What phone should I buy?

Forget Black Friday shopping. My Q died and I need to switch. Point me in the right direction

Usually family and friends come to me to ask what to buy when they're looking at anything digital. I like to think they respect my judgment, but actually I'm just the biggest geek most of them know.

Fortunately I know a lot of people more geeky (and better informed) than me.

So, when I finally have to replace the Verizon Motorola Q I've been using so long it still has an option for a font in Cuneiform, I come to you.

There are too many devices out there and they change too fast for me to track them all and match them with my personal use case.

Fortunately, I think my requirements are fairly common, though probably unambitious among the geeknoscenti, so I'm hoping your recommendations will help other people as well.

I want a good phone on a good network. Preferably Android, because it's more open than most of the rest of them and some of the services on it are comparatively cheaper, such as the built-in GPS-enabled Google mapping.

I don't need it for anything too extraordinary -- connecting securely to multiple corporate email systems or legacy line-of-business applications, supporting multiple operating systems or work and personal environments that are quarantined from each other.

I do need it to do a solid, balanced job of a lot of things, though.

I do a lot of email and txt, moderate amount of mobile web browsing, but little to no photography.

Both the device and the network have to be fast enough that I don't get frustrated and quit trying to use the browser or apps when I really need them. Tablets are too big; flip phones (with some exceptions) don't do enough. I don't like how big most advanced phones are, but I'm willing to put up with them.

I want a phone that can use WiFi where it's available. It would be better if it could make calls over the WiFi network without using Skype or Google Voice, but fixed/mobile convergence hasn't advanced to the point that's easily possible without jumping through a maze of pretty narrow hoops.

I don't watch movies or play a lot of games on my phone, so I don't need a 56-inch plasma for a display.

I do want the display to be big enough to see a Web page without going blind or type using on-screen keys without having to file my fat fingers to narrow points.

Because strong, consistent cell signals can't find their way inside my apartment without a map, and tend to wander by intermittently even outside, I'd like to use a network extender to pick up the cell signal inside the house and route it over a broadband connection. (The lack of signal is pretty consistent with all four major carriers, by the way -- something I should have checked before moving in.)

If you haven't used these before, a network extender is a femtocell -- a mini cell-phone tower that lives inside your house and works like WiFi does with a laptop.

It's not a fixed/mobile convergence device because the frequency and protocol are still the cell network's, not standard WLAN, but it works the same way otherwise.

I've had pretty good luck with Verizon's Network Extender in the past, though financially it's a disaster: $250 for the unit, and no break at all on calls you route across it rather than Verizon's more-expensive cell network.

Sprint has its own version for $99, but if I can avoid buying one more networking box, I will.

Both Sprint and Verizon use CDMA, but I haven't investigated enough to see if it's possible to hack a Verizon femtocell to work with a Sprint phone. Sprint piggybacks on Verizon's network, but they don't like each other much, so I doubt it.

Right now Sprint and the HTC EVO 4G are at the top of my short list.

That's partly because Sprint's all-in-one monthly talk/text/data rates turn out to be a little cheaper for smartphone/data-access charges than Verizon's. It's annoying to pay an extra $10 per month for 4G, when you have little or no chance to actually use it.

Verizon's total price is very close, but the pricing comes in bits and pieces, each of which can move independently, making it easier for it to nickel-and-dime you to death.

I'd rather go for a one-year plan and pay extra for the phone than go for two years of indentured servitude. If the device is cool enough, like the EVO or Verizon's Motorola Droid X, I might be willing to sign away the time.

Tell me what you'd get given those preferences, and why yours are different. I'm at least as interested in what other people are doing with their phones that's more interesting than what I do with mine.

There are some surveys showing users in other countries, especially those 18-27, are switching rapidly from laptops to phones as their preferred Web-access device, and I'm interested in getting a read on where you all and your companies are on that migration.

Thanks for your help.

Kevin Fogarty writes about enterprise IT for ITworld. Follow him on Twitter @KevinFogarty.

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