The saying "you get what you pay for" isn't necessarily true when it comes to technology products, as I've discovered when comparing fitness watches, phones, tablets and TVs.
In January I wrote about smartwatches, including the Fitbit fitness watch and the Samsung Galaxy Gear, which I mostly used because of its pedometer function. It turns out that a few days after that column appeared, the Fitbit Force was voluntarily recalled by its manufacturer because, as the Consumer Product Safety Commission phrased it, "Users can develop allergic reactions to the stainless steel casing, materials used in the strap, or adhesives used to assemble the product, resulting in redness, rashes or blistering where the skin has been in contact with the tracker."
I also found it hard to close the watch's metal clasp. It's odd that a company can build an amazingly high-tech product and then fail to equip it with something as simple as a decent watchband.
Since that column ran, Samsung announced two successors to its Gear watch, the Gear 2 and the Gear Fit. The Fit is primarily a fitness band, though both models will track your steps and measure your pulse and allow you to see incoming texts and emails and accept or reject incoming calls.
Samsung hasn't announced pricing for the Gear 2 or the Fit but Stuff.TV reported that the Gear 2 will cost $417 and the Fit will be priced at $278. Before it was recalled, the Fitbit Force sold for $130.
I returned my borrowed Galaxy Gear and stopped wearing the Fitbit because I've misplaced the proprietary charging cable -- yet another annoying thing about this and so many other products. If a company must require you to charge its products, I wish they would at least allow you to use a standard Micro USB cord that you can easily and cheaply replace.
Rather than replace the cable, I replaced the fitness watch with one that's a lot cheaper and -- for my purposes -- a lot better.
The LifeTrak C200 ($30 from Walgreens or $38 from Amazon) is in several ways a superior product compared to its much more expensive competitors. Like the other devices, the LifeTrak keeps track of my footsteps, but unlike its more expensive cousins, it doesn't need to be recharged. It comes with a coin-sized battery that the company estimates will run for 14 months. Any watch repair shop can replace the battery for a few dollars for those not comfortable taking off the back and replacing it themselves.
The C200 also measures your pulse when you hold down a sensor just below the watch face. It calculates the approximate distance you've walked in miles and -- based on your age, height, weight, activity level and heart beat -- it estimates how many calories you've burned so far that day.
Of course, the competing fitness watches come with apps that let you track all of this on your smartphone. But LifeTrak offers a $50 C300 model that supports an iPhone app with an Android app scheduled for later this spring. The $75 C410 model also tracks your sleep. All prices are from Amazon.com; suggested retail prices are higher.
Another nice feature of the LifeTrak watches is that the display, which includes the time and date, is always on. It's a simple black-and-white LCD display, but that's more than adequate. If you need a backlight, you can hold down two buttons on the side of the watch. It comes with a band that's reversible if you prefer the color on the other side. Or, for $15, you can replace it with a different color band.
Fitness bands are not the only product category in which more expensive is necessarily better. The same is sometimes true of phones, tablets and TVs.
I like the $379 Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 8.9, which is nearly 3 ounces lighter than the $499 iPad Air, albeit with a slightly smaller screen than the iPad. For those looking for a smaller tablet, Amazon's 7-inch Kindle Fire HD, at $139, is a lot cheaper than the $299 iPad mini. I'm not arguing that Android or Kindle Fire tablets are better. But for what I do with a tablet -- mostly reading, watching video and responding to email -- they're certainly a better value.
When it comes to phones, I recently sold my iPhone 5 and switched to a Nexus 5, not because it was cheaper (although it is), but because I wanted the larger screen. Amazon is selling the unlocked HTC One for $233 new or $194 refurbished.
And be sure to consider price when you're in the market for a new TV. I'm not saying that the cheapest LCD set is as good as its most expensive counterparts, but the difference in quality between high-priced and moderately priced sets can be hard to distinguish when viewing them side by side. In some cases the actual screens are made in the same factories to the same specifications.
Contact Larry Magid at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for his technology chats on KCBS-AM (740) weekdays at 3:50 p.m.