10 tech gadgets, apps, and services you just don't need

10 tech gadgets, apps, and services you just don't need

Summary: There are some technologies that you don't need regardless of the 'cool' factor. Save your money and buy a nice tablet computer instead.

TOPICS: Tablets, Apple, Mobility

Officially entering the second quarter of 2013 is a signal for companies to start releasing new products and services for the new year. Apple usually releases a new product or two, Ubuntu releases its XX.04 version, a gaggle of startups announce new stuff, and there's a push for companies to score interviews and "get some ink" on columns like this one. Well, I, for one, scoff in their general direction. You can't believe how many worthless apps, services, and gadgets I see on a weekly basis coming to me virtually live through the magic of email. I don't ask to see them, but there they are anyway — pitches — dozens of pitches carefully crafted to entice me into reviewing, using, and ultimately writing about them.


Most of them are garbage. A few of them do interest me enough to say, "Yes, please send that press release, product, site login, or sample to me and I'll take a look."

It doesn't happen all that often that I find something so compelling that I have to look at it or touch it. The same should go for you. You should acquire, through good and bad experiences, the power of discernment.

This is a list of 10 gadgets and services that you should skip. Some of them are too costly, some of them are too much trouble and some are just a waste of time. They are in no particular order.

  1. Apple iWatch: This might fall onto the top of the list of least useful devices of all time. It's just dumb. But if Apple creates these stupid things, millions of people will buy them and then find that there's really no use for the darn thing. Save your money and buy some songs on iTunes or something.

  2. Pinterest: Does anyone know what the heck Pinterest is for? To me, it seems like it's just a housewife pastime that is a huge waste of time. It's like Facebook for middle-aged women who have nothing better to do. My wife loves Pinterest, so I'm not scoring any points with her on this one.

  3. StumbleUpon: I understand the premise of StumbleUpon, but I just don't see the value in it. Maybe some people find value in it but it escapes me. I think that eBay did the right thing by dumping it. I think it realized that it's an albatross.

  4. Digg: Digg is another site/service that I just don't get. Allowing readers to vote up/down news is just plain silly. How does the public know what good news is or is not? Answer: They don't. News is news. It doesn't get voted up or down according to popular opinion. It is what it is. Of course, a lot of the nonsense that gets submitted to Digg isn't news at all, it's just nonsense.

  5. Tumblr: Tumblr is supposed to be a microblogging site and a social networking site. The burning question is why do we need another one of those? Why, pray tell, would one need a microblogging site when you have Twitter for tweeting and WordPress for blogging? I don't see any compelling reason to use it. There's nothing so different about it that makes it a "go-to" site for me, although apparently at one time, I did sign up for it.

  6. National Debt Apps: If you're interested in the National Debt as a casual observer, like 99.999999999 percent of us, do you really need to keep tabs on it with an app? No, you don't. Apps like this were a waste of time to program and more of a waste of time to use.

  7. The OLPC: I'm sorry to say that the One Laptop Per Child movement has failed to fulfil its promises of a very low-cost educational tool. The price is still above $200 and is little more than a glorified toy. The same money could build schools, buy books, hire teachers and reach a much wider audience than these laptopettes ever will. It was a good plan in theory, but in practice it's not a grand success. At one time, I was behind this movement, but I think that the money could be better spent on real education.

  8. Virtual keyboards: These keyboards made of light are another brilliant idea in theory, but fail miserably in practice. Users and testers report that there's no feedback for key touch, and the inaccuracy makes the keyboards almost useless. Unfortunately, they are 100 percent useless to me. I originally was excited about them, but soon realized that the concept fails in reality. Bummer.

  9. Bluetooth earpieces: I hate these things. You look like a dorky Borg with one stuck on your ear and even more ridiculous talking to the air. People think you're either talking to them or that you're crazy when you use one. Just hold the phone up to your ear and talk. Ditch the earpiece.

  10. Groupon: Groupon isn't as useless as it is annoying, but it still falls under useless for me. My wife signed up for Groupon early on but we never found anything that we wanted or needed out of it. I think some people get caught up in these trends just to brag about using or participating in them. Sure, we use coupons when we find something that we want, but we don't buy stuff just because we have a coupon for it. That, to me, is conspicuous consumerism and it's vulgar. I've probably ruined my chances for ever writing any of those snappy ads for Groupon by saying this stuff, but those are the breaks.

I usually give you a bonus in these lists, so here it is, number 11:

11. Facebook: Yes, you probably know that I hate Facebook. It's silly and a huge waste of time. Fun fact: If I wanted to stay in touch with old friends, I would have sought you out in some other way. Sorry, Facebook is a "zero quality" service. It only exists, as many of my readers have stated, to extract and use marketing information from your online profiles. I am not on Facebook. I deleted my profile. I hate it, will never use it again, and that's my final answer.

Do you have any useless gadgets, apps, or services to add to the list? Talk back and let me know.

Topics: Tablets, Apple, Mobility


Kenneth 'Ken' Hess is a full-time Windows and Linux system administrator with 20 years of experience with Mac, Linux, UNIX, and Windows systems in large multi-data center environments.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • StumbleUpon

    Great for finding porn. How is that useless?
    Susan Antony
  • Tumblr

    "tumblr. - tumblr. is supposed to be a microblogging site and a social networking site. The burning question is why do we need another one of those? Why, praytell, would one need a microblogging site when you have Twitter for tweeting and Wordpress for blogging? I don't see any compelling reason to use it. There's nothing so different about it that makes it a "Go to" site for me, although apparently at one time, I did sign up for it."

    Tumblr is used by me and my friend because; well everything is on tumblr (and the p**n).

    If it exist, it's on tumblr somewhere. It's like reddit fused with imgur.
  • Pretty lame your number one pick

    Is something that doesn't exist, d'oh!
    • It doesn't exist but...

      A lot of people, including writers on ZDNet are talking/writing about it, so I thought I'd throw it in as a "Don't need."
  • smart watches

    I don't see a purpose for them, they are expensive and pointless. It takes up more if my phones battery to have it connected via Bluetooth than it does to just pull it out all together. People are just hopping on the bandwagon to 'wear' their technology. This is jus an early version of the wearable tech wait till it actually does society some good not just show that you have 2 texts.
  • Opinionated tripe article

    Digg, Tumblr, Bluetooth Earpieces and Groupon have a steady following(s). Just because YOU find them useless, does not mean EVERYONE does.

    This article, without statistics, and the fact it's littered with "in my opinion"'s, is thoroughly useless.
    • It's an *opinion* piece

      .... why would it need statistics?
  • 10 tech gadgets, apps and services you just don't need

    I didn't realize Digg was still up and running. I thought they shut down a couple of years ago.

    I agree with most of your list except the bluetooth earpiece and Groupon. I use a bluetooth earpiece all the time when I'm home. First it saves me from having to hold the phone to my ear and bending my neck and saving my arm from getting tired, second it leaves my hands free so I can do other tasks around the house. Just set the phone down and I can do chores.

    Groupon is good if it has what you are looking for. They don't have much for worthwhile products to buy but I've purchased services from there. Got deals on some hotels.
    • Bluetooth earpiece

      I totally agree with using an earpiece when *Not In Public*. Local laws vary, but sometimes it's necessary when driving. At home, it's great, as you say. I just feel ridiculous using it in public, and sometimes enjoy mockery of those who do: I just pretend I'm crazy and actually talk to myself, loudly and inappropriately.
  • 1 tech article you just don't need

    this one.
  • All yes, especially Facebook, except Bluetooth Headsets

    You get a big thumbs up from me, especially Facebook, except....

    I have issues with my elbows due to too many years of typing on keyboards and carrying heavy too mach around. Consequently, I depend on using Bluetooth Headsets for using both Mobile Phones and land lines as I can't hold a handset to my ear for more than a minute or two.

    So please spare a thought for us oldies.



    P.S. my family and I are wondering how your son is going with his Surface Tablet (we really enjoyed your stories leading up to Christmas)
  • Bluetooth earpieces

    Dump the bluetooth earpiece? I don't know about your area of the world but around here using your cellphone (or any handheld device) without a hands free device while driving is a good way to say bye-bye to a couple of hundred dollars.

    In the office, I find it handy since I can talk to someone while checking information for them with both hands free for the keyboard and/or mouse or holding and touching a tablet. One friend of mine has severe health issues, His phone is set to automatically answer when he uses his earpiece which saves him from missing most of his calls by the time he is able to manually answer his cellphone.

    Oh, GHOD!!! I just agreed with Loverock Davidson. No, please don't take my keyboard away!
  • You'll eventually get there....

    I'm 99 % with you on all points. Let me open something up. Your kids don't really talk to you (i.e., tell you any thing that they're up to). Their kids don't talk to them and so on and so forth. One thing that they all do, however, is talk to Facebook. So if, eventually, you or your wife want to know who in the family is engaged, getting married, having children of what sex, going to what schools etc., etc, you're going to need Facebook. YES, sign up with a disposable e-mail address and use an alias/pseudonym. YES, get your (grand) parents a 7" tablet, set them up an account and welcome them back into the family. It might just be the best thing you ever did.
    Leo Regulus
  • All but the Bluetooth!

    The ability to work, or drive - with 2 hands - while carrying on a phone conversation is invaluable. Besides, holding a cell phone to your ear is REALLY uncomfortable.
  • The general tone of this article:

    "Get off my lawn!"