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Smartphone & E-Reader Picks For The Gift Giving Season

It’s that time of year again when we all have to evaluate what the best tech toys to buy for the geek who wants all the greatest, newest gadgets. For all the gadget enthusiasts on your holiday shopping list, here’s some gift ideas I’ve come up with that I know will make your techie excited.

SmartPhones

iPhone

The ever-popular iPhone is now available on Sprint’s wireless service. If it’s iPhone on their Christmas list, the iPhone 4S is now available to subscribers of AT&T, Sprint and Verizon Wireless. They’re available in black or white models with capacity for 16GB, 32GB and 64GB for storing music, videos, eBooks and apps. And now with iOS 5, it is no longer necessary to have to tether the iPhone to an actual computer, so no more syncing it with your PC to get updates and download music.

 ANDROID DEVICES

Android is continuing to grow strong in the smartphone arena, and while Android devices have always been available on every network, this fall has brought far more options in Android devices.

For those on a budget but still wanting great speed and the thrill of Verizon’s incredulously fast 4G network, take a look at the Pantech Breakout. This phone packs a powerful punch packed in a $99 box. While you may not have heard of Pantech, you’ll like its 5MP rear-facing camera capable of capturing HD video, VGA front-facing camera and all sorts of apps, including NFL Mobile. With a 1GHz processor, 1GB of Flash  memory, 512MB of RAM and a microSD card slot capable of 32GB memory cards, this phone has more than you could possibly expect for under $100.

droid bionic android smartphoneOn the other side of the spectrum, Motorola’s DROID Bionic and DROID RAZR (see article on page 18) are both high-end Android devices with lots of options for power users and novices alike. Each Android v2.3.4 device offer dual-core processors, 4.3” AMOLED screens, 8MP cameras with VGA front-facing cameras for video conferencing. Both also support Motorola’s Webdock and Lapdock accessories for true on-the-go mobile productivity. They’re both available at Verizon Wireless outlets for $300.

The HTC Rezound is all about the audio experience. Yes, it too has the 4.3” Super AMOLED display and a 1.5GHz dual-core processor and 32GB of storage built-in with room for a larger microSD card. It too is for sale for $300 from Verizon Wireless.

The Samsung Galaxy S II smartphones are also making their way into stores, and very popular. First out, the Epic 4G, Sprint’s first Galaxy S II model, at less than half an inch thick, it has a large 4.52” Super AMOLED display, 1GB RAM, 16GB ROM and room for a 32GB microSD Card. It, too, runs Android 2.3 Gingerbread and retails for $200 at Sprint.

E-Readers

nook color e-readerYou can’t really go wrong with either of the offerings from Barnes & Noble or its online competitor, Amazon. Both the Nook  Tablet and Kindle Fire have Android under the hood and both offer incredible reading experiences with app extras. Whether reading books, watching movies, listening to music or Internet functions like surfing and email, both are quick and fully capable devices. Each offer up a resolution of 1024×600 pixels, though the Nook  Tablet has a less reflective screen, giving it a slight edge on readability.

However, the $50 price difference becomes more obvious under the hood, looking at the little things. First, the Nook  Tablet sports 1GB of memory compared to the Kindle Fire’s 512MB. The Nook  Tablet also offers more font size choices for assisted reading and rendering text. Most experts and reviewers agree the Nook  Tablet wins on magazine selection and readability (one column vs. many columns).

The Kindle’s an edge is on usability. The navigation features and ease with which the Amazon store integrates for buying books, movies and music, is simply easier than the competing Nook  Tablet.

Both devices are slightly over 14 ounces, making them much lighter to hold than an iPad or other Android tablet devices, and both fit in pockets and purses easily, too.

The Amazon Kindle Fire is available online for $199 and the Nook  Tablet is for sale at Barnes & Noble for $249. The Nook Color is still a viable e-reader option for just $199, and has Wi-Fi built-in and you can download many Android apps to it.

But remember, with any of the color devices, the reader is still staring at an LCD screen – the same as a computer monitor or TV. For a more realistic “e-ink experience,” which is easier on the eyes and more like a traditional paper reading experience, you may want to consider the Nook SimpleTouch. Weighing in at less than 8 ounces and up to 2 months of battery life, the Nook Simple Touch is a fine $99 e-ink option. It is the direct competitor to the $99 Kindle Touch, Amazon’s e-ink reader. For the simple reading-only experience, e-ink readers are the more natural, less confusing choice, but lack some of the more advanced features.

Whatever your gadget gift is, enjoy your holiday season and watch here after the new year for the latest tech tips and gadget
goodies. Happy Holidays!

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