Whether it's a phone carrier charging you for services you don't need or a cashier pushing pricey protection plans for your tablet, the tech-world is filled with mobile Madoffs trying to con you out of your hard-earned cash. Fortunately, you don't have to be the victim of information superhighway robbery. These are the 10 worst gadget rip-offs and how to avoid them.
There are plenty of gadgets that are plenty worth their hefty price tags. But as Laptop Mag's Avram Piltch explains, there are also plenty that just aren't worth it. Here are then biggest ripoffs in tech. Buyer beware!
Core i5 Tablets
The world's most popular tablet, the iPad, costs $500 and gets 12 hours of battery life while 10-inch Android tablets usually go for $300 to $500 and provide 8 to 10 hours of juice. Unfortunately, a number of PC makers have released pricey Windows 8 tablets with Core i5 processors, speedy SSDs and really poor battery life.
From the $1000 Acer Iconia W700 to the Microsoft Surface Pro, which starts at $US899 ($US999 with a keyboard), and the $1,199 Samsung ATIV Smart PC Pro 700T, these Core i5 tablets cost twice as much as their Android and iOS competitors while weighing 25 per cent more and providing significantly less battery life. Though they are designed to provide high performance, their small screens and keyboards aren't enough to make most people toss their laptops, making them $1,000 secondary devices.
Solution: Buy an Atom-powered Windows 8 tablet like the ThinkPad Tablet 2, which starts at $US579, weighs just under 600 grams and lasts 9 hours and 42 minutes on a charge. Tablets with Atom processors aren't powerful enough to do the most intense tasks, but are inexpensive enough to let you afford that Ultrabook you've been eyeing.
Paying Extra for 3G on Your Tablet or Laptop
Solution: Use your smartphone as a hotspot and connect your other devices to it via Wi-Fi.
All the major connections on your computer, phone and home theatre use digital cables; there's no tangible difference between one brand and another. So why does a 4-foot Monster HDMI cable cost $100 while someone like Kogan just a handful of dollars for one of its 4-foot HDMI cables, which will do the same job? The cable gougers are hoping you won't notice.
Solution: Don't fall for marketing gimmicks by purchasing expensive name-brand cables. Online retailers like Kogan, Amazon and GetPrice have great prices on cables from lesser-known brands.
When you purchase a new phone, some carriers will try to sell you an insurance plan that costs anywhere from $6 to $11 per month, and promises to repair or replace your phone should it be lost or stolen. But this phone insurance often has huge catches. Some insurance policies might not give you a like-for-like replacement on your phone, while others don't cover liquid damage.
Solution: Don't buy phone insurance. The worst thing that could happen is that you lose your phone while you're ineligible for a subsidised upgrade and must pay the full retail cost to replace it, a cost of $500 to $700 from most carriers. Fortunately, you can usually find a used or refurbished version of your phone online for significantly less.
However, if you buy insurance and don't lose your phone, you end up paying hundreds for certain to protect against the possibility that you might have to spend an additional $US300 in the unlikely event you lose or break your phone. Take the gamble that you won't.
RAM and SSD Upgrades From Notebook Makers
A number of vendors, including Dell, Lenovo, HP and Toshiba allow you to custom configure your notebook when ordering from their websites. Unfortunately, they charge you a lot more for RAM and storage upgrades than you'd pay if you bought the parts on your own and installed them at home. For example, Lenovo charges $80 more for a ThinkPad T430 with 8GB of RAM than with 4GB. Meanwhile, you can buy a name-brand 4GB SODIMM for just $23 online.
Dell charges $346 more for a Latitude E6430 with a 256GB SSD than the same system with 320GB hard drive while online you can buy a reputable 256GB SSD for under $200 or the blazing-fast Samsung 840 PRO Series for around $230. If it costs you $23 for a SODIMM and $200 for an SSD at retail, how much less must it cost PC vendors, who buy parts in bulk at wholesale, but jack up the margins on their customers?
Solution: Buy a notebook with the lowest amount of RAM and smallest hard drive available. Then purchase your own memory and SSD or hard drive upgrade at a low-cost retailer you can find on StaticIce.
Exorbitant International Roaming Charges
Want to use your Australian phone to download a 500MB video while you're working in the US? You better be a millionaire, because carriers like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone charge huge figures per megabyte for data transfer there, making that standard def episode of ,em>Breaking Bad you wanted to see cost as much as $10,000
Solution: If you don't need to make phone calls over cellular, renting or buying a hotspot or USB modem from someone like Globalgig is your best bet.
If your phone is SIM unlocked, you can also buy a local prepaid SIM card when you arrive in your destination. Local SIMs can cost as little as $US10 or $US15 for 500MB of data and plenty of voice minutes and texts. If your phone is not SIM unlocked, your carrier may be willing to unlock it for a fee.
Internal Storage on Your Phone / Tablet
Outside of the jewellery industry where it's routine to charge customers 300 per cent more than they paid for a bunch of useless rocks, internal tablet and phone storage carries the biggest mark-up. The base level iPad costs $539 with 16GB of NAND memory while the 32GB model costs $110 more, despite costing Apple just $US16.80 more for the additional 16GB, according to IHS iSuppli. The 64GB model goes for $759, despite costing just $US50.40 more than the base model.
IHS iSuppli hasn't estimated a bill-of-materials cost for the Samsung Galaxy S III, but it's safe to assume that the $US50 difference between the 16GB and 32GB versions of that phone is about triple what costs Samsung for the higher-capacity NAND. You can bet that Microsoft is also making bank on the $US100 extra it charges to go from the 32GB to 64GB versions of the Surface with Windows RT.
Solution: If you can buy a phone or tablet with a microSD card slot, do it. You can buy a 32GB microSD card for under $25. If you have your heart set on a device like the iPhone that doesn't have a microSD slot, you have two choices: use online storage to keep more of your files in the cloud or buy a wireless storage device like the Kingston Wii Drive, which lets you access your files over the local network.
Shopping at a big box retailer these days is like walking a dodgy park at midnight; everyone's trying to sell you something bad that you don't want or need. From the sales people on the floor to the cashier, store employees are heavily incented to hard-sell you on extended warranties, aka "protection plans."
In-store stooges will tell you all manner of half-truths and outright lies, to get you to plunk down hundreds of dollars extra to add an extra year or two to your warranty. They don't tell you that most products don't break in the 3-year warranty period, that the first year is usually handled by the manufacturer anyway and that, after a couple of years, most gadgets aren't even worth repairing if they do break.
Solution: With few exceptions, you should never buy an extended warranty. If you're a small business and want to purchase additional service options for your corporate computers directly from the manufacturer (Dell, Lenovo, HP), it might make some sense. But when the blue shirts try to scare a few Franklins out of you, just keep walking.
Republished with permission from Laptop Mag. Laptopmag.com brings you in-depth reviews of the hottest mobile products, the latest tech news, helpful how-to advice, and expert analysis of the latest tech trends.