Black Friday: 6 rules you need to follow when buying tech and phones as gifts
Before we know it, the holidays will be here and there’ll be a mad rush to. Instead of waiting until the last minute, start shopping right now. Many retailers are starting their . And now that you can find deals so early in the holiday season, you have plenty of time to think over exactly what you’re going to give to that special someone or a distant relative. But before you make that decision, keep in mind that tech gifts can be the same as giving someone a surprise puppy or kitten — just without the mess to clean up after.
A shiny iPhone 12 makes for a great gift, but you should do some research before buying it for someone else.
This story is part of, published by CNET’s gift picks with expert advice, reviews, and recommendations for the latest tech gifts for you and your family.
Gadgets can be personal, with a mess of unintended consequences, like saddling someone with the cost of buying extra gear, landing them with a monthly subscription or exposing their privacy in a way that makes them uncomfortable.
New, , and other electronic devices can make a great present, since these devices are a means to work, play, communicate with friends or, with a gadget like a or , temporarily escape. They add value to a person’s life.
But gifter, beware. Keeping in mind privacy, security and compatibility issues will go a long way in helping you make sound decisions as you shop for new phones and other gadgets. Let’s take a closer look at some best practices you should keep in mind.
Watch out for extras someone else will have to buy
No matter what type of device you end up buying as a gift, keep any extra accessories it may require in mind. Ask yourself — or the salesperson — if the device is ready to use right out of the box.
If you, do they require a hub to get them to work? If it’s a phone or tablet, does it make sense to also give a case, or to let your recipient pick one out later? Many phones have ditched the headphone jack, so a dongle to go from USB-C or Lightning to a 3.5mm audio connection may be needed.
More examples to heed: For a, extra brushes, filters or virtual barriers are going to be items your loved one will eventually need. Odds are, if you gift a smart speaker, which also doubles as a voice-activated speaker for streaming music, a gift card for a subscription to Spotify or Pandora will be appreciated.
Another aspect to consider is if they’ll need to replace stuff they already have. Maybe that new phone requires a different kind of charging cable than what they already use. It may not be your responsibility to replace that, but be aware that your gift could have ripple effects.
Dongles are sometimes a necessary evil. Sarah Tew/CNET
Pay attention to which devices they already own
The last thing you want to do is get Dad a present that he can’t or won’t use. Before deciding to get someone the latestor an , make sure you find out what kind of devices they already use on a regular basis.
For example, if your giftee has an Android phone, they won’t be able to use an Apple Watch. Or if they have a house full of, a smart home gift that uses only Amazon’s Alexa assistant probably isn’t a good fit.
Wireless earbuds are usually a safe bet, and smartwatches (outside of the Apple Watch) generally work with any type of smartphone.typically work with any TV, as well. Don’t get so caught up in what kind of products your friends and family members already have that you don’t make a decision, just remember to keep your gift receipts handy so they can make an exchange, guilt-free.
If you have a general idea of what kind of device (or devices) the giftee already uses around the house, we have a
There are plenty of unlocked phones for you to pick from. Angela Lang/CNET
Watch for privacy red flags
Some products have privacy and security implications. Even if you’re OK with having an Amazon Echo and its always-on microphone in your home, a friend or loved one might not be as comfortable with the idea. And even though you may feel that Aunt Mary desperately needs to join the 21st century with an, keep her comfort level in mind.
We store a lot of information on our phones and gadgets. Private information, such as banking info, frequently visited locations, our current location, photos and conversations are all things we blindly trust our devices with.
At the least, you should take note of companies such as Facebook or Amazon, which are constantly surrounded by privacy questions and concerns, if you’re considering buying aor one of as a gift.
If you’re looking at a product from a company you’ve never heard of, or even for companies you have, a quick Google search. Looking up “Facebook privacy issues,” for example, should surface any potential issues.
One option to consider when you aren’t sure if the gift will be a hit: Go ahead and get it as a sort of a placeholder. You can explain that you’re alright with helping them refine the end decision, and if need be, getting them something else.
Look into how long a company will support its product
Routine software updates are an important part of owning a tech product. Not only do updates make a product better over time, but they can fix and improve the security of a device.
As such, it’s even more important to have confidence that companies are going to continue to support a device through updates, especially when security issues are discovered (as they often are).
If you’re shopping for a phone,and receive the most consistent and timely updates. Outside of Google’s own phones, Samsung has a good track record for consistent updates to its Android phones, whereas Motorola has dropped the ball over the last couple of years.
Software updates for smart speakers and streaming devices such as aare handled in the background, without you ever knowing. That’s ideal for those who aren’t all that tech-savvy.
It’s a good idea to look into how long a company promises to support a product with software updates after its release.
Lastly, there’s bound to be many great deals and promotions this shopping season. Don’t be swayed by a deal on a product from a brand you’ve never heard of. If the company doesn’t last, your gift could end up being an expensive paperweight.