You’ve already run the holiday checklists: gifts have mostly been purchased, decorations are up, and your calendar is chock full of holiday parties.
What’s left to do for the season? You could consider the technology gifts to give to yourself or your staff. Why now, rather than on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or the other famous “bargain sales” days? Simply put, those are not the times to find the best products, or the best deals on them. For that, you need to wait until the last two weeks of December.
Over the past few years, retailers have sought to increase their fourth-quarter sales figures by extending Black Friday and Cyber Monday to the entire months of November and December. And they have begun to engage in some less-than-honest practices designed to push inferior or overpriced products on an unwary public. For those willing to do the work, CNet’s Lori Grunin describes ways around this dilemma, but it entails a lot of work.
Here’s the situation in a nutshell:
- Companies use these sale days to dump inventory – products with quality problems, for example, or those that are already obsolete.
- Companies may offer products similar to their high quality models, but with cheaper parts and missing features to bring the price down.
- Others inflate the prices to previous, higher, MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price) in order to then offer a sale price that seems like a deal but is in reality higher than the MSRP for the same product the rest of the year.
- Some put together bundles, offer a free gift card, or other incentives. The problem is that these may or may not be useful to you, and even if they are they often may be obtained at a lower individual price.
There are more tricks and traps, but the primary lesson is that you are better off waiting until now to complete your Christmas list with tech accessories.
Here’s a list of some of our favorites:
- A new scanner. There are a lot of scanning chores performed at home, from personal invoices to copies of documents. Virtually any of the major scanner companies offer a product in the $300 range with perfectly adequate scan-to-PDF software. If you are planning to also use the scanner to work from home, check out the Drake Software technical specifications for scanners or two of the recommended Fujitsu scanners for use with GruntWorx software.
- A new headset and microphone. From Nuance’s Naturally Speaking to Microsoft’s Cortana, voice command and dictation are playing an ever more important role in computing. But the microphones bundled for use with these applications – or for use with Skype and other conference call software – are mostly entry-level products. For less than $30, you can upgrade to a better, more comfortable product from a leading headset manufacturer.
- A new cellular plan. You purchase a new phone, get a cellular and data plan, and you are set for the next two years, right? The industry is moving far too rapidly for that. Call now to see if there is better plan with more data than what you have, and do this roughly every three months. This works for your satellite or cable provider as well. Before buying a new phone for the holidays, remember that new phones generally debut early in late January or February – “deals’ now are mostly to dump inventory before the new models come out.
- A new printer. Printer technology is getter better by leaps and bounds, and at a lower cost. Now is the time to upgrade to a new printer, weeding out the old dot-matrix machines in favor of laser printing. Should you need color, invest in a color laser – but be aware that these will use black ink at a faster rate than monochrome printers. For every printer, consider not only the price, but the cost of replacement toner cartridges. Compare the cost of the cartridges and the estimated number of copies each will print.
- An illuminated keyboard. Once a feature offered only to gamers, back-lit or illuminated keyboards are nice to use when computing after dark, lighting the keys so that you can work after dark without the full glare of overhead lighting. Some of these are also offered in an ergonomic style, but study the reviews to make sure these are not of inferior value.
- Tiles for finding lost things. A Bluetooth device that can easily be placed on a keyring or in a wallet or bag, Tile is a small, thin device that allows you locate your lost items within the 100-foot range of Bluetooth. Works with an associated application for Apple or Google.
- GPS Locator. Pocketfinder is a GPS system over Wi-Fi that enables you to track children, seniors, pets, vehicles, and virtually anything else. While somewhat pricey (around $120 at Walmart or Amazon.com) its 2- to 4-day battery life and advanced features make it worth the cost.
Remember, new technology toys are announced in January at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. At that point, many top-of-the-line items will become obsolete. For the very best in new tech, wait to buy until the end of tax season.
Likewise, large-screen TVs, which go on sale after January, and after the “big box” stores have run down their inventory. There is nothing wrong with buying last year’s model at a discount, but be aware of exactly what is new and what is not.