Handsets I can't wait to get my hands on

Fingers are twitching in anticipation of new smartphone releases from RIM, HTC, Motorola, and more

It's already been a busy week with handsets coming out of the woodwork. While the BlackBerry Curve 8900 moved up its release date a week, Kogan has apparently put the finishing touches on the Agora, the second Android handset, as actual pictures of the device spread all over the Web this week.

Reportedly, the Agora will be available in regular and Pro flavors; for $73 more, the Pro gets you GPS, Wi-Fi, and a 2-megapixel camera. Both phones come with Bluetooth, a QWERTY keypad, quad-band EDGE, tri-band HSDPA, and a 320-by-240 touchscreen, but neither will be available until Jan. 29.

While Sony's Xpera X1a received a somewhat bland unboxing, Motorola started showing off its trio of new handsets early to whet the whistles of CES attendees.

The everyone's-going-green Motorola Renew W233 is reportedly manufactured from recycled water bottles, and the general consensus seems to be that -- like a lot of environmentally friendly things -- it's ugly. Nonetheless, it costs less to manufacture, and Motorola has promised to invest in renewable energy programs, a step that could be duplicated by other manufacturers depending on how the Renew performs.

There's also the push-to-talk Motorola Tundra VA76r, which is the more rugged option with CrystalTalk Plus, aGPS, stereo Bluetooth, and a 2-megapixel camera. Again, not a beauty pageant winner -- it's more about function than design.

But enough about those two. The Motorola handset that everyone seems to be clamoring for is the Surf A3100 (aka Atila and A3000) with Windows Mobile 6.1, a 2.8-inch custom designed touchscreen (plus a stylus and a trackball), support for microSD, GPS, and a 3-megapixel camera. What is doesn't have is a U.S. release date. This pretty thing is hitting Asian markets sometime in Q1.

Disappointed? Perhaps you'll feel better knowing that HTC has announced the S743 for U.S. markets. It's not a touchscreen, but it will be unlocked. And the QWERTY keyboard, video calling, 2.4-inch QVGA screen, and the 3.2-megapixel camera make it a contender. What pushes it over the edge is the superslim, sexy-as-a-little-black-dress design.

Also unlocked is the Pharos Traveler 137 -- what looks to be a first-class GPS smartphone. The Traveler 137's navigation solution has already been awarded a 2009 CES Innovation award -- Pharos's Smart Navigator software doesn't require a cell connection to operate, although it does require a pay-as-you-go fee. The specs are across-the-board impressive (800-by-480 touchscreen, microSD expansion, Windows Mobile 6.1, dual cameras, FM radio, Bluetooth, and aGPS are just a few), and it offers 3G connectivity on both T-Mobile and AT&T.

With all this activity, January is certainly shaping up to be a banner month -- and CES has barely started.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.