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Science

All I want for Christmas is you…but first I want a tablet computer

It's "Silent Night" in cyberspace: tablets and smartphones have long been high on German Christmas lists. But when it comes to this year's shopping, one of the most highly demanded products isn't even available yet.

About 49 million Germans want technology - in one form or another - to be poking out from under the Christmas tree this year. That's more than half of all Germans, who have put an electronics product on their Christmas wish lists, according to the industry association BITKOM.

Here's the top five:

Tablet computers are at the top of the list, followed by smartphones, flatscreen televisions, e-book readers and video game consoles.

Other top products include Blu-ray DVD players, digital picture frames, stereo equipment, digital cameras, DVD and MP3 players as well as GPS devices.

The more things change…

Little has changed, in fact, compared with last year.

Timm Hoffmann, a BITKOM expert in consumer electronics, says that "while in 2012 cell phones and smartphones were the most sought-after products, this year it's the tablet computer."

Other industry watchers also see the tablet as the apple of the public's eye.

"Where in the last few years it was about bigger tablets, with 10-inch diagonal screens, the smaller ones are more in demand now. Devices like the Google's Nexus 7 or Apple's iPad Mini," says Volker Zota, editor at the German tech magazine "c't."

Newer is better

But when it comes to "smartphones as a Christmas present," Zota is more restrained.

He says high-end, unlocked smartphones, ranging from 500 euros ($686) and above are too expensive - when you're tied to a carrier, the subsequent costs are also high.

Smartphones are also most often purchased when they've just come out or when the user's contract ends.

"There are simply more reasons why you'd get a phone at a different time of year than you would a tablet," he says.

So it's the cheaper devices and not the high-end products that are likely to be the most common gifts this year, particularly for young people. In Germany, the low-end version of Google's Nexus 7 starts at 162 euros. The iPad Mini starts at 297 euros.

"Basically, tablets are more exciting for consumers at Christmas."

No blues for Bluetooth

Another trend, in Zota's view, are all things wireless - Apple's Airplay and anything with Wifi or Bluetooth.

Connecting a smartphone to battery-powered speakers, for example, instantly creates an integrated stereo system.

"People don't want cables hanging all over the place anymore," says Zota. "They either want the video transferred directly to the TV screen or the music to come straight out of the speakers - without much of an effort."

Smartwatch countdown

BITKOM's Timm Hoffmann is especially keen on a category of electronic products which hardly existed last year: intelligent, networked watches. That is, the much-hyped "smartwatch."

"They're exciting products that make all kinds of things possible," says Hoffman. "They can be hooked up to your smartphone, so you can consider them as something of an extended, digital arm."

Phone calls, text messages and emails can all be displayed on a smartwatch, without your having to pull the phone out of its pocket. "A quick look at your wrist is enough," Hoffmann says.

BITKOM estimates that every tenth German wants a smartwatch in their Christmas stocking. It says every third German will consider buying one soon. That's remarkable for an electronics product that wasn't even on the radar a year ago.

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