Our editors pick the products and services we write about. When you buy through our links, TechRepublic may earn a commission.

Best mobile holiday gifts in 2020: Chromebooks, smartwatches, and more

If you're at a loss for what to buy your on-the-go friend or loved one, start with this handy list, which includes the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and OtterBox phone cases.

It's that holiday time of the year, where people start thinking about those in their orbits and what gifts to give them. For some, the task is simple. For others, however, it might as well be herculean--especially given we're still in the midst of a pandemic. But don't worry, if you have trouble finding gifts, TechRepublic has you covered. This time around we're going to focus on those gifts pertaining to mobility--phones, laptops, and those things that help you while on the go. Hopefully this short list of ideas will jump-start your shopping for the season.

Acer Chromebook Spin 713

acerspin.jpg
Acer Chromebook Spin 713
Image: Acer

For many, the most logical choice in laptops are Chromebooks because they were built with mobility in mind. ChromeOS is lightning fast, free of the complexity and vulnerabilities found in so many other operating systems, and they just work. So if you're considering purchasing that loved one, friend, or co-worker a laptop, why not go for a Chromebook? You'll get more bang for your buck and the recipient will be up and running (without problems) in no time. If this option sounds good to you, why not get the best in breed with the Acer Chromebook Spin 713. This laptop has a beautiful 6:3 touchscreen display, a brilliant backlit keyboard, an HDMI port, a 10 hour battery life, a 10th generation Intel i7 processor, 8 GB of DDR4 RAM, and 128 GB of internal SSD storage. The Spin 713 is a beast of a Chromebook that will satisfy any user looking for speed and reliability. 

$849 at Amazon

iPhone 12, Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, more flagship phones

iphone12-pro.jpg
Apple iPhone 12
Image: Apple

This one is tricky. Why? First and foremost, which platform are we talking about? Android? iOS? At least on the iOS side, the decision is (mostly) made for you. You buy the latest, greatest version of the iPhone. Simple. Get an iPhone 12 Pro for $999 or an iPhone 12 Pro Max for $1099 via Apple's website.

But what about Android? This is where it gets confusing. You'd think the most obvious choice would be to go for the Google Pixel--for the longest time, that phone was the gold standard. That's not the case now. In fact, the Google Pixel 5 took a bit of a step back (at least in "flagship" standards) by using a not-so flagship CPU and the same long-in-the-tooth camera sensor they've been using for the last couple of iterations. Even so, the Pixel 5 is a good buy at $699. 

However, if you're looking at true flagship specs, you'll want something like the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra (priced around $994), which has 12 GB of RAM, a Snapdragon 865 Plus CPU, 128 GB, 256 GB, or 512 GB of internal storage, and a brilliant 6.9-inch AMOLED display. Or, maybe you'll want to look at the OnePlus 8 Pro, which sells for a respectable $799 and includes a beautiful 120Hz OLED display, a Snapdragon 865 CPU, 8 or 12 GB of RAM, and 128 or 256 GB of internal storage.

OtterBox phone cases

otterbox.jpg
OtterBox phone case
Image: OtterBox

Personally, I like my phone without a case, but I'm insanely careful with my device. For those on your list who are always on the go and accident prone, a phone case is a very good idea. The case you purchase will depend on the phone it will serve, but if you're unsure of what case to buy, one of the best brands on the market is OtterBox. The OtterBox cases are incredibly good at protecting those devices and OtterBox has a case for nearly every flagship device on the market--even newer devices like the Google Pixel 5 and iPhone 12. If you want the best protection for your recipient's phone, you cannot go wrong with OtterBox. 

$50 at OtterBox

Sony True Wireless Earbuds and AfterShox earbuds

aeropex.jpg
AfterShox Aeropex airbuds
Image: AfterShox

Another tricky purchase is earbuds. Here's the thing, most people want what's popular--that's why you see so many AirPods in the wild. But, there are two very important things you should consider with earbuds:

  • Does your recipient demand very good audio quality?
  • Does your recipient use earbuds for exercise and how much do they sweat?

If you answer yes to the first question, you might get away with AirPods, if the recipient in question has an iPhone, and isn't a true audiophile. If your recipient listens to vinyl and looks at tube amplifiers the way you look at new cars or a rack of brand new servers, the AirPods will not do. Instead, look toward the Sony WF-1000XMS True Wireless Earbuds. These earbuds offer brilliant sound (as far as earbuds go), noise cancelling, 24-hour battery life, touch interaction, AlexaVoice control, and a mic for phone calls. The one drawback with the Sony's is that they are not designed for workouts. You sweat in this and they'll die a premature death.

If your recipient primarily uses their earbuds for exercise, I'm going to recommend the same brand I've been using for years and have yet to have a single failure. That brand is AfterShox. These are bone-conducting headphones (not in-ear buds) that sit outside your ear and conduct sound via your skull. Although they may not be audiophile quality, they laugh at sweat. I've been using the AfterShox Titanium, but will soon upgrade to the AfterShox Aeropex, because the new version offers even better waterproofing and dual Bluetooth device connectivity. That's right, the Aeropex can connect to two different devices simultaneously.

Cost: Sony WF-1000XMS - $228, AfterShox Titanium - $79.99, and the AfterShox Aeropex - $159.95.

Sonos Move Bluetooth speaker

move.jpg
Sonos Move Bluetooth speaker
Image: Sonos

While we're talking about speakers, why not get your recipient a Bluetooth speaker? Some simply don't like wearing headphones and would much rather enjoy the more rich aural experience that can be delivered with an actual speaker. If that sounds like your recipient, consider the incredible sounding Sonos Move. This Bluetooth speaker delivers quite the sonic punch and can also deliver music from a large array of sources, using Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The Move also makes use of voice command, so you can control the music without having to have your phone in hand. The battery life on the Move should get you around 11 hours and the case is incredibly durable (but not waterproof).

$399 at Sonos

Apple Watch Series 6 or Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2

active2.jpg
Samsung Galaxy Active 2
Image: Samsung

Here's another instance of what you buy depends on the recipient's phone of choice. If you're buying for an Apple fan, you'll want to go the Apple Watch (from $399) route; if the person you're buying for is an Android user, your best bet is the Samsung Galaxy Watch Active2 ($249 on Amazon). Both watches will make the recipient of your gift incredibly happy. Although the Apple Watch does offer a few more interesting features (such as measuring blood oxygen level), both deliver a great experience and keep the wearer informed and in touch. Since pairing a Galaxy Watch Active2 to my Google Pixel phone, I've missed fewer calls, recorded more workouts, and remained better apprised of my schedule. The only time that watch leaves my wrist is for charging.

Google Pixel charging stand

pixelstand.jpg
Google Pixel charging stand
Image: Google

The vast majority of flagship phones include wireless charging, so why not gift your favorite person with a wireless charging stand? My personal favorite is the Google Pixel Stand. It's a bit pricey, but it holds the phone without worry it'll slip and slide off. If your phone is a Pixel, it includes a few extra features such as a slideshow of memories from Google Photos, ambient light that mimics sunshine, and more. As far as charging, the Pixel stand can handle up to 10W charge for Pixel 3, Pixel 3 XL, Pixel 4, Pixel 4 XL, and Pixel 5, and will charge your Pixel 3, Pixel 4, or Pixel 5 in portrait and landscape modes. But the Pixel stand isn't just for Pixel phones--this handy device will charge any Qi compatible device.

$79 at Google Play Store

PhoneSoap 3 phone sanitizer

phonesoap.jpg
PhoneSoap 3
Image: PhoneSoap

This might seem a bit of a stretch, but given the current state of the world, you cannot be too careful. That's why I'm including a sanitizing phone charger in the mix. These devices use UV light to sanitize germs from your smartphone, while charging them at the same time. Most of these devices will work with both iPhone and Android phones, but will also sanitize anything that'll fit in the small compartment. There are a number of such devices to choose from, but one of the most highly rated is the PhoneSoap 3, which claims to kill 99.99% of all bacteria and germs. The lights used in the PhoneSoap 3 are UV-C, which have been used for years and are capable of killing or inactivating microorganisms and viruses.

$80 at PhoneSoap