CNET came out with their 2015 tech turkeys, those companies and technologies that missed the mark, sometimes by a wide margin. Among the entries were Comcast, for rude customer service techs, Samsung, for getting hardware right but not software (goodbye, Tizan), and Blackberry, for beating a dead horse. The coming weeks, more than any others, will see more technology purchased than any other time of the year. How can you make sure you’re not buying a turkey?
We spoke with several tech experts, some of whom wished to stay anonymous, and the support experts at Asurion, suppliers of mobile protection insurance, who are also offering a new product you might be able to use when gifting technology; more about that later. Not surprisingly, all were enthusiastic about the upcoming gift-giving season, and all had great tips for buying the right gift for everyone on your list.
Let’s start with one of the best things you can buy for anyone on your list: the Roku. Haven’t heard of the Roku? It’s a streaming portal for watching movies, TV and special-interest programming from all over the world, just by linking to WiFi. All programming is streamed through channels, from the standards – Netflix, Hulu and Amazon – to more obscure channels, like DogTV, showing videos to entertain your dog while you’re at work. There are four versions of the Roku, and prices will be dropping for the season.
Our panel of experts recommended stretch a bit and go for a universal remote, instead of a tie or slippers. A universal remote will allow your loved ones to get rid of the pile of remote controls, one for each player or box, and have everything available with the click of one button on a remote that takes care of all of it. Universal remotes come in all shapes and sizes, not at all complicated to only-a-techie-can-use-this formats, so choose the one that fits the lifestyle of the person to whom you’re gifting. According to CNET and some users we surveyed, the Harmony Universal Remote has routinely come out on top of the pile.
If the person you’re buying for isn’t very tech savvy or only an occasional user of technology, why not gift one of Amazon’s new Fire tablets? They’re very inexpensive and will go lower for the holidays. While they’re not for the expert tech user because of their limited speed, memory and Amazon-specific Android OS, they’re perfect for someone who will only use it for reading books, playing games or surfing Facebook.
One thing that links all these together is that they need to be programmed, so that might be a hassle for gifting. Never fear, though, the folks at Asurion have that covered. We spoke with Erica Johnson, one of Asurion’s premier support technicians, about their new premier support program. How does it work? If your loved one has cell service with one of the big three cell providers – AT&T, Verizon or Sprint (sorry T-Mobile fans – it isn’t available yet) – Asurion Premier Support is available for subscription. The service can be purchased on new or existing service and will cover all technology that is accessible through their wireless phone. Erica says, “We work with the carriers to support a wide range of technology. If they’re buying something new, we make sure everything gets transferred over. If they also have a universal remote, a smart TV or a programmable thermostat, a tablet or any other tech, we can help.”
The best part of the Asurion Premier Support program is that it isn’t item-specific; it covers all technology for each person, so you don’t end up being tech support for your family member or friend. “Our typical customer is someone purchasing for an older person who needs tech support. We also often see parents buying the service for their children getting their first phone or tablet,” says Erica. “Using Premier Support, they don’t need to be embarrassed to ask questions or look for help.” The service is available, depending on the carrier, starting at $11 per month.
Our experts gave us lots of good tips for what to buy, but they also told us how to buy and not regret it later:
- Listen to those on your list, especially when they’re talking about what they need/want. You might think something is the best thing ever made, but the person receiving the gift may not; this is, of course, true of everything you gift, but especially with technology. If the tech is over their heads, make sure to get a service or support plan as well, so you don’t end up being tech support for the rest of your life.
- Don’t buy fads. Today’s drone may end up sitting at the back of the closet with last year’s tech-of-the-moment, so unless the person you’re buying for will use it for a specific purpose, stay away from fad gifts.
- Get gift receipts. Without a gift receipt, your recipient won’t be able to get support, if there’s a problem with the technology you’ve given.
- Do your research. Read several reviews of the items you’re thinking of gifting to make sure you’re getting the best tech for your money, that’s appropriate for the person receiving the gift.
This week will bring hoardes into the stores, so keep calm, do your research and join us tomorrow for our list of the top ten things to help you stay calm when holiday shopping.