Innovation

Gifts techies should buy for others

Don't let your own tech-savvy knowledge base steer you in the wrong direction when it comes to holiday gifts. Find something appropriate for each gift recipient.

Buying a gift for someone is tough. When you're a techie, it's even tougher. That's because it's all too easy to see things through your own technology-savvy lenses, and the gift recipient might not have the same appreciation for owning the latest tech gadget.

I learned this all too well last year when I bought my 80-year-old mother an Amazon Echo Dot for each room in her condo. I'd had the brilliant idea that she could use the Echo Dot to call me if she was sick, or had fallen down and needed my help. I viewed it as a higher-tech version of the "Help, I've fallen and I can't get up" device.

SEE: Photos: Gifts techies should buy for others (TechRepublic)

Great concept. She easily understood how she was supposed to use the devices. The only problem is, she didn't like having them in her house. She felt like Alexa was always listening.

In addition, my mom was quickly frustrated with how easily the Echo Dot heard her say the wake word, "Alexa," even when was just discussing it with me on the phone. Our phone calls became comical, as she would try to whisper "Alexa" while asking me a question about it, and the blue light would pop on as it began listening, ready to respond to her command. She eventually renamed it "Edith" so that she could freely discuss it without turning it on. That was last Christmas, however, and she's still never used the devices to call me. Or for anything else.

That's what made me realize that other techies probably go through similar trials and tribulations.

SEE: A guide to tech and non-tech holiday gifts to buy online (TechRepublic)

There are several things to consider in order to find the right present for someone who isn't comfortable with what they perceive as "complicated" technology. Remember, what is complicated to them could seem simple to you.

This doesn't mean that you have to stick to a fruit basket. Instead, just consider the person and what you know they're comfortable with, as opposed to what you'd like them to use.

Tracking devices, such as from Tile, are a great gift if the recipient has a smartphone where they can download the app. Once the tracker is place on a gym bag or on a keychain, the user can forget about it until they lose the object and need to track it down.

Another option is a Keepsake framed photo. This is truly a useful gift if you know someone who takes tons of photos, but never prints them out. You upload the image to Keepsake, choose a size and frame, and that's it. Within a week or so, you'll have a framed photo in hand.

SEE: Gift Guides for Techies (TechRepublic Flipboard magazine)

Fitness tracking devices are another option for non-techies. Don't opt for a $300-plus full-featured smartwatch, however. Try out the Garmin Vivosmart 4, or, for a kid, the Vivofit Jr. 2. They offer some of the same features of a smartwatch, but without the need to constantly charge the device.

The Nest Learning Thermostat is an easy way to introduce someone to smart home products. Once it's installed, the user can choose to leave it alone, or tinker with the settings as much as they're comfortable.

Anyone with a smartphone would appreciate a travel charge kit. Belkin makes one exclusive for iPhones, and it comes in a case with everything they need. A leather roll-up travel kit for earbuds and chargers is another idea.

If someone does a lot of airline travel, a pair of noise-cancelling headphones, such as from Sennheiser or Focal, would be a welcome gift.

As for me, I've learned my lesson. My mom loves to watch TV, so for her birthday this past May, I bought her an Amazon Fire Stick. She didn't use it at first, but now she's hooked. She called me the other night and gleefully told me that she watched every episode of The Golden Girls and now she's on to Gunsmoke.

So don't completely rule out including tech in a gift—just be aware of the limitations of the recipient.

Also see

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Image: iStock/Andrea Obzerova, Getty Images

About Teena Maddox

Teena Maddox is a Senior Writer at TechRepublic, covering hardware devices, IoT, smart cities and wearables. She ties together the style and substance of tech. Teena has spent 20-plus years writing business and features for publications including Peo...

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