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Photo Flat

If you want to take a ton of photos, these phones allow extra storage on memory-card slots. But in one of the phone industry's more irksome quirks, they each use a separate format: miniSD for the Nokia, the smaller microSD for the Samsung and Memory Stick Micro on the Sony Ericsson. None of these tiny cards (good luck finding one if you drop it on an Oriental rug) can be popped into a standard memory-card reader without using a special adapter.

That's not a big problem with the Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones, which allow quick, easy transfers to a computer via a USB cable or Bluetooth wireless. On the Samsung, things are not so simple. In an inexcusable excess of control-freakery, Verizon blocks use of this phone's USB and Bluetooth connections to copy pictures to a computer.

Under Verizon's lockdown, you can get a hard copy of a photo with a Bluetooth printer (if you can find one), you can upload a horribly compressed version of a photo to Pix Place, or you can e-mail a lower-resolution copy to yourself (at extra cost). Otherwise, the Samsung amounts to a prison for your photos until you can extract them with a memory card.

The Samsung does come at a lower price than the other two models: $350 with a two-year contract. But this phone's arbitrary limitations -- and the militantly clueless corporate mind-set behind them -- make it an insult to the customer at almost any price.

The Nokia and Sony Ericsson aren't sold by nationwide carriers -- though they work on any GSM service, such as Cingular and T-Mobile -- making them much more expensive, at $700 for the former and $500 for the latter. A separate phone and camera would cost much less.

Another year or so of technological evolution could very well solve the cost problem of phones like these, along with many of the other day-to-day issues that can stop you from getting a good photo with them. But no engineering breakthrough can cure the way some wireless carriers seem to think they know what's best for their customers.

Living with technology, or trying to? E-mail Rob Pegoraro

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