More CTIA Gadgets, Accessories, and Services

At a quiet CTIA, several innovations still surfaced, including new Bluetooth headsets, iPhone apps, and a plug-and-play cell phone signal booster.

Sierra Wireless: 2 Broadband Modems in One

New from Sierra Wireless, which along with Novatel Wireless accounts for most of the mobile broadband data cards in North Amerca, is an EVDO modem designed for people in transition from traditional PC Cards to the newer Express Card format.

At its heart, the AirCard 402 is an ExpressCard, designed to fit into that format's chewing gum stick-format slot. But for use with older notebooks that haven't got an ExpressCard slot, the AirCard 402 comes with a PC Card-sized shell that you can slide it into. Carrier, as usual, will determine the price.

Coveroo Personalizes Handsets with Laser Etching

Think of Coveroo's service as tattoos for your smartphone. Announced last fall at the Demo conference for promising startups, the company has finally begun offering its decorative services to owners of BlackBerrys, iPhones, iPods, other MP3 players -- you name it. If you can remove the back cover of your handheld device, you can order a replacement with the image of your choice on it. (In the case of the iPhone, you have to find an authorized dealer to do the etching in person since you can't remove the case.)

Coveroo offers a range of images, many of them drawn from popular TV shows, cartoons, and other cultural icons.The Simpsons etching I liked went for $20 for a BlackBerry Curve.

Phanfare's Photon for iPhone Adds Print Ordering

iPhone owners can now order prints of their images directly from the handset using the latest version of Phanfare Photon, a noteworthy photo-sharing app.

Photon account-holders could already automatically upload, organize, store and share images captured with their iPhone online (as well as those on PCs, Apple iPhoo, Google Picasa, Adobe LightRoom and Apple Aperture). The new photo-finishing service lets you order prints, from wallet- to 20-by-30-inch poster size, on Kodak paper.

Phanfare Photon is a free download from the iTunes App Store.

Jabra Adds a Halo to Its Bluetooth Lineup

Not an earbud person? The new Jabra Halo could be an interesting alternative. It's a wireless over-the-ear Bluetooth headset that fits snugly on your head when in use, and can be powered-down by simply folding in the earpieces, which snap midway from the crown.

I tried it on and liked its elegant look and comfortable feel. You can, if need be, convert it to a corded headset via an included mini-USB cable with a standard MP3 player jack.

The Halo is slated to ship May 1 with a pricetag of $130. Also at CTIA, Jabra announced a hands-free Bluetooth speaker for cars, the SB200, for an affordable $60.

Sound ID 200 To Debut Mid-April

Founded by otologic surgeon and entrepreneur Stanley Perkins, Sound ID aims to use the latest advances in audio technology to create Bluetooth headsets that deliver superior voice quality on both ends of the line. The company's latest product, the Sound ID 200, uses special microphone and sound cancellation technology to filter out unwanted background noise and promises superior comfort, too (it looks a lot like the popular Aliph Jawbone headset). It is scheduled to go on sale April 15 for $100.

Toktok Enables Voice Poke and Other Smart Voice Applications

Smartphones can be useful devices, but sometimes it's plain old inconvenient to use them to their fullest. When you're on a voice call, for example, how much fun is it to look up something on your calendar? Ditech Networks, which has a lot of expertise in voice applications for phone networks, is working on a product called TokTok that will automate retrieval and use of Google Calendar and Contacts info during a voice call.

For example, if you wanted to set up a meeting but didn't have your calendar in front of you, you could say the word "toktok" followed by the date and time of the proposed meeting. TokTok would check the calendar and either schedule the meeting or advise you of a conflict--without you having to put down the handset or go to a PC.

Another proposed application is what Ditech officials call voice poke. Like the Poke application in Facebook, a voice poke would be a quick short voice message to let the person know you were thinking of them--only it would be delivered by voice while you were on another call.

Ditech's Mike Lambert acknowledged that many people might find it disconcerting to hear a voice whispering in their ear while they were talking to someone else. But, he said, kids are becoming accustomed to managing communications from multiple simultaneous sources. We'll have to say how that one works out: TokTok will be entering private invitation-only beta later this year.

Android Docs to Go: Screenshots

Good news for Android fans seeking corporate and enterprise acceptance for their handset: Dataviz has shipped an Android version of its Microsoft Office-compatible Documents to Go productivity suite for handhelds. The software will allow Android owners to view and edit Microsoft Word and Excel documents on their handhelds. It's available exclusively in the Android Market at an introductory rate of $20, or a third off the usual $30 price.Also available is a beta Android version of RoadSync, DataViz's app for syncing Exchange e-mail. The company says it will be a free download from the Android Market through the end of May.Above are screenshots from Dataviz, which weren't available when we ran a news item on the DataViz announcement.

Wi-Ex Introduces Easy, One-Room Cell Signal Booster

Cell phone signal boosters can help your mobile phone reception, but they tend to be pricey (in the $400 range) and often require installation of an outdoor antenna. At CTIA, Wi-Ex launched an alternative: A $250 signal booster that works in one room and doesn't require setting up an external antenna--just plug its cable into a wall outlet.

The zBoost-One has its limitations. It only supports phones on the 1900MHz band (you have to check with your carrier to figure out if your phone operates on this frequency), and Wi-Ex pegs its coverage area at 1200 feet. Still, it might be worth a look if you've got dead spots but don't want to fiddle with an outdoor antenna.