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Get smart: Breaking down smart phones and their operating systems

It's easy to feel like a dummy when shopping for a smart phone. The sheer number of choices can make you think that going back to carrier pigeons would really be the best idea. Ultimately no smart phone is "best," but there is one that's best for you. Check out b's guide to some of today's most popular options. CLARE LOCHARY, SPECIAL TO B

ANDROID (pictured)
The skinny: Some call it the poor man's iPhone; the ' Droid army contends it's actually superior
Carriers: AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon
Popular phones: Motorola Devour, Motorola Droid, Droid ERIS, Samsung Moment
Applications: 10,000+
Pros: Multi-tasking is easy; lots of free apps
Cons: Relatively limited app catalog
The next big thing: The Nexus One phone, already available on T-Mobile, should be available throughout the U.S. by mid-2010, unless Apple has its way (see below)

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BlackBerry
The skinny:
The businessman's choice; a workhorse, not a show pony
Carriers: Alltel, AT&T, Cellular One, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon
Popular phones: Bold 9700, Storm2 9550, Curve 8500, Tour 9630
Applications: 25,000+
Pros: Fort Knox-level security for e-mails; latest models have stepped up design and fun factor
Cons: Hardware is still on chunky side, and some phones still have the hated trackball for navigation; relatively limited app catalog
The next big thing: The Interwebs are abuzz with rumors that BlackBerry will release a slider phone this year

iPhone
The skinny: The O.G. of smart phones; what all the ostensibly cool kids are using
Carriers:
AT&T; the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that it seems Apple has been developing an iPhone for Verizon
Popular phones:
iPhone 3G S, iPhone 3G
Applications:
140,000+
Pros:
Unparalleled design, both of hardware and intuitive layout; largest available catalog of apps
Cons:
For AT&T customers only; more overall apps but fewer free ones
The next big thing:
Apple is throwing down with HTC, a Taiwanese manufacturer of smart phones including the Nexus One, in an attempt to protect its market share. The outcome of the lawsuit, filed in federal court this month, could affect all non-Apple smartphone manufacturers

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Palm web OS
The skinny: The system developed by the makers of the Palm Pilot, the first device marketed as a PDA. Today, though, Palm's products are functional but not cutting-edge
Carriers:
Sprint, Verizon
Popular phones:
Palm Pixi, Palm Pre
Applications:
20,000+
Pros:
User-friendly, excellent resolution
Cons:
Relatively limited app catalog; sliding keyboard difficult to use
The next big thing:
New Facebook for Palm app released March 3; Palm Pre Plus also released this month with new features such as Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities

Windows
The skinny: For people who want their smart phone to be as much like their desktop as possible
Carriers:
Alltel, AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile, U.S. Cellular, Verizon
Popular phones:
HTC Tilt 2, Samsung Intrepid
Applications:
2,500+
Pros:
Familiar Web interface
Cons:
Slooooooooooow; limited apps
The next big thing:
Windows 7.0 for smart phones is set to debut in 2010, which should resolve some speed and navigation problems

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