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9 devices that are a waste of money

Before you spend another dime on electronics, steer clear of these 9 devices that will soon be obsolete. And that goes for your alarm clock, too.

By Smart Spending Editor Sep 18, 2013 6:22PM

This post comes from Simon Hill of partner site

MSN Money PartnerAs 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.

Image: CD (© Photodisc/SuperStock)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.

1. 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.

2. Blu-ray 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?

3. 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.

4. 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. 

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

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Sep 18, 2013 9:18PM
This article assumes that everyone out there has a high speed internet connection, that is simply not the case.  It also assumes that the cloud is secure, that is also not the case.
Sep 19, 2013 11:17AM
This pathetic excuse for an article deserves to be picked apart point-by-point.

1: Not everyone has/needs a smartphone, nor wants to stick it on their dash as a dedicated GPS... especially when they're apparently running Pandora and all sorts of other apps all while still trying to use it as... you know... a PHONE.
2: Not everyone has access to the Internet speeds required to stream Netflix. Playing rented DVD/Blu-ray discs on my PS3 (which IS capable of streaming Netflix, by the way) is a far superior movie-watching experience... and no buffering or constant picture degradation either.
3, 8: Megapixels alone don't determine picture quality. Find me ANY smartphone that can take higher-quality pictures or video than my Canon EOS Rebel T4i. Hint: you can't.
4: Simplicity, security and reliability. In a work/school environment, flash drives are the way to go.
5: I use a tiny MP3 player clipped to my shirt to listen to music while running. Find me a smartphone small and light enough to do that.
6. Find me a smartphone that can touch the gaming capabilities of my Vita. Again... you can't.
7. Have fun typing up lengthy documents and doing any actual work (especially the kind that involves juggling spreadsheets, emails and multiple other programs) on your little tablet.
9: A good alarm clock costs less than $20 and lasts forever. This one is just grasping at straws. I'm sorry but NONE of these devices are a waste of money.
Sep 18, 2013 11:47PM
You assume that everyone wants all this crap. I don't need a smart phone, why would i want to watch anything on a piddling **** small screen tablet or phone, I don't want music on a phone, it,s to make f---ing phone calls. I can't understand people who are obsessed with all this crap.
Sep 19, 2013 12:14AM
Terrible advice! Just submit my privacy and data to some jackwagon in the cloud.  So when a new technology comes along, you still have all of my personal data on your backup tapes? What happens when your internet connection blacks out?
Sep 19, 2013 8:38PM
I can think of a LOT of things I would give up before I would jettison my TomTom or my desktop (I actually have to produce WORK with my home computer) or my TV/DVD player in my kitchen.  I use these items all the time. I do NOT own a "smartphone."  I don't like them, don't want them.  As far as putting my personal information anywhere called a "Cloud," thanks. 
Sep 19, 2013 8:04PM
Sep 21, 2013 11:06AM
So if I lose my phone I lose my GPS, MP3, alarm clock, camera, video camera and internet access.
No back up on flash drives because they're obsolete .  Right

Sep 20, 2013 12:54AM
Smart Spending Editor, make your time (and ours) more useful by actually writing a meaningful article. 
Sep 19, 2013 4:11PM
So by telling me that one device (a Smart Phone) will do it all makes you think that I'm going to run right out and get one. So that I can curse at it while it's on my dash as I'm driving and it rings and I answer the phone, then I loose the GPS. Or that my very imperfect eye sight will want to watch something so small I can't see the details of words on the phone screen. You may think all these things are a "clutter" but I like being able to look over the side of the bed and actually see the time on the clock without having to pick up my cell phone and get it turned on so I can just see the time.  I honestly believe though that my stand on this is all due to my age. When I was younger I so wanted everything to be on my phone and thought it was great. Now I'm learning I don't really need a smart phone to survive in life. However I would like one and a good size tablet so that I can use the phone to ping the internet onto my tablet so I can take something along with me that's not so bulky. But once home, I like my stable computer. I have family in Ohio who still have "land lines" and their cell phones they pay $100 a year for service, they carry them for emergencies only - and if it rings, they pull off to the side of the road to talk on it. They don't know how to text on the darn thing, because they feel it's easier to say it to you than to take the time to peck it out on the phone. They use their computers for searching topics and checking email maybe. But not much, and they have dial up too. My sister lives in Kentucky and she is up on mark with her cell phone for certain things, but they still use alarm clocks, DVD player, Wii, and she has her laptop for the computer!
Sep 19, 2013 4:19PM
This guy has no idea what he is writing about! Definitely a theoretist and anl amatuer!
Sep 20, 2013 4:57AM

I dont have data, so my mp3 is safe, plays anywhere wifi or not

Sep 19, 2013 5:59PM
I can't believe the author could only come up with 9 devices.
Sep 19, 2013 4:03PM
add to list: wrist watches. Not electronic device,- but why get one if you can pull out a cell phone to tell the time?
Sep 22, 2013 6:11PM

Whether or not I agree with Simon Hill I can see what he's saying.  The point being you can merge a lot of stuff  on a smartphone and that's why they're so popular.  Still, its a bit of a stretch to say that these various other devices are obsolete.  It all depends on your needs. You might need a dedicated GPS - its specifically designed for one function.  You might need a Blu-ray - it does moves you can rent for a $1 - try that on a smartphone.  You might like a desktop with its big or really big screen and nice long-throw keyboard.  As for computers being less intuitive (and the implication is that laptops are obsolete too)  well, you can have trouble with android or Apple o.s. too.  You can't beat the lenses and special features with dedicated cameras and camcorders, especially the cameras at about $180 with their long optical lenses..  And why junk the simple alarm clock, its so simple.

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