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On-the-go Convenience Defines Today’s Technology

You can hold it your hand or slip it in your pocket. You can take it wherever you go. And it doesn’t matter where you go, because wherever you go, it’s like you never left.

Today’s technology is all about convenience. It’s measured in ounces, not pounds, and is often no larger than a deck of cards. It’s designed to keep you connected and amused.

It lets you check E-mails from all corners of the globe or watch your home TV program from a hotel room in India. Miniature camcorders and cameras let you document your life in pictures. And multi-purpose smart phones do it all — take pictures, play music, and let you surf the Net.

BusinessWest has pulled together a list of some of the most-talked-about new gadgets of 2008. From a tiny photo printer that doesn’t use ink to a Bluetooth stereo that fits in your hand, here’s what’s creating the buzz.

Call It Like It Is

Smart phones in 2009 are stylish and multifunctional with a host of features that keep you connected. In many instances, virtual touch keyboards replace physical ones, and QWERTY keyboards enable faster typing.

As the first smart phone to run Google’s new Android operating system, T-Mobile G1 ($179) is a key addition to the mobile market. Android puts programs like Gmail, Blogger, and Google Maps at your fingertips. The software is better than what’s on most phones and will improve with new releases over time. A physical QWERTY keyboard that slides out from underneath the phone adds thickness, but makes the G1 ideal for text messaging.

If you’ve been contemplating getting an iPhone, now is the time. The new Apple iPhone 3G ($199 to $299) supports faster 3G data speeds and sports a price that’s finally within reach for most consumers. Lag time has always been an issue with smart phones when browsing the Internet, but according to Apple, Web pages load up to 2.8 times faster on the 3G. However, it comes at a cost: you’ll also pay about $10 extra per month for the 3G service.

For E-mail addicts, RIM Blackberry Curve ($179 to $599) is the smallest and lightest full-QWERTY Blackberry available to date. As compact as a cell phone, it has a wider body and a full keyboard for fast messaging. Cutting-edge multi-media capabilities separate the Curve from the earlier Blackberry Pearl and 8800 models. But keep in mind that, overall, this model is more about style than new features.

If the Blackberry and the iPhone are more money than you care to spend, then check out Peek ($99). Strictly an E-mail checker, Peek offers a sleek design with a full QWERTY keyboard for comfortable typing. Monthly service cost is only about $20 for unlimited access to your E-mail messages. Peek supports Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail, and AOL, but doesn’t work for corporate E-mail yet.

Capture the Moment

Cameras today are so portable you can take them anywhere to document your life in pictures. But why stop there? Tiny camcorders now let you capture moments in video, and you can even print on the go.

The Flip Mino HD ($230) is a pocket-sized camcorder that shoots high-definition (HD) video for an image crisp enough to view on your HDTV. This portable video emphasizes one-button simplicity and comes with its own onboard editing software. It has four gigabytes of internal memory, enough for one hour of video, and a rechargeable battery that provides two hours of shooting. If you don’t need the HD, the standard Mino is a good bet at half the price, but doesn’t come with the editing software.

If you’re looking for something to match your style—or even your outfit — the Nikon CoolPix S60 ($349) is a tiny camera that comes in six different colors. It’s small and convenient enough to take on weekend trips or a long hike. In fact, there’s no reason to be caught without this 10 megapixel camera. Its key feature is an impressive 3.5-inch touch-screen LCD display and graphical user interface that puts shooting and playback controls at your fingertips.

If you miss the magic of Polaroid, you’ll enjoy this new toy. Polaroid’s PoGo Instant Mobile Printer ($150) is a sleek, black, 8-ounce photo printer that lets you print on the go. Its unique ZINK technology prints without ink. The ink is in the photo paper in the form of color dye crystals that react when heated. You can print directly from your cell phone or digital camera via Bluetooth or USB cord. Print quality is decent enough for casual prints.

But if you want a virtual way to share photos of your travels, the Eye Fi Explore ($130) is the answer. It’s a 2-gigabyte wireless SD card that pops into your digital camera. Snap away, and when you near a public wi-fi access point, the Eye Fi automatically delivers your photos to the photo-sharing Web site of your choice. Eye Fi intelligently handles your photos behind the scenes taking care of log-ins and passwords and even resizing photos if necessary. It also features a cool geotagging capability that records the exact location each photo was taken.

Now That’s Entertainment

If you are an audiophile or a TV addict on the road, these unique gadgets may appeal to you.

No larger than an eyeglass case, the Dahl Audio FoxL Bluetooth Speaker ($249) is a tiny sound system powered by an onboard rechargeable battery. It transmits sound wirelessly from your cell phone or MP3 player. You can take it with you while traveling or tether it to your cell phone and use it as a speaker phone while driving. (The Bluetooth version has a microphone hidden behind the front speaker grille.) Although not particularly loud, the FoxL’s two 1-inch speakers (dubbed ‘Twoofers’) produce impressive sound at reasonable volumes.

Glued to the TV has just taken on new meaning. Thanks to Slingbox SOLO ($179), you can now watch your home TV from anywhere in the world through your laptop or mobile phone. You can watch regular TV or any cable subscription or sports packages you may have. The SOLO connects to equipment such as your DVR, satellite system, or cable box to deliver TV signals to wherever you are. Now you can relax and enjoy your local news program from a hotel room in Bangladesh or from your office at work.

If you like the features of the Apple iPhone but don’t need the mobile phone capabilities, you can opt for an Apple iPod Touch ($229). This nifty gadget has everything the iPhone has except for the calling (and monthly service and data fees). You can use your iPod Touch to check and reply to E-mail, surf the Web, check the weather, download songs from iTunes and even create Microsoft Word documents. It also includes a unique feature not found on the iPhone: a Nike program that tracks how far you’ve jogged.

Notebook Computers

No gadget list is complete without some mention of laptop computers. They come in all shapes and sizes, but two ultra slim ones really stand out.

Weighing in at just over 4.5 pounds, the ultra-portable HP TouchSmart tx2z ($1,200) is light enough to take anywhere. It’s a true Tablet PC, meaning that you can fold the display flat for writing and drawing using the stylus pen included in the system. It’s a ‘multi-touch’ laptop, meaning you can use one or two fingers to navigate applications or surf the Internet.

The stylish, 3-pound Macbook Air ($1,799) is touted as the world’s thinnest notebook. To reduce the size and weight, Apple omitted certain features, so don’t expect it to replace your everyday laptop. It has a single USB port, and the latest version features a 120-gigabyte hard drive. If you can afford the luxury, it might be worth the fun.

And fun is a good thing to carry around.

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