The Terrible Ten
Some multifunction gadgets were meant to be--the camera-phone, printer-scanner, and the clock-radio, for example. These combinations are the technological equivalent of peanut butter and chocolate, strawberries and cream, and gin and ginger beer. (Yum!) But other tech combo gadgets are on a par with Mentos and Diet Coke, and seem capable of producing similarly disastrous results.
Here's a look at some combo tech gadgets that deserve banisto be voted onto the Island of Misfit Gizmos. Some of the items we've identified might be useful, if they weren't so completely mismatched. Others seem like candidates for a list of the world's worst tech products.
The Taser Music Player Holster
If you're like most people, when you walk past a dark alley or through a sketchy parking garage, you want to be fully aware of your surrounds. That's why we find the Taser Music Player Holster--which securely holds a C2 model Taser and doubles as an MP3 player with 1GB of storage--puzzling.
Price: $80 for the holster, $350 for the Taser, available now.
The USB Watch
The MR. Gadget 1 GB USB 2.0 Executive Watch isn't the only USB watch on the market, but it may be the most attractive. Unfortunately, it's still as worthless as every other USB watch, for one reason: You have to lug a USB cable around with you if you intend to transfer files onto the watch.
Price: $220, available now.
The Gift Card and Gadget Combo
In our throwaway society, nothing says sasquatch-size carbon footprint like a gift card that doubles as a really lousy digital camera. This Target 1.2-megapixel camera with 8MB of memory is destined for the landfill as soon as its user exhausts the gift card and the novelty of the gizmo wears off. In any event, your good intentions won't help the recipient of the camera (err, gift card) fit it into a wallet. A variation on the theme: Best Buy had its own card with tiny embedded speakers. (Neither card is available this holiday season.)
We have a more practical idea: a gift card/audio recording of a disgusted voice that says "You're not gonna buy that, are you?" when you pull it out of your wallet.
Mouse and VoIP Phone
One of the nice things about using Skype on a laptop is that it's a hands-free experience: The laptop's built-in microphone picks up your voice, and speakers relay the other end of the call. But Sony's VN-CX1A mouse, which doubles as a VoIP phone, needlessly complicates both your phone calls and your mousing. Question: What happens when you need to use the computer during a call?
Price: $80, available now.
The FM Radio Toaster
You'll find the Kenwood FM Radio Toaster in the Hammacher Schlemmer catalog, which means you just might end up with one after having a few too many cocktails and browsing through the SkyMall magazine (see "The Stars of SkyMall") on your next flight. There's nothing intrinsically idiotic about this combination--but we have trouble looking at the FM Radio Toaster without asking "Why?"
Price: Was $60 through Hammacher, now $33.25 through Amazon.
The iBreath With FM Transmitter
The iBreath's primary function is to serve as a breathalyzer, but it doubles as an FM transmitter for playing your iPod through a car radio. These two functions do not make a harmonious marriage, unless the FM transmitter disables your car when you're over the legal limit.
Price: $89 through DavidSteele.com
The USB Hub and Thermometer
For all those times when you're plugging in USB devices and suddenly wonder what the indoor temperature is, Brando's USB Rota Rota Hub has you covered. It comes with three USB ports, each of which you can rotate 90 degrees, plus slots for SD, SDHC, Memory Stick Duo, MicroSD, and M2. But the real game-changers here are the two thermometers--one for reading indoor temperature in Fahrenheit degrees, and the other for doing the same job in Celsius degrees. The thermometers are electric rather than mercury-based, so you won't be tossing hazardous waste when you throw this worthless gadget out.
Price: $15, available now
The Rear-View LCD Screen
Do you get bored easily while driving? You can raise your road distraction quotient to a whole new level by replacing your rear-view mirror with a the Rear-view Monitor. This model from Velex Technology Limited supports up to three video sources. Of course, you could connect the monitor to a rear-mounted camera for safer parking with one of them, but what are you supposed to do with the other two? Sounds like the dangling wires from your Rear-view Monitor will be the least of your troubles.
Osim claims that its iGoGo MP3 player provides holistic therapy by synchronizing its rhythmic pulsations with the beat of your own music. The package includes an MP3 player, plus two satellite massagers that you append to acupuncture points on your body. This arrangement assumes that your idea of relaxation involves sitting around with electronics stuck to various appendages. Says one satisfied customer, "other than the blinking lights, no one ever knows you're getting a massage." They just think you're crazy.
Pricing: $495 for the player and two massagers.
The Toilet Paper Dispensing iPod Dock
Despite being undeniably gross, the iCarta from Atech is the most practical gadget on our list. After all, who wouldn't want to crank some tunes while taking care of business on the can? Of course the iCarta has some buttons for controlling its four moisture-resistant speakers and playback settings, but we recommend that you refrain from touching anything until your hands are washed. And a cautionary word to iCarta owners: Dropping your toothbrush in the toilet is nothing compared to losing an iPod to the porcelain gods.
Price: $60 through Atech.