19 New Gadgets for Real Estate

Looking for an edge? Recent electronic trade shows highlight the latest technologies that can help you stay connected from anywhere.

February 1, 2007

An array of new and significantly enhanced technologies — from cell phones with GPS capabilities to ultra-mobile computers — hold the potential to make you more productive and better connected from wherever your work takes you.

For a sampling of these new products, I’ll take a look at some real-estate friendly gadgets that were unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show and Macworld Conference & Expo, both of which were held in early January. If you’re the type of person who’s interested in learning about the latest tech tools, this is an exciting time of year.

Computers for the Road

Tired of schlepping around your laptop, but not fully acclimated to the smartphone? The growing selection of “ultra-mobile” computers could serve as your road PC. Advantages: Roughly half the size of a laptop, Windows compatible, and boasts a larger screen and keyboard than any phone. A caveat: A bit pricey, at least for now. Here are some of your latest options in mobile computing:

  • Built-in broadband. OQO’s model 02 has built-in mobile broadband service — via Sprint’s Power Vision network — for Web access wherever a cellular network reaches. Specs include a 1.5GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 60GB drive, 5-inch slide-away LCD touch screen, and QWERTY backlit keyboard. The handheld device weighs less than a pound. Price: $1,998, plus the cost of broadband service.
  • Windows tablet. Samsung’s Q1P SSD runs on Windows XP Tablet edition. It has a 7-inch LCD touch screen, 1 GHz processor, 1GB RAM, 32GB flash drive, supports Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and weighs 1.7 pounds. Price: $1,999.
  • Cool built-ins. Sony’s VAIO UX Micro is just 1.2 pounds and has a 4.5-inch touch screen that slides away to reveal a mini-keyboard. Additional features include built-in cameras for taking pictures or video conferencing and a biometrics fingerprint reader. Price: $2,500 for 32GB of flash memory and $2,000 for a version with a conventional 40GB hard drive.

Note: The Sony and Samsung models replace the mechanical hard drive with solid state flash memory. The advantages are faster start-up and data access, reduced risk of damage when bumped around, and improved battery life.

GPS Expands to More Gadgets

The convenience of GPS is easier than ever to enjoy, as the service becomes more portable. Here are some of the newest GPS offerings.

  • Directions on your cell phone. Sprint TeleNav Traffic is a GPS service that will be available to Sprint subscribers with select cell phones for an additional $3.99 per month. The service includes real-time traffic updates with rerouting advice. A more robust navigation service will be available for $9.99 per month.
  • Entertainment combo. Panasonic enters the GPS market this spring with a combo GPS/car entertainment system. The Strada CN-NVD905U Double DIN system includes a GPS receiver with 30GB hard drive, 7-inch LCD touch screen, and can be equipped for real-time traffic updates via the Sirius system. If you want to entertain prospects as you drive them around, you can also use the device as a satellite radio receiver, DVD, CD, and MP3 player. Price: Yet to be announced.
  • Internet empowered. For quick searches of information about an area and traffic updates, Dash Express combines GPS with wireless Web access to Yahoo! Local service. It launches in California this spring and should be available nationwide by fall. Price: Yet to be announced.
  • More maps. Cobra Electronics’ NavOne 2100 portable will debut in May with a 3.5 inch touch screen and preloaded map database. It also has a “compare routes” feature and gives you the ability to customize the display to show your favorite spots. Price: $349.95.

Sleeker Smartphones

You need a reliable phone to conduct business when you’re away from the office, whether for talking, texting, taking photos, or listening to music. What are some of your latest options?

  • Apple’s offering. Expect Apple’s take on the smartphone, the iPhone to make a big splash for its June delivery. The price — $499 for a 4GB version — and availability through Cingular may limit its appeal, but its elegant design and functionality will chart a new direction for smartphones. Its key innovation is a touch-sensitive high-resolution screen and user interface.
  • High-fashion phones. The Prada Phone, expected to be announced soon by LG Electronics, and the Onyx Concept phone from Synaptics, also will offer sleek designs with touch screens.
  • Better cameras. Advancements to mobile phone picture-taking capabilities mean there’s a practical alternative to a digital camera. Samsung’s introductions of the SCH-a990, available through Verizon Wireless, is the first camera phone with a 3.2-megapixel image sensor and 3X optical zoom lens. The company also is promoting a prototype 10-megapixel camera phone.

High-Tech Office Phones

You need reliability and quality in your office phone, too. Some of your latest phones emphasize seamless communications.

  • One handset, many options. AT&T’s EP5632 is a cordless phone system with built-in Bluetooth support for connecting up to eight external devices. With the same handset, users can make and receive calls over a landline, or over a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone without removing the cell phone from its charging base. The phone is expected to be available in May for $129.95
  • Voice-over IP. Other new models integrate landline service with Web-based VoIP services. These plug into a modular phone jack and a network router. Panasonic’s offerings include a pair of cordless systems that work on the Globalrange VoIP service. The BB-GT-1500B, $99, comes with one handset, while the BB-GT1540 adds a digital answering system and sells for $150.
  • Hybrids. Both Philips Electronics and Netgear announced hybrid phone systems for use with Skype VoIP service. The sleek $199 Philips VoIP841 features a color display and speakerphone, plus it can hold up to 500 numbers. Netgear’s SPH 200D Dual Mode Cordless Phone with Skype, also $199, can support up to four cordless handsets.

Portable Storage

Recent upgrades to flash drives boast improved performance and features at higher capacities. Some new options are:

  • Bigger memory. Verbatim adds a 12GB version of its one-inch Store ’n Go flash drive, included with this $179 drive is Mobile Launchpad software for storing mobile versions of applications, which can be launched from the drive.
  • Visible storage read-out. Lexar’s USB Mercury line of flash drives now feature a display on the drive, which lets users know how much storage is available, without plugging in the drive.
  • Power-saver. Sandisk is offering a 1.8-inch 32GB SSD flash drive to computer manufacturers as an alternative to mechanical drives now found in most laptops. As in ultra-portables, once adopted it will boost performance while also reducing power requirements, which thereby can extend battery life.