Cool Stuff: Your 2007 Holiday Gift Guide

More than 50 amazing gifts for the technology lovers in your life

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Cell Phones and Gear

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Whether you're looking for a plain-old cell phone or today's richest media-embracing model, you'll find the cream of the crop here -- with a great Bluetooth headset thrown in for good measure.

Cell phone: Helio Fin

The Helio Fin, Helio's branded version of the Samsung SPH-M513, looks innocent enough -- and thin enough. The blue-black magnesium clamshell phone is less than half an inch thick, 4 inches tall and 2 inches wide. It's the thinnest clamshell phone you can buy in the United States.

This phone is beautiful -- I mean iPhone beautiful. The elegant hardware and software design is breathtaking. Overall, the phone is optimized for a thrilling user experience -- and for pictures and video.

Fin, courtesy of Helio.

Fin, courtesy of Helio.

Although not a "smart phone," the Fin ($200 with a two-year contract) boasts features that are superior to those of most high-end phones. For example, the camera is a 3.0-megapixel monster. Special software ties together the built-in GPS to "geotag" photos, which means the location of the phone when pictures are taken is encoded into the picture file.

Push a button, and pictures are uploaded to Flickr's geotag service, so your peeps can see your pix on a map showing where they were taken. Fin-captured videos are instantly uploaded to YouTube.

You can use the superfast 3G connection to get turn-by-turn directions and real-time traffic information. Helio's "Buddy Beacon" service tells you where your friends or family are (as long as they're Helio customers, too). The phone's "home screen" shows your favorite RSS feeds. The Fin also supports microSD, USB, Bluetooth, voice-activated dialing, speakerphone, video caller ID and T9 text input.

Honorable mention: Do you know someone who wrecks, breaks, drops and destroys cell phones? If so, give them the Casio G'zOne Type-S. It's shock-, dust-, freeze- and water-resistant, which is something of an understatement.

You can drop it in the toilet, then use a Bluetooth headset to take calls on the phone while it's still underwater. (We're not making this up -- it's been done.) You can literally carry on conversations underwater in a swimming pool (also been done).

G'zOne Type-S, courtesy of Casio.

G'zOne Type-S, courtesy of Casio.

The G'zOne ($150 with a two-year service contract and a $50 rebate) supports Bluetooth and has a nice speakerphone. The phone has a unique but low-tech round black-and-white LCD panel on the front, which displays the time and date, plus caller ID and battery information when the phone is closed. Inside, a middle-of-the-road 1.8-in., 176- by 220-pixel screen is good enough.

The phone has a wimpy VGA camera, no V Cast support and is, overall, a feature-poor phone. But the sound quality is great, the keypad is very usable and -- best of all -- it's the ruggedest phone you can buy directly from any major U.S. carrier.

—Mike Elgan  

Fin from Helio LLC,

Price: $200 with a two-year contract

Tech specs | Store locator | Phone: (888) 88-HELIO

Summary: The thinnest clamshell phone available in the U.S., this phone is optimized for fun, with high-quality camera, GPS and cool applications to put the impressive hardware to work.

G'zOne Type-S from Casio Computer Co., Ltd.

Price: $149.99 with a new two-year service agreement and a $50 rebate

Tech specs | Store locator | Phone: (800) 256-4646

Summary: The Casio G'zOne Type-S meets military specs for ruggedness, plus it's a really good phone on the basics of call quality, keyboard usability and Bluetooth support.

iPhone, courtesy of Apple.

iPhone, courtesy of Apple. Media phone: iPhone If you were offended by the prodigious hype Apple's iPhone received before its release, get over it: In the end, the device easily proved worthy of the hype. It's that good.

Apple completely rethought the experience of using a mobile phone, replacing key presses with its remarkably intuitive multitouch interface. Want to type a URL in the Safari browser? Touch the URL text box and an on-screen keyboard appears. Want to zoom in on something displayed in Safari for easier reading? Touch what you want to read.

This radical new interface is so intuitive that Computerworld's usability tests found people often completed phone and media-related tasks twice as quickly with the iPhone than they did with more traditional devices. And it's so compelling and fun to use that many people can't put it down.

The iPhone ($399) is full of other innovations, such as visual voice mail that makes it simple to pick precisely which message you want to listen to. And, of course, this is also an iPod with a gorgeous 3.5-in. display.

Sure, there are a few weak spots. The iPhone doesn't offer video capture or an instant messaging application, for example, and in the U.S., your only cellular service option is AT&T and its slow EDGE data network. But despite a few glitches, the iPhone is a delightful and significant game-changer, which makes it a superlative holiday gift.

—David Haskin  

Click Play to see a video of Apple's iPhone in action.

iPhone from Apple Inc.

Price: $399, plus AT&T service plan starting at $59

Tech specs | Apple and AT&T store locations | Phone: (800) MY-APPLE

Summary: This game-changing phone and media player is easily worthy of the hype it received prior to its release.

Pulsar 590E, courtesy of Plantronics.

Pulsar 590E, courtesy of Plantronics. Bluetooth cell phone headset: Plantronics Pulsar 590E Was it the result of my teenaged self cranking up the AC/DC to "11" too many times, or was it the fault of my otherwise trusty BlackBerry? Either way, I've had a problem hearing callers on my cell phone.

The wired headset that worked great with my other cell phone generated earsplitting feedback when plugged into the 'Berry -- a common problem, I later discovered, that's related to the GSM technology used by AT&T and T-Mobile. Meanwhile, the tiny single earclip headsets I tried neither achieved the volume I needed nor kept me from feeling self-conscious. (Call me neurotic, but I prefer the illusion that no one else on the street is privy to my conversation.)

Thank heaven for the Motorola Rokr and other music-playing cell phones, but not because my suburban self wants to strut to the beat down an urban street like some hipster fool. Rather, it's because they've led to a small wave of double-ear headsets. David Beckham's handsome mug almost convinced me to get Motorola's sleek S9, but practicality won out in the form of the Plantronics Pulsar 590E headset.

With the Pulsar, my calls come in loud and clear. Callers hear me fine on the stubby-but-extendable microphone. The Pulsar also pairs perfectly with my BlackBerry. The controls are as minimalist and intuitive as anything that has come out of Apple's design labs.

Sure, the Pulsar is chunky enough that I look like a communications officer on the bridge of the Death Star. On the other hand, it's got a bit of that club DJ thing going on, which is what my 37-year-old self will pretend to be when my BlackBerry gives out and I upgrade to an MP3 cell phone.

—Eric Lai  

Pulsar 590E Bluetooth headset from Plantronics Inc.

Price: $63-$109 | Tech specs (download PDF) | Phone: (800) 544-4660

Summary: For the hardish-of-hearing, a great-sounding, easy-to-use mobile headset that plays music too.
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