Buy the Right Gadget! The Definitive 2015 Holiday Tech Buyers Guide

Remember when only geeky kids wanted “tech” for the holidays? Well, these days, everything is tech, and everyone uses it, almost without thinking. Whether you’re shopping for your niece, grandpa, or best friend, there’s probably some sort of gadget they would love. We’ve teamed up with Techwalla to deliver recommendations for a slew of gift possibilities.

A composite of tech gifts, including a drone, headphones, and smartwatch.
credit: UDIR, Beyerdynamic, Pebble

1. Clasp a Smartwatch on Someone You Love

Smartwatches are, like robot toads and pizza burritos, the next stage in evolution. Smartwatches let you get important notifications on your wrist and rely less on your phone. There are a lot of choices out there – really, a lot – but we love the Pebble Time Steel. This watch is a smart gift; priced at $250, it’s among the least expensive smartwatches, and it has a great collection of features like 10 day battery life, a waterproof frame, and a huge library of apps.

The Pebble Time Steel
The Pebble TIme Steel is our top pick for a holiday smartwatch gift.
credit: Pebble

If the Pebble isn’t quite what you’re looking for, check out The 5 Best Smartwatches (for Holiday Gifts) for the other four top contenders.

2. Give a Tablet. No, Really

You're probably not going to buy a computer for someone this holiday season any more than you'll buy them a refrigerator or a furnace. But a tablet is somehow different. You can use a tablet for almost everything you'd use a PC for, but it's more fun and personal. It's a book reader, music player, gaming console, and more. And the Amazon Fire is priced right -- it's far from the perfect tablet, but at a mere $50, it won't break the bank, yet it feels like a far more substantial gift.

The Amazon Fire tablet
The Amazon Fire is a tablet which is priced almost like a stocking stuffer.
credit: Amazon

While the Fire might be the cheapest tablet you can buy, there are a lot of other excellent gifting choices. Scan The 5 Best Tablets (for Holiday Gifts) for details.

3. Give the Gift Of a Drone

Drones are hot this year – if you’ve read the news, you know that even the FAA thinks so. Drones come in all shapes, sizes, capabilities, and prices. You can get tiny indoor flying drones, larger outdoor models, drones designed to do simple aerobatics, and ones with cameras and GPS. If you know someone hankering to fly a drone of their own – and they’re serious about wanting to shoot video of hiking trips and grand vistas of their hometown from 1000 feet in the air, you simply can’t go wrong with DJI’s Phantom 3. Priced at $800, it’s no stocking stuffer, but it is a universally loved drone that shoots awesome video, can take off and land automatically, and can even return home when the battery runs low.

The DJI Phantom 3
The DJI Phantom 3 is a pricey drone, but someone will love you for it.
credit: DJI

Of course, the Phantom 3 isn’t for everyone. You might want to give a much simpler drone. No matter who you’re shopping for, you can find a drone recommendation in The 5 Best Drones (for Holiday Gifts)

4. Music Equals Love. Wrap Up Some Headphones

Don’t let your loved ones suffer the disappointment of listening to their favorite music with standard-issue earbuds. It’s amazing how much better music can sound with the right headphones, and our favorite – the seemingly perfect blend of acoustics, personalization, and price – is the Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus ($200). These headphones sound awesome, with accurate bass, excellent midrange, and sparkling treble. The headphones also have controls to adjust the bass level, and a removable microphone means they can also be used for video calling or gaming.

The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus
The Beyerdynamic Custom One Pro Plus is a superb set of headphones at a good price.
credit: Beyerdynamic

You can also read about all the runners-up in The 5 Best Headphones (for Holiday Gifts). There you’ll find great alternatives like noise reduction headphones, wireless models, and even high quality earbuds.

5. Give the Gift of Motivation: Fitness Trackers

Gifts with a loved one's health on mind is always a little tricky. Pro tip: Never give a gym membership to your spouse if they didn't ask for it first. But fitness bands are different, and a tracker like the Fitbit Charge HR can help the giftee reach their personal goals. It has a built-in heart rate monitor, sleep tracking, and even a vibrating alarm to wake you in the morning.

The Fitbit Charge HR
The Fitbit Charge HR is a great fitness band at a reasonable price.
credit: Fitbit

Want one with more features, one that's a little less pricey, or just one with a different fashion sense? Read The 5 Best Fitness Trackers (for Holiday Gifts) for more.

6. Choose the Right Computer Game

Parents have it tough. Do you get the video game your kids are asking for? What kind of content does the game include? What’s it even about? Is it appropriate for your 5, 10, 15 year old? Consider GTA 5, for example, which is what the kids call Grand Theft Auto V. This game is wildly popular -- and your own kids might be asking for it -- but it’s rated “Mature” and frankly includes moments of almost unspeakable violence. Want something less dark and more family friendly? Try Lego Batman 3, which provides the Grand Theft Auto experience without the horrific imagery. And family friendly isn't code for "only for small children" -- this is a charming game that everyone loves.

Lego Batman 3
Lego's Batman 3 is a family-friendly alternative to more graphic action games.
credit: Lego

Check out A Holiday Game Buyer's Guide for Parents for a dozen timely gaming descriptions and recommendations.

7. Bonus! Save Cash With the Right Smartphone Apps

Holiday shopping might seem like fun when you think about it in June, but by the time Black Friday rolls around, the busiest shopping days of the year can seem a lot less thrilling. Your smartphone is a powerful ally when you go holiday shopping though. Equipped with the right apps , you can save a ton of time and money that you’d otherwise waste at the mall. Consider Coupon Sherpa, for example: This app delivers countless coupon codes and printable coupons from hundreds of popular merchants right to the palm of your hand.

Coupon Sherpa
Coupon Sherpa is one of many apps that can save you cash while shopping.

Want more? Save Cash With These 10 Essential Black Friday Apps is a treasure trove of apps to save you cash this holiday shopping season.