Remember when cell phones were as big as a brick and required a separate shoulder pack to keep the battery up and running? Yeah, so do we. But we also remember the birth of the smartphone, and since then, they've gotten smarter and smarter. With dozens of choices out there now (several iPhone models and carriers, along with multitudes of Android devices), we figure that your gift recipient already has a smartphone. So we're focusing on some products that can enhance their smartphone, whether it's a nice case, charging device, Bluetooth headset or other cool accessory. Here's what we liked this year:
Products reviewed in this category:
HTC Wildfire S smartphone, by T-Mobile
Marque M155 Bluetooth headset, by Plantronics
Speaky Bluetooth car speakerphone, by Bluetrek
i4 Charging Station, by IDAPT
Cel-Fi RS1 Cellular Repeater, by Nextivity
i1Eco universal charger, by IDAPT
Case-Mate iPhone 4 Monsta Case
Aegis Series for iPhone 4, by Trident Case
The Callet - phone case and wallet in one
Speck iPhone 4 cases (many varieties), by Speck Products
Spiderpodium, by Breffo
PowerSlice universal charger, by Fuse
Zip Touch-n-Go Multi-Charging Station, by The Joy Factory
Mobile Power Station, by IOGEAR
Inductive Charger, by Energizer
Carbon Bluetooth headset, by Bluetrek
Freeway Bluetooth speaker phone, by Jabra
M50 Bluetooth headset, by Plantronics
Jabra Supreme Bluetooth headset, by Jabra
Voyager Pro HD Bluetooth headset, by Plantronics
Icon HD Bluetooth headset + The Nerd, by Jawbone
I know iPhones are all the rage, must-have, cool, and hey, wait a second - if that's true, why is Android outselling the iPhone by such a wide margin? Is there anything wrong with Android? Well, as an Android user myself I can tell you, sure, nothing's perfect, but for most users the differences between Android and iPhone are inconsequential. And since an iPhone is going to set you back a wad of cash (OK, except for the antique 8GB 3GS, which, like the Wildfires S reviewed here, is also now free), handsets like the Wildfire S are truly worth a look.
So, what can you get for free? It's 3G, of course, has Wi-Fi, GPS, and has a 5-megapixel/720p camera. It's a true world phone, covering all the major bands, and supports HSPA, tethering over both USB and Wi-Fi (essential for business use, IMHO), and there's Bluetooth and a 3.5mm audio jack. It runs Android 2.3 (Gingerbread) and HTC's Sense UI, and has all manner of sensors and other bells and whistles. For most people, this is a more than serviceable phone.
What's not to like? Well, this can be both a plus and a minus, but it's small - much smaller than an iPhone or most Android phones, but still very usable. Screen resolution, though, is limited to 320 by 480, a consequential disadvantage. The processor is slower than higher-end phones. Storage is primarily on the MicroSD card, but these can range up to 32GB. The battery cover must be removed, however, and as is common, to access this slot.
In use, the Wildfire S is like any other Android phone. Everything works, and with a little practice, even techno-novices will take to this one. OK, it's not as fast or as slick as some higher-end phones, but anyone looking for a truly pocket-sized Android handset will likely be quite happy with this one - especially now that T-Mobile is literally giving them away (OK, with a contract, but still...)
Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: Free (Web pricing) with activation and data service; free shipping
Reviewed by C.J. Mathias
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