As CTIA comes to a close, we pause to select the best products from the show. The scene in Las Vegas was much quieter than in past years, and it lacked any high-profile announcements like the Palm Pre. But, there were a few products that deserve recognition as the Cream of the Crop from CTIA 2009.
Best phone: Samsung Impression
For the third year in a row, Samsung takes the title of the best phone in CTIA. While the Samsung Impression can't quite compete with the hype of last year's Instinct or 2007's Upstage, it is the most practical of the three. And in a year where messaging phones were all the rage, it stands out in a crowded field as the one of the best-designed messaging phones we've seen in a while.
The keyboard is spacious and tactile, and while the handset isn't quite sexy, it has a pleasant, minimalist shape that feels nice in the hand. Yet the Impression's biggest draw is its gorgeous active-matrix organic light-emitting diode display. As Samsung promised, the display is positively brilliant with bright colors and vibrant graphics. Features are decent, even if they're not groundbreaking.
Inside you'll find a 3-megapixel camera, a full HTML browser, Bluetooth, Samsung's TouchWiz interface, 3G support with access to Cellular Video and AT&T Music, a personal organizer, AT&T Navigator, and a speakerphone. No, that won't knock your socks off; in fact, you might even see it as somewhat boring. But as we said before, the Impression's story is more about functional features and an intuitive design rather than flash and glam. And at a very quiet show, it deserves its prize. The Impression will be out soon with AT&T; we should have a review shortly.
Best smartphone: HTC Snap
Aside from rising importance of applications, the other theme of CTIA 2009 was messaging. We saw a slew of new messaging devices debut at the show, and it extended to smartphones. While the Nokia E71x and Samsung Propel Pro were nice additions to AT&T's lineup, the HTC Snap stood out for its Inner Circle feature.
With a simple press of a button, Inner Circle brings e-mails from a preselected group of people to the top of your in-box so you can read and reply to them immediately. The capability isn't the wave of the future, but it does help prioritize your e-mails based on your preferences.
In addition, HTC, once again did a nice job on the design. The Snap is a beautifully constructed and sleek smartphone. The QWERTY keyboard also features good-size buttons for easy messaging. Finally, don't be fooled by its diminutive size, as it's packed with features, including Windows Mobile 6.1, push e-mail, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, 3G, and a 2-megapixel camera. We look forward to checking out the U.S. version of the Snap, the HTC S522, when it's released in the summer.
For more on the Snap see our photo gallery.
Best accessory: Jabra HALO stereo headset
Stereo Bluetooth headsets aren't new, of course, but the Jabra HALO stands out as one of the most impressive stereo headsets we've seen at the show. Not only does it have this sleek design that can fold down to a more portable form factor, it also claims to be the first and only stereo Bluetooth headset to have dual microphone noise cancellation. It uses Jabra's Noise Blackout technology to block out background noise, and it has Zirene Power Bass for better audio performance. The Jabra HALO also has multipoint technology, which lets you connect up to two devices simultaneously so you can easily switch between them.
Also, Jabra provides a wired solution if you want to use the HALO with a device that doesn't have Bluetooth but does have a 3.5-mm headset jack. The Jabra HALO will be available for $129.99 in May.
Best software: RocketVox (universal mobile in-box)
RocketVox has all the makings of a successful service--a gorgeous interface, broad appeal, and stacks of features. The compelling all-in-one in-box for multiple e-mail accounts, SMS, visual voice mail, voice-to-text transcription, VoIP calling, conference calling, calendars, screen sharing, and address book management also comes with three pricing plans for casual users up to business professionals.
It's got a few different features than the forthcoming Google Voice, though with both currently in private beta, RocketVox could soon face tough competition before it really catches on. However, with its strong feature set and deep integration with VoIP and visual voice mail services, RocketVox is one service we hope will stick around.