Sunday, January 23, 2022

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Tech Talk

Don’t give ho-ho-horrible tech gifts


There is truly no better time of year to give or get a gift than right now. No matter if you’re Christian, Jewish, celebrate Kwanzaa or simply indulge in the spirit of the season, it seems most people embrace the giving spirit that comes with December. Chances are you already have all your gifts purchased, wrapped and ready to set under the tree. You’ve bought your kids some toys, your dog a squeaky toy, and you’re all excited for your spouse to rip open his or her gift of a shiny new tech gadget. Well, not to go all Grinch on you, but a huge swath of the hot tech gadgets on the market are pointless and simply bad gifts.

Take a moment to look at your smart phone, the wondrous piece of technology most of us gift ourselves every two years (when our cellular service provider ends). Your smart phone is a camera, a computer, a health tracker, a gaming station, an entertainment gateway, a backup storage device, a universal remote, an e-reader and so much more. It seems every week an application developer, a manufacturer or tech giant is innovating a new way we can use our phones, thereby negating hoards of tech trinkets.

One of the widest tech advertising campaigns this year is for Fitbit, a battery-powered wristband that tracks your heart rate, steps, sleep patterns, maps your travel, and if you’re committed it can track your eating habits. The problem is the more popular smart phones already do the majority of those things. The iPhone, all Androids and Windows phones can track your activity and health using free apps. There is no need to spend $100 to $200 on another gadget you’ll have to charge and take care of. In fact, the only reason FitBit is advertising so much is because next month the Apple iWatch is coming out, and it will completely drink FitBit’s market share milkshake.

But bad news isn’t just for niche gadget manufacturers like FitBit: the iWatch is irrelevant, too. I’d go so far as to say the iWatch, the iPad and most tablets are pointless. Sure they’re shiny, new, expensive and trendy, but the iWatch is a shrunken smart phone with a worse battery life and reduced functionality. Most tablets are handcuffed laptops. Yes they have touch screens, but if you’re going to spend $500 to $1,000 on a tablet, shouldn’t you spend a couple hundred more for a fully functioning computer? Many laptops now come with touch screens and, unlike tablets, they don’t require costly data plans to maximize their potential.

So now that I’ve thoroughly deflated your anticipation for Christmas morning, what gadgets actually make for the best gifts? Extensions of your smart phone. Are you taking pictures under water with your iPhone? No? Sounds like a GoPro with the mobile app is a smart buy. Can’t plug your Galaxy Note into your TV? For $35, Google Chromecast will wirelessly share your smart phone screen with your TV for everyone to enjoy, plus turn your phone into an ultra-remote, commanding multiple streaming services like YouTube, Hulu and Netflix. Hate the speaker on your phone? For $40, a bluetooth speaker will connect to your phone and greatly improve your smart phone’s sound quality.


If $40 seems like a piddly gift, you’re going to hate this: for $10 you can extend the life of your smart phone battery with a backup charger, like the Duracell Instant USB Charger. I know, batteries are not sexy gifts and don’t scream “Happy Holidays,” but since you’ve probably already screwed up buying that worthless FitBit, how about something practical. Merry Christmas, here’s your battery. CV


Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. Follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb.

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