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'Consumer Reports' rates the best cell phones

The Samsung Sync is the top cell phone in its ratings, and Verizon Wireless emerges as the best carrier.

Consumer Reports has put out its regular list of the best cell phones and carriers. Though this time around, I'm more in agreement with the results, like last year there were a few phones on the list I didn't love quite as much. And I'm surprised again as to just how many older models are included. Given Consumer Reports' lead time, keep in mind that none of the phones introduced in the last couple months (such as the LG Voyager) are on the list, but by and large it's quite comprehensive.

The leader of the pack...vroom, vroom. CNET Networks

Out of the 40 phones that Consumer Reports included in its testing, T-Mobile's Motorola V195 took top honor with a score of 68 out of 100. On the whole it was a solid handset with dependable call quality, even though it is a year and a half old. We also liked that it was one of the first phones without a camera to offer Bluetooth. Second place went to AT&T's Samsung Sync SGH-A707 (another 2006 model) with a score of 67, while AT&T's Sony Ericsson W810i secured third place with a score of 65. I'm a bit mixed on these two. Though the Sync wasn't a bad phone by any means, it certainly wasn't one my favorites. On the other hand, I did approve of the W810i. Finally, on the other end of the list were Verizon's LG VX9400 and Sprint's Motorola ic502, which tied for the bottom spot with 51 points each. We actually liked the V Cast Mobile TV-enabled VX9400 but we concur that the ic502 was a stinker.

When broken out by carrier, Consumer Reports also produced some interesting results. The top three Verizon Wireless models were the G'zOne Type-S (63), the LG Chocolate VX8550 (62), and the Nokia 6315i (61). The Chocolate was a very nice model, and the Type-S is one of the most durable handsets around, but the 6315i (yet another 2006 phone) was just average, in our opinion.

The top Sprint phone was the LG Muziq LX570 (60), the Sanyo Katana DLX (58), and the Sanyo M1 (57). All three of those devices were ranked highly in our tests, though it's too bad the magazine never got around to testing the Motorola Razr2 V9m or the LG Rumor. If it had, it would be interesting to see if those handsets would have swayed the results.

For T-Mobile, the aforementioned V195 took the top spot and was followed by the Nokia 6103 (64) and the Samsung SGH-T629 (61). These models were also decent, but I have to disagree with placing them at the top. Instead, I'd move up the Motorola Rizr Z3 and the Nokia 5300, which received scores of just 60 and 54, respectively. Also, the Moto V195s is a more recent update to the V195.

On the AT&T side, the Motorola Razr2 V9 (64) took third place after the previously mentioned the Sync and W810i. I'd disagree here, too, and would have to boost the Razr2 V9 and the (now discontinued) LG CU500v. I also found it odd that the Apple iPhone didn't make the top AT&T list, until I discovered that Consumer Reports left it for its smartphone rankings.

The best smartphone, or so says Consumer Reports. Corrine Schulze/CNET Netwroks

To its credit, the iPhone topped the list of the best smartphones with a rating of 64. It was followed by the Palm Treo 755p (63) and the Samsung BlackJack (62). Though the BlackJack was fine, I'd ask why the AT&T Tilt or the Nokia N95 or the Samsung SCH-i760 didn't make the list. Verizon's Motorola Q was the lowest ranked smart phone with just 51 points. We pretty much agreed with that assessment and gave the Q a rating of 6.0.

The biggest surprises came from the magazine's carrier ratings. Verizon Wireless took the top ranking in 16 markets except in Minneapolis where T-Mobile was the winner and in Tampa, Phoenix, and Cleveland, where Alltel won. T-Mobile took second place in 14 of the markets, while poor Sprint ranked at the bottom in all but one. Only in Minneapolis did it take the No. 3 spot bumping AT&T down to last place. And speaking of AT&T, America's largest carrier consistently ranked in in the penultimate spot except in Minneapolis and Dallas, where it was the second-best carrier. Interestingly enough, Consumer Reports said AT&T is "home of the iPhone but trails the better carriers in almost all respects." Our own ratings from CNET readers agree.