The best phones from CES we won't get

Yeehaw! The Yanks have scored some mightily magnificent mobiles at this year's CES -- here's our pick of the pack we're not getting. Curses!

Rarely do we feel phone envy for the US, where its freakish CDMA network and its citizens' love of belt holsters has led to the evolution of an alternate universe of hideous flip phones and BlackBerry wannabes. But last week's CES gadget-fest unleashed some crave-worthy phones that have made us feel a twinge of jealousy.

Most of them take advantage of a speedier network -- either WiMAX or LTE, or the half-way house of HSPA+. A global telecoms standards body has ruled that neither WiMAX nor LTE are sufficiently faster than 3G to be worthy of being called 4G, but that's what everyone's calling them anyway.

Here in the UK, we're going to have to wait for 4G until the networks and the government sort out the spectrum that's needed to support the service. In the meantime, we can only bask in our 3G coverage and look enviously, for once, over the pond.

HTC Evo Shift 4G

The Evo Shift 4G is a slider phone with a 3.6-inch touchscreen that runs arm-in-arm with a Qwerty keyboard through the golden fields of the Sprint WiMAX network, which claims to offer up to 3.1Mbps download speeds and covers a few major cities in the States.

It runs Android 2.2 Froyo , all dolled up with HTC's own Sense user interface, which adds extra widgets and social-networking mojo to bog-standard Android. It also sports a 5-megapixel camera that can record 720p video and Wi-Fi connectivity. An 800MHz processor keeps the Evo Shift 4G from being our fantasy phone, since the best of the best are now clocking in at 1GHz, or sporting dual-core processors.

If the Evo Shift 4G has you salivating but you're stuck on this side of the pond, check out the HTC Desire Z, which is a similar Qwerty slider running Google Android 2.2, with a slightly larger 3.7-inch screen.

HTC Inspire 4G and HTC Thunderbolt

The Inspire 4G and the Thunderbolt are beasts with a 4.3-inch screen, just like the one we loved to press our faces against on the HTC Desire HD. In fact, when it comes to looks, the Inspire 4G basically is the Desire HD, as far as we can see. The Thunderbolt mixes it up with a shiny chrome kick-stand on the back.

But these two phones differ from the Desire HD on the inside -- the Inspire 4G supports all the acronyms of AT&T's LTE network, and the Thunderbolt supports Verizon's LTE airwaves.

Like the Evo Shift 4G above, the Inspire 4G and the Thunderbolt are also Sense-skinned Android 2.2 Froyo phones, with 8-megapixel cameras and 1GHz processors. All so far, so Desire HD, so head on over to our full review if these are the phones that have geared up your gadget lust.

Samsung Infuse 4G

AMOLED, the screen type that was on the Google Nexus One? So last year. Super AMOLED, like on the Samsung Galaxy S? So last week. We're all about Super AMOLED Plus, which is supposed to have better contrast and visibility in bright light -- and the Infuse 4G sports a whopping 4.5-inch model.

The Infuse 4G is also bringing a 1.2GHz processor and an 8-megapixel camera to the smart phone beat-down on AT&T. But this is an HSPA+ phone, and doesn't support LTE, making the 4G moniker even more nonsensical.

We'll have to wait until Mobile World Congress in Barcelona next month to see what Samsung has in store for us in the screen department, but we're sure we'll be rubbing our cheeks up against a Super AMOLED Plus screen on a UK phone soon enough. Until then, the Dell Streak is the 5-inch freak you'll have to turn to if you want a smart phone with a huge screen.

Samsung 4G LTE

Samsung apparently ran out of names sometime just before CES, because this is just a string of letters and numbers. It's coming to the Verizon network, and it flaunts a familiar litany of features. Android 2.2 Froyo and a 1GHz processor provide the brains, and it brandishes a 4.3-inch Super AMOLED Plus screen and an 8-megapixel camera.

The 4G LTE -- can we call it the Forge Lite? -- also has a few shapely curves, which differentiates it from the square monoliths that have become the trend in big-screen blowers. If you like your phones with some roundness, check out the Google Nexus S, which is also made by Samsung.

LG Revolution

The Revolution is LG's first phone to support LTE, and it's coming to the US Verizon network. The Revolution has a 5-megapixel camera and a 4.3-inch screen. It can also work as a mobile hotspot for up to eight other devices, sharing its speedy LTE connection over a Wi-Fi link to the less-connected members of your entourage.

But if we can't have multi-core, we don't want to be part of your revolution. Instead, we'll look forward to the LG Optimus 2X, which will pack in a dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor and an 8-megapixel camera, with a slightly smaller 4-inch screen.

Motorola Droid Bionic

This mixed metaphor of a phone -- can a droid even be bionic? Not if we understand our biological/mechanical hybrids, it can't -- is another LTE power-house especially for the Verizon network. This rounded robot has Android 2.2 Froyo and a dual-core processor running at 1GHz, with an upgrade to Android 2.3 Gingerbread already being mooted by Motorola.

But never fear, because Moto is bringing its robot hordes to our shores in the form of the Motorola Atrix, another dual-core baby with a similar high-resolution qHD screen as the DroiBo. The Atrix is also arriving with an arsenal of accessories, including a Master/Blaster screen and keyboard dock that transforms the Atrix into a netbook . That will have to make up for the Atrix's 5-megapixel camera, which is bested by the 8-megapixel snapper on the Droid Bionic.

Motorola Cliq 2

Now this is more like it -- the Cliq 2 is the kind of frumpy Qwerty slider that comfortably feeds our lazy stereotypes of transatlantic superiority. The second take on the Cliq -- known as the Motorola Dext here in the UK -- is targeted straight at suits who will tuck it in their belt holsters and stride out to a client meeting with blue shirts snugly tucked into their khakis.

Nevertheless, we're intrigued by the Cliq 2's funky faceted keyboard and support for the American T-Mobile network's HSPA+ services. And to be fair, the Cliq 2 doesn't skimp on features for its likely affordable price, including Android 2.2 Froyo, a 5-megapixel camera and a 3.7-inch screen.

 

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