, DECEMBER 25, 2006
  (STAR)  By Manny De Los Reyes - Every year we get nicer phones. Nicer in the sense that they get thinner, lighter and sleeker; sport ever-higher resolution cameras; boast more memory for more songs, photos and videos; and, hold your breath, have even lower prices. This year, we get more of the same. But of the burgeoning crop, a few still manage to stand out from all the rest. Here they are in alphabetical order.

LG K800 Chocolate Phone

Donít ask why LG calls its KG800 handset the "Chocolate Phone." It sure doesnít taste like chocolate, and it doesnít look like one. Heck, itís not even chocolate brown, but a sleek shiny black. Then again, this handset looks so yummy that LG can call it whatever scrumptious food they can think of and weíll accept it.

The sleek and sexy sliderís front half is completely flat. Slide the handset open and nine touch-sensitive navi buttons are lit up in red. The design is so slick, it has received numerous accolades, including the prestigious European 2006 Red Dot Design and the 2006 iF awards for excellence in design and user interface. And itís not without noteworthy features, too. This tri-band phone has a 1.3-megapixel camera, video recorder, MP3/AAC player, 128MB of onboard memory, and Bluetooth connectivity. And itís sugar-free.

Motorola RIZR, RAZR maxx and KRZR

What do you do for an encore after enjoying phenomenal success with a groundbreaking new product? That was precisely the scenario facing Motorola when it was faced with the task of coming up with the now-iconic RAZRís successor.

A forward-thinking handset designer that it is, Motorola forged ahead with its iconic clam and reshaped it into the clamshell MOTOKRZR, the slider MOTORIZR, and the HSPDA-enabled MOTORAZR maxx. Keeping the same slim design, the KRZR, RIZR and RAZR maxx pack more goodies like two-megapixel cameras, music players, video recorders, bigger onboard memories, and memory expansion slots. Needless to say, head-turning good looks and an impressively intuitive interface are still very much part of the package.

Nokia Nseries phones

To date, Nokia has roughly a dozen handsets in their feature- and function-filled Nseries lineup. Rounding off last year with the release of the N71, N80, and N92, it didnít take the Finnish phone maker to announce three more new arrivals: the 3G-capable N72, N73, and N93, which were introduced in April of this year. Referred to as a "multimedia computer," the N93 was a communicatorís dream phone with built-in Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, IrDA, WCDMA, and EGPRS. It also recorded video in MPEG-4 format.

As if thatís not enough Nokia then unveiled the N75 and N95 just last September. Nokiaís N75 is only the second music-driven phone in the Nseries after the N90, and is also the smallest handset in the series. The N95, on the other hand, sports a revolutionary two-way slide concept that allows users to switch modes speedily, with a numeric keypad sliding out from the bottom of the device and dedicated media keys sliding out at the top. Equipped with a five-megapixel Carl Zeiss lens and wireless LAN, the N95 is Nokiaís current top-of-the-line handset. Makes you wonder how they will top this one.

O2 Xda Atom

Ever since O2 launched the mighty Xda Atom, many other brands have followed, mimicking the form and size of this diminutive power player. Why? Because it not only looks great, it also packs a whole load of features such as an FM radio, multimedia player, and a two-megapixel camera. Oh, and did we mention it can connect to the Internet via its built-in Wi-Fi 802.11b? Plus, itís powered by Intel 416MHz processor and runs on Windows Mobile 5.0. Who knew taking work home and on the road could be so much fun? Today, the Atom sets the norm of what power users look for in a PDA-phone.

Samsung Ultra Edition phones

Want to know how far the Korean technology industry has advanced so far? Just take one look at this trio of svelte lookers Ė the world-thinnest 6.9mm X820 monoblock phone, the 9.9mm D830 clamshell, and the 12.9mm D900 slider handset Ė and youíll know how technologically advanced and self-assured the Koreans can be against their well-entrenched Finnish, American, and Swedish-Japanese competition. Ultra-slim RAZR? We can do it thinner than that. High-resolution LCD screens? We can do that with even higher resolution. VGA cameras? Duh! We can put a 2-MP cam on the 6.9mm X820. In fact, we just did. If Nike has "Just Do It," Samsung probably lives by "Bring It On."

Sony Ericsson K800i

With so many mobile phone brands boasting high-quality megapixel cameras, Sony Ericsson decided to up the ante by putting Sonyís renowned Cyber-shot camera brand on the new K800i 3G handset. Check out the specs: a 3.2-megapixel camera, autofocus and digicam-derived image stabilization features, a Xenon flash instead of an LED photolight, 16x digital zoom, basic editing of pictures such as adjusting brightness and contrast and adding effects, plus Pictbridge-compatibility.

The K800i is also a superb multimedia device, with an FM radio, a music player (MP3/AAC) and even 3D gaming. Thereís also a Web browser, RSS feed reader, e-mail client that supports Push e-mail, and PIM synchronization.

Treo 680

Iíd probably get tons of hate mail from Palm loyalists if I donít include the recently launched Treo 680 in this list Ė and for good reason. The Treo 680, which succeeds the Treo 650, is Palmís latest GSM/GPRS/EDGE quad-band smartphone. It boasts features beyond its phone capability such as e-mail, Web browsing, messaging, multimedia, calendar, contacts and more.

The Palm OS-based Treo 680 boasts features such as the ability to respond to calls with a preset text message as well as three-way calling. It also has integrated e-mail and Web capabilities, a music player, a VGA camera, camcorder, video player and photo album that can be managed and shared. It can even be used as a wireless modem via Bluetooth to connect to a Bluetooth-enabled laptop. Users can also view, edit and share Microsoft Word and Excel documents on the Treo 680 in addition to viewing full-featured Adobe PDF files and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations. Now how many so-called smartphones can actually do all that?

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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