This holiday season, 80 percent of individuals want some sort of consumer electronics device as a gift, according to a survey by the Consumer Electronics Association and CNET, but unless your recipients are already app-loving, ebook-downloading, subscription-paying gadgeteers, buying hot consumer electronics can pose several problems. I’ve tried to outline a few ways around the most common missteps when it comes to giving gifts with bytes, so before you buy Mom that e-reader or Grandpa the latest iPhone, check them out so that you don’t give gifts that, well, bite.
Nobody Wants a Brick: I’d love to offer someone a MiFi this year, mostly because I think the device is the greatest thing since Wi-Fi, and I know plenty of folks who could use it, but no one is going to thank me for giving them a device that requires a $60-a-month subscription plan. Same goes for many of the 3G-enabled photo frames on the market.
If you give someone a network-connected device, you need to give them a connection, too. That means signing them up and paying for an annual service plan when you purchase the item, or choosing a device like the Kindle, for which the cost of the wireless subscription is already built in.
Your Time Is The Most Valuable Gift of All: What’s so cool about many of today’s gadgets is that they allow us to personalize them. Think of the iPhone or the Droid. Over at T-Mobile, nearly half of myTouch users say they have “completely customized” their myTouch phones. That’s great for the tech-savvy, but for many people the app economy is still new territory, so if you’re going to give a gadget as a gift, you should also plan to stick around for an hour or to help the recipient set up their information in the online store, show them how to find the best stuff and warn them about the dangers of digital rights management (how if you download a book on the Kindle, it’s not gonna work on their spouse’s non-Kindle e-reader, for example).
The Perils of Pre-loading: If you don’t have time to spare, you can try to personalize the device for a love one, for example, taking photos of family members on a camera phone and adding in your phone number. When it comes to the Apple ecosystem, you can pre-load a new iPod touch or iPhone on someone’s behalf with your iTunes login information, but once the recipient gets the device they’ll need to link the device to their own account (you’ll want to supervise so they don’t keep downloading content on your credit card). A downside to pre-loading is that any content downloaded from the iTunes store will be stuck on the device, unable to be transferred to the recipient’s computer without a separate program like iRip.