By Amanda C. Kooser
Hardworking smartphone or fashion accessory? You make the call. But bear in mind, they're not mutually exclusive. An in crowd of hip new phones has arrived, bringing unusual names, fun designs, cool colors and serious work ethics along for the ride.
When it comes to fashionable phones, it's hard to resist the siren call of Apple's iPhone. No 3G at debut, but Apple fans should find plenty to like about iPhoning, starting with a big touchscreen that can be reoriented. Aside from the usual voice mail, text messaging and three-way calling, big pictures and loud music spring from this razor-thin, half-inch package at the touch of a finger ($499 for the 4GB; $599 for the 8GB).
Thumb-typers can find multimedia friendliness, too, with the Helio Ocean ($415; $295 for new members). Earlier this year, it rode in on a wave of buzz about its unified messaging center and nifty double-slide design: Slide it out and you get a full qwerty keyboard; slide it up and you get a numeric keypad. With a 2-megapixel camera and 2.4-inch screen to help with the visuals, it's as likely to keep you entertained as it is to field a phone call from a client.
RIM's $449 BlackBerry Curve 8300 mixes professionalism with a sleek design. It has the full qwerty keyboard that BlackBerry addicts know and love, weighs just under 4 ounces and packs a 2-megapixel camera. The Curve doesn't support 3G, but business messaging and e-mail are still the strongest selling points for this device. Similarly, the $500 ($300 with a two-year contract) T-Mobile Wing takes advantage of the latest Windows Mobile 6 OS to deliver editable Microsoft Office documents, HTML e-mail support and Windows Live services. At 6 ounces, it's heftier than the Curve, but its slide-out qwerty keyboard adds some pizzazz.
What's thinner than a Motorola Razr? The Razr2 V9, a 3G-compatible, second-generation offering. Motorola managed to whittle 2 millimeters off the original Razr, throw in a 2-inch external screen and boost the quality of the internal 2.2-inch screen. Its built-in camera records video, so you can send live video even as you're talking. If slim and stylish is what you're looking for, put the Razr2 on the shortlist--although you'll have to live without a qwerty keyboard. The phone is expected to cost about $200.
Looking at the big picture (on your smartphone), you don't have to sacrifice business smarts for killer looks. Shop the discounts and rebates that accompany service contracts, and you'll be dialing (and e-mailing and web browsing) in style.
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