Looking for that special holiday gift for the techie in your life? Or just possibly a new gizmo for yourself? Check out these cool items for you or someone special…
Lumo Lift $99
It’s easy to lump the clip-on Lumo Lift gizmo into the sea of fitness gadgets (it counts your steps, calories burned, distance, etc.). But the Lumo Lift does something refreshingly unique — and helpful: It vibrates when you slouch, correcting your posture: A winner for people with desk jobs.
Awesome sound in a tiny package for under $200 is a good deal on its own. But Sonos’ ability to pair with any smartphone, tablet or computer to play music makes the Sonos Play 1 even sweeter. It gets even better if you have multiple Sonos speakers. They talk to one another, letting you build a relatively cheap home theater or sound system.
Amazon’s answer to Chromecast and the Roku Streaming Stick is the Fire TV stick. The streaming TV gadget is faster, with more memory and storage than the competition. It also comes with a remote control, and the app even lets you speak to search for shows. The only drawback is the lack of HBO Go — but that’s coming next year.
Are you wondering where that nasty draft in your house is coming from? Not sure why your ceiling is leaking? Wondering if your tires need to be inflated? Amazingly, Flir One can do all of that. The thermal heat sensor doubles as your iPhone case, and the app shows you an infrared heat map of your surroundings.
Virtual reality is here — as long as you have a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Just slip your phablet into the headset, and you can watch virtual reality movies and play virtual reality games.
Not all quadcopter drones are created equal. The DJI Phantom II sends real-time images back to you, and it can be programmed with a flight plan from an iPad. You can get the drone for $280 less if you opt not to get the GoPro that comes with it. But what fun is that?
It looks like a regular tennis racket, but the Babolat Play Pure Drive has sensors in the handle that let you record all kinds of information about your swing. Via a mobile app, the racket will tell you about your power, where you’re hitting the ball, and it will give you the number of forehands, backhands, serves and smashes.
Put your camera on its long exposure mode, and Pixelstick will let you paint a night scene with light. The long, aluminum stick comes with 200 LEDs. You can program the gadget to show any image you want — just take the shot and have someone move the stick. The results are stunningly beautiful.
Already got speakers (literally anything with a headphone jack) and don’t want to shell out for a new wireless sound system? Beep is the gadget for you. It plugs into your existing speaker and connects via Wi-Fi to your smartphone. It only works with Pandora or Spotify for now, but Beep promises more apps are coming soon.
Connecting your home’s appliances, lights and windows to your phone doesn’t mean you have to buy all new stuff. The SmartThings Starter Kit comes with a Wi-Fi connected hub, an open/closed sensor, a motion sensor, a location sensor and a connected plug. You’ll need more than that to digitally secure your home, but it’s an easy way to start.
The super-tiny wearable camera promises to give you a photographic memory. The Narrative Clip literally records everything you do all day, taking two photos each minute. It even geo-tags your photos so you know exactly where they were taken. Super-creepy? You bet. Cool? Sure.
Fitness bands are all very similar, but the Microsoft Band has the widest set of features. It monitors your heart rate, tracks your activity with GPS, monitors ultraviolet levels and tells you whether you need to wear sunscreen. The Band tracks your sleeping and even provides guided workouts from Gold’s Gym, Shape, and Men’s Fitness. And it sends notifications from any smartphone.
Okay, you probably don’t need an expensive smartlock, and reviews of the August Smartlock have been mixed. But the idea is cool: Since you unlock August with your phone, you can digitally send keys to people who need access to your home. You can even revoke keys for people who you don’t want to have 24/7 access.
The iPhone 6 is the best smartphone on the planet, and the iPhone 6 Plus is a giant-er version of Apple’s already big phone. It’s really big — but you’ll learn to appreciate the extra real estate that the 5.5-inch screen gives you. The insanely great camera, gorgeous display and super-thin body make up for Apple’s still sub-par online services like iCloud.
Need help with your shot? The 94Fifty is equipped with sensors that measure spin and acceleration. A mobile app will coach you as you’re practicing, telling you to soften your shot, provide more backspin, dribble harder — whatever you need to become a better basketball player.
Dash’s tiny sensor connects to any car model made in 1996 or after — it plugs in just underneath your steering wheel. It connects to your phone via Bluetooth, and Dash provides useful driving information: What your check engine light means, how you’re driving, and how much gas you’re using. It’ll even tell you where the cheapest gas is and how much you should pay for repairs.
The Samsung Galaxy Note Edge has a small portion of curved glass that bends around the right side of the phone. That tiny curve on the Edge’s display functions as a second screen, which can display a list of apps, quick settings, notifications, weather and the time. It’s more gimmicky than helpful, but it’s unique — and at least Samsung is trying to break gadgets out of their boring molds.
The Bitdefender Box is revolutionary — solving three problems at once. It’s a home router that’s antivirus in a box, protecting every device connected to it. It also allows you to VPN back home from anywhere (more privacy). And it controls devices from anywhere, so parents can rule over kids’ phones.
Are you prone to losing stuff like your keys or your remote? Just attach a Tile to those items, and let your smartphone do the remembering. By clicking a button on an app, you can make Tile play a melody. Still can’t find it? Your smartphone will start playing a game of hot-and-cold until you find the lost item.
Okay, this one’s not that new, but it got a LOT better this year. The Roku’s recent software update gave it a slew of new channels and a better search feature. The remote (with a headphone jack!), smartphone app and largest selection of channels make the Roku 3 the best streaming media device you can buy.
The problem with writing on a computer is that your computer is connected to the Internet — you know, the repository of everything the world has ever known, ever. That gets a little distracting. The Hemmingwrite lets you type — and that’s about it. It has a tiny LCD screen for basic word processing, and it connects to Wi-Fi to store your documents in the cloud.
Polaroid’s Socialmatic camera connects to the Internet and can instantly post photos to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or any other social network. In a sign of the times, the 14-megapixel camera has a 2-megapixel camera on the back for all your selfie needs. And for the true Polaroid experience, the Socialmatic instantly prints two-inch by three-inch photos directly from the camera.
Panoramic photos are fun, but they’re hard to take with your smartphone. You have to keep your hands steady and turn around at just the right speed. Panono’s camera makes panoramic photos a breeze — just throw it up in the air, and you’re done.
Carrying heavy items or tools is a pain — literally. Lockheed Martin’s Fortis exoskeleton helps workers lift items weighing up to 36 pounds as if they were weightless.
The best Android phone is the one that understands you the best. Motorola is infinitely customizable, lets you shout commands at it without touching the screen, reads text messages aloud when you’re driving, announces who’s calling when you’re home, and starts up the camera when you give it a shake. That’s a smart phone.
There are lots of battery packs that let you re-charge your phone, but they’re mostly slow and you have to remember to charge that battery too. Upp uses hydrogen fuel cells to give you enough power to re-charge your phone for an entire week. Upp also charges your device at roughly the same speed that you’d get by plugging into a wall socket. And when you’re done, you can swap your cell for another at an exchange location — there’s no need to remember to charge it.
The Dyson 360 Eye features a 360-degree robotic eye that helps it navigate around the room, brushes that span nearly the entire width of the robot and caterpillar track wheels that help it move over obstacles. Dyson claims its robotic vacuum can pick up dirt better than any of the competition — at least in the first pass.
Did you leave the lights on? Your smartphone can tell you — and it can turn them off. Or dim them. Or you can set a timer. TCP’s connected LED light bulbs cost about $20 each, which isn’t much more than standard LEDs. And they’ll last you for more than 20 years.
If you want a fashionable smartwatch but don’t feel like charging it every day, consider the Pebble Steel. It’s not the catch-all device that the Apple Watch promises to be, but it does the important stuff: shows you your notifications and lets you control your phone’s music. And you only need to charge it once every seven days.
The Onecue serves as a remote control for your entire living room. That’s cool on its own — but the best part about Onecue is controls your home through gestures. Want to mute your TV? Just make a “shush” motion. Want to make your house warmer? Just wave and close your hand. It works with any TV and cable box, as well as the Xbox, Apple TV, Phillips LED lights and Nest thermostat.
The all-in-one scanner and printer, made by XYZprinting, lets you 3-D print objects without knowing how to design anything. You can just put an object inside, and a couple hours later, you’ll have a plastic replica of that object. In theory anyway — In reality, the Da Vinci AiO totally failed to copy basic objects. But it’s an amazing concept that shows the potential for 3-D printing in the future.
Adidas’ miCoach smart ball guides you through your workout, tracks your performance and teaches you how to improve your shot. The sensors inside the ball connect with a mobile app that displays real-time coaching tips — including which bones you should be using to kick the ball.
The entry-level Amazon Kindle may not have all the bells and whistles of the back-lit Kindle Paperwhite or Voyage, but it’s no slouch. Considering the stripped-down original Kindle can be had for $79 — and now comes with a touch screen, that’s a tradeoff that many are willing to make.
The Nextbook 8 is a PC tablet that runs the latest version of Microsoft Windows — and it only costs $149. Of course, there are some tradeoffs to buying a $149 Windows PC tablet. It has no built in mouse or keyboard, the processor isn’t great, and it only has 16 GB of storage. But let’s say it again: This is a $149 PC! That’s a bargain.
The teeny, $99 HD Cube camera is Polaroid’s attempt to compete with Go Pro at a lower price that will attract everyday consumers. It has about the same surface area as a quarter, but it records up to 90 minutes of 1080p HD video.
Drones are fun, but they’re super-expensive. Hobbytron has a whole slate of toy drones for cheap — and the LadyBug Quadcopter is the cheapest. They’re fun for people who want to play with drones but don’t have the need to take HD aerial shots from 10,000 feet.