Must-Buy Tech Gifts for The Holiday Season
And boy do we love our gadgets. According to research from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, 85 percent of Americans own a cell phone, more than three-quarters (76 percent) own a desktop or laptop computer, and just under half (43 percent) have an iPod or other MP3 player.
The Consumer Electronics Association expects U.S. shoppers to spend $232 on tech this season, up 5 percent from a year ago, despite a 2 percent dip in overall holiday spending.
Here's a sample of the most enticing electronics available. In each category you'll find suggestions for gifts under and over $50 so you're covered whether you're spending a year-end bonus or buying on a budget.
1. Tablet computer: the Apple iPad
Apple launched a computer revolution when it introduced the touchscreen-based iPad earlier this year. In this SecondAct.com blog post, Eldergadget.com founder Elie Gindi calls the iPad the epitome of ageless usability. On her Nov. 18 holiday show, Oprah Winfrey picked it as one of her favorite "best things" before giving one to everyone in the audience.
Over $50: Although the iPad now has lots of rivals, it's still the tablet to beat. Retailing for around $499, the Wi-Fi-only version has a 9.7-inch touchscreen display and solid-state storage (meaning there's no hard drive) and uses Wi-Fi hotspots to connect to the internet. The 3G version, which retails for $625 and up, has all that, comes with 16 gigabytes or more of storage and operates on AT&T's 3G cellphone network, which means it's always online.
Under $50: If someone on your list already owns an iPad, check out the growing number of accessories that make it easier to use, including a viewing stand, Bluetooth wireless keyboard, mouse, speakers, carrying case, earbuds and car charger.
Three years after introducing the Kindle electronic book reader, online book giant Amazon now sells more e-books than hard cover editions, and The New York Times will begin publishing e-book bestseller lists for fiction and nonfiction in early 2011.
Over $50: This season, shoppers can choose between several upgraded e-readers. One newcomer is Barnes & Noble's NookColor, which started shipping this week. The 7-inch color touchscreen device weighs slightly less than a pound, has an eight-hour battery life, stores up to 6,000 books and has an app called LendMe that lets you swap e-books with friends. The Wi-Fi only NookColor is $249; original monochrome Nooks are $149 for a Wi-Fi model and $199 for a 3G version that connects to cellphone networks. Alternatives: Amazon's Kindle 3G Wireless and the Sony Reader Daily Edition.
Under $50: If the bibliophiles in your life already have e-readers, get them more e-books. Amazon and Barnes & Noble's online NookBook store lists millions of titles, including bestsellers for less than $15.
It may seem like everyone in the country already has a smartphone. In reality, only 28 percent do, though the number is growing. Forty-one percent of people who bought cell phones in the past six months chose a smartphone, according to a recent Nielsen Co. poll.
Over $50: The best smartphone for you depends a great deal on your existing cell phone carrier because not all carriers support all smartphones. That could change early next year when Apple breaks a long-standing exclusivity agreement with AT&T to market iPhones through Verizon, according to this Wall Street Journal story. For now, if you're an AT&T customer, your best bet is the Apple 16-gigabyte iPhone 4 with high-resolution display, HD video, video calling and prices starting at $199 with cellphone contract. Comparable smartphones: for Verizon customers, the Motorola Droid X ($699, not including cellphone contract); and for T-Mobile customers one of the new Microsoft Windows 7 Phones.
Under $50: Tired of forgetting to charge your phone? Duracell's myGrid charging pad lets you toss up to four cell phones or mp3 players at a time on top of a 6 3/4 x 8 1/2-inch battery pad to charge without having to plug anything in. If you're in the market for free or low-cost smartphone apps, check out this list of boomer-friendly apps from my previous SecondAct post.
4. Game system: the Microsoft Kinect
Xbox and other video game systems are no longer the exclusive territory of teenage boys. According to the Pew Center report on electronic gadgets, parents are nearly twice as likely as nonparents to own a game system. As further proof of just how big a role game systems now play in popular culture, look no further than this week's Doonesbury story line, which Gary Trudeau is devoting to "Call of Duty: Black Ops," which racked up $650 million in sales the first five days it was out.
Over $50: One of the hottest items in gaming right now is the Kinect motion-based video game system, with Microsoft predicting it will sell 5 million by the end of the year. Kinect turns an Xbox into a Wii, only instead of holding controllers, your body becomes the controller. Systems retail for around $150.
Under $50: Got the systems? Get the games. "Call of Duty: Black Ops" is still priced a hair over $50. Other popular adult-oriented games this season include Just Dance 2 and Majesco's Zumba Fitness, a home version of this year's workout craze.
5. Multimedia: Blu-ray and MP3 players
Blu-ray and MP3 players are among this holiday's must-have gadgets, according to a recent poll of 1,000 online shoppers by Retrevo.com, a consumer electronics e-retailer.
Over $50: While it's still too early to get reasonably priced 3DTV sets, cost-conscious shoppers are snapping up Blu-ray players, including high-end models that can play 3D movies. Prices for Blu-ray players are dropping, and some devices can be had for as little as $75. Consumer Reports, CNET and PC Magazine give a big thumbs up to the Sony BDP-S570 ($200), which in addition to playing regular and 3D discs, can stream on-demand video from Netflix, Amazon Video on Demand and YouTube, and music from internet radio stations such as Pandora and Slacker.
Under $50: The redesigned Apple iTouch Shuffle is so small that tech website Gizmodo compared its size to a Lifesaver. Measuring 1 1/4" wide by 1.14" tall and weighing less than an ounce, the Shuffle holds 2G of music, or about 400 songs, which makes it the perfect music player for workouts, according to Gizmodo reviewer Brian Barrett. It also has a built-in clip, a "voice over" feature that speaks the song title or artist name, and the Shuffle retails for around $49.
Need more inspiration for tech gifts? Here are some other suggestions:
- From SecondAct: Top 10 Tech Tools You'll Want to Own
- David Pogue's Home for the Holidays
- Look Early for Black Friday Digital Gear Deals
- Gadgets to Add to Your Black Friday Shopping List
- Cool Tech Gadgets for Your Holiday Gift List
Read more SecondAct: Holiday Spending Tips
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