Cellphones act more like computers every year. Current "smart phones" now competently browse the Web, provide driving directions, and take HD video.
In our cellphone world of two-year contracts and inconsistent nationwide call quality, it often makes the most sense to stick with a carrier that you're happy with and then decide on a new phone – not the other way around.
So if you're ready for a phone that does a lot more than make calls, here's one model from each major carrier that deserves a spot on your shortlist.
Sprint: The EVO 4G checks off just about every smart-phone feature imaginable. Its two video cameras, one on each side, tuck neatly around a massive 4.3-inch touch screen. (Callers with small hands need not apply.) The EVO is also the only US cellphone to boast superspeedy 4G mobile Internet access, a luxury only available in some cities.
AT&T: Many rivals now match the iPhone feature for feature, at least on paper. But Apple's true achievement lies in how every aspect of its phone harmonizes. The interface is simple. Adding new functions comes easily. The on-screen keyboard takes some getting used to, but the rest simply clicks.
Verizon: Like Sprint's EVO 4G, the Droid Incredible runs on Google's phone operating system, Android. If the iPhone is an automatic transmission car, Android is all manual – more control, yet it takes a little experience. Pair Android with the Incredible's zippy hardware, and you have the sports car of cellphones. Unfortunately, it's also a gas guzzler. Heavy users should consider packing the recharging cable before they leave home each morning.
T-Mobile: BlackBerry phones work well on every network, but the Bold 9700 shines as one of T-Mobile's best and as an excellent first smart phone. This compact, sleek model finds room for a 35-button keyboard. Web browsing feels wonky – a downside to all BlackBerry devices – but its corporate e-mail and calendar features are second to none.