Which mobile phone should I buy? A primer

The three most popular U.S. smartphones/operating systems:

1. Apple’s iPhone (AT&T, Sprint and Verizon) — Star-Telegram and DFW.com apps? Yes
2. Google’s Android OS (multiple phones on all carriers) — Star-Telegram and DFW.com apps? Yes
3. Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 (several phones and carriers) — S-T and DFW.com apps? No

Research in Motion’s Blackberry line and Hewlett-Packard’s Web OS phones are also available but aren’t as useful for journalists. (UPDATE: On Aug. 18, HP announced that it will no longer make Web OS phones and tablets. Proceed with caution if you’re thinking of buying one of its handsets.)

If you’re shopping for a carrier:

Verizon has the best network for making phone calls (you can almost always get through).

AT&T has a faster 3G data network (for surfing the web or checking email).

Sprint and T-Mobile usually have cheaper phones and cheaper plans but their coverage can be spotty.

McClatchy employees get a decent discount from Verizon, Sprint and AT&T. Just mention that you work for McClatchy and that you’re a journalist.

4G vs. 3G: Most of the major carriers are rolling out their version of 4G data speeds. Verizon has the fastest 4G network, by far (LTE), and it covers most of Dallas and Fort Worth. This is especially important if you plan to transmit photos or videos. (If you buy a 4G-capable phone, it will revert to 3G when there is no 4G coverage.) However, 4G data plans will likely be more expensive.

Some recommended phones for each carrier, courtesy of CNET and PC World:

Verizon: CNET review | PC World review

AT&T: CNET reviews

Sprint: CNET reviews

T-Mobile: CNET reviews

Handset pros and cons in a nutshell (Courtesy of Star-Telegram staff members):

(NOTE: Please help your colleagues by leaving recommendations and thoughts under “Leave a Comment” below. )

iPhone
Pros: Great battery life, great camera, lots of apps, simple to use.
Cons: Smaller screen, 3G only, only one choice of handset and keyboard.

Android
Pros: Lots of choices — big screen, virtual or physical keyboards, different carriers, 4G or 3G, typically less expensive than iPhone.
Cons: Battery life not as good with some phones; some phones can be more complicated than the iPhone; some phones can be more susceptible to problems with apps and operating system updates.

Windows Phone 7
Pros: Kind of a middle ground between iPhone and Android. More choices than iPhone, fewer app problems than Android.
Cons: Not as many apps; newer operating system, so might still have bugs we don’t know about.

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