Friday, November 20, 2015

2015 Technology Holiday Gift Guide

The holiday shopping season is in full effect. Hanukkah begins the evening of Sunday, December 6 this year, which means if you're shopping for Hanukkah observers you have about three weeks fewer to shop for gifts.

Since we’re knee deep in the Digital Age that means a non-technology gift will be relegated to the category of the infamous holiday fruitcake this year, but fear not because there are a lot of options for fun and exciting tech gadgets this Christmas and Hanukkah season.

There are also a lot of practical tech gifts that your friends and family are sure to appreciate. This year’s hot gifts will be flat-screen TVs, smartphones, gaming systems, tablets, headphones, speakers, wearables and drones. As a techie who loves trying out the latest gadgets, I have put together a list of the best tech gifts for holiday shoppers this season. These gifts range in price so there's something for everyone.

Note: Prices might be lower during the holiday season and search for bargains online.

Drones have been in the news a lot lately and pretty soon you might have to register your drone for safety reasons. While a drone might not be the type of thing everyone is racing out to buy for themselves, they make great gifts. They’re fun to use and capture some amazing video footage that you’d otherwise never see (your kids playing a game of touch football on the beach in Florida for example). The Parrot Bebop is one of the most popular recreational use drones on the market because it’s small and lightweight. The quadcopter’s camera has been improved from previous drone models and has a 180-degree angle of view with a 14-megapixel sensor. You pilot this drone with a smartphone or tablet. It can reach speeds of around 45 mph. You'll have to recharge the Bebop's battery often between flights, but anyone who gets one this holiday season will enjoy capturing their friends on the ski slopes this winter. Price: $499

Drones can be pricey, making them a challenging option for children’s gifts this holiday season. That’s why Parrot has come out with a line of light-weight drones for kids. Their new line of Airborne drones connect via Bluetooth and are controlled with the free FreeFlight 3 app for smartphones and tablets. These mini-drones can be used both indoors and outdoors. A vertical camera compares, every 16 milliseconds, an image of the ground to the previous one to determine the speed of the Minidrone and also enables it to take snapshots, which are saved on the 1 Gb flash memory. The Airborne can only hit speeds of up to 11 mph, but kids will enjoy making it do tricks in the sky. Price: $99

There are many pocket sized projectors on the market, but the Cube is the first designed specifically for your smart devices, adapting the image resolution based on the connected smartphone or tablet. Your lucky friend who receives the Cube this Christmas or Hanukkah will be able to load a YouTube clip on their iPad and immediately host a movie night. Price: $299

The Smart Home is the new rage, but your friends might be apprehensive about turning all their household appliances into 21st century smart devices. Help them slowly transform their home into the Digital Age and save them some money along the way. The round Lyric thermostat is very similar to the Nest, but has improved on that concept in several ways. It’s easy to install and configure, and it uses outdoor weather data for optimal heating and cooling. This Wi-Fi thermostat is controlled and monitored using an iOS or Android smartphone app, and uses your phone's location services, known as geofencing, to save energy. It is very easy to configure the thermostat using the app, but there is no desktop app as of yet. The lucky recipient of this smart thermostat will also appreciate the reports on the app about their energy use. Price: $279 at

One of the best gifts to friends and family is the gift of security. Netgear’s Arlo is an impressive security system with battery-operated 720p-resolution, motion-sensing, night-vision-equipped, indoor/outdoor cameras. These pocket-sized cameras retain the resolution and on-demand video feed of a typically-tethered camera, but without the typical electrical cords. Arlo’s mobile app is simple, but impressive. The cameras can be used inside and outside the home or business to provide security. For many homes, the two-camera kit will be sufficient, but a there is a four-camera kit and additional cameras can be added for $160 each. Price: $329

The Welcome camera from Netatmo isn’t your typical security camera. Think of it more as a Nanny Cam that recognizes faces. It uses facial recognition to provide notifications about who’s in the home. All data is stored locally on an 8GB SD card included with the camera. Users can also watch a live stream in full HD quality to see motion in the house anywhere in its 130 degree field of view, even at night via infrared night vision. The Welcome compares well to the Nest Cam and both have easy-to-use mobile apps. This is an ideal gift for a family that wants to keep tabs on their kids at home alone or anyone who wants to see which workers are in their home – from the housekeeper and nanny to the painter and plumber. Price: $199

Home entertainment systems used mean having professional installation to avoid seeing wires everywhere. Today, with the Samsung Soundbar with Wireless Active Subwoofer, enjoying high definition sound is simple. This is the perfect gift for a friend or relative who enjoys watching sports and movies with dynamic, surround sound. With the free Samsung Audio Remote App they will control the system from a phone. Price: $327.99 at

TiVo Bolt ($200 less than the TiVo Roamio) lets multiple users record their favorite television shows and movies (four at once), as well as stream content from just about every provider. TiVo has loaded this unit with features that simply makes your standard cable box DVR seem like an 8-track player. Simply place a CableCARD into TiVo Bolt and there's no more need for a cable box. It's great for mobile TV viewing with the Android and iOS mobile app. Along with TV shows, Bolt gives you direct access to over-the-top streaming content through individual apps for Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube, Hulu Plus and more. Plus, Bolt is the first TiVo to support 4K-resolution video (2160p) from YouTube and Netflix. If your friend already has a TiVo in the house, the Bolt will connect to that unit as well to view recorded shows. Price: $299 for 500GB; $399 for 1TB

These are not your typical ear buds. If you’re looking for a gift for a friend who really appreciates high quality sound, they will love these earphones. They’re made from solid brass and hand-finished, these earphones feature a distinctive form with ergonomic and elegant details, including laser etching and mirrored accents that reflect light. A balanced weight distribution ensures a snug, comfortable fit. They are not inexpensive, but the quality fits the price. Price: $199

Know someone who enjoys music with their workout? This will be their most practical gift this holiday season. I fell in love with these headphones the first time I put them on. They actually stay in place during running! They are lightweight and comfortable with ultra-high quality sound, clarity and power. They also have a built-in microphone and a single button call-answering feature to be hands-free during calls, even when you're 30 feet from your phone. With up to 8 hours run time on a 1-hour charge, these are the best Bluetooth headphones for active people. For under $20, add a Sports Sleeve to hold the phone during running or biking. Price: $119.99 (with hard case)

Desktop computers used to come packaged with cheap speakers, but today everyone wants to enjoy their music with better sound quality. These impressive room-filling speakers are designed for the music, games or movies on the computer. These are powerful little speakers with a front-facing subwoofer and easy to use volume dial. Price: $99.99

This is the ultimate portable Bluetooth speaker. It is great for parties, backyard BBQs or the football tailgate. I’ve been enjoying UE speakers for a long time and even have the smaller waterproof model (UE Roll) in the shower. The UE Boom 2 is rugged, but lightweight. With the mobile app, it’s going to be a top notch Christmas or Hanukkah gift this year. Price: $199

For a much less expensive speaker option, kids will enjoy this LED Bluetooth speaker from iLuv. It’s perfect to match up with a cellphone and comes in various fun colors. Not only is this a fun gift for kids and teens, it actually produces a high quality sound that they'll enjoy. Price: $39.99

The new animatronic Star Wars line from Thinkway Toys is the most technologically sophisticated Star Wars toy line ever created. Everyone is excited for the new Star Wars movie and these cool, responsive and interactive Star Wars figures will be one of the hottest toy gifts this holiday season. It's available in all the popular Star Wars characters. Price: $139.99

The Cycliq Fly6 Bicycle Tail­Light and Safety Camera Combo: Cycliq makes innovative cycling accessories and while the Fly6 HD camera and tail­light combo is ideal for cyclists, it will also prove useful for college students biking around campus. The Fly6 camera replaces your existing tail­light and records what happens behind your bike in real time. The camera provides great low light images featuring 1020 x 720 HD camera footage and dynamic audio recording. It comes with a USB­rechargeable battery (6 hours runtime), 8GB Class 10 microSD card, two seat post mounts for use on two bikes, and an Aero seat post adaptor. Price: $169

Kids and teens love taking selfies and this wireless Bluetooth camera shutter remote with dual-layer protective case for the iPhone will be a fun, inexpensive gift this holiday season. Price: $39.99

This iPhone case serves two purposes – it is a protective case and a detachable battery pack. I love that you don’t have to worry about a charging cable, but just plug your entire phone right into the electrical outlet. While it’s a little pricey for a phone case, remember you’re giving someone both a charger and a durable case all in one. $99.95

If you’re looking for a quick and easy holiday gift that is practical, look no further than Echo’s power banks. No one is happy when their cellphone runs out of juice, so they’ll appreciate the gift of portable power. Many of the power banks on the market are heavy and therefore a hassle to carry around. Echo has figured out how to make high efficiency power banks that are lightweight. Price: $30

This brand-new innovation from iLuv Creative Technology is ideal for kids, teens and college students. The SmartShaker alarm clock is controlled from a smartphone through an iOS app. Young people use their phone as an alarm clock, but what happens when it's in another room? Smart Shaker is programmed via your Smart Phone and acts as an extension of your phone alarm even when your phone is in a different room being charged or set to silent. Available in five colors. Price: $19.99

I love every product that iClever makes. They are all available for purchase on and are priced very affordably. I’ve placed these 6-port wall chargers around my home and office making it easy for guests to charge their devices. iClever also sells an assortment of car chargers, Bluetooth keyboards, Bluetooth earbud headphones, Bluetooth transmitters and portable speakers. $39.99

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