Image: Sidekick
T Mobile
The Sidekick II.  FOr all you Sidekick fans, there's a III on the way.
By Columnist
updated 6/1/2006 11:48:37 AM ET 2006-06-01T15:48:37

In the past few weeks I’ve been inundated by readers asking me what I thought would make perfect gadget gifts for high school and college grads and dads for Father’s Day.

Creating a list was easy — I just thought about what I'd like to get. These are my picks in the the five of the hottest categories.

Modern-day smartphones
I can’t think of many cell phone users who wouldn’t want a full-featured wireless phone/Web browser/e-mail device in their pocket. There are a lot of terrific smartphone handsets to choose from. Because of the large number of new phones using Microsoft’s Windows Mobile software we’ll begin there. (MSNBC is a joint venture of Microsoft and NBC.)

If you’re a Verizon customer, check out the 6700 (a terrific device with a slide-out keyboard) and Palm’s Treo 700w.  Sprint subscribers also have a 6700 to love and cherish.

T-Mobile has two smartphones worth noting: The MDA (similar to the 6700 mentioned above) and the smaller SDA — a terrific little device with all sorts of features (including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth) crammed inside a tiny shell. The other major GSM provider in the United States, Cingular, has their 8125 and 2125 models.

Image: Q smartphone
Verizon's long-awaited Q smartphone — made by Motorola — is coming soon.
One other handset worth noting: Motorola’s Q phone, which is expected to be released this week by Verizon. In early tests I found the Q to be easy to use and drop-dead gorgeous.

Consider as well those smartphones that don’t run Windows Mobile. The first is the new Treo 700p. It runs the latest version of Palm’s tried and true operating system and also contains Microsoft ActiveSync for Outlook e-mail. I recommend checking out the 700p if its features are right for you. Both Verizon and Sprint sell the handset.

Any e-mail addict can appreciate a BlackBerry. Virtually every cellular carrier has a number of models to get and keep you addicted to their technical delights.

Finally, if you don’t have or need corporate e-mail, you might consider T-Mobile’s Sidekick, shaped like a bar of soap with a flip-around screen.

Recently I got on a bus in New York City and found myself surrounded by dozens of teens playing with their Sidekicks.  It was kind of scary. One reason Sidekicks are so popular is because of the low ($29.99) monthly service plans from T-Mobile.

For all other smartphones, the monthly service charges can be more costly. Think in terms of plans starting at $50 to $80 per month for both voice and data (e-mail and Web) service.

A new computer
Whether it’s an all-in-one enclosure desktop iMac like the one I flipped over a few columns ago or one of the new Mac laptops, Apple has come closest to bridging the gap when it comes to offering the perfect new computer.

In addition to being great devices running Apple's OS X, the new line of desktops and laptops also do a pretty great job running Windows XP. 

The new MacBook laptops - available in black or white.

The new ThinkPad portable from Lenovo also makes a great gift.  I recommend the Z60 for its wide-screen display and the very small ultra-portable X60 — especially if you get one with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the optional Verizon EV-DO high-speed wireless modem.

iPod accessories
I don’t think I have to tell anybody about iPods, but you might consider one of the many available add-ons to enhance your music-listening experience.

External speakers make a nice gift, although I'd think twice about buying add-on speakers costing less than the iPod itself. For good sound, you should consider a speaker system from a company known for making speakers, such as Klipsch.

Klipsch's iGroove for iPods of all sizes and shapes.

Klipsch's brand new iGroove HG (for high gloss) speaker system retails for $249.99, and comes in black or white models to match your iPods. Any model iPod will work with this speaker system.

Griffin Technology has been creating amazing items to improve your portable music listening experience since iPods first made the scene. If you've got iPod addicts on your gift list, this company is a veritable one-stop shop.

Consider the TuneCenter, which turns your iPod into a home media center, or the iTrip portable charger. The company's SmartShare lets two users listen to the same iPod, and you can toggle between your music and your FM radio stations with the nifty iFM. And finally, the iClear is a terrific see-through iPod case.

The Slingbox
A Slingbox lets you watch and control your Cable/Satellite/DVD on portable devices. Those portables now include many of the Windows Mobile smartphones I discussed, as well as laptop and desktop computers.

This innocuous little device will bring you a gazillion hours of portable video enjoyment. With the Slingbox hooked up to my cable TV box and high-speed computer network, I've been able to watch local, national, and even international sporting events.

I've heard of other novel ways to use this cool little creation, including the professor who has students watch lectures via Slingbox rather than lend out tapes and DVDs. I'm hoping for a Slingbox watch someday so I can watch TV when and where I want.

21st century timepieces

The Casio Waveceptor Sea Pathfinder.  The list of features is a lot longer than the name.
The Casio Waveceptor line of G-Shock atomic watches receive daily radio signal updates from the U.S Atomic Clock, which makes the watch far more accurate than any mechanical or electronic watch design on the planet.

Casio makes lots of Waveceptor models in many styles and shapes, and with analog and/or digital readouts. These watches range in price from less than $60 to more than $400.

The Sea Pathfinder model is an ‘Atomic Solar Triple Sensor’ device that not only automatically sets the proper time for your location but it also includes a digital barometer and thermometer, compass, depth gauge, five alarms and an auto calendar which is good through the year 2099.

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