Media phone: iPhone
If you were offended by the prodigious hype Apple's iPhone received before its release, get over it: In the end, the device easily proved worthy of the hype. It's that good.
Apple completely rethought the experience of using a mobile phone, replacing key presses with its remarkably intuitive multitouch interface. Want to type a URL in the Safari browser? Touch the URL text box and an on-screen keyboard appears. Want to zoom in on something displayed in Safari for easier reading? Touch what you want to read.
This radical new interface is so intuitive that Computerworld's usability tests found people often completed phone and media-related tasks twice as quickly with the iPhone than they did with more traditional devices. And it's so compelling and fun to use that many people can't put it down.
The iPhone ($399) is full of other innovations, such as visual voice mail that makes it simple to pick precisely which message you want to listen to. And, of course, this is also an iPod with a gorgeous 3.5-in. display.
Sure, there are a few weak spots. The iPhone doesn't offer video capture or an instant messaging application, for example, and in the U.S., your only cellular service option is AT&T and its slow EDGE data network. But despite a few glitches, the iPhone is a delightful and significant game-changer, which makes it a superlative holiday gift.
Price: US$399, plus AT&T service plan (in the US) starting at US$59
Summary: This game-changing phone and media player is easily worthy of the hype it received prior to its release. David Haskin
Bluetooth phone headset: Plantronics Pulsar 590E
Was it the result of my teenaged self cranking up the AC/DC to "11" too many times, or was it the fault of my otherwise trusty BlackBerry? Either way, I've had a problem hearing callers on my cell phone.
The wired headset that worked great with my other cell phone generated earsplitting feedback when plugged into the 'Berry -- a common problem, I later discovered, that's related to the GSM technology used by AT&T and T-Mobile. Meanwhile, the tiny single earclip headsets I tried neither achieved the volume I needed nor kept me from feeling self-conscious. (Call me neurotic, but I prefer the illusion that no one else on the street is privy to my conversation.)
Thank heaven for the Motorola Rokr and other music-playing cell phones, but not because my suburban self wants to strut to the beat down an urban street like some hipster fool. Rather, it's because they've led to a small wave of double-ear headsets. David Beckham's handsome mug almost convinced me to get Motorola's sleek S9, but practicality won out in the form of the Plantronics Pulsar 590E headset.
With the Pulsar, my calls come in loud and clear. Callers hear me fine on the stubby-but-extendable microphone. The Pulsar also pairs perfectly with my BlackBerry. The controls are as minimalist and intuitive as anything that has come out of Apple's design labs.
Sure, the Pulsar is chunky enough that I look like a communications officer on the bridge of the Death Star. On the other hand, it's got a bit of that club DJ thing going on, which is what my 37-year-old self will pretend to be when my BlackBerry gives out and I upgrade to an MP3 cell phone.
Summary: For the hardish-of-hearing, a great-sounding, easy-to-use mobile headset that plays music too.