Well, folks, the winter holidays are nigh and this means that it's time to start pondering what gifts you should start buying. Well, we won't be able to help you pick out the perfect present for every member of your family, but if you have a friend or a close one that just so happens to be fascinated with smartphones, smartwatches, and all things portable tech – we just might have a few ideas on how to make them smile.
In this gift guide, we have a selection of smartphone accessories, smartwatches, or simpler smart wearables that should go well with the gift recipient's smartphone. Also keep your eyes peeled for a gift guide dedicated to cases for the most popular handsets, and a guide for actual smartphones – if you happen to be willing to shell out for one such expensive gift.
Check out slideshow 1 for a list of various accessories, all priced between $10 and $180. For wearables and smartwatches, scroll down straight to slideshow 2.
Gift guide: smartphone accessories
Gift guide: smartphone accessories
1. A portable speaker
If your gift recipient is glued to their handset or tablet and loves listening to music and watching movies on it, a nice portable speaker should make them plenty happy. We've picked out 3 great contenders in 3 different price tiers:
The XBOOM Mini ($15 on Amazon)
comes in a variety of different colors and can be paired with other XBOOM Mini speakers, which amplifies the sound they produce tremendously. Worth mentioning – this budget solution is not wireless.
The BLUETUNE SOLO V3 ($39.95 on Amazon)
is a stylish Bluetooth wireless speaker, which offers louder audio and deeper bass than the XBOOM Mini. The SOLO V3 is also equipped with a microphone and can act as a hands-free speaker for calls, if your phone happens to ring while you are listening to music.JBL Charge 2+ (from $129.99 on Amazon)
is a pretty amazing little speaker. It has 2 drivers, so it plays audio in true stereo, is water-resistant (not water-proof, though), and can even double as a power bank and charge the user's phone if need be! It's arguably among the best-sounding portable speakers for the money, so if you are willing to spend north of $100 for a smartphone aficionado that is close to you – that's a great choice.
2. Game controller
Is your intended gift recipient a gamer? You can't go wrong with getting them a controller – this is basically the gift of a more enjoyable mobile gaming experience. And no, don't just go for an “Xbox controller”, or “PS4 controller” – there are a lot of joypads that are made specifically for mobile devices. Also, if getting a joypad for an iPhone or iPad user, you need to make sure that it is compatible with Apple's devices – such controllers are often labeled as MFi (made for iPhone). So, here are 3 of our favorites out there!
The MOGA Hero Power
($24.99 on Amazon) is a portable controller, made for Android devices. It features a clamp, so the user can attach their smartphone to the joypad and instantly get a portable gaming console. The Hero Power also doubles as a power bank, allowing the user to recharge their phone – pretty useful for longer gaming sessions!Mad Catz C.T.R.L.R
(Android $39.99) and C.T.R.L.i
(for iPhone / iPad $49.99) are solidly built and responsive – probably among the best controllers for mobile gaming that you can by without breaking the bank. The joypad design incorporates an expandable smartphone mount to easily game while on the road. One downside is that it requires 3 AAA batteries, instead of having a rechargeable pack. On the flip side, gamers that will only consider playing on their phone when traveling may actually prefer to only buy a pack of AAA batteries when they need them, instead of worry about carrying around an extra charger for a joypad.
3. A VR goggle set
Virtual reality goggles may sound expensive, but in the world of smartphones – they aren't. See, there are goggles that consist purely of a headmount and glass lenses, which are designed to work in unison with a smartphone and create a 2-piece virtual reality set. So, there are a lot of these out there right now, and chances are your smartphone-loving close one still hasn't gotten one.
If they are a high-level of a Google geekster, you can't go wrong with getting them a Google Cardboard
. These are goggles built by Google partners and sold by the search giant. The ones that adhere to the original Cardboard concept even sell them as assmble-it-yourself packages. Google Cardboard models usually accept phones with screen sizes of up to 6".
All that said, we would suggest something that actually has headmount straps – such as this $13.99 set by SUNNYPEAK
. It appears to be a fairly solid and very affordable set that will do its job in sating someone's curiosity as to what mobile VR looks like right now. If you choose to browse around – make sure you know what phone is going to be used with the set, and check if your goggles of choice accept the size. The SUNNYPEAK accepts up to 5.7" screens.
4. Chromecast 2.0 and Chromecast Audio
Google's Chromecast ($35)
is a little box, which connects to the TV via an HDMI cable. It then allows the user to stream movies, clips, and music from famous streaming services, as well as mirror the screen of their Android smartphone or tablet directly on the TV.Chromecast Audio ($35)
is made for music only – it is intended to connect to speakers and stream music from the user's Internet radio of choice.
5. A power bank
Let's face it – we still live in the era of 1-day battery life smartphones. That's why a lot of power users either have or are constantly on the verge of buying an external battery pack. If the person you are shopping for is of the latter variety – get them one! We've picked out 3 exemplary variants from Amazon.com, but feel free to shop around.
The RAVPower Portable Charger 3,200 mAh ($10.98)
doesn't pack a lot of power, but is small enough to be carried around without taking too much room. This is the type of power bank you would get for a user that rarely needs one, but would be happy to remember that it's in their bag whenever they find out they forgot to recharge their phone overnight.
The Innogie 6,600 mAh Air Series ($21.90)
is a middle-of-the-road solution, offering a slim design, but packing a nice punch. Great for users that don't spend their day in an office, near an outlet, but are moving around a lot.Vinsic 20,000 mAh Ultra-slim Power Bank ($44.90)
Lastly, the selves away from power outlets for prolonged periods of time. Again, it's sleek and classy-looking, and nobody would feel embarrassed to pull it out in a coffee shop for a quick recharge.
6. Wireless charger mat
Wireless charging is still not heavily mainstream, but if your close one owns a Nexus 4
, Nexus 5
, Nexus 6
, Motorola Droid MAXX
, Droid Turbo
, Droid Turbo 2
, or a Samsung Galaxy S6
, Galaxy S6 edge
, Galaxy S6 edge+
, Galaxy Note 5
, BlackBerry Priv
, a higher-tier Lumia, or any other device that supports wireless charging by the Qi standard – get them a charging mat that they can place their phone on to charge! Here are a couple – eLander ($14.99)
and Samsung Wireless Charger Avengers Edition
(from $7 to $50 on refurbished units as it was a limited edition).
7. A drone
OK, drones are a bit more expensive, but there are a few somewhat affordable options out there that are actually good. We've chosen Sphero's Ollie ($99.99)
as our favorite for this guide. It is a pretty fast and nimble ground-rolling drone, which can perform some jaw-dropping stunts, drive a pet crazy, and generally keep you entertained.
Alternatively, if your intended gift recipient is a huge Star Wars fan, you may consider the Sphero BB-8 ($149.99)
. It's a moving replica of the new droid character that we are about to meet in Star Wars VII. According to user reports, it doesn't fare well with prolonged use or hints of rough terrain, so keep actual usage in mind when choosing one of these drones..
8. Toys for guitarists
Does your intended gift recipient like to jam on the guitar? How about getting them a guitar interface for their mobile phone? These are little boxes, which let the user plug their electric guitar into a smartphone and use the latter as an audio effects processor, essentially simulating famous amps and cabs. A simpler way to say it is “nifty gadgetry for guitar enthusiasts”. Here are 3 price tier options for you to consider:IK iRig 2 ($39.95)
– will only work with iPhone / iPod Touch / iPad or the latest Samsung flagships (Galaxy S5, Note 4, Note Edge, Galaxy S6, S6 edge, S6 edge+, Note 5). If $40 is still a bit much, you can try hunting for a 1st gen iRig interface – they can be found for about $10 or $15.IK iRig UA ($79.99)
– works with most high-end Android devices and has a built-in FX processor to eliminate audio latency. The best way to check if the intended phone or tablet will work with iRig UA is to go into the Play Store and see if Amplitube UA can be installed on said device.Line 6 Sonic Port VX ($179.95)
– the Holy Grail for mobile musicians, Sonic Port VX has an input for guitar, as well as a built-in stereo microphone. It works with iPhone and iPad, Macs, and PCs; unfortunately, it doesn't support Android devices.
Other devices that are worth a look are Line 6 Sonic Port (1st gen)
, which supports both Android and iOS, and Apogee JAM
9. Wireless SD card / USB reader
Has your close one been complaining about how limited their phone's storage is and how it doesn't have an SD card expansion slot? Well, here's one workaround. While not optimal for most scenarios, a wireless SD card / USB / HDD reader can allow the user to transfer data between their smartphone and an SD card / USB stick wirelessly. Good for watching movies on the road or keeping a large photo collection off of one's smartphone, but still easily accessible. RAVPower Filehub ($39.99)
seems like a versatile enough gadget!
10. Clip-on lens
If you have a person around you that loves taking photos with their smartphone, maybe get them a clip-on lens. What these do is they augment the capabilities of the small smartphone lens, adding different effects, such as wide-angle or fisheye. Aukey's 3-in-1 Clip-on ($15.99)
will work on most smartphones and is a pretty good choice.
Gift guide: wearables and smartwatches
Gift guide: wearables and smartwatches
1. Xiaomi Mi Band 2
If you want simple and functional, the Mi Band 2
has it. It's mostly a fitness tracker, which records steps, distance traveled, and calories burned. It can also be used for sleep tracking, and will vibrate on alarms or incoming calls. All of that for around $20 is a pretty good deal. Unfortunately, they usually need to be imported from the Far East, so plan accordingly.
2. Jawbone UP2
If you want a more “name brand” present – the Jawbone UP2
($69.99 on Amazon) is a pretty great and pretty stylish fitness tracker in its own right.
3. Samsung Gear Fit
Sammy's Gear Fit ($79.99)
is last year's news, but it's still a pretty nifty gadget. It strikes a balance between being a smartwatch and a fitness tracker, but definitely leans more towards the latter. You may think that the Gear Fit only syncs with Samsung devices, but the fact is that the gizmo had enough of a fanbase for someone to sit down and program an “Open Fit” app, which lets it work with any Android smartphone out there. Pretty cool!Gear Fit Review
4. Huawei TalkBand B2
The TalkBand B2
($129.99 on Amazon) is a fitness tracker, but it also strives to look stylish and classy, so one can easily use it as a watch. Additionally, the body of the TalkBand can get unhinged from the strap, turning it into a Bluetooth-connected hands-free device.TalkBand B2 Review
5. ASUS ZenWatch 2
A fan-favorite that strikes a balance between being one of the best-looking Android Wear smartwatches and toting a fairly affordable price-tag. The ZenWatch 2
(from $129 on Amazon) is stylish, comes in a variety of color options, and offers two different sizes.ZenWatch 2 Review