Cool Gadgets You Can't Get In the US -- Yet
Start Saving for Airfare
It's true: The coolest gadgets often debut overseas -- usually in Asia. Some are cell phones that double as music players or TVs. Others are supersmall yet powerful notebooks or handheld PCs. And some are just weird, like the world's most disturbing piggy bank.
Luckily (in some cases, anyway), you may not be totally shut out when it comes to procuring one. Though these devices aren't officially for sale in North America, some are available from gray-market importers such as Dynamism.com, or on eBay. Just make sure that you can obtain a service plan to support what you buy, if appropriate.
Screen Gem -- Panasonic Viera P905i
Think of it as the world's smallest "big-screen" TV. Panasonic's Viera Ketai handset boasts a 3-inch screen with a contrast ratio of 2000:1 -- comparable to that of many full-size LCDs, along with powerful image processing and a tuner for Japan's 1seg ("one seg") mobile broadcasting service. You can use it as a standard vertical flip phone to make calls, or turn it 90 degrees and flip the screen open horizontally to watch TV and play 3D games. High-speed broadband, GPS tracking and a 5-megapixel camera complete the package.
Availability: Japan only; distributed by NTT DoCoMo.
Run, Baby, Run -- Raon Everun UMPC
The diminutive Raon -- 7 inches long and just over a pound in weight -- is for travelers who want their laptop to feel not much heavier than a densely woven doily. This Windows XP-based handheld sports a full QWERTY keyboard, a 4.8-inch touch-screen that can shift between portrait and landscape modes, and your choice of either a standard 60GB hard drive or 6GB of energy-saving solid-state storage. Integrated Wi-Fi lets you log onto the Internet; a docking station, a car mount and an external keyboard are optional. This ultramobile PC (UMPC) earns its name with a battery life rated by the maker at seven hours for the standard battery and 12 hours for a larger, enhanced unit.
Availability: South Korea (but at least the enhanced battery should last through the long flight back to the States).
Soul Proprietor -- Samsung 'Soul' SGH U900
Samsung's sleek new cell phone is thin and rich: The 13mm-thick handset includes a 5-megapixel camera with 4X digital zoom, image stabilization and face detection, plus support for blazingly fast 7.2-mbps data connections. But the real innovation here is the interface: This slider phone offers both a numeric keypad and a touch-screen that vibrates when you press it; meanwhile, the Soul's Thematic user interface displays only the icons relevant to the task at hand.
Availability: Europe, starting this month.