Very smart phones: Mobile devices continue to get better — as these three recent smart-phone products attest

Mobile devices continue to get better — as these three recent smart-phone products attest

You would not think it possible that mobile devices could get much better. Most are already miniature marvels of electronic engineering, packed with more features than most people will ever use. Yet they do continually get smaller, lighter, faster, more ingenious–as these three recent smart-phone products attest. Two are from Nokia, a constant innovator, the other is the latest Research In Motion BlackBerry, the 8700r, a lightweight speed demon.

Nokia N90

If you thought cameras in phones were for the birds, check out the Nokia N90. Most camera phones take tiny blurred pictures. But the N90 features a two-megapixel camera, compared to one megapixel or less in most phones. The lens, from legendary optics maker Carl Zeiss, is auto-focus rather than fixed-focus. The N90 also has a tiny flash, which doubles as floodlight when you shoot video. Result: pictures are clear and sharp, good enough to print or use on web pages. As a bonus, the N90 takes amazing 352-by-288-pixel videos.

The physical design is brilliant, too. The N90 is a clamshell phone with the camera as the spine. It swivels so you can shoot with the phone folded or open. When open, you can use the big 2.1-inch LCD (352-by-416 pixels; 262,144 colours) to compose pictures. Or you can use the smaller LCD on the outside when the phone is closed. Did we mention the N90 is a tri-band GSM/GPRS phone that works almost everywhere? It also has Bluetooth, can do video calling, e-mail, personal information management and more.

Little wonder with all this that it's not the smallest, lightest cellphone on the market, but no matter. The real downside? It's not available in Canada yet.

BlackBerry 8700r

The BlackBerry 8700r, a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE phone, is available in Canada from Rogers Wireless. If the N90 is a revolution, the 8700r is evolution. It looks at a glance like a traditional BlackBerry, squarer than most cellphones and recent BlackBerry phones, but a little slimmer than older models. It's also a few grams lighter. The screen is brighter and sharper, with 65,000 colours, and the landscape orientation is better for web browsing and picture viewing.

The 8700r is the first BlackBerry to work on high-speed EDGE cellular networks. It also sports a faster (312 megahertz) Intel processor. All of which translates to noticeably faster web browsing and access to e-mail attachments, and the ability to run more demanding applications, including computer-intensive corporate applications. The 8700r otherwise mostly brings small improvements, such as dedicated phone send/end keys, absent from many BlackBerrys; an automatic adjustment of screen and keyboard to suit ambient light; and colour display of PowerPoint presentations.

Meanwhile, the 8700r continues to do well where BlackBerrys have always done well: calendar, contacts, tasks, text messaging, forwarding pictures and, especially, e-mail.

Nokia 9300

The Nokia 9300 looks at first glance like a slightly oversized cellphone: it is long and narrow (132-by-51-by-21 mm), with a small square LCD at the top and number pad below. Then you notice the hinges on the side. The 9300 splits open lengthwise to reveal a wide (100-by-32 mm) LCD screen with soft keys, a full QWERTY keyboard and a joystick cursor control. This is a tiny computer you can slip in your pocket. It's also a tri-band GSM phone that works on five continents, including on high-speed EDGE networks.

The 9300 comes with all the usual smart-phone applications–calendar, contacts, tasks, web browsing, SMS (short message service), multimedia messaging, e-mail. But it also has word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications. They're not fully Microsoft Office compatible, but will do in a pinch, and with the widescreen QWERTY keyboard and joystick, they're not impossible to use. The 9300 also has a built-in Bluetooth receiver you can use to attach a wireless headset or synchronize with your computer.

The good/bad news on the 9300: it isn't available in Canada yet but should be quite soon.