Cellular Stocking Stuffers

It’s the ultimate holiday conundrum—what to get each person on your list. Thankfully, we’ve done our homework and come up with unique gifts for the techie (or wannabe) in your life: a guide to the latest cellular phones, and a company that will take the time—and guesswork—out of loading your iPod. Also word on the newest social networking site for kids.

BlackBerry 8100 Pearl
Small is beautiful when it comes to the BlackBerry Pearl. The smart phone includes a camera, music and video playback, and removable storage while still being sleek and light. Although the keyboard uses the SureType two-letters-for-each-key system instead of the conventional QWERTY pad, the Pearl is otherwise business friendly: like previous BlackBerrys, it can read Word, Excel and PowerPoint files and connect with Outlook and Exchange for doing work on the go.

As by now we’ve all heard, the iPhone combines Apple’s iPod music and video player with a mobile phone and e-mail access. The thin, sleek design and multi-touch face make the device a design lover’s dream, but it’s the built in Wi-Fi and visual voice mail (you can pick which messages to listen to by sight, in any order) that’s apt to have corporate America drooling. The entertainment features may outshine other devices’ but business users take note: while the iPhone reads Word and Excel files, unfortunately at this time, the battery is not user-replaceable.

Samsung BlackJack
One of the thinnest QWERTY keyboard phones around, the Samsung BlackJack comes with support for video and music and has 3G technology that allows broadband-like connection speeds. The device even includes a smart converter tool for currency, length, weight and temperatures—perfect for overseas travel. There are no Microsoft Office Mobile Suite or document editing capabilities, but the phone does come with an application called Picsel Viewer Suite, which lets you open and view Word and Excel documents, PowerPoint presentations and PDFs.

Treo 680
Although some consumers may buy the Treo 680 purely for the color options—it’s available in graphite, copper, arctic and crimson—the phone actually works well; in fact, it may be one of the best of its brand yet. The new internal antenna and smaller size make it sleeker than the Treo predecessors; it’s got a full easy-type keyboard; and it can be used as an MP3 player. The device includes 64 MB of user-available storage, nearly three times the memory of the earlier Treo 650. Business users will enjoy viewing, editing and sharing Microsoft Word and Excel documents and opening PDFs and PowerPoint presentations. But some may be disappointed that the camera is only a VGA rather than a higher-resolution megapixel version, now offered on most new camera phones.

There’s buzz that Verizon’s new Voyager phone is the closest thing to the iPhone—with an actual keyboard. The touch-screen device lets users easily scroll through long lists of contacts, tap on certain parts of HTML web pages using a thumbnail view. Although the camera is only 2-megapixel, the phone does have V Cast Music and Video, plus in select markets the new V CAST mobile television streaming technology.


Music made easy

You’ve got an iPod, but now what? If uploading your entire music collection seems too daunting, consider outsourcing the job to Riptopia. Cofounder Kurt Beyer, a former professor of information technology, and chief technology officer Yugal Sharma, who previously worked on the Human Genome Project at the National Institutes of Health, couldn’t have made the process easier. For about a dollar a CD, the company will transfer personal collections onto a customer’s computer or portable music player and categorize it alphabetically by artist, album and genre—making it easy for the user to choose which song to listen to. After an order is placed, Riptopia sends prepaid addressed and insured shipping materials to the purchaser’s front door. The client slides his or her CD collection into the protective spindles Riptopia has sent, encloses the iPod or other portable music player in the box, seals the package and drops it off at the nearest UPS pickup location. In only a few days, the fully loaded iPod and CDs will be back home, ready for listening. Riptopia (SF). 800.874.4921, riptopia.com





A safe social website just for kids?

Tiburon resident and Internet veteran Scott Arpajian recently launched dizzywood.com, a new free-of-advertising virtual world for ages eight to 12. “I had the idea a few years ago and decided to pursue it because kids in this age range were being underserved. There weren’t websites that were a fun place for them to be and had a lot of activities,” says Arpajian, who has two young ones himself. Children create their own adventures by customizing a character that best suits their personality; they then can take that character on visits to virtual worlds like a Mayan jungle or a fantasy city under the sea. Unlike on social networking sites for teens, all interaction between players happens via safeguard technology filters and live moderators, which prevents user identities and inappropriate content from being shared on the web.