According to a leading consumer agency, almost 70% of holiday shoppers in the U.S. plan to buy at least one tech-related gift for someone on their list this year. That alone can strike fear in the hearts of non-nerds like this author who are hard-wired to please by gifting the ultimate item each and every time. To make it easier for all of us, here is the short list of most-wanted items this season. A few additional have been thrown in for anyone considering updating their domiciles over the next year so you can plan ahead.
Wireless Headphones: Wireless headphones became extremely popular a few years ago. The latest offerings are from the ‘big-name’ media brands such as Bose. Their SoundSport Free claims to offer ‘truly wireless’ earbuds that only connect to your device via Bluetooth, ergo, no wires. Available only in orange, the SoundSport is Android-friendly, thereby giving Apple AirPods which only connect to Apple products, a run for their holiday revenue. Available through Amazon, it goes for $200+ tax and S&H.
For wireless connectivity AND noise-cancellation, Jabra’s Elite 65e is the one to beat. Also Android-friendly, it also commands $200+ tax and S&H to get it home.
Fitness trackers and Smartwatches
For centuries, a person’s watch has represented their position in society. In recent years, the brand one flaunts also speaks to how the wearer wishes to be perceived. For that there are usually two camps: Apple and everyone else. So it goes with fitness trackers and smartwatches. This year’s big item is Apple Watch Series 3 featuring the latest updates including cellular connectivity. Its gauges are small, but if the wearer has 20-20 vision, it is possible to perform the same functions on the Series 3 that the best tablets offer. Available for $300+ tax and S&H if ordering online.
Among fitness trackers Fitbit reigns supreme over a wide range of competitors. The original and still the best, the latest version provides echocardiograms and advanced step tracking. For those who just want others to think that they are fitness-oriented, it tells time pretty good, too! Retails for about $200 online. Well, somebody somewhere was bound to come up with this: the smartwatch/fitness tracker hybrid. Withings’ activity tracker resemble a sleek, business-savvy timepiece that can be worn anywhere and does not remotely resemble the clunky, sporty, muscular smartwatch. It is competitively priced at $200 online via Amazon.
voice speakers:We’ve all seen the ads for homes that seems to anticipate their owners’ needs and fulfill them. Smart displays/voice speakers are now in their second generation and offer small screens that perform tasks as well as interact with users. Amazon’s Echo swept the field for several years with nary a competitor of note. New this year is the Echo 2 which features a screen among other upgrades. The Echo syncs with Amazon’s paid services such as Prime video or Amazon music. It goes for under $250 online through Amazon and other retailers.
For 2017, Google entered the field, and this year is coming on strong with TV and print ads for their new Home Hub. A voice activated speaker display with a screen, the device connects to a user’s Google account to display selections from their Google Photos. It will play selected YouTube videos and perform Google Assistant tasks such as read a daily schedule, relay the weather report and any commutation issues. Head to head, the Home Hub is significantly cheaper than the Echo, under $150 at Google, and does not require any paid subscriptions, just accounts with the various Google functions.
Every had a package or mail go missing? Or want to see if the caller at the door is worth getting dressed for? Smart or security doorbells have become very popular since their inception and can be used as stand alone video recorders or as part of a network of smart devices throughout the home. The most widely known is the Ring, which is easily controlled by voice activated devices. It is ideal for those with Amazon Prime memberships who may have auto-subscriptions through this service and receive several packages weekly. Prices vary but generally it retails under $200 through Prime.
Not to be outdone, Nest, which also makes smart thermostats, was recently acquired by Google. It’s products integrate seamlessly with Google Assistant so this might offer the best option for your household. It runs about $230 at a range of retailers including Walmart.
Drones: Drones return as the best item to buy a budding geek or frankly, a geek of any age. While not yet at the stage where this technology is used to delivery packages, they can be used by anyone (including governments) to take aerial photos. Of these, the DJI Spark is extremely popular and while considered a ‘mini drone’ it can be programmed to record images while in flight with just a wave of the controller’s hand- no remote or smartphone required! Walmart has them, at a base of $400. Too rich for your blood? Amazon has an under $55 mini that lacks the hand gesture control, but will take a photo and be controlled by a smartphone app.
Entertainment: Once upon a time, one bought a TV and it lasted forever. Along came cable and its competitors which soon priced itself into the stratosphere and strained many consumer’s entertainment budgets. Now with tech advances introduced for the winter holidays, the Smart TV, specifically the 4K which offers almost limitless viewing options, is at the top of most families’ wish lists. Why? It provides a necessary upgrade for those who enjoy their TV as the entertainment hub of their home, and while there are many extremely high-end options, the technology is also available for less than $300.
Technological innovations seldom come cheap. Many will look on these gift suggestions and experience sticker shock while others will whip out their fast plastic with aplomb and nary a batted eyelash. Remember, for those whose budget will not allow such extravagances, there are always gift cards in whatever denomination will be well-received, yet not break your budget.