Long gone are the days when they were simply for making calls ... today's handsets are packed with features, and even 3D.
Apple iPhone 4
$859 (16GB), apple.com/au
APPLE'S iPhone 4 sports one of the best touchscreens found on any phone - a crisp, 8.9cm, 640 x 960-pixel Super LCD offering razor-sharp images that are bright and vivid with wide viewing angles. The phone weighs in at 137 grams, with a 1GHz processor to handle the multitasking features added with the iOS4 software update. The iPhone 4 gained a front camera for video chat via Skype and Apple's FaceTime. There is also an improved 5-megapixel rear camera offering 720p video capture. The iPhone ecosystem features the widest range of apps and accessories, plus it integrates seamlessly with iTunes desktop software and gadgets such as the Apple TV - letting you stream music and video around your home. We are awaiting details of the next iPhone but we know the upcoming iOS5 software upgrade will improve the phone's notification system - currently a key weakness compared with Android devices. Also, iOS will never be compatible with Flash-enabled videos and websites. The iPhone 4 offers up to 32GB of onboard storage but lacks micro-USB, SD and HDMI ports, plus the iPad camera connection kit is not designed to work with the iPhone.
Samsung Galaxy S II
SAMSUNG'S long-awaited Galaxy S II is one of the most impressive Android phones on the market and throws down the gauntlet to Apple. The phone packs a dual-core 1.2GHz powerplant, driving a generous 10.9cm, 480 x 800-pixel Super AMOLED Plus display. It is a bigger display than the original Galaxy S, although it still sports the same resolution. This is because Super AMOLED Plus boosts the number of sub-pixels to improve picture quality at the expense of pixel density. Thankfully, the blue tinge seen on the original Galaxy S is all but gone. The Galaxy S II is a large unit, although still lighter and thinner than the iPhone 4, at 116 grams. It runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and features 16GB of storage and a generous 1GB of RAM. Samsung also pre-installs an impressive spread of apps on the phone, including Navigon for satnav, Kobo for books, Zinio for magazines and PressPlay for newspapers. Advanced features include a 2-megapixel front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera (with 720p video capture), FM radio, Flash player and Bluetooth 3.0, along with micro-USB and microSD card slots.
HTC's Sensation is another Android 2.3 superphone packing a 1.2GHz dual-core powerplant. The 10.9cm, 540 x 960-pixel Super LCD display is very sharp and movie lovers - whether they are watching them or shooting them - will appreciate the 16:9 aspect ratio. The display's tradeoff is slightly washed-out colours and disappointing viewing angles (problems that also plagued the 10.9cm Desire HD). The Sensation is a little beefy at 148 grams but is still comfortable to hold. It benefits from HTC's Sense UI interface, a skin that sits on top of Android to help make the phone more user-friendly. Advanced features include a VGA front camera and 8-megapixel rear camera, FM radio, Flash player, Bluetooth 3.0 and micro-USB and microSD card slots. The Sensation only features 1GB of onboard storage and 768MB of RAM. It is worth noting that HTC does not release quad-band HSDPA models (850/900/1900 /2100MHz) to support all Australian networks. The Telstra-issued HTC Sensation supports 850/1900/2100MHz for high-speed data but if you want to use the phone on other Australian networks, you are better off importing a 900/1900/2100MHz model.
MOTOROLA'S powerful Atrix can perform an impressive trick- converting from a smartphone to a netbook. The Atrix was released running Android 2.2, with a 2.3 update coming from Telstra. It sports a 10.15cm, 540 x 960 resolution TFT LCD screen, offering one of the highest pixel densities of any Android phone. Tipping the scales at 135 grams, it features a 1GHz dual-core processor accompanied by 1GB of RAM and up to 16GB of onboard storage. Advanced features include a fingerprint reader, VGA front camera, 5-megapixel rear camera (720p video capture), Flash player and Bluetooth 2.1, along with micro-USB and microSD card slots. Motorola offers an optional 29.5cm netbook shell, which costs $449 and weighs in at 1.1 kilograms. The Ubuntu-based webtop interface launches when you slot the phone into the keyboard, running a full version of Firefox 3.6, while also letting you view the phone's home screen and use all the features. Unfortunately, webtop is let down by the shell's small keyboard and limited trackpad. The Atrix also features a micro-HDMI output, with an optional dock for connecting to your television or web browsing.
LG Optimus 3D
LG'S Optimus 3D is the first 3D phone to hit Australian shelves, letting you enjoy 3D games, movies and video capture. The Optimus 3D weighs 168 grams and has a 10.9cm, 480 x 800-pixel TFT LCD ''parallax'' display. It offers 3D without the need for clunky glasses by using a series of vertical slits to ensure your left and right eyes see different pixels. The tradeoff is a narrow viewing angle. LG has partnered with Gameloft and Capcom to develop 3D games for the phone. You can even upload 3D video directly to YouTube. The menus can be switched back to 2D. Running Android 2.2, with plans for a 2.3 upgrade from Optus, the phone packs a 1GHz dual-core processor, 512MB of RAM and 8GB of onboard storage. Advanced features include VGA front camera, 5-megapixel rear camera (with 1080p 2D or 3D video capture), Bluetooth 2.1, micro-USB, microSD and micro-HDMI. The Optus-issued model supports 900/1900/2100MHz HSDPA networks.
Sony Ericsson Xperia Play
SONY Ericsson's Xperia Play is yet another Android 2.3 smartphone but it stands out from the crowd thanks to its built-in PlayStation-style controller for gaming. The Xperia Play features a 10.16cm, 480 x 854 LED-backlit LCD screen, with a slide-out control pad rather than a keyboard. It uses touch-sensitive pads. The tradeoff for the control pad is a somewhat bulky phone -- 16mm thick and weighing 175 grams. Games can be downloaded from Android Market or direct from developers, with more than 50 games available at launch. Gaming aside, this is a fully fledged Android phone with a 1GHz processor, 512MB of RAM and 400MB of onboard storage (which can be expanded via microSD card). Advanced features include a front VGA camera and 5-megapixel rear camera (with 720p video capture) and a micro-USB port.
Samsung Omnia 7
SAMSUNG'S sleek Omnia 7 is another of the handful of smartphones running Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 operating system. It is the first WP7 device in Australia to sport a vivid 10.16cm, 480 x 800-pixel Super AMOLED display, offering bright and vivid colours. With a sleek design, coming in at 138 grams and 11mm thick, it is more petite than the early Windows Phone 7 devices. Considering Microsoft's strict rules regarding WP7 hardware, the Super AMOLED display is one of the few features that distinguishes Samsung's Omnia 7 from the crowd. You will find a 1GHz processor, accompanied by 512MB of RAM and 8GB of storage, but no microSD card (at Microsoft's insistence). Advanced features include FM radio, 5-megapixel rear camera (with 720p video capture), Bluetooth 2.1 and micro-USB. Optus plans to issue a Windows Phone 7.5 Mango update for the Omnia 7, adding a raft of extra features. Take care though, the Optus-issued Omnia 7 only supports 900/1900/ 2100MHz HSDPA networks, so isn't suited to Telstra's Next G network.
BlackBerry Torch 9860
RIM's BlackBerry Torch 9860 is one of the first devices in Australia to run the new BlackBerry 7 OS, building on the touch-friendly features added in BlackBerry 6 OS. The 9.4cm, 480 x 800-pixel display offers the most screen real estate of any BlackBerry. The tradeoff is that it is one of the few BlackBerrys not to feature a physical QWERTY keyboard on the front. Instead, it relies on an onscreen keyboard, abandoning the slide-out physical keyboard found on the Torch 9800. Thankfully, it does not use the whole screen as a giant button, like the oft-maligned Storm. Shedding the slide-out keyboard sees the 9860 slim down to 135 grams and 11.5mm - quite petite for a BlackBerry but far from the thinnest phone on the market. While slimming down, the 9860 has undergone a major hardware overhaul - sporting a 1.2GHz processor, 768MB of RAM and 8GB of memory expandable via microSD card. The extra grunt is combined with improved graphics to underpin an improved WebKit browser, optimised HTML5 performance and 720p video capture via the 5-megapixel rear camera. If you don't want to abandon the QWERTY keyboard, look to the new Bold 9900.
NOKIA'S N9 is its first device to run the new MeeGo touchscreen operating system, featuring no physical buttons on the front. Designed as a high-end multimedia camera phone, the N9 sports a vivid 9.9cm, 854 x 480 AMOLED display offering a 16:9 aspect ratio. It also packs a front camera for video calls and an 8-megapixel camera with Carl Zeiss optics, offering a f/2.2 aperture lens for improved low-light performance. It also offers 720p video capture, although, surprisingly, it lacks the HDMI output found in the N8. High-end sound quality comes courtesy of Dolby Digital Plus decoding and Dolby Headphone post-processing technology. The phone tips the scales at 135 grams and is only 12mm thick, relying on a slightly curved display. Under the bonnet you will find a 1GHz processor accompanied by 1GB RAM and 16GB or 64GB of onboard storage. The N9 is a follow-up to last year's N8, which ran a touch-friendly revamp of Nokia's old Symbian operating system. Since then, Nokia has struck a deal with Microsoft to run Windows Phone 7 on its high-end smartphones. Nokia has promised to continue supporting MeeGo on the N9 but it looks to be the company's last MeeGo phone.
HTC's HD7 is one of the handful of smartphones running Microsoft's new Windows Phone 7 operating system. It sports a generous 10.9cm, 480 x 800 TFT LCD and tips the scales at 162 grams. It even features a kickstand on the back so you can put all that screen real estate to good use watching movies, although the colours are not as vivid as on phones equipped with a Super AMOLED display. The HD7 is armed with a 1GHz processor, 576MB of RAM and 16GB of onboard storage. Advanced features include FM radio, 5-megapixel rear camera (with 720p video capture), Bluetooth 2.1 and micro-USB. The HD7's menus are quick and responsive. Telstra plans to issue a Windows Phone 7.5 Mango update for the HD7, adding a raft of extra features but still lagging behind the flexibility of Android. Be aware that the Telstra-issued HD7 only supports 850/2100MHz HSDPA networks, so is not well suited to other Australian networks. If the HD7 is a little chunky for your liking, look to the 9.4cm HTC 7 Mozart.