For All You Black Friday Shoppers Out There

I wrote the following article titled "What are the hottest high-tech holiday gifts for 2019?" for the special Thanksgiving editions of Foster's and the Portsmouth Herald.

It’s that time of year again. Black Friday is upon us and the sales seem like they have been in full swing for weeks. Regardless, Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday shopping season and Black Friday is still Black Friday, followed closely by Cyber Monday. So, what do I recommend for the techy on your list this year? Read on...

Without question, the hottest item this season will be the new Apple AirPods Pro wireless headphones. Apple has changed the design of the new Pro version, to make them compatible with more ear types. The original AirPods fell out of my ears too easily. The Pro solves this problem by adding in a soft gel tip that sits in the ear canal, like many other wireless headphones. The white stem that sticks out of the ear is also considerably smaller, which many people will like from an aesthetic point of view. They are still among the smallest wireless earbuds on the market and have a handy charging case that easily fits in your pocket for on the go power and run time.

There are many other Apple products anyone on your list will love to receive. The iPhone 11 Pro with its amazing triple cameras may be the smartphone to beat. The price is still hefty, but most carriers are offering pretty aggressive trade-in rebates to counter consumer push back on the price of the phones no longer being heavily subsidized by the carrier. If you’ve got a photo enthusiast on your list, you won’t go wrong.

The Apple Watch Series 5 continues to lead the pack in the smartwatch category, so if you’ve got someone whose been wanting to get a smartwatch, they will be thrilled to get this gift. However, if an Apple Watch is a bit too much, but you want to gift a highly rated smartwatch, consider the Fitbit Versa 2. Next to the Apple Watch, it’s been a consistently highly rated smart watch.

Despite all the privacy concerns, smart speakers continue to be very hot items. Whether leveraging Siri, Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa, smart speakers continue to sell. Almost every major manufacturer has integrated one or more of these smart assistants into their offerings. Even many of the portable speakers on the market have some integration with one or more of these assistants.

If you’re shopping for a new laptop computer this holiday season, I continue to be a big fan of Microsoft Surface computers. With the introduction of the Surface Laptop, there are now some lower-cost options available, along with the Surface Pro tablet and Surface Book high-end laptop. From the clean, sleek design to the excellent performance and reliability, you won’t go wrong with a Surface.

Smart home technology is another great area to find gifts. Just about anything can be integrated into your smart home these days. From smart light bulbs and switches to alarm systems and sensors for everything from water leaks to the level of your gill’s propane tank, there’s a smart home controller or sensor for just about everything. Home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s have many options on display as does your local Best Buy. If you’ve been thinking about gifting smart home tech, I recommend a visit to one of more of these stores to check out what’s available.

I’m sure you’ve seen the Facebook Portal commercials on TV featuring the Muppets. Portal and Amazon’s Echo Show are leading the way on video calling across the internet. These would be a great gift idea to connect grandparents to their grandchildren across the miles. Of course, if both parties have an iPad, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with Facetime for this either. On computers, between Skype and Facetime, you can video call computer to computer as well. But there’s certainly something neat about doing it on your big screen TV.

Noise cancelling headphones are always a welcome gift. From a price standpoint, they run from around $100 to well over $300, depending on the brand. Even the new Apple AirPod Pro, which I mentioned at the beginning, has noise cancelling built in. But if you truly want to give someone the gift of blocking out the world around them, there’s no substitute for over the ear noise cancelling headphones.

Drones remain a really popular gift and there are many affordable models on the market now. If you want a really good drone, expect to spend more than $500 and look to a leading brand like DJI. Speaking of DJI, if you want to look at an innovative gift idea, check out the Osmo Pocket. It’s one of the least expensive, yet high-quality video cameras on a gimble, which means perfectly stable video, in even the wildest of conditions.

Speaking of video, GoPro’s latest models are out in time for the holidays and remain the gold standard of action video cameras. Some of the models are voice activated, allowing you to capture a picture while in the midst of recording video. I don’t know any gift recipient who won’t be thrilled to receive a GoPro camera this holiday season.

With the streaming wars heating up, it’s a great time to cut the cable and move to internet-based TV, live and recorded. From Hulu with Live TV to YouTube TV, Disney+ and Netflix, the options are growing almost daily. You may be able to save a fair amount on your monthly bill with just internet and streaming services. Most of the newest smart TV’s support many of these services natively, but if you subscribe to Amazon Prime or know someone who does, a Fire TV stick is a great and very affordable holiday gift. You can access Amazon’s vast library as well as stream live TV from sources like Hulu and YouTube. If you’re not sure if Amazon is the way to go, a streaming stick from Roku is also an excellent choice.

If you want to stay more budget conscious, there are many gadgets you can choose from to give. Who doesn’t need an extra battery to keep their gadgets charged? There are many options to give, from batteries that will charge a smartphone multiple times per charge, to very inexpensive options to provide one extra recharge per cycle.

I could go on with pages and pages of cool tech gift ideas. Hopefully, some of these suggestions will help you make someone very happy this holiday season. Happy shopping!

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving and joyous holiday season.