‘Tis the season for holiday gifts! From virtual reality to the latest and greatest smartphones, there’s a lot to keep in mind this year, especially when looking for the ultimate tech-y gift for tech-obsessed loved ones.
In order to help prepare you for the onslaught of gadgets and gizmos, our very own director of technology Jason McMahan has put together a list of recommended buys, tech tips and things to remember while hitting the stores. Even if you’re aiming for a Black Friday start date, you don’t have to be a tech expert to make fast, smart shopping decisions this holiday season!
Know Your Options
Let’s be honest. Shopping for technology can get overwhelming quickly. Before setting foot in a retail store or filling out card information online, it’s best to do a good deal of research about your potential purchases.
Need a gaming console system for your child? What about a laptop for the recent college grad? Different manufacturers make different models. It’s in your best interest to do the research before you hit the stores. Consult reviews on different retailer sites such as BestBuy.com or Target.com and take a lesson from your kids by looking up YouTube reviews, too. If you need more help making a decision, don’t forget social media. Tools like Facebook and Twitter are great resources where you can poll friends and obtain trusted user reviews and opinions on the best (and worst) features.
Our tip? Start with a product review site such as CNET.com to vet purchases. Expert reviewers can help identify the pros and cons of different items and will often make comparable recommendations that would have gone unnoticed otherwise.
Beware of Hidden Costs
Today’s technology has us seemingly living in the future. One example of that is the hot gadget trend that kid and adult gamers and tech-lovers alike are gunning for this holiday season — virtual reality. But beware: Like many other popular gadgets this year, virtual reality is a component system, which means spending $599 on a top-of-the-line virtual reality headset isn’t the only cash you’ll be shelling out to enjoy your new toy. Get all of the nitty-gritty information regarding costs before taking the leap on a “pre-holiday” or “last-minute” sale. While these deals can seem hard to pass up, it may only give you part of the package, meaning you’ll be locked in for the other parts whether you were expecting to purchase them or not.
Understand the Life of Your Technology
Many shoppers will be in the market this year for a perennially hot holiday item — the newest smartphone. In case you missed it, the iPhone is no longer the de facto choice for unbeatable smartphones. Take Google’s recently released Pixel smartphone, for example, with its more advanced camera and longer battery life. You certainly don’t have to limit your selection to the old favorites this year.
Smartphones, however, don’t have a long life expectancy. New lease pricing plans direct from manufacturers or different carriers mean that phones aren’t expected to be carried for years on end. If you are in the market for a smartphone or other hot new tech item this holiday season, be realistic about how often you buy a new phone, the best pricing models and what type of phone will last you the longest.
Our tip? Consult your wireless carrier to see what kind of pricing models they can offer you. Then, compare those prices with the leasing options available via manufacturers such as Google or Apple.
Don’t Waste Time
The thing about tech gifts across the board? They’re in high demand. In fact, the hottest items are usually in such short supply at local retailers that it’s impossible for many people to nab them in time for Christmas. For example, Nintendo is known for creating massive hype and low supply around their newest gadgets, and this year is no different. The Mini NES Classic, their latest commodity, is out of stock at most major retailers and selling online for many times its MSRP.
Our tip? Get as much of a head start as possible. Time is running out on the hottest tech gifts. As you begin to shop, however, remember our tips. Make time to do the research and pick the best options. This way, the gift keeps on giving long after the holidays are over.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessean.