Apple iPhone 4 A gadget used to be a mere plaything; a toy. Diverting for a while, if unlikely to take over your life in the way that iPhones and BlackBerries command their owners’ attention. But the gadget’s role has changed.

As well as conferring status on their owners, pieces of electronic whimsy – as Stephen Fry terms them – bring out a territorial instinct in many of us. Compare a well-loved item unfavourably to another, and expect a torrent of abuse from owners of said gem. Apple fanboy-baiting is just one example; I was almost lynched last year for daring to opine that the iPhone 3G was not the greatest phone of its time.

The trouble is, gadgets aren’t just desirable these days; with their ability to keep us in touch and assimilate the various aspects of our lives, they’re indispensable. Even when they reach the end of their useful life, they’re not that easy to give up.

If you’re a seasoned hoarder like me, you’ll probably have a cupboard full of tech. Old mobile phones, cameras and USB memory sticks fill drawers and sit on shelves – I’m sure your home’s the same.

With a whole host of enticing new gadgets lined up for Christmas 2010, temptation is dangerously near. The latest issue’s look at the 50 best consumer electronics items deserving of your cash will help ensure you end up with only the items that’ll be of use, rather than the sort that gather dust in a corner. We’ve reviewed a raft of products that we reckon are worthy of your Christmas gift list (and added a fair few to our personal wishlists too).

Dreaming of a green Christmas

To help ease the cost of Christmas, why not list some of your older gadgetry on eBay and Freecycle? With a double-dip recession looking more and more likely, offloading gadgets and other less-loved items can be a modest money-spinner.

You probably also share our pangs of guilt about what happens to laptops and gadgets once they reach the end of the line. Sites such as Mazuma Mobile and their ilk refurbish phones for use overseas while helping you recoup your costs. You can also sell your out-of-contract phone back to the mobile operator, while larger electronic items can be disposed of responsibly at your local amenity centre.

Scrap merchants have a field day with some of our old tech, although it would be far better if fewer devices – and the accoutrements to power them – were created in the first place. Thankfully, mobile phone and digital camera makers are beginning to settle on microUSB as the connection type of choice for mains adaptors.

Soon, the universal connector will come to pass, and we’ll be able to power almost anything without scrabbling through that cupboard full of gadgetry to find the right adaptor. If you really want to impress a gadget fan this Christmas, perhaps your best buy is a universal charger to keep their hordes of beloved gadgets powered up.

Pick up a copy of our Christmas issue, on sale today.