Smartphone Advice for Black Friday Shoppers: Droid, iPhone

Motorola's Droid and the Apple iPhone should top shopping lists for those focused on the Web and content, while e-mailers may consider the BlackBerry Bold. For pragmatists, say the experts, Nokia and Samsung offer reason to give thanks.

With the official start of the holiday shopping season just days away, both mobile phone carriers and manufacturers have rolled out special deals and festive lineups. How to choose the phone that's right for you - or the ones you love?
Aaron Vronko, CEO of RapidRepair, which tears down devices for a critical look at what's inside (see the iPhone 3G S teardown here, or the Microsoft Zune HD here) offered eWEEK readers some advice.
"It really comes down to what you're looking to do with your smartphone," he said on Nov. 24, explaining that the basic subsets of features across smartphones are pretty even-Steven these days, and that the real differentiation comes in the secondary applications.
Internet browsing, for example, is a differentiator.
"If you think you're going to browse quite a bit with your smartphone, you may want to go with something like the iPhone," Vronko said. "It has an extremely capable mobile browser, and it's one of the fastest at rendering Web pages. The Motorola Droid is also pretty good for that."
While calling the iPhone's virtual keyboard the "gold standard of virtual keyboards," if e-mail is your major priority, Vronko instead suggests, "you may want to consider one that's not even a full touch-screen phone, like the BlackBerry Bold, which has the well-tested and thoroughly solid qwerty keyboard for a great e-mail experience."
Again, he also pointed to the Droid.
"Another good choice is the Motorola Droid, because it does have the qwerty keyboard, in addition to having a highly rated touch-screen keyboard," said Vronko. "So for quick messages you can use the on-screen keyboard, and if you've got to do something a little more detailed, then you pull out the qwerty keyboard."
The Droid, he said, may also be a fit for those who consider multitasking a top priority.
"The iPhone doesn't support true multitasking," Vronko explained. "If I have a phone number that I need to copy from a contact into an e-mail, basically I'm going to pull that up, copy it, go back to home, which takes a few seconds, then take a few seconds to pull up my e-mail, paste it, and then if I need to get more information, I have to do the whole process again and again."
He continued, "Not having the ability to have multiple apps open can really slow you down. ... Whereas the Palm Pre and Motorola Droid let you do true multitasking, so you can quickly switch, in typically less than a second, from one app to the next, instead of five, six, seven seconds."
If applications are your bag, the iPhone, of course, offers more than any other. Vronko, however, has a unique plug for its competitors. "One thing that's actually nice about some other phones is that their app libraries are usually just filled with a small number of really rock-solid applications," Vronko said. "On the iPhone, if you go try to find an app that [suits your need], you find there's 15 or 20 of them, and it can get bogged down trying to figure out which one is right for you."
The comment followed a request for his opinion on the Palm Pre, about which he offered, "The Palm Pre, I think, doesn't stand out as being great at any one thing, but it's pretty good at a lot of things. So it's an all-around good choice."
Content is still another considerable area of focus. "Apple's iTunes library and all the music and video you can access from there makes it really easy to get a ton of digital content integrated onto your smartphone," Vronko said. "Though others, like the Droid, for example, can support more video formats and more video content from more sources. So if you're comfortable getting content from more sources, the Droid offers a little more flexibility."
Should pricing be your major guide this season, is also offering advice, broken down by both total cost of ownership (TCO) and owner stereotypes. For the "techie" it suggests the Pre, with its two-year TCO of $1,830, or the Droid, which will run $2,600 over two years.
Better suited to the chatterbox in your life might be the T-Mobile Sidekick LX, with its $2,070 two-year TCO, and for the shutter-fly, the Sony Ericsson C905, with its two-year TCO of $1,780, or the Nokia N86, which retails for $400 and is compatible with the AT&T or T-Mobile networks.
BillShrink concludes, sensibly, "Let's face it. Sometimes you just want a phone that works. If you don't need to life stream your dinner or send minute-by-minute updates to your Flickr account, the Nokia 5310 and the Samsung Intensity are both no-frills phones that just work - and with their attractive price tag, your wallet will be sure to thank you."
And giving thanks, of course, is the meaning for the season. Even if it's only in regard to your wallet.