You don’t need to be a tech nerd to appreciate a good gadget. So whether you need a gift for a tech-obsessed gearhead or someone who’s life could just be made a little easier, we’ve got some gadget ideas for all your friends and loved ones.
A Sonos One
Smart speakers like the Amazon Echo are making appearances on gift guides everywhere, and it’s easy to see why: they’re cheap, they’re fun, and they open up a whole new world of voice-controlled home tech. But most of their utility is tied up in other smarthome devices—without that, they mostly act as music speakers of middling quality.
Enter the Sonos One: it’s a bit more expensive at $200, but it’s got the higher sound quality you’ve come to expect from Sonos, with the same Alexa assistant built-in. That means you can activate your music with the magic of your voice—no fiddling with a smartphone or tablet—and your giftee can grow into it as they acquire smarthome tech down the line.
The Nomad Charging Wallet
Smartphones are more powerful than ever, but battery technology hasn’t improved much in the past decade or so. You’d be pretty lucky to get more than a day or two out of your phone, and if you’re using it heavily—like when you’re traveling—you might not even make it through dinner.
As a result, portable battery packs have become quite popular, but they aren’t exactly stylish...or easy to carry around. That’s why Nomad, in addition to their phone cases and other accessories, developed a series of charging wallets for the iPhone. Constructed with Horween leather, these wallets should develop an attractive aged look over time without falling apart, and can hold enough juice to fully charge an iPhone 8 (and almost fully charge an iPhone Xs). The slim charging wallet costs $80, while the bi-fold option is slightly more at $100.
Jabra Elite 65t Earphones
Apple’s AirPods brought “truly wireless” earphones to the mainstream, and they are indeed awesome—but for almost the same price ($170), the Jabra Elite 65t are even better. They come with active noise cancelling (so you can block out the world around you), tons of quick controls right on the ‘bud, and great sound quality. If you’d rather not block out the world, you can even activate its “transparency mode,” which uses the microphones to let outside noise in—great if you’re jogging or walking down a busy street. That’s a lot of bang for your buck, especially in an earbud with zero cables.
A Fossil Q Hybrid Smartwatch
Watches make great gifts for the stylish guy or gal in your life, but if your recipient is a bit more tech-savvy, Fossil’s hybrid smartwatches are a great balance between style and utility. Instead of a battery-draining screen on top, you get a traditional two-hand watch face, that connects to your phone and vibrates when you receive notifications. You can set the hands to “swing” to certain positions so you know whether that notification was an email or a text, or who it came from. Many also come with activity tracking and sleep monitoring, plus interchangeable straps so you can vary your look.
It may not be quite as powerful as a true smartwatch, but it uses a regular watch battery that lasts months—and it looks a bit less conspicuous. Fossil carries many styles for both men and women under $200—though you’ll also find options from Fossil’s sub-brands, including Skagen, Misfit, Armani Exchange, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, and others.
The iPad Pro or Surface Pro
This year, both the new iPad Pro and Surface Pro impressed fans of tablet/laptop hybrids, and if you know someone who wants one device that handles both work and play, these might fit the bill. The iPad Pro is more of a tablet with some laptop-esque features, while the Surface Pro is akin to a laptop with some tablet-like features—but both devices are quite powerful in the right hands. Unlike the Surface Pro, however, which is an incremental upgrade to last year’s model, the latest iPad Pro sports an entirely new design with an almost edge-to-edge display and a much-needed USB-C port.
Both devices are rather pricey, starting at $800 for the iPad Pro and $900 for the Surface Pro 6. If you’re looking for something a bit less “pro” and a bit more affordable, the regular iPad and the Surface Go are great alternatives.
Moment iPhone Camera Lenses
Smartphone cameras have become insanely impressive in the past few years—they’re the only camera most people need. Sure, serious photographers can get better shots with a real dedicated camera, but between the price and the bulk, most people won’t bother.
If you know someone who’d like to take their smartphone shooting to the next level, though, Moment’s clip-on wide, portrait, macro, and other lenses for iPhone, Pixel, and Galaxy phones offer a bit more versatility. Unlike many clip-on lenses, Moment’s lenses require using one of Moment’s cases on your phone to use—but this ensures they fit precisely on the center of your phone’s camera for perfect shots. Each lens costs around $100, but even with a few lenses, you’ll end up with a cheaper, more portable system than many dedicated cameras—so it’s a worthwhile investment for budding smartphone photographers.
The Apple TV 4K or NVIDIA SHIELD
By now, you’re probably familiar with streaming set-top boxes like the Apple TV. Most people are—though they often rely on their smart TV’s built-in apps instead of shelling out the extra $100 or $200 on a dedicated box. But they’re missing out: dedicated boxes have better long-term support and more features.
The Apple TV 4K, for example, supports a plethora of streaming apps for movies, TV shows, and sports—and fills in the gaps with Apple’s fantastic iTunes Store for renting and buying. You can control it with Siri, play some casual games, and showcase your home photos and videos from your iPhone. For Apple users, there’s no better streaming box.
If your loved one is an Android user and/or PC gamer, however, the NVIDIA SHIELD is a killer device. It comes with all the same streaming services you’ve come to expect from set-top boxes—Netflix, Hulu, Sling TV, and others—plus Google’s extensive Play Store for movies and shows. On top of that, though, the SHIELD is also a solid gaming device, offering lots of AAA games like Tomb Raider and Borderlands in the Play Store. It can also stream games from your PC for more comfortable couch gaming, or—if you don’t have a gaming PC—stream PC games over the internet through NVIDIA’s awesome GeForce Now service. That’s a lot of functionality for $200, and a nice upgrade from the aging smart TV platform your friend is probably using.
The HTC Vive or Oculus Rift
Speaking of gamers, if you have a PC gamer in your life who hasn’t yet experienced VR—real, two-handed, room-scale VR—it’s time for them to get on the train. The $500 HTC Vive is arguably the king of VR right now, providing full, dodge-and-crouch-around-the-room gaming that few other headsets can match. The Oculus Rift comes pretty close, however, and is $100 less expensive. Neither headset is cheap, but if you’re feeling generous this holiday season, true VR is something you have to experience to understand. Just make sure they have a gaming PC that can power it...and make sure they let you try it out, because it truly is mind blowing.
The Amazon Echo Show or Google Home Hub
If you know someone who’s already decked out their home with smart lights, sensors, and other internet-connected goodies, they probably have a few smart speakers. But they may not have a screen to go with them, like Amazon’s Echo Show or Google’s brand-new Home Hub. At $230 and $150, respectively, these devices essentially act as a smarthome dashboard, allowing more fine-grained control of your lights, locks, and other gadgets—not to mention a screen for seeing your calendar, watching videos, or getting more detailed answers to all your burning questions.
The Logitech Harmony Elite
When it comes to home theater, getting an awesome TV and speakers are important—but too many people neglect the convenience of a good universal remote. Sure, the one that came with your cable box is fine, but once you use something like the Logitech Harmony Elite, it’s hard to go back. Logitech’s premium offering—which comes bundled with it’s Wi-Fi Harmony Hub—allows you to create custom functions for its touch screen, control smarthome devices, and use your voice to turn on your TV and play videos. Plus, since the hub acts as an infrared blaster, you don’t have to point the remote at or anywhere near your TV—which is actually amazing when you have to wait for 3 different devices to turn on. The Harmony Elite costs $285, though if you’re looking to save a bit, the Harmony Ultimate has a lot of similar functionality for a bit less money—while also being a bit clunkier.
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