x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

On the Money: App-enabled gadgets are gifts that keep on taking

These days, gadgets boost their bottom lines by creating online stores, where you have to buy all your music, movies and apps that are essential to enhancing the pleasure factor of using them.

Gary Clement for The National
Gary Clement for The National

I don't know about you, but living the high-tech life is taking an expensive toll on our house. That's not to say that we spend so much time on our gadgets that we've reached the point where we ignore each other. If the truth be known, the high-tech life has forced us to embark on a series of serious discussions.

Our improved communication was sparked by a recent realisation that even though we have splashed out thousands of dirhams on the latest gadgets, our outlay doesn't end there. Has anybody stopped to think about the follow-on costs associated with iPods and iPads, just to name two of the gadgets that have infiltrated our once (relatively) peaceful home?

You know what I mean: those small(ish) amounts you spend on buying a song here and an album there on the iTunes store, not to mention the apps, some of which don't come cheap. It doesn't seem much at the time, but when you tally up the monthly, even yearly, cost, it really does start to add up.

Before you know it, you've got dozens of charges appearing on your credit-card statement at the end of each month, some of which you don't recall buying. And this is what got me thinking about the ongoing costs of those must-have gadgets.

The companies producing them are pretty smart. No longer is it enough for them to simply tempt us with updates on their gadgets; think iPad, iPad2, iPhone, iPhone2, 3, 4 ad infinitum. No, these days, they boost their bottom lines by creating online stores, where you have to buy all your music, movies and apps that are essential to enhancing the pleasure factor of using them.

That music I didn't remember buying turned out to be courtesy of my eight-year-old daughter, who snuck in and loaded up on High School Musical, Taylor Swift and Hannah Montana. I don't know what's worse: the choice of music or the surprise hit to my credit card. Not only do I now have music on my iPod that I wouldn't be seen dead with, but I had no idea that my tech-savvy daughter had cottoned on to how to navigate the iTunes store and pay for her purchases.

As it turns out, it didn't take much nous. She was able to do it because iTunes requires you to register and store your credit-card information on its website. For months, my daughter had no idea what our password was. But then came the iPad, which requires the same iTunes password to download apps - free or not. So I found myself constantly inputting it into the iPad, sometimes five or more times a day.

We had some rules that she had to follow when it came to downloading apps onto our iPad. Two of the most important were that she could only download the free ones and I had to type the password in. So far, so good. But then came the day when she remembered it. Or perhaps she knew it all along. I'll never know. But what I do know is that my last credit-card bill came as a bit of a shock.

To her credit, she stuck to the rule of downloading free apps. Because we had no rule on downloading music - after all, this was my realm - she forged ahead and downloaded a few of her favourite songs, the type of which only a tween could love.

As Hannah Montana sings, "You've got the best of both worlds". And she took it to heart. Literally.

But before I could mete out a punishment, let alone think of one because she hadn't technically broken a rule, the fickle hand of fate stepped in and took care of the problem for me.

We had, or should I say, she had her first high-tech accident. That's right, she dropped the iPad. Not on the floor, but smack bang in the middle of her forehead. I guess that's what happens when you are slumped on the sofa and you are holding it above your head. It doesn't help that you've got little hands, either. Even I have problems holding it sometimes, developing what I call the iPod claw if I grip it for too long.

A flood of tears later, not to mention the bluish bump that was developing on her head, and suddenly the problem was solved. I didn't have to take away her iPad privileges. She did that herself, vowing to never pick it up again. I'm not sure how long that will last, but what I have done is change our password just in case; my version of the best of both worlds.