You have to admit it, you’re down to the wire. It’s three days before Christmas. Family and friends have planned ahead and already have presents all wrapped and tucked neatly under the tree, but you’re reading Web sites while silently panicking about how many gifts you still haven’t purchased…
Then again, perhaps the situation revolves around gift cards because you’re part of a family where gift cards are the order of the day. Instead of worrying about what to buy others, you’re contemplating what you’ll be buying for yourself to enhance your life, improve your daily grind at work or add some fun or new options to your hobbies.
The good news is that I’ve got ya covered either way. More than any year in the past, the combination of local stores and a million online venues means that there are more products available for sale than ever in human history.
From stocking stuffers to extravagant statements of affluence, here’s my last minute list of great tech gifts for you to acquire, promise to give someone because “shipping is slow”, or purchase for yourself with the gift cards you’ll be receiving in just a few days.
Boulder-based NiteIze has a great eye for fun, innovative gadgets and whether you’re into fishing or not, the Doohickey Fishkey Key Tool is a great addition to anyone’s keychain. It looks like a tiny metal sculpture but works as a screwdriver and bottle opener and has a serrated edge for cutting. It’s perfect for any outdoor person’s stocking too.
$5.99 at NiteIze.com
It’s a pop-up phone handle and stand for your smartphone and if you have a teen or tween on your list, odds are good they already have one stuck to the back of their phone. What many people don’t realize, however, is that PopSockets come in a staggering number of different designs – from sports teams to comic book characters to eagles, racecars and unicorns – and are a sure-fire winner in the holiday stocking too. PopSockets is also a Boulder-based company.
$9.99 at Amazon.com
Not only is the Amazon Echo line the most popular voice speaker in the world, the Dot is an amazing entry-level device that costs less than dinner for two at The Med and can turn your house into a smart home. What most people don’t realize is that the Amazon device is an excellent study aid. From checking mathematical solutions to getting the correct spelling and definition of words to translating languages, it’s so easy a first grader can do it. Or their parent! Plug one into your hi-fi stereo and the Dot’s a great – and surprisingly inexpensive – upgrade to the 21st century of streaming music and Internet radio stations.
$29.99 at Amazon.com.
Picked up one of those Echo Dot units or already have a speaker from Apple, Google or Amazon that serves as a central controller for your smart home? Even if you have no voice speakers, you’ll be amazed by the small, sleek and powerful iHome smart plug. Plug it into the wall, plug a device into it, pair it with your phone – it works with Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Wink, SmartThings, Nest and more – and you just gained control of that light or appliance from anywhere in the world. There’s also something truly delightful about tapping a button on your phone to turn on the lights or walking into your house and saying “lights on!” too.
$29.99 at iHomeAudio,com
Every family has one technological holdout, one person who swears that vinyl LPs just sound better than this newfangled digital music, whether from a streaming service or one of those “cold, bits and bytes” music CDs. Instead of debating the subject, surprise ‘em with a new turntable. Audio-Technica has done a terrific job of updating this analog device for the modern era with great design, a built-in pre-amp and a dust cover. Just like the good old days!
$89.00 at Amazon.com.
Douglas Adams came up with the ingenious babel fish in his brilliant book The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy: You put these tiny fish in your ears and suddenly you could understand any language. Apparently that’s the inspiration for Google’s Pixel Buds that can translate foreign languages as you hear them. Paired up with the Google Pixel phone, you can tap Google Assistant to translate dozens of languages, from Japanese to Spanish, Finnish to Latvian, Tamil to Mandarin Chinese. Oh, and they sound really nice with music and phone calls.
$159 at Store.Google.Com.
If you really don’t want to come up for a breath of reality for a while, Nintendo’s got a genuine blockbuster on its hands with the powerful and immensely popular Switch. It’s a handheld gaming system that neatly plugs into a TV and offers dozens of splendid games, including every kid’s current obsession, Fortnite. Prefer not to have your kids shooting at people? Okay, check out the vast array of other gaming options, including the eye-popping car racing game Gear-Club Unlimited 2. Whatever configuration you acquire, you’re sure to be getting thank you cards for months to come with this gift option.
$299.00 at Amazon.com.
HELP OUT THE LESS FORTUNATE
I believe that a gift guide isn’t complete without a mention of those who are less fortunate and won’t be getting much in the way of gifts or holiday cheer this December. There are lots of places you can make a donation online, but start by looking local: What neighborhood non-profits would benefit from your assistance? Charity is very much in the spirit of the season, so please do consider opening up your purse and being generous. It’s a splendid and selfless act that’s also both smart and entirely appropriate to teach your children.
Now, get going! You’re running out of time!
Note: A version of this article originally appeared in the Boulder Daily Camera.