Smart Phones

They flip. They slide. They even swivel. Cell phones can keep you in rhythm and keep you organized.

You can upload, download, surf, and store. Forget a pencil -- you won't need one anymore. Consumer Reports just tested 60 cell phones and smart phones.

Mike Gikas, Consumer Reports, says "The boundaries between cell phones and smart phones have really begun to blur. Features like mp3 players, e-mail, streaming audio, and video can now be found on both."

While most cell phones don't have large displays or full keyboards, more are sporting enhanced interfaces -- once an exclusive feature of smart phones.

Blurring the line further are compact smart phones, like the Palm Centro and Blackberry Pearl. They are some of the smallest, most phone-sized smart phones on the market.

But not everyone needs smart features. When deciding on a phone, focus in on what you want. Then check to see if a carrier offers those features, because Consumer Reports found the same phone isn't the same with every carrier.

Gikas says "Motorola's razor-squared is available from three carriers, Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile. You can download music on Verizon and AT&T, but not T-Mobile. And the talk between all three phones can vary by as much as three hours."

Consumer Reports says no matter what phone you decide on, you want to try it before you buy it to see how it feels in your hand and how easy the keys are to use.

Flat keypads and touch sensitive keys may look cool but they can make dialing more difficult. So it's a good idea to make a test call -- before you buy.

When cell-phone shopping, keep your eyes open for special offers and rebates, the savings can be substantial.

And keep in mind Consumer Reports' surveys show customer satisfaction is highest among people who bought their cell phone directly from the service providers' web site.

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