Talking tech since 2003

The last time I put together a holiday gift guide was back in 2012. I tried to cast a wide net that year, pulling in as many categories of tech products as I possibly could. Unfortunately, if you walked in not knowing what to get someone, you probably left feeling a little overwhelmed.

I’m hoping to avoid a similar scenario this year. As a result, the format is going to change.

Rather than drown you in choices, I’m reducing the field dramatically to just three picks. Three. That’s it.

Not only that — each gift will be geared toward a certain level of tech savviness. And each gift will ring up at $99 or below.

It’s my hope that you’ll able to look at the products included here and find a good fit for whoever you have on your list. And if you don’t agree with a pick, I welcome you to make your case in the comments section below.

Now let’s dive in.

fire-tv-stickFire TV Stick, By Amazon

Who’s It For: The friend or family member who isn’t that great with technology.

Price: $39

Why?: First off, installation is easy. Just plug the Fire TV stick into an HDMI port and that’s it. The Stick provides access to a number of different streaming video services, including Amazon Prime Instant Video (of course), Netflix, Hulu Plus, and more. And the Voice Search feature should help those who might not have the patience to type one character at a time into a search box.

The truth is, a lot of homes now have some kind of set-top box or game console capable of accessing these streaming services. But you’re bound to have that one person in your life who is behind the times. The Fire TV Stick is the gift for that individual.

(Just a note, the Fire TV Stick is sold out on Amazon. However, you may be able to track one down at a Best Buy retail location.)

pebble-smartwatchPebble Smartwatch, by Pebble

Who’s It For: That person in your life who isn’t a tech wiz, but is still glued to his or her smartphone.

Price: $99

Why?: I’m going with the Pebble here based on price ($99) as well as compatibility (it works with both iOS and Android). And it does three really great things. To start, it’s incredibly easy to use and navigate for those who aren’t gadget diehards. It can also function as a fitness band with compatible apps. And it helps keep your phone in your pocket, which is huge for those who feel a buzz and instantly catch that FOMO (fear of missing out). When your phone gets a text, a call, or an alert, your Pebble vibrates and shows you what’s happening. It’s techie, but not too techie. And it could actually improve your quality of life.

wemo-lightWeMo LED Lighting Starter Kit, by Belkin

Who’s It For: Do you know someone geeky enough to control their appliances online? It’s for that person.

Price: $99

Why?: Consider this set of LED lights a gateway drug into the world of WeMo, an automation system that can be controlled both in your home and over the Web. By plugging these babies in, you’ll be able to turn them on and off, as well as dim them using the WeMo smartphone app. Even better — you can hook these WeMo lights up to IFTTT and operate them using Internet triggers (how about turning a light on every time you get a Twitter reply?). There are other WeMo goodies out there, like power outlets, motion sensors, and even slow cookers — but these lights are $99 and a good place to start.

Have some other suggestions? You know what to do!

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