Gadgets to avoid
A great gadget can help you run your small business: The right smartphone can boost your productivity, and the right accessories can make your other gadgets even more useful during the workday. But entrepreneurs should think hard about whether or not a device is worth their hard-earned cash. Before you shell out for your next gizmo, read on for five products to avoid.
Apple iPhone 5s
Apple's iPhone 5s is one of the best business phones ever made — so how did it end up on a list of gadgets to avoid? Simple: The next iteration of the iPhone is set to debut in just a few weeks. In fact, most rumors peg the launch of the so-called iPhone 6 for Sept. 9. The phone is expected to pack a faster processor and a larger 4.7-inch display. Compared to the iPhone 5s' puny 4-inch screen, the new iPhone will provide a lot more room to work. And even if you'd prefer the smaller iPhone, you still should avoid buying one just yet. After the next iPhone launches, the price of the older version is sure to plummet.
What to buy instead: Nothing — it's time to wait. With just a few weeks left until the next iPhone launches, there's no reason to invest in the iPhone 5s right now.
Microsoft Surface 2
Don't let the naming scheme confuse you. Microsoft's Surface 2 is a totally different beast than the premium Surface Pro 2. The Surface 2 actually runs on Windows RT, a stripped-down version of Microsoft's desktop operating system that can't run desktop applications. Instead, users must rely on mobile apps from the Windows 8 app store. If you want to run the programs that you use in the office on your Windows tablet, almost any other Windows 8 slate is a better pick than the Surface 2.
What to buy instead: There are tons of good alternatives to the Surface 2. The Surface Pro 2 is a fast and powerful 10-inch Windows 8 tablet that's more affordable than the brand-new 12-inch Surface Pro 3. In addition, tablets like the ASUS Transformer Book T100 run full Windows 8.1 and cost $100 less than the Surface 2.
There are actually a few smartwatches that are worth buying — but the majority so far are stinkers that you should avoid. That includes most of the original Android-based smartwatches, including Samsung's Galaxy Gear and Gear 2, as well as the Sony SmartWatch and the Neptune Pine. Then, there are more limited designer smartwatches, such as the Meta M1, whose ability to push message alerts to your wrist doesn't justify its high price. Most smartwatches are also plagued by poor battery life, so they become little more than expensive bracelets if you forget to charge them for even one night.
What to buy instead: The Pebble Steel is an excellent smartwatch that boats a huge app library and week-long battery life. And the new Android Wear-powered smartwatches — Samsung's Gear Live and LG's G Watch are the only two currently available — are useful enough to justify their purchase.
There's still a lot to like about BlackBerrys. They still pack some of the best security features around, including built-in encryption for all messaging, as well as special software that prevents personal contacts and work data from being copied, forwarded and accessed by social media apps. BlackBerry is even cranking out some unique devices, like the square Passportsmartphone. Despite those benefits, however, it's still hard to recommend a BlackBerry smartphone for most business users. Other mobile platforms simply offer better features and much bigger app libraries. Even though BlackBerry phones used to be synonymous with business, most users should avoid them.
What to buy instead: Stick to Android and iOS if you want a great business phone with a thriving, growing app library. Windows Phone is another good alternative to BlackBerry. Although it's not as well known as Android and iOS, it offers good security, great hardware and an app library that's continually growing.
Mobile hotspots used to be the only reliable way to ensure you'd have Internet access on your laptop wherever you went. But these days, you can get the same functionality on a device you already own: your smartphone. Virtually every smartphone is capable of acting as a hotspot if you sign up for the service. If you're using an Android phone, it's also possible to avoid the extra fees by running a third-party application such as FoxFi. Adding a dedicated hotspot to your tool bag means you'll have to pay for an entirely separate data plan.
What to buy instead: Instead of buying a separate hotspot, sign up to activate hotspot functionality on your smartphone, or use a free Android app.