Before investing in a gift that might turn out to be a dud, let's take a look at which high-tech products are worth spending the cash on.

Google Glass, 3D TV, Dreamcast, Palm Pilot–what do these cutting-edge tech products all have in common? They failed and failed hard. And to make matters worse, each of these gadgets started out with a lot of potential. They were going to revolutionize how we live, work, or play. But when they hit the market, they floundered and fizzled out.

That’s the gamble with being an early adopter of the latest and greatest technology–sometimes the product you just dropped hundreds or thousands of dollars on turns out to be much cooler in theory.

So, before you break the bank this holiday season on something that might turn out to be a dud, let’s take a moment to jump into which high-tech products are worth the investment.

Smart home gadgets

Letting the Internet of Things help you take control of your home–anytime, anywhere–is a great way to save money. Smart home products can provide you with remote, digital access to your lights, thermostat, security cameras, and alarm systems and these high-tech products are often worth the investment. Not only can these products save you money–seriously, try switching out all of your incandescent bulbs with LED lights and then pay close attention to your next electric bill–but they can also prevent catastrophes like break-ins or fires.

Some products to consider:

  • Netgear Arlo Pro – This wireless, weatherproof security camera has two-way audio.
  • August Smart Lock – This lock system allows you to lock and unlock your door as well as control and monitor it from your smartphone.
  • Nest Learning Thermostat – This adaptive tech learns the temperatures you prefer, can control hot water, and turns on the lights when you enter the room.
  • Philips Hue Smart Bridge – Take complete wireless control over the color and hue of lighting in your home.

Worth the investment?
My money’s on yes.

Robotics

In the fall of 2000, Tekno the Robotic Puppy was one of the most popular Christmas gifts. These mechanical dogs were supposed to offer a peek into the future of technology. But I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that most of those Tekno dogs were collecting dust by January 30.

In fact, even 17 years later, robotics still has a long way to go–these gadgets are often pricey and more gimmicky than practical. So, unless you’re buying a gift for a kid who is really into robots, you might want to pass on buying a Cozmo this year.

Worth the investment?
No, robotic technology still needs some more time to bake before investment as a consumer will make sense and truly impact your lifestyle.

Wireless earbuds

When Apple removed the headset jack on the iPhone 7, the goal was to coerce wireless tech adoption. Customers needed to ditch the wired headsets and make the switch to Bluetooth technology.

While there was some initial pushback on this, the good news is that it resulted in Apple–and other companies–creating wireless headsets that are truly remarkable. This latest wave of wireless earbuds will make a great gift for nearly everyone on your holiday shopping list.

Some of the more popular options include:

  • Apple AirPods
  • Beats BeatsX
  • Bose QuietControl 30
  • Google Pixel Buds

While all of these models have their subtle pros and cons, they’ve been well received by consumers and reviewers. With that being said, I do recommend researching the features and fit details before making a purchase. But no matter which option you decide on, you’ll find it much easier to use your phone with a pair of these than without.

Worth the investment?
Yes, definitely. The latest wave of wireless headsets provides a great hands-free, high-quality way to listen to music, make phone calls, and interact with your phone via voice assistant (Siri, Google, Bixby, etc.).

Virtual and augmented reality gear

We have an Oculus Rift headset here at Centric Digital because we need to keep on top of the latest technology trends and developments. But unless you have money to spare or it makes sense for your business, you might want to wait a few years for the VR and AR technology to become more affordable. I’m not saying this technology is a waste of your money–if you ever get the chance to test drive a VR headset, it will blow your mind–but it will set you back at least $1k to get up and running between the headset hardware and a PC powerful enough to run the package.

Worth the investment?
Depends on the situation. If you have a business need for VR/AR or can use this tech to truly stand apart from your competition, by all means, invest. Or, if you have the cash to spare for a pricey gaming console and love being entertained this way, then go for it. For everyone else, you might want to wait a few years for better integration and lower prices.

Wrapping up

If you don’t want to end up with an expensive but cool-looking paperweight, make sure you’re investing in a high-tech gadget that will prove useful. In addition to the list above, a good general rule of thumb is to avoid investing in anything that’s first-generation. Technology becomes more sophisticated over time so it’s often a good idea to wait.

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