Every year at CTIA we dole out praise for those companies that are deserving. CNET's cream of the crop awards recognize the best of the show in four categories: best cell phone, best smartphone, best accessory, and best service. Though the 2008 CTIA wasn't the most exciting on record, we still saw some pretty cool things in Las Vegas. And without further ado, here they are.
Best cell phone: Samsung Instinct
In some ways this wasn't a tough choice because so few cell phones were officially unveiled at CTIA. But even if it was facing a more crowded field, Sprint's Samsung Instinct still would be a top choice. Sure, we just got to see a preproduction model (we'll have to wait for June to see a final version) but even now we can see it has a lot of potential. Not only does it offer a boatload of features, but also it offers a sleek design with a full touch screen and an attractive and (seemingly) easy-to-use interface. Comparisons with the iPhone are obvious, and while the Instinct can't quite match Apple's device on the design front, it offers many more features on paper. As we've said before, Sprint could have quite a hit on its hands, as long as the Instinct delivers on its promises. Oh, and in case you're keeping score, this is Samsung's second win in a row.
Best smartphone: Velocity Mobile
Smartphones today tend to do a lot of the same things but just vary in design, which is fine but doesn't exactly get our pulses racing, you know? This is why we're amped on a new company called Velocity Mobile, which made its debut at CTIA 2008. The smartphone manufacturer introduced two new Windows Mobile devices, the Velocity 103 and the Velocity 111, and yes, they're still Windows Mobile but what we're really digging is the company's philosophy of simplicity and ease of use. Perhaps taking a few lessons from the Apple iPhone, Velocity has come up with its own user interface to make it easier for consumers to use the smartphones right of the box. Such enhancements include more familiar icons (similar to the PC experience), more customization to fit the user's lifestyle, and cool user interaction (for example, sliding panels). Unfortunately, we weren't able to see it in action since the working units were stuck on the monorail with Velocity's CEO but we find it to be real promising and look forward to checking out the devices and software when they debut in Q2 and Q3.
Best accessory: Sound ID HD300
There were plenty of Bluetooth headsets to look at in this year's show, but few of them came close to our clear favorite, the Sound ID HD300. We're big fans of the Sound ID SM100, so we were excited to finally see a worthy successor. The HD300 may not look like much on the outside, but it promises even better audio quality and clarity than before. Sound ID is utilizing every trick in the book to improve the sound--a NoiseNavigation technology to automatically reduce wind and background noise, a PersonalSound mode to let you choose a "personalized" listening mode, as well as automatic volume adjustment. The HD300 also takes a departure from the other Sound ID headsets with a smaller and more discreet design.
Best Service: Dashwire
Crouching over your cell phone to view photos, send text messages, and update your bookmarks isn't the most efficient use of your brain--especially if there's a computer nearby. Dashwire.com, a six-month-old visual content management service for Windows Mobile phones, continues to add excellent features for responding, sharing, adding, and interacting with your phone's contacts, media, and communications. The addition of CallWave visual voicemail and threaded text conversations are smart, useful moves.
Honorable mention: LG Vu
The LG Vu was one of the most noteworthy products at CTIA this year, and it wasn't just because it's one of the first phones to carry AT&T Mobile TV, AT&T's live TV service. The true winning factor lies in its 3-inch-wide touch-screen display, which impressed us with its color, resolution, and vibrating feedback whenever keys are pressed. We also liked that we could flip the phone to landscape mode to use the virtual QWERTY keyboard. Other features we liked include the 2.0-megapixel camera, full 3G support with access to AT&T Video Share and AT&T Mobile Music, a full HTML browser, and mobile e-mail. However, we already notice a few niggling problems, like the lack of Wi-Fi for example, but the overall product still left a positive first impression.