Alternatives to the iPhone

Looking for a new cell phone? One that can e-mail, play music, surf the Web and, well, is just really cool?

I bet you're thinking: Sure, I want the iPhone. Starting next week you can get it.

But there are also plenty of other hip phones on the market that do most of what the iPhone does and even a few that have some added features.

I got a few of these phones and decided to play around with them for a few days. Apple did not provide ABC News with an iPhone, so there is no way to really compare apples to the Apple, so to speak.

A warning: I love technology, but am in no way an expert. This list is in no way a comprehensive one, or even a full review of any of these phones. It's just a look at some of the alternatives out there and the initial thoughts of a pretty tech savvy journalist playing around with them.

These phones aren't for everybody.

Chris Hazelton, an analyst with IDC Research, said the typical buyer is going to be somebody willing to pay for expensive data plans, willing to sacrifice battery life and people who are "bleeding edge" adopters -- those who are willing to pay for the latest, but untested, technology.

The iPhone Customer

The iPhone, which plays off the enormous success of Apple's iPod, has dominated cell phone talk and media coverage for months. It promises to merge music, video, the Web, e-mail, a camera and more into a spiffy looking phone with a touchpad.

But the phone won't come cheap. It will cost $499 for four gigabytes of memory or $599 for a model with twice the memory. The phone will only work on the network of AT&T, until recently Cingular Wireless, and requires a two-year service contract.

Hazelton said that the "user experience will need to be very good to meet people's expectations which have been highly inflated due to the nature of this launch."

For most users, they "will be too much to deal with."

These phones are essentially mini-computers susceptible to the same issues that face computers today, including viruses and crashing.

IDC Research found that only 10 percent of those it surveyed would buy the iPhone at the $499 price.

More than two out of three people said they were interested, but most said they were unlikely to purchase it based on the price and having to switch to an AT&T contract.

Avi Greengart, principal mobile device analyst for Current Analysis, noted that the key to the iPhone "is not what it does -- its technical or design specifications -- but how it does it." Specifically, "its unique, highly responsive finger-driven user interface."

High-End Phones

If you are looking for a smart phone, one that makes e-mail and Web browsing easy, there are plenty of alternatives. The Motorola Q has been extremely popular as has Research in Motion's BlackBerry which essentially changed the mobile marketplace — and some say our way of life. BlackBerry's new Curve, at $199, is a bargain compared to the iPhone. Other phones in the works are Palm's Treo 680 and Helio's Ocean.

With so many phones out there, I decided to skip the smart phones and look at a few others that are packed with multimedia content.

The phone that had the most features and was easiest for me to use was the Nokia N95.

But with a whopping $749 price tag, it is likely to have a very limited market.

"It's not a phone. It's a little handheld multimedia computer," said Bill Plummer, vice president of sales and channel management for Nokia Multimedia, North America.

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