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The cellphone-G-string connection
June 5, 2003
Toronto Star

Here amid the boxers and the briefs, it's hard not to feel like an idiot. I'm the only woman in the men's underwear department. And I'm pointing my cellphone at a G-string.

Actually, it's a cellphone and a camera: a new dual-purpose system made by Sony Ericsson. The tiny CommuniCam snaps on the bottom of the T68i phone to become a slightly longer cellphone with image-capturing capabilities.

Set up an e-mail account on your phone and you can quickly send your favourite pictures to friends and family.

This camera is supposedly more than just a gadget or toy for bored teens. It's meant to be a shopper's best friend. You can capture images of your greatest finds and send them off for final approval to your husband, for example.

It sounded like a perfect solution for one of my biggest marital problems: old underwear.

Some spouses won't make their own doctor's appointments, but complain incessantly of ailments. Some refuse to clear the table, but have no problem cooking dinner. My husband won't buy his own underwear, but is incredibly fickle about the fit and the fabric. He'd rather let them wear out completely and go commando than buy new briefs himself.

It's just one of those things.

And so I find myself, once again, alone in the men's underwear department at Sears. It's always a daunting task - picking out the perfect pair. There are so many different kinds to choose from - boxers, briefs, bicycle shorts and everything in between.

Today, I've brought my secret weapon.

The CommuniCam.

I feel a bit like a secret agent as I line up my shot of a skimpy, black G-string.

I could look through the camera lens on the bottom of the phone, but that would give me away and I'm not convinced that Sears really wants its customers taking product photography.

(I later confirm that this is, in fact, against its store policy. You need the retailer's express permission to take any photos inside the store. Oops.)

To stay stealthy, I use the screen of my cellphone to make sure I've got a good view of the mannequin's butt. Staring at the screen that way, it just looks like I'm very focused on some cellphone game or text message.

It certainly doesn't look like I'm using a camera.

I know my husband wouldn't be caught dead in a G string, but I figure it will get his attention and give him a good reason to offer advice.

He's at home, working away on the computer.

Too busy to shop for his own private apparel.

I've already saved his e-mail address into the phone, so it only takes a few button clicks to e-mail the picture.

My cellphone rings.

It's the man himself.

I don't think so, he says. Maybe something a little less revealing, he suggests. I send over a few more shots of slightly more plausible candidates: bicycle shorts. No pouch, no buttons. Nothing fancy. I've done this enough to know what he really wants is the underwear equivalent of flat-front slacks.

Even with all that information, there are still a number of brands to choose from.

And that's where the phone really comes in handy.

Instead of simply telling him that Sears has Calvin Klein and Prodige brand underwear that meet all his criteria, I can show what both brands look like and have him make the final call. Prodige wins, in part because they are on sale.

All that saving puts me in the mood for a little splurge. I head out to a high-end underwear store on the lower level of the Eaton Centre. It's a small store and fairly dark compared to Sears.

I find a nice pair of underwear made out of microfibre and send him a picture. A few minutes later he calls to tell me he can't quite make out the image.

He can tell that it's underwear he's looking at, but not much else. It's a clear step down from the picture quality we got at Sears.

The problem is there's no flash on this phone. (Now that's a sentence you don't hear too often. Yet.)

With no flash, your photo ops are limited to well-lit areas.

Even under the best possible lighting, pictures generally appear blurry and highly pixilated on the cellphone's screen. That's a limitation of the phone display, which doesn't do justice to the picture itself.

When you see the photo on a computer monitor, the image quality is certainly good enough to capture an impromptu shopping spree.

At $200, the Communicam is a bit expensive. For a digital shopping assistant at least. It's cute, lightweight and a lot of fun to use. But not exactly a must-have item for the average consumer.

The CommuniCam and T68i phone is probably better suited for someone who shops professionally. A decorator, corporate buyer or real estate agent could really benefit from this device because it makes it so easy to take and send pictures from just about anywhere.

You might want to consider waiting a few months before you make your purchase, though. A new generation of cellphone with built-in cameras is due out on the market shortly.

The Sony Ericsson camera combo could easily be outclassed by a model with a flash or a clearer display.

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