Friday 22 June 2018

Adrian Weckler: What not to buy... the Grinch gadgets that could really ruin Christmas

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

Gadgets make great gifts. But not always. Here are eight tech devices you should definitely avoid getting loved ones this Christmas.

1 Dyson V8 Absolute Cordless (€449)

A long time ago in a galaxy far away, a person known to this reporter gave his girlfriend a Dyson vacuum device for Christmas.

Being young and living in separate apartments, he thought it would be something that would help the young lady and that he was donating something she wouldn't purchase herself. Bad move. A month later, he was on his own. He learned that, as a rule, labour-saving devices are a no-no for any gift-giving occasion.

2 Fitbit Flex 2 tracker (€99)

It's easy to see why a Fitbit makes a natural Christmas gift. It's small, innovative and well-priced for a potentially transformative gadget.

But therein lies the rub: it's a bit too transformative, What are you saying if you give one of these to someone who hasn't specifically asked for one?

As good as your intentions may be, it's far too open to the interpretation that you think they 'need' one. That really isn't something you want hanging over the Christmas dinner table.

3 Russell Hobbs Impact drop-proof iron (€59)

This way divorce lies. It's conceivable that some may be tempted by this device's ability to withstand a 1.2m (4ft) drop without any adverse consequences, due to its rubberised coating.

But if you really think that this, combined with its three-way auto shut-off feature - which means you're not constantly worrying whether someone left the iron on that morning - makes it gift-worthy, you need relationship help.

4 Philips Hue Starter Kit (€65)

Unless someone is a true smarthome nerd, it's hard to see how you'll be thanked for getting someone this.

Yes, it connects to wifi, lets you control the light from your phone and works with other smart gadgets in your home. And true, it only uses nine watts of power despite putting out 60 watts equivalent of light (800 lumens). It even works with Apple's HomeKit and Amazon's Alexa systems. But once again - a light bulb kit? Don't do it.

5 Any kind of television

With apologies for being generic, getting someone a new TV for Christmas is not only a little odd, it's a huge waste of money.

There are only two categories of tech goods that are heavily discounted in the January sales - Windows laptops and televisions.

So that 4K set you thought you were future-proofing your loved one with is guaranteed to be €100 (or more) cheaper in a week's time. Oh, and the now-discounted telly you could have afforded had you waited has HDR, an arguably better TV technology than 4K.

6 Snapchat Spectacles (€149)

They were supposed to be the hit product of 2017. Instead, Snapchat's Spectacles ended up being something of a turkey, rejected for being a bit creepy.

The glasses are essentially an adjunct to your Snapchat account, taking photos or recording short videos on a small camera built into the rims. The results can then be posted directly to your feed. Why did they fail to take off? Was it that they weren't available anywhere other than a handful of arty vending machines around the globe?

It's more likely that people are still freaked out by the issue which sank Google Glass - the reactions of friends and acquaintances when they know that you're wearing a pair of glasses that's set to record them at any point. The funky design hasn't been enough to get over this basic hurdle.

7 Google Pixel buds (€179)

If you're looking to buy someone premium earphones this Christmas, give these a miss.

The quality is okay, but not at all what you'd expect for this price and certainly not to the level of rivals such as Apple's AirPods. The physical fit in your ears leaves a bit to be desired, too. Besides, the pitch for the Pixel buds isn't as much around audio prowess or ergonomic design as artificial intelligence, particularly Google's Assistant. One might see how this could be a strong feature in the future. For now, most people would prefer optimum earphones for their money.

8 Microsoft Lumia smartphone

A 5.5-inch smartphone for under €250? That may seem like a bargain or even 'perfect for the teenager'.

But think again. Microsoft Lumia phones - which were Nokia Lumia phones for a few years - are effectively dead. As is the Microsoft mobile operating system. Major app developers such as Google, Snapchat and Sky ignored it completely from day one for the apps we use every day. That means if you give one to a teen, they won't be able to communicate with their friends. You'd be wasting your money entirely.

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