Switched On: Burning love

Each week Ross Rubin contributes Switched On, a weekly column about the future of technology, multimedia, and digital entertainment:

Baby, on this Valentine's Day, I want you to remember that our love is as rare as an Xbox 360 on a retail shelf and as deep as Gizmondo Europe's debt. You know I'm someone who appreciates the best that life has to offer -- as long as it's offered at a reasonable price. When I rolled up in my Kia Amanti ("the Kimmer," as i like to call it), put that sweet chunk of cubic zirconia on your finger and read you the love poem I'd written on my Brother GeoBook personal digital notebook, I knew you'd be mine forever.

This year, I wanted to get you something romantic, something sophisticated and something substantially under $25. I thought candles might be nice but, as you and my parole officer know, I am not allowed within 30 feet of a blunt object since the incident regarding the $399 notebook at Wal-Mart last Black Friday. So I considered getting you a Philips Aurelle LED candle. The key to the LED candle is a light source that flickers to approximate its fiery counterpart. I bet the LED candle story is a lot like the one that led to the development of Post-It notes, you know, where the engineer developed a weak adhesive for which no one could find a use. "Hey, Klaas, I can't get this darn LED to stay lit!"

The Aurelle candles are available with a choice of three frosted glass candle holder cups -- in round, square and triangular shapes -- for about $20. The amber lighting units have rechargeable batteries and, in an interesting twist, several of them can be charged simultaneously from the same charger by daisy-chaining them together magnetically. Could anything symbolize our love more than multiple hook-ups? Unfortunately, though, it's relatively easy to see the metal contacts even in the cups, which compromises the effect. And, baby, I need the look to be right when I'm putting out my best Chinette for you.

So, I found some other LED candles available at for $4.99 each. Not only do they lack a Disney heroine name like "Aurelle," but even the manufacturer is listed as generic. The candle cups are a bit shorter and narrower than the Aurelle's and are plastic rather than glass. While the plastic is not as attractive, this could be advantageous if, say, the reason you're getting a digital candle is to avoid injury to pets, children or reckless lovers who might knock it over.

Also, instead of fancy rechargeable batteries, the generic candles use standard Triple-As. There are also a few advantages to this approach. First, there's no charger to lose. This is particularly important since the novel magnetic connection that the Aurelle charger uses means that you can't pop in to your local maison du radio and get a replacement. Also, there are no contacts to reveal, but there is a small tab for the battery compartment that peeks above the base. Furthermore, the cheap plastic battery cover does not inspire the kind of confidence in durability that I have in my love for you.

Still, baby, I'm going with the generic candles because of their simplicity. Kudos to the faceless designer who worked on this nameless product for an anonymous company. As these babies flicker on my IKEA dining room table, I'll let the Martinelli's breathe as we soak in the romantic tunes from my jWin stereo. Mmmm, I can almost smell the Designer Imposters perfume I got you for your birthday now.

Ross Rubin is director of industry analysis at NPD Techworld, a division of market research and analysis provider The NPD Group. Views expressed in Switched On, however, are his own. Feedback is welcome at