Which mobile phone is the best?

Is it really the iPhone, as its legions of fanatics claim? Well, some Blackberry users think that the iPhone is pretty crappy: Its email interface is infuriatingly clunky (compared to the Blackberry) and its operating system flails around hopelessly, unable to do background tasks.

One way to answer how vibrant a phone platform is: Ask who is investing in it.

We’ll be doing that at MobileBeat2009 — our mobile executive conference planned for July 16 in San Francisco — especially through the latest set of speakers we’re pleased to announce.

First, we’ll have Matt Murphy, of the iFund (above left), the fund created by leading Silicon Valley venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins to invest especially in iPhone applications. There’s been plenty of investments into companies serving the iPhone, but now developers fear there is too much noise. If Apple doesn’t feature an application high up in its app store, it’s difficult to get users.

Joining him on a panel for investors, we’ll have Rick Segal of the Blackberry Partners Fund (middle), who focuses mainly on investments into companies that leverage the Blackberry platform, but which may also serve other platforms as well. This morning, Segal’s fund will announce that developers can now submit applications to its second annual “Blackberry Developers Challenge.” This year, it has opened the competition to any developer with a BlackBerry application (not just startups). Some 16 finalists will be selected (four finalists will be announced each month during the four month challenge), and the winner will be chosen Nov 9-11 at the Blackberry Developers Conference in SF. Winner gets $75,000 in cash, runner up gets $10,000. Last year, three winners got $150,000 each. The fund has made some other investments too.

On a separate panel about the mobile ecosystem, we’ll also feature Russ McGuire, head of VP strategy at Sprint (right), who can tell us how the Sprint network plans to serve the Palm Pre, now that Sprint is the Pre’s exclusive carrier in the U.S. He’ll be able to answer to what extent will Sprint will invest in its own network now, that AT&T is accelerating upgrades to its network, including a move to the highly anticipated LTE technology, by 2011 (in an apparent effort to maintain good graces with the iPhone, which AT&T serves exclusively in the U.S.).

On the investor panel, we’ll be announcing more speakers to join Murphy and Segal  — likely representing one of the other platforms.

On the panel, we’ll be asking whether any of the latest developments — the new iPhone coming this month, the new RIM app store announced in April (to underwhelming reviews), or the pending release of the Palm Pre change — will change investment patterns?

And platforms aside, which kind of applications show the most potential for return on investment? Applications increasingly exploit things like connectivity, GPS, web-browsing and presence, and are changing the way we interact with our phones. Is your heart pressure up to dangerously high levels? Health apps on your phone may soon be be able to tell you that. Indeed, since writing a piece summarizing some health apps on the iPhone, I’ve heard of at least three more companies working on ways to let you track your vital signs in real time. We’ve hardly started, and the sector already feels crowded!
What about apps for the enterprise, which has so far been underserved on mobile? (Incidentally, at MobileBeat2009, we’ll be featuring the some cool apps serving the enterprise — they’re still in stealth mode, so can’t mention them yet). The iPhone 3.0’s new in-app payment system is expected open the next chapter of mobile commerce. Meantime, challenges for investors remain: VoIP company Skype shot up as the No. 1 app on the iPhone. Will developers be able to reinvent voice applications? If so, is there any money in it?

We’ve extended the early bird on the conference to June 10. Save $145 by signing up now.

If you’d like to sponsor MobileBeat, please contact Andie Rhyins.

Also see the recent post about other MobileBeat2009 speakers: Nokia’s Tero Ojanpera and Palm’s Michael Abbott.