The gamut of smartphones today runs from mobile
phones with a few advanced, built-in features to
full-blown palmtop computers with a real OS
and third-party applications. The choice of phone
depends on your needs and workflow; in that light,
some phones are much more capable than others.
Here are my top choices for the two main types of
users in our field—creative management and creative
CREATIVE MANAGEMENT: POWER
This group—senior creative directors, managers
and sales people—needs to have up-to-the-minute
communications with the home office, clients and
teams. Often off-site or on the road, they also need
access to standard-format documents like PDF, Word
and Excel files; synchronization with Microsoft
Exchange servers; web-based access to extranets
and specialized applications such as timesheet
The ubiquitous BlackBerry evolves with this sleeker,
more ergonomic version that uses a miniature
trackball to speed navigation, and maintains the
full-sized QWERTY keyboard for fast text entry.
Its strengths are e-mail, text and instant messaging.
Its push e-mail service remains unrivaled, and
it offers back-end connectors for corporate e-mail
servers. It can open most common file formats. GPS
and Maps make finding clients’ offices a snap, and
on the 8320, Wi-Fi provides connectivity when out
of carrier range. Third-party applications are supported,
including excellent time-sheet programs.
The RIM BlackBerry’s 2MP camera can capture
photos and video, and it has a selection of media
playback tools—music, audio and video—as well as
stereo Bluetooth headphone support. However, a big
drawback is that the browser doesn’t render pages as
designed, which can hamper usability.
Pros: Great e-mail and messaging is its core
competency. Ubiquitous, widely supported, it has a
crisp 320 x 240 color screen. With the latest software,
it can accept microSD cards of up to 8GB. Being slim
and pocket-sized makes it easy to transport.
Cons: You can’t edit Word or Excel files without
third-party software, and it has a so-so web browser,
no Flash support, slower EDGE data connection
compared to 3G and a hard-to-access microSD slot.
If you want Wi-Fi with the Curve, you may need an
unlocked phone or to switch carriers.
Recommendation: If you’re addicted to instant
messaging and e-mail, there’s a reason they call this
HTC TyTN II
This do-it-all Windows Mobile 6 phone boasts
features comparable to the Curve, with the added
bonus of bundled Windows Mobile Office software
that allows you to edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint
documents on the go. With a side-slide-out design,
the screen can tilt up to 40 degrees for better viewing—
hence the name. As a quad-band GSM “world
phone,” it’s great for taking to Canada and Europe.
There’s also UMTS/HDSPA as a backup, plus fast
Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. GPS is standard, which
works with Windows Live mapping. It’s also got
voice recognition for hands-free use while driving
(car kits are available), Windows Media Player
support, a crisp 320 x 240 screen and a decent
3MP camera. Memory is expandable to 4GB with
microSD cards, via an easy-access external slot.
Pros: The HTC TyTN II comes with Windows
Mobile Office and can get push e-mail from corporate
BlackBerry Connect and AT&T Xpress Mail
solutions. It has a decent browser with Flash support
and good HTML e-mail rendering. Supports AOL,
Windows Live and Yahoo IM networks and push-totalk
voice via the AT&T network. Supports GSM,
EDGE and 3G networks.
Cons: Its hefty size makes it a bit bulky in your
pocket. All the advanced features make it somewhat
power-hungry, so the battery life/talk time can be
short compared to similar smartphones. Some features
are only available with carrier support.
Recommendation: For those who live in
Microsoft Office and need to connect to a Windowscentric
work environment, this is hard to beat.
Palm Treo 755p
The original Palm Pilot kicked off the pocket-sized
PDA revolution in the ’90s, and a consistent focus
on usability makes this a compelling choice if you
don’t get along well with Windows Mobile. The
755p has got a slightly larger-than-average 320 x 320
pixel screen and runs on dual-band CDMA2000/
EVDO for fast data connections. A nifty feature
is its Pocket Express Application Store, so you can
purchase and install apps on the go. The included
Documents To Go software allows you to edit and
create Word and Excel files and view PowerPoint
presentations and PDFs. The native Palm OS application
market is still quite strong, with thousands of
general-purpose productivity apps, games and vertical
market solutions. If you live in or travel to GSMbased
countries, the nearly identical quad-band Treo
680 is a better bet.
Pros: The 755p is remarkably easy to use. Its
Blazer web browser is one of the best out there—if
you can live without Flash. It has a slightly bigger
screen and extensive software library.
Cons: Its camera is the lowest resolution out
of the three. Offers no Wi-Fi support, and only has
mono Bluetooth 1.2 support. It also requires an easily
lost stylus to operate.
Recommendation: It’s an intriguing option for
people who want something between the BlackBerry
and the Windows Mobile worlds and can live without
extra bells and whistles.
CREATIVE TEAM MEMBERS
Designers, photographers, art directors, copywriters
and UI/UX people: These are your smartphones—they let you stay in touch, yet the focus is on expression
RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8120
The Pearl 8120 has all the goodness of the
BlackBerry Curve in a sleeker candy-bar format with
higher-than-average battery life. The only trade-off
compared to the Curve is the 15-key SureType keypad,
versus the original’s full QWERTY.
Pros: It’s the BlackBerry you can take to a blacktie
event—with easy access MicroSD slot, Wi-Fi
built-in and a wide range of colors.
Cons: If you’ve got fat thumbs, you might not
dig the keypad, and the 8120 works with GSM/GPRS/
EDGE networks only, so data might be a bit slower.
Trade-offs: 8110 and 8130 models have GPS
instead of Wi-Fi, but no model offers both.
Recommendation: Ideal for agency traffic managers
and team members who need to keep up on
e-mailed project documents, or anyone who needs
something slimmer than the BlackBerry Curve.
Sony Ericsson C902
This stylishly slim 3G candy-bar phone boasts a
speedy HDSPA data connection, and a 5MP Sony
Cyber-shot autofocus camera with xenon flash, face
detection, burst shot mode and image stabilization.
It’s got the usual 3G features we expect from
Sony Ericsson: music player, FM radio, streaming
video viewer, predictive text input, web browsing,
e-mail, SMS, instant messaging and a well-designed
organizer with task list. Some unusual features for a
candy-bar phone of this type are PictBridge to allow
direct connection to compatible printers; an RSS
feed reader; and the ability to talk and browse at
the same time, thanks to dual voice and data radios.
Stereo Bluetooth 2.0 rounds out the feature list.
Pros: We’ll have to wait until it’s released for
more details, but this looks to be a decent pocket
camera that happens to be integrated with an allaround-
useful cell phone. The C902 can also be used
as a USB mass-storage device.
Cons: It doesn’t have a full QWERTY keyboard,
Wi-Fi or any ability to open and view attachments
other than MMS picture/video mail.
Recommendation: It may be best for art directors
who want to capture, send and receive visual
inspiration on the go. I can see this being popular
with production designers, continuity people and
location managers in film, TV and theater.
Similar unlocked option: A similar option,
the LG Viewty—currently only available as a pricey
import—offers a 5MP camera with a real Schneider-
Kreuzach lens, xenon flash and a slick, large touchscreen
interface borrowed from the LG Prada phone.
This device—just released as of writing time—is a
fascinating choice for mobile designers. The Shift
is a full-blown touch-screen Windows Vista ultramobile
PC (UMPC). It slides and tilts from Tablet
PC mode into a mini-laptop with full QWERTY
keyboard; when closed, it can switch to its
SnapVUE mode, which uses a separate low-power
CPU running a customized version of Windows
Mobile to provide access to e-mail, Windows Live
messaging and other important information without
needing to fully boot up the machine. And despite
what a few early online reviews stated, you can actually
make voice calls on it, via wired or optional
Bluetooth headsets, as confirmed by HTC.
It’s got incredible connectivity options: Not
only does it support existing cell phone voice and
data standards—quad-band GSM with GPRS and
EDGE—but it also supports 3G UTMS voice and
HDSPA 3.6Mbps data networking. There’s Wi-Fi,
Bluetooth 2.0, USB 2.0, a 7-in.-diagonal-wide VGA
touch screen (800 x 480), external SVGA monitor
support (mirrored or extended desktops), a webcam,
mini-touchpad, fingerprint scanner and a bundled
dongle for extra USB ports and wired ethernet. The
machine has 1GB of RAM, an 800MHz Intel processor
for running Vista and a 40GB hard disk.
Pros: It’s a phone that runs Photoshop and
anything else you can do on Vista. It offers incredibly
wide wireless-connectivity options for both
voice and data, and has relatively high-res screen and
external monitor support that makes graphics work
Cons: It’s a tablet PC, so it won’t fit in your
pocket unless you’re Shaquille O’Neal. It’s somewhat
underpowered compared to a full-blown laptop—and it’s pricey.
Recommendation: For hands-on creatives
who travel a lot, and who enjoy the power and
convenience of an all-in-one device that fits into
a Windows ecosystem.
So … where’s the iPhone in all of this?
Executives and creatives alike have snapped up the
iPhone in droves, even in countries where all of its
features aren’t fully supported yet. In its current state,
it offers a groundbreaking user interface. It’s probably
the easiest phone anyone has ever used—purely as
a phone, in terms of finding contacts, dialing them,
handling call waiting and three-way calls, and providing
real innovation with Visual Voicemail. The
iPhone’s crisp, ultra-high-resolution screen has to be
seen to be believed, and its industrial design turns
heads everywhere you go.
Pros: The iPhone supports Yahoo push e-mail
and has a stunning integration of Google Maps,
using cell phone tower and Wi-Fi hot spot triangulation
to provide quasi-GPS functionality. It’s also a
fantastic iPod with support for music, movies and
photos. When plugged into a TV or projector via an
appropriate dock, it can be a useful tool for presenting
slides or videos.
Cons: The current iPhone is limited to GSM/
EDGE networks only. When you’re outside a Wi-Fi network, data access, while improving, is much
slower than newer 3G networks. Mail attachments
can be viewed, but not edited. The security of Yahoo
push e-mail is also questionable, and the currently
included 2MP camera isn’t fantastic.
More to come: As of this writing, the beta
iPhone software development kit (SDK) was just
released, and a $100 million fund from venture
capital titans Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers was
announced to get the iPhone software ecosystem off
the ground. As with the Palm Treo, you’ll be able to
buy new apps on the fly and install them right from
Apple’s App Store on the iPhone itself.
Apple also announced the forthcoming
iPhone 2.0 software update would add more business-
friendly features. Apple is licensing Microsoft
ActiveSync support, to let iPhones connect to
corporate Exchange servers and address books—allowing servers to push e-mail, contact information
and calendar events to iPhone, and allow data and
events to sync back to the mothership. Extended
support for Cisco VPNs and WPA2 security was
In addition, true instant-messaging support is
said to be on the way: An early version of AIM for
iPhone was demonstrated at the SDK launch event.
Can a version of Windows Live Messenger be very
Recommendation: In my view, the iPhone is a
platform with a lot of potential, but you’ll have to
be patient to see it come to fruition. If you can live
without cutting-edge data networks, Exchange sync
or downloadable apps, it’s still a fantastic smartphone
for voice, web, SMS, multimedia playback and regular
e-mail use today.