Holiday Gift Ideas for Techies, 2015

As the holiday season closes in, you may be thinking about just what to get the tech-savvy person on your list. This year the usual suspects will be the talk of the electronics aisles, with tablets, health monitoring devices and phones near the top of everyone’s lists. But there are some other items sure to be big this season.

BB-8 App-Enabled Droid by Sphero
Of course one of the biggest themes this year has been Star Wars. There are the usual amounts of action figures, t-shirts, posters and other tchotchkes springing up everywhere from the toy store to the grocery store. One that will probably be a hit will be the BB-8 App-Enabled Droid by Sphero. Users control the droid with an app on their iOS or Android device. The droid can function as a remote controlled device, set to patrol an area (sort of like a robot vacuum cleaner), and can take and display holographic video messages. The droid also responds to voice commands and can adapt to its environment, so it learns not to take a tumble down the steps.

TV is hot again this year, both new TV sets and smart devices for those who have an older set. After years of being promised as the next big thing in picture resolution, 4K TV has come down enough in price that more than just the earliest of adopters are thinking of making the upgrade. Much like when HDTV was new, the drawback is you need content in 4K to make it worth the investment. If you are using Netflix, Amazon or some other online providers, you have access to some 4K content. If you just watch cable or DVD/BluRay and need a new TV, you might want to think twice about a 4K TV. For more details on 4K, check out TechRadar’s guide to the format. For those not interested in 4K, “regular” HDTVs are also coming down in price, including the smartTV versions. Much like a smartphone, a smartTV has apps built in or that you can download and install, such as apps for Hulu, NetFlix, etc. to stream content over your WiFi network direct to the TV. If you do not need a TV, there are plenty of gadgets that you can attach to your TV to make your old HDTV a smartTV. We took a look at those gadgets earlier this year in our blog post on the topic.

Fitness devices are also still pretty hot in terms of ending up on wish lists. The FitBit line is perhaps the most well-known, but there are other devices out there that are worth looking at, depending upon the needs of the user. Misfit is a fairly new name to the activity tracker field, and there also entries from Garmin, Microsoft, and several others. PC Magazine recently rated the best activity trackers, but keep in mind that there are different types of trackers that may appeal to user tastes. For example, someone who really likes their current watch may not want a wristband type of tracker or someone with a particular phone might want a specific device (such as Apple Watch or Microsoft Band) to match their phone.

Adventure seekers are leaning toward drones and GoPro cameras. Drones are the tamer of the two, since they usually are remote controlled from a safe location and the user gets to “fly” by watching the video feed. One word of caution, do check the local laws regarding drones since there may be restrictions on their use for privacy and security reasons. If you do have a drone hobbyist on your list, Drone Lifestyle has a review on the top picks for 2015. As for the GoPro cameras, these are the kind you can strap onto a helmet (or handlebars, etc.) and capture HD video of your adventures, whether it be downhill skiing or just playing with the kids at the beach.

Echo
Two items from Amazon are looking like they will be talked about this year, the Fire Tablet and Echo. The Fire tablet is a low-end, inexpensive tablet that is perfect for kids or a beginner’s tablet for non-techies who want to use something simple. The tablet is also pretty good for those looking to make the most out of an Amazon Prime account, but do not already own a tablet or laptop to play movies, TV or music on. For music fans, there is the Echo, which will play back tunes from Prime, as well as Pandora, iHeart Radio and more. The device can also control smart home devices from Belkin, Philips, Wink and more. The device is voice controlled and can search the internet to report news, weather, sports scores or anything else you might want to ask it.

Finally, if you are looking for something unusual for your favorite techie, there is always an interesting selection of stuff at Think Geek and Computer Gear.

-Laura N.

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