Buying a “Smart” Phone for the First Time: Which One?

g1phoneFirst, I work for Microsoft. But I tend to purchase/use Microsoft products only when they are the best option for me personally (and they often are). In this case, I did actually look at Windows Mobile as my first choice. I’m on T-Mobile and not willing to switch carriers (most of my extended family is on T-Mobile, so I use hardly any minutes and like it that way, plus T-Mobile is the cheapest of all carriers and has been good to me the past few years).

Unfortunately, T-Mobile’s selection of Windows Mobile phones is pretty limited (and fairly outdated). I wasn’t impressed. There are some new Windows Mobile phones over at AT&T that got my attention, though the one I really wanted was the Sony Xperia X1. But I ran out of patience. It’s not subsidized by any carriers in the U.S. and has a price tag of $800 (not going to happen).

So I started looking at the G1 (the phone that a T-Mobile rep dubbed the “iPhone killer”) and was impressed by all the possibilities. Meaning, the marketplace of apps. Within an hour of using my phone, I had set it up as a GPS, a price scanner for shopping (scan any UPC and it shows me not only the pricing online but a map of stores around me and their pricing for the same products + it shows user reviews, etc.), a device to recognize any music playing around me, and most importantly a one touch resource for any information I need quickly.

I have an app that has a listing of support / customer service numbers for thousands of companies (huge time saver). A yellowbook app that allows me to look up a name (person or business) and then automatically gives me phone number, address, location on map, and directions (rather than doing many of those steps separately and tediously). I have a dead simple but powerful Facebook app along with an app that gives me movie showtimes/reviews/locations with one touch. One touch stock quotes on my portfolio. One touch access to my Netflix queue, Twitter, etc.

I’m just giving the highlights above. I have about 30 apps installed currently with many (like some listed above) providing features that simply don’t exist on any Windows Mobile phones that I’m aware of (or that I have access to, due to my carrier preference). And the phone is dead simple to use with each of these apps being easily placed on my phone’s desktop in whatever order I want. Being able to customize everything to my liking, I’m not sure I can go back to the days of the more locked down approach.

And now there’s even an app that enables me to get my work email (Exchange support). As a side note, not having Exchange support was one of the main reasons for weeks of me being reluctant to go with this phone. But once I heard about multiple G1 Exchange projects (within the G1 developer community), I made the jump with my fingers crossed.

It’s not perfect, of course. The phone’s shape, size, and look all could be a lot better. And the battery life is a huge disappointment. I often can’t make it through a day without having to charge. Also, it can’t do stuff like edit Office documents (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.).

So what I’m saying is that my perfect phone would combine the look and feel of the Sony Experia (I like the full keyboard, sorry Apple), the doc editing features of Windows Mobile, the flexibility provided by a community app marketplace, a good battery life for at least a day’s use, and a decent price point (both hardware and carrier charges).

But since the perfect phone doesn’t exist, I went with what filled the most requirements on my list. What’s your perfect “smart” phone?