2010 was stuffed with technological innovation and gadgets that bedazzle (and break your budget.)
For 2011, I recommend the following five technologies. Some may be familiar, some may be new to you, but all are worth a try.
1. Landline phones
Mobile phones are great on the go, but their voice feature is suboptimal: reception can be spotty, calls get dropped, and noise distortion can turn a conversation into an exercise in misunderstanding.
With close to hundred percent uptime, landline phones are attractive to consumers who are willing to trade portability and location-based check-ins for reliability and sound quality.
Landline phones are a must-buy for entrepreneurs and business professionals. A call on your mobile or on your landline—it can mean the difference between losing and winning a business deal.
Cost: Landline phones are inexpensive ($5 and up), but plans can set you back an extra $40 in addition to your mobile plan. Qwest is a leader in landline phone connections.
Phone features vary by brand and model. A cordless phone provides limited portability within the home, but security experts recommend having at least one corded phone in the home for emergency situations, when electricity may not be available to recharge battery-operated phones.
Texts, tweets, and status updates: who needs another communication channel? Yet, experts are expecting that e-mail will make inroads in 2011.
Unlike tweets and Facebook updates, which are limited in character length, e-mail copy has no limitations, though experts recommend keeping e-mail missives short and to the point.
E-mail is ideally suited for communicating with co-workers and managers. They are easily archived and re-sent; business professionals claim this adds accountability to projects they work on. “I sent you an email” is a favorite phrase among e-mail geeks, which can be translated as “I told you about that,” or “I told you so.”
Cost: Most companies nowadays provide their employees with no-cost email accounts. Astonishingly, you can also get free email accounts on the Internet. Gmail, Hotmail, and Yahoo are some of the leading free email providers.
3. Printed books and newspapers
This year, look for hipsters to start carrying around printed newspapers and books. Print is a technology in which digital text is transferred to paper or other non-virtual materials.
Printed newspapers are more portable than their online counterparts and lighter-weight than iPad publications.
Artfully-designed dust jackets add visual appeal to printed books, and their three-dimensionality adds a social component to reading: it’s easy to see what’s someone’s reading when they are carrying around a printed book. In awkward social situations, this can be a great conversation starter.
In addition, printed books feature built-in sharing functionality. Cities and counties across the nation have adopted widespread lending facilities, in which even newly published books are made available for free.
Heavy books also add gravitas to a subject and can be used as coffee table decorations.
Cost: New printed books can be more expensive than their Kindle counterparts, but don’t require an initial outlay to acquire a Kindle reader. All but the most voracious readers will find printed books more cost-effective. In addition, older books can often be purchased for $0.01 at Amazon and many are available for free lending. Do a search for “library” to find a book lending institution in your neighborhood.
Printed newspapers cost about 50 cents per copy. Avoid weekend editions, which are more expensive and filled with sections you won’t read and a small forest worth of advertising.
4. Analog games
Virtually everyone owns a video game console these days, but analog games, a highly tactile technology also known as board games, are all the rage with gamers who crave a real-time, real-person social experience.
Studies have shown that analog games can improve hand-eye coordination, and more complex games such as chess and checkers have been proven to stimulate brain development.
Some games, such as Trivial Pursuit, are gaining acceptance among educators as learning tools.
Cost: A popular version of analog games, a deck of cards, can be purchased for about $1, which can be leveraged to play hundreds of different kinds of games. Board games need to be purchased individually, but are often quite cheap. A game of Monopoly can be acquired for $11.50.
5. Happy hour
Social media experts and Facebook geeks, who have honed their brevity and wit with tweets and status updates, are going offline in 2011, influencers say. Old-school on-line social networking is being replaced by mingling with the crowd at in-person happy hours.
In 2011, off-line will be a crucial part of the information ecosystem.
Cost: Unlike virtual counterparts, in-person social networking requires a small investment, which increases with each drink you consume. Luckily, happy hour drinks are usually heavily discounted (often by 50%), which means you can do double the networking for the same price.
Whatever technologies you choose to adopt in 2011, remember not to lead with the tools. Instead, define your goals first and then find the gadgets and widgets and platforms that best match your needs.
Peter Luyckx is a contributing writer to Seattle Local Health Guide and to Flip the Media. Previously, he was the Managing Editor at Flip the Media, and a Web Producer and Editor at Microsoft’s MSN Health & Fitness and MSN Shopping. He is a graduate student in the MCDM program and can be followed on Twitter @peterlux.