Last week, I told you about a line of cheap video games that should under no circumstances be allowed into your home. There are plenty of other electronics masquerading as good ideas; they seem to emerge especially as shoppers are looking for clever Christmas gifts. And while many of them inhabit drug stores, they can pop up anywhere.
• Brookstone Pillow Remote Control (upper left photo): Ever look at the throw pillows on your couch and think that there weren’t enough buttons on them? No longer! All the convenience of a universal remote control in a soft, plushy package! With a battery pack inside! Sure, you might accidentally hit a button now and then when you’re, you know, laying on it, but — and Brookstone’s own product description makes this very clear — you will never lose it. On the plus side, it can control up to six devices, and it does turn off automatically after 60 seconds. I know it usually takes me a minute or so to relax after I’ve changed a channel.
• Any “e-reader” that’s actually a lame tablet (upper right photo): In one of life’s many cruel happenstances, it’s actually cheaper to produce a color LCD screen than a monochrome electronic paper screen. The latter is much easier on the eyes and uses far less power, but it’s not flashy and it limits the functionality of any device into which it’s built. A color screen lets you browse the Web, play games, watch video! Yeah, in theory. In practice, those applications need to be matched up with more powerful hardware inside the tablet. If it’s under $100, that tablet probably doesn’t have a touch screen, and even if it does, it’s almost certainly not a responsive multi-touch screen. Name brand e-readers are under $100 now. Get one of those.
• “Digital” photo frames (bottom right photo): If it costs about $10, it’s probably not what you think. A real digital photo frame displays digital photos, and can usually cycle through a bunch you have stored. Some boxes with this label, though, are just regular photo frames with some kind of digital functionality — like a clock or voice recorder. You slip a snapshot into the “glass” (meaning clear plastic) part of the frame and revel in the attached technology only otherwise available in fast food meal giveaway digital watches.
• Digital camera binoculars (bottom right photo): These have been around for years, but apparently not enough people have been scammed yet. You might think it’s a fantastic idea, sticking a camera inside binoculars so you can get close-up photos of faraway things. But that’s not what these are. These are regular binoculars with a completely separate camera grafted onto the middle, usually without any adjustable zoom of its own. They make cameras with the ability to zoom in on distant subjects, and they are called “cameras.”
• $5 speakers: Okay, there are uses for these. For audio books played from an MP3 player, maybe, all right. But music will never sound good. It will be (slightly) louder than cranking up the headphones, but you’ll get tinny, distorted audio that will make your favorite songs sound like junk. And that’s worse than just humming them in your head.
Next week: an actual helpful gift guide!
You can always give someone a link to twitter.com/CitizenjaQ.