The touchscreen is fast becoming the control interface of choice for many manufacturers. Perhaps one day, when we’ve long forgotten how to make buttons, left with only a distant memory of what that little clicking sensation felt like under our fingers, we’ll regret the move to touchscreen land. For now though we’re all in favour of the finger-stroking revolution.
With so many different touchscreen devices piling onto the mobile market every year, positively cascading off the shelves of the local phone shops, choosing one can be a bit tricky.
One initial consideration to make is whether you want a phone you can operate using your finger, or whether you really want to use a stylus. Most manufacturers are moving towards the former, but we’ve got a few stylus fanciers for you today as well.
Then there’s whether you want an additional keypad or a physical Qwerty keyboard- if a touchscreen just isn’t quite enough to satisfy your navigational needs. Whatever you want, we’ve got the perfect solutions for you here.
- iPhone 3GS
Why? It’s like the iPhone 3G, but faster
Our 5-star review
Over the past couple of years, the iPhone has dominated the mobile scene, especially since the 3G’s launch back in July 2008. However, the iPhone 3GS represents a real step forward for the device, quickening-up its already fast interface to make it just about as quick off the mark as any phone you can find.
Ok, so it’s still lagging behind in terms of its camera capabilities. Its three megapixels are never going to stack up that well against a capable camera-centric 8-megapixel handset, but the 3GS has improvements over its predecessor on this front too. The auto macro feature means you can get sharp pictures even up close, where before with the 3G you’d have gotten a pretty blurry mess.
Elsewhere, the App Store makes sure that the iPhone can do just about anything you’d want it to, from acting as a photo manipulation tool to working out how much you need to tip at a restaurant. Then, of course, there’s the great selection of games available for it too. Much as we’d like to see another phone smash it off its perch, the iPhone’s still the daddy.
- LG Arena KM900
Why? Great screen, great interface
Our 5-star review
One of the first mainstream devices to use a whopping 800×480 screen, the Arena KM900 is great for watching your videos on. At 3 inches wide, the Arena’s display is easily large enough for watching more TV episodes and films. It will take Divx and Xvid files too, for all you download fans out there.
It was also the first phone to use LG’s 3D cube interface, a snazzy looking affair that makes it seem like your phone’s menu system sits on a cube within the device. Completing the triangle of good looks, it’s a sleek device in its own right, thanks to its slimline case and tastefully simple design.
Its feature list is fairly watertight too, with built-in Wi-Fi, HSDPA and GPS. There’s even a FM Transmitter inside the Arena, so you can use it as an in-car jukebox without any additional equipment. Now that’s neat.
- Samsung Omnia HD i8910
Why? HD video recording
Our 5-star review
When Samsung positioned its Omnia HD i8910, there was one feature that everything else hung on- that it could record video in HD. The 1280×720 videos the Omnia HD will give you may not quite be the quality you’d get from a decent Digicam, but they’re a darn sight better than what you’d get from just about every other mobile.
Using a capacitive screen, the touch-friendly type of screen used on the iPhone, it’s a breeze to navigate around the phone’s menu system.
To match the Omnia HD’s video capabilities, it also captures still images at 8 megapixels. Plus, the AMOLED makes both video and images look great. Although it’s a chunkier device than some others on this list, it’s got a hulking great 3.7-inch screen that makes just about everything else here look a bit, well, puny.
- HTC Magic
Why? It’s the slickest Android phone so far
Read our review
Android is proving to be a slow-burning OS. At one point, we were a little worried about its future, but our fears were allayed with the arrival of the HTC Magic. It’s an Android device that should please smartphone fanatics and newbies alike.
The capacitive touchscreen is superbly responsive, showing off the still-fledgling operating system in the best possible light. Always important, the form factor is highly attractive too. The HTC Magic simply feels great in your hand, while the rollerball controller sits under your thumb happily, and is very intuitive to use.
It doesn’t sit next to the photographic big boys in megapixel terms, with just a 3.2-megapixel camera, but, like the iPhone, the main merit of the Magic is that it’s such a joy to use. With Wi-Fi, GPS and HSDPA, it’s no features slouch either. If you’re looking for a phone that’s like the iPhone, but isn’t the iPhone, the HTC Magic is a phone you really need to look out for.
- LG Viewty Smart
Why? It’s got a great camera and touchscreen
Read our review
The original Viewty is one of the most popular touchscreen released yet, and now it’s available for a rock-bottom price, even on pre-pay. However, it has long since been overtaken in feature terms, as this update, the Viewty Smart GC900 is only too keen to prove.
It’s got an ultra high-resolution 800×480 screen that’s a video-friendly three inches in size. It also uses the same 3D cube interface seen in the LG Arena, another one of our Top 10 contenders.
The difference between the two? The Smart has a camera with a higher megapixel count, eight to the Arena’s five. However, it has less internal memory, with 1.5GB built-in.
- LG KC910 Renoir
Why? It’s got a fantastic camera
Read our review
In our never-ending search for mobile phone nirvana, we’ve already come across a great many 8-megapixel cameras. However, some have been shamed by phones with a far smaller megapixel count. Some have impressed too, but few have impressed us like the LG Renoir KC910. In fact, it came out as the top dog in our cameraphone shoot-out, just pipping the Samsung Pixon M8800 to the photo finish.
Unfortunately, it came out just before the iPhone-style capacitive touchscreen became as prevalent as it is now, so it uses the less sensitive resistive type of screen. It’s fine if you’re happy to use the stylus, but amongst the ever more finger-friendly range of handsets emerging, all the cool kids stick their noses up at such things these days.
Even so, the KC910 Renoir is a stylish phone that certainly looks the part. It also has a great range of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi and HSDPA.
- Samsung Tocco Ultra S8300
Why? It’s a stylish hybrid, with keypad in tow
Read our review
Slide-out control panels in touchscreen phones are nothing new, but more often than not they’re Qwerty keypads. Unless you do a lot of emailing or a whole lot of texting on your phone, there’s not much call for one. Realising this, the Tocco Ultra S8300 includes a standard keypad as the slide-out interface of choice, alongside its 2.8-inch touchscreen. It’s a very pretty AMOLED screen that uses the finger-friendly capacitive technology too.
Since the Tocco Ultra S8300 is bridging the gap between the sorts of feature lists we come to expect from smartphones and feature phones, it’s no great surprise that it doesn’t feature Wi-Fi.
Aside from this omission, it’s all roses. An 8-megapixel camera, the customisable widget-based interface and A-GPS make this touchscreen and keypad hybrid a capable handset.
- HTC Touch Pro2
Why? It’s like a tiny little laptop for your pocket
Our Top 10’s other, non-Nokia, phone that packs in a slide-out Qwerty, the HTC Touch Pro2 is a touch more business orientated than the Nokia N97. It runs off Windows Mobile 6.1, which is certainly an acquired taste, making the Touch Pro2 something of a niche product designed for a more business-focused user.
It does have a decent keyboard and a 3.6-inch screen, just a shade off the Samsung Omnia HD i8910’s huge offering.
Like most other Windows Mobile phones, it doesn’t have a hugely impressive camera, with 3.2 megapixels roped into the equation. However, the Touch Pro2’s strengths lie elsewhere.
- LG Cookie KP500
Why? It’s one of the cheapest routes to touchscreen happiness
Read our review
Most of the phones in this list are expensive- you’d have to take out a pretty hefty contract to get them for free. The Cookie KP500 is a different beast, designed with the thrifty but fashion-conscious buyer in mind. As such, its feature set is decidedly on the lower end of the scale.
It has a 3.0-megapixel camera and a 3-inch screen. When looking for a budget phone, you’re looking as much for the price as the eye-popping features. As such, the LG Viewty KU990 and the Samsung Locco Lite are both well worth further investigation.
- Nokia N97
Why? It’s got a Qwerty keyboard
Read our preview
Nokia’s N97 claimed to be the most anticipated Nokia handset to date, but differs from the development trends of some of its rivals. It features a resistive touchscreen rather than the capacitive type we’re getting ever more used to. So, it really prefers a stylus to your finger.
It does have something that most of the touchscreens here don’t- a slide-out Qwerty keyboard. It’s swings out with a hinge motion that’s reassuring in its solidity. Of course, the Qwerty means it’s not the slimmest touchscreen on the market, but some would argue a bit of depth is a small price to pay for a full keyboard.
So, which touchscreen to take? Well, it’s not an easy question, even after we’ve run down the Top 10.
The iPhone’s always been a good choice for many a more casual user, and the 3G S has only helped to refine the device’s winning formula. That doesn’t mean it’s for everyone though. The top-end LG phones have far superior cameras, while HTC’s workings with Android are giving the iPhone’s ease of use crown a run for its money. If you’re after a Qwerty though, HTC is the way to go.