Fun finds and useful gadgets guaranteed to please everyone on your list
by Marc Saltzman, AARP, December 6, 2017|Comments: 0
PHOTO BY: Fitbit
Fitness and Sleep Tracker
En español | What better way to kick-start your New Year’s resolution than with a motivating new fitness plan? There are several fitness tracker bracelets that may help. With Fitbit Charge 2 ($140), you can set a daily activity goal, such as a desired number of steps or calories burned, and the lightweight and water-resistant wristband will keep track of your progress. Unlike previous models, Fitbit Charge 2 offers a large LED display to show time, steps and heart rate. Glance at your wrist to see real-time info or open the app for a deeper dive. There’s also a sleep mode that tells you if you woke up during the night, what time and for how long. Plus, the battery life tops five days.
A budget-friendly option is Garmin’s Vivosmart HR Activity Tracker ($79), which also monitors your heart rate and, when paired with your smartphone, vibrates to alert you to calls, texts and emails.
PHOTO BY: HP
Mini photo printer
Ready to do something with the 200 photos on your phone? With the teeny HP Sprocket photo printer ($129), you can wirelessly print precious pics from a smartphone or tablet onto 2- by 3-inch sticky-backed paper. About the size of a smartphone and battery operated, this Bluetooth printer can go with you everywhere and includes a 10-sheet pack of photo paper. With the HP Sprocket app, you can also print from social media and add a filter, frame, stickers, text or emojis.
Fujifilm’s Instax SHARE SP-2 is a similar portable and wireless printer (also $129) that works with both iOS and Android phones. It, too, supports a 10-pack of prints, though its photos are a little smaller than those printed by the HP model, at 2.4 inches by 1.8 inches apiece.
PHOTO BY: Philips
The name may be a bit of a mouthful, but the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance A19 LED Starter Kit ($199) is surprisingly easy to set up and use. You’ll get four light bulbs to place in whatever fixtures you like and a small “bridge,” which lets you control any of the four lights via the Philips Hue app on a smartphone or tablet. You can choose color schemes per room, set timers and schedules, and use your voice to turn lights on and off if you pair them with the Amazon Echo or Google Home.
TP-Link also offers smart lighting with its multicolored light bulbs ($44.99 each); these 60-watt equivalents work with the TP-Link Kasa app on a smartphone or tablet to wirelessly control light, set schedules and timers, change colors, and more. As with the Philips model, these bulbs are compatible with Amazon Alexa and Google Home for voice commands.
PHOTO BY: Samsung
The Frame, by Samsung (from $1,299), is a 4K Ultra HD TV that can display content with up to four times the resolution of high-definition models. But when you’re not watching TV shows, movies or sports, it displays 100 pieces of artwork (or you can import your own images). Optional bezels (from $199) add wooden borders and other materials and colors.
For a budget-friendly new 4K model, consider LG’s 55-inch 4K Smart TV (model 55UJ7700), for $699, which provides HDR (high dynamic range) for contrast (meaning you get whiter whites and darker blacks), higher brightness levels and vivid colors.
PHOTO BY: Philips
The Philips Wake-Up Light ($69; model HF3505/60) replaces a buzzer with an increasingly bright "sunrise" to get you out of bed. Your room gets lighter over a half hour to nudge you out of sleep, and singing birds or other natural sounds increase in volume over time. There’s also an FM radio.
Another buzzer alternative is Sensorwake 2 ($119), which emits a desirable fragrance to rouse you out of sleep. Along with aromatic coffee, other scents (inserted with a small cartridge) include croissants, pine trees, peach and chocolate. Extra capsules cost $6.54 apiece (each with a lifetime of 30 uses).
PHOTO BY: iRobot
Push a button on the iRobot Roomba 980 ($799) and the robotic vacuum cleaner will start moving around, sucking up dirt and pet hair, and freeing you up to do whatever you'd like. Compared with previous models, this Roomba has a longer-lasting battery, additional sensors, a camera, and Wi-Fi and app connectivity (iOS and Android). When it detects that it's running low on battery power, it’ll navigate itself back to the charging base.
While pricier, Dyson’s 360 Eye Robot vacuum ($999) is powered by an energy-efficient digital motor that spins at up to 78,000 rotations per minute, generating twice the suction of any robot vacuum, according to the company. It also includes Dyson's proprietary “cyclone” technology to separate dust and dirt.
PHOTO BY: Kindle
Maybe you prefer paper books over electronic ones simply because you like to read by a pool, at the beach or in a bubble bath. Well, now you can go digital, thanks to the Kindle Oasis ($249), Amazon’s first waterproof e-book reader. With Wi-Fi, you can load it with books (or borrow for free from the public library), and use the buttons or touch screen to flip pages on the device's 7-inch screen. Thin and light, this Kindle also has a Wi-Fi + 3G version for $349 that allows you to download books from anywhere.
Another pick is the Kobo Aura H20 ($179), a waterproof e-reader that allows you to illuminate its 6.8-inch screen. With 8GB of storage space, the Kobo Aura H2O can carry twice as many e-books as other models.
PHOTO BY: Harman
Teen-friendly portable speaker
The music lover on your list may appreciate the JBL Flip 4 ($99), a waterproof, portable Bluetooth speaker. Pair it with your smartphone to play music, podcasts or audiobooks, and take advantage of the voice-assistant integration to access Siri or Google Now through the Flip 4’s microphone. You can also take a call through the speaker, which has an IPX7 waterproof rating and sturdy casing. And it keeps going and going, with a battery that the company claims runs for 12 hours on a single charge.
The House of Marley Get Together BT Bluetooth speaker ($129) is an eco-friendly choice, with front and back panels of natural bamboo as well as a fabric made from recycled water bottles, hemp and organic cotton.
PHOTO BY: Wemo
Belkin's Wemo Mini Smart Plug ($35) allows you to turn on a device or appliance remotely. Plug virtually any device into this gadget, then plug it into your wall AC. Next, open the Wemo app to have it join your Wi-Fi. You can tap on your phone or tablet to turn something on or off (or to set a timer), and if you own Amazon Echo or Google Home, you can control it with your voice.
Also consider iHome’s iSP6 SmartPlug ($25), an energy-efficient way to control lamps, kettles and air conditioners remotely, with a free app for mobile devices, or with your voice (the SmartPlug supports Siri, Google Assistant and Amazon Alexa).