RIM BlackBerry Bold
While the RIM BlackBerry Bold took its own sweet time getting here, the smartphone was worth the wait. Its half-VGA display is one of the sharpest screens we've seen on a smartphone, which, combined with the stereo speakers, really boosts the multimedia experience. Plus, the Bold has the power and stamina to keep up with demanding business users, delivering on messaging features that gave BlackBerry its place in history and expanding on its productivity and wireless offerings.
If we were to compile the Best of 2008 list by design alone, the T-Mobile G1 wouldn't be here, but this isn't a contest about looks. The G1 makes the list for the Google Android platform. Thanks to the openness of the operating system, there's huge potential for the G1 (and any Android devices after it) to become powerful minicomputers as developers create more applications for Google Android.
Apple iPhone 3G
OK, admittedly we didn't get everything we wanted when Apple released its iPhone 3G, but the company did add some critical features, including 3G support and expanded e-mail support. You also can't deny that the Web browsing experience and music and video integration on the iPhone is top notch. There will be lovers and haters, but the fact is that the iPhone has set a new benchmark in the cell phone world.
Sony Ericsson Xperia X1
With its interactive panel interface and being Sony Ericsson's first Windows Mobile device, the Sony Ericsson Xperia X1 was quite the show-stopper when it made its debut at GSMA 2008 in February. By the time it was released, we were afraid the smartphone wouldn't live up to the hype, but fortunately, it did. The X1 panel interface is undoubtedly cool, and we like having that extra level of personalization. Plus, the smartphone is also a well-crafted handset with a strong set of features and good performance. The only thing we don't really like about it is the exorbitant price tag.
Samsung Omnia (Verizon Wireless)
If you couldn't tell already, touch-screen smartphones are all the rage, and the Samsung Omnia is one of many. However, to differentiate itself, Samsung created its own user interface called TouchWiz that lets you customize your Home screen with different "widgets" and gives you access to frequently used applications. In addition, the sleek Omnia has an impressive feature list that includes a 5-megapixel camera, integrated Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. And it certainly offers better performance than Verizon's other all-touch-screen smartphone, the RIM BlackBerry Storm.
Nokia's smartphones don't get much love from U.S. carriers but even so, they've still earned a reputation for being powerful and well-performing devices. The Nokia E71 is no different. Even better, Nokia revamped the design to make the E71 one incredibly sleek QWERTY device, unlike its bulky predecessor, the Nokia E61i, the E71 is an incredibly sleek QWERTY device. You do lose a bit in screen and keyboard size, but we feel it's manageable. Plus, with its strong messaging, productivity, and connectivity features and solid performance, it's worth those little sacrifices. Like the Xperia X1, the downside is that without the backing of a carrier, the smartphone is a bit expensive at $500.
HTC Touch Diamond (Sprint)
The HTC Touch Diamond was notable for a couple of reasons. First, it introduced the TouchFlo 3D interface, giving it a flashy look and making the Windows Mobile interface more digestible for consumers. The Touch Diamond was also the first collaboration between HTC and San Francisco-based design firm, One & Co., which HTC has now acquired to work on its future devices. What resulted was a very sexy yet functional product. However, the Windows Mobile smartphone offers more than good looks, offering a wide range of wireless options, multimedia features, and productivity tools. Sprint customers looking for a smartphone to balance work and play will be well-served by the Touch Diamond.