Black Friday Blues


Now that we’ve all survived Thanksgiving and its twin “holiday,” Black Friday, we can all relax until Christmas, right?

Except, of course, for the librarians that will no doubt be asked to assist buyers in determining which technological device is best, or how to use them. Black Friday brings technology reference questions en masse to our doorsteps, and we are the ones that help those tentative buyers.

So let’s give a quick look over the smartphones and tablets so that we have a few resources up our collective sleeves when those questions start flooding in:


Some generalities about smartphones, especially if you yourself don’t own one:

1) Smartphones often have a reduced price tag if the person is willing to get locked into a two-year (or more) contract. It’s important to know what cellular service providers offer coverage to the user’s area, and to read the fine print on any contract (breaking the contract generally costs close to the amount you saved on the phone).

2) Contracts are for both minutes (when using the device as a telephone) and data (using the device as a tablet outside of a wireless network). Overages in either area can become very costly, but data is usually the problem-child in this regard. It’s possible to stream a movie to your device, but that may take up a considerable chunk of your data traffic for the month.

3) There is a host of peripheral devices that you may want to purchase with any smartphone: a protective case, car charger, and often other devices such as a Bluetooth earpiece for hands-free calling.

Here are a few sites which offer reviews of the smartphones of 2013:

ZDNet reviews – November 11th article

Engadget reviews – November 22nd article

GizMag feature comparison – November 21st article


A few helpful tips for shaping your patrons’ expectations about tablets:

1) Tablets are not small laptops with touchscreens. Tablets are aimed at a user more interested in consuming information and entertainment than generating it. If someone is looking for a tablet that can let them read e-books, play movies or games and browse the web a bit, great. If they’re looking for something that will let them do office work from home, they’d be better advised to look at notebook computers. (Yes, there are functionality apps out there for tablets. Most people I have encountered find using the on-screen keyboard or even a Bluetooth keyboard for more than short emails very tedious.)

2) Tablets also come in varieties that offer cellular access as well as connecting to nearby wireless networks. Tablets that have cellular capability (3G or 4G, these days) will require a data plan with a cellular service provider. Otherwise, internet connectivity is through wireless only.

3) Like smartphones, tablets will typically need more accessories, such as a case, stylus and often a Bluetooth keyboard for typing.

A handful of sites reviewing tablets of 2013:

TechRadar reviews – November 22nd article

CNet reviews – November 25th article

TopTenReviews feature comparison – November 25th article

For children, technology gifts are on the rise. In fact, earlier today, PBS recently posted an interesting article indicating that over half of the parents surveyed intend to give their children a tech gift (tablet or video game console) this Christmas. (Parents of children under two could be advised to research further, as lots of screen time at that age may have developmental effects; they may want to wait until pre-school age.) So let’s look at a few children’s tablet review sites:

PCMag reviews – November 25th article

Forbes reviews – September 11th article

Hopefully these links will give you a few choices of site to reference when asked, “Which tablet / smartphone should I buy for my mother / spouse / child?” Of course, to get some hands-on experience with tablets at your library, you could always request the Maine State Library technology petting zoo!

By Jared Leadbetter Posted in devices

One comment on “Black Friday Blues

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