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Products with a twist

This week I've assembled a collection of products, each with a twist. Some have a hidden feature or something that just sets the product apart. Often it's the result of out-of-the-box thinking.

SanDisk's Ultra II SD Plus with USB looks lik

SanDisk's Ultra II SD Plus with USB eliminates the need for a camera cable or a separate card reader.

e an ordinary SD memory card you might use in your digital camera. It's the same shape and size, but remove it from the camera and bend it in half to expose a USB connector that slips into a computer's USB slot. This eliminates the need for a camera cable or a separate card reader. Available at Amazon for $30 with 512 MB capacity. (www.sandisk.com)

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Plantronic's Discovery 655 Bluetooth headset re

sembles many of its competitors, but it solves the problem of keeping a charge in two different ways. Rather than requiring you to carry its included charger, it has a snap-on USB adapter that lets you charge from a computer or use any generic USB charger, including those supplied with BlackBerry and Motorola phones. In addition, it has a snap-on cylinder that holds an AAA battery and charges the headset. Clip it to your shirt pocket for convenient access and it's always ready for use. About $110. (www.plantronics.com)

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The USBCell looks like a conventional AA batte

ry, but it's lid hinges to reveal a USB connector for charging it from the USB connector on a computer or USB hub. The cell still needs some work to get the cost and capacity to be more competitive with conventional rechargeable batteries, but it represents some very clever thinking. About $12 each. (www.usbcell.com/)

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Ambient

Devices makes devices that look like simple table lamps, but buried inside the unit are electronics that wirelessly receive information and alter the color of the light. One device, its Weather Beacon, changes color to signify changes in weather, while a second, the Ambient Orb, changes colors to display stock market trends, traffic congestion or one of the company's other information channels. From $150. (www.ambientdevices.com)

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ScottEVest makes casual jackets that loo

k fairly ordinary. But unlike other jackets, they're designed for carrying technology gadgets such as cameras and music players, as well as other things you take with you, such as your keys, water bottle, batteries and sunglasses. I bought and have been using the Sport Tec 4.0 model that sells for $120 (with some sizes now on sale for $50) and was amazed at the attention to detail. It has 21 pockets of all sizes and shapes designed specifically to carry all of these objects, as well as a channel to bring your headphones from your music player to your ears. The jacket has clear and net pockets, zipper pockets, pockets with magnetic closures, an elastic strap for a water bottle, holders for batteries, a clip to hold a baseball cap and zip-off sleeves that turn it into a vest. Think of it as your third carry-on bag on your next flight. (www.scottevest.com)

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The n

ew Jitterbug cell phone and service from GreatCall of Solana Beach proves that less can be more. Are you tired of cell phones that play music, download video and show TV programs? Do you just want a phone with large keys and a clear display that's easy to use that doesn't need a 120-page user manual? A phone that comes with your favorite numbers pre-programmed? This may be the phone for you (or your kids or parents). It's a refreshing change and something the major cell phone providers have ignored. What's not so simple? Finding the price on its Web site. But you can call an operator to get help; when I called, she answered on the first ring: $147. (www.jitterbug.com)

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Apple's new iPod Shuffle is the world's s

mallest digital music player, about the size of a postage stamp. It costs just $79 for the 1 GB version that holds about 240 songs. While it could just as easily have been made of plastic, it's beautifully constructed of extruded aluminum and has a built-in clip to attach it to your pocket or bag. (www.apple.com)

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Kod

ak's EasyShare V705 Dual Lens Digital Camera works like a normal pocketsize digital camera, but it has a surprise. In addition to its 5X optical zoom lens, there's a second 23mm ultra-wide-angle lens on the camera, ready to use. The lenses sit above one another, each with its own 7MP sensor. The wide-angle lens lets you create a 180-degree panorama by taking just three images and then stitching them together. About $270. (www.kodak.com)


Baker has developed and marketed consumer and computer products for Polaroid, Apple, Seiko and others. He is the holder of 30 patents and was named San Diego's Ernst & Young Consumer Products Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000. Send comments to phil.baker@sddt.com. Comments may be published as Letters to the Editor.


ThinkPad X60 tablet

Lenovo introduced its new X60 tablet PC. The X60 is one of the thinnest and lightest tablet computers, with a claimed battery life of nine hours. It features active-screen rotation that automatically changes the screen orientation when you rotate the computer. It's completely customizable, with a choice of Intel's Core single and dual processors, a choice of displays with two different resolutions viewable both indoors and out and screens with finger-touch and pen-touch input. Its hard drive is available up to 120 GB. There is a wide variety of accessories, including different-sized batteries, docking stations and a protective sleeve. The X60 replaces the X41 tablet, which will be phased out over the next few months. Pricing starts at $1,800. (www.lenovo.com)

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