Not every tech-themed gift has to be a bank breaker.
If a TV, videogame system or new smartphone is out of your price range this holiday season, there are still plenty of good, stocking-size items that will make your friends and family just as happy. Not all of them are as flashy as the big-ticket items, but what they lack in sizzle, they more than make up for in usefulness.
ThinOptics ($25) — Know someone who's struggling to read the tiny fonts on their smartphone? ThinOptics is a thin pod that attaches to any smartphone's protective case that contains a small, foldable pair of reading glasses. They easily (and comfortably) fit on the bridge of your nose, and they're actually rather stylish. And, since people rarely travel without their phones, they'll always have a little extra magnification handy when they're at restaurants or some other location where small type curses them.
LuminAid ($20-$25) — Power outages happen. And flashlights and candles both have their drawbacks. LuminAid is a solar-powered lantern that is both renewable and fun. With 10 LED minibulbs, it generates a lot of light. It's inflatable and collapsible, meaning you can toss it in a backpack or glove compartment and use it for emergencies. The light holds up for 7-10 hours with a fully charged battery, and if you're willing to pay a $5 premium you can get one that displays multiple colors.
Weego battery pack ($120) — Typical cell phone chargers are a bit limited in what they can do. Want to give your phone or tablet's battery new life? No problem. But hook it up to, say, a laptop, and it empties out pretty fast. The Weego Power Bank Charger won't just charge your phone and laptop; it's also equipped with a flashlight and can jump-start your car, truck or boat battery. It may not be something you'd carry with you in a backpack or on a day-to-day basis, but if you're on the road, it can be your best friend.
Toydriver ($10) — If you've got kids, this is the perfect stocking stuffer for yourself. It's a mini-electronic screwdriver that simplifies battery changes in toys. Using two AAA batteries (included), it quickly installs and removes those tiny inset screws that can never quite be reached by your full-size screwdriver — reducing the time you have to hear your impatient little one complain as they wait to play with their new toy.
Athlights ($10) — Know someone who does most of their exercise in the early morning or late evening hours, when there's little to no sunlight? Athlights are exceptionally bright, flashing, wearable LEDs that ensure they'll be visible to oncoming vehicles from 600 feet away. They're light and held in place by incredibly strong magnets, ensuring they won't fall off, no matter how hard you run.
Capio Car Mount ($30) — Operating your phone as you drive is foolish — and, in many states, illegal — but a car mount can be useful when you're utilizing the navigation features or Periscope. Tylt's Capio is a universal mount that stays in place regardless of your vehicle and fits any make and model of phone.
Mophie Spacestation (starting at $150) — Mophie is the king of battery phone chargers and cases, and it's hard to go wrong with any of their options. What makes Spacestation stand out is it not only can charge your phone several times over, but it's also a portable hard drive, which can dramatically enhance your storage capabilities. That means you can carry an extensive music or movie collection and never have to worry about running out of room for photos or videos.
Twig headphone wrap ($5) — No matter how careful you are, your phone's headset inevitably will become a tangled mess. Twig is a quick and easy way to keep things neat. The Y-shaped divider keeps left and right earbuds separated. From there, just wrap the cord between the two and things will stay neat and tidy.
SilentPocket Wallet (starting at $25) — Today's credit cards are increasingly equipped with RFID chips to make payments easier. Some of those chips, though, can be read remotely. Protect your loved ones from the hassle of fraud with this bi-fold wallet that blocks radio frequencies, keeping your cards secure as you go about your day-to-day activities, ensuring that no one lifts or skims a card's data.
Asus Chromestick ($85) — Google's Chromebook computers are fairly affordable, but if you're looking for a bigger screen, why not use your TV as a monitor? The Chromestick is a candy bar-size peripheral that plugs into any display system's HDMI port and turns it into a de facto Chromebook, giving you the ability to easily surf the Web and access any cloud-based service.