Picking the right gadget gift fraught with peril

Published: Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, December 15, 2012 at 11:06 p.m.

I can share this story, but you must swear yourselves to secrecy. So, as I log into my Bible app and hold up my smartphone, let's just understand the oath that is taking place here.

You see, Thanksgiving till Christmas is when I do most of my hardcore tech research, and inevitably many truths are formed during this time. Why? Because the more iGoodies I buy for the family, the more I secretly get to play with them. Sshhh.

Since there is zero chance my teenage daughter would ever be caught dead reading this column, I can share how I recently dealt with one of the most profound decisions that life throws at us. You guessed it, iPhone vs. Android.

By now you know I am tech-committed. I found my iSweetheart, at a young age and as the saying goes, "till death do we part." That being said, I am also a cheapskate, and just because I am willing to drop a bundle on myself does not mean I will for my family. Yes, I repent, but I am not sure my heart is changing on this.

So, as my baby girl is preparing to leave for college, she thinks that part of the required supply list is a smartphone. Of course, that equals a whole bundle of number two pencils. My thought? Kill two birds and make it a Christmas present. So I immediately had to count the cost and weigh the features of what device to get her. Mental flow charts and spreadsheets abound.

So here goes the thinking: Do I spring for the 4-inch royale with cheese known as iPhone 5 and put a larger iPad on the wishlist; go with the cheaper 4.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S3 and use the savings for a Nexus 7 tablet; or bite the bullet for the beast known as the Samsung Galaxy Note 2, which is a 5.5-inch behemoth that doubles as an obnoxiously big phone and almost-big-enough tablet. It's pricey, but it's also a two-for.

The last option was the first that garnered my precious Google time. As I have come to know, having a smartphone and tablet is nice, but a hybrid that does both is what would really be cool. Reviews are strong with this one. Of course, unless you have pockets the size of potato sacks, such a device is not the most mobile in the world. Such thinking struck my cheapskate nerve. Can you take a 7-inch tablet and make it a phone? Genius, I thought. Especially because the hit on a share plan would only be $10 a month and not $40. Google led me to an entire community of other tech cheapskates who have gone down this road. There are a series of apps that can make this possible, albeit in a crude manner.

The problem I found is you cannot hold them to your ear. That immediately gave me scary visions of me yelling at her about her grades or credit card usage over a speakerphone for all to hear. Yep, deal breaker. So, scratch the hybrid phone and tablet idea.

Now, it was down to the $199 iPhone 5 or the slightly cheaper Galaxy S3. Of course, then something profound happened. The price of the S3 started dropping, all the way down to $79. My mind was made up, and I even had a way to justify it. You see, iPhone is the tech world's Coca-Cola to Android's Pepsi, and as much as I like the real thing, I doubt my daughter would pass the blind taste test. Seems fair, right?

Homework seemingly done, I went out to buy the Samsung. I should have just grabbed the box and gone straight to the counter. Instead I played with it and realized it was kinda too-big, too-plasticky and, as much as Android has evolved, it's still a mess of widgets, screens and bloatware apps. Ironically, it kind of reminded me of my daughter's bedroom.

This led me to pull out my i5 and remind myself what a beautiful thing "Coca-Cola" can really be. The can is gorgeous, the taste is just the right dose of sugar and water, and the extra cost can be justified in having the "Real Thing." With what felt like divine intervention, I glanced down at the iDisplay and noticed the $50 dollar discount on the i5. Comparison over. My judgment and cheapskate tendencies have both been satisfied.

I suppose I am not the only dad who has gone through this holiday comparison. I share my story for those who do not understand what we go through. Just remember our little oath of secrecy if you see the last 19-year-old girl walking around with a brick phone between now and Christmas.

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