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Christmas Gift Guide
Phones

Mobile phones to upgrade your life

Meet the upgraders

We found four unhappy mobile phone owners who yearned for phones that would do more than make calls. Like many people on the verge of dumping their old phone for a new one, they were about to buy any old thing pushed in their face by a spotty teenaged phone salesman.

Nuz, Chris, Sally and Nick all have different mobile needs, but they all want phones that will complement their lifestyles and look good. With so many phones on the market, it isn't surprising they don't know which ones are best for them.

Fortunately, we're on hand to help them achieve mobile nirvana. We'll help turn them from depressed diallers to pimped-up mobile masters with some insider knowledge and quick tips. If you're in a similar position and need some advice then keep reading.

Anyone thinking about upgrading their phone should recycle the old one with a company such as ActionAid or Envirofone, so that it doesn't end up in a dump or unused in a drawer. Aside from improving the environment it means people who might like your phone more than you do can get it at a discount.

We're also offering one lucky reader the chance to upgrade their mobile phone to a brand new wine-coloured Samsung D900 for free, thanks to The Carphone Warehouse. So if your phone is giving you the blues and you want a new one, make sure you enter our competition.

Nuz -- Style seeker

Nuz has always wanted a good-looking phone, but she hasn't had the time to sort one out and in the meantime her old phone has started to attract some unwanted attention. Every time she uses it to make or take a call, her friends laugh at it -- she's decided it's definitely time to get an upgrade. Nuz wants the best-looking phone out there, one that will silence her mates for good.

Fortunately, there are more and more phones aimed at the fashion-conscious. Ten years ago the selection was pretty bleak: every phone was square and black and they were far from being sexy. Now you can get phones in a plethora of colours and styles and customising your phone is possible with a huge range of accessories.

The only problem, however, is that some fashion phones are more style than substance. Nuz has to be careful that she doesn't get a phone that's awkward to use. She's also keen that she can't press the keys by mistake when the phone is in her handbag, so a candybar phone might not be the best idea.

One of the most attractive phones to come out this year is the LG Chocolate slider phone. This phone oozes style like a pair of Manolo Blahniks and comes in vibrant electric pink (pictured) or cool snow white, as well as the original black. The Chocolate has a 1.3-megapixel camera, colour screen and a glowing red heat- and touch-sensitive navigation pad. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract or for around £150 on pay as you go.

Next up on the catwalk is the Motorola Krzr. This is Motorola's latest clamshell phone and it has a glass mirrored front that looks great. The Krzr features a 2-megapixel camera, expandable microSD slot and can be used almost anywhere in the world. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract or for about £255 on pay as you go.

Alternatively, there's the similarly shiny Sony Ericsson Z610i, which also features a 2-megapixel camera and comes with an expandable Memory Stick Micro slot. The two main differences between this shiny clamshell and Motorola's are the OLED screen on the front, which displays numbers and text as if they were floating on the surface, and the 3G connectivity, which enables fast Internet browsing.

The Z610i is currently available for free on a monthly contract or for £190 on pay as you go.

If Nuz wants something a little out of the ordinary she can always opt for the Nokia 7390, which is part of the L'amour collection. This clamshell phone comes in black or pink and has a variety of tribal-esque markings on it that make it rather unusual. More importantly, it's not all looks and no brains, featuring a bright colour screen, a 3-megapixel camera, 3G connectivity, built-in stereo speakers, FM radio and a VGA camera for video calls.

The Nokia 7390 will be available some time soon and retail for around £300 SIM-free and probably for free on a monthly contract.

Chris -- Fumbling photographer

Chris is one of our reviewers and also an avid photographer, as you might have noticed from his various articles on photography. For most of his photographic endeavours he likes to use a Nikon D80, which features a 10-megapixel sensor and an 18-135mm, f/3.5-5.6 kit lens.

There are times, however, when he doesn't need or indeed want a large dSLR or even a compact camera. There are times when all Chris wants to do is take a quick shot of something to share with his friends or keep as a memento. The perfect solution for this dilemma is a good camera phone.

Unfortunately, it's not easy trying to find a camera phone that satisfies all of Chris' requirements since he's so used to using high-standard cameras. Two-megapixel camera phones just won't cut it, but there are a few options out there that might do a reasonably acceptable job and might even surprise a seasoned photographer like him.

The Sony Ericsson K800i candybar phone (pictured) features a 3.2-megapixel camera with auto focus, red-eye reduction, a xenon flash and an image-stabilisation function. Another interesting feature is the BestPic mode, which lets you take nine photographs in quick succession and then select the best one.

The K800i also has 3G connectivity with the option to make video calls. Other connectivity options include Bluetooth, infrared and GPRS, and you can even send photos straight to a Blogger blog. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract or for around £220 on pay as you go.

Another phone that could satisfy Chris' needs is the Nokia N93 clamshell phone. It's not a particularly small phone, but it does come with a 3.2-megapixel camera, a Carl Zeiss lens, auto focus and 3x optical zoom. Impressively, it shoots video at up to 30 frames per second and lets you send photos straight to Flickr.

Other features include GPRS and 3G connectivity, and while it doesn't have a xenon flash, it does come with a built-in Wi-Fi adaptor, which means you can browse the Web at Wi-Fi hotspots and send photos to your computer in mere seconds. The N93 is available for free on a monthly contract and SIM-free for £500 from the Nokia online shop.

Other possible options are the Samsung D900, LG KG920, Nokia N73 or Sharp 903.

Sally -- Music mover

Sally has owned a mobile phone and MP3 player for quite a while now. While she loves music more than anything else in the world, she's really getting tired of hauling an MP3 player and a phone around. Her mobile doesn't cut it as an MP3 player, though and she's thinking of upgrading.

Over the last couple of years there has been a sharp rise in the number of phones with built-in MP3 players, but making sure Sally gets one she likes isn't completely straightforward. For starters, Sally is used to listening to music on a standalone MP3 player that's easy to use, supports a variety of formats, sounds great and holds 20GB of music.

Most importantly, she has just bought some rather expensive headphones and doesn't want to give them up. So we need to find her a phone with audio quality, format support, interface, capacity and a headphone port that match up to what she's used to -- not an easy task.

It's not impossible, however, and there are a handful of phones that will hopefully add some space to her pockets and joy to her ears.

First up is the Sony Ericsson W850i Walkman slider phone (pictured). It's a formidable music phone that comes with a large colour screen, 3G connectivity, FM radio, stereo Bluetooth, expandable Memory Stick Duo Pro slot with a 1GB card included, a 3.5mm jack adaptor and a variety of fun and useful pre-installed applications.

The built-in music player supports AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, MP3, M4A, WAV and WMA formats, so it should handle all of Sally's music files. It also features a 2-megapixel camera so she can take the odd snapshot and it can support up to 4GB of external memory. It's available for free on a monthly contract or for around £270 SIM-free from eXpansys.

Sony Ericsson has also just launched the W950i Walkman candybar phone, which comes with 4GB of onboard flash memory. It has a large colour touchscreen, 3G connectivity and an FM radio and it supports AAC, AAC+, E-AAC+, MP3, M4A, WAV and WMA formats. It also has a 3.5mm jack adaptor, but it doesn't come with a camera.

While this might put some people off, it's perfect for Sally, who doesn't care about the camera but just wants a good music-playing phone. It's available for free on a monthly contract, depending on which tariff you go with, or for around £445 SIM-free from eXpansys.

Another potential music phone could be the Nokia N91. This is Nokia's high-capacity hard drive-based music phone. It holds 4GB of music. What makes this phone different from the W950i is that it has a built-in Wi-Fi adaptor and a 3.5mm jack. The Wi-Fi adaptor means that Sally would be able to transfer music quickly and wirelessly over a Wi-Fi network from a PC and browse the Internet too.

The 3.5mm jack means she doesn't need to mess around with any adaptors and she can simply plug her headphones straight in. The N91 is available for free on a monthly contract or for around £330 SIM-free from eXpansys.

Other options include the Sony Ericsson W810i, Samsung i300, Motorola V3im or Nokia 3250.

Nick -- Emailing workaholic

Nick is our resident sub-editor and therefore deals with a mountain of emails every day. Ideally, he'd like to be able to deal with some of his workload on the journey to and from work. He doesn't want to carry a laptop around, however, and would prefer a more compact solution.

He's seen some people around the office access their emails using a smart phone and while he'd love to be able to do that, his phone is too old. Nick really needs an easy way to get his emails on the go. He doesn't want anything too big, but it needs to have a large enough screen that he can view emails properly on it.

He'd also like it to feature a Qwerty keypad so that he can type out emails quickly and it needs to be able to sync with the office's exchange server. Hopefully, we can get Nick what he wants without too much hassle. Several smart phones have all the features he needs -- it's just a question of which one he likes using.

One of the best smart phones available at the moment is the HTC TyTN, which has been rebadged by networks as the Orange M3100, T-Mobile MDA Vario II (pictured) and the Vodafone 1605. This is a veritable beast in the smart phone arena. It comes with a series of connectivity options, in addition to a large colour touchscreen and a slide-out Qwerty keypad.

It runs on Windows Mobile 5.0 and can be synchronised with an exchange server. You can also make video calls on it so Nick could keep in face-to-face contact with his lucky co-workers, and there's a 2-megapixel camera on the back for taking photographs.

The TyTN's Wi-Fi, 3G and HSDPA (3.5G) connectivity means that Nick could browse the Web and download emails at broadband speeds almost anywhere he goes. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract on several networks, but not all of them will support HSDPA. You can also buy it for about £500 from several online retailers, including eXpansys.

Another option would be the Nokia E61 candybar phone, which also comes with a large colour screen, full Qwerty keypad, 3G and Wi-Fi connectivity. There's no camera, but it's great for sending and receiving emails and comes with a good Web browser. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract or for £300 from the Nokia online shop.

Or there's the RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100 candybar phone. This slimline device is one of RIM's smallest creations, and while it doesn't have a full Qwerty keypad, it will easily fit in your pocket. It's currently available for free on a monthly contract.

Other options include the Nokia E70, O2 XDA Mini S or BlackBerry 8700g.

New mobile, new life

It hasn't been an easy task trying to find the perfect upgrade for Nuz, Chris, Sally and Nick, but we've finally managed to do it. Nuz went for the pink LG Chocolate phone because, she said, "It looks brilliant and I love the glowing red buttons on the front. None of my mates laugh at me now and they're all going to get this phone."

Chris went for the Sony Ericsson K800i because, he said, "I'm really impressed with how good the camera on this thing is and the xenon flash means that I can take close-up pictures in low light."

Sally went for the Sony Ericsson W850i because, she said, "The music player is really good and with the 3.5mm adaptor I can use my own headphones. I also really like the flashing orange light on the front -- it's a bit of a gimmick, but it looks cool."

Nick went for the T-Mobile MDA Vario II because, he said, "The big screen and Qwerty keypad make browsing the Internet and accessing my emails easy. Now I can sort out my emails on the train and when I get to the office I can really focus on berating these workshy journalists about their sloppiness."

There are an estimated 90 million unwanted mobile phones and PDAs lying around in the UK, and recycling your phone helps protect your environment. Anyone thinking about upgrading their phone should recycle it with a company such as ActionAid or Envirofone, so that it doesn't end up in a dump or unused in a drawer.

If you're unhappy with your mobile phone and fancy an upgrade, then why not enter our competition? The Carphone Warehouse has provided us with a stylish and exclusive red Samsung D900. If you think it's time you upgraded your mobile life then click through and answer our simple multiple-choice question.