2Palm Centro (from $29.99)
This smartphone from Palm is available from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, and comes in a variety of sporty colors. While the keyboard is small, the 2.25-inch touch-screen display is clear and responsive. The Centro lacks Wi-Fi support and doesn’t always come with instant messaging applications, so take a look at each carrier’s plan before deciding what you want in a phone.
3Pantech Matrix Pro ($99.99)
Available through AT&T, the Matrix Pro runs on the carrier’s 3G network and uses the Windows 6.1 Mobile OS. AT&T’s Xpress Mail allows you to access Microsoft Outlook, Lotus Notes, Yahoo Mail, AOL, Windows Live and more, and there are two sliding keyboards: one that you slide up to access the dial pad, and one you slide horizontally for full QWERTY functionality.
4Samsung BlackJack II (from $49.99)
5BlackBerry Pearl 8130 (from free with activation)
Verizon currently offers the 8130 for free with two-year activation, part of an online discount promotion. The phone includes BlackBerry 4.3 desktop software with integrated e-mail, phone, SMS (Short Message Service), browser, calendar and address book, and the typical RIM polish. Sprint offers the phone for $79.99.
6Motorola Q 9c (from $99.99)
7LG Incite (from $79.99)
The touch-screen Incite, only available from AT&T, runs on Windows Mobile 6.1 software and includes applications such as Microsoft ActiveSync and Office Mobile. You also get Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity and a sharp, bright 3-inch-diagonal screen. The touch-screen employs haptic feedback, which tells you, through a contact vibration, when you are selecting something on the screen.
8Apple iPhone 3G (from $199)
With a mail-in rebate, an 8GB iPhone can be yours for under $200. While that is approaching the upper end of a cost-conscious budget limit, the iPhone has come a long way from its $599 starting price. Often criticized for its highly priced products, Apple, along with exclusive carrier AT&T, proves style and substance don’t have to come at an astronomical cost.
9BlackBerry Curve 8330 (from $99.99)
The Curve family of smartphones offers everything you’d expect from RIM, and the 8330 is no exception, sporting GPS capability, a built-in speakerphone, 35-key QWERTY keyboard and a light-sensing screen for easier visibility for when you’re surfing the Web, checking e-mail or, yes, playing “Tetris.”
10T-Mobile Sidekick (from $99.99)
If you’re looking for something a little different, the Sidekick’s signature swivel function might be the solution. Although much of the attention is on the latest version, the LX ($449.99), the original Sidekick offers great features like Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability, an included 512MB MicroSD card and, of course, the swivel screen.
11LG enV2 (from $50)
Although the enV2 is not a full-blown smartphone, the enV2 is an attractive alternative for the professional who doesn’t need all the features a BlackBerry brings. It is 40 percent slimmer than the original enV and the flip-QWERTY keyboard makes it easy to send e-mails and texts. The enV2 is also capable of installing VZ Navigator, a Verizon service that uses GPS positioning to tell you where you are.
12Samsung Ace ($99.99)
13Verizon Wireless XV6900 ($69.99)
Verizon’s in-house smartphone boasts TouchFLO Technology on its high-resolution touch-screen and runs on Windows Mobile 6 Professional, packed with mobile versions of Word, Excel and PowerPoint as well as an Adobe PDF viewer. It supports up to 8GB of memory through a MicroSD drive. The 2.0-megapixel camera comes with auto-focus, zoom and video capture.