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Verizon Wireless XV6900 broadband smart phone

The scoop: Verizon Wireless XV6900 broadband smart phone with touch screen (made by LG), about US$300 (with two-year agreement, online discount, plus monthly service).

What it is: One of the latest smart phones from Verizon Wireless, this device aims to be iPhone-like with its graphical interface (including features such as the black background and touch-screen capability), but with additional features that the iPhone doesn't have, including access to Verizon's EV-DO high-speed data network, and Windows Mobile 6 operating system, which tries to appeal to more serious business users and enterprises.

The goal is a device for mobile workers (Internet browser, corporate e-mail access, Office file support) with the multimedia bells and whistles (Windows Media Player, 2.0-megapixel digital camera, access to VCast on-demand music and video services). To store all of those files, e-mails and multimedia files, the XV6900 comes with 128MB of RAM, 256MB of ROM and a microSD card slot that can store up to 8GB of additional data.

Why it's cool: The updated GUI makes it a bit easier to scroll through options and access applications easier, and the overlay put onto Windows Mobile 6 makes you stop and say, "Wait, this is a Windows Mobile device?" The "front page" of the device has interesting functions, such as telling you the time (in big, blinding blocky numbers), reminding you of any upcoming appointments, and accessing little things such as the weather report or moving to the "launcher" function, which gives you quick access to nine other applications (you can customize the launcher to pick the nine applications that you want). The high-speed data access via EV-DO (I was able to average between 100K and 200Kbps Web throughput) offers a nice upgrade over networks like EDGE or GPRS.

Some caveats: The 2.8-inch color screen is too small for useful touch-screen functions; if your thumbs or fingers are adult-sized you're going to get tired of the touch screen pretty quickly. Thankfully, the device includes a stylus that lets you activate applications the old-fashioned way.

My biggest complaint with the device is that after you get past the colorful and iPhone-like GUI overlay, there's still a Windows Mobile 6 device underneath. At first, you might find yourself saying, "Wow, this is a Windows Mobile device?". But after a while you end up saying, "Oh yeah, this is a Windows Mobile device." While Microsoft has done well over the years improving the operating system (and I'm hopeful for Version 6.1), it's still Windows Mobile. The GUI is nice, but it's like putting lipstick on a pig. The browser is still Internet Explorer, so even with faster network access, it's not a great mobile browser.

Bottom line: Mobile workers who like Windows Mobile (or can tolerate it) more than I do will probably be fine with the XV6900. I probably wouldn't upgrade to this smart phone from a normal cell phone, and am unsure whether it would be worth switching from a different smart phone. There's not much extra stuff to appeal to me.

Grade: 3 stars (out of five).