Not just big boys' toys... our love of gadgets defies the recession; Gizmo sales set to hit pounds 50bn by the end of next year.
THEY have long been derided as nothing more than geeky big boys' toys - but the demand for gadgets could be about to hit an all-time high.
Technology experts say sales of hi-tech electronic gizmos such as the iPhone are beating the recession thanks to a broadening appeal that extends beyond the traditional market of men and teenage boys.
Sales of mobile phones, satnavs, and games consoles such as PlayStation 3 and Wii, will help push technology sales past the pounds 50bn mark by the end of 2010, according to market analysts Mintel.
The research says that between 2004 and 2008, annual sales of technology rose almost pounds 6.2bn (13%) to reach pounds 49bn in 2008, and consumers are now even sacrificing nights out and leisure activities to continue to get their "gadget fix".
And in despite the current economic uncertainty, annual sales are forecast to hit pounds 60bn by the end of 2014.
Jim Clark, senior technology analyst at Mintel said: "In many ways, the recession has had a positive effect for the technology market and encouraged consumers to consider the latest, converged devices coming to the market in a quest for greater value.
"The likes of the Apple iPhone, for example, does away with the need for a digital camera, video camera, MP3 player, PDA and web browser - avoiding up-front costs of buying the device through a manageable monthly subscription.
"Smartphones, in particular the iPhone, are being marketed around an ability to record video, take pictures, surf the web and do computer-like things.
"The iPhone design appears to have cast a spell over the British mobile phone-buying public."
Mr Clark said there were a num-beof impending gadgets that could boost the market over coming months, with rumours of an Apple "tablet" mini PC hitting the shops at Christmas.
The iPhone has also led to Apple's competitors raising their game, he said.
"We're seeing the launch of the new HTC G1, a really cool Google Android-powered device and the Nokia N97 "There's also the LG watch phone, which will have buzz when it becomes available end of this year/2010."
The research shows that around 41% of adult internet users are going out less during the week than they were a year ago and, significantly, they are just as likely to be playing games now at home as watching television.
"We'll see continued success of games consoles, the Wii in particular, which has upped its motion sensor credentials," said Mr Clark.
"Next year the Xbox will be even bigger, with the expected release of 'natal'. This is a motion-sensing device, with tie-ups with the likes of Sky, to broadcast on-demand content to Gold live subscribers, as well as link-ups with Last.fm, Twitter and Facebook, bringing web 2.0 to the big screen.
"Given that consumers are spending more time at home and looking for value, this will appeal as they look to the living room for their entertainment needs.
"Retailers will be able to market devices around their long-term savings, over expensive family days out."
Dr Mike Reddy, a technology expert from the University of Wales, Newport, said consumers were prepared to spend "a fortune" on gadgets that make their lives easier, in a revolutionary way.
"It is not just a case of being big boys' toys - youngsters and women of all ages too like to have gadgets that make our lives easier too," he said.
"The most successful companies are not necessarily the first to invent a gadget; they are the ones who work at making them significantly better than the rest.
"You only have to look at the early MP3s, which a section of the population bought compared to the general popula-tion who chose the sleek and colourful iPods, which had iTunes.
"One of the most likely future success stories will be the 02 Joggler, a touch-screen device that is used like a fridge door but sends reminders about birthdays or school events to family members' mobile phones."
Rhys Evans, deputy senior director for Consumer Focus Wales, who has the new iPhone, said: "Our research confirms these findings, with our figures for 2009 showing an increase in ownership across a wide range of technologies, particularly sat-navs, in comparison with the figures for 2007.
"These products have a short shelf life.
"They quickly go out of date so there will be a tendency for people to view them as needing regular updates."
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The word "gadget" may, by its very nature, seem to refer to the most ultra-modern of electronic devices but the origins of the word are said to go back as far as the 1850s.
According to the Oxford English Dictionary it was originally used as a generic term for technical items - similar to the terms "gizmo" or "thingmajig".
According to urban myth the word was invented when Gaget, Gauthier & Cie made a small-scale version of the Statue of Liberty they were working on and named it after their firm. But the word seems to predate this explanation.
Other theories put forward suggest it was derived from the French terms for part of a firing mechanism (gchette) or a small tool (gage).
During the 20th century the word became closely associated both with small kitchen appliances and electronic devices.
Fancy one of these? The top five gadget hits and misses, past and present, according to Dr Mike Reddy, a technology expert from the University of Wales, Newport Hits 1 iPhone - "the classic gadget".
2 O2 Joggler - "a desirable organising gadget which sends out reminders about birthdays and events to family members' mobile phones".
3 Nano car - the world's cheapest car which, at pounds 2,000, "could be the answer to a lack of rural transport".
4 TiVo HD recorder - "I couldn't do without mine".
5 Nintendo DS games console - "A great seller which has fun games".
Misses 1 Sinclair C5 (below) - "A battery electric vehicle invented by Sir Clive Sinclair in 1985 considered by many to be the biggest-ever miss".
2 Sony PSP Go - "This has lost a sales war with Nintendo DS". 3 Nintendo Dsi (upgrade to DS) - "Not desirable enough for Nintendo DS owners to upgrade to it".
4 Apple Newton - "An early personal digital assistant developed in 1989 and ended in 1998 although I still have mine". 5 Microsoft Surface - "This turns an ordinary tabletop into a vibrant, interactive surface. It is clever but has no killer application".
CASTING A SPELL': The new iPhone, above, is leading to Apple's competitors raising their game and. the LG watch phone, below, is just one of the impending gadgets expected to add to the buzz when it becomes available