iPhone 3GS vs Palm Pre vs Nokia N97 vs Samsung i8910 HD vs HTC Hero vs Sony Ericsson Satio

Join us as we grease up this year's hottest touchscreen phones, put them in a cage, close the door and let them wrestle it out for the title

Flora Graham
5 min read

Apple may have improved on the already fantastic iPhone 3G with the iPhone 3GS, but the 3GS isn't exactly a massive change. Meanwhile, other manufacturers are hot on the iPhone's heels with some hungry new phones that hope to seize the touchscreen crown. Chief among the contenders for the touchscreen title are the Palm Pre, Nokia N97, HTC Hero, Samsung i8910 HD and Sony Ericsson Satio.

We thought it was high time that we greased up this year's hottest touchscreen phones, put them in the ring, closed the cage and let them wrestle it out.

Click 'continue' to size up the Pre.

The Palm Pre got the fanboys queuing overnight when it was released in the US a few weeks ago, but we've yet to see it in UK shops. Nevertheless, we judged the US version of the Pre a worthy rival to the iPhone 3G.

Card shark
The Pre packs a surprise: a full Qwerty keyboard, albeit a tiny one, slides out of the bottom. You can also run numerous apps at the same time, and there's an elegant 'deck of cards' interface to help you switch between them. Happily, the phone remains responsive with up to 12 apps running at once.

Room to grow
There aren't many apps available for the Pre yet, and, since this is the first phone to use the webOS operating system, you're going to be living with all the bugs that haven't been squashed yet. Also, the UK price is still to be determined, but it's bound to be epic.

Why not make a cup of your favourite hot beverage and read our Palm Pre (US version) review? Over the page, the N97 is greasy and waiting.

After a few years of working our powerful Nokia N95 to the point of collapse, we couldn't wait for the N97. But we were left with the bitter taste of disappointment once we got our hands on the beast.

Nokia has struggled to transfer its powerful Symbian operating system to the touchscreen, making the N97 an outdated, dull device that leaves us feeling flat.

The power and the glory
The N97 is another touchscreen phone with a full Qwerty keyboard, but this time it's huge. Okay, it's still tiny, but it's bigger than the Pre's and we like its well-spaced keys. You can also run multiple apps at once, and there are heaps of features, like copy and paste, that Nokia has been fine-tuning for years.

Tap with all your might
A resistive touchscreen, which you have to press hard (you can also use a stylus), feels old-fashioned and isn't bright and touchable. There are zillions of great apps out there for the N97's Symbian OS, but they're hard to find and even harder to install. Nokia's Ovi Store was meant to fix that, but most of the best apps aren't even on there, and installing them is still awkward.

Our full Nokia N97 review is but a click away, while the Samsung i8910 HD is flexing its muscles over the page.

The Samsung i8910 HD really shows Nokia how it's done, putting the same Symbian OS that's on the N97 onto a gorgeous phone with a stunning AMOLED screen and vastly more touchable design.

Blinding us with science
It's all about the screen on this device. It's perfect for watching widescreen movies, and the camera shoots the best video we've ever seen on a mobile phone. The display doesn't quite live up to its hi-def claims, though -- it's only got a 640x360-pixel resolution, or half the number of lines normally considered necessary for HD.

Must apply itself more
Samsung doesn't have an app store -- even one as poor as the Ovi Store -- so you'll have to find and install apps the old-fashioned way. Although it's much slicker-looking than the N97, the i8910 is sluggish when you run more than a couple of apps simultaneously.

Feast your mind on our Samsung i8910 HD review, and then click 'continue' to see the future with the HTC Hero.

The HTC Hero is the third phone to sport Google's Android operating system. They just keep getting better -- we respected the T-Mobile G1, liked the HTC Magic, and we're ready to fall in love with the HTC Hero.

Hey, good-lookin'
HTC has wrapped Android in a new user interface, called Sense, which has some great features that we haven't seen in previous Android devices. For example, your photo album will access your Facebook and Flickr galleries, as well as the images on your phone -- and it'll do the same for your contacts. There's also Flash support, which means surfing the Web is even closer to the big-screen experience.

Button-mashing frenzy
We find that the more physical buttons a touchscreen phone has the worse the touch experience -- why else would you need all those buttons? The Hero has six, plus a trackball, which could lead to way too many confusing options and menus. And we're still not sure about the 15° curve of the handset, although it's much better-looking in person than in pictures.

Hit 'continue' to limber up with the Sony Ericsson Satio.

The Sony Ericsson Satio is promising to be an entertainment phone the like of which has never been seen before. It's got an enormous 12.1-megapixel camera and a Sony PSP-inspired user interface, making for a sleek design that could herald something special.

We're ready for our close-up
Not only does the Satio cram in loads of megapixels, it also has a xenon flash, so it may be able to go where other camera phones can't: slightly darkened rooms. Sony Ericsson promises that it's combining the excellent pedigrees of the CyberShot and Walkman brands in the Satio. That sounds like it could lead to a fabulous hybrid not seen since the unicorn-pegasus, or unipeg for short.

Can't touch this
Sony Ericsson hasn't rocked the world with its touchscreen phones to date, and the on-screen keyboard that we saw at the Satio's unveiling was as tiny as a hummingbird's handbag. Sony Ericsson has done a great job with usability on its non-touchscreen phones, so we just hope that it's able to do the same with the Satio.

Click through to the next page to find out if the iPhone 3GS can take the title.

The iPhone 3GS doesn't break much new ground compared to its predecessor, the iPhone 3G. Apple has added video-recording capability, an improved 3-megapixel camera, voice control and a compass, but it hasn't give the phone a new look that we can wave in our friends' faces.

The 3GS is still the smoothest and most enjoyable touchscreen phone out there, but, now that the design is almost a year old, it just doesn't offer the same thrill.

Why mess with a good thing?
The 3GS is the latest and greatest version of the touchscreen phone that set the standard for usability and fun. The Apple App Store is full of zillions of great apps that add even more features to the phone, and they're easy to download and install.

Two years' hard time
It's not cheap to get on the 3GS bandwagon -- it'll cost you £44 a month with O2  to get the 16GB model for free on a 24-month contract. Even the older 3G model will cost you £34 per month if you want a free handset. Also, to keep the iPhone running so smoothly, Apple controls which apps make it onto the App Store, and how they run, with an iron fist. That means almost no multitasking.

For the full lowdown, can read our Apple iPhone 3GS review.