The Czech is in the mail

Lets me start this week’s installment of Gadgetbox by clearing the air (wihout the help of any insidious purifiers ). Last week I alluded to finding myself in the back of a squad car, so I just want to take this opportunity to mention that I may have confused two separate events, to wit: a) walking by a patrol car near my house and seeing an iPod inside and b) watching an action movie where the hero (Bruce Willis? Jason Statham? I can’t keep these things straight) was locked in the back of a police car. An understandable mistake, I think you’ll agree. I confuse myself with balding action heroes all the time .

On to the gadget parade. It’s been a busy week in Gadgetistan (a tiny former Soviet Republic bordering Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), so allow me to tell you all about the bunch of new phones Motorla’s been pimping, the latest in universal—or at least planetary —translation, and a solution to those “who’s been stealing my snail mail” woes.

Motorola says “In Soviet Russia, the iPhone is afraid of us ”

Ask Motorola CEO Ed Zander about the iPhone, and he’ll smile and tell you that—ha!—Motorola isn’t worried.

“How do you deal with [the iPhone]?” Zander was asked at the Software 2007 conference Wednesday in Santa Clara, Calif. Zander quickly retorted, “How do they deal with us?”

Ooh, answering a question with the same question inverted . Bet that’s what they teach you on first day of CEO 101. Smooth, Ed. Real smooth.

This week, Motorola threw a shindig to introduce a new lineup of phones for the year. Given that Apple’s much-buzzed about handset garnered a couple of targeted digs during the presentation, Moto is clearly looking to maintain their (self-)perceived position as King of the Cellphone Hill.

The models shown off this week included the Q8 GSM and Q9 HSDPA, both based on Motorola’s Q smartphone. The Q8 is merely a GSM version of the existing Q, while the Q9 brings the 3G wireless technology (HSDPA is primarily offered by Cingular in the US) and a slight redesign to the party. During the presentation, Motorola claimed the data transfer rates of the Q9 would beat the pants of the iPhone, which at present only features the slower 2.5G EDGE standard. Much ado was also made about the Q9’s QWERTY keyboard, a shot certainly intended at the iPhone’s novel multi-touch interface. Motorola also touted their new MOTOZ8 slider phone, which we’ve discussed before, and the new ROKR Z6 musicphone that works with Windows Media player.

But the star of the show was clearly the RAZR² (pictured). Me, I’d thought that the KRZR (code named Canary) was intended as the second-gen RAZR, but clearly that’s not what Motorola had in mind. The RAZR² reduces the thickness of the iconic phone by two millimeters , playing into Motorola’s diabolical plan to eventually build actual razors into the RAZR line. The new model also answers one critique of the original RAZR by increasing the phone’s sturdiness. Motorola brags the RAZR² can withstand 180 pounds of pressure, a fact demonstrated by Zander banging the phone on a table, and later shooting the RAZR² with a shotgun at point blank range (well, not really, but it would have been cool).

In addition, the RAZR² (and yes, I’m going to kill them for making me use that stupid ² tag every time) features a 2” external screen and a 2.2” internal screen and comes in GSM, EVDO/CDMA, HSDPA, and cookies n’ cream flavors. It supports up to 2GB of memory, has Bluetooth, a 2.0 megapixel camera, and some versions will feature a new Linux/Java-based OS (call it a hunch, but I’m guessing not Verizon’s CDMA model). You can even video conference with the built-in camera (which, in my opinon, is one of those functions where a crappy implementation is definitely worse than no implementation at all).

The original RAZR is, of course, one of the most iconic and popular phones to date, and Motorla clearly hopes to capitalize on that, whilst simultaneously sticking it to the iPhone. Will it work? The RAZR² doesn’t strike me as competing in the same niche as the iPhone, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see it outsell the iPhone, at least initially. While the new model will start launching in July, with rollouts to various carriers coming throughout the summer, the one thing we don’t know is the RAZR²’s pricetag— a figure that, I imagine, will solidify whether or not many find it a true competitor to the iPhone.

“Sir, I think he’s saying he likes your sheep”

Just last week we were talking about Star Trek -esque replicators perhaps being merely a few years away. This time another venerable gadget from the sci-fi classic, the Universal Translator, also gets a modern day analog in the form of the $2,000 VoxTec Phraselator P2. While it might sound more like Trek weaponry, the P2 claims to be “ the mobile phrase translator.” Just look at these fabulous bullet points from VoxTec’s site:

  • Relay Important Information!
  • Build Relationships!
  • Save Valuable Time!
  • Avoid Misunderstandings!
  • Prevent Costly Mistakes!
  • Look Like a Giant Dweeb!

Alright, so I may have added that last one. Anyway, the P2 was designed particularly for the US military, who apparently run into situations that could potentially involve <understatement> misunderstandings </understatement>. The 5”x7” P2 is ruggedized for working in the field, able to withstand rain, sand, heat, and six foot drops onto concrete, which is better than I can say for myself. Its lithium battery is rated to last up to 20 hours, and it supports backup AA batteries.

Best of all, the P2 doesn’t need to be trained: you can just speak and it’ll translate it into the language of your choice. Additional languages can be downloaded over the mini-USB connection or loaded on the removable SD card, though despite its “relationship building” claims, I’m not sure it will be able to explain to your wife why you’d rather clean out the garage than go to your in-laws for the weekend.

While the P2 sounds fantastic, I wonder how well it really works. Having taken a variety of languages in the past, I know that very few people actually speak the way textbooks tell you they do—even a particularly good teacher may not be aware of all the different accents, dialects, and idioms that exist in a language. Then again, maybe I’ve just been overly cautious ever since that time I ended up trading a cow for some magic beans of dubious origins. [via Gizmodo ]

Neither snow, nor rain, nor insidious mail thieves threaten the Secure Mail Vault

Whenever I think about the US postal system—the idea that you can send a physical object 3,000 miles across the country to another person—I’m torn between outright awe and shaking my head and chuckling at our antiquated ways. What chutzpah! To go all that way on ponies ? Insanity!

But while we worry a lot about the security of the bits that we trade back and forth via email everyday, we tend to pay less attention to the actual corporeal boxes that hold our bits of paper—mine doesn’t even have a lock on it. No, you can’t have my address.

If you’re concerned about people pilfering your mail-order bride or—god forbid—your latest issue of Macworld , or you find yourself consumed with envy over the drop boxes at Blockbuster and your local library, perhaps this Secure Mail Vault is for you. The top angled slot lets the postal carrier easily deposit your mail while making it as difficult for unwanted parties to get access to your precious letters as snagging a free Snickers from a vending machine. Then you pop open the bottom door, type in your 4-digit pin, and retrieve your mail (and, potentially, the severed hand of your would-be mail theives. And a Snickers bar.).

The mail vault will run you $299; buy now and you can get free shipping within the contiguous US. That only leaves one question: where do they deliver your Secure Mail Vault so it won’t get stolen? Blast! [via gearfuse ]

That’s it for this week’s installment of Gadgetbox. In the words of the majestic Aaron Sorkin, if you’ve had half as much fun reading this as I’ve had writing it…well, I’ve had twice as much fun writing it than you have reading it. See you next week.

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