Tech Note: Help Me Choose a Smartphone

The audio connector on my Qtek 9100 smartphone (handheld computer cum cellphone) has crapped out for the second time in two years. The warranty's lapsed, and repairing the thing would cost a third of what an equivalent machine of a current model would set me back. My 9100's battery life is flagging, it's a 2005 design and it has a number of irritating design glitches. So I'm in the market for a new handheld.

When I asked my readers two years ago to recommend me a machine, I didn't get a single answer. You guys are a wee bit more numerous these days, so I'm thinking maybe you might have an idea about what I should get.

Here are the specs I'm aiming for.

  • Cell phone connectivity
  • Wifi connectivity that actually allows me to connect, not just see that there's an access point
  • Swedish qwerty keyboard
  • NOT Windows Mobile
  • Works as a vanilla USB drive when connected to a desktop computer, or has removeable flash cartridge
  • GPS navigator
  • Full-screen time & date readouts when in sleep mode
  • Hardware key-lock button
  • Stable touch-screen that needs re-calibration less than once a year
  • Decent camera

What model smartphone are you using, Dear Reader? Are you happy with it? What should I get?

Update 16 April: Browsing the market, I find that I'll have to accept another Windows Mobile machine since there are too few alternatives. And it seems that the HP iPAQ 914, the Samsung SGH-i780 and the soon forthcoming i-mate Ultimate 8502 might be pretty good. (I'm not going for the descendant of my current machine, the HTC TYTN II.) Opinions, anyone?

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I've got an HTC P3300 (if I remember the name correctly). It does some of what you want but far from all. Probably less that the one you have now.

I'm not really happy with it but don't really hate it either. For someone running Windows it would probably be nicer. For me it doesn't sync at all, and that's kind of a bummer for something that has an address list. On the other hand I'm regularly using at least three different computers, all of which have address lists. Different address lists...

Hold out for an iPhone, perhaps?

Maybe something from Nokia's N series? They run OS2008 which is Linux based.

The openmoko project looks promising. Especially the soon to be released Freerunner. But no camera and it is still a development platform, not a mass market device.

I don't know of any device that fulfils that list, or comes close to . And the way things are trending I don't think you'll have much luck the next few years either. The kind that comes closest is probably some business-targeted cellphone (no, the iPhone has cool design, but as a device it's quite limited).

The iPhone, though very pretty, has no keyboard at all, and would most likely force me to switch to a more expensive cell provider.

Dean, I've looked a little at the Nokia N series. They seem quite impressive but for the fact that none of them appears to allow me to make a cell phone call!?

Janne, you say cell phone -- doesn't that imply "no keyboard, only number pad"?

Can it be that the smartphone market has gone nowhere in 2.5 years?! The most recent analogue of the machine I carry now seems to be the HTC TYTN II (Kaiser): it runs Windows and comes delivered with a faulty graphics driver.

If you need a full keyboard there is only a few left for you.
You can get a hole range of different windows mobile based phones. Among these the HTC TYTN II probably is the one best fit for you.
I've got the HTC Touch Cruise and that one works very well with my company's email-setup (Exchange/Outlook), my private email and GPS. But I can not use it very well with my Linux based home computer.
There are only one a few full keyboard based phones from Nokia and SonyEricsson, but they usually do not have GPS.
If you want a GPS and a phone you have to go for regular cell phones as far as I know.

I meant a thing with a real-but-tiny keaboard with "business-targeted cellphone" - I don't really know what the common name is for those devices.

Unsurprisingly, I have a Nokia. My older Communicator doesn't have all the features you list, but the newer E90 should have more (GPS, for example; no touchscreen, but a real keyboard).

I've looked a little at the Nokia N series. They seem quite impressive but for the fact that none of them appears to allow me to make a cell phone call!?

That's only because of the anti-Swede lock we put in those things... oh wait, I wasn't supposed to reveal that.

I've checked the E90 out and actually handled one when my neighbour was having trouble installing maps on it. It seems like a pretty reasonable machine, though a little on the old side. It was introduced in February 2007.

You probably know that imate, htc and qtek is based on the same hardware. I am sorry to say that they are quick with new releases, but a bit slower with the quality on some of their software,...they are improving.
HP has not pressed their iPaq card that hard lately so I've a lot fewer friends that use their PDA now, usually the value quality though.
Samsung might be something to check out, but note that they have the fewest mobile bands. That is, the phone can not be used in all countries.

Good to know! The touchscreen calibration and audio socket problems I'm having with the Qtek 9100 are clearly hardware issues, which makes me less inclined to get an i-mate. And the point about mobile bands is important. So, maybe an Ipaq then?