My telco Three have just offered me a deal on getting a new phone a couple of months earlier than my contract was supposed to expire, presumably they have some competition and want to get me locked into another 2 year contract a couple of months before anyone else has the chance.
My current phone is a LG U990 Viewty  which I am reasonably happy with for the regular phone and camera functionality (apart from it being too slow to take a photo), it’s on a $29 per month plan. I also have a 3G modem which is on a $15 per month plan for 1G of data per month for a total cost of $44 per month. As new phones have advanced client functionality (ssh, IMAP, etc) and have Wifi support for providing net access to a laptop there seems to be less need to have a separate phone and modem. So I am considering getting a high-end phone to replace the phone and modem, so while I don’t want to pay a lot more than I currently pay, a $49 contract would be quite affordable and a $59 contract is something I can consider.
What I need is a system with a good ssh client implementation, a high resolution screen (800*480 or better), preferably a slide out keyboard and an option to use a Bluetooth keyboard.
The best option for the OS seems to be Android as it’s based on Linux, it’s moderately open, and it has a good range of applications. The Nokia N900 has been recommended based on features but a friend had a bad experience with a N900 that broke and didn’t get good warranty support. Also the N900 doesn’t have a digital compass (so can’t do augmented reality). While I’m primarily buying a phone for making phone calls, using the net, and being a ssh client I want to be able to do cool things like do Google searches on things that I photograph and have an annotated star map when I point my phone at the sky. Also as I’m not using Windows or Apple phones for obvious reasons that leaves Android phones as the only suitable phones that are on offer from my Telco.
I have checked some options for buying a grey-market phone, given that I need to get a more expensive phone contract to have the voice and data access I need the cost of buying a grey-market phone and having a no-phone contract would be unreasonable. So selecting a phone that’s on offer by Three/Vodaphone seems to be the best option. Moving to another telco would be inconvenient as I would have to convince the relatives that I call often to switch as well (I get free calls to other Three/Vodaphone customers).
I previously listed some phones that seemed good without regard as to where I could buy them  and some people wrote some really interesting and informative comments (thanks a lot!). But after considering all the options it seems that the costs of the various options force me to choose something that Three offers.
Currently the best option from Three for an Android phone seems to be the HTC Desire HD . It has a 800*480 screen, an 8MP camera with face-detection and geo-tagging, wifi, an accelerometer, GPS, and a digital compass. It also runs Android 2.2 (the latest release). Generally it has everything I want apart from a slide-out keyboard. It seems that Bluetooth keyboards are about $100 each, so I could buy such a keyboard and have options of taking just the phone, the phone and keyboard, or phone and laptop depending on how much I can carry and what I expect to be doing.
The Desire HD is free on a $59 plan, or costs $15 per month on the $29 plan. So for $44 per month (the same as what I spend now) I can get a Desire HD! The down-side is that the $29 plan only allows 200MB of data per month and has an excess data fee of $0.50 per meg. My average usage has been about 300MB per month, I could reduce this a bit but I do occasionally have a month where I need a lot of data transfer. For an extra $8 per month I can get an additional 500MB of data transfer. That would give me a total cost of $52 per month for my phone, and I could get the same phone for my wife for $44 per month (I doubt that she would use the 200MB of data included). That would take a typical Three bill from $73 to $96.
I might just wait a few months. The Viewty and 3G modem combination is working reasonably well, presumably there will be some better deals if I wait a while. At least now after considering all the options I could find and determining that a Desire HD from Three is the best option for me I can now evaluate any new options by comparing them to that.