Best tech gifts for 2016
If you'd rather skip the research and my personal commentary (it's a long post), download my sleek new
Tech Christmas Gift Ideas in PDF format.
According to the Consumer Technology Association, this is the year for tech gifts! More U.S. consumers than ever – 68%, or roughly 170 million people – plan to buy technology gifts this holiday season. That's a 6% increase over last year. Spending on tech is expected to reach $36.05 billion during the 2016 holiday season.
74% Buy Tech Gifts from a Retail Store but Online Purchasing is Growing
People are also more likely to buy those tech gifts online with their mobile devices (smartphones and tablets). The prediction is these online purchases will grow by 45.2% to $20.1 billion. CTA’s study found more than half (57%, up two percentage points) of consumers are likely to shop for tech online this year. Physical stores remain the main source of tech gift purchases, with 74% of consumers likely to purchase from a brick-and-mortar location – down three percentage points from last year.
The CTA's 23rd Annual Consumer Technology Holiday Purchase Patterns Study shows the hottest categories of the season.
The 3 Most Popular Tech Gifts to Give
According to the CTA, the most popular tech gifts (to give) this year are:
- Virtual reality
The CTA expects headphones (40%) to be the most popular tech gift given this year, driven in part by tech industry movement toward wireless audio devices (thank you iPhone 7 for not including a jack, you really helped propel the wireless market).
Top Tech Gifts to Get
The top gifts people want to get are:
- Smartphones, including Androids – which according to this article, now own a majority of global market share – 9 of every 10 smartphones sold in the last quarter were Androids
- Video game consoles
Most Popular Emerging Tech Gifts
A record-high number of consumers plan to buy a new, emerging technology product as a gift this holiday season. The most popular gifts among emerging tech will be:
• Wearables (27% of consumers plan to buy), led by smart watches (17 percent) and fitness activity trackers (15 percent)
• Smart home devices (24%), including smart thermostats (10 percent) and digital assistant devices such as Amazon’s Echo (six percent)
• Connected or digital toys (11%)
• VR headsets (10%), with several tech leaders introducing VR headsets to the market, CTA projects sales of 700,000 during the holiday season
• Drones (9%), with projected sales of about 1.2 million units this holiday season (up 112 percent over 2015)
Christmas Gifts for the Smart Home Geek
I recently attended a blogging event that showcased tech gift ideas. First, I wondered why I don't blog more about tech stuff because I am a bit of a geek. I'm not advanced and can't give you all the comparisons, but I have a wide range of tech that I use frequently across a lot of categories. After seeing some of these products, I definitely added a few more things to my Christmas list.
Honeywell Lyric Round Thermostat – BestBuy.com
The Honeywell is a smart thermostat you can control from your phone whether you're home or not. It does this automatically through geofencing, which uses the location of your smartphone. With the Lyric app, you can set temperature schedules, select vacation mode, check the weather, and even get alerts, like when your home’s air filters need to be changed. You can even control Lyric using Siri (Apple HomeKit) or Alexa (Amazon) voice control, your Apple Watch, and more. I will get one in a few weeks and hope to write a review.
We paid our heating/cooling contractor to set up our Honeywell Lyric round thermostat. Note: it's MUCH EASIER to install through an Apple product like an iPad than through Android phones.
Verdict: After learning how it works, setting it up, and using it for a few months, it's working like a dream. It looks amazing on our wall and keeps our home at the perfect temperature all of the time. Changing temperatures is easy too – I love the dial feature.
When we're out of town we can change the temperature and automatically have the settings restored when we get close to our house (there are geographical settings that once you go outside of, you are put in your vacation settings).
Price: $199 on BestBuy.com
[amazon_link asins='B015TJD0Y4,B01E6AO69U,B00WUKULAC' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='63ac85b3-f2d7-11e6-8a1b-85d8c90bb320′]
Philips Hue White Ambiance Starter Kit – Amazon
This is the product I want most – in my bedroom. Lighting is a huge issue at night. I want lights on, my husband wants them off (he hates the glare or harshness). Most of our outdoor lights are on timers but our bedroom lights are manual. No one wants to get up to turn off a light and my desk lamp is better but I'd prefer to turn off lights with my phone that's always at the edge of my nightstand. I also really like the idea of having the hues and hue recipes to set the right type of light to help you wake up and the type of light to help you calm down at night and get ready for sleep (warm white light). The app and the wall mount controls also have a dimmer.
If your light switches are located in an awkward or hard to reach place, you can put the light fixture wherever you want. To me though, it's all about voice command. That's my next step. I can hear myself say, “lights out” or whatever you say, and having everything just turn off for me.
Verdict: I got the starter kit and loved it. Then I was given 2 more lights for Christmas. So we now have 5 Hue smart lights. We use the Hue app to control them. After some initial trouble with them connecting, we are big fans. I plan to add motion and strip lights to our collection. Hue smart lights are very popular and were almost impossible to find as they were sold out almost everywhere both online and offline.
Also check BestBuy for Phillips Hue smart lights
Always know who’s at your door with the SkyBell HD Wi-Fi Video Doorbell. When a visitor presses the button, SkyBell sends a live video to your iOS mobile device so you can see, hear and speak to the person at your door from anywhere – all in full HD. It doesn't matter if you're home or in Paris for a holiday, your visitors will have no idea. Adds extra security – plus keeps you from having to open the door to door-to-door salespeople. Also ideal to watch your porch – if you get boxes and aren't home, you can keep an eye on them. Quiet mode means the doorbell can't wake up your baby. Skybell also has night vision so it can see who comes to your door when you're in bed or when the lights are off.[amazon_link asins='B01DLLU13U,B00N2ZDXW2,B01M3Y4ARM' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='5cca619b-f2dd-11e6-9e92-bfa8af5bafbd']
Multiple people can receive alerts to answer the door and you can have multiple device on each account. When we delivered neighbor gifts we noticed that 3 of our neighbors had smart doorbells. They were all different brands. I didn't like the look of Ring (didn't like the look of the actual doorbell and the image/video at night isn't very clear). I can't remember the other one, and there was a Vivant Home version that our neighbors loved (but has a monthly fee and is a much bigger commitment – it's part of an entire home security system).
My husband cannot stand a garage door or any door being left open. We will check and double check the doors before leaving the house. Last year we got a keypad so we can get into our house without a key. Alarm.com’s smart home technology takes this further. It's a home security system with a broad range of automation devices like smart thermostats, HD video, locks and lights through a single screen on Alarm.com’s family of mobile apps.
Designed for the busy family, Alarm.com reminds you to keep the home secure when you leave, alerts you about activity when you’re gone and responds automatically to protect your family when there’s an emergency at home.
Price: Cost depends on the service provider (Alarm.com doesn’t set pricing), but it’s about the same cost as a regular security system: $100-$200 up front and $35-$45 per month and that includes Alarm.com’s technology, professional installation, ongoing tech support and 24/7 monitored security.
Verdict: I'm not ready for a home security system but I really like the idea of having a system to remotely check/control lights and doors.
Lutron Caseta Wireless Smart Lighting Starter Kit – Amazon
Caseta Wireless allows you to create a smarter home at an affordable price. Control your lights, shades and other third-party devices using the Pico remote control or via your iOS/Android smartphone or tablet. You can also control using commands like “Turn on my lights” with Amazon’s Alexa and Siri. Now you can create light and music “scenes” in your home using the Sonos®- endorsed Pico Remote for Audio, which allows for one touch control of any Sonos speaker alongside lights, shades and temperature, when used with Lutron’s Caseta Wireless smart home system.
Verdict: this is the next step in going smart at our house. It connects with Sonos but what about Bose??[amazon_link asins='B00EWCUK98,B001CROHX6,B01LC7O9MY,B01LZRKNVV' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='222fecf9-f2d9-11e6-bc30-15e93ac3c97f']
Gifts for the Smartphone Geek
Perhaps the best feature besides being wireless is that these headphones stay in your ear really well. My teenage son has tested them and he likes them – but unfortunately he has an older iPod that will needs upgrading this Christmas so it has bluetooth. He is using these with his laptop and iPad. I think these are ideal for me – when I exercise because I have a problem with ear buds not staying in. Plus sweat.
The headphones come in 4 colors — pink, blue, white and black. There is a microphone and remote build into one housing so it’s easy to make and accept calls, control volume, pause playback and skip forward and backward through tracks. The headphones are splash-proof, give 7 hours of listening with the built-in rechargeable battery, and come with small and medium earpieces so users get the best fit possible.
Verdict: Love that these headphones don't fall out of my ears, even when I'm exercising. I haven't tried the microphone or speaker features yet but I'm sold on that feature alone! I want them in pink. I'm modeling them below – the cord connecting the headphones is in the back, but no cord to my phone or iPod.
Griffin iTrip Clip
iTrip Clip is what you use if you have headphones or buds you love but you want to go wireless. It cuts the cable between your smartphone and headphones to deliver the ultimate in wireless freedom to listen and control your music. Don’t worry if your smartphone doesn’t have the headphone jack. iTrip Clip connects your favorite headphones wirelessly to your smartphone or tablet using Bluetooth 4.1.
Verdict: I just want to skip this and go straight to a wireless headphone.
Otterbox Universe Case System – Amazon
My husband is a huge Otterbox fan and I find them a bit too clunky and ugly. He's an iPhone guy, I have an Android. My new phone, the Moto Z has an incredible feature – I can snap on a wireless charger, speakers or a camera. I don't have the camera (reviews were lackluster) but I'm really happy with the charger. My only complaint is that it needs the charger so often. Thankfully with the quick charger it's fast to recharge but for a power user like me the battery life lacks.
Now, with the Otterbox Universe Case System you can add accessories to your phone through the phone case itself. Interesting.
Here's what you can add: camera lenses, battery, speaker, hunt heat leaks with thermal imaging (not sure what this is), accept new payment types (like Square), store more media, and a Polar Pro armband. When I showed the sales guy at the Verizon store, where they didn't yet have it in stock, he was geeking out.
Price: $49.95, modules sold separately starting at $19.95
Verdict: I don't need one but I'm curious how it compares to my Moto Z phone mods. A possibility for my husband's stocking to go with the gift cards I always get him.
What's on my list for my phone? A hands free device for my car. I'm still researching which one to get. My Honda CR-V doesn't have good sound and people complain they cannot understand me when I use my car system. That's the biggest disappointment of my car – otherwise I love it. If you have suggestions, I want to hear them.[amazon_link asins='B01F2KQSYE,B01IE4ZO18,B01F2KQT5M,B01F5FYT6U,B01F8YGQEQ' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='a415241c-f2da-11e6-9afb-ebd58b011e7b']
Google Pixel Phone
Like I said, I'm really happy with my Moto Z Droid but if you're into photography and prefer Android, Pixel is worth a look. It's the first phone with the Google Assistant built in. Say “Ok Google” or touch and hold the Home button and it's like Siri (I actually like it better except I miss the snarky or philosophical comments Siri made – Google as you can expect is more function than elegance and isn't as friendly but most of the time it gets the job done quite well).
Pixel has a 12.3MP camera, an f/2.0 aperture and big 1.55 micron pixels to capture lots and lots of light. Catch action shots as they happen with Smartburst, which takes a rapid-fire sequence of shots and automatically selects the best one. Use Lens Blur to achieve shallow depth of field and bokeh effects, making your subject pop. So here's the point: you take a photo and you can change the focus of it AFTER you take it and create additional images from it.
Verdict: I'm happy with what I have but for my next phone I'll give Google Pixel a look.
Tech Gifts for the Photography Tech Geek
HP Sprocket photo printer – print pictures directly from your phone or tablet – Amazon
The HP Sprocket Photo Printer transforms your favorite smartphone or tablet pics into vibrant, shareable prints. This compact printer goes virtually anywhere; with Bluetooth connectivity it enables you to create 2×3” sticky-back snapshots whenever the moment strikes. Give your prints a pop of personality with the HP Sprocket App, which lets you customize with borders, stickers, filters and more.
Verdict: I would love to print out photos instead of risking losing them (it happened recently) or going into the black hole of my phone, never to be seen by anyone else but me (unless I post them on Facebook). Putting this on my wish list.
Panasonic Lumix FZ300 Camera with 4k video and photo – Amazon
The Lumix FZ300’s outstanding lens performance with full range F2.8 aperture (35mm camera equivalent: 25-600mm) makes it possible to clearly capture moving subjects at a high shutter speed even at a great distance—something that has not been achieved by any digital compact camera except for the LUMIX FZ200, its predecessor. The splash and dust proof capability make the LUMIX FZ300 the all-around great camera for sports, outdoor and events.
It has the ability to capture 4k video and photos. Plus, a 24X (25-600mm) full-range F2.8 aperture Leica Lens
Price: $599.00 retail, current street price $499.99
I recommend ordering online at BestBuy.com and so you can see the reviews. Then select in store pickup and get it right away.
Verdict: way more camera than I need or want, I'm not serious enough about photography (yet) to invest in a camera.[amazon_link asins='B011PKJI2Y,B00X409PQS' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='721929d0-f2db-11e6-a4ef-0f12600f39f1′]
Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Camera
This camera is pretty and fun, a modern Polaroid. I'd say it's more for kids or at least not for more serious photographers. The advantage is you can take and print a picture right away. Bloggers have loved it – I think it's great for a party or snapshots. The film is a little pricey at $1 a print so it's not like a digital camera where you want to take photos with abandon. The auto flash and focus helps you get a decent photo in any light.[amazon_link asins='B00AWKJPPY,B00AWKJPOA,B00U2UZ40Y,B00AWKJPOK,B009ZM9R4O,B014CGOJ86,B00TLZGJOQ' template='ProductCarousel' store='newspapergr07-20′ marketplace='US' link_id='0e8d3c84-f2dd-11e6-a4ef-0f12600f39f1′]
Price: $59.99 on BestBuy.com (select in store pickup to get it faster)
Verdict: a fun party camera with instant prints. I'd get one for my daughter for sure. Great gift idea for a birthday, Christmas, Valentine's Day, etc, because of the fun colors.
Best Gift for a Fitness Geek who is a Woman and Wants to Wear a Fitness Tracker Like Jewelry
Misfit Ray Fitness Tracker
I got this Misfit Ray (Amazon, affiliate link) at a blogging event with Danielle Cassagnol with the CTA, Suzanne Kantra (Techlicious), Cindy Richards (Traveling Mom) and Sarah Kimmel (Family Tech Zone) who is a friend and fellow Utah blogger, and have worn it for about a day. I have to admit that it is non-obtrusive and practically stylish and I have my eye on the necklace you can wear to track your steps.
I've showered with it on. I've slept with it and now I'm a little bit obsessed with the quality and length of sleep that I get. I forget that it's there and I like knowing my calories, although I suspect that it's a bit liberal on the step count. At least it gives me goals and feedback to encourage me to move – like most bloggers I sit at a computer for hours a day.
The Misfit reminds me to move. Literally I'm on the phone and instead of sitting down, if I don't need to be at my computer, I go on a walk around the neighborhood.
Comes in rose gold and silver. It also comes in necklace form that looks like jewelry and is actually very attractive.
The Misfit is not fancy but it's a great product if you want your tracker to be unobtrusive or stylish rather than fitness looking or too geeky.
Best features: style, battery life (6 months) with no charging. It takes 3 camera batteries.
Price: $71.99 on BestBuy.com
Verdict: like it so far because I want a simple system that looks like jewelry and isn't clunky to wear or use. I actually really love that it vibrates gently when I get a phone call or text. If my phone is on silent I often miss that it's ringing or that I got a text message. The things I don't like is being tethered to my phone and that I'm having to more frequently charge my phone. Not many of my friends use it so I couldn't compete with others, which helped motivate me to put in extra steps. I took it off after a month and haven't gone back.
Knomo Elektronista Clutch
One more thing…this Knomo Elektronista clutch is GORGEOUS and it can hold all your tech gear fashionably but without sacrificing practicality. The Knomo has a built in charger and USB cable. It unfolds like a garment bag and there are lots of pockets to hold everything from your phone to your iPad. This bag will keep you organized and in style. It comes in velvet, leather and suede. Knomo has highly fashionable, durable, practical bags and backpacks for men too. It was designed by London-based blogger Christiane Vejio a.k.a the Elektronista.
UPDATE: I won an Elektronista clutch and it's my go to purse for travel or conferences. I tend to pack my bags so it's a little thin for everyday use and cannot fit my wallet. It looks classy. I really love the front zipper section for keys and things you need right away. I like how you can unzip and lay it flat. I can store notebooks or my iPad in it easily.
I'm calling Santa right now to put in my request.
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Tech Christmas Gift Ideas in PDF format.