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Gadget vendors must realize smartphones can do so much via tethering, Bluetooth

For the technophile in your life, these items are must-haves.

Tinkering types have another option. If you "jailbreak" an iPhone or install extra software on an Android phone, you can get this capability for free.

Auto manufacturers have also been slow to realize they need to work with phones. Although almost all new cars include a simple line-in jack to connect a smartphone (say, for tuning into Web radio on the road), most only employ Bluetooth wireless for speakerphone use, not to connect the phone to the car stereo.

And if you want to use your phone's GPS in place of the car's, you'll have to get a windshield or dashboard mount for it. Having the phone's own navigation software displayed on the car's larger LCD remains a press-release promise.

Things aren't much better in the living room. Projecting photos, music or video from a phone to a television or the speakers around it has traditionally needed a proprietary dock.

Many of the pieces are already in the market, waiting for somebody to click them together in an elegant manner. Some newer stereo receivers support hi-fi Bluetooth audio; some new smartphones include micro-HDMI cables that let you plug them into a TV; others include DLNA software to share media with other devices at home, including "connected TV" with their own Internet capability.

But wireless video sharing still seems stuck on pause.

Digital cameras might need more help from phones than any other device.

They can still beat phones for pure picture quality, but they lose the competition right after taking the picture. Phones can tag pictures with GPS coordinates automatically and then e-mail and upload then within seconds.

Trying to cram GPS and Web applications into cameras is not a long-term answer. Instead, the camera should learn to talk to the phone, asking it for its location and tossing photos over to the phone for it to share at will.

But aside from one interesting, Android-linked Samsung model debuted at the Consumer Electronics Show in January - where I took more pictures with a smartphone than my own camera - camera manufacturers don't seem to have figured this out.

Phone vendors share some blame. Many phones continue to ship without Bluetooth support for wireless keyboards (which would further eliminate the need for something such as the Atrix's dock) and file transfer. For example, the iPhone still can't beam a photo via Bluetooth.

But the bigger problem lies outside the phone industry. For all these wireless possibilities to become reality, competing companies in multiple markets will have to settle on and stick to the same standards. And that's one of the hardest tricks to pull off in the electronics industry.


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