Electronics gifts don’t have to be budget-busters
Despite the downturn in the economy, early polling indicates that a majority of consumers — 52 percent — plan to spend the same or more for gifts this holiday season, according to a recent ICM Research report.
Last year, nearly a third of U.S. consumers’ holiday gift-spending budget went to consumer electronics.
I don’t know who the folks are that participated in the ICM poll, but most of my friends and associates have a more conservative budget this holiday season. Keeping in mind that many of us will need to spend less, I wanted to share my picks for hot tech gifts that won’t break the bank or your budget. Happy Holidays!
Smartphones — You can now buy several great smartphones for less than $100, regardless of what carrier you choose or what your preferred platform is. Please keep in mind the discounted prices require a two-year service commitment.
The iconic iPhone 4 comes in a special $99 8GB version available in black and white from AT&T, Verizon and Sprint, as well as the older iPhone 3GS available for free on contract with AT&T. For those who prefer Android, Blackberry or Windows Phone, there are several great models available in touchscreen-only versions, as well as phones with a physical keyboard for less than $100. The phone models vary slightly from carrier to carrier, but versions are available from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile.
Violight cellphone sanitizer — Recent studies have shown that more than 90 percent of phones carry bacteria. The researchers also found that, on average, 16 percent of them contained E. coli bacteria, which can cause serious illness. The Violight ultraviolet sanitizing dock uses proven germicidal UV light to safely destroy surface bacteria on your phone. The product claims to eliminate up to 99.9 percent of strep germs, E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and pseudomonas. The compact sanitizer (about the size of a hand-soap dispenser) retails for $49.95 but can be found discounted for as little as $29.99.
Freehands gloves — A great gift for the technology enthusiast, the top of each glove’s index finger and thumb fold back to make it easy to operate a camera or smartphone while keeping hands warm. Freehand offers various styles starting from $18 with models for men and women; www.freehands.com.
Entertainment — Video streaming, including movies, TV shows, music and other digital entertainment.
Roku 2 — The top-selling streaming player is a great addition to any entertainment system; it features easy set-up with more than 300 channels with movies, shows, music and more. There are three Roku models to choose from, starting at $59.99. The top of the line HD Roku 2 XS features 1080p streaming and is only $99.99. I personally own a Roku and everyone in my family just loves it.
Apple TV — Stream HD movies and TV shows rented from iTunes, plus content from Netflix, YouTube, Flickr and MobileMe. The smaller (less than 4 inches square), redesigned Apple TV device includes HDMI and digital optical audio output, and connects to network via wireless-N or Ethernet. Music, videos and photos also can be streamed from PCs and Macs. Comes with seven-button aluminum Apple remote; also can be controlled by iPhone, iPad and iPod touch via Remote app. Apple TV is just $99;www.apple.com/appletv/.
Google TV/Logitech Revue — Works with your existing HDTV and cable or satellite system to provide seamless access to the web, your TV, compatible DVRs and Android apps, for $99. See content from the web and TV simultaneously with dual-view feature. Always up-to-date with free automatic, over-the-air updates that add new features and functionality to your system.
Requires an HDTV with HDMI port, cable or satellite box with HDMI out, cable or satellite subscriptions service, and high-speed Internet access; www.logitech.com/Revue.
E-book readers — Amazon offers two WiFi E-ink models starting at $79. The simple-to-use readers give you access to Amazon’s vast book selection. Amazon offers more than 800,000 titles for $9.99 or less, plus you can check out e-books from participating public libraries. The new models offer a sleek design that is 8 percent lighter and 11 percent smaller and holds up to 3,000 books at a time; www.amazon.com.
Barnes & Noble recently reduced the price of its E-ink Simple Touch e-reader to just $99. The compact reader utilizes the latest E-ink display technology, which they claim is 25 percent faster than comparable e-readers. The paper-like display allows you to read comfortably even in direct sunlight. The Simple Touch supports WiFi b/g/n for wireless connectivity.
Portable storage — $99 can buy a lot of storage space for your photos, music and videos these days. Checking prices at our local stores, I found six stores offering 1 Terra-byte (TB) external hard drives starting at $89. A 1 TB drive can store approximately 320,000 digital photos (average file size), 16,600 hours of digital MP3 music, or 1,000 hours of digital video (roughly 250 DVD-quality movies).
Music/MP3 players — The iPod Shuffle — a sleek piece of polished aluminum — is Apple’s least expensive music player. It features 2GB of storage — enough space for approximately 350 songs with up to 15 hours of battery life. The Shuffle comes in blue, green, orange, pink or silver and is just $49.
Canon PowerShot A800 — Beginners looking for an easy-to-use, inexpensive digital camera this holiday don’t have to settle for a used or older, outdated model. A great alternative is the recently released Canon PowerShot A800 digital camera. The 10-megapixel, $89.99, compact camera’s options include a 3.3x optical zoom lens and a 2.5-inch LCD screen. The Powershot A800 lacks optical image stabilization found on more expensive cameras but does include smart auto mode with scene recognition, face detection and self-timer functions. It also can shoot video in a pinch at VGA (640×480) resolution. The A800 is available in red, black, blue and silver body colors.
This story was featured in the Lifestyle News section of the Pueblo Chieftain.