1st Place: Apple iPhone 3G
Last year the Apple iPhone walked away with the Best Innovation award, due to its revolutionary interface and ease of use. However, with pretty much every other phone offering 3G support and many sporting integrated GPS receivers at the time, it looked a little under featured.
This year Apple addressed those issues with the launch of the iPhone 3G. As the name suggests, the second generation iPhone did provide 3G support, so the brilliant Mobile Safari web browser can be used to full effect. The inclusion of built-in GPS, coupled with the 3G support also means that the already excellent Google Maps becomes even more of a useful tool.
But just as with the original iPhone, it's the user interface that's the real star of the show. The multi-touch screen makes it simple to do pretty much anything, without ever having to resort to something as basic as a stylus, while media playback eclipses everything else on the market - which is hardly surprising considering that there's basically an iPod touch inside it.
The launch of the App Store means that you can download a plethora of new applications to your iPhone quickly and easily, while the regular firmware updates mean that functionality just keeps improving with features like Street View appearing recently.
Love it or hate it, the iPhone 3G is the phone to beat, and right now, none of the contenders seem up to the task.
2nd Place: Samsung Pixon M8800
The Samsung is a neat touchscreen mobile with what is, for our money, a superb user interface. The thing about touchscreens is that they need to be intuitive to use and easy to get along with and the Pixon nails both these well.
It has four tap icons along that bottom that provide direct access to key features such as the on-screen keyboard, the phonebook (good for 2,000 contacts), your messages and widgets. The latter are a great example of usability - you simply drag the elements you want from a side bar onto the screen, and then off again when you don't want them. Child's play.
Of course the excellent 8-megapixel camera with face and smile detection is the big draw here and its photo quality ranks among the best we've seen from a camera phone. It also features autofocus, an excellent macro mode, dual LED flash and shake reduction, plus you can even tag people in a photo to make searching pictures by name a real breeze while also geotagging your photos so you can remember where you were when you took them.
The small and neat Pixon is a 3G device with HSDPA to 7.2Mbps and there is plenty of memory - 200MB plus a bundled 1GB microSD card for the side-mounted memory slot - to ensure that you have somewhere to store the large image files. Super battery life rounds things off. The absence of Wi-Fi may irritate some, but that aside this is a lovely handset.
3rd Place: LG Renoir KC910
The race to bring the first 8-megapixel camera phone to market went down to the wire, and even now you'll probably find that both LG and Samsung claim to be first, but none of that really matters. What's really important is that both the Samsung Pixon and the LG Renoir are great phones, and both have excellent cameras built into them.
The feature set on the Renoir doesn't begin and end with its camera either. You also get 3G support along with 7.2mbps HSDPA for lightning fast data. There's only 100MB of in-built memory compared to the Pixon's 200MB, but that's of no consequence considering that it has a microSD card slot, and memory cards are cheap as chips these days. The Renoir also sports Wi-Fi, which is conspicuously missing from the Pixon - not that Wi-Fi support is as important on a consumer phone as it is on a smartphone of course.
Again like the Pixon, the Renoir uses a widget based user interface, and again it works very well indeed. Meanwhile the touchscreen itself is responsive and easy to use. But like the Pixon above, it's the camera that's the real draw here, and the images it produces are pretty impressive.
There's not a lot to separate the Samsung Pixon and the LG Renoir, and it's unlikely that you'd be disappointed in either if you found one under the Christmas tree next month.