If you've been out in public, on the internet, or had any contact with the outside world lately, you might have noticed that it's finally the holiday season again! A time for joy, a time for family, and a time for being stumped when it comes to choosing gifts for everyone. I might not be able to tell you which toy will be causing riots at Toys-R-Us this year or which model Lexus to stick a giant red bow on, but I feel confident that I can give you a few tips about electronics and accessories to buy for the gadget-lovers in your life, ranging from the pricey to the rather inexpensive. Take a look and see if anything seems right for your friends or family.
1) iPad 2, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch: These are the obvious gifts that nearly everyone would be happy to unwrap this winter. Tablets are getting more and more popular, and the iPad 2 is no exception. The iPhone 4S, apart from some battery-life concerns is faster and has several new features like Siri, the voice activated assistant, that previous versions of the iPhone did not have. The iPod Touch is a great way to play music on the go, but it also comes with a camera, can access WiFi, and has many of the same functions as its big brother, the iPhone. All of these devices can access the robust iTunes store to download millions of songs, movies, and apps.
There are two things to consider before buying one of these Apple products: they are quite pricey (they're probably not be gifts that you can afford give to your entire extended family) and new versions might be on the horizon as early as spring. Nothing has been confirmed yet, but rumors of the iPhone 5 and iPad 3 have been around for the last few months. If it's important to whoever is receiving the gift to stay up to date with their technology then you might want to hold off for a few months.
2) Kindle Fire: Amazon's Kindle Fire is going to do well this holiday season. While the Kindle originally was only an eReader device, it has now branched out into the tablet world. The Kindle Fire might be the biggest threat to the iPad this year, and the $200 price tag makes it even more appealing. It comes with the same abilities as most other tablets on the market, such as a web browser and the ability to play movies, music, games, and books, all found on Amazon's extensive store. It doesn't have quite the same power as the iPad or the trademark user experience that Apple has developed, but for its price it's an excellent alternative for someone who doesn't necessarily care about the more technical details of other Android or iOS devices.
3) Touch screen Gloves: As the weather is starting to get cold, you may have noticed that your touch screen devices are not working while you are wearing gloves. Rather than making your hands suffer the cold while you make that text, companies are now making gloves that allow you to use your device without removing your gloves. After a little searching online I have found that there are two main kinds of these gloves: some that have detachable fingers and some that are made of a special material that allows your fingertips to remain conductive inside your gloves. These Agloves seem like they would make a good stocking stuffer for the textoholic in your family!
4) Headphones: I see so many people walking around with the white headphones that came with their iPods and I remember the time when I used to be one of them. I thought those headphones were fine -- they sounded ok and they fit alright. It wasn't until they fell apart and I was forced to buy a new pair that I realized my mistake. Since then I have had two pairs of Sennheiser earbuds that are more comfortable and sound significantly better, and I will never turn back. If you have a music-lover in your life who is still using the free headphones that came with their phone or mp3 player, you owe it to them to get them new headphones. Like I said, I am very pleased with my Sennheiser earbuds and have heard great things about their traditional headphones, too. I see a lot of college students with Beats by Dr. Dre headphones, which seem to be a little over-priced but popular. A quick search on Amazon could tell you which others are highly-rated if you want more options.
5) Xbox Kinect: After the Nintendo Wii popularized the use of motion in video games, Microsoft responded with the Kinect. By using a camera that is set up near your TV, the games are able to take your movement as the input, causing you to actually get off the couch and move around (a scary prospect for some). A few years ago, the technology inside the Kinect would have cost thousands of dollars (really) but now it goes for as little as $100. Programmers are even using the Kinect for many other interesting purposes, so it's not too farfetched to say that you might even use it outside of gaming before too long. For casual and hardcore gamers alike, the Kinect is a must have for anyone with an Xbox 360.
There are plenty of great electronics on the market these days -- I didn't even mention other tablets like the Samsung Galaxy Tab or other Android phones. Am I missing anything else important, or have you come up with a great gift that you would like to share? Leave us a comment and tell us about it!