Tech the Halls

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With technology and gadgets having woven themselves into the very fabric of our collective existence, it would seem that gift buying would be easier than ever. Walk the aisles of your favorite electronics section, pick up a few gizmos, and your holiday shopping is done within one short afternoon. As idyllic as that sounds the dream starts to dissipate as soon as you start encounter questions of brand, quality, life expectancy, and the mother of all criteria, cost. Who would have thought ubiquitous dream appliances would not tame the stress of gift shopping, but heighten it? Well before your fears boil over into hysteria, let’s approach every shopping speedbump with the same problem solving zeal our tech overlords used to develop our life altering gizmos.

As the most financially successful people will tell you; make a budget and stick to it. Yes, you would be a surefire Hall of Fame parent if you bought each of your four children a $1,300 iPhone X or Google Pixel 2 XL, but for almost everyone that is beyond fiscally preposterous. Even if you can afford the greatest and latest, there's not much separating top shelf smartphones and the second tier. For half the price and nearly the same specs, look to the Samsung Galaxy s8 or go bargain bin with the iPhone SE and wait a few months for an X price drop. Another route to consider if mobile devices as holiday gifts is a must in your gift circle, consider purchasing a tablet. The base model version of either the iPad Mini 4 or Samsung Galaxy Tab S3 are one-third the iPhone X price, and of course they come with a larger screen and deliver much of the same functionality.

Another classic holiday tech gift is a camera, and in recent years a cool, bargain buy has been gift wrapping an action camera, i.e. a GoPro. The difference for the 2017 holiday season is GoPro has completely thrown away its brand recognition for innovations and quality. After three holiday seasons in a row with underwhelming camera sales, and embarrassing itself last year with a horrid new drone, the death clock is ticking on GoPro as a business. For high quality action cameras from companies likely to be around in a year look consider picking up the Sony Rx0 or even the new 360 from Garmin, the Virb 360.

Of course smartphones, tablets, cameras, drones- all of these gifts are kind of no brainers. If you're looking to expand into something tech that will incorporate all of these traditional gift ideas a good idea is a streaming stick. Google, Amazon, and Roku all offer extremely powerful palm-sized media devices that allow anyone with a smart device to wirelessly share their media on any modern TV. Starting at $35 and maxing out at $70, these streaming sticks are a great way to bring less-than-tech-savvy family members into the streaming world and connect with everyone by sharing family media and memories on the tube after the annual turkey dinner. Each of these models has their distinct benefits; Google's Chromecast allows for easy local stored media sharing, 4K streaming, and is Integrated into YouTube, the Amazon Fire Stick has everything Amazon a few taps away, and the Roku Stick offers an easy to use interface with hundreds of familiar media channels included.

So while Apple’s latest iPhone is once again the most desired gift this holiday season, know there are plenty of excellent alternative tech gifts that don't require taking out a home equity loan. If anything spending your money on classically “trusted” brands like Apple or GoPro could be the gifts that spoil your holiday season.

Patrick Boberg is a central Iowa creative media specialist. For more tech insights, follow him on Twitter @PatBoBomb


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