New gadgets always seem better than the old ones, but sometimes it's best to stick with last year's model. In this week's episode of Upgrade Your Life, Yahoo! News' Becky Worley shows us some old gadgets to hold on to, and new stuff to hold off on!
Stand Alone GPS Navigators vs. GPS Smartphone Apps
Most modern smartphones have built-in maps and GPS units. But except for Android phones, those built-in apps don't give turn-by-turn audio directions, like those you may be used to from a dedicated GPS. You can buy apps that give turn by turn directions, but they tend to be expensive, and require up-front costs or monthly subscription fees. (Mapquest is a notable exception; it's free for iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.)
Also, most GPS devices are mounted to a car's windshield, which makes it safer for the driver. With a smartphone you have to glance down at the device, and take your eyes farther away from the road.
If your car doesn't have a GPS unit, buying an app with turn-by-turn audio directions plus a windshield mount for your smartphone might save you some money. But if you're already used to how your navigator works, there's no reason to "upgrade" and spoil a good thing.
Wired phone headsets vs. Bluetooth headsets
Most states now require a headset if you want to talk on your phone while driving. And wireless Bluetooth headsets are heavily marketed as must-have accessories for exactly that reason.
But what if you already have a wired headset just laying around? Becky leaves hers in the car and plugs it in when she starts driving. It doesn't need to be "paired" with her phone or to have its battery charged, and she always knows where it is when she wants to use it. Other benefits: Wired headsets cost as little as $10, and often have better sound quality than Bluetooth models.
Laptops vs. tablets
The iPad (and Android tablets like the Xoom) are great for browsing the web, playing video games, and reading ebooks. But can they replace your old laptop completely? If you're like most people, the answer is no.
First off, a tablet shows only one app at a time, and is slow to switch between apps or copy-and-paste things between them. So if you need to switch back and forth between your web browser and another app -- like, say, to write a report for school or for work -- you'll really want to use your computer to do it.
Second, those multi-touch screens are nice, but they're not easy to type with. And if you're thinking of buying a Bluetooth keyboard, for an extra $60 or more, you might as well just keep your old laptop around and use its built-in keyboard. Most tablet apps don't have keyboard shortcuts, anyway, plus they can't use a mouse. So you'll be reaching up to tap the screen a lot, which is no fun at all.
Nintendo DS vs. Nintendo 3DS
The 3DS is the latest version of Nintendo's DS handheld game console. Its schtick is that it plays 3d games that don't need any glasses, which is fun if it doesn't make your eyes sore. But it just came out this year, so there are very few 3d games available ... and if you want to buy them, you'll have to pay full retail price.
Becky's suggestion? Stick with your old DS. There are literally hundreds of DS titles out there, and many of them can be found used at places like Gamestop. Even a new DS title doesn't cost as much as new 3DS games, so you get more games for your money.
The best part is that old DS games work just fine on the 3DS. So when you finally do upgrade, you won't have to leave your whole library behind.
iPhone 4 vs. iPhone 5
In a previous episode of Upgrade Your Life, Becky gave us a preview of the iPhone 5, based on industry speculation and leaked information. Besides being better and faster, it might have a bigger screen, or even new features like NFC (Near Field Communication) that let you use your iPhone to pay for things in stores.
Right now, people are expecting that the iPhone 5 will be introduced in September, and on sale before the holidays. They might also roll out a faster iPhone 5 for Verizon, that would be compatible with their 4G network. So if you're thinking of buying an iPhone 4 -- or just a new smartphone in general -- it might be better to wait and see what Apple comes up with first.