This year’s unusual holiday season is all about managing expectations. Most brand-new electronics are in limited supply due to the ongoing international chip shortage. Anything vaguely collectible is likely to be grabbed by automated “grinchbot” shoppers 30 seconds after the sale goes live.
That’s why we’re excited to launch the first-ever GeekWire Gift Guide to spotlight fun and useful tech you might actually be able to get in time for the holidays.
Our first guide launches today and focuses on gadgets. Read on for descriptions of each product, and stay tuned for more as we’ll be rolling out additional guides over the next month.
Samsung Qi Wireless Charger and UV Sanitizer
The pandemic has led to a small but growing market in phone-sized sanitizers, which use uaviolet light to squash germs without the risk of shorting out electronics. Samsung’s model combines the UV light with Qi wireless charging. Drop your phone into the sanitizer before bed and in the morning, and it’ll be clean, fresh, and at 100% battery, like you sent your phone on a spa day. That mental image alone is enough to get a recommendation. Price: $29.95.
Fujifilm Instax Mini 40 instant camera
Modern digital cameras can’t match the peculiar tactile satisfaction of having an actual physical photo in your hand in seconds. A couple of camera companies are still in the instant-camera business in 2022, including Polaroid, but the Instax Mini 40 from Fujifilm gets the nod here. It abandons the strange design choices of some of the earlier Mini models in favor of a classic look with a mock leather texture, a 90-second developing time, and easy-to-use features. Most importantly, it’s significantly less expensive at an even $100 than Polaroid’s 2022 Now+, with slightly cheaper film packs, which puts it more firmly in “fun toy” territory. Price: $89.95.
reMarkable 2 handwritten tablet
The reMarkable 2 is a neat little digital notebook and just about nothing else. It’s expensive for what it is ($399) and you have to pay extra for the pen. Even so, it’s great if you’re into deliberately not-smart tech tools that are meant to let you work without distraction; an iPad offers similar utility, but also has a hundred other apps to help split your focus for you. The reMarkable 2 is just for paper-feel handwriting and note-taking. For the right sort of person, it’ll be a constant companion. Price: $299.
Bose Sleepbuds II
Bose’s Sleepbuds II are designed to drown out extra noises in your environment with a playlist of soothing sounds, played directly from a companion mobile app, to get you to sleep faster and easier. They also come with an alarm, so you can wake up when you want to. The Sleepbuds are a bit pricey and they’re only useful for their stated purpose. Out of the box, they’re deliberately limited to playing sounds off the companion app; they don’t actually stream audio, but play an assortment of content that’s been pre-recorded onto the earbuds themselves. Even so, they might be a perfect match for anyone looking to get better sleep. Price: $199.
Nanopresso portable espresso maker
The Nanopresso, from Wacaco, is last year’s model of portable espresso maker and provides hardcore coffee addicts with the equipment to make a cup of espresso wherever they happen to be. Fill it up, pump it with your hand, and decant the resulting brew into a glass. It’s roughly the size of a soda can, so it fits neatly into a bag or purse, though you’ll also need to have some pre-ground beans and hot water handy. With proper preparation, however, the Nanopresso lets you pull espresso out of your pocket on demand like a hyper-caffeinated Batman. Price: $69.90.
Nulaxy C1 adjustable laptop stand
The holidays mean traveling, and traveling means using your laptop, typically under less-than-ideal circumstances. The Nulaxy C1 lets you move your laptop to the appropriate height and distance, even if you’re forced to work at your childhood desk. As a useful bonus, you can tilt the laptop forward using the attached rubber pads in order to provide greater airflow to the bottom of the system. If you use an overpowered gaming laptop like I do, that’s enough of a reason to get a Nulaxy C1 by itself. Price: $36.99.
Watchy do-it-yourself smartwatch
The Watchy from SQFMI is a build-it-yourself “e-watch” with 200×200 resolution, extra low power consumption, and a healthy community of tinkerers that’s risen up around it. Both the hardware and software for Watchy are open-source, which offers a lot of variety for what you want the watch to do and look like. There’s a whole gallery of customer builds on the official Watchy website, some of which are undeniably cool. I particularly like the Game Boy Tetris version of Watchy. Price: $59.
Go Air Pop wireless earbuds
The Go Air Pop earbuds gets you a decent-sounding, water-resistant, surprisingly durable set of earbuds that perform solidly at home or in the gym. They don’t have the bells and whistles of their more expensive competition, such as companion apps, and they aren’t great as a wireless headset for phone calls, but they cost $20. It might be the best-hidden deal in modern audio, especially if you need a pair of earbuds that won’t break your heart if they go missing. Price: $20.
Timbuk2 Especial Stash messenger bag
Now that we’re actually getting out of the house again, you can’t do much better than Timbuk2’s Especial Stash for a go-to everyday carry bag. It’s big enough to fit all but the most monstrous laptops, waterproof, features reflective pullers for visibility in these days when nightfall’s at 4:30 p.m., and has a ton of extra pockets wedged inside. If you don’t need to transport a full-sized laptop, the smaller Classic messenger bag is an inexpensive alternative with all the durability of the Especial Stash. Price: $199.
Key Ring Multi-tool 7-in-1
This is one of my go-to stocking stuffers for the tinkerers, handymen, mechanics, and do-it-yourselfers on my list. The Key Ring Multi-tool provides you with two different screwdrivers, an LED flashlight, bottle opener, small knife, and an awl, alongside somewhere to keep all your keys. Trust me, you don’t know how useful a pocket-sized flashlight is until you have one on your key ring. Price: $9.95.