The holiday season is here! Despite arriving earlier and earlier every year, it manages to sneak up on the best of us. If you are in the last minute hunt for gifts, maybe I can provide some help!
Don’t know what to get the smartphone addict in your family for the holidays? Chances are, they already have the latest and greatest gadgets. Going shopping for one can be an intimidating experience. Instead, focus on smaller gifts and accessories that can improve their experience.
Google Play or App Store gift cards. Find out if your techie is an Apple, Google, Windows or other person and get them a gift card to that phone’s app store. $20 goes a long way when in the land of $0.99 apps! Not to mention, if they really enjoy mobile gaming, they can use that to get some of the nice paid perks. Candy Crush is a lot easier if you have a few extra dollars to spend.
New earbuds. Earbuds are really good at disappearing, so it never hurts to have an extra pair. You can get fairly cheap pairs (less than $30) for younger children, fun sporty kinds for the fitness fans, and really nice ones (costing a pretty penny at over $100) for your favorite audiophile.
Pay their phone bill! Phone bills are REALLY expensive, especially if you are a techie and rely on data. You can buy gift cards at a lot of service providers such as AT&T and Verizon. If you aren’t sure your techie does business with, you can get a standard gift card and leave a nice little note for them.
Laptops are prohibitively expensive gifts. If you are wanting to buy one for a college-bound student, you would do better to set a budget and let them pick out the laptop. They probably know what they want. But if you like to go for the surprise factor, here are some things they may really enjoy.
Laptop-ready briefcase or backpack. A regular old backpack doesn’t come with the padding a laptop really needs to stay safe if being toted around from work and home, class to the dorm. Buying a high-quality backpack or briefcase with a specific compartment for a laptop can help extend the life of your loved one’s tech for a long time.
Vinyl decals and skins. Especially popular with younger folks, a vinyl decal featuring their school or favorite band can be a great way to customize a laptop. Vinyl decals come in a variety of colors and in every design imaginable - not to mention they come off clean, leaving no sticky residue.
A wireless mouse. Most laptops use touchpads, but those can be annoying to operate. Finding an inexpensive wireless mouse isn’t hard and can make that new computer a lot more appealing. If you really want to spring for something great, look for a Bluetooth mouse. These bad boys are more expensive, but don’t have to plug into a computer at all, leaving precious USB ports free.
If someone in your family loves to play video games, there are a lot of really cool extras you can buy for them - without having to know anything about games at all, and without having to spend lots of money on a new console.
Gift cards to online stores. Playstation, Xbox, and Nintendo console owners no longer have to go to a physical location to buy games. All modern consoles (including handhelds) have access to an online store where full games can be bought. Find out their console of choice, and grab a gift card from any big box store. If you can, a card with $60 or more on it will ensure that the lucky recipient can buy a new game.
Extra controllers. Playing games with friends and family is the most fun, so purchasing extra controllers is a sure fire way to please. Make sure you know what console to buy for, and make sure you buy official merchandise, not third party devices. While some third party devices are great, it can take a lot of research to weed out the duds. You won’t go wrong with a controller from the manufacturer.
Books and art books. If you know a particularly favorite game or franchise of your giftee, it might be worth a trip to the bookstore. Most major games have art books that show off the concept art that went into the game’s creation, and many others have companion books that tell additional bits of story. Not only is this a fun little gift, but it might get that gamer reading a little bit more.
Regardless of whatever kind of technology the techie in your life loves, there are a lot of great, inexpensive gifts you can give to add to that experience. Don’t stress too much over buying the latest greatest tech for them - it’s expensive, and a surprise can go sour really quickly. I speak from experience - techies are really picky.
And if you are the recipient of a gift you aren’t really happy with? It’s the thought that counts, y’all. Be kind.
A version of this article appeared in MPB's Fine Tuning December 2014 guide.
Ashley Jefcoat is the co-host of MPB's Everyday Tech, a weekly call-in show focused on making technology accessible to everyone. You can listen to it live every Wednesday at 10:00 am CST on MPB Think Radio. She also serves as the Digital Media Director for Mississippi Public Broadcasting, where she provides guidance in all things digital. Ashley resides in Jackson, MS, in a cute little house full of animals, video games, and books.