Santa’s elves have definitely come a long way from toy trucks and wooden dolls.
Either that or he’s signed on many high-tech helpers over the years to meet the demand for all of the latest electronics gifts.
This year, like many previous, those elves have been feverishly putting out tablet computers, video games and consoles, as well as the latest smartphones and even high-tech televisions.
Those not counting on the Jolly Old Elf to come down the chimney with the latest devices have other means to snag those high-demand gifts, and stores are doing their best to keep up with demand.
Demand and the gadgets themselves are expected to continue on the pace of previous years, with a continuation of slimming gadgets and combining them, according to Keion Clinton, an assistant professor at Schenectady County Community College.
“About the same,” Clinton said of the holiday tech scene, as compared to previous years. “A lot of your major competitors really choose this time of year to go public with all their new gadgets, so they’re just looking at the holiday season as time to put out their products.”
And the trend is toward combination, said Clinton, who is in the school’s division of math, science, technology and health, “to eliminate the number of gadgets you have in your pocket. They’re trying to bring all the services into one gadget.”
Nowhere has that trend been more true than in the smartphone industry, with industry giants Apple, Samsung and Nokia bringing out their best for the holidays.
Samsung has its Android-based Galaxy S III, Apple has its iPhone 5 and Nokia has its Nokia Lumia 920 running the Windows operating system.
Storage has been increasing and consumers are looking around for the best service providers to go along with those phones, contemplating which providers offer the best data plans and coverage, Clinton said.
“A lot of smartphones are getting bigger to allow them to have a better screen,” Clinton said. “I think it will be a matter of time before smaller tablets and bigger smartphones will become the exact same size.”
Those smaller tablet computers have been joined by the iPad Mini, released in November, joining the smaller Samsung Galaxy Tab and the larger Microsoft Surface and regular iPad on the market.
Generally, the tablet makers have been working to include better processors, giving a laptop-quality experience and image, Clinton said.
With that trend toward combination, Clinton said he sees other gadgets eventually falling by the wayside. One of those, he said, is the digital camera.
Cameras have long been included in phones, but we’re getting to the point where casual photographers simply use their phones, Clinton said. Largely professionals will be the ones left with stand-alone cameras, Clinton said.
“I don’t believe the market for digital cameras will be around that much longer,” Clinton said.
At Towne TV in Rotterdam, the combination trend is showing itself in the television market, with more features being built in along with Wi-Fi capabilities, according to Towne’s Paul DeMilio.
Two to three years ago, the biggest advancements in television came in 3D sets, DeMilio said. That, though, has kind of fizzled out.
Now, though, the higher-end sets are coming Wi-Fi-ready to take advantage of subscription streaming services like Netflix, DeMilio said.
“You can get one with a camera built in it, where you can actually talk to your niece in California” through Skype, DeMilio said.
Other televisions even act like computers, with keypads and tie-ins to Twitter and Facebook.
As with anything, DeMilio said, age drives the market, with younger consumers loving the technology.
Higher-tech home audio products are also catching on, DeMilio said. One product, Sonos, can play different music to speakers in different rooms.
Demand for video games and consoles should remain steady.
In an email, a spokeswoman for the retailer Target cited the video games “Call of Duty: Black Ops” as well as “Skylanders Giants” as being among the season’s top video games.
SCCC’s Clinton also cited “Halo 4,” “Assassin’s Creed III,” “Madden 13” and “NBA 2K13.”
Also new this holiday season is the Wii U game system, Clinton noted, with a controller that has its own separate screen.