Apple Inc.'s iPhone has shaken up the "smartphone" business and set other manufacturers scrambling to add features and make it easier to get e-mail, surf the Web and enjoy music and movies on a cell phone.
Prices also have come down to the point where some of these feature-packed models cost little more than "dumb" phones.
Sizes have come down too — gone are the days when carrying a smartphone was a workout.
Remember, though, that you need a data plan to get the most out of a smartphone, which usually adds about $20 to the monthly cost. (Prices below are with two-year carrier contracts unless noted.)
The top contenders of this holiday season (and a few to avoid):
Apple iPhone (AT&T Wireless)
This is the star of the field, despite a number of shortcomings.
Remarkably, Apple's very first phone succeeds at combining a phone with an iPod and a great Web browser. Its large, crisp screen, touch-screen user interface and multimedia abilities are unmatched.
But good luck using it with any headphones but the ones that come with (unless you shell out more for an adapter), or getting work e-mail. The on-screen keyboard takes getting used to.
The AT&T Inc. data network it uses is slow, and there's no real third-party software available yet.
All the same, a fantastic phone. ($399)
Palm Centro (Sprint Nextel)
The Centro does everything Palm's larger, more expensive Treo does, but in a cuter package.
It has a small but sharp touch screen and a teeny hardware alphabetic keyboard. You need fingernails to type on it.
It's not great as a music or video player, but it's good for e-mail, contacts and calendar management.
Palm's software is the closest thing to the iPhone's in terms of ease of use and versatility, and there are tons of third-party applications. Comes with a neat Sudoku game. ($99.99)
Motorola Moto Q Music 9m (Verizon Wireless)
This update to the Q has a good, wide keyboard but no touch screen. It runs Windows Mobile 6 and uses a fast data network, which helps if you want to get work e-mail.
But the overall experience is slow and clunky. The music-oriented interface that's been grafted on Windows is as cheerful and useful as a party hat on a bank clerk.
The lack of a touch screen limits the usefulness of the Web browser. AT&T has a similar model without the music interface. ($199.99)
Nokia N95 (unlocked, works with GSM carriers such as AT&T and T-Mobile)
This European luxury phone has a big 2.8-inch screen, a nice 5-megapixel camera, a real GPS receiver and a large number of buttons, yet lacks both a full keyboard and a touch screen. The latest model works on AT&T's fast data network.
Best for photo buffs and possibly hikers — doesn't excel at e-mail or multimedia. (About $550 in stores, no contract)
Touch by HTC (Sprint)
Like the iPhone, this is a touch-screen phone, with no hardware keypad or keyboard.
Unlike the iPhone, the Touch is a hassle to use. It runs Windows Mobile software designed for use with a stylus, and the features that have been bolted on in an attempt to make it useable without a stylus are a disaster.
Thankfully, it does include a stylus, so it's not a complete waste, but this is still a phone to avoid. ($249.99)
The big screen slides away to reveal a 20-key keyboard, with most letters sharing a key with another. It's got a relatively friendly interface, but sometimes sluggish performance from Windows Mobile software.
It does an OK job of e-mail and personal information management, but the lack of a touch screen limits the usefulness of the Web browser.
Using the limited keyboard can be a chore. The software guesses what you're trying to type, which works for common words but is no help for Web or e-mail addresses.
No headphone jack — the included headphones use the charger port. ($149.99)
LG Voyager (Verizon)
The layout of the icons on the touch screen makes this look like a chubbier copy of the iPhone, but — lo and behold! — the phone folds apart to reveal a full keyboard and a second screen.
Just the thing for those who can't imagine typing on the iPhone's touch screen? Not quite. It's good for text messaging, but the e-mail application is weak and hidden in the menus.
And having one really good screen that does everything, as on the iPhone, is better than two smaller screens that don't.
The flip-open design and extendable antenna make the Voyager a great way to watch Verizon's Mobile TV. Available Nov. 21. ($299.99)
BlackBerry Pearl (Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile)
BlackBerry e-mail pagers used to be very businesslike affairs. The slim Pearl aims for the consumer, with a built-in camera and media player. Remarkably for such a small phone, it has a full-size headphone jack.
The interface is still heavily e-mail-oriented, and like any BlackBerry, comes into its own if your company uses a BlackBerry server.
As with the Shadow, typing e-mail and Web addresses on 20 keys can be frustrating. ($149.99-$199.99)