TheFeature's Holiday Gift Guide
By Carlo Longino, Fri Dec 12 22:00:00 GMT 2003

Stuck on what to buy your favorite wireless geek this year? We've got some suggestions...

There's no shortage of wireless or wireless-related gear out there, but a lot of it's junk. These are our top picks for this holiday season.

One of the coolest (though not necessarily useful) things we've seen in a long time is the Sony Ericsson CAR-100 Bluetooth car. It's a mini-RC car controlled by a Bluetooth phone (at this time, it's only compatible with a handful of SE handsets), and although it's only got a 10-meter range, what better way to show off the almost limitless potential of Bluetooth? If that doesn't catch your fancy, how about the Bluetooth-controlled robotic helicopter that Seiko Epson showed off at a trade show in Japan?

Another cool SE Bluetooth accessory is the HBM-30 Bluetooth Music Handsfree, an MP3 player-cum-handsfree kit that connects to a phone via Bluetooth. It's got a Memory Stick Duo slot for storage, and automatically mutes your music when you get an incoming call. We've seen plenty of MP3 attachments for phones before, but this is a novel way of working in a BT handsfree as well.

No doubt lots of little kids around the world are wishing for an N-Gage deck this Christmas, but we're guessing more than a few might end up with this, the M-Gage. Seen in Hong Kong's "videogame district" recently, the M-Gage is a pretty exact copy of the N-Gage that features a black and white screen, 11 built-in games, and a calculator and alarm clock. No phone though. But still, take that, Nokia! But if you're really into mobile gaming and have outgrown your GameBoy, look into the Tapwave Zodiac, a souped-up game-centric Palm device. The graphics look pretty amazing, it's got built-in Bluetooth and an SDIO port, and it's a full-featured PDA to boot.

I know Eric didn't like it, but the Sony PEG-UX50 Clie PDA carries enough geek cachet to turn heads at a Star Trek convention, while looking cool enough to make you the king of your local Starbucks' hotspot. It's got Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a camera, keyboard, video recording, and a wide-screen display packed in a pretty damn cool-looking package. If the Sony is a little over the top for you, try palmOne's Tungsten T3. It too has a unique and cool design, but its gimmick is a slide-out expanding screen that will work in both landscape and portrait modes. Just don't forget to add a Wi-Fi card, about the only thing the T3 is lacking.

If Pocket PC's are your fave flavor of PDA's, check out the HP iPaq 4355, which Eric's picked up in favor of the Sony UX-50. It's one of the first PPC models with a built-in keyboard (the 4155 is pretty much the same device, sans keyboard), and it also features built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, including some beefed-up security measures, and the updated Pocket PC 2003 operating system.

For those that like their Pocket PCs with a side of mobile phone, give the XDA II/HTC Himalaya/i-mate a gander. An updated version of the popular original XDA, it improves on many of its predecessor's shortcomings. It features a 16-bit screen, a VGA camera, an SDIO slot, Bluetooth, and of course tri-band GSM/GPRS. But my favorite change is that they took away the original XDA's stubby antenna, resulting in a cleaner look.

We couldn't have a wish-list without any phones, of course, and our top choice this holiday season is the Sony Ericsson P900. Regardless of the P800's specs, I'd never carry it because I thought it was pretty ugly -- but the P900's awesome look strikes a chord with me, and its powerful features aren't bad either. Its implementation of the UIQ interface looks gorgeous, its included applications quite useful, and the flip-down keypad and screen well thought out. Devices like the P900 are why PDA sales are falling -- and with good reason. We'd gladly welcome the Nokia 6600 and Siemens SX1 under the tree this year, too.

You can't really go wrong giving somebody an iPod, but why not take it a step further and throw video into the mix with a portable A/V player like the RCA Lyra or Archos AV300? While PDAs, and even some mobile phones, can do most of what these devices can, the AV players have got huge hard drives to store hours of content -- and I can tell you from personal experience that a 128MB memory card doesn't get you too far, what with the 3-hour blockbusters that are all the rage in Hollywood now.

I realize this is a bit of a stretch, but hey, it's wireless -- the Humminbird Smartcast RF30 Wrist Mount Remote Sonar Sensor. I don't fish, but I won't let that stop the gadget lust, and I might have to start just so I could play with one of these. You attach the cool little green submarine thingie onto your fishing line, and it sends back a sonar image of what's under the surface back to the LCD screen on the wristwatch. Now that is cool! It's also available in less-cool "Mobile Station" and rod-mount versions too.

I catch a lot of grief from my significant other for the spending that supports my gadget fixations, but I think this product would do irreparable harm to our relationship: the Philips iPronto remote control. At $1700, it better offer something more than the $15 universal remote I can get from Radio Shack, and boy, does it ever. In addition to the infrared that can control pretty much any piece of AV equipment you've got, it's got built-in Wi-Fi so you can access the Net on its roughly 6.5-inch touchscreen LCD, an interactive program guide that lets you easily choose what you want to watch and record, and specs that would put most PDAs and some desktop PCs to shame. But at the end of the day, it's a $1700 remote control. Or at least that's how she would see it...

If the iPronto doesn't force you to dig deep enough into your pockets, these next few items will. First up is the enviro-friendly hybrid-engine Toyota Prius. It's nice and dandy that it gets about a million miles to the gallon (or kilometers per liter for my international friends) or whatever, but it's on this list because it's got an option that lets you connect your phone to the car via Bluetooth. The Acura TL does about the same thing, albeit in far greater luxury, with its HandsFreeLink, which will actually show you information like caller ID on the car's LCD display. It also interacts with the car's navigation system, which responds to voice commands, so you could say something like "find the nearest restaurant", then tell the system to make the call on your mobile so you could see if they've got a free table.

The car that takes the cake, though, is the BMW 7 Series. On models in the UK and Germany, BMW offers the "BMW Online" option, an integrated WAP portal. It allows users to access content like stock quotes, news, and travel info, but that's all pretty boring. What's really cool is that you can sync the car with your PC or PDA, so when you're going to meet a contact, the navigation system can give you directions. The car also comes with an e-mail address, so you can get your messages while you're literally on the road (which isn't an activity we necessarily condone!), and reply to them with short, preformulated responses, akin to the built-in SMS responses available in many phones.

Any of these should make a good gift for your favorite wireless fanatic. And if any of you are feeling particularly generous, send all packages to the usual address...