Jan 162010

There’s so much pressure these days to update, renew, improve. The concept of built -in obsolescence may have originated in whitegoods – but it’s gadgets that have the shortest life-cycle of any consumer item these days.

Well-heeled teens replace their ‘old’ 3G mobile smartphones with a brand-new model every year because phone fashions move so fast.

Even the landline (should you be low-tech enough to own one still) is victim to fashion, with the latest offerings pumping out enough hertz between station and cordless handset that you can take the thing to the shops and still receive calls – who needs a mobile?

So here I am, the jaded reviewer, hunting down the latest and greatest in cellphones and thinking if these phones get any thinner they’ll need vitamin supplements when – lo and behold – a low-tech and yet awfully yummy phone fashion solution rears its yellow head.

The folk at Cellfoam have come up with the Banana Phone. It’s not a phone – it’s a phone holder. But, as many have discovered, this is a phone holder with loads of appeal.

Yes, it is yellow and shaped like a banana. Any flip phone or candy-bar style phone that is no more than 12.7cm long and 4.5 cm wide can be stuffed into this phone holder, though sadly the wider iPhones and Blackberries aren’t a good fit.

With the Banana Phone song by Egyptian Canadian children’s entertainer Raffi now an all-time sensation on YouTube, the Banana Phone Cover is the perfect foil for those wielding a less-than-trendy so-last-year mobile phone.

And should you purchase a banana phone holder, there’s no prizes for guessing the appropriate accompanying ringtone.

Bottom line: Day-Oh! Daybreak comes and I wanna phone home
How much : US $ 10

Jan 102010

Only in America. You’ve got your spouse a new iPhone, the kids all have a mobile phone, including the toddler’s specially designed emergency phone for the under-fives, your parents each have one – you’ve got everyone covered except the family dog.

Until now. (I’m sure I am not the only gadget reviewer who predicted this would happen.)

A company called Petsmobility, based in Scottsdale Arizona, has come up with a device called the PetsCELL – the first-ever voice-enabled, waterproof (read dog-slobber-proof), GPS-enabled mobile phone, specially developed for animals. (Mostly dogs, but hey, if you want to put one on your lizard, whose gonna stop you?)

Rover gets his own number, and the dorky-looking mobile phone is attached to his collar. Owners can program a special ‘restricted zone’ into the company’s website; satellite tracking will then text you whenever Rover leaves the zone, and you can dial him up and say ‘Bad dog!’ without leaving the comfort of your desk.

Does your Red Setter run off whenever his leash is removed? No problem, you’ll be able to track him down once you’ve programmed his details into your own GPS phone.

Since dogs are not all that great at dialling, the phone is voice-activated and operates more like a two-way radio.  Though unless you speak fluent Dog, I suspect there’s not a lot the two-way technology can do to make it less of a one-way conversation.

Future models may well come up with a revolutionary translation program that will convert Woofs into English. (Or not.)

Till then, if you’re that much of a dog-person that you want to call him when you’re not there – well, we (almost) have the technology. (I can hear Alexander Graham Bell rolling in his grave from here!)

Though the device was slated for release in 2008, it’s not yet available – but you can put your name on the list to be advised when it’s ready to buy.

Bottom line: Now you can get on the dog-and-bone to man’s best friend
Where:  www.petsmobility.com/products
How much : Unknown

Dec 162009

Someone who has lived with schizophrenia for many years told me recently that mobile phones are the best-ever technology for people living with mental illness.

These days, he can walk down the middle of the street anywhere having a full-pelt argument with his ‘voices,’ and as long as he’s got a mobile phone next to his ear, everyone thinks he’s as normal as the next guy.

Well, life for my schizophrenic friend is getting better all the time; wearable bluetooth headsets have meant more and more people are pacing the streets, ranting into thin air, without a visible phone anywhere near them.

And now, in a great new development – the ORB (Orbital Ring Bluetooth Headset) is about to bring Bluetooth headset technology to the design-conscious masses.

The ORB is, indeed, one ring to rule them all. You wear it as a ring, you know, on your finger – and some ring models include an LED screen displaying caller-ID and calendar reminders.

When you want to make or take a call, you simply take the ring off your finger, give it a cunning twist and – voila! You have a Bluetooth earpiece.

The wonders of ‘bone conducting technology’ mean you put the ring around the outside of your ear, avoiding any gross-out earwax issues.

(Though I do admit to mild concerns about attaching a mini-microwave to my bones because of a little earwax squeamishness.)

Whether you’re genuinely mad, permanently hooked up to your cellphone, or you just think gadgets like these are ‘mad’ (as my teens would say) – this is one nifty little ring that will have loads of appeal for young, old and in-between. (Are you listening, Santa?)

Bottom line: Bluetooth headset converts to funky LED ring
Wherewww.hybratech.com – to be released early in 2010
How much : US $129 without display, US $175 with display

May 192006

As the Blackberry craze grows and mobile phones have become more and more feature-rich, millions of fully–grown adults can be found hunched over miniscule screens tapping tiny keys in a frustratingly slow attempt to keep their mobile organisers up to date.

Most people over 25 have never developed a cracking thumb-speed from years of SMS use and so, they give up pretty quickly, using a computer keyboard and then Bluetooth or USB transfer to input anything more than a quick diary entry.

But imagine a fully-portable full-sized keyboard for your phone or PDA – wouldn’t it be useful for whipping off a few quick emails in the airport lounge or in a café between meetings!

The Virtual Laser Keyboard could well be the answer to every thumb-challenged exec’s prayers.  Using a combination of infrared and laser technology, it projects a full-size keyboard onto any surface which employs optical recognition so that when you tap the images of the keys, (making a “realistic tapping sound”) the characters appear on your PDA, mobile phone or laptop.

Weighing less than 60 grams, it’s about half the size of a standard pack of cards (90 x 34 x 24 mm) and is powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery which will run for between 2 and 3 hours.

The keyboard links to your PDA or phone using Bluetooth – so you must have a Bluetooth-compatible device – and a list of supported models appears on the manufacturers website.  Available in Australia through iTech for $170.

Bottom Line: So much more sensible than air guitar
Where: http://www.virtual-laser-keyboard.com
How much: Au $170