The Vodafone Pocket-lint Gadget Awards 2009 Best Mobile Phone nominations are probably the ones we've all been waiting for. The smartphone industry is ablaze and every year we see more and more impressive handsets as the mobile becomes so much more than simply the telephone it once started out as. They are our pocket computers, our access terminals, our windows on the world and it's time to let us know which ones deserve that extra special praise for their impact in 2009. Which one gets your vote?
After a very slow start Android is all the rage right now. Until a matter of months ago, HTC dominated with last year's G1, as well as the Magic - which is likely to be in the running - and the HTC Hero, on which it's very hard not to place a heavy bet for the winner of this award. That said, of late we've seen some really impressive contenders with an awesome come back from Motorola with the QWERTY based DEXT and the pure touch Droid.
Never ones to miss the boat, Samsung brought out the Galaxy i7500 and the imminent arrival of the LG GW620 brings the other Korean giant in on the action as well. The T-Mobile Pulse aka Huwaei's Android effort and the HTCs Eris and Tattoo have also shown that consumers can get a piece of Google's mobile OS at a reasonable price, while the launch of the impressive looking Rachael, or Sony Ericsson Xperia X10, makes Nokia's absence look all the more obvious.
Palm & Apple
The shotgun method is not something you'd associate with these manufacturers' approaches to the mobile phone industry in 2009. Nonetheless, between them they've had arguably the biggest impact of all. We were blown away by the Palm Pre at CES in January with its new OS, slideout QWERTY and beautiful touchscreen - even if we did have to wait the best part of a year for the thing to turn up in the UK - and the Apple iPhone 3GS - once Stevie J and friends had decided how to spell it - did just enough to keep itself on top.
More recently, the Palm Pixi has arrived as the lite version of the Pre and doubtless we'll see more webOS devices in the future. So, will Apple be following suit with an iPhone mini all of its own? One for 2010, perhaps.
The other mobile cult all of its own is the church of RIM and its beloved BlackBerrys. The company has seen an impressive rise in market share and profits in 2009 with its more consumer facing approach. Handsets like the Curve 8520 and the Bold 9700 have proved as popular as their family heritage would suggest and even the second installment of the BlackBerry Storm seems finally to be going down as its name would have us believe. The only question is whether these recent announcements have left it too late for us all to rave about.
If the OS and the touchscreen have been the biggest mobile trends of late, then the move to QWERTY keyboards has to be the next one down. While they used to be the preserve of RIM and a select few business models, the rise of the smartphone with e-mailing, browsing and IM needs has caused a greater desire for ease and speed of typing on our handsets. Most of the mobile makers have caught onto it and you can now buy the things on PAYG or just cheap contracts with basic phones.
The youth messenger market can now get hold of finger tappers like the LG GW300, the pink Samsung B3310 and Samsung Genio/Corby TXT if you're not man enough for the colour scheme on the other model. Go one step up and there's the slightly more mature LG GW520, the Nokia Surge/6760 and the Nokia E72 - the upgrade to the hugely popular business model of 2008. Last of all, there's the QWERTY to end all QWERTYs with the recent launch in the States of the TwitterPeek handset with the kind of keyboard that'll give your desktop a good run for its money.
With Android the rising star of 2009, it's easy to forget that Microsoft launched a new version of its mobile OS as well. Windows Mobile 6.5, or Windows Phone, may not necessarily be the choice of the consumer but the manufacturers can't get enough of it and, to give it its dues, it is getting better. HTC is one of the platform's largest supporters, despite the affiliation with Android, and both the HTC HD2 and the HTC Touch Diamond 2 have turned out to be very impressive implementations of the system.
Both the Sony Ericsson Xperia X2 and Toshiba TG01 have taken the custom UI approach to Windows Phone and come up with a couple of handsets to make the consumer's choice that much harder, while Samsung launched an entire update to the OMNIA family with four whole models, each suited to a particular user.
Until the last few weeks, Acer has been solely focused on the Microsoft mobile OS as well with a mass of interesting, if not entirely refined, set of phones and, of course, the LG GM750 is a quick toe in the water for the Korean company while it makes up its mind which way to jump from its own S-Class interface - indeed if it intends to jump at all.
It's not been the best of times for the company that still remains the number one in the mobile phone market. Yes, its presence in the developing world is incredible but the Finnish giant's grip on the West has slipped. With Symbian OS the platform of choice, there's still be some noteworthy releases including the headline N97 and N97 mini as well as the super snapper that is the N86.
The business E range is probably one of the strongest and certainly most interesting sectors beyond that, and we've had the pleasure of upgrades like the E52 and the E72 to enjoy over 2009, as well as the intro of the E55 candybar as well.
The classic series has been as well designed as ever with perhaps the Nokia 6700 classic the pick of the lot. Otherwise its all been about the much debated Comes with Music push and the Xpress Music handsets in the shape of the 5530 and the more premium touchscreen X3 and X6 devices, that could well find themselves doing better than some might think in the overall rankings.
Finally, Nokia wouldn't be Nokia if it wasn't trying something crazy and this year it's been the Nokia 7705 Twist. We'll let you judge that one for yourselves.
With grit like determination to be the number two handset provider in the world, LG has been pushing, showing and innovating its heart out over 2009. While the Cookie continues to be its standout success, the likes of the LG Arena and new versions of both the Chocolate and Viewty in the LG BL40 and Viewty Smart have shown some serious intent, if lacking that final touch of class.
More recently, the LG BL20, or even newer Chocolate, looks to make its Black Label sibling that little bit more affordable along with the launch of the GD510 Pop, but the big design oohs and ahhs were saved for the LG GD900 see through phone and the LG Watchphone. Seen anybody actually wearing one yet?
As well as being early on both the Windows Phone and Android markets, Samsung has been on a steep learning curve in all mobile departments throughout 2009. The company has been the first to test out the Vodafone 360 platform with the touchscreen H1 as well as briefly holding the record for the fastest phone in the west with the Samsung Jet.
Having finally perfected the touchscreen, the company has brought out more in the Tocco range for all levels if customer to play with and even gone AMOLED with superb handsets like the HD video shooting Samsung i8910. Beyond that, Samsung was the first to reach the 12-megapixel cameraphone mark with the Samsung Pixon12 and has added a couple of impressive innovations like the Beat DJ for the music obsessive and the solar panelled E1107. Generally a very good year for Samsung.
There was a very long tease for Sony Ericsson fans this year. With the Satio and Aino shown off what seems like decades ago, news of the update to the Xperia back in March and Rachael round the corner since back in the summer, we're all just pleased that they made it in time for the 16th November Pocket-lint awards cut off.
Mercifully, while we were waiting for the big guns we had the pleasure of Maria Sharapova's company in the sale of the Sony Ericsson T707 plus, the eco-friendly Sony Ericsson Naite and the T715 more recently to pick up some native Twitter access. It wasn't a prolific year for the Japanese mobile maker but perhaps its biggest unsung hero was the continuation of the Walkman range with the likes of the Sony Ericsson W995 - one of the most complete mid-range handsets a person could buy. Well worth a shout.
Naturally, the last 12 months has come with its range insanely expensive luxury designer phones for equally insane people with obscenely insanely large wallets. See the Mobiadio Grand Pioneer, gold Nokia Carbon Arte, Motorola Aura Diamond and Tag Heuer Lamborghini handsets for just four of such examples. We wouldn't presume to deny yourselves and the panel of judges the chance to name any of them mobile phone of the year, but if you'd rather something more sensible, then spare a brief thought for the Land Rover S1 from Sonim and a good hour of pondering whether INQ really has cracked it this time with the INQ mini 3G.
What do you think?
But these are just some of the fantastic choices our readers have had in 2009. What would you like to see held aloft as the winner of Pocket-lint Best Mobile Phone 2009? What have we missed out? Which are your unsung heroes and of those we've already mentioned, which would get your vote? Let us know in the comments below and you can help our panel decide which make the shortlist of nominees to be announced here on Pocket-lint on 16 November. We'll have all out coverage of the Vodafone Pocket-lint awards 2009 right here. Don't miss a minute of it.