STUFF.TV CHRISTMAS GIFT GUIDE – 5 things to consider before buying a smartphone

Ok, money's tight these days, right? But if you're addicted to high–end mobiles, maybe our pay–as–you–go gift ideas just aren'

SIM–free or contract?

On the face of it, this one's a no brainer. Buying a spanking new smartphone without a contract is a costly business. The new Nokia N97 is set to come in at around £500 and the iPhone 3G starts at £349 on PAYG. Get a lengthy contract though and you'll get the phone for nowt. But there's the catch – that painful 18 month, or even two year deal. If you're a serial first–adoptor, that new N97 won't be cutting edge come late 2010. Buy SIM–free and you can sell on and at least recoup some of the cash.

Touchscreen or proper keyboard?

Thanks in no small part to the iPhone's already legendary UI and design status, touchscreen smartphone's have been 2008's big draw. RIM, HTC, LG, Nokia, Samsung and Sony Ericsson are all in on it. But seeing as a smartie is for work as well as play, is a touchscreen the way forward? If you can master the art of a touchscreen, then fine, but if you prefer something more physical, then compromise is the way to go. Think the new Nokia N97, Xperia X1 or the HTC Touch Pro. All have that touchy feely thing going on with a proper 'board underneath.

Is it for work or play?

The touchscreen question rears its head again here. While most smartphones still play up their work credentials, these days plenty of the big players want you to focus on play time too. RIM made that abundantly clear with the BlackBerry Storm. If you want to play, then the Storm, HTC Touch HD and iPhone are undoubtedly where it's at, thanks to their excellent screen sizes. Work? Then plump for the BlackBerry Bold or Nokia E–series.

Which OS?

This really is the big one. If you love simplicity, then obviously the iPhone is a winner. But if you want something more fully featured and easy to use, then it's clear that Symbian S60 is the way forward. And seeing as it's about as ubiquitous as I'm A Celebrity..., you'll have plenty of Nokia flavoured phones to choose from. But if you're a real work hound, then Windows Mobile, an acquired taste, has to be your pick. HTC's modded version on the Touch series is worth a look, as is the neat Xperia X1. Of course, the alternative is to Google and get a T–Mobile G1.

For more ideas on how to buy the best gadgets, check out our feature on the 5 things to consider before getting a netbook. And for more Christmas ideas, check out our daily stocking fillers.