Using your phone for actually speaking is so 20th-century. Today's mobiles are more like little rectangular windows on the Internet, with a microphone on the side. But not all handsets are equally brilliant for browsing the Net. Read on to discover how to shop for a Web-surfing maestro.
Begin by insisting on a 3G handset. GPRS and Edge connectivity sound techy but, when it comes to the Internet, these older 2.5G technologies mean sluggish download and glacial upload speeds. Don't worry too much about the different flavours of 3G, although speedy HSDPA handsets will make the most of whatever bandwidth your network has to offer.
Many handsets also come with Wi-Fi connectivity these days. This is great for use at home, letting you download big apps and transfer media files in a jiffy, and without eating into your data allowance. Wi-Fi connectivity really comes into its own abroad, though, when you can sidestep massive roaming charges by simply popping into a café for an espresso. Bellissimo!
While mobile browsing is growing in popularity, most websites are still designed to be viewed on large desktop monitors. So the bigger your phone's display, the better your online experience will be. Anything under 76mm (3 inches) will require a magnifying glass, 89mm (3.5-inches) feels pretty good, and there are increasing numbers of 94mm (3.7-inch) and even 109mm (4.3-inch) mobiles, if you've got the pocket and bag space to spare.
Check a display's resolution, as well as its size. If you don't like blocky text and pixellated pictures, choose a phone with at least a 320x480-pixel resolution. A 480x850-pixel resolution, or even higher, will be less tiring on the eyes, as will the bright, natural colours of OLED screens.
Touchscreens are all the rage, and a good capacitive model with multi-touch support (so you can pinch your fingers together to zoom) is certainly the easiest and most natural way to master the mobile Web. Avoid old-fashioned resistive displays unless you're on a tight budget, and always try out a touchscreen before buying -- some are way more responsive than others.
With many phones, you don't have a choice of Web browser. That might mean relearning how to navigate bookmarks, enter passwords and change security settings, and forgetting about cool desktop features like tabbed browsing. Smart phones, however, give you far more freedom.
Opera Mini is available for most smart phones (including iPhone, Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile and Nokia devices), and offers tabs, faster browsing and the ability to share favourites with your desktop Opera software. Skyfire is similarly speedy, has one-click access to social networks and will even browse Flash websites. It can be installed on Android, Nokia and Windows Mobile devices.
Talking of Flash, the latest Android handsets (running version 2.2 and above of the operating system) are the first mobile devices that come with Flash capability built in. This lets you visit some of the Web's more interactive destinations, including gaming sites, although be warned that they can really steam through your monthly data allowance.
Looking to the future, HTML5 is likely to become a more common standard for multimedia, and 4G services will offer true mobile-broadband speeds for streaming high-definition video on the move. But both are still some way off. If you're shopping for an Internet phone today, here's CNET UK's selection of the fastest, most Web-friendly Web mobiles.