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In the Ratings, we show approximate prices based on a two-year contract. Rebates or "instant savings" can reduce these prices substantially. Sprint Nextel and T-Mobile tend to rely more heavily on these supplemental discounts than other carriers. To find the best price on any phone, check with carriers and retailers, both online and in stores.
All but the Samsungs (21 and 27) and Palm (10) have voice dial for hands-free dialing. The Nokias (15 and 29) lack the convenience of side-mounted volume controls, which are available on all the other models we tested. The Motorolas (24, 28, 30) and the Sony Ericsson (26) are quad-band GSM phones that maximize coverage of the U.S., Europe, and Asia.
Guide to the Ratings
Overall score is based mainly on voice quality and talk time. Listening rates the voice quality you hear during a cell-phone conversation. Talking rates the voice quality heard by the person you call. Listening and talking tests were conducted in noisy and quiet environments using live phone calls. Talk time, in hours, is the average time for calls you should expect, based on our tests with strong and weak signals. Sensitivity is a measure of a phone's voice quality when a call is placed using a weak signal. The scores are applicable only within a Ratings group, not between groups. Ease of use takes in the design of the display and keypad and the ease with which you can send or receive text messages and the like. Price is approximate for a phone purchased from the carrier with a two-year contract in fall 2005. Prices shown are the manufacturer's standard, excluding rebates or special offers, which can be substantial but constantly change.
Best for Verizon (CDMA):
1 Motorola E815, $290
3 Kyocera KX444, $100
4 LG The V, $550
The Motorola E815 is a top-performing, fully featured advanced phone. Its keypad is easy to read under most lighting conditions, though the display can be hard to see in bright light. It's compatible with Verizon's high-speed EV-DO network, which provides access to video programs and faster Web surfing than with regular cell service. LG's V phone is another EV-DO-ready model that doubles as an e-mail/messaging terminal. Turned on its side, this candy-bar phone flips open to reveal a QWERTY keyboard and larger display that's well-suited for text-based communication. But it's much thicker than most phones. The Kyocera KX444 is a very good basic phone with a simple display that was the easiest to read under any lighting conditions of all the phones we tested. But its bulky rectangular case is cumbersome. It's compatible with Verizon's push-to-talk service.
Best for Sprint (CDMA):
11 Samsung MM-A800, $500
13 Sanyo SCP-200, $175
16 Samsung MM-A900, $350
The Samsung MM-A800 has a high-resolution camera and removable memory card …