It is best to go visit a phone store and see what they're offering. I'm sure a sales person would be eager to show off the features.
I never thought I'd need a smartphone. I hung onto my LG Lotus for 2 years before moving to the HTC Hero. Once you start using a smartphone, you'll wonder how you got by without one. Getting all kinds of data loaded onto your phone whenever you need it is terrific. Navigation apps are excellent and there are updates possible on a regular basis (whereas a dedicated navigation device are more troublesome to update and won't get updates nearly as often). And now with 4G networks taking hold, the speeds are pretty amazing.
I would never, ever, ever trust a phone carrier salesperson to recommend me a phone. They aren't paid to give a damn what the customer wants, they're paid to direct you to whatever their highest-margin model is.