Android PDA phone comparison

This page is a comprehensive comparison of PDA phones, updated as of November 2009. The focus is on Android phones. Phones with other operating systems have not been updated since 2009-May, and I don't plant to update them. Android, while still not entirely mature, is my phone operating system of choice, and is rapidly gaining market share.

Current situation

  • Nexus One
    • amazingly fast GPS fix (under 15 seconds, even with the car moving at 65mph), with A-GPS ("Use wireless networks") disabled (!)
    • - sunlight visibility suffers, but you can tilt the phone differently if you have a car holder
    • CyanogenMod and other custom ROMs provide extra features vs. stock Android
    • multitasks well between GPS navigation and audio playback, but Google Navigation directions mute playback

Requirements

  • touch screen: resistive (i.e. you can use any object). Capacitive technology means you must use your fingers. No more operating the PDA on the ski slopes unless you take a glove off. On the other hand, resistive touch screens don't support multi-touch.
  • - physical keyboard proved extremely rarely used and it only added bulk, but that was before the web2.0 era
  • a compass is very handy during GPS navigation, when you are stopped somewhere and the GPS needs you to drive some distance (probably in the wrong direction) until it figures out where you are headed
  • camera flash to light the impromptu shots you take when you don't have a real camera ready ("the best camera is the one that you always have on you")

As of 2009-July, phones with a digital compass and camera flash were xtremely few, and they all run Symbian, with the exception of Samsung Galaxy.

Operating systems

Google Android

Windows Mobile

iPhone OS

  • - proprietary, restrictive
  • - no multitasking; needs jailbreaking for putting applications in the background
  • (difficult) work in progress to run Linux on the iPhone

Symbian

Connectivity

  • quad-band GSM is required and the vast majority of phones support it
  • for data access, beware that in the USA, the UMTS (part of the 3G family, also called W-CDMA outside of Europe) frequencies are 850 and 1900 MHz, with T-Mobile operating on 1700 MHz. Most of the world uses 900/2100 MHz, which makes a lot of phones unable to use 3G with US carriers. For comparison, the Apple iPhone 3GS supports UMTS frequencies 850/1900/2100. The alternative to 3G/UMTS is GPRS (or the newer EDGE), but even EDGE is painfully slow at practically 7-12 kilobytes per second with T-Mobile's access point epc.tmobile.com. EDGE doesn't work while a call is in progress.

Search and Comparison resources

Non-Android phones

Apple iPhone 3GS

  • - Apple's idiotic closed policy on applications
  • + decent built-in GPS (tested personally among New York skyscrapers)
  • - terribly crippled built-in navigation software (Google Maps)
  • + compass
  • - no camera flash
  • + built-in 32GB of memory
  • + 600MHz CPU
  • - no card slot

Palm Pre

Panasonic P905i

Android PDA phones

Acer A1

  • - Camera: "5.0 megapixel color camera with auto focus", no flash

Acer Liquid E

  • - no camera flash

Dell Mini 3i

General Mobile DSTL1

  • Android
  • 54 x 112 x 16, 135g
  • 624 MHz CPU, 128 MB RAM
  • 240 x 400, 3" display
  • 5MP camera with flash
  • dual-SIM, GSM900, GSM1800, GSM1900
  • ? no compass?
  • ? no GPS?
  • no WiFi

HKC Pearl

  • + dual-boot Windows Mobile, Android
  • ? no compass
  • 240x320, 2.8" screen
  • 1600x1200 camera, apparently no flash
  • GSM 900/1800/1900, WiFi, GPS
  • 109.5x59x15.5mm, 115g

HTC Desire (HTC Bravo)

  • - single-microphone, to save cost vs. Nexus One
  • WCDMA 900/2100
  • 5MP camera with 2x LED flash
  • 320MB RAM, 1GHZ CPU
  • Android 2.0
  • WVGA 3.7" screen, AMOLED capacitive
  • compass, GPS, accelerometer, microUSB, 3.5mm audio jack
  • FM radio

HTC Dream (T-Mobile G1)

  • - obsolete
  • - UMTS 1700/2100
  • - no camera flash
  • - GPS sucks (tested in Pittsburgh, not even in a high-rise building area)

HTC Droid Eris

  • + Android 1.5
  • - Verizon, CDMA (no SIM, won't work internationally)
  • 528MHz, 288 MB RAM
  • apparently no camera flash

HTC Droid Incredible

  • CDMA 1900/800 (Verizon)
  • 117.5 x 58.5 x 11.9 mm, 130g
  • 8MP camera with dual LED flash
  • 1GHz CPU, 512MB RAM, 512MB ROM, 8GB built-in, 32GB SD card

HTC Espresso

  • QWERTY keyboard, 320×480 pixel display

HTC Evo 4G

  • CDMA 1900/800 (Sprint). 4G is 10x faster than 3G.
  • 122 x 66 x 13 mm, 170g
  • 8MP camera with dual LED flash, 1280x720 recording
  • 1.3MP front camera
  • 1GHz Snapdragon CPU, 512MB RAM, 1GB ROM
  • FM radio, A-GPS, compass, 3.5mm audio jack, microUSB

HTC Fiesta

  • - upcoming
  • - budget

HTC Halo

  • "QWERTY keyboard version of the Tattoo"

HTC Hero

  • owned since 2009-Sep
    • - GPS may be very slow in getting a fix, esp. in a moving car or indoors; a reboot alleviates the problem, but the GPS chip in the Nexus One seems to work much faster
    • - latest Android ROM is v1.6; Android 2 not supported yet
    • - no camera flash (see pictures)
    • - UMTS 900/2100 (no 3G in the US at all)
    • + very good speaker, loud enough for the "Beep-beep-beep" alarm tone to be confused with a fire alarm (had it trigger accidentally in large halls etc.)
    • poorly placed keys for right-handed users (the 'back" key is right at the base of the thumb, making it straining to operate). No dedicated camera key.
    • + compass
    • + comfortable feel in pants/jeans pocket; angled, beveled shape
  • "best touchscreen typing experience" Engadget ever felt. Quite annoying in practice due to the capacitive screen registering only finger touches.
  • slow photo taking
  • ROM: 512 MB, RAM: 288 MB. That's all the built-in storage.
  • battery life: could get about 4-6 hours of usage while GPS-ing with CoPilot and taking occasional photos (no phone calls, Wi-Fi or other usage).
  • + new ROM that fixes lag issues

HTC Hero 130 (HTC Hero US)

  • + UMTS 850/1900 (AT&T)

HTC Hero 200 (HTC Hero for Sprint)

  • apparently no chin
  • - still no camera flash

HTC Huangshan

  • "No physical keyboard, 320×480 pixel display"

HTC Lancaster

HTC Legend

  • - 320×480, 600MHz CPU, 3.2" screen
  • WCDMA 900/2100 MHz

HTC Liberty

  • "No physical keyboard, 320×480 pixel display"

HTC Magic

HTC Nexus One (Google Phone) ★

  • UMTS 2100/1700/900 (works on T-Mobile US)
  • ~9 months of personal tests:
    • GPS gets a fix way faster than HTC Hero or Samsung Galaxy, even indoors or in a car moving at 65mph, even with only "Use GPS satellites" ("Use wireless networks" disabled)
    • very fast, thanks to the 1 GHz CPU and Android 2.1
    • 3G connectivity issues, apparently software. WARNING: if the problem turns out to be a hardware one, warranty is void if the device is rooted. Installing CyanogenMod doesn't fix this issue.
    • compass
    • - the speaker sucks, and is way quieter than the one in the HTC Hero. Quiet enough that the same wake-up alarm tone that reliably woke me up on the Hero, on occasion did not work on the Nexus One. You can, however, setup the "Beep-Beep-Beep" alarm, which is loud enough.
    • camera with flash, but bad auto white level with CFL lighting
    • - no dedicated camera key
  • 135g
  • FM radio support with CyanogenMod 6.1.0-RC1
  • - may be crippled vs. the HTC Bravo

HTC Paradise

  • "QWERTY keyboard, 240×400 pixel display"

HTC Passion

  • - Verizon CDMA
  • + 5MP camera with flash

HTC Supersonic

  • "No physical keyboard, 480×800 pixel display"

HTC Tattoo (HTC Click)

  • cheapo
  • 240x320 screen

HTC Touch HD 2 ★

  • - upcoming
  • Windows Mobile officially, but an Android version may be launched

Huawei U8220 (T-Mobile Pulse)

  • Android
  • nothing special
  • no word about camera flash or compass

LG Eve (LG Etna, LG GW620)

Motorola Cliq (Motorola Morrison) (MB200)

  • + Android
  • + official specs
  • - no camera flash but 5MP and autofocus
    • video recording 320 x 240 (QVGA) at 25fps
  • physical keyboard
  • 58 x 114 x 15.6 mm, only 1mmm thicker than the HTC Hero
  • phandroid review
  • Wired review: good battery life
  • + compass
  • - T-Mobile only until the Dext is launched

Motorola Dext ★

  • the international version of the Motorola Cliq, probably WCDMA 1900

Motorola Droid (Motorola A855, Motorola Calgary, Motorola Tao, Motorola Sholes) ★

  • extensive reviews
  • Android 2.0 with Google Navigation
  • CDMA 800/1900 (Verizon)
  • physical keyboard
  • + camera flash
  • 3.7" screen
  • 115.8 x 60 x 13.7 mm, 169g

Motorola Heron

  • - upcoming
  • AT&T, Android
  • - physical keyboard
  • lower end, smaller 2.8" screen

Motorola Milestone

  • the GSM version of the Droid, with European 3G (900/2100 MHz)

Motorola Motus

  • - rumored
    • quad-band UMTS

Philips V808

  • Android
  • - UMTS 900/2100
  • no information on camera flash or compass

Samsung Behold 2 (Samsung T939)

Samsung Bigfoot

Samsung Galaxy (Samsung GT-I7500) ★

Samsung I7500L

  • the Galaxy for Latin America, i.e. 850 & 1900 MHz 3G, compatible with AT&T

Samsung Moment (Samsung SPH-M900, Samsung Instinct Q)

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 (Sony Xperia X3) ★

  • - expected release: 2010-Q1
  • compass
  • Android 1.6 or 2.0
  • 4.69 x2.48 x0.51 (119 x 63 x 13 mm), 135g
  • 480 x 854, 4"
  • 1GHz CPU, 1GB internal memory
  • 8.1MP camera w. LED Flash (also works as video light)
  • A-GPS, FM Radio, accelerometer, 3.5mm audio jack
  • preview photos and UI video

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10a ★

  • the AT&T 3G (2100/1900/850) version of the Xperia X10

T-Mobile myTouch

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