Pretty well everyone on the planet has a mobile phone these days, and many of us have smartphones. If you know someone who's glued to his phone 24/7, or is always looking for cool gear to use with it, check out these interesting tech ideas.
It's now officially available in Canada! You can grab a new Amazon Echo for the tech-lover on your list that will have fun setting one up, then using it to answer queries, learn about their day, like calendar entries, weather, news, and traffic, and connect it to other Alexa-enabled smart home devices, to control things like lights, music, and more. Plus, they can also place Amazon.ca orders by voice! $130, but it's currently being offered for $100, and Telus is selling them with a free, one-year Amazon Prime subscription for those who pre-order one by December 4. The devices will be in stores starting December 5.
InkCase i7 Plus by Oaxis
Looking for a phone case that is truly unlike all the others? Take a look at this fully waterproof protective case for the iPhone 6/6S Plus/7 Plus/8 Plus that combines device protection with an e-ink screen on its backside that can be used for reading e-Books, as well as displaying information from widgets, like weather, to-do lists, and appointments. You can also use the screen to display customized photos. It communicates with your phone via Bluetooth, and is lighter and thinner than a Kindle. A campaign for the case went live on Kickstarter in June with a $28,000 funding goal, which it quickly surpassed. And the case can now be ordered for about US$150. Inkcase.com
Belkin USB-C 3.1 Express Dock HD
Ideal for the home office owner or student, this dock can be used to charge up to eight devices at once with a single one-meter cable. It offers 4K HDMI video output, gigabit Ethernet connection, and audio in and out. Power Priority technology keeps the main device charged while sending 60W of power delivery where it's needed. Power Priority, Belkin explains, assesses each connected device's size and charging needs, then distributes power accordingly so all devices receive an optimal charge. Ports include two USB-C 3.1 ports to connect and charge new smartphones and laptops; three USB-A ports to connect and charge USB-A devices; one HDMI port to support 4K video output; one gigabit Ethernet port for reliable Internet; and two audio ports for headphone or speaker connection. MSRP US$230
Lifeprint Portable Bluetooth Printer
It's an innovative gift, especially if you grab multiples for different members of the family, including those overseas. With this printer, images come to life when held in front of an iPhone camera. The Augmented Reality (AR) Hyperphotos can be created from Apple Live Photos, Snapchats, Instagram Videos, Facebook Videos, and Animated Gifs. Download the Lifeprint app, select the desired photo or video, and add the AR filter. Then, print the photo and/or share through the Lifeprint online community so friends and family can print it on their own device and see it animate from behind their iPhones. US$130; film is US$20 for a 30 pack, or US$50 for 110.
Puregear Amazing Case
Great for teens, or anyone who likes to kill time, analog-style is this retro gaming case that houses a maze in the backside. Pass the time (and avoid eating into your phone's battery) by tilting and turning your device to navigate a tiny ball through it. That's hours of endless fun, even if your phone dies. About $40
Ecoxgear Ecoslate Speaker
bUse this tiny but rugged portable speaker not only for on-the-go tunes, but it also has a built-in 200 Lumen flashlight, power bank, and backlit buttons for easy operation in the dark. It comes with a pair of 10W speakers and dual passive subwoofers, and can connect to a music source wirelessly via Bluetooth from up to 100 feet away. The tough, drop-proof exterior meets military specifications, is IP67 waterproof and even floats so you can use it in the pool. Recharge mobile devices via the USB port. With EcoConnect, you can pair two units for wireless stereo sound. It's great for the adventurer, camper, or cottage-goer. Electric blue, grey, black, mint or orange, US$150.
JBL Flip 4 Portable Bluetooth Speaker
This speaker is fully waterproof for both indoor and outdoor fun. Use Connect technology to connect hundreds of them (or other Connect -enabled JBL speakers) to create an affordable, whole-home music solution. At $140 each, you could easily have a speaker in every room of the home - even the shower! - for under $1,000. Jbl.com
HP Sprocket Photo Printer
Perfect for kids, this printer, which will be available starting November 27, lets you make fun, photo booth-like 2x3" stickable prints to stick onto a notebook, locker, or backpack. And it's all done wirelessly from your phone using the app. Pics can be customized with frames, emojis, or text, and you can print direct from social media accounts. Each print comes out in under a minute, and is printed on HP Zink Instant photo papers, which have ink already built in. The printer will come with a 10-sheet pack, but it's a good idea to grab a few extras as stocking stuffers so they can experiment. $220
These circular grips attach to the back of a phone or phone case, adding extra grip while taking selfies, or can be used as a stand for most phones, typically in horizontal mode. They come in a variety of styles and patterns, and can even come in handy beyond tech usage. For example, stick one on the wall and hang your necklaces or keychain toys. Or, get creative, stick two to the back of your phone, and wrap your earbuds cord around them. At about $20 each, they're great stocking stuffer items.
Tile Sport or Style Bluetooth Tracker
Keep track of valuables with the Tile Sport or Style Bluetooth tracker (Style shown above), which are durable, waterproof, and offer twice the Bluetooth range of their predecessor at up to 200 feet. Loop one onto office keys using the convenient hole, or pop it into the glove compartment of a work vehicle, your wallet, briefcase, or other valuable item. Once paired to your smartphone, use the app to locate the item if it's lost, stolen, or accidentally left behind. Conversely, press and hold the Tile button to trigger your smartphone to ring if you've misplaced it. The Tile doesn't actually have to be in range of your smartphone in order for you to locate the device thanks to the network of Tile users from around the world, which reportedly includes more than six-million devices in over 200 countries. MSRP US$45 ea. or US$80 for a two-pack. Read my in-depth review.
Catalyst Apple Watch Case
Know someone who just dropped some dough on a new Apple Watch, or has a Series 2 one? Grab him this protective case that adds additional waterproof and drop protection - it can be submerged in up to 100 metres of water, or dropped from up to two metres high with this case on. The True Sound Acoustic technology means they'll still get clear calls with the cellular version. It's fully sealed against water, dust, dirt, and snow, and the exposed face affords direct access to the touchscreen. While the watch is in the case, wearers can still access the digital crown, side button, heart rate sensor, magnetic charging, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, LTE, and Siri. $90
Bluewave Audio GET Wireless Hi-Fi Headphone Amp
Use this compact headphone amp to get better sound from your mobile device. Connect it to your favourite headphones via the 3.5mm headphone jack, then connect to your smartphone via Bluetooth. The powerful amplifier and 24-bit Hi-Fi AptX-HD compatible software will help improve sound. It also has controls for volume, play/pause, and shuffle. Plus, there's a built-in mic for answering calls without having to grab your phone from your bag or pocket. Pre-order for about $124
Google Daydream View
Give a new Google Pixel or other Daydream-ready phone owner the opportunity for a fully immersive experience with this new virtual reality (VR) headset and controller. Pop the phone in, place it on their head, and they can start enjoying VR content, from videos to home movies and games. In addition to the Pixel phones, it also works with devices like the Samsung Galaxy S8. $140
Google Home Mini
At just $80, this mini smart speaker can serve as a music player, as well as a virtual assistant, helping the family get ready for the day by providing weather and traffic updates, reading news, answering question, and more, all through voice control. If you're whipping up something in the kitchen, use it to help convert measurements or get basic recipes. Ask it pretty well anything you might ask Google through search, and you'll get your answer. It can control plenty of smart home devices, from smart lights to speakers, and more. With a Google Cast-enabled television or speakers, you can "cast" audio or video to the device using just your voice. It recognizes up to six voices, which means when you say "call mom" it will call someone different than when your kids ask the same thing.
Fitbit Ionic Smartwatch
If someone on your list is trying to figure out the best fitness band to get, consider the Fitbit Ionic. It's a hybrid activity tracker/smartwatch that might look a bit intimidating at first for the entry-level user. But it's a graeat way to keep track of activity, including steps, stair climbs, sports, heart rate, and detailed sleep analysis. Plus, you can get notifications on the customizable face, for everything from e-mails to incoming calls, social media messages, and more. It also has built-in storage for music so you can listen to tunes without your phone, and has an integrated digital wallet for tap-and-pay at participating spots, like Tim Hortons and McDonald's. $349 Read my in-depth review for more details.