There should be a rule for the holidays: Everyone gets a tiny bit of technological awesomeness. Don't kid yourself thinking only nerds succumb to the beautiful sight that is a tightly wrapped, medium-sized box. Could it be a new phone? A new media center? Gasp! A pocket-sized Netbook with multitouch screen and built-in 4G mobile Web capabilities? (You wish! That won't come out till next year.) The possibilities are endless, and every holiday season, the tech wizards responsible for making all the goodies are capable of stuffing even more features into smaller and smaller cases.
If the recent AT&T/Verizon row over 3G coverage maps is any indication, we're barely into the throes of the do-it-all phone wars. Sporting the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, the Motorola DROID is the first phone to directly challenge the ubiquitous iPhone. The ads are replete with references to the features not found on Apple's cash cow ("iDont have a physical keyboard"). Comparisons aside, both phones have a laundry list of features, not to mention the ability to add third-party applications, so either one should satisfy the needs of a typical user. Don't forget there's a handful of other phones running the Android OS, and of course, the popular Blackberry. Motorola DROID, $199 with Verizon two-year plan.
Speaking of mobility, the trend in laptop computing continues to be shrinking devices that pack more punch. Apple was the first computer manufacturer to successfully dive into the cell phone market, but will the reverse work for Nokia? The new Nokia Booklet 3G is a good first candidate, weighing a lean 2.76 pounds and sporting Microsoft's much-improved Windows 7 Media Center Edition. It can jump on AT&T's 3G network (OK, not the greatest network); does Wi-Fi; and sports a decent 120 GB of hard-drive space. Plus, it looks good. The few downsides include the lack of a proper fan, ensuring toasty undersides, and a very average 1 GHZ Atom processor. Truth be told, the Netbook market is growing fast, so don't be surprised if you're distracted by other models from Fujitsu, Dell, ASUS, Sony, and HP, among others. Nokia Booklet 3G, $299 with a two-year data plan with AT&T. Available exclusively at Best Buy.
The introduction of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader has sparked renewed interest in the dormant industry, not to mention some good ol' fashioned competition in the marketplace. Although you can do e-books on almost anything with a screen, most of those displays would make Guttenberg roll over in his grave – thus the need for gadgets with specialized screens. Amazon's new Kindle with Global Wireless means just that: You'll be able to download your subscriptions and do limited Web browsing. Amazon Kindle, $259, www.amazon.com.
THE MEDIA CENTER
When it comes to television-viewing trends, more and more people are migrating to the Web to get their fix. But what if you could have all the goodness of Hulu, Boxee and YouTube right in your HD TV? The Myka ION does just that, allowing users to stream and download Web videos from multiple services. It boasts decent horsepower, running on an Intel Atom processor and an NVIDIA ION graphics processor, packing up to 1 TB of storage, 2 GB of RAM and a plethora of outputs for any possible connection. Myka ION, $379.00, www.myka.tv.
Got any other must-haves? Share them with us in the comments!