Since many of my friends are fellow technologists I've received a flurry of emails offering old - or slightly used - mobile devices for sale; iPads and Samsung smartphones they now consider obsolete are two such examples. Clearly as the holidays approach folks are gearing up (no pun intended) for brand-new gadgets whether for themselves or for others.
It's safe to say mobility products are routinely a hot commodity each December. Their mass appeal across various groups and backgrounds makes them a safe bet when gift-giving time approaches. Kids enjoy the games and cool functions (as do many of us adults!) and grown-ups benefit from the productivity and communication tools. You might say mobility represents the universal present.
Curious about which mobility devices are on the "must-have" list, I checked the Amazon and Best Buy websites to take a look at the top tablets, smartphones and wearables this season. While many of my findings aren't particularly surprising, here are the most noteworthy results presented with costs, pros and cons (based upon the reviews).
Description: Apple's latest iPhone offering features an A8 chip with M8 motion coprocessor, 1 Gb RAM, 4.7 inch retina display with 1334 x 750 resolution, iOS8, WiFi, 8 MP camera, 1080p HD video recording, 64 Gb of storage and 1810 mAh battery.
Cost: $929 (unlocked) Amazon / $299 (with carrier contract) Best Buy
Pros: Sizeable screen, better battery life and camera than previous models. Fingerprint reader and compelling screen display definitely make it a 21st century phone. Unified integration with Apple's ecosystem (iCloud for backup, iTunes for entertainment and app purchases, etc.)
Cons: Form factor may make it too large for some to carry comfortably. Battery life still not as strong as Samsung Galaxy S5. Pricier than the Samsung Galaxy S5. Android platform is more widespread than iOS (iOS has 11.7% market share according to IDC). Low RAM compared to other models. No microSD slot.
Description: Samsung's most recent smartphone offers a quad-core 2.5 Ghz processor, 2 Gb of RAM, 5.1 inch screen with 1080 x 1920 resolution, Android KitKat 4.4.2 OS, WiFi, 16 MP camera, 2160p video recording, 16 Gb of internal storage and 2800 mAh battery.
Cost: $534.99-542.99 (unlocked) Amazon / $99 (with carrier contract) Best Buy.
Pros: MicroSD slot for external storage, larger screen than many competitors, durable to the point of underwater submersion. Android has nearly 85% market share (according to IDC) making it an excellent choice due to its common usage. Affordable cost.
Cons: Some reviewers claimed water resistance capability, processor and camera were unsatisfactory or did not live up to expectations. Reports of function problems (synchronization or communication failures, annoyances with button positioning and screen dimness).
Description: Yes, one of the best sellers at Best Buy is actually not an Apple or Samsung product. This tablet runs the Android 4.4 Kitkat operating system and offers a 1.3 Ghz quad-core processor, 512 Mb of RAM, 7" display, WiFi, 2 MP back camera, .3 MP front camera and 8 Gb of storage.
Cost: $47.95 Amazon / $49.99 Best Buy
Pros: Good basic tablet (Amazon's page states "good for beginners and children" which will meet most needs such as playing music or games, browsing the web and working with email. Affordable alternative to the pricier iPad or Galaxy. MicroSD card slot allows added storage.
Cons: Some users complained the screen quality was too basic and the sound difficult to hear. Others expressed concerns about product quality after experiencing defects.
Description: Samsung's premier Android KitKat 4.4.2 tablet features a 2.3 Ghz processor, 2 Gb of RAM, 2560 x 1600 resolution, an 8.4" screen, WiFi, 2.0 MP webcam, 8.0 MP digital camera, and 16 Gb of storage.
Cost: $369.00 Amazon / $229 Best Buy
Pros: Excellent screen quality, slim and portable, speedy response time and good battery life. MicroSD card slot allows additional storage to 128 Gb.
Cons: Camera described as "mediocre" and many complaints surround the "bloatware" that ships with the device. Can't be used while recharging and some users found the battery unacceptably weak.
Description: Amazon's flagship tablet runs the Android 4.4.2 KitKat OS, has a 1.5 Ghz quad-core processor, 1 Gb of RAM, 1280 x 800 resolution, 7" display, WiFi, front and rear facing 2 MP camera and comes with 8 Gb or 16 Gb of storage.
Cost: $149.00 Amazon / $114.99 Best Buy
Pros: Good video and sound quality (even when streaming), integrates well within Kindle environment (obviously, since that's Amazon's creation) for those who read Kindle books. Customer support receives high marks.
Cons: Some complaints about clunkiness of Silk web browser. Not everyone participates in Kindle environment. Memory deemed too weak by some reviewers. No MicroSD card slot. 2 MP camera received some poor marks.
Description: The cream of the iPad crop, this sports a 1.5 Ghz CPU, 2 Gb RAM, 9.7" display with 1536 x 2048 resolution, iOS8.1, WiFi, 8 MP rear / 1.2 MP front camera, 1080p HD video recording and 64 Gb of storage.
Cost: $617.98 Amazon / $549.99 Best Buy
Pros: Thin and light, the iPad is arguably the textbook definition of a proper tablet with broad appeal to both consumers and business users. It offers a fingerprint reader for easy access, all day battery life, and, as with the iPhone, unified integration with Apple's ecosystem (iCloud for backup, iTunes for entertainment and app purchases, etc.)
Cons: Some users reported problems with data synchronization to iCloud as well as device freezes. Some complaints about excessive vibration, underperforming battery and wifi disconnection problems. A few reviewers felt this iPad was inferior to predecessors.
Description: A fitness wearable that measures your activity levels (steps, calories and distance) and can set exercise goals. Can pair with a heart rate monitor or and advanced version has its own heart rate monitor. Synchronizes data with your computer to track long-term results.
Cost: $74.99 Amazon or $79.99 Best Buy
Pros: Lightweight, comprehensive, and works with smartphone apps (iOS and Android)
Cons: Numerous reviewers have stated the clasp is flimsy and they lost their Vivofit as a result. Others reported that it stopped working, seemed unreliable/had confusing instructions, had data sync problems and the display was inferior.
Description: A fitness/sleep wearable which measures activity levels (walking, running, swimming, cycling, tennis, basketball and others) and can check steps, calories and distance.
Cost: $24.99 Amazon & Best Buy
Pros: iPhone app described as "very intuitive." Wristband and belt clip provided. Waterproof. Uses a "point system" to intelligently compare walking steps to other exercises such as running.
Cons: No real-time sync. No heart rate tracker. Sleep Tracker only works at night. Android app inferior to iOS app.
Well, that's my roundup of mobility products. Even if your shopping is done or you don't take part in the season it's always handy to know what's out there and what's up and coming in the mobility realm. If you are still on the prowl for gifts for others (or yourself) then I hope this list will serve as a useful guide for you. Happy Hunting!
Scott Matteson is a senior systems administrator and freelance technical writer who also performs consulting work for small organizations. He resides in the Greater Boston area with his wife and three children.