10 Kinds of Gadgets That Are Useful, But Really Ugly

We use a surprising assortment of gadgets everyday. A few of them are well-designed and aesthetically pleasing, but others are actually pretty ugly when you stop to think about it. Looks matter for some gadgets more than others. You probably wouldn’t want to carry around one of the iconic but ugly cellphones that were popular in the early 2000s. But as far as the router sitting on your living room shelf is concerned, you may not care so much.

Nonetheless, design nerds and minimalists alike agree some of the gadgets we use everyday are useful, but could do with a design upgrade. Read on to check out some gadgets that, when you look at them, you’ll notice are actually pretty ugly. It probably won’t make you change your mind about using them. But it may make you wish that our gadgets were all as sleek and streamlined as those in our favorite science-fiction films and TV shows.

1. Action cams

a hand holding an extreme camera

A hand holding an action camera | iStock.com/Blackzheep

Action cams, whether a pricy GoPro or a more affordable alternative, aren’t usually the most attractive devices. Part of that may be because they’re often designed to be waterproof and durable. But in contrast to more standard digital cameras, action cams don’t take their design cues from classic film cameras. The result is action cams are a lot less classic and a lot more ugly than mirrorless cameras or DSLRs. 

2. Bluetooth headsets

A bluetooth headset

Man using a bluetooth headset with his phone | iStock.com/diego_cervo

Bluetooth headsets are almost universally ugly devices. Some are small and sit in one ear, while others extend a microphone toward the wearer’s mouth. Still others offer speakers for both ears and extend behind your neck or over your head. In all of these configurations, Bluetooth headsets are pretty unattractive little devices. They usually feature plasticky builds and flashing lights — sort of the opposite of the headphones and earbuds that we use to make calls or listen to music when we don’t mind wires.

3. Dumb phones

An old flip phone

An old cellphone | iStock.com/alimusicva

Some people still opt for feature phones instead of smartphones. And manufacturers continue to make strange design choices with those feature phones (which are often referred to as dumb phones). Check out your local carrier store and you’ll still find flip phones with tiny screens. You’ll see brick phones with keyboards in weirdly futuristic typefaces. And you can’t forget the plastic phones in strange colors, like reds that are too pink and blues that are too sparkly. Not all smartphones are pretty, but at least most of them have big screens to distract from any weird design choices elsewhere.

4. Fitness trackers

Fitness trackers on wrists

Friends wearing fitness trackers | iStock.com/yacobchuk

Fitness trackers are notoriously ugly. Whether wrist-worn or meant to be clipped to your clothes, they often feature rubber, plastic, and low-resolution screens. There are few fitness trackers that look at home with anything other than casual athletic clothes. And even finding one that offers neutral colors instead of neon shades is a pretty difficult task once you start shopping.

5. Hoverboards


Kids riding on hoverboards | iStock.com/kazatin

Hoverboards, also known as self-balancing skateboards, have made numerous headlines for using faulty batteries that put them at risk of catching fire or exploding. That alone is enough to make you think twice about buying one. But the final nail in the coffin if you still thought one would be a fun way to get around? The fact that these devices, which should look pretty cool, are actually pretty ugly. They feature ugly wheels and gimmicky lights. And instead of sporting futuristic designs, they feature the same colors and design language as every cheap smartphone accessory you can buy at the mall. 

6. Point-and-shoot cameras

A couple taking a photo

A couple taking a photo with a point-and-shoot camera | iStock.com/oneinchpunch

Just like action cams, point-and-shoot cameras are a lot less attractive than higher-end mirrorless cameras and DSLRs. Point-and-shoot cameras often feature flat bodies but bulbous lens enclosures. They’re offered in annoyingly bright colors or feature plastic builds that feel like they could break. And their attempts at ergonomic design usually don’t make them any easier to hold — though such attempts usually do make them even less attractive. 

7. Smart lightbulbs

a smart lightbulb

A smart lightbulb | iStock.com/flil

Smart lightbulbs are pretty useful little gadgets. They enable you to control your lighting from your smartphone, and they often let you customize the color of the light. Some of them even function as speakers, making it easy to listen to your favorite music everywhere in your house beyond the reach of the sound system you have in your living room. But smart lightbulbs are usually sort of ugly. First, there’s the problem of the LED light, which most people think is less pleasing to the eye than incandescent light. And then there’s the problem of the strange-looking designs of most of these lightbulbs. Fortunately, lightbulbs are usually hidden inside a light fixture.

8. Wi-Fi routers

Wi-Fi wireless router on a wooden table

Wi-Fi wireless router on a wooden table | iStock.com/Grassetto 

Traditional Wi-Fi routers are pretty weird-looking. They have multiple antennae, which help them blanket your home in Wi-Fi coverage. And they feature vents, lights, and cheap-looking plastic builds that act like a magnet for dust even if your router is hidden in a corner or protected by a bookshelf. New mesh networking routers often look better (the nodes are small and sort of cute, at least). But most of your router options are plastic, black, and perhaps the ultimate in ugly but useful.

9. Smartwatch charging stands

An Apple Watch is being loaded on the bedside table

An Apple Watch being charged | iStock.com/killerbayer 

Smartwatches have their own fair share of design flaws, but even worse are the charging stands and charging cradles you can purchase for popular smartwatches like the Apple Watch. These docks typically take up a lot of space on your desk or your nightstand. And while they aim to keep your belongings more organized than they’d be if you just used a charging cable, their clunky silhouettes and big footprints may or may not really be worth the tradeoff.

10. Tablets for kids

group of school kids with tablet pc

Kids working on tablets | iStock.com/dolgachov

Most gadgets designed specifically for kids feature some strange design decisions, but none seem worse than tablets that are intended for children. They’re often built of plastic with bulbous rubber bumpers, which make them durable but the opposite of streamlined. They feature wide bezels and, strangely enough, few have sides that are completely straight and corners that are totally square.