During the course of 2006, better cameras were built into handsets, fashion phones battled it out on the catwalk, GPS and Wi-Fi integration became common, and advances in mobile networks saw faster downloads for content.
Camera phones pushed into the 3-megapixel space with Sony Ericsson and Nokia both launching 3G handsets that took good-quality snaps. The K800i edged in front of N73 in our eyes in terms of picture quality and ease-of-use, but we loved Nokia's integration with Flickr for uploading photos.
While LG introduced the innovative Chocolate phone, it's the company's clever marketing strategy -- to call a handset something that's instantly recognisable -- which is being imitated by others. Arguably though, Motorola got there first with the iconic RAZR, which continues to be popular in all the iterations we've seen this year.
Windows Mobile devices tried their best to steal some of the enterprise market from RIM, with the introduction of push e-mail, but the Black Berry maker retaliated with the 3G-capbable 8707 and the
On the network side, Telstra took the limelight by launching Next G, a 3G network which operates in the 850MHz band that was HSPDA-enabled at launch, and will replace its soon-to-be-phased-out CDMA network. Vodafone switched its 3G network to HSDPA a day later, while 3 is slowly catching up with a nationwide rollout expected to be complete by March 2007. Optus, meanwhile, seems to be twiddling its thumbs.
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Best camera phone of 2006 (Sony Ericsson K800i)
The Sony Ericsson K800i outshines all other camera phones in term of features and user-friendly design. Aside from a few squabbles with the extra bulk, the K800i makes it easy for first-time 3G users and is an ideal companion for anyone wanting to take happy-snaps on-the-go.
Most innovative design (LG Chocolate KG800)
While Motorola's RAZR still manages to trigger ultra-thin fashion clones, LG has moved in a different direction with the Chocolate KG800, an understated and stylish mobile phone with a beguiling design twist.
Best slider phone of the year (Samsung D900 (Ultra Edition 12.9))
Samsung's D900 proves that's it's entirely possible to take an existing phone design and put it on a serious slimming diet.
Phone most likely to be the next big thing (Telstra hiptop 2)
With consumer-friendly mobile email, instant messaging, SMS and even Web browsing, and a deal that gives you almost unlimited data for $1 per day, Telstra's hiptop 2 looks set to become Black Berry for teens and twentysomethings -- it could even topple an iPod as the hottest thing under the Christmas tree this year.
Best smart phone for business users (Black
The Black Berry 8700 series is ideal for mobile professionals who require always-on e-mail access, but its cost and functionality won't be attractive to most non-business users.
Fashion phone of the year (Sony Ericsson Z610i)
Sony Ericsson's Z610i is a hot 3G phone for this summer with some serious features under the hood, but you may not want to use it as your main camera or video player.
Slimmest phone that would go unnoticed even in Nicole Richie's pocket (Motorola SLVR L7)
Basically a candybar version of the RAZR, Motorola's SLVR is a stylish, multimedia-savvy phone that slips easily into your pocket.
Tackiest phone of the year (Motorola D&G RAZR V3i)
This fashion-focused phone screamed "tack-o-rama" according to our simple tastes, but label lovers might be sold on the gold.
Phone that came closest to being an "iPod Killer" (Sony Ericsson W810i)
An excellent phone with plenty of storage space for photos. The camera is above average for a mobile phone, as are the supplied headphones. While there is no need for W800i users to upgrade to this model, the W810i offers an impressive feature set for those considering the purchase.
Consumers that have already been lured by the Black Berry's popular email functions will love the new-look Pearl, but may be disappointed when comparing it to other high-end consumer devices with 2-megapixel cameras and Wi-Fi connectivity.
Best phone for e-mail that's not a Black
What do you call something that looks like a Blackberry, acts like a Blackberry and yet offers a lot more than most Blackberry devices? Nokia calls it the E61.
Most likely to survive being dropped in the loo (Nokia 5500 Sport)
The 5500's training features improve on its predecessors, but are at best a novelty for those starting out, rather than fitness fanatics. As a sturdy phone, however, the 5500 shines.
Best GPS-enabled phone (Mio A701)
Overall, a great phone with a host of features in addition to GPS capabilities, the experience is only marred by the high price and ergonomic issues.
Mobile phone readers had the most problems with (Nokia 6280)
Provided you're willing to compromise a bit of pocket space, the Nokia 6280 has a range of multimedia applications and a dazzling big, bright screen. We'd like to have seen better camera performance, but as far as capturing video goes, it's hard to beat this phone at the moment in terms of quality.
Biggest let-down in 2006 when it was finally released (Nokia N91)
The N91 sees Nokia take two steps forward with functionality and one step back in its design efforts, making the phone suitable for feature-mongers but not so attractive to budding fashionistas.
Most anticipated phone for 2007 (Nokia N95)
It's hard to pigeonhole Nokia's flaship multimedia device, the N95, as a mobile phone. Due in January 2007, it combines a quadband handset (with support for 3G and HSDPA networks) with a GPS navigator and mapping application, 5-megapixel camera, Wi-Fi connectivity, a Web browser and a whole lot more.