30 Electronics and Accessories That Are a Complete Waste of Money
The world of electronics and their accessories is a wild, untamed web of tech company stores, electronics retailers, discount stores, online retailers, convenience stores, and airport vending machines. There are a whole lot of items within that web that claim to make life easier and which you may want. But really, there are very few that you'll ever need. We took a look through the growing pile of baubles, dongles, and attachments and found dozens that should never make their way into your cart.
These SkyMall-approved items have several incarnations and take their place with the rest of the useless stocking stuffers every holiday season. The idea is to give you wide-angle lenses, fisheye lenses, macro lenses, and other lenses that you'd have on any other camera. Unfortunately, you're paying $11 for what most smartphone camera settings, apps, and filters can do for free.
What is this, 2006? Do you have a cool Daria voice program that will tell you what turns you're making? Standalone vehicle GPS devices can still cost $50 to $300 on Amazon despite the fact that numerous GPS smartphone apps cost a fraction of that. Oh, and apps like Google Maps will do just fine in urban areas for free.
If you have a mobile phone of any kind, you already pay a fee for Enhanced 911 service. That was the only real reason to have a landline anymore. Even internet service providers and cable/satellite companies have largely stopped bundling them with other services. Your landline phone isn't an amenity: It's an obsolete antique.
We understand that professionals and hobbyists are probably still going to want to keep mirrorless or DSLR cameras around for advanced photography. The overwhelming majority of you aren't among them and will be well served by whatever camera is attached to your smartphone. If it isn't, shop around: Smartphone camera technology has improved dramatically since the blurry flip-phone images of yesteryear.
Listen, we get it: We've paid for all the extra games in the Midway Arcade collection. But, and we'll say this in our most crotchety old-man voice, "that's how they get you." The only function of in-app purchases is to get you to pay money for your "free" app. They're dumb, and they rely on you being dumb enough to buy them.
We aren't going to single anyone out, but certain polo-shirted electronics retailers have no problem pushing you into an extended warranty you'll never need. Manufacturers' warranties cover the overwhelming majority of issues and defects, while problems that crop up afterward just about never cost as much as the warranty itself. If you don't take our word for it, take that of Consumer Reports, which goes into much greater detail about why extended warranties are horrendous.
We've reached the point where Wikipedia has to keep a running list of selfie-related deaths. A number of tourist destinations, including all Disney parks, have banned selfie sticks outright. You can now purchase them for less than $5, but society's patience for them and for your self-centered photos is wearing thin.
The amount of information you can send via an FTP server or encrypted email is enormous at this point. Also, we've reached the point where the USB itself is being phased out in favor of new technology. While those who fear data breaches may not be willing to relinquish their flash drives yet, they may not have a choice in the near future.
According to Nielsen/Soundscan, there were still more than 88 million CDs sold in 2017. The downside is that DVDs and CDs are aging technology that yields clutter. One upside of DVDs is that you don't have to wait for a streaming service to get the rights to your favorite movie to enjoy it. But you have to ask: How many times are you really going to watch that same movie?
How many times must consumers fall for this scam before they get the message? Apparently printer ink and razors didn't teach consumers that cheap hardware doesn't lead to huge savings (or improved quality) if you have to keep paying for the disposable component that makes it work. Grind some beans or buy some pre-ground coffee and just brew yourself a decent cup for once. Oh yeah, and stop fouling the Earth with even more plastic.
Five years ago, Consumer Reports put the lowest price of printer ink at $13 an ounce, which is more expensive than Champagne. At its most costly, it is $75 an ounce: more than most caviar. So what can you do? While there's no way to avoid the initial price, Costco members can refill their cartridges for roughly $7 apiece (or nearly half the price of Consumer Reports' cheapest option).
No, they weren't relegated to the dustbin of history in the '80s. Many legal and medical documents still must be sent by fax. Meanwhile, most of us have no excuse for using this device. Send an email, use a signing service, or send a fax with a free fax service. Just don't make us have to remember "fax paper" ever again.
Congratulations: You've found the one vacuum worse at vacuuming the stairs and under the furniture than you are. They often can't handle rugs, can't pick up larger detritus, can't handle a room where everything isn't placed just so, and, yes, they are horrible holiday gifts that everyone keeps giving. Stop being lazy and do some actual vacuuming.
If you love a book enough to buy it, just buy the actual book. If you just prefer reading it on an e-reader or other device, local libraries will allow you to download just about any book you want for free. One of the underrated perks of Amazon Prime membership are the free books you can download from that program as well.
Gross. Tech company Atech decided that people bringing their devices into the bathroom wasn't enough of a hygiene nightmare, so they opted to make a toilet paper roll into a docking station and speaker. If you own this, you are disgusting. If you're a guest in a house and see one of these, don't touch anything.
ThinkGeek knows this is stupid, but went ahead and made it anyway just for laughs. It is a box with a switch. You turn it on, a finger pops out of the box and turns itself off. You have to build it yourself, so the upside is that you learn something about electronics. The downside is that you also learn that the friend who gifted it to you has a simple sense of humor.
If your cable company is your internet service provider and you're being charged $5 to $10 a month just to use their modem, you're being ripped off. A decent modem costs $40 on Amazon and will save you $20 to $80 within its first year alone.
If malware and breaches have you nervous, don't just rush out and buy some antivirus software. Maybe that was the answer 20 years ago, but with lots of free options and with tech companies offering Microsoft Windows Defender and Mac OS Gatekeeper, third-party software is a waste of money. Oh, and it might actually conflict with the free antivirus software you've already installed.
If Google Glass taught us anything, it's that the world thinks you look foolish when you use your tech-driven specs to multitask. Just about every pair of Bluetooth sunglasses makes the user look like a "Top Gun" extra who's on call at the office for the weekend. While middle-aged men in Lycra may love them for the mid-week morning ride, they're both practically cumbersome and aesthetically unpleasant -- even at less than $20 a pop.
We have mixed emotions about a smartphone Breathalyzer. On one hand, it's better than getting into a car drunk or attempting to read a blood-alcohol chart when your vision isn't so trustworthy. On the other, at $70 to $100 apiece, it's likely cheaper to download an Uber or Lyft app into your phone and get a ride home.
With automakers installing voice controls and steering-wheel-mounted radio controls in their vehicles and Apple using Bluetooth technology liberally in its smartphones, why do we need a wire to tune a radio to your iTunes playlist? While this may come in handy in certain older cars, even an old auxiliary jack can play an iPhone's playlist.
Fitbit's fitness trackers range from $60 to $180, but, you know what they are at this point? A little redundant. Apple, Samsung, and even Fitbit itself made the standalone fitness tracker akin to an MP3 player, Flip video camera. Smart watches remove the need for multiple devices, while cheaper trackers that perform functions similar to original Fitbit products now sell for as little as $30.
Hey, if a 4K high-definition television is the same price or less than a 1080p version, by all means have at it. But if you're paying more for 4K at that size, you'll never be able to tell the difference unless you put your face less than 8 feet from the screen. You're paying for an upgrade you'll literally never see.
The curve is so cool, right? It looks like a giant IMAX screen and everything! Except that it doesn't work like an IMAX screen at all (projection comes from behind the screen, not in front of it), it's a terrible viewing experience, and it's already on its way out. If you see one kicking around at a decent price, take the flat TV at the same price instead.
We aren't trying to pick on Apple, but they charge iPhone 8 users nearly $150 for 190 additional gigabytes of memory. A 200-gigabyte SD card that will fit into a Samsung Galaxy phone or several other Google Android phones costs just $66 on Amazon and even less when purchased on the secondary market.
Dear person who needs ambient noise to sleep: Just put on the noisemaker. Your $100 to $150 sleeping earphones may be helping you, but they're still making noise that we can hear. Quite frankly, we'd rather hear those rolling waves or that NPR podcast than that tinny sound you're producing. Sincerely, the people who sleep next to you.
Cheapism.com participates in affiliate marketing programs, which means we may earn a commission if you choose to purchase a product through a link on our site. This helps support our work and does not influence editorial content.