5 Cheap Tech Gadgets That Die in About a Year

Every time you buy a new gadget, you probably wonder how long it’s going to last. Most people are aware that all of their gadgets, even the ones that cost hundreds of dollars new, are eventually going to end up obsolete or broken or both. That’s in part thanks to the principle of planned obsolescence: the policy of designing electronics specifically to have short lifespans, so that consumers will need to replace outdated or nonfunctional devices sooner rather than later.

But there’s a big difference between your smartphone wearing out after four years or giving out after one. And while some gadgets may wear out with extensive use everyday, it’s a different story if you only use a device intermittently, and it still fails to last longer than a few months. That’s less planned obsolescence and more poor design. Read on to check out which devices really aren’t built to last, and which gadgets you can expect to die in about a year.

1. Cheap headphones

Man with headphones

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Choosing the right pair of cheap headphones can be tricky. Even if you don’t need specific features or high-end sound quality, there are plenty of cheap headphones that you shouldn’t buy — and not just because their performance leaves a lot to be desired. We’ve probably all had the experience of picking up a new pair of earbuds, just for the sound to stop working in one ear only a few months later or for a piece of plastic to pop off. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on a pair of headphones, particularly if you’re just going to be stuffing them in your pocket to use on your commute. But consider upgrading from that $5 or $10 pair, and you might find something that won’t have to be replaced within a few months.

2. Low-end, underpowered smartphones

Man on phone

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We’re all for finding a great deal on a smartphone. In fact, we can recommend 10 great ones that cost $100 or less. But you need to know what you’re looking for, and find some reviews you can trust, when you start searching for a budget-friendly phone. That’s because many of the phones that you can buy cheaply, especially online, aren’t as good of a bargain as you probably think. To begin with, many low-end phones offer poor build quality, which means that your new phone could actually fall apart within a year. And when you buy a cheap phone and don’t pay close attention to what you’re getting, you may end up with low-end components, an unusable camera, or an outdated operating system — all of which will render the phone obsolete incredibly quickly.

3. Inexpensive fitness trackers

man going for a morning run outside

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You don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money to get a fitness tracker that will help you achieve your fitness goals. But if you opt for the bottom of the barrel devices that pop up as deals on Amazon or Groupon, you’ll likely end up disappointed. Not only are many fitness trackers inaccurate at measuring your activity and other metrics, but many are shipped before they’re really perfected and ready for consumer use. Whether the device wears out in a year, the company fails to ship an important software fix, or you simply realize that the stats the device is showing you are nowhere near accurate, chances are good you’ll end up with a device you regret buying within a year.

4. Generic phone chargers and aftermarket accessories

Using a smartphone

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If you’ve just spent a lot on a smartphone, then it’s understandable that you don’t want to spend any more than you have to in order to get the chargers and accessories you need for the device. But if you want to preserve the integrity of your brand-new phone, we’d advise against opting for low-quality, third-party chargers. Many cheap chargers don’t offer the right output, fail to implement proper safety protection, and can damage either your smartphone or your vehicle if it’s a car charger. Even if the circuitry isn’t dangerous, a cheaper cable is more likely to break than one from your phone’s manufacturer. Chargers and accessories from the manufacturer of your smartphone will last longer and offer better quality than an aftermarket alternative. So if you’re looking to make your purchase last, it’s probably best to skip the third-party accessories.

5. Anything you can buy in the checkout line

Scanning a book

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Whether you’re at Best Buy, Target, Walmart, or your favorite grocery store, it’s pretty safe to say that any gadget you can buy while waiting in line to check out isn’t going to last you very long. From cheap chargers to inexpensive MP3 players, a device that’s inexpensive enough to be placed by the register just to tempt waiting shoppers isn’t a good investment. Even if you just need a cheap replacement for a gadget or an accessory you already own, it pays to do your research so that you don’t end up wasting money on a product that will fall apart or stop functioning after a few months.

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