Tech Gifts NOT TO BUY this holiday season (Part 1 of 2)

by David Spark on December 5, 2007

In my many years of being a tech geek which is longer than my 12+ years as a tech journalist, friends and family have often come to me asking what technology gifts to buy. Usually the question is not open ended. They usually ask me about some very hot item on the market and wonder whether they should buy it. If I don’t like the item I have to go through a process of trying to convince them why they shouldn’t buy it. As a favor to all my readers who are probably thinking about what gift to buy I begin my short two part series “Tech Gifts TO BUY and what NOT TO BUY this holiday season” with what NOT TO BUY. For advice on gifts from $600 to NOTHING please also read part two, “What TO BUY this holiday season.”

Listen to the Spark Minute. John Scott and David Spark from Green 960 in San Francisco, CA talk about what tech gifts NOT TO BUY this holiday season (Run time: 6:20).

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DON’T BUY a Kindle or Sony Portable Reader
There has been a long history of portable e-books and ways to read books on digital devices. But the release of Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Portable Reader (could it have a more milk toasty name?) this is the first time there’s been a real push for both items. While I love the concept of an ebook and I do read information on electronic devices on my notebook computer and through Avantgo on my PDA, I highly recommend you DO NOT BUY either of these devices for one key reason. THEY’RE INSANELY EXPENSIVE. The Kindle sells for $400 and the Sony Portable Reader sells for $280. You can buy an X-BOX 360 Hal0 3 edition for $400. There are many other reasons you shouldn’t purchase it such as you can’t get every book published on it. My guess is it’s probably less than 1% of all books published. When this item drops under $100, then it’ll be worth it, but until then hold off. Robert Scoble outlines many of the problems with the Kindle in his very funny video review where he calls for the firing of the person responsible for designing Amazon’s ebook.

DON’T BUY Refurbished computers or a used computer from a friend
With the cost of computers coming down so low and their lives extending for much longer, why would you want to purchase a computer that’s on yesterday’s technology that will require you to spend more on upgrades that would cost you more in money and time than if you just bought a new computer today. Any time you see the word “refurbished,” move on. Similarly, you don’t want to purchase a used computer from a friend. Unless you’re a tech geek and are going to be using it as a second computer or a computer for parts, used computers are usually not worth it because it will probably be out of its warranty. And chances are the information you put on that computer will be worth a lot more than the purchase price of the computer.

DON’T BUY blinking electronic luggage tags
I don’t know if there is a huge market for blinking electronic luggage tags, but I received a really cool red one from Boingo while attending the CTIA trade show here in San Francisco. The tag was motion activated. If you hit it, it started blinking. I gave it to my girlfriend who put it on her suitcase for our trip to Boston this year. The tag made it to Boston, but on the way back it was ripped off. We think security probably did it. She was really bummed.

DON’T BUY a two-year cell phone plan
The carrier market wants customers and doesn’t want to let them go. That’s why most consumers rarely purchase phones without signing a one or two year contract. While one year contracts are unavoidable, you can avoid two year plans and you should. By locking yourself into a two year plan you can’t pick up the latest and greatest device when it’s made available. The savings from a one to two year plan is about $50 to $75 and the lack of freedom is simply not worth it. My non-techie friends simply say, “Oh I just need it for phone calls.” But you don’t know that yet because you don’t know what will be available next year. It’s exactly the reason I didn’t buy an iPhone. Everyone who bought one is locked into a two year plan. The 3G model is coming out in just a few months. Unless you’ve got some strong allegiance to one carrier (why?) I’d avoid this.

DON’T BUY virtual gifts on Facebook
Anyone who spends a dollar to purchase a virtual gift for a friend on Facebook never deserved having that dollar anyway. According to Facebook, 24 million users have purchased one of these items. That’s 24 MILLION DOLLARS for a FUCKING ICON. If you want to get someone a digital gift on Facebook, there are free ones you can distribute. Don’t be a schmuck and pay a dollar for the same thing. Better yet, keep your dollar and send someone something more personal, like a video greeting through TokBox.

Make sure to also read part two, “What TO BUY this holiday season.”

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

TJ Walkup December 5, 2007 at 9:18 pm

Thanks David! now I am off the hook for buying anything stupid!

David Spark December 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm

I don’t know TJ. Your ignorance is far too vast for me to cover every mistake you could possibly make. ;)

TIm December 5, 2007 at 9:31 pm

I swear I didn’t know what not to buy until i read this article, keep up the great work.

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