We’re already in the throes of the annual holiday shopping season, so you’re likely on the hunt for some great gifts for family and friends.
And perhaps you’ll pick up a little something for yourself, too. But the pandemic has wreaked havoc on global supply chains, resulting in sparsely stocked store shelves and shipping delays, so nearly all experts suggest not procrastinating on your shopping this year.
Assuming you want to buy tech toys — a popular category every year — we’ve got seven ideas for you to consider, covering a wide range of prices, if you’re not up on what’s new and newsworthy.
1. Add a screen to your digital assistant
The lowdown: Powered by Alexa, Echo Show 15, at 15.6 inches, is Amazon’s largest “smart display” to date, making it ideal to mount on a wall or prop up on a table, desk or kitchen island in either landscape or portrait orientation.
Ask a question, initiate a video call, pull up a calendar, play music or request a recipe for virtually any dish you can think of. Or use your fingertip to write yourself a virtual sticky-note reminder, stream a TV show or jot down a shopping list that will be synchronized with your phone.
The handy photo frame feature also lets you use your Echo Show 15 to display your albums from Amazon Photos or Facebook.
Price: $249.99; available for preorder, Amazon says it will be released Dec. 9
Extras: Echo Show 15 stand
Also consider: Google Nest Hub Max with a 10-inch display, $229; Facebook Portal TV for video calling and Alexa, which uses your own TV as its display, $149
2. Check in on your pet
The lowdown: You don’t need to spend a lot to keep an eye on your best friend, wherever life takes you.
Petcube Cam lets you see, talk and keep tabs on your furry friends at home, thanks to its 110-degree wide-angle camera with high-definition 1080p resolution, 8x digital zoom lens and clear two-way audio. Thirty-second clips of your pet are stored securely in the cloud.
Use the app on your phone to check in at any time, even when it’s dark in your house. Petcube Cam lets you see up to 30 feet in night vision mode. You may also choose to be notified in real time with audio recognition of barking and meowing.
Extras: You can also use the app to connect with licensed veterinarians to get answers to behavior and nutrition questions, but a $4.99 a month subscription service is required.
Also consider: Eufy Solo IndoorCam P24, $51.99; Wyze Cam v3, $35.98
3. Try a percussion massager
The lowdown: It’s been a tough two years, so why not indulge yourself with a personal massager?
The Theragun Mini is a pocket-sized device for muscle treatment. It features up to 150 minutes of battery life and three speed settings — 1,750, 2,100 or 2,400 percussions a minute. It’s available in white, black, desert rose and red.
The Theragun Mini is Therabody’s smallest and quietest massager. It has a triangle design for a more ergonomic grip to tackle knots, cramps and tension whether you’re at home or on the go.
It includes a soft case, standard ball attachment and power adapter.
Extras: Also available are six other attachments that target different areas of the body, a stand and colorful protective covers called "skins" with prices starting at $19.
Also consider: LifePro DynaMini Massage Gun, $89.99; Pulseroll Mini Massage Gun, $170.99; Recovapro Lite Mini Massage Gun, $174.99
4. Latch on to a smartwatch
The lowdown: Like clockwork, a new Apple Watch is available in time for the holidays. And this year’s model marks a huge leap forward.
With a larger, tougher screen and faster charging, Apple Watch Series 7 not only tracks your activity, lets you take calls and see texts, and allows you to buy items at retail by waving the watch over a sensor, but you also can access Siri on your wrist, stream music to wireless earbuds and even unlock your compatible car or home.
Apple Watch Series 7 includes an embedded electrocardiogram that can detect unusually high or low heart rates and irregular heart rhythms, as well as a blood oxygen sensor to assess the amount of oxygen carried in the body by sending light into your wrist. (If monitoring your blood oxygen levels is important, invest in a fingertip pulse oximeter for more accurate measurements.)
The watch also has integrated fall detection. It can call emergency services and select contacts if it identifies a sudden drop and you don’t confirm you’re OK.
Price: Starting at $399 for case and band
Extras: $100 more to add cellular capabilities before buying a monthly cell service plan
Also consider: Samsung Galaxy Watch4, starting at $249.99
5. Turn your TV into a work of art
The lowdown: Is it a television or fancy artwork? The answer is both if you’re talking about the aptly named The Frame QLED 4K Smart TV from Samsung. Available in seven sizes, from 32 to 85 inches, this is a gorgeous “quantum dot” TV with exceptional color, crisp 4K resolution and high dynamic range (HDR) for added contrast and brightness. And when you’re not watching TV, it will cycle through pieces of high-quality artwork rather than simply being a black rectangle on your wall. Or you can use your own images instead.
To make the set look more like a picture frame, optional bezels add attractive borders in different colors and materials that magnetically affix to all four sides of the TV to match your home decor.
Price: $599.99 for a 32-inch to $4,299.99 for an 85-inch TV, including black bezel, power cable, remote and wall mount
Extras: If the included border is not your style, brown, teak or white are available for $149.99 each.
Also consider: LG C1 4K Smart OLED TV with AI ThinQ, starting at $1,499.99 for a 45-inch model
6. Read an e-book indoors or out
The lowdown: You don’t need to read between the lines to see the appeal of the versatile Kobo Sage. Rakuten’s latest e-reader is a lightweight, 8-inch device with a high-definition e-ink Carta 1200 display to give you an “ink on paper” effect with no glare, making it just as easy to read outside in the sun as it is inside. It’s IPX8 rated, meaning it can be submerged in water deeper than 3 feet, so bring this water-resistant device to the beach, pool or bubble bath.
Along with fast page turns thanks to a powerful processor and faster Wi-Fi than previous models, you can choose between buttons and touchscreen controls, and whether to read in landscape or portrait mode. You can also download audiobooks and stream them to Bluetooth wireless headphones or a nearby speaker.
Extras: The Kobo Sage works with the Kobo Stylus, $39.99, for jotting down notes, lists or annotations on e-books and PDFs. It can convert your handwriting to digital text and then sync to other devices via Dropbox. A cover for this e-reader costs $49.99.
Also consider: Kindle Oasis, starting at $249.99; Boox Nova Air, $349.99
7. Clean floors with a robot vacuum and mop
The lowdown: You know about robotic vacuum cleaners, but how about a model that’s a vacuum and floor-mopping robot in one?
The Shark AI Robot VacMop Pro Wi-Fi Vacuum & Mop can navigate around your home autonomously and suck up dust, dirt and pet hair on hardwood floors, tile and carpet while the mopping function can scrub hard floors up to 100 times a minute to efficiently break down stains. The VacMop mode vacuums and mops at the same time, and avoids the carpets as it mops. It navigates row by row, room by room, using laser-guided vision; automatically returns to its dock to recharge when the battery runs low; and then resumes cleaning. It’s compatible with an app and smart speakers, too.
Extras: An introductory bottle of Shark multi-surface floor cleaner may be included. Two-liter refills of that or a hardwood floor cleaner are available starting at $9.99 at brick-and-mortar and online retailers.
Also consider: Eufy RoboVac L70 Hybrid, $399.99; Roborock S6 Pure, $599.99; Ecovacs Deebot N8 Pro+, $799.99
Marc Saltzman is a contributing writer who covers personal technology. His work also appears in USA Today and other national publications. He hosts the podcast series Tech It Out and is the author of several books, including Apple Watch for Dummies and Siri for Dummies.
This story, originally published Nov. 15, 2021, was updated to add the release date for the Amazon Echo Show 15.