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Are you looking for techy gifts that will actually get used and not forgotten? These useful tech gifts are some of my favorites!
I love techy things. I would have a 100% smart home if I weren’t married to a 21st-century Luddite. Since I can’t fill my house willy-nilly with internet-connected, automatically turning on, listening all the time, cool new gadgets (at least not in common areas; my office is another story), I have to find a reason for each techy thing to exist in our lives, and all of these pass the test. The following list is filled with items that will be used and appreciated, not shoved in a closet for being too complicated or intrusive.
Some of the useful tech gifts on the list are not new, but since most people I know don’t have them yet, they belong on the list. Many of these I bought myself, and while others were given to me to write about, they’ve worked their way into my daily life and aren’t going anywhere.
The key to buying these kinds of gifts is to really think about the person you’re buying for. While some people would be offended at getting something like a smart garbage can for a birthday or Christmas, for a person like me it’s the perfect gift! Some people like having their tech bought for them (my mom!) so that they don’t have to sort through all of the choices and do research, but for others (me!) you’d be robbing them of the joy of making spreadsheets and reading a hundred reviews. If in doubt, buy them an Amazon gift certificate and give them a link to this useful tech gifts list!
Fitbit Versa Smart Watch
I’ve been wearing my Fitbit Versa since last spring when it first debuted, and I absolutely love it. It’s a smart watch that doesn’t overwhelm you with everything under the sun, and it looks fantastic! With my other Fitbits I always had to hide them under huge bracelets if I were going someplace nice, but the Versa can be adapted for any style by changing bands (I bought four total, so I have a band for every situation!).
My Versa gives me all the info I want about how many steps I’ve taken, how many calories I’ve burned, what my heart rate is, the stairs I’ve climbed, the workouts I’ve done, how I slept, and it even syncs with my Weight Watchers account. I get text and phone alerts (and could get email alerts as well if I wanted to, but I don’t), and can even answer texts by choosing from simple, pre-written phrases. It’s waterproof, light, and has a great battery that has lasted me up to five days (I just went away for a long Thanksgiving weekend and didn’t bother bringing the charger). Plus, the price has gone down about 25% since I bought mine!
This is a great gift for someone who wants to be aware of things like steps and have some basic smartphone connectivity, but not be weighed down by a bulky GPS watch (the Versa alone will track workouts for you, but you need a phone with you for GPS). You can read about some of the other features here.
Echo Dot + Vaux Cordless Speaker
Why am I recommending the tiny 2nd-generation Echo Dot plus a separate speaker, instead of just telling you to buy, say, the new Echo Plus? Because you’ll be paying less than half the money for something that’s even better. The Vaux has great sound, and you can unplug it and put it anywhere! The internal battery will last for up to six hours on a charge, so you’re not tethered to an outlet. And with the Dot set into the Vaux, it all looks like one unit, not a separate Echo and speaker. I reviewed the Vaux a while back, and I’m still thrilled with it.
I use my Echo Dots all day (we have two, plus an Echo Spot), whether listening to music or adding items to my grocery list or demanding math conversions that I can’t do in my head when my hands are covered in dough and I need to know how many tablespoons something is. I use the timers and reminders all the time, and the list of skills is just insane at this point. Need more convincing? Here are ten reasons why you need an Echo Dot.
Logitech Harmony Companion All In One Remote Control
I bought this Harmony remote three years ago and am just as happy with it as the day I set it up. (Originally I bought a version that had a touchscreen, but hated it—it was too easy to press things accidentally. So skip the screen.) It can control up to eight devices (including things like shades and lights, not just TVs and TiVos!), is programmed really easily through an app on your phone, and can be used with Alexa! It can even turn your smartphone into a universal remote, which was really handy when we lost the remote for a few days.
It comes programmed for thousands of devices, but it will also learn buttons from original remotes if they aren’t programmed. It has permanently replaced the three remotes we used to need to watch TV (TV remote, receiver remote, and TiVo remote), and controls other devices too, like our XBox 360 and XBox one, and (before we moved it to another TV) our Blu-ray player. And while you wouldn’t use it to play games on an XBox, it’s really handy to press one button and see the TV turn on and go to the correct channel, the receiver turn on and go to the correct output, and the XBox itself turn on. Plus, if you’re using your game player to watch DVDs or for streaming, you can use the Harmony remote instead of the game controller to fast forward and stop and all of that!
SimpleHuman 8″ Sensor Mirror with Brightness Control
This sensor mirror from SimpleHuman is a work of art! It looks spectacular in my new bathroom (where nothing that doesn’t look great is allowed to be out in the open!!), and since it can work for over a month on a charge, I don’t have to deal with cords on the counter. It lights up only when my face is actually near enough to use it, and shuts off when I’m done, making the battery last even longer. The brightness can be adjusted just by sliding a finger along the back, and it lets me see my face at 5X magnification (time to make another appointment with my electrolysist!!). This mirror slipped into my daily routine so easily I’m not sure how I went this long without one! Plus, the LED light will last for more than 100 years under normal use, so you don’t have to ever worry about tracking down a weird bulb.
Philips Sonicare FlexCare Platinum Connected Toothbrush
I’ve been using Philips Sonicare Flexcare Platinum Connected Toothbrush for almost two years, and it’s pretty amazing. It does all of the things that you would expect from an electric toothbrush, like time how long you should be brushing each section of your mouth, and getting your teeth cleaner than you ever could with a regular toothbrush. It even has a UV sanitizer, to make sure that there aren’t any gross bacteria hiding on your toothbrush.
But what really sets this toothbrush apart is the app that it connects to. Now, let’s be real, I stopped using the app after about two months, so I’m losing out on a lot of the tracking that it does, like telling me when I need to order new brush heads. But in those two months, this toothbrush totally retrained me on how to brush my teeth! Brushing with an electric toothbrush should be different, but I suspect that most of us just use the same hard scrubbing motions that we used with our old toothbrushes, and that’s totally wrong. The app gave me real-time feedback, and warned me when I was pressing too hard, or moving the brush too fast. It was hard to change at first, because I’d been brushing my teeth the same way for decades! But after a while this “new” way became normal, and that’s when I stopped using the app to guide me.
After two years of use the toothbrush still works perfectly, and I only have to charge it every few weeks or less! You can read what I wrote about it here.
Roomba i7+ with automatic dirt disposal
It’s a little bit crazy that I don’t have a robot vacuum yet. I do have a very old robot that Swiffers for me (here’s a much newer version), so that takes care of a lot of the dust and cat hair, but the bottom floor of my house—where we spend most of our time—is covered in crumbs and other debris (this time of year, the leaves are the worst, and soon we’ll be adding pine needles). So far, the only thing stopping me from getting one has been not wanting to empty it. The one complaint I hear over and over from people who have robot vacs is that they don’t hold much dirt.
Enter the Roomba i7+!!!! It has all of the features of a really good robot vac (3-stage cleaning, automatic charging, mapping, app control, etc.), but it docks into a dirt holder and automatically empties itself! The dock can hold 30 bins from the Roomba, so you don’t have to bother emptying anything for weeks. And if your house is dirty enough that one cleaning will fill more than one bin, the Roomba i7+ will dock, empty itself, and continue cleaning! I have no excuse now.
SimpleHuman Touch-Free Trash Can with Voice and Motion Sensor
SimpleHuman’s huge strength is making useful things that are also beautiful, and this touch-free garbage can is no exception. It looks so amazing sitting in the little garbage and recycling area of my kitchen that I think I need to completely redo that little corner so that it is up to the standards of my new trash can! (In fact, I really want to replace that old recycling bin with this matching two-bin sensor can.)
But this can isn’t just about looks. It has a sensor that opens the lid, but the genius part is that once the lid opens, the sensor area expands! What does this mean? It doesn’t open every time you happen to walk by, and it doesn’t close on you when you’re cleaning dirt off of the bottom of a broom or scraping something yucky into the can! And if you have something drippy (coffee grounds, raw chicken package, etc.) that you don’t want to drip all over the lid while you’re waiting for it to open, you just say “Open can” and it opens! This is truly one of the most useful features I never knew I needed.
Nixplay Iris WiFi Picture Frame
I’ve owned several digital photo frames, and the Nixplay Iris is by far my absolute favorite. It’s really beautiful, but more importantly, it’s easy to use! So whether you’re handing this off to someone who will load it with their own pictures, or you plan on keeping the frame updated with pictures yourself, it makes a fantastic gift! Image being able to send the grandparents new pictures every day, or change the pictures in the frame seasonally from afar? And it will never look like a “gadget” sitting in your living room or kitchen, it will just look like a stylish frame.
AeroGarden Bounty Elite with WiFi
None of my four AeroGardens have WiFi or LED lights. This is the problem when you’re an early adopter, you lose out of future improvements. But the AeroGarden Bounty Elite has both, plus enough room to grow up to nine plants, all in a unit that will look gorgeous wherever you put it! The AeroGarden app connects to your garden via WiFi, guiding you through the planting and growing processes and giving you reminders. I absolutely love my old AeroGardens, but I can’t wait to get my hands on a fancy new one! I grow tomatoes, peppers, all sorts of lettuces and herbs, and I’ve even used one to start my outdoor plants in spring.
Love the idea but don’t have enough space for the Bounty Elite? The AeroGarden Harvest Elite also has LED lights and WiFi connectivity, but with a much smaller footprint (and price!).
Amazon Smart Plug
Compact and affordable Amazon Smart Plugs are a great way to make older appliances smart, and naturally, they work with Alexa!
Whether you want to ensure that an appliance is really off after leaving your house (like a hair straightener or a space heater), set lights to go on and off on a timer, or control things from your couch, this plug makes things simple. It’s small enough that if you plug it into one outlet it won’t block the second outlet, and it doesn’t need any kind of hub to work. You just connect it to WiFi through the app.
Bitdefender BOX 2
I love connected devices, but I also recognize that having so many gadgets on your internet can cause safety issues. The Bitdefender BOX 2 attaches to your modem and protects all of the devices on your WiFi from hackers, and once it’s set up it just runs in the background! And I’m not talking only about the obvious devices, like computers and smart TVs. Did you know that your smart thermostat can be hacked, or your smart light bulbs? Anything connected to the internet can be hacked, but it can also be protected with Bitdefender.
When a new device connects to your internet, you’ll even get a notification, so that you can make sure it’s supposed to be on there.
TP-Link Powerline WiFi Range Extender
Last, what do you give the person who already has a bunch of connected smart gadgets and devices? More WiFi! Forget about running wires or buying a huge new router. You plug the base unit of the TP-Link WiFi Range Extender into your modem and an electrical outlet, and the extender unit into an electrical outlet somewhere else in your house. The data signal is carried over your existing electrical wires, and then the WiFi is distributed by the extender!
You can easily bring fast WiFi to parts of your house that have slow or no internet. Plus, the extender has a pass-through outlet, so you can still plug something in, and an ethernet port for connecting a device to the extender directly. The setup takes just a few minutes, and doesn’t require any special knowledge—the TP-Link app walks you through it. And best of all, you can clone your original WiFi name and password, so that you never have to sign into the new signal—it will act just like the existing one!
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