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February 2007 Archives

February 1, 2007

Live with Regis and Kelly

Wired Magazines Nick Thompson, a Gadgetoff participant, was recently asked to show off cool gadgets as part of the Live with Regis and Kelly tech week. Nick did what a lot of knowing folks do - he contacted Gadgetoff to find out what was cool. Nick left our “labs” with a large bag of goodies.
First up was the smart phone category. We showed the Motorola Q, the Palm Treo 700P and the Nokia E61/62. The Q runs Windows Mobile software, the 700P runs Palm software and the E61/62  the open-source popular Nokia software. All three have their advantages and downsides which is why I have all three!
The Motorola Q, a CDMA phone, is the least expensive full featured smart phone out there today. It is very small yet has a full QWERTY keyboard and with its EVDO high speed modem can easily connect to web pages and email. The phone takes memory cards for additional storage and if you add a free program like Shozu you can not only take pictures and store them on the phone but automatically upload them as soon as they are taken to your favorite website like Flickr. The phone is available from both Verizon and Sprint.
The Nokia E61/62 is a GSM phone that is capable of running on the new HSPDA high speed service that is similar to the CDM EVDO. The Nokia has the unique advantage of being one of the few phones that works in the US,  Europe and Japan. The E61 is the version available from outside the US and has the added advantage of working on WiFi networks. Dynamism has it in the US. The E62 is sold in the US by Cingular, which is the only US carrier to offer the HSPDA data service. These phones can also connect to a Blackberry server for mail as well as many third party applications including Skype. The phone has a full QWERTY keyboard. If you travel overseas this is a very interesting smart phone.
The Treo 700P is very popular because of the Palm operating system which in many ways is easier and more intuitive than the windows mobile software on the Motorola Q and Samsung Blackjack. One very nice feature of the 700P is the Bluetooth connection to a remote GPS receiver. The unit I loaned to Nick had the Telenav navigation software on it that turned the 700p into a full navigation device. The advantage of an external GPS antenna receiver is that when it used in the car the receiver can be placed in position so it always sees the satellite while the phone can be kept on the seat or in the ashtray. Why is this important you may ask?  Well, since Nick had my phone I had to rely on the still very good Verizon VZnav software on the Samsung A990. The problem is that the phone couldn't always see the satellites so it relied on a combination of GPS and triangulation from different cell towers. The result was less accurate navigation and a constantly recalculated route. One major advantage of cellphone based navigation over standard GPS is that you don't have to carry multiple devices; you also don't have to worry about loading maps when you change areas, it knows about traffic and can reroute you. The cellular connected GPS has many other features as well like local business search and locating the lowest cost gas. The downside is that if you happen to be in an area without decent cellular data capability the navigation will not work at all. A solution is to load Pharos software on your phone and use a remote Bluetooth receiver then you can venture where there is no data service but you have to load the appropriate maps! ( now you see why I carry multiple devices!)
As for non smart phones one that caught Nick’s eye was the new Helio Drift. Helio is a joint venture between SK Telecom,  South Koreas major telecom provider and Earthlink. Helio is a an MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator) which means that the actual network it works on is provided by others. In this case the network is Verizon and Sprint. Helio is designed to bring the cool Korean phone capabilities to the US market (Korean cell phones make most US models look like old time crank phones!) The excellent Verizon and Sprint networks give the phone all the capabilities of high speed data and cool features. The drift is EVDO has GPS plays music plays video including ripped DVD’s take external storage has a multi mega pixel camera that takes stills and movies and can support stereo Bluetooth headphones like the Plantronics that Nick demoed on the show. If that were not enough the Helio phone has a cool feature called buddy beacon . Using the phone’s GPS capabilities it finds any of your buddies that have their beacon on who are close to you. So if you are at the cool night spot and want to know which of your friends are nearby the Drift lets you know. Once located you can send then text or IM messages or if you are old fashioned actually speak to them using voice as it is a full featured phone as well. The phone is available at retail stores like the FYE music chain and at some Helio branded stores in NY and LA.
Also catching Nick’s eye was the Linksys wireless Skype phone. It looks like a regular candy bar phone except it works via WiFi and allows you to make free (or very low cost) calls without a PC. The concept is great if you are on your own wireless network but most public WiFi sites require you to log on to a signup page and the phone’s lack of a web browser makes that virtually impossible. Nevertheless we will see many more models coming out in the future that hopefully will solve this issue. In the meantime the E61 might be a better bet. The Linksys Skype phone can be had a numerous online sites like Amazon.com
Phones that I like a lot but that I did not let Nick take (because I was on a trip and needed  them) are the HTC TYTN another HSPDA phone that like the E61 works around the world, runs on the Microsoft Mobile platform, has WiFi, quad band GSM, GPRS and Bluetooth. It has a full QWERTY slide out keyboard and has two cameras- one low resolution on the front for video conferencing and the other high resolution on the back for video and photography. The phone can run Shozu and can be used with the Slingbox to watch remote TV and auto syncs with a corporate exchange server with full push email. The TYTN can be had online again available at Dynamisim.
Another phone we did not give him is the Vcast enabled Samsung A990 on Verizon. In addition to the GPS features the phone has a 3.2 megapixel camera with flash, a unique swivel screen and supports the high speed EVDO network. Finally the phone has an audio/ video jack so you can connect the phone to a TV set and watch content stored on it - from video taken with the camcorder to a slide show of photos.  
That said the device I use the most is none of the above but rather a Blackberry 8700c which is still the best email device out there. Even the very cool Apple iPhone cannot knock the Blackberry from its perch as the king of email. The phone is easy to use and through its thumb wheel, can be operated by one hand. The keyboard is the best in any portable device with the right compromise between size and functionality. Applications like Google Local, Siteline (which aggregates blogs) and Impactia (which allows the phone to be used as a source for PowerPoint presentations) just add to its utility. The Blackberry is the one phone all three of the Gadgetoff founders use. Buy the 8700C from Cingular if you want to use it outside the US, or get the 8703E from Verizon if you prefer their high speed network and only need it in the US.

February 4, 2007

Cheerios per Mile

We were over at our friend's house last night and the center of attention was their 2 year old's shiny new PlasmaCar.  Simply sit on the ample seat, put your legs up and turn the steering wheel back and forth. The car easily moves eerily forward and handles amazingly well.

The PlasmaCar seems to violate the laws of physics -  wiggling the wheel makes it go forward? Why? Well, offset drive wheels use their sides to magically pull the car forward. The result is a beatifully simple, clever and inexpensive design. I won't be surprised when I see these popping up at Internet startups everywhere.

But why should the kids have all the fun?  The PlasmaCar supports a rider up to 220 pounds. Unlike most ridable kid toys, it is easy for a 6 foot adult to sit on and control. This toy makes me feel like having another child...

February 5, 2007

Regis and Kelly - Part 2 - Audio

Wired Magazine's Nick Thompson borrowed some gadgets from us for the Live with Regis and Kelly tech week that aired on Feb 2, 2007.  Here is what we gave him and why.

First shown was one of my personal favorites the Samsung YP- K5 music player. Similar in size (but a lot thicker) than the iPod Nano this unit does all the same things the nano does with one major difference. It opens in the middle to reveal a tiny set of surprisingly good stereo speakers. Placed on a flat surface the volume and sound quality is very respectable.  The unit also has an FM radio and a built-in alarm clock. It comes with different memory configurations; the one we loaned Nick was a 4GB version. It retails for approximately $250.00.

Next up was the SanDisk Sansa Rhapsody E280.  This Nano clone works with the Rhapsody music service. While you can load MP3’s on it, the real advantage is that a Rhapsody subscription will keep the unit filled with music for a fixed monthly fee of $14.95 a month. This way you can choose from millions of songs and change them out everyday if you like. The player has 8GB of flash memory and also has a voice recorder and FM radio. Battery life is respectable at 20 hours and you can even add more capacity through micro SD cards. You can even record off of the FM radio on the fly.  It has a bright 1.8” TFT display and a user replaceable battery. This also costs about $250.00.

Nick then showed the Microsoft Zune. This new entry from Microsoft has had a lot of press written about it questioning Microsoft’s strategy and product design.  Indeed the unit is bigger than the iPod it is competing with but the larger screen is nice, it comes in multiple colors, you can customize the wallpaper on the screen and best of all you can share your music (with limitations) to other Zune users who are nearby.  As Microsoft continues to build up it’s Xbox Live service the WiFi capability of this player will likely become very useful.  The unit comes with 30GB of storage and also costs $250.00.

Finally Nick showed off the new Apple iPod Shuffle, it holds a gig of music is amazingly small and costs a mere $79.00.  I was asked at the Churchill Club event last December what I was giving as tech Christmas presents and this was on top of my list! Now the shuffle comes in 5 different colors – and since you basically wear this on your shirt, having different colors makes accessorizing your clothes a snap.

About February 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Gadgetoff - Things We Like in February 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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