Which smartphone OS works best?

Considering a smart phone? Will it do what you want it to? We tested four major platforms to see which is best for specific tasks.

As befitting the only "slider" in this group, the HTC Touch Dual's 20-key keypad is a hybrid of a QWERTY keypad and a typical cell phone keypad. Letters are assigned to each key but, unlike most basic cell phones, they are assigned in QWERTY order so that, for instance, the top, left key is QW. If you want to type W, you must press the QW key twice, which becomes time consuming even using the device's predictive text capabilities that suggest words as you type.

Photography

You're at the Grand Canyon and you want to e-mail a picture to grandma. Or you're an architect and you need to send an image of an in-progress building to your client. Either way, the combination of e-mail and a built-in camera has become increasingly important. For this test, we looked for simplicity and convenience -- how easy it is to get the picture from here to there? And besides sending images via e-mail, what else can you do with the pictures you take?

Taking photos and sending images

While the four phones we covered varied in the quality of their cameras (the BlackBerry Curve 8310, the HTC Touch Dual and the iPhone include a 2-megapixel camera, while the Nokia E71 offers a 3.2-megapixel camera), we were mainly interested in the capabilities and interface of the operating system and applications.

When you want to launch the camera, both the Nokia E71 and the HTC Touch Dual have physical buttons you press, making it easier to get quick access. The iPhone is nearly as fast: You simply touch the camera icon on the home screen. The BlackBerry Curve requires a tad more work; you scroll through the icons until you get to the one for the camera.

E-mailing images

After you take a picture, on-screen icons appear on all four devices; one of those icons is for sending the image via e-mail.

All four phones allow you to assign an image to a contact or e-mail it. Besides e-mail, the Nokia E71 has icons for posting your image online with photo services such as Nokia's Ovi or Flickr, and send it using MMS.

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