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5 tech things that are a waste of money

3. Cables that cost more than $15

Five hours into your road trip, you realize that you’ve forgotten your lightning wire back home. Your iPhone is losing battery fast, and you absolutely have to pick up a new one. When you arrive at a generic drug store, you find these special cables for $30. You raise an eyebrow. Is that normal?

Here’s my rule of thumb: If you’re paying more than $15 for a single cable, you’re paying too much. In my experience, a cable costing more than that doesn’t offer any extra quality or performance. Some cables are better marketed than others, but the bottom line is: A cable is a cable.

Be particularly suspicious of HDMI cables. Some cost under $10, others are priced at nearly $100. But I have never found any significant difference between one type and another.

There’s just one exception: Third-party cables for specific devices. Take our first example, about the road trip and the forgotten lightning wire. Ideally, you would be able to find an Apple store and pay whatever they charge you at the Genius Bar. A third-party iPhone charger may work in a pinch, but they may also cause damage to your phone or even start a fire.

4. Car GPS and traffic subscriptions

As more cars are manufactured with built-in screens, customers like the idea of an entertainment console right next to their steering wheel. But it begs the question: Do you need to subscribe to the company’s GPS or virtual traffic reports?

If you have a smartphone, the answer is no. These subscriptions are lucrative for the car companies, but they’re completely unnecessary if you have a compatible iPhone or Android. You can simply plug the device into the car, and you’ll be able to use all your regular navigation apps through that same built-in console.

You can use regular services like Google Maps, Here Maps or Waze, which will help you get around easily. Just one hitch: Using GPS regularly can drain your data plan, but I find it much less expensive than paying for an extra service.

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