and learning the Palm shorthand in order to type into those old mobile devices. The iPhone is so much better, and requires almost no training. I was also impressed with the sensitivity of the touch screen, which also has by far the best image quality and resolution in the roundup. And one feature that stood out above all else on the iPhone 4 was the dual-camera video conferencing function.

Performance: B+
Features: A
Ease of use: A
Price: A
Pros: Easy to use; great screen; many useful business applications available.
Cons: Reliance on AT&T network slows service; well-documented antenna issues.

Read the full review: iPhone 4.0 a great device that deserves better reception

NEXT: Palm Pre Plus

Palm Pre Plus has the tools but can be a drain

Palm Pre

The Pre is a sleek flip phone that conceals an easy to use QWERTY keyboard and runs on an intuitive WebOS, which in some ways is better to use than the iPhone’s OS. WebOS lets users navigate from screen to screen by scrolling left or right with your finger. Unlike iPhone, WebOS also gives users the ability to close an application by flicking your finger in an upward motion and tap the screen to minimize an open application. This adds worlds of depth in navigating the OS while multitasking. But two big issues hurt its score: disappointing battery life and a tendency to overheat.

Performance: B+
Features: A
Ease of Use: A
Price: B
Pros: Innovative interface; great for Web surfing or running multiple apps.
Cons: Poor battery life; some overheating problems.

Read the full review: Palm Pre Plus has the tools, but can be a drain

NEXT: BlackBerry Bold 9650

BlackBerry Bold 9650 is an easy-to-use workhorse

BlackBerry Bold

True to its core competency, RIM instilled the two most important BlackBerry values into this souped-up version: impressive battery-life and the best-designed QWERTY keyboard in the roundup. The Bold lasted longer than any other device in the roundup, needing a recharge only once every three days. Much of this longevity is attributed to the efficient and small BlackBerry OS, and a lot is due to the fact that the BlackBerry is more of a business person’s mobile device and not as filled with bells, whistles and apps as its competitors. RIM has made noticeable advancements in OS navigation, particularly with the way the central toggle wheel is now designed in the Bold, and added a powerful feature with its instant messaging application. Using the real-time IM feature on the Bold is as easy as the IM tool on your computer.

Performance: A+
Features: B
Ease of Use: A
Price: B
Pros: Best keyboard in the review; best battery life.
Cons: Need to link instant messaging and e-mail.

Read the full review: BlackBerry Bold 9650 is an easy-to-use workhorse

NEXT: HTC Evo 

HTC Evo’s 4G service take smart phones to new dimensions

HTC EVO

Reviewers ChoiceThe Evo is the only 4G mobile device in the roundup, and the difference between that and the 3G of the other devices is significant – we’re talking seconds versus minutes on large data transfers from the Web. Upgrading to 4G has serious perks, such as the ability to do unfettered multitasking on your mobile device just like you would on your home computer. I was able to stream a movie while making a phone call, or surf the Internet while downloading large media files. And the 4G network is so fast, and the Evo so powerful, that you can launch a streaming video app and broadcast it live to anyone on the Internet in high quality.

Like the iPhone, the Evo has two cameras so that you can videoconference with the appropriate app. A couple drawbacks: The device’s battery-life is good, unless you use the 4G. And the Evo would be a logistical nightmare for agencies with stringent security policies, because of how hard it is to track the data going in and out of the machine.

Performance: A
Features: A+
Ease of Use: B-
Price: A
Pros: Can act as a wireless router; has super fast 4G speeds; HDMI port.
Cons: Difficult to learn all functions; devices might cause some security concerns.

Read the full review: HTC Evo’s 4G service takes smart phones to new dimensions

NEXT: Samsung Captivate

Samsung Captivate makes good use of its Android OS

Samsung Captivate

Reviewers ChoiceThe Captivate offers a more robust multitasking capability, in large part due to its robust Android personality, and comes with a host of free, powerful apps, such as turn-by-turn Global Positioning System directions and voice-to-text, and is operated by a robust 1 GHz Hummingbird processor with 512M of RAM. Like the Evo, the Captivate display is a large 4-inch diameter monitor. However, the 480-by-800-pixel resolution didn’t look as good as its competitors in the review, particularly when compared to the iPhone’s 960 by 640 pixels. The Captivate is a solid mobile device with workhorse capabilities but without the bells and whistles of a thoroughbred.

Performance: A
Features: A-
Ease of Use: A
Price: A-
Pros: Great multitasking capability; easy to use interface.
Cons: Lower-resolution screen; no flash for camera.

Read the full review: Samsung Captivate makes good use of its Android OS

Reader Comments

Mon, Mar 28, 2011 Joanna Missoula, Montana

We were in the D.C. area the first week of February. I have my cell phone service through Verizon and carry a Blackberry Bold. I had absolutely no trouble of any kind with my phone, or the service while in the area there. Having followed a study done in Montana regarding cell service and the 9-1-1 system, I am very aware of the different cell service providers and their limitations.

Mon, Sep 20, 2010 T VA

Palm Pre battery life, while still not great, is improved over what it had when originally introduced and more manageable. Biggest problem I see is when GPS operating. Sometimes gets a little warm, but nothing I would call serious, and it seems to me I remember iPhone had that problem reported also. Excellent Pre multi-tasking. I haven't used, but from what I have read, iPhone multi-tasking is limited.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 Don

How strange that you were irked by the iPhone being available only from AT&T yet the feature that really sold you on the EVO, 4G, is only available from Sprint and even then, only in limited locations. Similarly, you touted the EVO's ability to do other things when using its phone (only when on 4G, by the way), yet never mentioned that the iPhone has *always* had that capability. You then note that the clumsy multi-tasking implementation on the EVO (and other Android-based phones) require the user to do janitorial work to maintain phone performance and battery life but failed to note the smooth and transparent multi-tasking implementation on the iPhone. That this is a real problem on Android-based devices is evidenced by the fact that "task-killer" apps are among the best sellers in the Android Marketplace app store. Finally, you repeatedly noted that the iPhone is sensitive to hand/finger placement but ignored the abundant evidence (search youtube!) that this issue exists for virtually all cellphones, including the others in this review. What gives?

Thu, Sep 2, 2010 KingMel

Input #1: The "well-documented antenna issues" were primarily FUD Input #2: The bumper or case is free, and renders the any legitimate "well-documented antenna issues" moot. It is not an issue. Input #3: Thus, your "B+" for the iPhone 4 performance is ridiculous when compared to the same grade for the Palm Pre Plus, which suffers from "Poor battery life; some overheating problems." GCN is not the place to find fair and unbiased comparisons, as has been demonstrated repeatedly in the past.

Thu, Sep 2, 2010

Why wasn't the Droid X reviewed? It has video out, large screen, and very fast processor speed.

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