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electronic_present_phone(MCT)—If you received a tablet, computer or a new phone this holiday, you’re not alone. This year, tech gifts were expected to top a third of all holiday wish lists, according to the National Retail Federation.

But that excitement felt by millions when they tore open the wrapping paper on their newest gadget will quickly turn to devastation when it’s dropped onto the floor, when it falls out of a pocket and into the toilet or when it’s left in a pocket and goes through the washing machine.

Thankfully, there are ways to prevent your beloved products from ever having to go the way that many gadgets have gone before—with a few preventive measures.

Try not to drop it. Alex Davidson, CEO of Securranty, a Houston-based developer and marketer of extended warranty programs, says that all tablets eventually fail after multiple drops. But some are more durable—he says the iPad third- and fourth-generation tablets are more durable than the previous generations of iPads when it comes to drop tests. The devices with the Android operating system like Google’s Nexus 7 usually failed the initial drop test, he added. He says a device will lose its functionality or even become inoperable because of damage to its body.

Accessorize. For smartphones and tablets, the No. 1 accessory to consider for durability is going to be a good case. Cases vary in how much protection they offer as a trade-off for usability and comfort, says Best Buy Geek Squad agent Derek Meister.

Protection plans. An alternative to investing in a tablet cover is an investment in a protection plan, Davidson says. Many cover any device malfunction, including software failure, hardware failure, screen cracks and other problems caused by accidental drops or immersion in liquids. Consumers should compare the costs and benefits of a protection plan versus a tablet cover.

Rescue it from drowning. The most important thing to do when a device comes in contact with liquid is to immediately power it off and then wipe it dry, Davidson advises. Allow the device to air dry for at least 24 hours before powering it back on. The longer the device has to dry, the greater its chance of survival.

These case covers were deemed the best by the experts:

• ZAGG InvisibleSHIELD: This is the same thin plastic material used to protect military helicopter blades from sandstorms, and it is designed to help protect your device’s screen from scratches and marks. Made for most smartphones and tablets. Price varies by device at

• Otterbox Protects smartphones against drops and shock. All of their cases go through rigorous internal and third-party testing that includes dropping the case on every side. Their newest case is a waterproof phone case, which allows your smartphone to be submerged into water up to 6.6 feet for 30 minutes. Made for most smartphones and tablets. Price varies by device at

• Lifeproof: It’s sleek yet drop-proof and dust-proof — and their newest cases are waterproof. If you want the ultimate protection in a unobtrusive case, this is it. Made for iPhones, Galaxy smartphones, iPods and iPads. Price varies by device at

• Fuhu nabi Jr.: It’s even better than a safeguard. Get your kid his own tablet that can also double as a baby monitor or as a karaoke machine. It comes loaded with games, built-in Wi-Fi and 4GB of internal storage — perfect for a pint-sized pre-reader. While you read your favorite books on your tablet, he can play a puzzle game. $99.99 at

©2014 Chicago Tribune
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