For many of us, the holiday season means fun parties, eggnog, and a growing sense of anxiety about what to give friends and family. This year, you can relax, as I’ve done the hard work for you with a detailed but concise list of techie presents for people of all interests and ages (yes, there are even some ideas in here for the kiddies). Happy holidays!
For the avid adventurer: goTenna, $199 for a pair
If you know people who spend a lot of time exploring the great outdoors, the goTenna can help them keep in touch even in places where there’s no cell-phone signal for miles. The device, which is sold in packs of two, works with your smartphone and an accompanying app to let you send messages and your location to another goTenna user. According to the company, it can work over a range of up to four miles in open spaces, and up to one mile in dense urban places.
For the fashionista who wants to stay connected: Pebble Time Round, $250
The light, slender Pebble Time Round looks a lot like a regular watch. But unlike a standard timepiece, it’s got a color e-paper display that can host a number of different watch faces, and it can show you alerts for everything from incoming phone calls and texts to e-mails and Twitter mentions. It’s not the most full-featured smart watch on the market, but it’s good-looking and useful without being overly annoying.
For the serious reader: Amazon Kindle Paperwhite without sponsored lock screens, $140
Amazon’s Kindle Paperwhite makes it really easy to read anywhere, any time, without carrying around a bag full of paperbacks. It’s slim and light—just over seven ounces and the size of a very skinny book—so it can slip right into a backpack or purse, and the adjustable backlight on its six-inch touch screen lets you read in all kinds of light without needing a separate reading light or bothering others who’d rather remain in the dark. If you’d like to save a little bit, you can opt for the Paperwhite with sponsored lock screens for $20 less.
For the remote-control freak: DJI Phantom 3 Standard, $699
Shopping for someone who really wants a drone but doesn’t have much experience playing with one? This quadcopter may fit the bill. It has GPS so you can see its flight pattern on your smartphone (which attaches to its remote control), and a camera attached to a gimbal on its belly can take high-definition videos and 12-megapixel still photos. It also boasts decent flying time: as much as 25 minutes per charge.
For the virtual-reality fan: Samsung Gear VR, $100; compatible Samsung smartphone, prices vary
If you want to give the gift of virtual reality this year, Samsung’s newest Gear VR is a good bet. Pop in a compatible smartphone and you can play games or watch Netflix (sure, the Netflix is just two-dimensional, but it’s like having your own private theater attached to your head). Unfortunately, the headset works with just a handful of Samsung smartphones, so if your recipient doesn’t have one of them (the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+, or Note5), you might also want to spring for a handset.
For the younger virtual-reality fan: Mattel View-Master, $30
It looks kind of like the View-Master of yesteryear, but if you place an iPhone or Android smartphone inside this plastic contraption you can play around with virtual reality, as it supports Google Cardboard apps. (There are also some apps and accompanying throwback View-Master reels from Mattel, but beyond an included sample they cost $15 apiece.) And the Mattel View-Master doesn’t have to be just for kids—it could also be a fun, inexpensive gift for an adult who is interested in a more substantial version of Cardboard.
For the kid who really, really wants a tablet: Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablet and case, $100
The Amazon Fire Kids Edition tablet makes a great argument for a just-for-kids tablet. It’s affordable; it has decent specifications (including a seven-inch touch screen, front and rear cameras, and a microSD card slot for adding more storage to its built-in eight gigabytes); and it may entertain (er, educate) children while giving adults some peace. Also, the tablet comes with a case, as well as a two-year warranty under which Amazon says it will replace the gadget, “no questions asked,” if the kids break it.
For the smartphone photographer: Photojojo iPhone and Android Lens Series smartphone lens set, $99
This set of stick-on lenses—two different fisheye lenses, along with telephoto, polarized, and combined wide-angle and macro lenses—can help friends who are obsessed with taking smartphone photos up their imagery game. And if you aren’t feeling generous enough to spring for the whole set, you can also buy individual lenses for $20 apiece.
For the power-hungry traveler: Zolt Laptop Charger Plus, $100
Zolt’s Laptop Charger Plus is not your standard brick charger: it’s tiny, and it actually looks good. Also, it can charge a laptop and two other devices at a time with its trio of USB ports, and the charging prongs can turn 90 degrees if need be. It comes with a range of PC charging tips; sadly, if the recipient of this gift has a MacBook, you’ll have to pay an extra $20 for the proper tip.
For the tech-minded cyclist: Hammerhead One, $85
Biking can be a drag when you’re going somewhere new; it’s a pain to keep stopping and pulling out your smartphone to check directions, and not everyone wants to perch a phone on the handlebars. The Hammerhead One is an interesting alternative that could make a good gift: it’s a T-shaped gadget that mounts to your handlebars and uses glowing LEDs to show you when and in which direction to turn (it gets its sense of direction via low-energy Bluetooth from an app running on your smartphone, which you can keep tucked away).
For the person with 20 easy-to-crack passwords: LastPass Premium, $12
It might not be as exciting as a hoverboard, but chances are lower that this gift will make the recipient look dumb in the year to come. LastPass is a password manager, which means it saves your usernames and passwords for various websites, filling them in for you when you visit (this data is itself protected with a password). Unlike LastPass’s freebie option, Premium has no ads and lets you sync your info with an unlimited number of computers, smartphones, and tablets, making it even quicker and easier to sign in to all those websites you like to visit.