Interactive Traveler: Web-enabled Cell Phones
ONE PHONE, THREE FUNCTIONS
If your bag's feeling a little heavy from all the gadgets you own, the folks over at Samsung would like to lighten your load. The newest in a wave of multitasking devices, their Uproar is a Web-enabled cell phone that has basic PDA capabilities (including a calendar and to-do list) plus a stereophonic sound system that holds up to 64MB of MP3 song files (about an hour of music). With the remote sound headset, you can alternate talking on the phone with listening to tunes, simply by pressing a button. Uproar's vintage walkie-talkie design might not be as slim as the Nokia 8890's, but it makes up for its looks in the intelligence department, with specialized functions such as the Tegic T-9, which guesses the word you're inputting before you've finished punching it in. 888/987-4357; from $250.
A NEW WAY TO BID
Just when it seemed travel auction Web sites had exhausted every possible bidding scheme, enter Revelex.com, which uses NASDAQ-inspired software to alter prices based on market demand. Say you want a room in New York City. If the discounted rate posted on Revelex is good enough for you, simply choose the "book now" feature (as on Priceline.com, you'll find out the hotel's name only after you commit). Otherwise, take a look at other prices that have been accepted, submit your bid, and wait. Within 24 hours, you'll find out via e-mail if a hotel lowered its rate to meet your bid. At press time, only hotels were available for booking, but Revelex expects to add the major airlines, car-rental agencies, and cruise lines in the near future.
FIGHTING LINESWITH TECHNOLOGY
TIRED OF WAITING TO CHECK IN?NEW AIRLINE MEASURES MAY HELP
With a record number of travelers these days, airlines are turning to new technology to speed up the check-in process. Here's what's on offer from the biggest carriers:
• American Airlines now has curbside check-in at 65 U.S. airports. Thanks to wireless computers, passengers can get seat assignments and boarding passes before setting foot inside.
• Delta also has curbside check-in (but only for e-ticketed passengers) at 95 U.S. airports. Soon, elite frequent fliers with e-tickets will also be able to check in by phone.
• Passengers on all Northwest Airlines domestic flights can check in—and print their own boarding passes—at home or at the office on its Web site (www.nwa.com).
• Continental has hundreds of touch-screen kiosks at airports across the country that allow travelers to check in, verify frequent-flier numbers, select seats, and issue themselves boarding passes.
• United uses dozens of Mobile Chariots—battery-powered check-in computers—at its busiest airports. They've also joined with Air Canada to pioneer Interline e-tickets: passengers connecting from one airline to the other can check in once, with one ticket.