Beyond iPhone: The top five gadget trends of 2007

Better, cheaper, faster is the order of the day

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Two other phones that have received a lot of attention are the Helio Ocean and the LG Prada.

"The Prada looks like iPhone's younger brother," Rubin said. The Ocean is even more impressive, according to Derek Kerton, principal of The Kerton Group, a telecommunications consulting company.

"It's a great phone with double sliding keyboards," Kerton said. "But one of the coolest things is the easy search. Here's every step in a search: First, open the keyboard. Then type a search word, hit enter, and it immediately launches a search on the [3G] network and responds with a browser with tabs that include Wikipedia, Google and Amazon. Basically, in about eight seconds, you have the answer you want."

Media anywhere

SanDisk tried mightily to match the iPhone hype with its Wi-Fi-enabledSansa Connect media player but didn't succeed. Still, the Connect is a fascinating device that foretells the day in which mobile media players will be seamlessly integrated with the Internet, making media available virtually any time, anywhere while you're on the move.

"Sansa Connect has been the most interesting product introduced in 2007 so far," said NPD's Rubin. "It's probably the best implementation of Web services I've ever seen on a consumer electronics device."

Specifically, the Connect is tightly integrated with the Yahoo Music Unlimited subscription music service. Nonmembers can still connect to that service using the device's built-in Wi-Fi and listen to Internet radio. Members can not only listen to Internet radio but, if they like what they hear, download the song, the entire album or a playlist of similar songs. Members can also send songs and playlists to friends directly from the device using Yahoo Messenger.

While SanDisk was first with a wireless media device (excluding Microsoft's Zune, which didn't make its wireless capabilities particularly useful), other vendors, such as iRiver, are expected to release similar devices later this year.

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