Top phones of 2008. Year in review.

It was a great year for smartphones, with a range of platforms from Windows Mobile to Google’s Android represented, while some old favorites got better with age.

Apple iPhone 3G

What higher compliment can we pay than to say that the Apple iPhone 3G is the phone we use as our primary device. We use it for music, for watching movies, for playing games, for scheduling appointments and even for making calls. It’s fun to use, and it’s a definite improvement over the original, though there’s still plenty of room to grow. We can’t wait to see the platform evolve in the coming year, which could bring iPhones larger and smaller to the growing, yet ever-frugal market.

RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000

RIM’s BlackBerry devices have always been leaders in messaging, with the fastest, most reliable Push e-mail service around and plenty of third party apps to fill in the gaps. But we’ve long hoped for the BlackBerry to get the sort of visual upgrade that would pull it out from its pager-style roots. The RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 gives us the visual update we needed, while maintaining a familiar form. It has the great battery and calling performance and large keyboard that BlackBerry fans require, as well as the boldest, most crisp screen on the market. RIM has a lot of winner’s in the BlackBerry roster, but the BlackBerry Bold is the obvious heir to the throne.

Nokia E71

Who knew that at the end of 2008 we’d be talking about a business phone from Nokia, and not a multimedia device? While the Nseries stagnated with features bumps and unremarkable style changes, Nokia’s business savvy Eseries devices took flight, with the capable Nokia E66 slider and the even more sleek Nokia E71. We were taken in right away by the sharp lines and thin body with its chrome accents. While other business slab-phones seem to be getting thicker, the Nokia E71 upped the ante with plenty of great features, including fast networking on AT&T’s 3G network, Nokia Maps with built-in GPS and Wi-Fi. Plus, for software the phone gets Nokia’s Mail for Exchange, which synchronized our e-mail, contacts and calendar perfectly with our Exchange account. For business users with an expense account to afford the unsubsidized price, this is one of the best business smartphones on the market.

T-Mobile G1

The T-Mobile G1 is a smartphone for MENSA geeks, or at least it will be, once the Android Market truly takes off and we start to see some innovative software. But that’s the best thing about this phone. The Google Android OS offers the most potential access to developers of any phone operating system. We loved the interface design, and the hardware, while not particularly inspiring, certainly got the job done, ushering in not only the new Android OS, but also blasting the doors wide open for T-Mobile’s new 3G network. It’s the first in what will surely be a long series of Android devices, but even as a product Version 1.0, it’s still a compelling device.

HTC Touch Pro

We couldn’t close the year without paying respect to another HTC device, the HTC Touch Pro. While other manufacturers have tried to improve upon the Windows Mobile foundation, especially Samsung with the Omnia and Sony Ericsson with the Xperia X1, none have produced an interface as deep and as clever as HTC’s ever-improving TouchFLO 3D interface. This design showed up on phones from Sprint, Verizon Wireless and AT&T this year, with keyboards and without, but in all cases HTC really took the Windows Mobile platform to the next level with a great looking interface on a high-quality VGA screen. On every one of these phones, the OS is still a bit unresponsive, and could use some optimization, but the original HTC Touch got better with updates over the years, so we hope that the new TouchFLO 3D devices will get better with age. For now, the undisputed king of Windows Mobile devices still owns the high-end.

Best Business smartphones
Name Score Price Carrier C
HTC Touch Pro (Sprint) 77% $400 Sprint
HTC Fuze 77% $350 AT&T
Sony Ericsson XPERIA X1 76% $800 Unlocked
HTC Touch Diamond (Sprint) 76% $350 Sprint
AT&T Tilt 74% $300 AT&T
RIM BlackBerry Curve 8330 (Sprint) 74% $200 Sprint
RIM BlackBerry Bold 9000 (AT&T) 74% $300 AT&T
HTC Mogul 73% $400 Sprint
Nokia E71 73% $500 Unlocked
Nokia E66 72% $500 Unlocked
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