Smartphones in the Summer Sun
Tom’s Guide follows new smartphone releases year round, day in and day out. While many manufacturers will wait for events like CES and MWC to announce new hardware, others operate on their own timetable or collaborate with a specific carrier like Verizon or AT&T when it comes to announcements and releases. That said, the next several months should prove to be very exciting if you’re on the hunt for a new handset.
Old favorites like RIM, Apple, and HTC have new hardware to drool over, while newcomers like Dell are hitting this ultra-competitive market with something to prove, and four new phones should help them in that regard. Most of the phones included here should be released (or at least officially announced) sometime by the end of September. Several are already official and will hit store shelves or be up for preorder in a matter of days. Regardless, this article should give you a solid idea of what to expect for smartphones over the next three to four months. If your dream phone has already landed (like the HD2 or Droid Incredible), you won’t find it here.
Apple iPhone HD/4G
So before we move onto anything else, let’s talk about the elephant in the room. Like every summer for the last three years, Apple will announce the next iPhone, also called the iPhone HD, within the next few months, presumably at its own WWDC (World Wide Developers Conference) next month. Based on the whole Gizmodo-iPhone saga, we expect the next iPhone to have a different physical appearance (less rounded on the back and with more squared-off edges). That, combined with two video cameras (one forward-facing for video conferencing), a higher resolution screen, and a processor similar to that found in the iPad, and you have what seems to be a natural evolution of the iPhone platform.
What is still up in the air is carrier support. AT&T will most certainly carry the iPhone, just like it carried the first three versions. The biggest question is whether or not Verizon will offer a CDMA-flavored iPhone. Verizon has been in the rumor mill ever since the iPhone 3G was released and now a Big Red iPhone seems more likely than ever. Whether or not the Verizon version will be a 4G/LTE iPhone is also up in the air. If our wishes come true, Verizon will get an LTE iPhone and it will likely be the best-selling smartphone of 2010 (and maybe even 2011).
HTC EVO 4G
Sprint has been touting its WiMAX-based 4G as the bee's knees for quite some time and now it finally has a smartphone to put its network to good use. The EVO 4G from HTC will be the flagship device for Sprint when it’s released later this month (preorders start this week) and it takes the position with some amazing credentials.
The EVO 4G uses Google’s Android operating system with HTC’s Sense UI on top. The EVO packs that 1 GHz Snapdragon processor everyone loves, a 4.3" WVGA screen with a 480x800 resolution, video recording with up to 720p, and an eight megapixel camera that should make for some very impressive pictures (for a smartphone, that is). All of this combined with WiMAX mobile muscle and the EVO 4G might prove to be the phone that saves Sprint from itself. Other great features include HDMI out, a front-facing 1.3 megapixel video camera for video chat, a built-in kickstand, and WiFi. Our only complaint? The EVO only has 1 GB of internal storage, so you’ll have to rely on MicroSD for storing media. The EVO 4G hits Sprint stores June 4 for $199.
With flagship devices like the Droid from Motorola and the Droid Incredible from HTC, Verizon is looking to round out its mid-range Android offerings. The LG Ally, which drops May 20, comes with Android 2.1 and offers Verizon customers a vanilla Android experience if they aren’t keen on the Devour and its Motoblur interface.
With a contract price of $100, the Ally is definitely set for mid-range users, but it does come with a decent spec sheet. The Ally has a 3.2" touch screen, Android 2.1, a 3.2 megapixel camera with 4x zoom and three different video-shoot modes, a physical QWERTY keyboard, 802.11n WiFi, MicroSD expansion up to 16 GB, and access to the 38,000 app-strong Android Marketplace. While the Droid is more feature-heavy and has a larger screen, the Ally is still worth a look at only $100.
It may not be this summer, but Dell is bringing two smartphones to market by the end of 2010, the Thunder (more on that later) and the Lightning. The Lightning is a Windows Phone 7 device, and based on what we’ve seen so far, it should be a beast. Launching sometime in Q4 2010, the Lightning looks to redefine how we think about the portrait slider.
The Lightning will pack a 1 GHz Snapdragon processor, which should provide a snappy Windows Phone 7 experience. Furthermore, this portrait slider (think Palm Pre/Pre Plus) will also come with a 4.1" OLED WVGA display, a five megapixel camera (with autofocus), an FM radio tuner, GPS, an accelerometer, and 1 GB of memory with another 8 GB of storage via MicroSD. While Microsoft has stated that WinPhone7 supports Flash, it won’t be a launch feature. For 2010, the Lightning will be a 3G phone that AT&T and T-Mobile will carry, with a 4G LTE version set to intro sometime in late 2011.
After you see the lightning, you hear the thunder. Dell is also bringing an Android smartphone to AT&T in 2010 called the Thunder. The Thunder will combine Android 2.1 (probably 2.2 when it drops in Q4 2010), with Slate, a new UI from Dell that supposedly combines Twitter and Facebook in the top layers of the interface. There is no physical keyboard here, but the touch screen supposedly uses the new Swype input method, which relies on you dragging your finger from key to key instead of tapping away.
Beyond the name and the OS, there isn’t a lot of concrete detail on the Thunder. We expect that the features will be similar to that of the Lightning, sans keyboard, so a Snapdragon processor and high megapixel camera are safe guesses. AT&T will get a 3G version later this year, with a 4G LTE flavor coming later in 2011.
Dell has also announced the Flash and Smoke Android smartphones, but both are confirmed for 2011, not 2010, so look for more info on those later.
Not much is known about the Nokia N8 besides its release timeframe, which is Q3 of this year. That along with some early previews and all we can gather is that Nokia is attempting to create an iPhone killer. The Symbian^3 operating system and UI have not been used by anyone outside of Nokia, so for now we are essentially in the dark on the software.
The N8 is certainly one of the most clouded devices in this article, but you can be sure we will get you the details as soon as they emerge. For now, the N8 remains a mysterious potential iPhone competitor with software shrouded in secrecy.
The first smartphone offered by the Garmin-Asus partnership disappeared rather quickly, deemed a not-even-mediocre device by most. However, Garmin isn’t done with the smartphone market just yet, and the Garminfone on T-Mobile should prove to be a more acceptable product than the ill-fated nuvifone was. The T-Mobile Garminfone seems to be based on the Garmin-Asus A50 that was shown off at MWC 2010, so the G60 model is still MIA.
Based on Android 1.6 with a custom Garmin-Asus UI laid on top, the Garminfone holds GPS navigation above all else. The handset will come with a special windshield harness when it ships in June for $199 (contract price), so your current GPS unit will be relegated to backup duty. Other specs include a 3.5" HVGA screen, a three megapixel camera with autofocus, WiFi, and MicroSD storage up to 32 GB.
myTouch 3G Slide
The original myTouch 3G is an aging device, but it looks like the new myTouch 3G Slide shares the name and nothing else with the original. Arriving on T-Mobile in June (pricing info. is not yet available but a contract price of $199 or less is a safe bet), the Slide looks to be a solid mid-range Android offering.
Based on Android 2.1, the Slide has a custom UI on top that features custom apps like Faves Gallery, which handles social networking aggregation (Facebook and Twitter, primarily), a Swype touch-screen keyboard interface, myModes (themes and profiles), and a Genius Button, which handles voice commands. Throw in a 3.4" HVGA display, a physical-QWERTY-landscape keyboard, a five megapixel camera, and a rainbow of colors to choose from at launch (red, black, white, and probably others); and the myTouch 3G Slide is a worthy successor to the original myTouch 3G.
The Motorola Xtreme is another smartphone that’s short on confirmed details. Some are calling it the “Nexus Two,” while others are claiming it’s the long-rumored Shadow finally popping up. For now, there are zero details and the above image might not even be real. The latest rumor? Verizon will soon test the device and it might be the Moto’s Droid successor at some point over the next few months. The two phones share some design traits and the physical keyboard is another sign, but for now, this is all pure speculation.
BlackBerry Pearl 3G (9100/9105)
The original BlackBerry Pearl (or 8100) has been on the market for over three years and it’s definitely due for a refresh. The 9100 and 9105, both branded as the Pearl 3G, will be the successors. Both phones bring a plethora of new features, including a 624 MHz processor, 802.11n WiFi, a 3.2 megapixel camera, 256 MB of internal storage with MicroSD expansion up to 32 GB, an optical trackpad, and a 360x400 display. Both versions will be available in 3G for both AT&T and T-Mobile.
So what separates the 9100 from the 9105? The keyboard. The 9105 comes with a 14-key numeric keypad (ABC/DEF/GHI, etc.), while the 9100 has the 20-key condensed QWERTY keyboard found on the original Pearl. Both flavors will land on AT&T and T-Mobile beginning later this month.
BlackBerry Bold Slider (9800)
RIM's new BlackBerry 6.0 operating system is in the works and the firm also has a new WebKit-based Web browser brewing, so a few new devices running the beefed-up software is only natural. Leaked photographs of a new BlackBerry Bold in slider form have surfaced. The video that was simultaneously leaked has been taken down, but the photos are clear and the slider is indeed real.
When it comes to specs and hardware, mum is the word. One thing that many seem to agree on is the touch screen on the Bold slider will not be like the SurePress “clicking” touch screens found on the Storm 1 and 2. A “standard” capacitive touch screen coupled with the snappy BlackBerry OS 6.0 and a new Web browser could prove to be a winning combination on BlackBerry’s part. Of course, for all you BlackBerry fans out there, 6.0 will appear in more standard BlackBerry form, like a non-slider Bold or the next Tour.