With Christmas right around the corner, it's the time of year when many people are scrambling around trying to find the "perfect" gift for their loved ones. Picking the right thing for "the person who has everything" can be quite the task – that's why we decided to offer up our favorite products for the year in a massive this-is-the-stuff-we-use-and-love-and-think-you-or-your-loved-ones-will-too (abbreviated as TitSWUaLaTYoYLOWT for short) list.
Each person from the AP team picked out a handful of stuff (or more, possibly several handfuls), that they either can't live without or feel like would make the perfect gift this holiday season. Many things on this list got multiple votes, but to avoid duplicate entries we made sure everyone had something unique to add. Without further ado, we give you the Android Police Holiday 2013 TitSWUaLaTYoYLOWT Gift Guide.
LG G Pad 8.3 Google Play Edition (or as we like to call it around the "office," the LGGPGPE - $349.99). Because seven inches is too small and ten is too large. Not to mention, this device should get OS updates very soon after Google releases them and good community support for a long while.
NVIDIA SHIELD ($250). I realize that NVIDIA's SHIELD is a very niche product, but for those who fit within that niche, it's a killer product. Thanks to the recently-added (and later improved) Gamepad Mapper, it works exceptionally well even with non-SHIELD optimized games, and Gamestream is an excellently-executed feature for anyone who also plays games on their PC. With the current SHIELD sales still going on, it's the prefect time to buy.
None. We have enough, I think. I don't really have anything to add.
Moto G. The Moto G is an extremely giftable phone. At $179, it's a hard handset to pass up for those looking to enter the smartphone world, bring someone else into the twenty-first century, or simply find a great budget phone. In fact I'd venture to say that one hardly needs to qualify the Moto G as a "great budget phone." For many, the Moto G will be simply a great phone.
Moto X (Free-$99 with contract, $499 off-contract). The Moto X shows what an OEM can do with Android when it's not obsessed with covering up the stock interface and packing in semi-useless features to pump up the spec sheet. Touchless Control and Active Notifications in the Moto X are very good additions to the Android experience, and the device itself has a manageable form factor. Despite having more modest hardware, this is one of the best android devices you get.
Kindle Fire HDX ($230). Before now, I would grudgingly recommend an iPad as an ideal tablet for friends or relatives who weren't technically inclined. But with the Mayday button's live video support, I could easily see giving the Kindle Fire HDX to anyone who isn't at home with modern tech. It doesn't hurt that the build quality and specifications are better than most Android tablets, including the Nexus 7. Spring for the Kindle Fire HDX 8.9 if you're feeling generous.
Nexus 5 ($350-400). This year's Nexus is not my favorite phone of the year - that would be the HTC One (and for many of the same reasons you're about to see below). But when it comes time to buy a phone for a loved one, this is a no-brainer. For just $349 you're giving them a phone that's as capable as any on the market, and one they will be free to activate on AT&T, Sprint, or T-Mobile here in the States. That's a degree of freedom we Americans just aren't accustomed to.
HTC One (Varying prices). As a developer and general fan of vanilla Android, I would like to recommend the Nexus 5, but the One just blows it away. I've had my hands on almost every flagship device from this year and last, but I still feel like this is the champ. Despite being almost a year old, the One is still ahead of almost everybody for it's build quality and screen, and totally dominates the field with the speakers. Now that it's not considered the latest and greatest, the price on subsidized and used handsets is pretty good. Tech-savvy recipients might prefer the GPE or Developer Edition variants.
Samsung Galaxy S 4. I think this was the single best Android phone of 2013 when you look at the complete hardware and software package. It's easy to use for the average user, is loaded with features, has fantastic hardware, and seems to be staying up to date with relatively recent versions of Android. I also picked the retail versions over the GPE because the retail versions are much better bang for the buck for most people.
Nexus 7 ($229). The Nexus 7 is hands-down the best small tablet you can get. Plus, at this price point, it really is super easy to give as a gift. Give it to someone who thinks they don't need a tablet and watch them slowly realize why they can't live without it. Also, as a librarian, I can say this with authority - this is the BEST reader out there, better than all those e-readers.
JayBird Bluebuds X ($130-140). These are still the buds I reach for almost any time I leave the house. They hold charge for a long time considering the size, sound great, have better BT reception than most earbuds, and they change your whole life if you listen to music on the go a lot. Check out my detailed review for a deeper look at the BlueBuds X.
HoneyDru and/or Andru ($20/$25). They charge devices and look like Bugdroids. Well, Andru does, anyway. HoneyDru looks like the Honeycomb mascot, because that's the perfect shape for a car charger. Anyway, they're the perfect stocking stuffer for any Android fan – they're functional and look great. The attention to detail is fantastic.
Anker 5-port USB Wall Charger ($20). Charging multiple phones and tablets is a royal pain in the you know what, and I finally just bought a charging hub to deal with all my devices. This Anker unit is dirt cheap, not bad looking, and comes with a 3-foot AC adapter so it's easy to stick on your desk or nightstand. Keep one in the bedroom, one in the kitchen for the family or guests, and one on your desk at work.
Dodocase Durables Sleeves: Nexus 7, Nexus 10. If you have a Nexus tablet, and don't like the idea of a bulky case, but also dread the idea of carrying your tablet around in the nude, Dodo's Durables sleeves are a great option.
Exogear Exomount 2 ($24.99). So many car mounts fall flat -- taking your expensive phone along for the ride. The Exomount 2, on the other hand, can stick to almost any surface like you wouldn't believe. The phone holder clamp is also able to grab any phone with a screen up to 5.5-inches.
MOGA Hero Power ($60, $48 at Amazon). The original MOGA controller was decent, but D-Pad issues and wonky software made it a bit hit-and-miss. The revised version of this mobile controller is excellent in just about every way, so it's perfect for the Android gamer who laments the loss of physical controls. Both the Hero Power and the Pro Power feature full console button layouts and integrated batteries, but I prefer the pocket-friendly curves of the smaller Hero Power.
Ultimate Ears Mini Boom. I'm not much of an audiophile, so I wouldn't know what speakers to recommend to one. But for everyone else, the Mini Boom is a winner. This thing gets loud, sounds clear, lasts a long time on a charge, and pairs up with new devices painlessly. Feel free to toss out that instructions manual with the box it came in. Actually, keep the box. It's rather nice, too.
Glove.ly Capacitive Gloves ($20-90). It's turning out to be a really cold winter, and using a phone bare-handed can be brutal. The whole surface of the fabric works instead of just the tips of two fingers and a thumb, and these things actually look decent, as opposed to most of the competitors. They are available in leather and fabric with a few colors.
Premium Cover for the 2013 Nexus 7. I think this is the single best case available for the 2013 N7 at any price, even without an auto sleep/wake feature. It's beautiful, it adds next to no bulk, it has great build quality, and it provides as good of protection as you can reasonably expect from a flip-open book case.
Tags for Droid. One of the coolest reasons to be an Android user is NFC. Tags For Droid are great stocking stuffers and as a bonus, you can help your family members learn to do cool stuff with their phones. (Or show off to your iPhone-using family members...)
Initially, the rule was that we would each submit three items: an Android device, Android accessory, and non-Android item of any kind. Since Artem's the boss, he threw that out the window and proceeded to bombard us with tons of other stuff. So these lists are a bit longer.
- PuGoo Sticky Pads ($5-10). I still use them almost every day. They are amazing at the gym, at home, during travel - anywhere. And they seem to be half off right now at $4.99, plus shipping.
- Everything from Dead Zebra. Because seriously, Andrew Bell and his crew are very talented, and Android fans will enjoy pretty much anything they have created.
- Hanson Magnetic Stud Finder ($11). Handymen (and women) of the house, listen up. I recently had to search for another stud finder because mine was an unreliable piece of crap. Forget everything you know about stud finders. This is the one you want. And it's only $10, with no electronics, batteries, beeping, and other nonsense. It uses strong magnets and literally sticks to the nails (through the wall). Here it is hanging on my wall, indicating the center of the stud. 4.6 stars and #1 in stud finders on Amazon. You really can't go wrong, I freaking love this thing, and so do those of you who own it.
- Monster 6-outlet Travel Power Strip ($19.99). This compact 6-outlet power strip is a lifesaver on any trip, especially if your old-fashioned hotel has only two power outlets, one of which conveniently located behind the 3-ton bed. Unfortunately, Amazon has replaced it with a shorter 4-outlet version, but hopefully, you'll be able to locate the 6-outlet variant or something similar elsewhere. Or hey - get the 4-outlet version for half the price - only $9.49.
- BESTEK wall charging power station ($19.99). If you have an outlet located out of plain sight (for example, behind the desk) that you would like to utilize to its full potential while keeping a relatively low plug profile, get this power station. It has 6 sideways power outlets (so you can move the desk closer to the wall), 4 USB ports, a nightlight, and even a good old pre-lightning iPod connector. Any gadget freak will love it as a gift, and $19.99 won't break your bank.
- Belkin 12-outlet pivot plug surge protector ($26.99). The king of surge protectors, this bad boy has 12 outlets, 8 of which pivot to let you hook up as many bulky power adaptors as your heart desires. I've compared many solutions before buying this one, and I have been very happy with the result.
- Joy Factory ZipMIni charging station (~$40 + additional ziptails if needed). The ZipMini is the next best thing to wireless charging for gadget freaks. Stick a little magnetic ziptail into you device's charging port, and it snaps right in place on the charging station, which has enough space for 4 devices in total. I bought additional ziptails (which are, unfortunately, quite expensive - around $10), so now this base keeps my tablets and test phones charged at all times. And the best part is when you need to use one of them for a few hours, just pick it up and walk away - the ziptail will kind of hang out and once you get used to having it in there, won't bother you one bit. Here's a picture of the happy family from earlier this year.
- Lastpass Premium ($12/year). LastPass is a free cloud-based password manager, loved and used by millions, including myself. LastPass Premium, which grants unlimited access to the LastPass Vault on mobile devices as well as provides a few other features for improved security, is only $1 per month. You can actually buy gift subscriptions for $12/year and give them out as presents to your friends and forgetful relatives who constantly reuse the same password for every site they register for. It's the perfect option for those who put off buying gifts till the last minute as the gift code is printable and emailable.
- Ultimate Ears Boom ($200). In my opinion, this is hands-down the best-sounding portable speaker on the market. It's small enough to take anywhere, but don't let that fool you – it sounds amazing.
- Chromecast ($35). It's really good right now, but it's going to be great in 2014. More apps will become compatible, and hopefully Google will open it up so local media can be streamed.
- Headblade ATX ($15). This has absolutely nothing to do with tech, but if you have a headshaver on your list, this is a must have.
- Powerbag (varying prices). Roomy, lots of pockets, and each one has a built-in portable charger. They can be pricey, so it's best to try to catch them on sale. I grabbed mine when it was only $15 from Vault, so keep your eyes open and you can catch them at decent prices from time to time.
- Grado SR80i Open-Back Headphones ($100). The best headphones you can buy for under $100, period. Anyone saying otherwise just hasn't tried these. They aren't good for listening in very noisy environments or quiet areas around other people (you can hear the sound coming out the open backs, which also let ambient noise in), but you simply aren't going to find headphones capable of producing better sound at this price point. The look may not be for everyone, but there's a reason Grado has such a cult following, has been around over 60 years, and produced headphones with a basic design that has remained almost unchanged for over 20. Oh, and did I mention every single pair of Grados - from the cheapest to the most expensive - is hand-assembled, inspected, and tested in the USA? When people say "they just don't build things like they used to," John Grado would beg to differ.
- RHA MA750i Earbuds ($130). Probably one of the best in-ear monitors you can buy for under $150. They sounds really great, look good, and come with a 3-year warranty. They also use something called aerophonic design, which sounds awesome.
- Giotto's Rocket Air Blaster ($7.75). Yes, it sort of looks like a kinky sex toy, but it's actually a camera lens / sensor cleaner. However, I use it on my keyboard, laptop, in my PC case, and in hard-to-reach crevices when I'm cleaning up around the house, typically in combination with a vacuum. For under $8, how could you not? Definitely beats canned air on price if you've got the hand strength.
- SteelSeries QcK Gaming Mousepad ($9.88). Best mouse pad I've ever owned, period. I just buy a new one once a year. I'm on #3. It's ultra-soft, super big (12.5"x10.5"), and the texture is just right for a premium laser mouse. You may not use a mouse pad anymore, but if you own a desktop, you're missing out if you don't have a premium jumbo tracking surface like this thing, and it's only 10 bucks! If you want to go nuts, the QcK+ is even bigger (17.7"x15.7"), and its increased thickness makes it feel perfectly flat on almost any surface. It also costs twice as much as its little brother.
- Black & Decker Platinum Li-Ion Cordless Hand Vacuum ($90). Hear me out, because I bought 3 hand vacs and returned them before settling on this thing. I hate dust / junk in and around my desk, on my keyboard, in my bag, my car, whatever. Hand vacs generally suck (figuratively, not literally) because they use stone age NiCad batteries that reduce power output the lower the battery runs down after a certain point, take forever (like 5+ hours) to charge, and don't last all that long. And you're only supposed to charge them when they're fully run down, and only use them when they're fully charged up. Dumb. This one can be charged in a couple of hours, lasts what seems like ages, and you can use it at full-blast no matter how charged it is (it doesn't slow down until maybe under 10% remaining battery). No hand vacuum is perfect, but this thing is as close as I think you'll find without spending a lot more. And honestly, if you really need the extra power or filtration, it's probably time to bite the bullet and buy a good wet-dry shop vacuum.
- TripIt Pro ($49/year). This has become an indispensable tool for me when travelling. TripIt Pro not only tracks flights and airline/hotel rewards points, but gives me alerts faster than the airline 99% of the time. The speed of the service combined with its automatic itinerary assembly (you can let it watch for booking emails) are really worth fifty bucks a year.
- Interaction of Color: 50th Anniversary Edition ($12.01). My current read. Fifty years ago, educator Josef Albers' unique approach to color theory (and specifically the teaching of complex color theory) was codified in Interaction of Color. The paperback version may not be as prestigious as the original limited run, but it's a great book for designers and other artists looking to get a new angle on color.
- Spigen Screen Protectors. My past five devices have all had Spigen screen protectors and I haven't had to replace a single one. I'm not the type for cases, but I do like to keep my device's screen slick, shiny, and scratch-free. Spigen offers the highest-quality, smoothest, and least ugly screen protectors I've ever used. They require a careful hand and a dust free environment (try running a hot shower in the bathroom for a few minutes prior to application), but once they're on your device will be protected.
- Amazon Prime Membership ($80/year). Free 2-day shipping, streaming video, and Kindle rentals. Amazon Prime is a great deal, and now you can give it to someone as a gift. Prime also allows you to connect up to four more accounts to yours to get free shipping.
- Kimwipes (about $5) Clean all the screens! For a few bucks you can get some great disposable screen wipes that won't ever scratch the glass (they're designed for cleaning slides and other glass surfaces in a lab). Great for someone with a ton of devices that is always rubbing them on their clothing.
- Portable battery pack. Any portable battery will do - anyone with a smartphone will eventually make use of one. That said, bigger is generally better. Here's a 14,000mAh model (about 5-7 full phone charges) for just over $40.
- Belkin3 -Outlet Mini Travel Swivel Charger ($20, $11 on Amazon). Artem likes the 12-plug, I prefer the three-plug version for my computer bag and a few extra outlets on my desk. The three-plug model in this series is tough, cheap, and travels very well. With three standard outlets and two USB plugs, all surge protected, you'll make some lucky recipient the most popular guy in the airport terminal gate.
- Solid State Disk Drive ($100 and up). Anyone who relies on a computer for work will think an SSD is a godsend. After seeing the performance improvement on my laptop, I sprang for a bigger version for my desktop almost immediately. You can get these in a range of sizes and prices, but Samsung's 840 series seems to have the best bang for the buck. Make sure your recipient knows how to create a hard drive image, or if you're really nice, move their main OS for them.
- Portenzo phone and tablet cases ($35-$150). These are the very tip-top of book-style cases, ranging from simple, tough cardboard all the way up to artisan-grade leather. Right now only cases the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 are offered, but a Nexus 5 model should be coming soon. The company offers gift certificates if you want to let your intended choose their own style and features. Some versions offer personal embossing on the cover.
- Timbuk2 messenger bag ($50 and up). I've been carrying and giving these bags for almost a decade, and the people I've given them to are still thanking me. They've saved me thousands of dollars with their waterproof lining (not available on all bags). Tough, customizable, stylish, and with a ton of options, there's a bag for just about every use. Go with the classic Timbuk2 messenger bag (or even better, a bag-in-a-box gift card) for a companion they'll be using for years.
- A Chromebook ($199 and up). For many people, a simplistic, easy-to-maintain Chromebook is all they need. For others, it will be the secondary computer they go to when they don't want to wait for a heavier machine to boot. Either way, it will access many of the same services we use on our mobile devices, and we're at a point now where there are many options to choose from, ranging from the immensely affordable Acer C720 (or the touchscreen-equipped Acer C720P model) to the premium Chromebook Pixel (which is my personal laptop of choice). Yet with its sleek design and affordable price tag, the popular Samsung Chromebook may still be your safest bet.
- Pebble Smartwatch ($150). Nearly a year after its launch, this is still the most pragmatic smartwatch on the market. It works with most modern Android phones, is readable in the sunlight, and has a battery that lasts long enough not to be a hindrance. And with the Pebble's relatively small size and monochrome screen, it's subtle enough for strangers to assume it's just another digital watch.
- Aerial 7 Sport Beanie Headphones (~$55). Yup, another cold-weather suggestion. The sound quality isn't great, but it's better than most $10-$15 earbuds. More importantly, they stay put during strenuous exercise and route the cable pretty well to keep it out of the way. The speaker disks are over-the-ear and open-backed, so you can clearly hear your surroundings instead of blocking out everything like earbuds do (great for safety). There are also a few different versions for different conditions, I have the one made from light-weight wicking fabric.
- Nifty Eagle Pod and/or Amzer Foldo Stand ($10). My two favorite device stands. They are both very inexpensive, adjustable, extremely portable, and travel-friendly. I use them constantly
- Denon DSD-500 Cocoon Home ($300). Don't let the iPod dock scare you away. This thing provides phenomenal sound and can be controlled with any Android phone that supports DLNA.
- Western Digital My Passport External HDD ($200). These things are excellent and a perfect option for external storage on things like gaming consoles. They're small, fit just about anywhere, and give you storage wherever you need it.
- G-Project G-Zip ($20). Everyone needs a good speaker for their phone. But you may not want to pony up hundreds of dollars for your kids to have a speaker, since it may get left on the bus or at the skate park. So, the G-Zip is a perfect low cost alternative. I know it's durable, too, because my son takes his everywhere. At $20, buy this instead of all that candy you normally stuff in your kids' stockings.
- Poetic Slimbook Cases (Varying prices). The Poetic Slimbook Case I use for my N7 looks great and has the functions I needed at a steal of a price. When you fold the cover back, it leaves this section the exact size as my thumb that serves as the perfect handle to hold the tablet. Plus the strap on the back keeps me from dropping it while I'm walking around.
- Canon Powershot ELPH 330 ($190). This is a great point and shoot camera for those who don't have the best phone cameras (cough*Nexus 4*cough). It has wifi, so you can easily upload your pics from the camera to your phone for easy sharing.
- Ready Player One ($8 ebook, $10 paperback). For people who like video games or people who like the 80s - this is one of the coolest books I've read in a long time.