Top 10 alternatives to the iPhone

A few weeks ago, I wrote about 10 reasons not to buy an iPhone, at least not yet. Several people responded, saying, "Okay, you've convinced me -- but what should I get instead?" Good question! In this article, we'll take a look at a few alternatives that provide some advantages over the iPhone in its current incarnation. Phone manufacturers are coming out with new models all the time, so this represents only a sampling of the many available alternatives to the iPhone.

Note: This information is also available as a PDF download.

#1: HTC Touch/Vogue

One of the iPhone's big selling points is the touchscreen. But it's not the only phone on the market that offers one of those. The HTC Touch (GSM) and its sister phone, the Vogue (CDMA), are at the top of the list of iPhone lookalikes. The Vogue is slated to be released by Sprint in November, dubbed -- somewhat confusingly -- the Sprint Touch.

In addition to the touchiness of their screens, these phones have the same sort of large screen as the iPhone, and the interface looks very similar. They run Windows Mobile 6 Professional and include Wi-Fi support. They have a 2-megapixel camera built in, like the iPhone. The GSM version runs on the EDGE network like the iPhone, but the Vogue is rumored to be able to provide true 3G speeds on the EVDO Rev A network.

#2: Nokia N95

Another potential iPhone killer, the Nokia N95 does most of what Apple's phone does, and more. With a 2.8 QVGA screen and 8 GB of internal memory, it gives the iPhone a run for its money. And it outdoes Apple's offering when it comes to the integrated GPS with Nokia maps and the 5-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics. You can shoot DVD-quality videos up to 30 frames per second, and there's a TV-out port so you can play those videos on a full size television set.

The Nokia Web browser with Mini Map lets you zoom out to a full screen view of a Web page and then zoom back in to the area you want to read, with the text automatically adjusting.

The Nokia is an impressive phone. The bad news: It's not currently available in the United States. It also doesn't include a hardware QWERTY keyboard, which some say is the biggest drawback of the iPhone.

#3: Nokia N99 (maybe)

For at least the last nine months, cell phone enthusiasts have eagerly anticipated the release of the Nokia N99. There are photos of a prototype all over the Web, and the specs are enough to wow anybody (and put the iPhone to shame): 16 GB of internal memory, a 3.2-inch screen, a 9-way joystick control, GPS, WLAN, and a 7.2-megapixel camera. And it has the QWERTY keyboard that the N95 and the iPhone lack.

But the bad news about this one is even worse: It's not available (as of this writing) anywhere. Patents are on file, though, and phone fans continue to hope. You can at least see what it's expected to look like.

#4: Blackberry Pearl

This is not your father's Blackberry (or even your big brother's). A far cry from the clunky, somewhat awkward mobile e-mail devices first introduced by RIM, the Pearl is sleek, slim, and pretty, and its phone functionality works just as well as its text -- something that couldn't be said for the first BB phones.

The Pearl 8100 is the first Blackberry that offers a full set of multimedia features. It comes with only 64 MB of memory and the screen is small and supports only 65,536 colors (as opposed to the 1.6 million claimed for the N99), but it weighs only 3.1 ounces, too.

You get a QWERTY keyboard, 1.3-megapixel camera, BlackBerry Maps, Web browser, media player, and organizer for storing and synching contacts and calendar information. With a two-year contract from AT&T, the online price is $249, a bit less than the iPhone even with its infamous price cut.

#5: Palm Treo 700/750

Once upon a time, the Palm Pilot was the PDA to own, especially in the business world. As handheld computers and cell phones merged, Palm lost a lot of the market, but many folks still consider the Palm to be the best.

Whether you like the Palm OS or Windows Mobile, there's a Treo for you. The 700 runs the Palm OS and runs on the fast EVDO network. The 750 runs Windows Mobile. With a two-year contract and online discount, either model will set you back $399 from AT&T (750) or Verizon (700) at the time of this writing.

Whichever one you choose, you'll be able to do something that iPhone owners can't do: install additional applications to enhance the functionality of your phone. Find out more about both on the Palm Smartphones page.

#6: Samsung Blackjack

The BlackJack is a quad-band world phone that takes advantage of the high speed of AT&T's HSDPA 3G network. The screen is small, taking up less than half of the phone surface, but the QWERTY keypad is correspondingly large. It runs Windows Mobile 5, supports Microsoft Direct Push e-mail, and includes a 1.3-megapixel camera/camcorder (but lacks a flash).

It's relatively light and thin (3.5 ounces, .46 inches) and supports Java-based games, unlike many of its WM 5 competitors. Best of all, with a two-year contract and $99 mail-in rebate, the price works out to only $99.

#7: LG Voyager

At the time of this writing, Verizon had just announced four new phones, and the one that seems to be getting most of the press is the LG Voyager. It definitely has that iPhone look, with a nice big screen and black and silver finish. It's thicker than the iPhone but that's because it includes a hardware QWERTY keyboard. And unlike the slider keyboards on many competitors, this one flips open.

Verizon's EVDO network means your Internet access will be a lot faster than the iPhone's on EDGE, and the Voyager has a user-friendly battery you can remove and replace yourself. (That's a major complaint about the iPhone.) You can also get GPS navigation if you sign up for Verizon's nav service, and a 2-megapixel camera rounds out the package. It's expected to become available in November and cost around $250. See a photo here.

#8: Samsung i760

Users of the Samsung i730 (I'm one of them) have been waiting a long time for its successor, the i760. We saw it first at CES last January, and the Verizon reps there told us it should be out sometime in July. Summer came and went, and we're still waiting. I love my i730, but I would also love to get my hands on the new and improved version.

The i760 sports two keypads -- an external number keypad on the front of the phone and a side-slide QWERTY for more serious typing. It's expected to run Windows Mobile 6 and will have Wi-Fi support like the i730. It's a tad slimmer and lighter, too.

I'm not the only one who's passed up several other tempting new phones because I'm saving myself for the i760. I hope Verizon doesn't let us down.

#9: Samsung F700

While Verizon's been dragging its feet on releasing the i760 (or anything else running Windows Mobile 6), Samsung has been hard at work producing more new phones. One of these is the F700, which looks a lot like an iPhone but also features a slide-out QWERTY keyboard.

It features a 5-megapixel camera and will work on the high speed (7.2 Mbps) HSDPA network. It's not yet available from any U.S. carriers, but it's definitely one of the most iPhone-like clones we've seen. If it becomes available, I just might give up on waiting for the i760. You can see some photos here.

#10: The ultimate cell phone

If none of the above tickles your fancy, and if you carry a cell phone purely as a status symbol, consider this alternative: a phone from Goldvish Luxury Communications, in a solid gold case encrusted with diamonds. These little ditties don't surf the Net any faster than the phones we've mentioned here, yet some of them sell for more than a million dollars. Now that's a status symbol.

Debra Littlejohn Shinder is a technology consultant, trainer and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. These include Scene of the Cybercrime: Computer Forensics Handbook, published by Syngress, and Computer Networking Essentials, published by Cisco Press. She is co-author, with her husband, Dr. Thomas Shinder, of Troubleshooting Windows 2000 TCP/IP, the best-selling Configuring ISA Server 2000, and ISA Server and Beyond.

By Deb Shinder

Debra Littlejohn Shinder, MCSE, MVP is a technology consultant, trainer, and writer who has authored a number of books on computer operating systems, networking, and security. Deb is a tech editor, developmental editor, and contributor to over 20 add...