The most important thing about your next phone isn't what carrier it's on, how big the screen is, or even who makes it. It's the platform, stupid. So here are the best phones on every platform.
iOS: iPhone 4 (32GB)
Duh. While you can pick up an iPhone 3GS on the cheap, there's no reason to. Saving $100, you lose out on the iPhone 4's frankly a-mazing screen, killer camera, faster speed (for better gaming) and FaceTime. When it comes to iOS, there is only one choice: iPhone 4. And really you should get the 32GB model. Why? Because apps, HD video and 5-megapixel photos can take a lot of space, and you're gonna be stuck with this thing for two years.
Android: Epic 4G and HTC Incredible
Picking the perfect Android phone is a little trickier. But that's part of the beauty of the platform: There are so damn many of them. Do you want a keyboard? A smaller phone or a bigger screen? A clean Google experience, or one that's been tweaked and molded by phone makers and carriers?
So we're going to cheat and pick two: The Epic 4G on Sprint, because it's got a massive keyboard—for people who have to have a keyboard—WiMax powers, an awesome camera, sweet Super AMOLED screen, and Samsung's skin is pretty tolerable for most people.
For the second, we've still got a soft spot for the HTC Incredible on Verizon. It's a little more pocketable than most of the hulking Android phones coming out right now, it's got a solid (though not stellar) camera, and HTC's is one of the better Android skinjobs out there. Plus, it's just $150—a little cheaper than most of the other top-end Android phones at the moment.
Windows Phone 7: Samsung Focus
The early Windows Phone 7 phones are a fairly generic bunch, but the phone that stands out the most is the Samsung Focus. The Super AMOLED screen really shines with Windows Phone's technicolor interface, the camera's decent and it seems to do the best job of getting out of the way of the OS, which is the real star of the show.
BlackBerry: BlackBerry Bold 9780
BlackBerry's touchscreen experience is still haphazard at best, so if you're going to go BlackBerry you should stick with the phones they're best at: the traditional BlackBerry. The Bold 9780 is their top-of-the-line BlackBerry, a refreshed version of the existing Bold, with a better camera, more RAM and most importantly, BlackBerry OS 6, so you'll be able to run all of the new apps coming out written for it.
Palm WebOS: Palm Pre 2
Getting your hands on a Pre 2 isn't as easy as walking into the AT&T store and walking out, but you can buy it for just $450 unlocked—which is fairly cheap as far as unlocked phones go. Bonus: You're not tied to an two-year contract. (That said, it's coming to Verizon soonish for those in need of commitment.) The Pre 2's not a revolutionary lunge from the original Pre, but the tweaks add up to a better phone: a faster 1GHz processor, redesigned case materials and longer battery life. Oh, and it comes with webOS 2.0 right out of the gate, which is a none-too-shabby update to webOS, with fancier multitasking and a bunch of other new features.