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9 Devices That Might Be a Waste of Your Money

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As deal hunters, it typically pays to buy slightly older devices in favor of tempting deals on newly released tech. But, of the aged and dated items we've spent money on, there are some electronics that are now approaching outright extinction and would make for silly purchases. Some consumers may need the complete functionality of a point-and-shoot camera, for example, but for the majority of us, a smartphone already accomplishes everything we need.

So before you consider buying any of these items below, think long and hard about whether such a device is actually a redundant purchase and, thus, a big waste of your money.

GPS

When Google released Google Maps Navigation for Android it knocked 20% off the value of big turn-by-turn navigation players TomTom and Garmin in a single day. Since then, Google Maps has spread to other mobile platforms like iOS, and its accuracy and usability has improved.

So we ask, why would someone pay hundreds of dollars for something we all can get for free? Sure, there are weaknesses with Google Maps, such as the need for cellular service, but it is now possible to load up a map and directions before a journey. Standalone GPS devices simply don't offer enough extras to make them a worthwhile buy anymore.

Blu-rays Discs, DVDs, and Their Players

Where did you last see your VHS player? The garage? Or at a garage sale? Really, who wants to clutter their house up with more junk that will end up in the garage in a few years? Instead, with a media player, a decent Internet connection, and a subscription to some streaming movie and TV show services like Netflix, you can dispense with the need for a DVD or Blu-ray library. Collections are nice, but how many of your DVDs or Blu-rays do you honestly watch more than once?

Point-and-Shoot Cameras

The point-and-shoot compact camera industry is another victim of the smartphone revolution. As a separate device, you've got to remember to bring your compact camera along if you want to use it. Moreover, most cameras require users to plug into a computer to upload and access photos, although there are a few wireless options now. And above all, basic compact cameras no longer offer better specs over smartphone cameras: the Nokia Lumia 1020 32GB Windows Smartphone ($149.99 with free shipping, a low by $49; 2-year contract required) boasts a 41-megapixel camera, and it's easy to share photos because it's connected to the Internet.

Flash Drives

The cloud is here to stay and there's an impressive wealth of free cloud storage out there. Set up multiple accounts and you can store everything you need on remote servers that you can access from anywhere. And while a flash drive might seem like an easy solution for transmitting files to friends, many services offer such a utility without having even having to hand out your password.

MP3 Players

Most of us have already left a physical music collection behind (see VHS player). We traded our CDs and tape decks for MP3 players, but these too will be redundant soon. It's so easy now to maintain a digital collection online; all we need is a device that can access it whether it be a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or speaker system.

Handheld Gaming Consoles

Generally speaking, sales of the latest handheld gaming consoles are pitiful. The dedicated portable gaming industry has tanked, perhaps because handheld consoles and the accompanying games are expensive and their battery life is poor. And beyond employing better graphics, there simply isn't enough innovation or creativity in the industry: most people are content to play casual games and ports of old classics on their phones and tablets. Free-to-play games have made gaming on-the-go cheap and accessible for the masses; while the PC and console game industries cater to the more serious gamer.

Desktop Computers

People have been buying overpowered computers for years. For every power user who genuinely needs a cutting edge PC, there are 10 people who will just surf the web, check email, and occasionally play a casual game. For the majority of people, a tablet offers a much better user experience, takes up a lot less space, and is far more intuitive to use.

Handheld Camcorders

Video camera manufacturers have tried in vain to keep up with the digital revolution. For the everyday user, there's very little incentive to buy an expensive video camera. The mass market for home videos is well-served already: many smartphones and tablets have HD recording capabilities, and b built-in software makes video easy to edit and share.

Alarm Clocks

That's right, even the humble alarm clock isn't safe. Why buy a standalone device that tells the time and plays the radio, when you already own one? You can set your smartphone to operate as an alarm clock and more! No more random wake-up calls from that radio song that gets stuck in your head all day; instead, you can set a tune to wake up to from your own library. Even most TVs have alarm functions now. These days, the only reason to buy an alarm clock is for the gimmick or décor factor.

Keep in mind that, despite our griping, there will still be reasons to purchase some of these items. But for the average tech Joe, avoiding them might be easier than you think — resulting in some extra cash in your bank account to spend elsewhere.


Contributing Writer

Simon is a technology journalist with a background in games development. He is fascinated by all things tech, particularly mobile and videogames, and he loves to share that passion with other tech fans.
Please note that, although prices sometimes fluctuate or expire unexpectedly, all products and deals mentioned in this feature were available at the lowest total price we could find at the time of publication (unless otherwise specified).
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38 comments
mrbib
Regarding Blu-ray/DVD/etc, the problem is that the catalogs available from the streaming providers keep changing. At the new year, Netflix pulled a few dozen movies and series from their site, probably over licensing issues with the content owners. There's no counting on what the streaming providers are going to offer at any given point in time.

As for desktop computers, a tablet works fine for information consumption, but heavy email use requires more oomph. At a minimum, a keyboard is required, but the email interfaces on tablets tend to be ill-suited to heavy use.
durdydeeds
Simon, I'm with you on every suggestion. Even beyond the cost savings, I love how ditching a device simplifies my life. Every solution you mentioned is either already better than the old technology, or will soon be better. You can purchase digital copies of movies, for example, that have all of the detail of blu-ray.

The average person should avoid all these old technologies. People just don't like change and realizing they spent hundreds or thousands on obsolete devices.
Kyser_Soze
I'm going to an unfamiliar place tomorrow, so I tried to update my 5" lifetime maps GPS and it won't update! It took 45 minutes to download software, updates and maps only to get an update failure message. What a POS.
Khahhdeals
Blu-rays Discs, DVDs, and Their Players

I haven't yet read the whole article because I was stopped by one comment, the one about blurays vs streaming services. Blurays and even dvd's are always the better deal......if you care about the sound and the extras that disks offer.If you check netflix, you will see that most titles, the majority are only offered in 720p. Also, the majority are only in stereo, right and left. If you want 5.1 or better sound, go else where. If you want to see 1080p high def, the only current way is to go bluray and 1080p is the major reason why I have a hi-def flatscreen in the first place.

Other streaming services will more than likely have similar deficiencies so I don't think that I will get the full 1920x1080, Dolby or Dts experience with any of them.

For me "might be" is not until they are equal in quality.
ICON
not to mention the pure inability to answer the phone if your using it as a GPS. What do you choose? Oh I know you can do both. That being said these devices are touch screen right? what happens when you are driving and the screen is shacking? you miss touch. Again messing up your GPS and probably clicking on an add or some useless link to some store selling something Google read on your email. Please! Give me my built in GPS, and I will use my phone for all other uses including email and surfing when needed but not GPS.
ICON
GPS
I have used my phone with and without Google maps. (Sprint Network) It sucks. 90% of the time I miss exits because the phone is either lagging because of waiting for signal or similar issue. Not dependable. Lesson learned. GPS (True GPS) is a real pleasure to use. no nonsense. just GPS. get from point A to point B. no waiting around to load maps that will only become useless the first turn you miss or any improvising do to loss of signal etc.. Its obvious you have not used your phone as a GPS when in a hurry, if you have all the time in the world than by all means use the phone and you may get there. but if you are like me, I don't need the adds, and lag for missing map info that may or may not get there.
ICON
Flash Drives:
as to the flash drive vs cloud. The Cloud is great for backup. but the day you depend on it fully is the day you will loose everything. Automated Cloud backup is a great tool. that being said, how many times in your life have you been in a storm that disables Internet connections, or in a place with little or no signal? much to many to depend on any cloud service. and even if connection to the cloud is 100%, Do I really want all my files on the cloud? what happens if I miss a payment because I got in an accident. My data goes away (as it should if I don't pay for the service) hence the ridiculous idea that the cloud will replace HDDs or flash drives is preposterous. Childish actually. No even on a perfect world would that happen.

.
ICON
tablet vs PC. it takes me a dew seconds per email on my desktop/laptop. it takes about 30 on my tablet, and i droped it 3 times in the process. I think I will keep my desktop or laptop. besides I like the larger screen and I do appreciate the horsepower for far better price per dollar than any tablet that comes close. Tablets are good for specific chores and entertainment but for all around dependability and efficiency nothing beats the PC (Laptop). Besides a tablet that I would really use would be a full PC in tablet form with at least 256GB SSD and that is well over 1000 and the idea of dropping that once or twice a week is not good.
rayhigh
This article foolishly assumes living in a country that has fast, affordable, stable internet. Some of us have forsaken surveillance state 'Murka for other parts of the world that are infinitely better in many ways, but lack the internet quality as I mentioned. So an MP3 player is still of great use to those of us who have escaped the good ole NSA, I mean, USA.
MaximumPleb
Most of these are somewhat valid except for the remarks on handheld gaming consoles. Mobile apps =/= high quality video game software. One must be mentally challenged (or a child) to think cellphone games even come close to comparing in terms of scope, depth, gameplay, music, and length to those on the "waste of money" handheld gaming devices. But I guess this is to be expected of a filthy casual.
Simon_Hill
Hey folks, these are just suggestions, no one is saying you should throw away existing tech you own or get an expensive smartphone if you don't already have one (over 50% of the U.S. population does own a smartphone btw). The idea was to offer some suggestions of tech that you may already have covered and show that you probably don't need to buy a new standalone device for certain things. Like I say in the article, these solutions won't suit everyone, but they will work for a lot of people.
hymie2
Most if not all of the devices you list, require that someone own an expensive 'smart phone' and pay exorbitant monthly data service fees. Add to that your additional fees for some video service like NetFlix etc.
The real rub is that I can't bring my cell phone to work and it just sits in my car or left at home for 10 hours or more a day. That's why I reverted to a plain old cell phone. No text service, no data plan, no camera, no gps or other apps. It just makes calls when I need to.
I enjoy using a "REAL" camera, I prefer watching my videos on something bigger than a 4" screen and I have never found the need to 'surf the web', IM, or do email while not at home or at work where I can get to a computer.
You can go ahead and put all your technology eggs in one basket and be out of touch when it fails. Remember that you are a prisoner of your service contract and will need to buy a new device every other year.
ardweeny
Ridiculous article .. unless the point was to simply get people to "click the article". Tabloid journalism for the 21st century.

How much do you truly pay for smartphone services? $30/month - almost $400/year (with taxes and surcharges)? Do some cost analysis, compare the real benefits of these "low tech" devices, and you might just find out how much of a sucker you really are. Paying more for less is counter to Dealnews.com, is it not?
KayakPat
This is such a foolish article. Obviously the author has little or no need for any of the devices listed.

Point and shoot cameras have evolved massively over the years. They can take photos far better than any phone can. If your sole purpose for photography is to send them to another phone, then no, you don't need a camera.

Camcorders: See Point&Shoot

Alarm clocks: When I wake up in the middle of the night, I want to turn over and see some glowing digits on the night stand and not have to remember where I left my phone.

Even for people who don't power-PC, accessing the web on a phone can be very frustrating, and you can't appreciate a high-resolution photo. Unless that photo was taken with a phone.

Blu-ray/DVD players - if you're just a casual movie watcher, Netflix is all you need. But many people like the extras that come on a disc.

Essentially, if you're satisfied with watered down versions of *everything*, then yes, you are the type who can do it all on a phone.
OkieDealKing
The commitment to a technology or a device is far more complex than it just being easier to use. I remember when VHS came out many predicted the death of movie theaters. Why pay for a movie when you can watch one in the comfort of your home? But people don't go to movie theaters to just watch a movie. They go to be with other people who want to see a movie and to pay $5 for a box of popcorn that somehow tastes different than anything you can make at home. So the psychology of use is just as important, if not more so, than the ergonomics of the device alone.

I think the fact these specialty markets are fading is a symptom of greater ill of society in general. We are addicted to mediocrity - in all things - particularly technology where if it does a half-way decent job at a task? We're happy. Excellence in all things - from relationships to food - is going the way of the dinosaur. At least for the mass market where the money is to be made.
ddgiant
On the point and click camera, I have to disagree with you on this one. Megapixels are not everything, the size and type of optics has a big affect on the quality of the photo.

Now I do use my cell phone camera more often then my point and click, just for convince, but I still get out my point and click to take more important photos.

Now $20 throw away point and click have stunk for years, but I am saying a decent point and click still takes better photos, and depending on the model video then any cell phone.
vinaytampa
@Keatingfamily: No one is saying that u buy a $2,000 phone plan to take pictures. They are assuming that u already have a phone that you already pay for and in that case why spend another $200 for a camera when your phone already has a 8-15 MP camera built in.

As far as internet service, the editor is not talking about 100% of the population. He's talking about 80% of the population who have good cellular coverage.

If your car has bluetooth, which most cars comes standard since about 5 years now, you can talk and drive while still have the navigation display ON.

USB stick vs Cloud stoarge, I give u that.
Keatingfamily
Well, some interesting content but generally not that helpful. I love my iPhone with Google maps, but it's a real pain to drive and talk on the phone when it's active. The maps are not great, and it often loses an idea of where I am. The Nokia Lumia phone you highlight is $609 on Amazon without an overpriced AT&T phone plan. Are you really saying I should buy a phone with a phone plan for $2000+ over two years so I can take pictures? Maybe you have faultless internet service where you are, but as long as we have subnet conjestion there will always be a place for DVDs. Our family has had Netflix streaming since it came out and added DVDs last year to get better and more current content. Cloud storage requires internet access and is utterly insecure and impractical compared to an encrypted flash drive.
dealnews-Lindsay
@Chirpes The Editors' Choice label indicates an extra low price on an item; if you want a GPS, then that current EC deal on a Garmin is pretty dang good. That doesn't change the fact that for many people, their smartphone is probably sufficient.
Chirpes
That moment when you realize each one of these items is in the editor's choice list right now.
m2guel
It looks like the author has not been without internet lately, i would not rely on it for important stuff without having a backup on my pc or flash drive for example.

It is true that smartphones and tablets can make our lives easier now, i would not go too far as saying that desktop computers are no longer needed, they are still the place where my kids make their homework.
silex
Wow, bad list,

GPS .. come live in my area. When you preload the directions on a phone and a road is closed your screwed because service is lacking. Also I cross into canada and I can't use the phone unless I like being broke.

Point and shoot camera, Yea my cell phone is not water proof, My cell phone does not sport as much storage, an optical zoom lense, or many other aspects. I also have an SLR for higher photo aspects.

Zip Drives, are still very useful as sometimes you just have to walk next-door, and transferring 1 gig to my flash drive is faster than cloud storage in many ways.

Mp3 PLayers. I have argued this one for a few years. The people whom do the sports I do agree. Cellphones do not last as long, they are also exponentially more expensive to replace. As Cycling, Rock Climbing, Skydiving, we break many.

Desktop computer is subjective. some of use need them. Pc gamers too.

Last is alarm clock .. Yea nothing beats my alarmclock its louder than my cellphone could ever be
Frank Zentura
I still use keydrives and local because I want to be fairly certain I can access my stuff readily most of the time.

I'm actually going back to my regular digital cameras from my smartphone for control.

And my desktops are NEVER going away if I can help it. I carry my laptop for convenience but when I want to really get down and dirty, I go to the big iron! They'll pry that from my cold, dead hands!

It's all relative I suppose.
sertimins
With GPS costing less then $100 with lifetime map these days, why bother multitasking on your phone.
TheOracle
I have come to love Google Maps navigation better than my Garmin nuvi GPS. I have a power cord for my GPS just as I do my phone, so no problem with the battery! And if you get a phone call you can still hear the navigation directions.

I don't have a Blu-ray player. I still use my DVD player to play DVDs from Netflix, but the only DVDs we buy are for my 7 year old daughter.

I paid $400 for my 5.1 MP point-and-shoot camera many years ago. Now, my phone has 13 MP and lots more options & features.

I haven't used many of the other items mentioned in a long time either! lol And the alarm clock? My Android phone has much better options. I especially like being able to set multiple alarms for certain days of the week. Don't have to remember to turn off my work alarm on the weekends!
tclim
Well, anything "might" be a waste of money if you don't use it. I have two tablets, but I use my desktop (imac) 95 percent of the time (I also have macbook air), which I almost never use at home. Given my usage of the four devices, one could argue that the two tablets and the macbook air are a waste of money--but that's not the case. I use them all for different reasons. Of course, other people with the same devices "might" have a completely different pattern of usage.
varuscelli
Thank you for changing the title of the article from "9 Devices That Are a Total Waste of Money" to "9 Devices That Might Be a Waste of Your Money." Much more accurate. Too bad that couldn't be retroactive to the original DealNews Alert ... ;-) ... but the attention to title accuracy as related to article content is appreciated.
kyungone
The author is giving general idea on substitutable-devices, of couse individual experience and opinion might vary but that doesn't make this article wrong or bad.

If you travel a lot and often go into no-coverage area you may need map built in stand alone GPS. But most of us, navigation on smart phone will do sufficent job. The author says same thing, I don't find anything's wrong.

Also the author is tech journalist with game development experince. He spends his tiem to share article with others so please put some respect while replying.

Good job Mr. Simon and keep good work!
dealnews-Lindsay
@crwd2008 We're not claiming that smartphone cameras are better than all point-and-shoot cameras. High end models obviously exist that trump smartphones handily. However, basic cheapie point-and-shoots, in many average users' minds, don't produce images that are substantially better to justify their cost. My point-and-shoot is collecting dust on my dresser. If I want something more complex, I turn to a DSLR. Otherwise, my phone will do.

As we mention in the intro, some people will need the full utility of some of these product categories. We're trying to point out to the average consumer that if all you want is basic functionality, there might be a cheaper option or you might already have something in your possession that accomplishes that.
vinaytampa
I actually agree with Simon (the writer) on everything except for Desktop Computer. I use my iPad to remote into my Desktop all the time rather than use the standalone tablet. Desktop computers (with All-In-Ones these days) are here to stay.
gvorsk
I do indeed watch my Blu-rays more than once. Netflix streaming still has nowhere near the selection that disc-by-mail has. Streaming is spotty at times, with long stretches at only standard definition. iTunes movie downloads often take several hours. As for price, I just bought a box set of all 3 Stooges shorts, some 50 hours of content, for $30 via an offer that you good people informed me of just last week.
crwd2008
TOTALLY disagree...terra-bad article.

GPS- Google maps just does not compare with most GPS maps/directions, plus I might be using my phone for say phone calls...

Flash drives- load movies onto them and into the TV it goes, EASY !!!

P&S Cameras- Quality of photos FAR exceed those of cell phones...REALLY?

Desktop computers- You have a point...BUT desktop computers outlive laptops and tablets by far...

Alarm clock- beats the dead cellphone 10 to one...
zloki83
I have to disagree with the flash drives for now. Until my upload speed gets anywhere near USB 2.0...eventually near 3.0 I don't want to wait for large (multiple GBs) of information to upload.

Now for the single doc or spreadsheet I fully agree, not to mention just using google docs.
Vistance
Wow, terrible article. This article makes a huge presumption that every one is willing to embrace the cloud and other technologies that MOST people do not like. I use Google Drive to backup a few critical files, but flash drives are still very useful and it's foolish to say they aren't still a better option than the cloud for file transfers. About streaming movies - some people would enjoy being able to watch movies without waiting for them to buffer, having to be online, and having the quality go up and down as is common with video streaming. Desktops vs. Tablets, this is hilariously bad. Tablets are slow and awful, go do some real work in Excel on a tablet and let me know how awesome they really are. Desktops will always be the best PC solution and they're very cheap and upgradable to fit individual user needs. Cloud based music libraries are trash, I want access to my music without needing the internet. This sounds like someone is a little too obsessed with tech for tech's sake.
varuscelli
@dealnews-Lindsay -- I don't think that mentioning in the intro of the article that the usefulness will depend on individual needs excuses the use of the misleading title. That is still a questionable tactic to draw readers in. It worked with me, but that's the kind of thing that also makes me less likely to trust such article titles in the future. I think DealNews is great in general, but in this instance -- I respectfully object. ;-)
dealnews-Lindsay
@varuscelli We mention in the intro that usefulness will depends on individual needs.
varuscelli
Interesting article in terms of technological direction, but an article with a misleading title (hyperbole/exaggeration) in that the usefulness or uselessness of any of these devices will be a matter of degree based on personal need and preference. Calling all these devices a total waste of money is just not universally accurate as the title would make it seem. Decent article but near-shameful use of inaccurate article title to draw readers in.
thatpcguy
OK, my overall opinion of this article is that is mostly fluff designed to get people to read articles here. Normally, I like the coverage on dealnews.com. I thought I didn't need a GPS either until I received one for Christmas. Then I realized that relying on cellular coverage isn't the only downside of using Google Maps (or any other GPS software on my phone). What happens with that "great" GPS app on my phone when:
o the battery dies
o my cell phone reboots
o I get a call, etc

A standalone GPS is subject to none of those distraction AND I'm less inclined to do other dangerous things (like text) when I not relying on my phone for directions.

All in all, I can pick apart this article, except for the desktop computer thing :-).
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