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Tech 2002: It Takes Two

High-tech couplings are breaking out all over

Once upon a time, Homo erectus picked up a stick and banged on a rock. Portable music was born. The only problem was that if you wanted to hearit, you had to be there when he made it. Millions of years later, Sony unveiled the Walkman, letting us finally enjoy music anytime, anywhere. After that, whenevera new format emerged (CD, mini CD, DAT), someone would invent a portable device to play it and announce that it was the future of all music.

They were lying. That is, until the introduction of the MP3 in the late ’90s. Downloadable music changed everything, spawning a generation of music fans with a whatever-you-want-whenever-you-want-it attitude toward their favorite tunes. It was only a matter of time before someone added the perfect version of wherever-you-want-it to the equation. The iPod has quickly become the portable MP3 player of choice, and now MP3 players are attached to everything. Do you really need a camera that plays MP3s? Probably not, but Panasonic makes one, and it’s pretty cool. MP3 players are now wedded to cameras, camcorders, PDAs, cell phones, and voice recorders. Count on companies continuing to mix portable music with every conceivable combination of features. And shop wisely. The future belongs to the hybrids.

(Sony Ericsson T68i mobile phone + CommuniCam) Don’t just get her digits; get her face, too. Add the CommuniCam MCA-20 ($190) to SonyEricsson’s T68i ($620) and you can match a photo to a number–and either save it or send it to an email address.

MP3 Player-PDA
It looks like a flip phone but acts like a Swiss Army knife. Sony crammed a Palm-based PDA, camera, and MP3 player into its CliPEG-NR70 V ($600), which basically means you’ll have quite a bulge in your pocket. (Or else you’re just glad to see us.)

No other hybrid makes more sense than the PDA-phone combo–anyone who juggles calendars and contacts digitally also uses a cell phone.But be prepared to pay handsomely for the convenience. The leaders of the new school–Samsung’s SPH-I300, Kyocera’s QCP 6035, andHandspring’s Treo 270–cost $500 a pop. You could buy equivalent components separately and still have money left over for all thosedates you’re making. Nokia’s 9290 Communicator and Audiovox’s Thera PDA2032 cost even more.

MP3 Player-CD Player
The TDK Mojo 620 is not the smallest or sleekest MP3 player, but this Mojo rises to the occasion by incorporating a clip-on remotecontrol, antiskip CD player, and lyrics-scrolling on the LCD. All for $165.