What does everyone want this holiday? Why tech gear. But just what gift is the right gadget gift? From top tablets to simple smartphones, desks that make you stand up for your health to devices that make you unplug for your sanity — here are a whole bunch of ideas that I’ve hand-picked out of the thousands of gadgets I’ve seen over the past year.
The right wireless portable speaker can make a gadget-lover’s day and this is a go-to gift for just about everyone on your list. These little speakers now come in every shape, size, and price range — and some are even solar powered and waterproof. If money’s no object, the $200 Logitech UE Boom is a compact, loud, water-and-stain resistant choice with a whopping 15-hours of battery life. In the $100 range, JBL, Jabra Jambox, and Oontz XL all offer better than average sound, let you charge other gadgets on the go with a USB port, and rock a full day of battery life. For the mini-models, you can’t go wrong with the HDMX Jam Plus ($50).
One device I’ve walked about and shown off all year long is a little home video monitoring system called DropCam HD Wi-Fi ($150). All you do is take it out of the box, spend about two minutes registering the camera online, plug it in and watch a live video feed on your smartphone, tablet, or computer. There’s a two-way microphone, so you can talk to your kids while you’re commuting home from the office, check in on your pets, and keep on eye on all of the people, places, and things you love the most. It’s a really great home to be a presence in your home, even when you can’t physically be there.
3. Tablets that come out on top
It’s hard not to ask Santa for a new slate this holiday season, but now there are so many great ones to choose, how do you know which one is the right one? We’ve played with them all, told you the best to buy this holiday season, and given you ways to buy more for less. Now, here’s a quick list of lifestyle specs to help in a pinch:
- For a non-techy, the iPad Mini with Retina Display ($399) and iPad Air ($499) are the most intuitive, and easiest to just turn on and start using right away.
- If it’s going to be used in a kitchen or taken to the beach, the Sony XPeria Tablet Z ($499) is water resistant, up to three feet for up to 30 minutes.
- If it’s going to be carried in a purse: go with a smaller size, like the iPad Mini ($399), Google Nexus 7 ($229), or Amazon Kindle Fire HDX 7 ($229).
- If it’s going to be used outside in bright light: Nokia Lumia 2520 ($499), Google Nexus 7, Amazon Kindle Fire HDX.
- If it’s going to take over for a laptop, check out the Microsoft Surface 2 ($899).
4. The gadget that makes you unplug
In response to the growing “together-but-separate” gadget-centric trend among families, tech manufacturers are churning out a trendy, new crop of tech tools aimed at bringing families back together. One that I’ve tested recently is the Kitchen Safe. It’s a see-through hard plastic container that has a battery-operated time lock on top. It’s actually quite brilliant in its simplicity. All you do is put your cell phones or gaming devices inside (laptops and iPads don’t fit into the medium-sized one that I’ve tried), set the timer, close the lid and you are locked out until the timer reaches zero. There’s no breaking-in or cheating, which actually makes it so much easier to avoid the temptation of “just checking that one last email.”
5. Headphones to let the music play
For that person who already has all the hottest gadgets, consider a great pair of headphones. When it comes to looking fabulous and sounding pretty decent too, Beats are hard to, well, beat. The over-ear headphones stand out from the crowd with vibrant colors, rich clear tones and signature deep base. For noise cancelling comfort, Bose Quiet Comfort 15 are the best I’ve tried for drowning out screaming babies and obnoxious people talking on cell phones. When it comes to the best in-ear buds for going on long runs or just tuning out the rest of the world, I love Monster iSport Immersion.
6. A caller-id for your front porch
If you’re looking for a great gift for the man in your life — who likes to fancy himself a bit of a DIY Guy — check out this VTech Video Doorbell Phone ($120). It combines a cordless home phone system (which also makes it a great gift for your parents, because who else do you know who still has a home phone) with a video doorbell to give you a sort of caller ID for your front porch. Whenever someone rings the doorbell, their image appears on the 1.8″ color display on your phone handset so you know who’s at the door before you answer it. It also keeps a photo log of past visitors so you can see who’s been by while you were out.
Lifelogging. Everyone’s doing it — using point of view, or POV, cameras — to capture everything from a child’s first steps to a sick skateboard jump, and every bit of daily minutiae in between. The GoPro HD Hero3 Black Edition ($400) is the 900-pound gorilla in the market, but it’s also expensive and hard for some non-techies to handle. The newly released Looxcie 3 offers an affordable choice, starting at about $100. With its 100-degree field of view, HD recording up 720p,and photo capture you’ll have a ton of flexibility for wearing and sharing. You can pair it with an app to live-stream video directly to your friends and family, or to your Facebook wall.
RELATED: Wearable cameras to connect your pet
8. Tech to make you get up, stand up
For someone who has health on their mind this holiday, the new Fitbit Force ($130) is a fan favorite, helping you stay on top of your activity and sleep. It syncs to your phone or computer so you can monitor your progress and see how close you are to meeting your fitness goals. I also like that it has a watch built-in. Also in this same category, the ultra luxurious Stir Kinetic Desk ($3,890). It’s a desk that rises up to standing position, and lowers for sitting. It’s a beautifully crafted piece of furniture, with a touchpad control panel, where you can set goals, track progress — like how many extra calories you’ve burned — or monitor how much time you’ve spent sitting versus standing. It has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, plus 8 power outlets and a handful USB ports. If I had the money, this is what I would buy myself this year.
9. For the person who has everything
You may not think of a lightbulb as a cool holiday gift, but the Philips Hue ($200) is a new, smart lightbulb that I think anyone would be glad to get. These LED bulbs communicate with your iPhone or iPad to let you customize light colors, allow the lights to turn on automatically when you’re close to home, or turn on or off based on a timer, and lots more. $200 will buy you a starter pack of three bulbs and the bridge needed to communicate with your bulbs.
10. Smartphones that have style and personality
Smartphones are tough to buy for someone else, because they’re just so personal. Not only that, but whatever you choose comes at an ongoing price in the form of a pesky monthly contract. So, if you’re springing for a new smartphone for someone, think how the person will use it, how much mula you want to spend, and how much they’re able to afford each month. Like iPads, iPhones tend to be easier for most people to just pick up and start using. If you’re looking for a decent price range, try the new iPhone 5C ($0 with two year Sprint contract), which has all the bells and whistles of Apple’s top handsets, at a fraction of the price. One of my favorites on the Android side this year has been the Motorola Moto X. It’s a solid smartphone across all categories, and a great pick for someone who likes to personalize their own devices. The Nokia Lumia 1020 ($100 with two-year ATT contract) is perfect for shutter-bugs who love to take photos — as much if not more — than they like to talk on the phone. Other great picks we’ve talked about throughout this past year include, LG Optimus G Pro, HTC One, Samsung Galaxy 4, and of course, the iPhone 5S.
11. Kitchen tech that adds sparkle
One of the best buys for a family is the new SodaStream Source ($130). This do-it-yourself make-any-drink-sparkle is a staple in our kitchen, and it’s just had an upgrade that makes it even cooler. It helps you save money on bottled fizzy water and soda, helps save the planet, and your health. It boasts a refashioned bottle, and you can dial in your desired level of fizziness via the LED interface.
12. Gift cards go high tech
Gift cards take the top spot on several surveys pinpointing go-to gifts this year, with the National Retail Federation predicting U.S. spending on these little plastic presents will reach an all-time high. Rather than just grabbing up a handful of whatever happens to be within reach of the checkout counter at your local grocery store, why not take a more personalized approach? You can use your own photos, and even write your own note on a personalized Visa or Mastercard. Order cards anywhere from $10 to $250 (plus $5-$6 processing fee for each card) at Gift Card Lab or GiftCards.
Of course, this isn’t everything. We’re doing a separate write-up on great gifts for gamers, stocking stuffers, and more tech toys for all ages. But this definitely get you started on the right track. When in doubt, be sure to send me a direct question via the comments section. I love hearing from you and helping in any way I can. Jolly Holidays!
Jennifer Jolly is an Emmy Award-winning consumer tech contributor and host of USA TODAY’s digital video show TECH NOW. E-mail her at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter: @JenniferJolly.