Not every tech-themed gift has to be a bank breaker.
If a TV, videogame system or new smartphone are out of your price range this holiday season, there are still plenty of good, stocking-sized items that will make your friends and family just as happy. Not all of them are as flashy as big ticket items, but what they lack in sizzle, they more than make up for in usefulness.
—By Chris Morris, special to CNBC.com
Posted 24 Nov. 2014
Tired of losing your keys? Can't ever remember where you put your smartphone or wallet? Tile is a small attachment that ensures you'll never have to rip the house apart again. Working in conjunction with an app on your smartphone, it's a beacon that's about the size of two stacked quarters, letting you easily locate misplaced items. The app also automatically records the last place you had the item, letting you retrace your steps if you've left it somewhere.
Smartphones have some pretty cool features, but they can't detect infrared heat signatures. Seek lets you see what's around you at night, discover clogs in your pipes and find your dog when the pooch is hiding in the backyard at night. Developed by a team that has spent years developing military grade thermal technologies, it's the best way to know what's happening around you at night short of night vision goggles.
Traveling isn't as easy as it used to be—especially if you've got a family that depends on their mobile devices. This portable, personal cloud storage device lets you store things like movies, so you don't have to fill up your tablet or phone—and makes them available to multiple devices. It's also a portable router, letting everyone share the Wi-Fi, which is handy in hotels that limit you to one connection per room. As an added bonus, if your room only has wired Internet, it will transform that into wireless.
If you've had a smartphone or tablet for any length of time, odds are you've had to replace the power cord. MOS cables are designed to not crush or break, even if you step on them or yank them. Reinforced with a woven exoskeleton with a spring where the wire and connection head meet, they're available for iOS and Android devices—and they come with a lifetime warranty.
With more and more electronics in our lives, cord clutter is getting to be a real problem in some homes. The Recoil won't lessen the number of wires running around your home, but when you're not using them it will make them less visible—and keep them from tangling into a modern day Gordian knot. They're also particularly handy for business travelers.
This Bluetooth speaker lets your enjoy your music in the bath or shower (or, if you're particularly social, talk on the phone). It's waterproof, lets you skip songs and adjust the volume and sticks to pretty much any flat surface thanks to a strong suction cup. Despite the name, it's also a good speaker choice for outdoor parties when you're at the pool or the weather is threatening.
This self-setting moldable glue feels like Play-Doh in your hands, but it's invaluable when you're trying to make minor repairs to your gadgets. Whether it's frayed cords, chipped pieces of plastic or vinyl or just a leak, Sugru is easy to apply and bonds well with most surfaces. It's one of the best tools to extend the life of battered tech toys.
These LED light bulbs do more than just light a room. They can be set to flash when the phone rings. They can sync to your music to create a dance floor in the home. They come with relaxation and romance modes (with both colored and dim lighting). And they have a wake mode, slowly raising the light in your room to wake you up without a blaring alarm. And it's all controlled from your smartphone.
If you can't buy your loved one a new phone, how about a personalized new phone case? The Shout phone case lets you convert your favorite shot from your photo roll and feature it on a slim or protective cover. It's a unique and sentimental approach to a high-tech gift.
We're kind of taking the easy road here by not specifically recommending a Roku Stick, Amazon Fire TV Stick or Chromecast, but the fact of the matter is they're all great. Each has pros and cons, but they're all minor details. Each will let you easily watch streaming movies and shows on your TV, without taking up any room in your entertainment center.