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5 Gifts You'll Be Waiting in Line for This Holiday Season

Tis the season to wait in line. Shoppers at Toys "R" Us wait to check out on Black Friday in 2007.
Tis the season to wait in line. Shoppers at Toys "R" Us wait to check out on Black Friday in 2007.
Hiroko Masuike/Getty Images

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­Lines of people stretched outside of megastores in the predawn darkness of the Friday after Thanksgiving signal the start of the holiday shopping season. These gung-ho customers, armed with sale ads and fueled by coffee, are prepared to wrestle down a football team to get their coveted bargain merchandise. They wait anxiously for televisions, gaming consoles, toys and other loot marked with 5 a.m., rock-bottom prices.

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Every year, it seems, some hot, must-have item drives people to malls in droves from Black Friday until Christmas Eve. In the late '90s, Ferbies, Pokémon figures and piles of Beanie Babies drained our wallets. This tech-heavy decade has brought us the battle of competing gaming consoles, such as Playstations and Xboxes. In 2008, if the average holiday shopper is projected to spend more than $800 on gifts, what precious booty will he or she hunt down?

­This year's theme for holiday gift-giving is frugality. The economy has sunk to record lows, unemployment has escalated and folks are clutching their dollars a bit tighter. Yet no one wants to play Uncle Scrooge. In a blended spirit of fiscal prudence and seasonal indulgence, here are five holiday gifts you may need to allow extra time -- but not necessarily extra cash -- to buy this year.

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Yes, Wii can! Nintendo Wii will be a hot item again in 2008.
Yes, Wii can! Nintendo Wii will be a hot item again in 2008.
Janet Kimber/Getty Images

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It's an oldie but a goodie. Yes, we all know that people love the Nintendo Wii. Gamers couldn't stop buzzing about the console when it hit the market -- and promptly flew off store shelves --­ in November 2006. Two years later, you can expect another rush for the Wii during the holiday shopping season. What other video game consoles are on children's (and adults') wish lists this year? An annual consumer survey commissioned by Deloitte financial advisory group predicts that other platforms, including Xbox and Playstation, will also perform well, but Wii holds the top spot across the industry [source: Gunnison]. Despite the economic downturn in 2008, Wii remained the best-selling console, exceeding 11 million units sold [source: Snider].

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What's more, popular Wii games will bolster sales of the console and accessories. For example, Nintendo's "Animal Crossing: City Folk" has been a big hit with gamers this year. You can compare the game's premise, in which you create and live in your ideal town, to "The Sims." Players can communicate remotely with up to three other players via WiiSpeak, adding a social networking element to the game. The "Wii Fit," "We Ski" and "Mario Kart" for Wii have also been making lists for the best holiday gifts of the year. But if you want to get your hands on one, you may have to wait for it. Even if you didn't buy your Wii on Black Friday, you might find yourself in an early morning line when new shipments come in closer to Christmas.

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Enticing deals plus the digital signal switchover could jolt television sales this holiday season.
Enticing deals plus the digital signal switchover could jolt television sales this holiday season.
Jochen Sand/Getty Images

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­A recent study from the University of Maryland found that unhappy people spend more time watching television than happy ones [source: Rabin]. Perhaps those sourpusses would turn their frowns upside down if they got a fancy flat-panel, plasma screen or high-definition set for Christmas. When it comes to holiday presents, televisions are the old faithfuls. Samsung sells the most flat-panel televisions in the United States, and the most popular sizes are 30- and 34-inch (76- and 86-centimeter) models [source: Taub].

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So why might you end up waiting in line for a TV? First, the United States switches to a digital television broadcast signal starting in February 2009. That means people with analog TVs must either purchase a digital converter box or buy a whole new digital television. Electronics companies, of course, have their fingers crossed that customers will choose the latter option.

Stores are also offering deep discounts and financing for flat-screen and plasma sets in particular. You can be sure that eager Black Friday shoppers snagged a well-sized television for a merry price. But the deals aren't over yet: Some stores are offering bundled packages as well, such as a TV/Blu-ray player combo.

There's no mistaking those signature white earbuds.
There's no mistaking those signature white earbuds.
Nicole Hill/Getty Images

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For the gadget-lover or music aficionado on your list, there's no better choice than an iPod. And in a case of near-perfect timing, Apple recently came out with its second generation iPod Touch and fourth generation iPod Nano. With solid reviews and a more forgiving $149 price tag, the new Nano should be heavy hitter among mp3 devices this season. Because stores are giving the item a big promotional push, and you could run into problems with getting your paws on one if you hold out too long.

So why is the revamped Nano such a hot commodity this year? For starters, it comes in a rainbow of colors, so it can match a girly-girl, teenage boy or low-key college student just fine. Whoever's on your gift list can pack a lot of music into these players as well, whether you choose the 8GB or 16GB model. A snazzy motion sensor feature allows users to convert to shuffle mode by shaking the player. If you don't want to take the time to compile playlists, the Nano's "genius" feature can do the work for you. To top it off, you can play games, upload photos and watch video on the Nano's screen. That's a lot of bang -- for not a lot of buck. And because it's pretty compact, you'll also spare yourself the turmoil of a complicated gift-wrapping job!

John Mayer already has Verizon's BlackBerry Storm.
John Mayer already has Verizon's BlackBerry Storm.
John Shearer/Getty Images

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No one who's anyone uses a phone just to call people these days. And the hottest phones on the market make great holiday gifts.

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The iPhone recently outpaced the Motorola Razr as the most popular phone among consumers [source: Zibreg]. Its newest iteration, the 3G, has already sold out in presale. But RIM (the company that manufactures BlackBerry) hopes to give Apple a run for its money. The BlackBerry has become the icon of the business world, but Verizon's BlackBerry Storm takes slick smartphone technology a step further.

One of the most buzzed about Storm features is its clickable touch screen that gives users a little more control than the iPhone's touch screen. It also boasts two touch screen keypad options: BlackBerry's signature SureType when the phone is vertical and a QWERTY keypad when horizontal [source: Segan]. Although slightly smaller and heavier than the iPhone, the Storm's screen has a higher resolution and better camera pixel quality. If you're eyeing a Storm for someone on your gift list, remember that like AT&T's deal with iPhones, Verizon is the exclusive service provider for the BlackBerry Storm.

The jury is still out on whether the Storm can weather the iPhone's superstar status. The smartphone has received mixed reviews so far, but the legions of BlackBerry addicts could turn the tide this holiday season.

­He's back! Elmo Live is topping toy lists in 2008.
­He's back! Elmo Live is topping toy lists in 2008.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

­On Christmas morning, it can be pretty hard to bear the face of a disappointed child who didn't get that one toy at the top of his or her list. During the 1996 holiday season, parents raced to the malls with one name in mind: Elmo. Who can forget that high-pitched giggle that pe­netrated homes on Christmas day (and would try the nerves of parents for the rest of the year)? Give the red Sesame Street character a rub, and the robotic stuffed toy breaks out in peals of laughter. The silly response delighted the younger set but also left parents looking for a mute button.

Since then, Elmo has gone through a number of makeovers. This year's Elmo Live from Fisher-Price is the culmination of two years of development work on the toy [source: Casey]. What's new? Well, this Elmo is more talented than his predecessor He talks, sings, sits, stands and even blows kisses. Another new feature is the steeper price. The $60 Elmo Live costs twice what people paid more than a decade ago for Tickle Me Elmo. Tighter budgets may steer parents toward cheaper toy options, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a holiday toy wish list for 2008 without Elmo smiling at the top. Whether that wish comes true may depend on how long a parent is willing to wait in line for the fuzzy little red guy.

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Sources

  • Ahmed, Murad and Peel, Lilly. "BlackBerry Storm Battles with the iPhone." Times Online. Nov. 14, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article5155179.ece
  • ­Casey, Nicholas. "Mattel Gambles on Pricey Elmo for the Holidays." Wall Street Journal. Oct. 10, 2008.
  • Gunnison, Liz. "Picking Winners in a Grim Season." Portfolio. Nov. 10, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.portfolio.com/news-markets/top-5/2008/11/10/Holiday-Best-Selling-Gifts
  • "Hannah Montana Overtakes Bratz as Second Most-Popular Toy for Girls." National Retail Federation. Nov. 19, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=605
  • Kavilanz, Parija B. "Wal-Mart's Black Friday deals: High tech." CNN. Nov. 14, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://money.cnn.com/2008/11/14/news/companies/walmart_blackfriday/index.htm
  • Rabin, Roni Caryn. "What Happy People Don't Do." The New York Times. Nov. 19, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/health/research/20happy.html?em
  • Segan, Sascha. "RIM BlackBerry Storm 9530." PC Magazine. Nov. 20, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2331978,00.asp
  • Snider, Mike. "Nintendo's Wii is the champion console yet again." USA Today. Aug. 18, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.usatoday.com/tech/gaming/2008-08-18-wii-top-console-july_N.htm
  • Taub, Eric A. "Heavy Discounts Could Arrive on Big-Screen TVs, but Buyers May Be Resistant." The New York Times. Nov. 2, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/03/technology/03tv.html?ref=media
  • "What's Hot This Season?" International Council of Shopping Centers. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://holiday.icsc.org/2008/hw08_02whats_hot.pdf
  • Zibreg, Christian. "Showdown: iPhone vs. BlackBerry Storm." TG Daily. Nov. 21, 2008. (Nov. 21, 2008)http://www.tgdaily.com/html_tmp/content-view-40305-145.html­

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