Gadgets still make for fun and exciting gifts, but nowadays they’re also essential tools for better organization, health and entertainment.
Once upon a time tech gifts were a novelty—more of a promise of what the future could bring than actual tools that could be used effectively in day-to-day life. Today’s tech gifts, however, are far removed from the ham radios of the past, or the astronaut pens that let you write upside down.
Whether you’re a computer programer or a crossing guard, you’d be thrilled to get today’s cutting edge tech products as gifts, because they’re as practical as they are innovative, and you can use them every day.
Keeping up with the ever-evolving tech landscape can be challenging, so let’s breakdown the latest and greatest products on the market that would make fun and functional gifts for the people in your life this holiday season.
The newest iteration of Amazon’s Alexa-enabled smart display is a tech gift that anyone could enjoy, not just techies. It’s a voice assistant that you can command to play music, check the weather, and make calls, with the added bonus of also having a 10.1 inch screen that makes many more functions possible. Set it on your counter and you can pull up recipes, watch Amazon Prime or Hulu TV shows, and control your other smart devices. It can serve as a command center for your house, a second TV, and even a stereo system, with much improved speakers that are good enough to rock a party. The one downside is that you can’t comfortably watch YouTube videos with the Echo Show. At about $230, it’s not the cheapest gift, but it provides good value for the money.
The newest Apple Watch is pricey, but it could be a life-saving gift for an older friend or relative. Not only does it have a 30% larger screen than previous versions, and a 50% louder speaker, it also features electrical and optical heart sensors, as well as fall detection and emergency SOS. This is a gift for someone who already has an iPhone 5S or higher to pair it with, and because its battery life is only 2 days, users have to be vigilant to keep it charged so they can make sure its emergency and health features are working. The GPS-only version of the watch starts at $399, and the version that enables cellular calls starts at $499.
The Sonos Beam is a smart soundbar for your TV that also allows you to play music, radio, podcasts and audiobooks. It's made for small- to medium-size rooms and can be placed on a TV stand or mounted on the wall. You can integrate it with other Sonos speakers if you want to expand to more rooms, and it conveniently pairs with your TV, or with Amazon Alexa for voice control. The Sonos Beam goes for $399, while its more powerful big brother, the Sonos Playbar, goes for $699. Not only does the Playbar have full-theater sound, but it also streams over WiFi, rather than Bluetooth, so your music won't be interrupted by phone calls.
Anker features a number of portable chargers and power banks that can hold anywhere from a full iPhone charge to 7 iPhone charges. The Anker PowerCore Lite 10000mAh is a happy medium, being small enough to easily transport—it's slim, and about the weight of a baseball—and powerful enough to hold 3 phone charges and 1 tablet charge. The Anker portable charger works for both iPhones and Android phones, and at $33.99, it's an affordable present for that friend who's always asking to borrow your charger.
The FitBit Versa doesn't have some of the Apple Watch 4's state-of-the-art medical tracking and emergency tools, but it does have some advantages over the Apple as a gift: the recipient doesn't have to have an iPhone, it costs half as much ($199), and its battery lasts about twice as long at 4+ days. You can track fitness activity and sleep, store hundreds of songs, get notifications from your phone, and even use it to record swimming workouts, as it's water-resistant to 50 meters. Give it to someone you love as a trendy motivator to stay in shape and live a healthier life.
Google’s smart display is about $80 cheaper than its Amazon counterpart, the Echo Show, and it has the advantage of easy YouTube viewing. However, its screen is about a third smaller than the Echo Show, the sound isn’t as good, and it doesn’t feature a camera, so it can’t do video calls. The Google Home Hub excels at letting you view a dashboard of your other smart home devices and controlling them. It also syncs with Google Photos and serves as a sort of digital photo frame for pictures that you’ve taken with your phone. It’s a relatively affordable gift at $149, even if it lacks some of the coolest features of the Echo Show.
The GoPro HERO7 Black is an action camera that you can mount on yourself to record or photograph any activity, including underwater sports or particularly rough-and-tumble exploits. This model stand outs from its predecessors by delivering what it refers to as "HyperSmooth" footage. The camera doesn't require a gimbal to give you smooth footage, because the stabilization is built in. So even if you're running or biking over rough terrain, you'll get a continuous smooth shot that isn't shaky. In addition, this version of the GoPro can take pictures or start recording on voice command and includes cool features like slo-mo and time-lapse. The camera isn't cheap at nearly $400, but it's an amazing gift for any outdoor person who loves to post their adventures to social media, or even stream them live.
Any friend or loved one who complains about slow WiFi or internet dead spots at their house is a great candidate for this gift. The Wifi system can cover up to 5,000 square feet, providing 3.0 GBPS speeds to every room of a house, even if multiple family members are using the WiFi at the same time. It's also suitable for people with businesses who want to set up a guest network for visitors. The system goes for $279, but for $429.99, you can upgrade to an Orbi with Amazon Alexa and a Harmon Kardon speaker built-in. This lets you issue the system voice commands to instantly play music, check the news, or control your smart home devices.
This eBook reader is an affordable gift for the avid reader in your life, whether they have already made the transition from paper to screen or not. Those who are used to eBook readers will appreciate the upgrade that the Paperwhite represents, with built-in light for day or night reading, a glare-proof surface, a 300ppi screen that's particularly crisp, and a battery that lasts up to 6 weeks. For those who have thus far resisted eBook readers, they will be converted by the special fonts that read like a book and paperback-like weight and size that allows you to comfortably hold it with one hand, just like you would a traditional novel. The Kindle Paperwhite starts at $119.99.
If you need a futuristic and original gift for the friend who has everything, the Oculus Go Virtual Reality Headset is here. It's a portable device that doesn't have to be hooked up to a PC and slips over your head like goggles. You can download apps like Netflix and Hulu to watch TV and movies as if you're in a theater, or get the experience of being in the front row for live sporting events or concerts. For gamers, there are special VR games that put you right in the action, and for those who want something a bit more chill, you can take 360 degree tours of cities and attractions around the world. The Oculus Go comes in 2 different memory sizes, allowing you to store different amounts of content on your device. The 32GB Go costs $199 and can hold the equivalent of 3 HD movies, 10 games and 20 apps, while the 64GB version goes for $249 and can hold twice as much content.
Tech has become mainstream, and tech gifts are now among the most sought-after gifts by all age groups. If you want to get a bigger reaction than you did for last year’s sweater, give a cutting edge tech product as a gift and watch the excitement on your loved ones’ faces.