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With the season of giving bearing down on us, consider a gift for that special technophile in your life. Some of the latest in early-adopter tech includes smart home accessories, wearable techonology and even Bitcoin. But out of the thousands of tech products what’s worth buying and can you actually get your hands on it before December 25th?
How do I Get Free Expedited Shipping?
Right now the two most popular, free expedited shipping options are Shoprunner and Amazon Prime. Most of the links included in this article link to Amazon, but keep in mind that Newegg offers a large number of items eligible for free shipping with Shoprunner.
Both services entail annual membership costs, but both also include free trial memberships. Shoprunner bundles its service with American Express (sign-up here). Amazon Prime offers a half-year for students (sign-up here).
The Philips Hue starter kit retails for ~$189. The kit includes several light bulbs which can alter their colour and brightness based on user-defined instructions. Skeptics claim that hue-adjustable bulbs are little more than gimmicks — they’re wrong. There’s emerging research which shows a connection between insomnia (and other health ailments) and exposure to white artificial light, just before bedtime. Hue adjustable lights — in theory — can release red or amber light after sundown.
In our review, James Bruce regarded the Philips Hue system as the best of the bunch. If you do take the smart-bulb plunge, give Philips a shot.
- Operating System: Embedded Operating System
- Manufacturer: Philips
- Price: ~$189 via Amazon
- Requirements: As many lamps as there are lightbulbs and a router
The $200 Basis Peak – 2014’s upgrade over the 2012 Basis Health Tracker (our Basis B1 review) – offers uniform improvements over the previous model. The best feature of the Basis Peak: It can automatically detect all kinds of activities, including sleep, bicycling, jogging and more. While its heart-rate sensor does work while jogging, it is less accurate than a handful of competing fitness wearables. All said, it offers more features – with less manual interaction – than its competitors.
On the downside, the open API promised by Basis never materialized. Consequently, third party apps which analyze your fitness metrics won’t ever materialize. Thus, users will need to invest a great deal of time compiling statistics from their own health metrics. Basis needs better software, capable of deriving better analyses from their user’s raw data. This makes the Peak more suited toward early adopters and innovators. However, an intriguing alternative is the Microsoft Band, which (unlike the Peak) includes GPS support, although its sensor suite provides substantially less information. Unfortunately, it’s nigh impossible to score a Microsoft Band at this point. The Peak, however, is easily obtainable and a much better device.
- Form Factor: Wristwatch
- Operating System: Embedded Operating System (what’s an embedded OS?)
- Manufacturer: Basis
- Price: $199.99 via Amazon
- Requirements: Bluetooth smartphone, either iOS (Apple) or Android 4.3 to 4.4
The ~$50 Jawbone Up Move offers users similar features as the Basis Peak (although highly limited in comparison), with a much less steep price-point. It essentially tracks the user’s movements and can provide feedback on sleep and exercise patterns. It’s also useful as a motivational tool. While other wearables offer similar features as a slightly higher price-point, such as the Moov, the best bang-for-your buck is probably the Jawbone Up Move.
If you want an alternative, the Moov is a close second. However, it requires an Apple device. If you do have an Apple smartphone or tablet, the Moov offers Siri integration, which is a pretty fantastic feature.
- Form Factor: Clip-on device
- Operating System: Embedded Operating System
- Manufacturer: Jawbone
- Price: $50 via Amazon
- Requirements: Device with Android or iOS
With the Asus ZenWatch and the Moto 360 sold out, or retailing at bloated prices, the LG G Watch (our G Watch review), offers the best bang for your buck; its price fluctuates from $141 to $80 (with a bonus $50 of Play Store credit). What it lacks in additional features, it makes up for in simplicity. The G Watch does what Android Wear does best: It provides wrist-access to Google’s Google Now personal assistant software. Google Now provides a variety of hands-free features, including on-the-fly navigation, text-messaging and more. While it reportedly suffered from corrosion, a firmware update supposedly corrected this issue.
- Form Factor: Wristwatch
- Operating System: Android Wear
- Manufacturer: LG
- Price: $80-130 via Amazon
- Requirements: Smartphone or tablet with Android 4.3+
The famous Raspberry Pi (our Raspberry Pi guide) became the first successful DIY microcomputer in history, offering the ultimate in extensibility and customizability. It functions in the role of carputer, home media center and more (a lot more). This particular model of Pi sold in this kit is the Raspberry Pi B+, which differs somewhat from the original Pi model.
- Form Factor: MicroPC
- Operating System: Linux (and others)
- Manufacturer: Raspberry Pi
- Price: $60 via Amazon; or $70 for a complete kit, also via Amazon
- Requirements: A DIY mentality
Believe it or not, you can turn a large number of Android smartphones into an Oculus Rift-like virtual reality headset. It just requires using a DIY cardboard kit from Google or DoDoCase. Alternatively, you can also purchase a higher quality plastic headset on Amazon for slightly more. Here’s a great video, which explains how Google Cardboard works:
It’s amazing, isn’t it? Google Cardboard also allows users to try out a technology similar to the Oculus Rift, without committing a great deal of money. Google Cardboard retails for around $2-30 and requires installing the Cardboard app.
- Form Factor: Headset
- Operating System: Android
- Manufacturer: Google (and others)
- Price: ~$10-30 via Amazon
- Requirements: Smartphone with Android 4.3+
Bitcoin [No Longer Available]
Rather than giving cold, hard cash or superfluous gift cards this year, why not try giving the gift of the virtual currency, Bitcoin (our guide to Bitcoin)? Transferring money to a loved one is as simple as sending an email. And there’s a large number of retailers who actually take Bitcoin.
A variety of exchanges exist which allow users to purchase any quantity, no matter how small (including fractions of a Bitcoin). And Bitcoin currently trades at a near 2-year low. I don’t advocate purchasing Bitcoin as an investment strategy, but it’s a good way to bypass transfer fees, charged by services like PayPal.
Acquiring Bitcoin doesn’t take a lot of effort. Just follow Coinbase’s (a Bitcoin exchange and wallet) simple instructions on buying and gifting Bitcoin.
For those who love real-life objects, there’s even a physical, commemorative Bitcoin available (this is not actually a Bitcoin):
While there’s a large number of better, more extensively equipped camera drones available on Amazon, the UDI drone offers the lowest cost of entry. It includes all the basic features in drone-tech, including the ability to spy upon your enemies from afar. And at less than $80, lets your loved one try out emergent technology with very little risk.
It’s by no means a Hexo+, but you probably can’t get a Hexo+ in time for Christmas anyway.
- Form Factor: Quadcopter
- Manufacturer: UDI
- Price: $74 via Amazon
- Requirements: Child’s age 14+
With December 25th nearly upon us, consider emergent technology for your beloved technophiles. The cutting edge of today includes smart-home (Internet of Things), wearable technology and virtual currency — and they’re all still available from Amazon and other retailers, with expedited shipping!