Look up the word gadget in the Merriam-Webster dictionary and you’ll see a definition that’s not very flattering: “a device with a practical use but often thought of as a novelty.”
A novelty? Is that how we look at consumer technology?
Well, yes. And maybe with good cause. When a new iPad makes the one released eight months earlier look old and tired, consumers have reason to frown at how rapidly their prized gadget becomes second best – or worse, redundant. But take heart, Christmas shoppers, there are consumer electronics devices you can buy this holiday season that last for longer than a year or two. Here is a look at eight devices you can feel perfectly comfortable spending money on because they’ll last for years and won’t go out of vogue any time soon.
Apple iPod Shuffle
There’s nothing in the way of music players that’s more straightforward than iPod Shuffle. Now in its fifth generation, the Shuffle is Apple’s least expensive and simplest music player. Originally released in 2005, the Shuffle is wafer thin and light, clips to clothing and is designed for one thing – listening to tunes on the go. There’s no LCD display, it can’t access the Internet and has no WiFi, Bluetooth or FM radio. And it has not changed much in form or functionality in its seven-year lifespan. Available in seven colours, the 2-gigabyte Shuffle has a capacity of about 200 songs, which are loaded onto the device via iTunes on a computer. That’s plenty of music for a jog, bike ride or workout – activities well-suited to the Shuffle. At $50, it’s very affordable – maybe not stocking-stuffer affordable but certainly casual-gift affordable – and can last for years. The price means anyone already with a music-playing mobile device won’t feel like they’re squandering their money by picking one up as a backup.
Digital SLR cameras
The single-lens reflex (SLR) camera was a near-perfect consumer electronic device. You could buy one in 1972 and use it happily for two decades. You could buy a new lens, and it would fit; film cartridges never changed size and shape, compelling you to buy a new camera, and you never felt like advancements such as the introduction of auto focus could produce vastly better images. The arrival of digital SLRs changed the shelf life of the device primarily because, at least early on, each new model year would pack new features or upgrades as to make the previous generations’ obsolete. Most recently, the biggest change in DSLRs has been the ability to shoot high-definition video. We’re getting to a point in the DSLR development curve where a purchase of an entry-level camera today won’t be trumped by next year’s model. Two good examples are the Canon EOS Rebel T4i and Nikon D3200, both of which start at around $750. (Last year’s models – the Canon T3i and Nikon D3100 – are still in stores and start around $500). The T4i and 3200 standard kits come with an 18- to 55-millimetre lens; additional lenses, mounted flashes and other accessories are extra.
Bose Acoustic Wave systems
One piece of consumer electronics we generally buy and use for years is a stereo. And we’re not including iPod docks in here – already you need a range of adapters to make sure newer iPods and iPads fit onto docks released barely two years ago. One home stereo system that boasts lasting quality and excellent acoustics is the Bose Wave System series of tabletop stereos. There’s nothing better for kitchens, cottages or living rooms. The line was launched in 1984 and has expanded to include a series of elegant stereos that are easy to use, sound fantastic and last for years. There are three models of Bose Wave systems, two of which are geared for smaller rooms and one that’s got big enough sound to fill the living room or haul outside for a backyard barbecue. Depending on the system, they play a mix of CDs, Internet radio and AM/FM radio, but all can connect to mobile devices via Bluetooth to stream custom MP3 playlists. The three models range in price from $280 to $1,400, and there is a host of Wave accessories that consumers can use to add features, including multi-CD changers, iPod/iPhone docks or extra remote controls.
Portable hard drives