Tech Gadgets That Will Make You Even More Mobile

This year promises an overwhelming array of new technologies. Tech Watch columnist Michael Antoniak reports on some of the latest developments from the 2010 Consumer Electronics Show.

March 1, 2010

If you've postponed purchasing that one device for all your mobile needs until now, it's going to be much harder to resist. So many new smartphones, tablets, netbooks, and laptops are coming to the market that you'll be sure to find an affordable solution that fits your real estate needs.

This year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, the annual consumer technology trade show that always boasts the hottest new gadgets, offers a peek at advances in all those categories.

Smarter Smartphones

Android, Google's advanced operating system for mobile devices, is everywhere, appearing in both smartphones and tablets.

In smartphones, Motorola showed its Backflip, with a QWERTY keyboard and 3.1-inch screen, as a follow-up to the Droid that Verizon introduced in fall of 2009.

Dell confirmed that AT&T will begin offering the Mini 3, its version of an Android-based smartphone, sometime in the first half of the year.

Sony Ericsson now offers the Xperia x10, with social networking features and GPS-enabled Google Maps, while Saygus showed its Vphone, which has a 3.5-inch touchscreen, slide-out QWERTY keypad, 5-megapixel camera, and two-way video calling.

However, Android alone isn't garnering all the interest right now among smartphone operating systems. A couple of other noteworthy devices coming to the market include Palm's updated Pixi Plus and Pre Plus, and the HTC HD2, a Windows Mobile device to be offered through T-Mobile.

The New Buzz: Tablets

Noticeably missing from CES, Apple's much-anticipated iPad, introduced Jan. 27, offers a completely different take, with the focus on mobile computing. It's capable of running applications that have been developed for the iPhone. The tablet, offered in Wi-Fi and 3G versions, features a 9.7-inch multitouch screen and 1 Ghz processor, and is just an inch thick, weighing 1.5 pounds. Prices start at $499 for the WiFi version with 16 gigabytes of internal flash memory.

The iPad won't ship for two months, but if Apple's past is any sign, this could set a new standard in mobile computing.

Meanwhile, at CES, Dell lifted the curtain on a proposed Android tablet, currently dubbed the Streak, that is expected to be delivered later in the year.

Is it a tablet or laptop? The full-sized Ideapad U1 hybrid, with a detachable screen, gives you the option of using it as a tablet or laptop. It launches in June with a base price of $999.

High Security, Affordable Netbooks

Among HP's introductions were several new netbooks, including the HP Mini 5102 netbook, offered in a standard or a touchscreen version. One novel feature is its Face Recognition for Protection feature, which uses the netbook's built-in webcam to verify the user. Pricing starts at $599.

If all you really want is Web access, Sony now offers the dash, a "personal Internet device" with 7-inch screen for $199.

Lenovo showed several innovative products at the trade show: It bills its new skylight as a cross between a smartphone and a netbook, with all the functionality of each. It ships in April with a base price of $499.

9 More Gadgets You'll Love

Here's a brief rundown of a few more products and developments from the Consumer Electronic Show:

  • Faster Transfers: You'll be starting to see USB 3.0 appear in all types of hardware as a faster standard for moving data.
  • Compact GPS: TomTom unveiled what it promises will be a competitively priced entry-level portable navigation system. The new Ease has a touchscreen interface and text-to-speech conversion for voice-guided directions. It'll be the most compact TomTom device available, easily able to slide into a pocket or purse.
  • Talking GPS: For those who want personalized voice prompts with their GPS product, Garmin offers the Voice Studio for select models of its nuvi navigation system. With the free software, owners can now create personalized voice prompts by recording themselves or their family or friends.
  • Image Tagging: Although the photo industry's big show is the Photo Marketing Association later this month, CES introductions suggest emerging trends and features. GPS tagging of images is one feature making its way into cameras, as in Sony's new DSC-HX5V, $350, available in March.
  • Picture and Video Combo: Cameras have had video-recording capabilities for some time, but expect to see manufacturers marketing new models as the one device for both still and video needs, as seen in Sanyo's Xacti "dual camera" models.
  • Image Sensors: Image sensors in cameras continue to improve as wide-angle lenses become a more common feature in compacts. Casio's $299 Exlim EX-H15 compact exemplifies the latest trends with HD video-recording capability, a 25-millimeter wide-angle lens featuring a 10x zoom, and a 14-megapixel image sensor.
  • VoIP Solution: Want to save on phone calls? MagicJack has expanded its offerings to let cell phone and smartphone users take advantage of its cost-cutting VoIP calling solution. The company's femtocell-technology solution requires a special USB adapter for connecting to its network via computer, and is expected to sell for between $20 and $40. Once a connection is established, you can make unlimited calls from your cell or smartphone within a 3,000 square foot area for approximately $20 a year.
  • Unlimited Wireless: DataJack targets mobile Web users. Plug its $99 USB modem into your hardware, and you can take advantage of unlimited wireless broadband in its coverage area for just $39.95 a month.
  • Project Your Keypad: A couple of years ago, the thumb-size projectors that displayed a keyboard promised to get around the screen limitations of cell phones, and apparent solutions to this problem have appeared in the LG expo and the Presenter accessory for Blackberry devices. Now, Light Blue Optics has taken the concept further, demonstrating its Light Touch, which melds a projector and a camera to create a touch-sensitive keypad and screen on any surface.