PDA and cell phone fashions

SAN FRANCISCO (03/17/2004) - This column usually covers gadget ware, but this month it's about gadget wear: a pair of sports jackets with a slew of inside pockets dedicated to storing mobile phones, PDAs, small laptops, spare batteries, and heaven-knows-what-else.

ScotteVest LLC's Tec Sport Jacket comes with 14 hidden zippered pockets, enough to excite any geek fashionista. By comparison, Lands' End Inc.'s Smart Blazer, with its modest half dozen button-down interior pockets, seems designed for the executive on the go rather than the geek on the run.

I took both jackets for a test run--or I should say test wear.

ScotteVest's Pockets Galore

ScotteVest's navy blue, $250 Tec Sport Jacket is a 50/50 blend of wool and polyester, which makes it an easy-care garment that doesn't wrinkle. The zippered pockets are built into the inside lining. In fact, they practically are the lining, with one pocket directly next to another along the sides where a couple of vest pockets ordinarily reside.

I like the fact that each pocket is designed as a bag hanging from the lining, so items are suspended, not flush against my body. As a result, as I walked I didn't really notice the phone, Palm Tungsten C, wallet, copy of PC World magazine, four AA batteries, and king-size pack of gum I'd pocketed--nor did anyone else detect that my jacket carried all this stuff.

The pockets vary in size; there's even a giant one on the back big enough to store a light-and-thin notebook. The first time I saw that roomy pocket, I thought: "Calling all shoplifters: Your garment is ready." But, seriously, accessing the pocket requires removing the jacket, which makes it a tad difficult to get to no matter what you store in it.

ScotteVest president Scott Jordon describes the Tec Sport Jacket like this: "Imagine what would happen if Giorgio Armani and Bill Gates were stranded on a desert island." I'd rather not, actually, but I get the idea. The Tec's downside for me is its overkill. There are so many pockets that it was difficult to remember where I put what. There was even one zippered pocket that had a zippered pocket in it. The company sticks an instruction card in each pocket to tell you what it's best for, making this the first garment that comes with detailed documentation.

The front breast pocket includes a sewn-in badge holder, which is great for travelers who have to show ID cards frequently. Along the perimeter of the inside lining are hidden channels that let you keep wires invisible and ready to connect devices, ear buds, and the like. That's a great idea, but I can just imagine what would happen at airport security when that jacket is X-rayed.

Looking Good With Lands' End

The Lands' End Smart Blazer is billed as a "personal assistant." And while created in the same spirit as the Tec, this $165 navy blue merino wool jacket feels more elegant and stylish. The price of style, though, is storage space: You get only six pockets, half of which have button-through security flaps instead of zippers; how easy they are to use depends on how well you can manipulate buttons with one hand. One vest pocket has a double compartment designed for documents--a passport and a wallet or a ticket, for example. Other pockets within easy reach offer homes for PDAs, mobile phones, calculators, or loose change.

The midweight merino wool retained its shape without wrinkles and breathed better than the Tec's 50-50 blend. But the Lands' End pockets are not particular roomy and have narrow entrances that preclude storing wider devices.

These two examples of gadget wear offer a choice between natural-fiber elegance with limited storage space and a 50/50 blend with more pockets than an industrial-strength kangaroo. But left to my devices, I will take all the pockets I can get--even if that means buying both jackets.


Gadget Shorts

Customized Radio: Belkin TuneCast II Mobile FM Transmitter. Belkin Corp.'s first TuneCast let me listen to the music stored on my MP3 player on my car radio or even my home stereo using standard FM radio frequencies. TuneCast II does the same, only much better. You plug the cigarette-lighter-sized device into the headphone jack of your music player or PDA, set your radio to a clear frequency, match that frequency on the TuneCast II, and start listening. Powered by two AAA batteries, TuneCast II turns itself on when it detects an audio signal from whatever device it's connected to and shuts off when there is no signal for a minute. Whereas the first TuneCast was limited to only four frequencies, the new model can use the entire FM radio spectrum and will memorize your favorite four. It lists for $50, but you can find it for less than $40 online.

Pod People Special: TransPod FM. Like the Belkin TuneCast II, Netalog Inc.'s TransPod FM lets you listen to your Apple IPod tracks on your car radio using the same matched-frequency routine. Created exclusively for IPods, the FM transmitter connects through the IPod's FireWire syncing/charging port. Like the TuneCast II, the TransPod FM has an LCD display screen. It's powered by the car's cigarette lighter/power socket, not batteries. An IPod-white adjustable stand brings the transmitter to within eye level for easy access to the controls. And since it is powered by your car's electrical system, it recharges (rather quickly at that) while it plays. TransPod FM works with any IPod with 30-pin connectors and includes a Mini-IPod adapter as well. But there's a steep price for all this convenience: $100.

Get a Grip: Memorex ThumbDrive. Thumb drives, USB memory keys, and similar devices aren't in short supply these days. So why do I prefer the speedy Memorex USB 2.0 ThumbDrive? It really is a thumb drive. An intelligently designed thumb-print-sized rubber grip makes inserting and removing the drive easy. I experienced none of the slipping and sliding I've encountered with similar flash memory drives. Of course, the plastic plug protector cap is still easy to misplace when you pull it off--I know because I seem to do that almost every time I use it. But at least I don't have butter fingers anymore.

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