-- There are gadgets you just shouldn't buy this holiday season. They're the tech world's equivalent of getting socks for Christmas.
If you don't want to be uncool, don't be tempted to give these, no matter how great the bargains may seem to be. There's a reason.
Feature phones have another name: dumbphones. It doesn't make sense to get a free feature phone anymore — much less pay for one — when you can get smartphones for free.
For example, you can now get a free iPhone 3GS with a two-year AT&T contract.
On the Android side, you can get a nice LG Enlighten for free from Verizon. AT&T will let you walk out of the store with a Pantech Crossover by signing a two-year contract. Sprint is giving away the LG Optimus S. Meanwhile, at T-Mobile, you can choose the Samsung Exhibit 4G.
These specials are likely to change, Just keep checking the carriers' websites through the season for deals. You might be able to get an even better Android model for free.
Dutch GPS maker TomTom said last month that it would stop making standalone navigation units and concentrate instead on built-in systems for cars and apps for smartphones.
Anyone with a smartphone can get where they want to go with a free app such as Google Maps. Paid apps from Garmin, Magellan and TomTom offer turn-by-turn directions and even support celebrity voices.
Computer manufacturers thought they had a surefire winner with the netbook — and they did, for a fleeting moment in 2009. Compared to laptops, netbooks were very small and lightweight. They skimped on the RAM and the processors, but you could get some work done for under $300.
Then the iPad arrived in January 2010. Android-based tablets with similar touchscreen technology soon followed. Suddenly, you had something smaller than a netbook, and just as useful. At the same time, bargain PC laptops dropped into the $300-$350 price range.
It's game-over for the netbook. You can still buy one, but I recommend getting a tablet or a laptop instead.
Here again, smartphones are raining on the manufacturers' parade. Smartphones with 5MP to 8MP cameras can do everything that a pocket camcorder can do. Plus, you don't have to carry around an extra item.
Those are the biggest losers this season in tech. Now, there are some gadgets that fall into a gray area. They aren't quite obsolete, and there are still good reasons to buy them. You may still want to consider these if you can get a great deal:
Portable gaming consoles
Smartphones and tablets are challenging Nintendo and Sony for control of the mobile gaming market. How do you know which system to buy?
If you have a kid who's too young for a smartphone, there's nothing wrong with getting a Nintendo DS (starting at $100) or DS3 (the 3D model, $170).
I wouldn't buy the PlayStation Portable units at this time, because Sony will discontinue them when it launches the Vita in February.
Portable media player
If you have a smartphone or a tablet, you already have a fantastic media player. Some runners don't want to lug around a large smartphone, however, so there's still a niche market for tiny music players, such as the iPod shuffle ($50) and nano ($130).
Because of all the apps it can use, the iPod touch ($200) is a great gift choice for kids. They get an excellent all-around media player and gaming gadget, but you don't have to worry about them racking up a large cell phone bill.
Many smartphones ship with 5MP to 8MP digital cameras built in. For casual photos, that's more than enough. However, point-and-shoot cameras still have the edge in megapixels and sensor size. Additionally, the prices have dropped, so you can get a decent one for under $100.
Kim Komando hosts the nation's largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. To get the podcast, watch the show or find the station nearest you, visit www.komando.com. E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.