Pre, Motorola Droid, and iPhone are all chewing up a majority of wireless mindshare these days, which makes it particularly easy to forget that there's this huge, vibrant catalog of cool non-smartphone handsets sitting right below them in your favorite carrier's lineup. They can play music, games, sometimes last for days on a charge (try that with a G1 -- we dare you), and often take up just a fraction of the space in your pocket that a more powerful handset would. They're not for everyone, but odds are you know a couple folks who fit the featurephone mold, and... well, it is the season of giving, isn't it? Follow the break for a few of our recommendations.
Note: Looking to give a few smartphones away to friends and family? This particular guide's all about regular cellphones -- but don't worry, we'll be posting our smartphone guide in the not-too-distant future!
Holiday Gift Guide 2009: CellphonesSee all photos
LG Neon - The kiddies are really into this "messaging" fad these days, which makes QWERTY devices like the Neon from LG cheap and plentiful on virtually every carrier. What sets the Neon apart a bit, though, is its touchscreen -- you don't need to slide out the landscape keyboard to dial, because you've got an on-screen keypad there when you need it. Unlike most of AT&T's modern devices, the Neon mopes along at EDGE data speeds -- but with that special someone on your list pounding out text message after text message, odds are they won't much care.
$119.99 (prepaid) - Buy from AT&T
Samsung Behold - Now that the Android-powered Behold II is strutting its stuff, that puts some pressure on the original Behold's price point -- and you, the gift-buying public, wins. With support for T-Mobile's AWS 3G and a 5 megapixel camera, the Behold still a totally modern, sexy way to put full touch in your loved one's pocket, and you'll pay far less for the privilege than you would've twelve months ago. The downside? It's only available in "rose" at the moment (we'd call it "pink"), but hey, rose is the new black anyhow.
$79.99 - Buy from T-Mobile
Motorola Clutch i465 - Looks can be deceiving. Take the Clutch from Motorola, for example: press shots make it out to be an industrial design disaster, but it's actually pretty cute in the flesh -- and that pointy keyboard is a good deal more usable than you might think. For push-to-talk fanatics on Boost and Sprint Direct Connect, it's a solid and cost-effective option, especially if texting is a priority -- and these days, isn't it always?
$99.99 (prepaid) - Buy from Boost Mobile
$39.99 - Buy from Sprint
Oh, you shouldn't have
Casio G'zOne Rock - Does your life partner, child, or grandmother travel everywhere with a minimum of two carabiners and high-altitude survival gear? The G'zOne Rock was made specifically with the adrenaline-rush lifestyle in mind, featuring mil-spec 810F compliance for resistance against many of the world's most damning evils -- water, dirt, vibration, and the like -- plus a bunch of sensors for reporting temperature, magnetic north, and just how "extreme" you are on a 10 scale. Just kidding on that last part, though -- obviously, if you're using the Rock, you're a perfect 10.
$199.99 - Buy from Verizon
Samsung Mythic - Some people think a fully-loaded spec list is the way to their heart. Others, though -- many others, we suspect -- have a weakness for a few good curves. For those types, we submit Samsung's recently-launched Mythic for AT&T, perhaps the best-looking full touchscreen Sammy launched in the States to date with a 3.3-inch display, a 3.2 megapixel camera, HSDPA, and memory expansion up to 16GB.
$199.99 - Buy from AT&T
Samsung Instinct HD - Here's a fun idea: prove your love this holiday season by spending a full quarter of a grand and committing to a two-year contract for one of the most expensive non-smartphone handsets sold in the US today. All kidding aside, the pricey Instinct HD isn't for everyone, but the one-two punch of HD video out (paired with a 5 megapixel camera) and WiFi is an absolute rarity in the featurephone world -- so, if nothing else, at least your lucky recipient will be able to claim a high degree of uniqueness in their choice of handsets.
$249.99 - Buy from Sprint
We can't afford the rent now, can we?
LG GD910 - So, the magical Age of the Cellphone Watch is finally now upon us -- but it's all a bit anticlimactic, it turns out, because the devices are insanely pricey and of limited practical value. If you simply must strap something that transmits RF to your recipient's wrist, though, there's no way more stylish to do than with LG's GD910. The lack of GSM 850 (and of US 3G altogether) makes American use a tricky proposition, but at least you'll be able to blaze along on those weekly European jaunts.
$1,019.99 - Buy from eXpansys
Mobiado 105GMT - It takes an extraordinarily healthy bank account to buy a limited-function phone that runs into the four figures. It takes an even healthier bank account, though, to buy one for your husband, wife, or complete stranger -- but hey, if you've got the money and they need the ability to track two time zones with mechanical clocks at the same time, Mobiado's 105GMT is about the only device in the world that fills the bill. It's available in four exciting finishes, so if you manage to make it past the total plus shipping and tax on the invoice, the hardest part of this gift might be choosing which one your loved one is going to enjoy the most.
Price varies by model - Buy from Mobiado
Vertu Constellation Ayxta - In the phone world, nothing says "outrageously excessive" quite like Nokia's UK-based Vertu unit -- and inevitably, they've got at least one new show of unspeakable wealth every year that we'll never personally have the opportunity to touch, much less own. This year, that honor goes to the Constellation Ayxta line, the company's first clamshell with a 3 megapixel camera, 3G, and microSD expansion -- not exactly $10,000 specs, but then again, you can't put a price on your recipient's face when they rip open that gold flake wrapping paper, can you?
Price varies by model - Buy from a Nokia flagship store