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December 5, 2014

Tech Gift Ideas for the Holidays

Tech items make great holiday gifts, and some of these gifts become a much-appreciated way for new users to discover how technology can make life easier and more fun.

High on the gift list could be one of the many companion items to use with the new iPhones, iPads and other tablet computers. The Logitech K810 Illuminated Bluetooth Keyboard (, $90) makes it easier for typists-types to enter text; an added feature is one-button switching between typing on your PC, tablet and smart phone. Also available are protective or decorative cases, such as a whimsical Snoopy Folio Sleeve (, $40), or for more robust protection, the OtterBox Defender Series Case with Screen Protector and Stand (,$70). Other popular gifts include SD card readers, charging docks, speaker or clock radio docks and many other accessories.

For those who would like better quality sound from their Bluetooth capable smart phones, iPads and other similar devices, a great gift would be a portable wireless Bluetooth speaker. Our personal favorite remains the original Jambox from Jawbone (, $100), remarkable for its compact size and terrific sound. There’s also a small “fit in your palm” Bluetooth speaker, the Bop (Brookstone, $30), which has an integral suction cup so it will stick to almost any smooth surface; a built-in microphone for taking cell phone calls is an added bonus. The wired iHome Auxiliary Portable Speaker (, $15, which we also found at a local grocery store!) provides inexpensive personal sound and comes in several colors, including a shout-out neon pink. For those who like music in the shower and simply can’t exist without their cell phone, check out the Hipo Ivation IVA-400 Waterproof Wireless Bluetooth Shower Speaker and Handsfree Speakerphone (, $40), which is loud enough to be heard with the water running.

A wide range of colorful and stylish wireless Bluetooth headphones and earphones are available masquerading as stylish hair bands or dangle earings, but for keeping your runner or walker friends safe, there’s the Bluez 2 (, $100) stereo headphones that use bone conduction technology to transmit sound through the user’s upper cheekbones to their inner ears, keeping their ear canals unobstructed. This allows the wearer to listen to whatever is playing through their earphone and still hear ambient sounds, such as oncoming traffic, car horns, sirens and the like.

Technology aides for health and fitness abound this holiday season. Tops on the list are the various fitness wristbands that can track activity such as number of steps taken, heart rate, respiration, estimated calories burned and even a module for measuring blood oxygen saturation. Some of the devices are self contained, while some use Bluetooth to wirelessly send data to a smart phone or a smart watch. With such a wide range of options available, it’s best to check your giftee’s needs. Prices range from $80 to several hundred dollars.

Another useful gift helps users stay informed during blackouts or other emergencies. The Mini Emergency Radio (L.L. Bean, $30) is a small, portable device that includes an LED flashlight, a hand-cranked battery charger and a radio that tunes AM, FM, NOAA weather stations. It’s available in six colors and includes a USB connection that can be used to recharge the radio’s battery.

A super phone accessory is a lipstick-size smart phone recharger that comes in six fun colors. The Magicstick (, $20) is a high-capacity rechargeable battery that can charge a smart phone 2-3 times before the Magicstick itself needs to be recharged.

A good gift choice for the readers in your life: an eReader. The two popular ones are Amazon’s Kindle ($89+) and Barnes and Noble’s Nook ($99+). Both offer access to a vast selection of books, magazines and other reading material--some free, and most at eReader discounted prices. Several eReader models are available for each brand, and some offer Internet browsing capability, photo slide show options and other features that give them near-tablet computer capabilities.

For someone who’d like to create digital art, the Intuos series drawing tablets (, $80+) are a great place to start. These pressure sensitive drawing tablets come complete with a smart pen and full versions of Autodesk Sketchbook Express and Artrage 3 Studio drawing software. A wireless kit for the writing tablet is available to free the budding Rembrandt from the wire tangle.

For the barbeque chef, consider the iGrillMini (, $40) that is connected to a cooking probe and tracks the temperature of whatever the user is grilling and, using Bluetooth, connects to their iPad, iPod or iPhone to notify them when a pre-set temperature is reached.

Universally useful gifts are USB thumb (flash) drives (8GB+, $10+). The lower capacity drives make great stocking stuffers, won’t break your budget and can be used for a variety of applications such as archiving or backing up selected files, photo or music collections. Recently, high capacity USB thumb drives, such as the Kingston DataTraveler HyperX Predator 1TB USB 3.0 Flash Drive (, $915) contain enough storage capacity to make it possible to backup an entire computer (or large amounts of any data) and uses the newer USB 3.0 standard to allow lightening fast data transfer.

Happy Holidays and Happy Tech Gifting!