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Tech Talk

Say goodbye to holiday gadget gifts

11/30/2016

tech-12-1It’s the most wonderful time of the year… well, except for the whole “finding meaningful gifts thing.” It is a sad truth that some people in our lives who should seemingly be the easiest to buy gifts for are anything but easy. All of the classic gifts of the 1990s and 2000s are dead. CDs have been replaced with mp3s, DVDs and Blu-rays are being overtaken by streaming and digital media, and we’ve finally come to the point where physical books have been topped by e-books. The funny thing is that the object of our technological affection is the cause of our gifting dilemma — the smartphone.

Take a moment to think of all the things your phone offers. It is a camera, a communication device, a pedometer, a computer, a gaming system, a stereo, a creative software suite and a bottomless void of music, movies and books. Gifting any of these common items has officially become redundant, and even though gift cards are easy and valuable, they deliver the sentiment of a raw turkey.

So what can you give that hasn’t become pointless, thanks to our iPhones and Androids? Well, if the last couple of holiday seasons have proven anything, there are a couple gifts ideas you can discount immediately. First, save your money and do not gift any GoPros. Action cameras seem like the perfect gift for amateur filmmakers or outdoors enthusiasts, but they come with some major downsides. On the technical end, GoPro-style cameras deliver hours of media that require cumbersome editing and storage. Of course, GoPros are waterproof and have equipment built to fit a specific purpose, but for nearly the same price, many smartphones are waterproof and have specialty mounts available, too. Mobile devices allow for immediate image review, editing and sharing.

Next up, do not buy a Fitbit, or for that matter, any tracking tool. Unless you’re a die-hard athlete or diabetic, you have no need to track your heartbeat, and the battery and connectivity issues of these wearable devices make them a headache to maintain and use. Once again, your smartphone delivers the most important data users want from these tools: footsteps. The attenuator on your phone acts in the same manner as any fitness tracker, and if you really must have a heart rate monitor, the most recent generation of devices can use your phone’s camera covered by your finger to detect your beats per minute. FitBits, JawBones, and Garmin trackers are the kind of gifts you think are going to make you the cool spouse, dad or aunt, but within a week of use, they will become obsolete.

So what does make for a good tech gift? Seeing as we’re living in a digital world, why not embrace it? Whereas 10 years ago you might have bought someone a box set of DVDs, why not buy someone a subscription to a niche streaming service? Released this fall from Turner Classic Movies and Criterion, FilmStruck is an $11-a-month service that will set any cinema fan’s heart on fire. Have a comedy fan in your house? Do the same thing with Seeso at only $4 a month or the whole year for less than $50. Digital and delivery services are everywhere, including boutique clothes, suits, comic book toys, board games and more.

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The gadget gift will die in 2016. Short of a new phone, tablet, laptop or expensive specialty device, nothing will be as unique as a subscription to an online service. It may feel like a gift card, but digital subscriptions are closer to a fruit-of-the-month club — except the gift won’t immediately be thrown out. ♦

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

 

 

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