Techwalla's 2015 Holiday Buyers Guide

Everyone gets a gadget!

By Dave Johnson

Remember when only geeky kids wanted "tech" for the holidays? Well, these days, virtually everything is tech. And everyone uses it, almost without thinking. The bottom line: Whether you’re shopping for your niece, your grandpa, your best friend, or yourself, there’s probably some sort of gadget available that would make a great gift for them.

1. Clasp a Smartwatch on Someone You Love

Like robot toads and pizza burritos, smartwatches are the natural next stage in evolution. Smartwatches let you get important notifications on your wrist so you can 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 makes a very smart gift. Priced at $250, it’s less expensive than most high-end smartwatches, and it has a great array of features, including ten-day battery life, a waterproof frame, and a huge library of apps.

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If the Pebble doesn’t sound like quite what you’re looking for, check out The 5 Best Smartwatches (for Holiday Gifts) for more about it and four other top contenders.

2. Give a Tablet—No, Really

You're probably wouldn’t buy someone a computer this holiday season, any more than you'd buy them a refrigerator or a furnace. But a tablet is somehow different. You can use a tablet for almost everything that you'd use a PC for, but it's more fun and personal. It's an ebook reader, a music player, a gaming console, and more. And at a mere $50, the Amazon Fire is priced right. Though it’s hardly the perfect tablet, it’s a home run as a versatile, substantial-feeling gift that won't break the bank.

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While the Fire might be the cheapest tablet you can buy, you’ll find a number of other excellent gifting choices in this category. 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 for advanced missions. If you know someone who’s hankering to fly a drone of their own—and they’re serious about using it to shoot video of hiking trips or grand vistas of their hometown from 1000 feet in the air, you can’t go wrong with DJI’s Phantom 3. Priced at $800, it’s no stocking stuffer, but it is a universally praised drone that can shoot awesome video, take off and land automatically, and even return home when the battery runs low.

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

And here’s a bonus tip: Though it didn’t find its way into our 5 Best Drones guide, I recently bought—and now adore—3D Robotics’ Solo.

4. Music Equals Love, So Wrap Up Some Headphones

Don’t let your loved ones suffer the disappointment of listening to their favorite music through the blunting instrument of standard-issue earbuds. It’s amazing how much better music sounds when you use the right headphones. Our favorite—delivering a 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 for adjusting the bass level, and they include a removable microphone for video calling or gaming.

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You can read more about the Custom One Plus Pro and four excellent alternative choices in The 5 Best Headphones (for Holiday Gifts). Among the styles covered there are noise-reduction headphones, wireless models, and even high-quality earbuds.

5. Give the Gift of Motivation: Fitness Trackers

Gifts that focus on a loved one's health can be a little tricky. Pro tip: Never give a gym membership to your spouse unless they specifically asked for it. But fitness bands are different—cool, attractive, tech-friendly, and with a wide enough array of features to avoid the unfortunate subtext of "You’re really out of shape, my sweet"—and a tracker like the Fitbit Charge HR can help the giftee reach their personal goals in style. It has a built-in heart-rate monitor, sleep tracking, and even a vibrating alarm to wake you in the morning.

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

6. Two Words: Star Wars

People, come on! It’s Star Wars season. Half your family has probably been waiting impatiently for the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens for the last two years, and salivating uncontrollably as each trailer appears. So make someone very, very happy with an actual, working BB-8 droid that they can control from their smartphone.

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We’ve got nine more recommendations where that one came from, too. Check out The 10 Coolest Star Wars: Episode VII Gadgets for the scoop on remote-controlled toys, a flying Millennium Falcon drone, a Nerf Bowcaster, and many more.

7. Bonus! Save Cash With the Right Smartphone Apps

Holiday shopping might seem like fun when you think about it in June—but experienced in person, the busiest shopping days of the year can seem a lot less thrilling. Fortunately, your smartphone can be a powerful ally when you prepare to go holiday shopping. The right apps, can help you save a ton of time and money that you’d otherwise waste on your treks to and through 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.

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

Photo credits: Amazon, Beyerdynamic, DJI, Fitbit, Karandaev/iStock/Getty Images, Malltip, Pebble, Sphero.