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Best Phones for Text Messaging

New phones incorporate keyboards in all shapes and sizes to make texting as easy as talking.

In case you missed the bulletin: Cell phones are good for far more than simple chitchat these days. One of the most useful phone features, present on virtually every phone on the market, is the ability to send short texts, or SMS messages, to another phone. Texting can be a chore on a standard numeric keypad, though. If you want to make the most of this handy function, you need a phone that’s up to the task. Try one of these models, all equipped with a full QWERTY keyboard and built to help you speed through the toughest of texting challenges. (Note: All prices represent purchase cost after signing a two-year service plan.)

1. LG Voyager

$300 (Verizon), us.lge.com

The mobile-phone veterans at LG have been refining the dual-mode clamshell phone for years now. The company’s latest iteration, dubbed Voyager, is awfully close to perfect. The Voyager is a streamlined, buttonless brick that cracks open to reveal a spacious keyboard. A two-megapixel camera, Bluetooth and a microSD memory card slot round out the features, but the zippy 3G data speeds make the Voyager a real slam dunk.

2. Palm Treo 755p

$250 (Sprint) or $350 (Verizon), palm.com

The Treo you know and love differs little from Palm-based Treos dating back to the 680, but subtle tweaks have made the new model better than ever. It’s slimmer and lighter than before, while modest OS upgrades have rendered the phone more intuitive; most users find it takes fewer taps or button presses to get something done with the Palm OS than on competing devices with Windows Mobile. But the real upgrade is 3G: On either Sprint’s or Verizon’s network (both of which sell the phone), it’s light years ahead of the 750p in the performance department. Bonus for style mavens: It’s also available in dark blue and maroon.

3. RIM BlackBerry Curve 8320

$250 (T-Mobile), rim.net

The latest Curve is the phone of choice for BlackBerry fans who want a little more in the way of consumer friendliness. The Curve gets you a camera, MP3/video player, and built-in Wi-Fi. If you opt for the plan from T-Mobile, you can even use its HotSpot@Home service to make calls over a Wi-Fi connection, without touching your regular calling minutes. As with other BlackBerrys, the keyboard is beyond reproach. Tapping out quick IMs or lengthy emails doesn’t get much more comfortable than this. Oh, and that metallic finish? Killer.

4. Apple iPhone

$399 (AT&T), apple.com

By the time you read this, I expect the second version of the Apple iPhone will have been announced, with the computer maker correcting the original’s flaws by adding GPS and high-speed data service…and probably jacking up the price once again. But if you don’t have one already and you just can’t wait for version 2.0, the iPhone makes an attractive alternative to phones with “real” keyboards. It’s especially easy for smartphone novices to move from a standard handset to something more data-oriented, thanks to the iPhone’s ease of use. That said, experts who want to do some serious texting should look elsewhere: Studies have shown that typing on the iPhone’s virtual keyboard moves at half the speed of other phones.

5. Helio Ocean

$199 (Helio), helio.com

Not familiar with Helio? Maybe it’s time to introduce yourself. The company offers exclusive hardware running a homegrown operating system and operates its own network (well, it leases towers and bandwidth from Sprint). This all adds up to a pretty compelling package. Helio’s Ocean is an impressive smartphone with a twist: It slides two ways. Hold it vertically and slide out a standard numeric pad, or flip it on its side and slide out a QWERTY keyboard. A nice GPS system and some cool social networking features make the Ocean a stellar texting machine. The bargain price only seals the deal.

6. Samsung BlackJack II

$100 (AT&T), samsungmobileusa.com

Samsung’s original BlackJack was popular, but largely overshadowed by Motorola’s similar Q, which arrived at about the same time. The second version of the BlackJack updates this super-streamlined QWERTY phone with Windows Mobile 6, 3G speed and an iPod-like jog wheel mounted on the front of the device, which lets you scroll quickly through messages and menu items. All this for just a hundred bucks, with service plan.

CHRISTOPHER NULL is a freelance writer in San Francisco.


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