It's been five months since

Apple

(AAPL) - Get Report

unleashed the iPhone on the buying public. Because it's so cool, they've sold a slew of them.

Everyone who has played with one agrees that the human-computer interface is the best in the business. No one else comes close to matching this near-perfect portable Web-browsing device and iPod all rolled up into one slick package.

On the other hand, the cell phone part is merely average, data speeds are on the slow side and it's not really designed to handle enterprise e-mail. I'm sure all of those problems will be addressed by the gurus at Apple in the iPhone2.

But, what about the current competition? How do they compare with the smart phone class leader?

Let's start with the LG Voyager smart phone; as sold by

Verizon

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, it's currently $300 after a $50 online rebate with a two-year commitment.

I largely agree with

Scott Moritz's recent review: On the plus side, the phone operates on an EV-DO data network that is much faster than the iPhone's EDGE and there's a real QWERTY keyboard on the inside. On the minus side, despite inner and outer screens, the LG's human interface is nowhere near as intuitive as the iPhone's.

Even worse, the built-in stereo speakers are buried inside of the handset -- situated on either side of the screen. When the phone is closed, the sound from the speakers is dull and muffled. The iPhone is first and foremost an iPod.

HTC's

Touch phone, along with their brand new Touch Dial (featuring a slide-out keyboard) and the Touch Cruise (built-in GPS) are terrific handsets in their own right. But take away the freshened-up home screen and the nearly-as-clever-as-an-iPhone Touch-Flo touch-screen technology and you're left with a Windows Mobile smart phone.

Terrific at handling

Microsoft

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enterprise e-mail, calendars, contacts and tasks, Windows Mobile devices like HTC's Touch fall apart when you try to use one for browsing the Web. You're stuck with mostly-text versions of Web sites. It's not even worth wasting time comparing to the iPhone experience.

On the other hand, most Windows phones operate on fast 3G networks -- the speed depends on your cell phone carrier -- and this goes for any handset that runs on the Windows Mobile OS.That means that all of your data (e-mail, messaging, information downloads) is dealt with at very fast speeds.

Bottom line: if you get your mail from a Microsoft Outlook server, any Windows Mobile smart phone might be just right for you and a much better alternative than the iPhone.

If a smart phone, by definition, can handle messaging, Web browsing and multimedia playback functions, then there are some very good options other than iPhones and Windows Mobile devices.

Some of the new

Palm

(PALM)

Treos can handle Windows Mobile e-mail as well. I'm especially fond of the new, smaller Palm Centro, which is currently a

Sprint

(S) - Get Report

exclusive at only $99 with a two-year contract. It's smaller than old Treos, can provide you with a clean interface to many types of e-mail and has a very small but amazingly tactile keyboard to input your messages and data.

Nokia's

(NOK) - Get Report

e61/e62 smart phone can also handle Windows e-mail as well as messaging from most other POP2/IMAP services. It's a four-band GSM world phone with a small keyboard right beneath the screen, an easy-to-use, clean interface and a very good cell phone inside.

The e61 is sold everywhere except the U.S. The e62 was originally marketed by

AT&T

(T) - Get Report

here and is now available through the Nokia Web site (with AT&T service) for $299.99. In long-term testing, I found the e61 was a wonderful phone to live with and is highly recommended.

Nokia also makes a handset that's a super-mini laptop disguised as a cell phone. The e90 Communicator is marketed here as an open phone -- meaning it's not sold by any U.S. carrier -- with a gazillion features and a price tag to match: $1099.89 from the Nokia Website.

This 3G GSM worldphone flips open to reveal a keyboard that's large enough for touch typing. The phone comes a multitude of features (including video calling and integrated GPS services) and can actually fit in your pocket. I'm hoping to get my hands on one in the very near future.

Finally, the ubiquitous Blackberry. Rumor has it that the wizards at

Research in Motion

(RIMM)

are busy working on a new 9000 series device. These phones will combine the best of the current Blackberry devices with a brand-new touch screen interface -- and a whole lot more. They may even provide 3G data capabilities, simultaneous voice and data and a super-fast processor to handle it all.

As you might expect, RIM is very tight-lipped about this project. With three industry shows coming up in the first quarter of 2008, expect to hear a lot more about this next-generation device very soon.

With 34 years experience as a journalist -- the last 27 with NBC -- Gary Krakow has seen all the best and worst technology that's come along. Gary joined MSNBC.com before it actually went online in July 1996. He produced and anchored the first live Webcast of a presidential election in November 1996. With a background as a gadget freak, audiophile and ham radio operator, Krakow started writing reviews for both Audio and Stereophile Magazines in the 80s. Once at MSNBC.com, Krakow started writing a column to help feed his personal passion for playing with gadgets of all types, shapes and sizes. Within a short time, that column became a major force in many electronics industries -- audio, video, photography, GPS and cell phones. Readership soared, and manufacturers told him they had actual proof that a positive review in his column sold thousands of their products. Many electronics manufacturers have used quotes from his reviews in their sales literature as well as on their Web sites. There have also been a few awards too, including Emmys in the 70s, 80s and 90s.