It's a good time to be a gadget buyer

It's a good time to be a gadget buyer

Summary: Contrary to popular belief, there has rarely been a better time to be looking for mobile gadgets.


You may have heard recently that the mobile space is stagnant and that we need something new to come along. It's easy to think that with few gadgets grabbing major attention for a while. That's misleading as there has never been a greater choice of good smartphones, tablets, and laptops as we have today.

Lumias 300
(Credit: Windows)


We seem to always be looking for the next big smartphone to come along, but the fact is there are a lot of great ones on the market. There are phones of every size and with features to make satisfy even the hardest to please among us.

Windows Phone

The current version of the smartphone platform from Microsoft is as good as anything on the market. The two smartphone heavyweights, Nokia and HTC, have outstanding Windows Phones available today that could satisfy anyone. The Lumias combine innovative handset design with Nokia software to make some mighty fine smartphones. HTC is bringing its typical good hardware to bear bringing Windows Phone to life.

Related stories: Hands on with the AT&T Nokia 820 | Nokia 920 or HTC Windows Phone 8X


There is never a shortage of phones running Google's smartphone OS, and there are some very good ones. Samsung is pumping out Galaxy models including two great handsets. The S3 and Note 2 are as good as any phone on the market and good choices for many. LG has got the Nexus 4 that brings early Android updates direct from Google. HTC has some fine Android phones as does Motorola with the Razr line. Those are just the major players; there are lots of other Android phones worth consideration.

Related stories: 15 reasons the HTC Droid DNA keeps my SIM out of my iPhone 5


The iPhone 5 is selling like crazy, according to Apple, and it's not the only one. While some analysts are calling for a cheap iPhone model there are actually two, the iPhone 4 and 4S. Tim Cook admitted that the iPhone 4 is selling great so there already is a cheap iPhone that appeals to buyers. While others might like to see a bigger display on an iPhone, it would appear that the iPhone 5 is still quite popular for those wanting a phone from Apple.

Related stories: Apple Q1: Strong iPhone sales: mixed vs. expectations


The new BlackBerry 10 phone(s) is (are) about to appear on the market and what we've seen of the hardware and new version of the BlackBerry software so far is nice. This will offer yet more choice to the smartphone buyer who already has a lot of phones in front of him/her.

Related stories: BlackBerry 10: Bringing excitement back to mobile


Windows 8/RT

The Surface RT has been out for a while and other Windows RT tablets are now available. The tablets are thin and light and most have keyboards available that turn them into laptops. Windows 8 tablets such as the Surface Pro are about to hit the market, for those wanting full Windows on a tablet. There will be good choices from all the major PC makers such as HP, Lenovo, and Samsung. Those wanting Windows on a tablet will have a world of choice in the next few months.

Related stories: Surface with Type Cover: A real laptop


There have never been more models of Apple's tablet to choose from as there are now. From the older iPad 2 for the budget minded to the newest iPad, there is a big iPad for anyone wanting an Apple tablet. The new iPad Mini brings a smaller form for those who prefer an iPad that is easier to handle.

Related stories: New iPad and ZAGGfolio keyboard/case: Compact and fast | Most used apps on the iPad


There has seldom been a shortage of Android tablets and that is still the case. There are tablets running Android of all sizes and some with laptop docks for those wanting that feature. Google's Nexus 7 is a big seller for a good reason. Samsung is still king of the Android tablet, but all the major players have good choices for the tablet enthusiast.

Related stories: Favorite Android tablet apps | Favorite Android tablet apps | Top 11 apps for the Nexus 7



Apple is still pumping out laptops for OS X fans. The MacBook Air is the definitive thin laptop that comes in two screen sizes. The Retina display MacBooks are also available in two sizes for those willing to spend a pretty penny for such features.

Related stories: Why I may buy a new MacBook Pro


Windows 8 is pushing laptops of every type imaginable from all the standard players--Lenovo, Samsung, HP, and Dell, to name a few. There are laptops sporting the newest Atom processor from Intel along with the Core family of performance processors. There are laptops of all screen sizes, and even screens that swivel and twist around like gymnasts. Many hybrids also serve as tablets when the keyboard is not needed.

Related stories: Lenovo Yoga: Tablet and Ultrabook in one | ThinkPad Twist hands-on


The Chrome OS is not for everyone but the new Chromebooks today are a viable alternative for many. Samsung and Acer have low-cost Chromebooks that have good hardware for the price. They offer a good alternative to the standard Mac and Windows laptops.

Related stories: Google Chromebook: 3 months in | New Samsung Chromebook and Series 5 550 head-to-head | 11 good Chrome web apps for the Chromebook

Choice is good

There have never been so many great products to choose from in the mobile space as there are today. Whatever your preference for screen size, platform, or features, there is a smartphone/tablet/laptop to make even the pickiest buyer happy.

Topics: Smartphones, Android, iOS, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8, Windows Phone

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  • More to come

    This was a great post, James. You're right, it's a good time to be a gadget buyer! I'm curious to see Firefox and Ubuntu mobile offerings in the future. I wonder if these two will do well.
  • Did MS release a Surface RT 2 while I wasn't looking?

    "The tablets are thin and light"

    Is the new Surface RT thinner and lighter than when you had this to say about it 2 months ago:
    "It may be the length and it may be the weight, for whatever reason it doesn't feel that good being used in the hands for very long."

    What is the weight of the new Surface because you complained about how the weight and bulk in the old Surface made it a horrible tablet?

    Please understand James, different reviewers have different ideas about what "thin and light" mean. After reading a reviewer for a while, we can get a sense as to what they mean when they make qualitative statements like that.

    You, however, flip flop more than Romney. You aren't consistent across time or devices. A Surface RT that is big, bulky, and heavy in November, an ipad in a zagg case / keyboard that by all qualitative measures weighs more and is thicker is called thin and light in January, as is the Surface RT AFTER we push you to clarify what you meant by calling the ipad in the zagg case "thin and light". The ipad + keyboard is the perfect writing machine and you've been able to write hundreds of thousands of words on it, yet you take your Chromebook for overnight trips, presumably due to some mysterious lack of capability in your ipad. Yet when asked to provide details, you refuse. You double down on the ipad as being a laptop replacement, probably something you typed from your Chromebook (irony).

    So we hear you say that the ipad mini is thin and light but I don't know if we should believe you. We have no benchmark by which to judge what you mean when you say that. Based on previous experience with you, we pretty much have to double the weight and bulk of any apple product you review because you do tend to understimate these, being a big fan of apple that you are.

    We also have to seriously wonder about the "facts" you state about these devices. When you go on the record as stating that Windows 8 / RT won't let you log on if you aren't connected to the Internet, and that this is by design, we start to doubt some of the other things that you write. It is even worse that once this is pointed out to you, you refuse to update your post to fix your mistake. I understand that this is because you hate Microsoft but still, I would have thought you would curb your hatred to pointing out ACTUAL bad things about Microsoft products instead of making them up.

    I look forward to a new and improved James Kendrick in 2013.

    Thanks James.
    • Your recent discussions with James has inspired the following idea.

      ZDNet, for the past year or so, has engaged in Blogger to Blogger online debates. These have proved most popular and few would dispute that opinion.

      Perhaps in the future, ZDNet could institute a Blogger to Talkback commentator debate. I suggest that those commentators wishing to debate a particular topic with a blogger could submit their ZDNet ID for consideration. An online vote open to anyone with a ZDNet logon account would then determine the commentator that would debate the ZDnet Blogger on a chosen topic.

      Of course, some commentators chosen would contribute to a lively and informative exchange of ideas. Others would only embarrass themselves. Some might not even "show up" for this debate after being voted in.

      Still, it would be interesting to see what the outcomes would be.
      • I'm not even here to debate anyone

        I'm not trying to convince anyone that anything is better than anything else. I know what I think is better and worse but I back those up. When people ask me questions, I generally answer them (there are only a couple posters I simply won't respond to).

        I'm not trying to debate James on what the weight and thickness is of his ipad setup. There is no debate. The dimensions are what they are.

        I'm not trying to debate James when I ask him what the ipad + keyboard can't do that he needs his Chromebook for. I think his answer could be very helpful to someone who is thinking of buying an ipad + keyboard, especially if they can find out before they buy it that it can't do the one thing they were hoping it could do and that they should buy a Chromebook instead.

        I'm not looking to debate James when I ask him to correct misinformation in his post. He should be completely willing to do so because he shouldn't have the desire to misinform his readers.

        Why do I bring up these 3. Not only are they the most reason "episodes" with James, they all result in the same thing: James' readers are being misinformed. In the first 2 cases, they are being misinformed by what they aren't being told. In the 3rd case, they are being misinformed by what they are being told. The end result is the same though.

        I will happily debate anyone but that isn't what this is about. This is about providing cold, hard, ACCURATE facts to the readers of ZDNet.

        Why I would get so much resistance from James on this is, to be honest, a bit puzzling.
        • Lack of edit

          "Why do I bring up these 3. Not only are they the most reason "episodes" with James"

          should clearly say

          "Why do I bring up these 3? Not only are they the most recent "episodes" with James"
        • Why bother with cold, hard, accurate facts...

          when you can get big bucks for writing click-bait!!! ;-)

          Don't get me wrong here - I hear what you're saying. I too find it very unprofessional and shallow that a writer would go down such a road. My biggest disappointment is that ZDNET as an online media organization not only puts their name behind all of this, but actually pays writers for it. Journalism in the post-PC era has become a mockery of a once-respected profession.
  • ...and?

    Where is this blog going? What's the purpose? Is it to simply list the different types of phones and tablets available on the market or its to list the different types of phones and tablets available on the market AND. Inform the reader of the pros and cons of each?
  • The Surface is rubbish

    You might as well set fire to your money.
    Alan Smithie
  • Gadget should read "computing gadget"

    My use for the world "gadget" is much broader.
  • HP Chromebooks launch in February

    Android on a stick from Dell looks promising too.
  • RE: It's a good time to be a gadget buyer

    Not so much. The obsession with tablets has killed the palmtop clamshell format, IE: the HP LX, uMid mBook/biz platforms where the ergonomics, ease of use and light weight (Under a pound) were just there. I use my palmtop as an extension of my desktop carrying troubleshooting info out to clients to work on their systems, making notes on what I did - time, materials, expenses that can then be uplinked back to my desktop to generate an invoice., or take notes at a meeting. Or being ble to set an appointment without having to do it twice- wait ubtil I get back to my office and call/e-mail. And the few current Windows devices available follow the apple/Android case design with sealed batteries. Batteries are consummables. I really do not want to have to spend a bucket of money in order to replace a battery, if at all. And the palmtop has a zero footprint so I can take it anywhere, minimizing cumbersome weight and potential loss. I am also doing a data management project for a client involving PII. Using a soft keyboard complicates ergonomic ease of use entering/modifying a 2000 (and counting) database or even making notes at a meeting and the add on keyboards are all RF or bluetooth vs hard connection inviting the possibility that key strokes can be monitored. And I do not want PII data residing on some cloud server that can be be potentially breached. With my Windows palmtop, I can also secure it to my corporate standard. The existence of an effective and viable range of choices in security for the Android/Apple devices is spotty at best. I can also load the apps I want without being dependent on the whims and availability of an apps store. Choice would be good, if there were actually- real viable choices. In what way is it a good time to buy a gadget?