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November 22, 2012

Tech gift guide: Pick your gadget path carefully

(Continued)

On one hand, that's great for consumers, who may want to be able to note something on their smartphone during a commute and have it show up later on their desktop at home. But it also creates a much stronger "halo effect" — the term technology analysts use for the buyer habit of sticking with a single company's gizmos because it's convenient.

Shoppers with iPhones looking for tablets naturally gravitate toward the iPad, for example, because they know their movie, music and book collections will appear on both devices instantly. According to a Yankee Group survey of 12,000 consumers, 78 percent of iPhone owners also have iPads, while only 21 percent have Android tablets.

A smaller survey conducted by Yankee Group showed that current device ownership is a strong predictor of future buying habits. For example, 91 percent of iPhone owners would buy another iPhone — and that's a shorthand explanation of why tech industry insiders and investors are so obsessed with who is up and down in market share.

Worldwide, Apple has the advantage with more than 50 percent of the tablet market, while Google holds around 75 percent of the world smartphone market, according to figures from the International Data Corp. But the landscape is ripe for change as more people snap up tablets in the coming year. The United States, in many ways, is the nexus of the growing tablet market, and in July, comScore reported that Google held just more than 50 percent of the market to Apple's 30 percent.

There are a couple of ways to avoid lock-in, particularly when it comes to things you create yourself. Companies are starting to release apps into each others' stores to make lock-in a bit less drastic. For example, you can get your Kindle books on your iPad or your SkyDrive documents on Android tablets with a limited amount of fuss. But those apps don't come with all the perks of going all-in with a certain company. Kindle apps, for example, don't get access to Amazon's lending library of free books — even for users paying for the company's subscription service.

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