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Interesting article @ The NYTimes, are consumers are choosing simpler electronic gadgets? Pictured here a taken apart Flip camera.

THE National Bureau of Economic Research hardly stunned the nation this month when it announced that the United States had been in recession since December 2007.

And, as it turns out, the buyers of consumer electronics could very well have been a leading economic indicator. Over the last year, they chose to buy two inexpensive and simple products, the Wii and the Flip, over competing gadgets bristling with more features.

Nintendo has sold more than 30 million Wii game consoles since they were introduced two years ago. The machine is still luring shoppers: lines of buyers still form on Sunday mornings outside electronics stores.

The $130 Flip camcorder is also simple, and two to three times cheaper than camcorders made by Sony or JVC that have optical zoom, an optical viewfinder and special effects. The original Flip didn’t even have a headphone jack. Revenue at Pure Digital Technologies, its manufacturer, grew 44,667 percent, the highest rate of any company in Silicon Valley, over the last five years, according to Deloitte, the business services firm. Pure Digital Technologies says it has sold more than 1.5 million Flips since it unveiled the product line in 2007.

What do you think makers? What gadgets did you pick up this year? Are they more complex or “simpler” than last year?

Phillip Torrone

Editor at large – Make magazine. Creative director – Adafruit Industries, contributing editor – Popular Science. Previously: Founded – Hack-a-Day, how-to editor – Engadget, Director of product development – Fallon Worldwide, Technology Director – Braincraft.


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Comments

  1. BigD145 says:

    I haven’t picked up a single gadget this year. Being unemployed will do that to you.

  2. MakeFan says:

    This article is a little off the mark. In the case of the Wii, it’s a completely different gaming platform than it’s competitors. In the case of the Flip, it’s much cheaper than a full camcorder. You really can’t use these examples as simpler vs. complicated gadgets argument.

  3. Zach says:

    My new phone is a $15 Nokia Cingular prepaid with my old SIM card in it.
    No camera. No Bluetooth. No MP3.
    Low weight. Unbreakable. Replaceable. Incredible battery life.
    It’s fantastic.

  4. Marc de Vinck says:

    How about the PEEK? I really like the idea of having a dedicated email device. I recently checked one out at the Engadget meet-up and it was pretty cool. It’s not for everyone, but I know a lot of people who think it is a great device because it does 1 thing, and it does it well.

    I think it is a good example of a “simpler gadget”. It isn’t exactly a cheaper version of another device (OK, maybe an iPhone of Blackberry) but it isn’t trying to be an phone-MP3-player-camera-datebook-tip-calculator-minesweeping-GPS-IM device. It does email, that’s it.

    http://www.getpeek.com/

  5. ThreeBean says:

    I really like the Peek, with the exception of the monthly service cost. Couldn’t someone come up with a device like Peek that checks webmail and would run off of WiFi where available and not have the monthly fee.

    I believe that the monthly fee is what will lead to it’s demise. It kills me how many things THEY want us to have fees for – Phones, Tv, Internet, Email Gadget, Movie Rentals, no wonder America is broke.

  6. Marc de Vinck says:

    @ThreeBean

    Everything is hackable! ;)

    It would be great if it were open source. I wonder what the future will bring? Maybe lower monthly, wifi? Who knows? I just hope they continue to grow, because it really is a cool little device.

  7. maushammer says:

    Yep, Marc, everything is hackable! I got a peek to look inside… looks like fun, but I don’t have the time right now.

    Peek has been reaching out to hackers … they’re a small company and want people to do cool and creative stuff with their hardware. Here’their s hacking website:
    http://www.geekypeek.com/
    I was thinking of turning it in to an arduino clone, with internet and hardware I/O connectivity. Any other ideas?

  8. buzZubie says:

    Does the eee PC count?

  9. josue says:

    I hate overly complicated gadgets. I would personally rather have a digital camera, a phone, MP3 player a gps etc all seperate devices. it’s the simple rule: KISS
    Keep It Simple Stupid!
    I know my way around electronics but some times software and other limitations frustrate me.

  10. Mark says:

    After spending two hours trying to get my brother-in-law’s shiny new blue-ray player to work in conjunction with his digital tv, vcr/dvd combo and theater sound box. We ended up with dozens of cables and adapters jammed in behind the cabinet, a programmable remote that can do “most” functions and a hand-printed sheet of instructions on how to get everything else working…yea, I’m ready for some simplicity in gadgets.