A festive roundup of high-tech toys for good girls and boysTime to turn in last year's phones and upgrade
by Alan Zisman (c) 2003 First published in Business in Vancouver , Issue #736 December 2- 8, 2003 GearGuide Gifts
As '60s satirist Tom Lehrer sang, "Christmas time is here, by golly. Disapproval would be folly..." so it's time for a batch of suggestions to treat others, or maybe to treat yourself. This time around, money is no object, but all these tech toys will fit in a stocking.
For anyone wanting to take their music collection with them, Apple's iPod ($439- $729) is the MP3 music player of choice. Competitors, including Creative, RCA-Thompson, Dell, offer music players that are cheaper and hold more tunes, but none has managed to match the iPod's style, convenience and ease of use. Originally offering separate models for Mac and Windows users, now a single iPod can be set up for use with either platform, and if your Windows PC lacks a high-speed Firewire port for shuttling tunes back and forth, Apple will happily sell you a USB connector for your iPod. Apple's new, freely downloadable iTunes software for Windows makes it that much easier to have a music library on your PC and carry it in your pocket. And if you need a business rationale, the iPod can be used as an external hard drive and (with various downloadable additions) as a sort of junior-grade PDA.
New smartphones seem to do more and more. Fido customers wanting it all in a single package can move toSony-Ericsson's P800 ($1,000), which packs a GPS phone (with optional GPRS data services for wireless e-mail and Web browsing) with a bright, high-resolution colour screen together with built-in digital camera and a set of PDA functions. Not satisfied with the extensive software package that's pre-installed on the P800? There are lots of alternatives available for downloading, from alternative Web browsers to music players to games. Built-in Bluetooth networking searches out and connects to other nearby Bluetooth devices: phones, computers, printers and more.
Bell Mobility customers can't use the P800, but they can still fit a smarter-than-average superphone in their pockets. Bell is offering the Kyocera 7135 ($650), which combines a PDA with a cellphone, again offering e-mail and Web browsing on your phone along with calendar, address list and more. (Sorry, no camera. At least you can take this one into the fitness centre.) Its PDA is a standard Palm unit, so it's an easy upgrade for current Palm-users, who are just a HotSync away from moving all their address lists and other data to the new phone. And there are literally thousands of optional Palm programs to extend its usefulness, from Lonely Planet tourist guides to business software.
iPods, P800s and Kyocera 7135s all have built-in battery chargers, but too many other gadgets, including many digital cameras, rely on standard AA or AAA batteries. NiMH rechargeables are the batteries of choice for those gadgets, but charging up a set of batteries takes hours. Rayovac thinks it has the answer, with a new recharging system (about $50) that can juice up a set of batteries in as little as 15 minutes.
The new charger requires new, compatible rechargeable batteries, though it will charge older NiMH batteries at the old slow rates. It's a bit noisier than you might expect, due to the built-in fan, which is needed to keep itself and the batteries cool during super-charging. A nice bonus is a coupon for a free car cord adapter, letting you use it while on the go.
Buy from Amazon.com: