Correction to This Article
This article incorrectly said that the Droid and other devices running Google's Android software can synchronize a user's calendars and contacts only with Google's Web-based applications. Some Android phones ¿ including the Droid, which is a Motorola phone sold by Verizon ¿ include tools to synchronize that data with Microsoft's Exchange server software.

Apple and Android phones are the smartest

By Rob Pegoraro
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Many phones tout themselves as "smart" these days, but not all these gadgets exhibit the same IQ. Let's set a few standards to weed out the unworthy: A smartphone should display a normal Web page, easily synchronize your contacts and calendars, make it simple to add or remove a wide range of add-on programs, serve as a media player, not require a stylus, and include a usable miniaturized keyboard.

That rules out phones based on Windows Mobile. They sync up easily with Microsoft's Outlook software, but Windows Mobile's little-improved 6.5 release suffers from a subpar Web browser, an understocked program catalogue and a cramped interface that often defies fingertip control.

Research in Motion's BlackBerry loses out, too, with an even worse browser, a clumsy App World program catalogue and an awkwardly stapled-together set of sync utilities.

Your best choices, then, are Apple's iPhone and devices running Google's Android software.

The iPhone 3G and 3GS allow a simple desktop or over-the-air sync with Mac and Windows calendar and contacts programs, are much better multimedia players, and offer more than 100,000 add-on programs through the App Store. But you're stuck with AT&T Wireless, with its inferior mobile-broadband coverage, and you must accept Apple's inscrutable, erratic App Store oversight-- you may have to wait months for a bug-fix release to a program.

The strongest virtue of Android phones is choice: You can use them on Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon Wireless, choose between models with iPhone-style onscreen keys or ones that also include physical keyboards, and run more than 10,000 add-on programs unconstrained by Apple's misrule. Verizon's Droid is the best of the bunch, with its brilliant GPS navigation program.

But until third-party sync software ships, you have to be okay with Google storing your calendars and contacts, and using an Android device with iTunes can be tricky.

Palm's Pre and Pixi constitute a third, cheaper but lesser option. They offer an easy over-the-air sync, can run multiple programs at once better than any other smartphone, and permit a mostly pain-free upgrade from an old Palm phone or handheld. But their limited selection of add-on programs invites worries about Palm's prospects.

© 2009 The Washington Post Company