The first time I laid eyes on one of Motorola's digital StarTac ST 7760 telephones, it was in the hand of rap mogul Russell Simmons. If it's the smallest, newest, coolest thing in telephony, you can trust that a cell-phone phreak like Russell will have it first. And the dual-mode CDMA digital StarTac is all of that.
"It's the best phone out there," the sales rep at Bell Atlantic Mobile tells me when I call to buy one -- and then choke on the price. Though it won't work with national single-rate plans (they require different technology), this classic Motorola clamshell phone, with its sensual feel, its Kate Moss-slim, long-lasting lithium-ion battery, its clear sound, its ability to slide smoothly between analog and digital cellular systems, and its simple side-button programming, has the feel we've come to expect from Motorola.
It also has a dedicated voice-mail button, a memory that holds 99 phone numbers, a vibrator feature for those moments when, despite your cool, you can't ring-a-ding, and the unbeatable ability to inspire craven envy in others when you pull it out of your watch pocket and snap it open. Really, the only problem with it is that it's so small, it's easy to lose. But then, it feels so good in the hand, you might never put it down.
So repeat after me: "Mine's smaller than yours." Now, didn't that feel good?
$399 with activation; $649 without/Bell Atlantic Mobile/800-255-BELL
2. PLAY MOBILE
For roughly half a year (practically centuries in tech time), Diamond's Rio has been the only portable, shock-free digital-audio MP3 player on the market. Enter the Samsung Yepp, which should appear in U.S. stores later this spring. Yepp delivers near-CD-quality music downloaded from the Internet (at least 40 minutes' worth) and displays song titles and other info on its LCD screen. An adorable little guy -- the size of a deck of cards -- the magnesium-jacketed Yepp comes equipped with an FM tuner.
3. YOU'RE SO FINE
Prada nylon dopp kit. Knicks floor seats. Titanium Hello Kitty BlancPlain chronograph. Sometimes it takes a truly inexcusable sum of money to distinguish yourself from the masses. And so it was with $450 burning a hole in my pocket that I became the distinguished owner of a new Palm V personal organizer.
For the record, I am an original Palm Pilot Personal Edition owner. I am also incredibly popular. Even so, my 603 address listings, 2,090 datebook appointments, 108 memos, and 125 to-do-list items consumed barely 50 percent of my Palm Personal's paltry 512K of internal memory. In other words, there was absolutely no compelling practical reason for me to upgrade my personal-organizing technology other than the simple fact that the anodized-aluminum Palm V looks so damn fine. (The Palm V is sort of the Ivana Trump of the organizing set -- it doesn't actually do anything different from what its predecessors did, but the exterior face-lift is surprisingly pleasing to the eye.)
How many industrial engineers does it take to design a PV? Clearly, not enough. The poorly designed cover has a bad habit of rubbing against the power button when it's stashed in your bag or pocket. On the upside, the unit runs on built-in lithium batteries that recharge every time you use the hot sync cradle connected to your PC. A full juicing lasts approximately 30 days depending on how anal you are.
$449.99/J&R/15 Park Row/238-9100
4. SCREEN GEM
Samsung packs a 40-inch progressive- scan image into its new digital-ready PLH403W wide-screen tabletop rear-projection TV -- which, thanks to space-saving LCD technology, is a svelte box only 13 1/2 inches deep.
$2,300/J&R/15 Park Row/238-9000
5. I WANT MY REPLAYTV!
Your VCR is obsolete. The ReplayTV set-top unit dispenses with magnetic tape and instead stores shows (six hours' worth) on a random-access internal hard drive. Among its coolest tricks: ReplayTV allows you to "pause" a program while you're watching it live (take a phone call, get a beer, floss your teeth), then pick up where you left off even while it's recording the rest of the show as it's broadcast (just fast-forward if you want to catch up to "real time").
$699/800-266-1301 for dealers
6. BIG SHOT
A seriously sweet little thing, the PhotoMAX PDC 640FL is not just a camera; it's a "creative kit." Well, that's how Polaroid is pushing its latest offering, and we have to agree. Everything you need to get digital is included in the box -- including PhotoMAX Image Maker software on CD-rom (a sort of low-end Photoshop that lets you manipulate your images on your Windows computer), a floppy-disk adapter with removable 2Mb SmartMedia memory-storage card, and an AC adapter. The tripod-mountable camera itself has a 1.8-inch LCD monitor so you can view and delete crummy shots, a built-in flash with a range of up to eight feet, a ten-second self-timer, and the ability to capture images at resolutions up to 640 by 480 with 24-bit color, which means your shots will feature gradations of literally millions of colors. The best thing about the new PhotoMAX series? The price points -- less elaborate models begin at about $250.
$350 (model PDC 640FL)/Kmart/One Pennsylvania Plaza/760-1188