2011's best mobile devices: The InfoWorld picks

With such a plentiful selection of smartphones and tablets available, picking the best ones is harder than ever

The year's top smartphones and tablets for business users

It's been an amazing year for mobile technology, with a major update each to iOS, Android, and Windows Phone; a raft of new devices; and the rise of LTE-based 4G networks. But which devices are best for business users? InfoWorld picks the best in the slides that follow.

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Best smartphone: Apple iPhone 4S

Despite the challengers, Apple's iPhone remains the best smartphone available. The newest version -- the iPhone 4S -- adds faster hardware, a much better camera, and the Siri voice-controlled personal assistant to what was already the most capable device on the market. The wealth of business and personal apps, the diverse media and gaming options, and the enterprise-class security capabilities as a complete package can't be beat. The previous model, the iPhone 4, remains available for $100 less and is a great option for more casual users.

U.S. carriers: AT&T Wireless, Sprint, Verizon Wireless
Price: $199 (8GB), $299 (32GB), and $399 (64GB) with two-year contract; $649, $749, and $849, respectively, for unlocked, no-contract versions

Runner-up: Motorola Droid Razr

If for whatever reason you can't see yourself getting an iPhone, two Android devices are worthwhile choices.

The first, the Motorola Mobility Droid Razr, boasts a thin design that's easy to carry, despite its 4.3-inch screen. The Kevlar case promises resilience in everyday use, and the LTE network support allows fast data access in regions with the cellular technology in place. Also, it has corporate-class security. The device comes with Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" but will be upgradable to Android 4 "Ice Cream Sandwich" in early 2012.

U.S. network: Verizon Wireless
Price: $300 with two-year contract, $650 without contract

Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy Nexus

The other non-iPhone option is the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. It's the first Android device to ship with the new Android 4 OS. Like other Galaxy devices, it has a fast processor and a bright, 4.6-inch Super AMOLED screen that will appeal to gamers and Web surfers, but it is a heavy, tight fit in a shirt pocket.

U.S. carrier: Verizon Wireless
Price: $299 with two-year contract, $749 without contract

Best tablet: Apple iPad 2

The original iPad redefined and validated the tablet category after a decade of failed attempts by Microsoft and others. Apple's iPad 2 takes that revolutionary device and crafts a thinner, lighter, and more capable form, thanks to faster hardware and the addition of mid-quality cameras. The magnetic Smart Cover is a genius invention, allowing for easy use with a Bluetooth keyboard for those who prefer a physical input device. The wide range of apps and hardware add-ons, its corporate-class security, the AirPlay wireless transmission protocol for large-screen media playback and screen mirroring, and the many improvements in iOS 5 keep the iPad the undisputed tablet champ.

U.S. carriers: AT&T Wireless, Verizon Wireless
Price: Wi-Fi-only version $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB), $699 (64GB); 3G versions cost $130 more and require no contracts

Runner-up: Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

If an iPad 2 is not on your buy list, the other tablet to consider is the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, which runs Android 3 "Honeycomb" and offers decent corporate security, a widescreen display well suited for movie playback, and a sleek, lightweight design.

U.S. carriers: T-Mobile USA, Verizon Wireless
Price: Wi-Fi-only version $499 (16GB), $599 (32GB) for Wi-Fi-only models; T-Mobile 3G version $650 (16GB) with two-year contract; Verizon 4G version $529 (16GB), $629 (32GB) with two-year contract

Best messaging device: None

Smartphones are great if you want a pocketable computer that can run the Web and local apps, as well as handle various communications streams. But many people just want a messaging device for email, social networking, and phone calls. The Research in Motion BlackBerry lineup has long filled that need, but the BlackBerry platform is now at its end, and RIM's QNX-based replacement devices are still under development. Further investment in that device series makes no sense, but nothing on the market is both adept at messaging and meets corporate security requirements. Thus, no product qualifies to win this category in 2011.

Runner-up: Samsung Focus Flash

If you're willing to use a device that can't be secured in a corporate network, Microsoft's Windows Phone 7.5 "Mango" smartphone OS is a compelling choice for a messaging platform. Despite some text size issues for mature users, its UI is very adept at messaging, from Facebook to email. For instance, the Samsung Focus Flash provides a nicely proportioned package with a crisp screen to deliver its messaging prowess. If Microsoft would add corporate security to Windows Phone, business users would have a nonsmartphone messaging alternative. (Europeans might consider the Nokia Lumia 800, which isn't available in the United States.)

U.S. carrier: AT&T Wireless
Price: $1 with two-year contract, $400 without contract

Most innovative product: Motorola Lapdock

Motorola Mobility's line of business-savvy smartphones -- the Atrix 4G, Photon 4G, Droid 3 and 4, and Droid Razr -- has a capability that InfoWorld believes points the way to a future in which your mobile device is your primary computing device, one that docks into peripherals and resources as needed to scale up as a desktop. The Motorola Mobility Lapdock 100 converts a compatible Mototola Android smartphone into a laptop, with a desktop Linux version of the Firefox browser, a keyboard, ports for mice and other USB peripherals, and an HDMI video-out connector. It's the first tangible example of how the future of computing could develop. The Lapdock is a rough, early-days product, to be sure, but a meaningfully innovative one nonetheless.

Price: $249

Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.