Love Your Smartphone But Want More Choices? 2011 Is Your Year!

New Verizon iPhones are just the beginning. Mega-partnerships are shaking up the market and taking competition to the next level. This summer, Nokia + Microsoft will roll out its new line of smartphones — a major event for the team that pairs Asia’s largest smartphone manufacturer with Windows 7 Mobile’s dashboard.

Meanwhile, new Droid phones resulting from the red-hot partnership of Google +

Motorola are constantly being released, heating up the competition. Lucky you.
Here’s a quick overview of similarities and differences between Verizon and AT&T iPhone services to give you an idea of what to expect as major players compete for your loyalty.

• AT&T lets you run apps and surf the Web while you’re on a call but Verizon can’t because it uses a different technology (CDMA).

• Verizon offers a Wi-Fi hot spot feature upgrade that lets you share your wifi signal with up to five other devices.

• Speed and reliability depend on your particular market. Third-party field tests in San Francisco show that Verizon iPhones outperform AT&T. However, AT&T has been upgrading its network and is now three times as fast as Verizon in some markets. On the other hand, last year AT&T had nearly three times the number of dropped calls as Verizon (5.8% v 2%).

• While monthly voice and unlimited texting plans on the iPhone itself all cost the same from each carrier, data and other plans differ enough to matter.

While neither iPhone works on the ultra-fast 4G networks that both carriers are building, next year’s iPhones probably will.

Will the delay cost Apple customers? Nokia + Microsoft phones will probably quickly become a top-three player along with iPhone and Droid. Nokia is known for its uber-stylish phones and Microsoft’s dashboard has gotten rave reviews even though it hasn’t taken off yet, so expect to be wowed. Where does this leave BlackBerry? Trailing, but still ahead of last year’s HP + Palm combination.

If you’re not sure which partnership should win your next contract, consider the 30,000 foot perspective. If you want a smartphone that simply works and you don’t mind a controlled-user experience, go for the iPhone. If you want a lot more choices and don’t mind the less-refined, open-source platform, choose Droid or Windows 7 Mobile. And if you want a phone to use primarily for work, guess what? Just choose your favorite! Leapfrog Labs says mega-partnerships have helped make them all business-friendly.