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High-Tech Gifts Are Sure to Make Everyone’s List this Year

From smartwatches and e-readers to sleep-inducing earbuds and stay-warm mugs

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Every year we resolve to move more, read some beloved books, listen to some invigorating music or scintillating podcasts, and spend some time relaxing.

But first come the holidays and the stress of finding exactly the right presents for family and friends. If they’re into technology — or should be — you can help them with their January declarations to do better, and you don’t have to be a “digital native” to pick some great gifts that they'll use over and over.

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Yes, some of the most long-lasting devices can be expensive. But at least one tech find below that can help on those long winter nights is 20 bucks. And another might cost you less than $30 if you move quickly.

You often can find decent deals in the month before Thanksgiving and during Cyber Monday sales four days after Thanksgiving. Plus, devices that debuted last year can be a great way to introduce someone less comfortable with technology to something more affordable.

More smartwatch features promote fitness

a samsung galaxy zfold4 mobile phone and a samsung galaxy watch5 on display on a white background
A Samsung Galaxy Watch5, right, next to a Samsung Galaxy Z Fold4 mobile phone, can analyze sleep patterns and create a five-week program to help create better sleep habits.
Adam Berry/Getty Images

You may think a smartwatch is something no one really needs — until you try one. Then you might want to share the experience with others on your gift list.

Not only do smartwatches calculate activity and motivate a wearer to get moving, but they also can analyze sleep, push notifications such as text messages to your wrist and often stream music to wireless earbuds when out for a walk. Bands, available from the manufacturer or other online retailers, are easy to swap out to match an ensemble or replace if one gets damaged.

For Apple aficionados, the Apple Watch SE, the least expensive of Apple’s current crop of smartwatches, is both fashionable and functional. It has a huge collection of watch faces and band colors to match your ensemble. Apple Pay allows you to wave your wrist at the checkout counter to buy something, Apple Maps can help you find your parked car, and Siri lets you use your voice to control your smart home. New to this year’s model is crash detection, which can determine if you’ve been in a car accident and call 911 and your emergency contacts, and share your location info.

Battery life: 14 to 18 hours 

Price: from $249 

For Android phone owners, Samsung’s Galaxy Watch 5 is also a water-resistant smartwatch that features advanced sleep coaching, a sapphire crystal face for durability, and a Samsung body analyzer that can track body composition based on weight, body fat, body mass index (BMI) and skeletal muscle.

Battery life: 24 to 50 hours

Price: from $280 

A less expensive alternative. Google’s Fitbit Luxe is a stylish, slim fitness tracker — not a smartwatch — that doubles as jewelry. It will show the time and can track your activity and health, including detecting an irregular heart rhythm, but won’t handle contactless Fitbit Pay transactions or making calls from your wrist. An Android or Apple smartphone can connect through the Fitbit mobile app for push notifications, but because of the Fitbit’s screen size, you’ll probably feel more comfortable reading the data that the fitness tracker collects from your smartphone app.

Battery life: up to five days 

Price: from $130 

Bookworms can build the library of their dreams

a man smiles while reading on his e-reader in bed
The brightness of the front light on Amazon's 2022 Kindle is adjustable in case you find yourself engrossed in a great read while your spouse is fast asleep.
Amazon

If curling up with a great book is a favorite pastime, a couple of new e-readers and tablets can supersize the experience.

Budget buy. The 2022 Kindle, Amazon’s 11th generation of these e-readers, is the lightest and most compact so far. Its 6-inch display, measured on the diagonal, has a high-resolution 300 pixels per inch and is anti-glare for extra clarity. An adjustable front light lets you read when a room is too dark for a conventional book. Its 16 gigabytes (GB) of storage can hold thousands of books without anyone having to build more bookshelves.

Battery life: up to 6 weeks

Price: $100 with ads on the lock screen; $120 without ads 

Also consider: Barnes & Noble’s Nook GlowLight 4, $150; Likebook P6 E-Reader, which offers expandable storage via a microSD slot, $149  

Read during a soak. Rakuten’s Kobo Clara 2E is waterproof and made with an 85 percent recycled exterior, including 10 percent that was abandoned and on its way to an ocean. The fully waterproof 6-inch e-reader features a high-resolution touchscreen with integrated light, 16GB of storage, and built-in Bluetooth support to stream audiobooks to a pair of wireless headphones.

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Battery life: Rakuten says “weeks”; four tech website reviews got eight days to two weeks.

Price: $130 

Also consider two 10.3-inch e-readers that are not waterproof but have styluses for note-taking: Kobo Elipsa, $400; reMarkable 2, $299. 

For tablet lovers. If you have a healthier budget and want a device that can do much more than display e-books, try a tablet. The new 10th generation Apple iPad features a bright and colorful 10.9-inch Liquid Retina display, powerful A14 Bionic chip, and works with a Magic Keyboard Folio and Apple Pencil, both sold separately. Its lowest-price model has 64GB.

Battery life: up to 10 hours on Wi-Fi, nine hours using cellular network 

Price: from $449, combination keyboard and case from $249 

Also consider: the 10.5-inch Android Samsung Galaxy Tab A8, from $180; the 11-inch Windows HP Tablet 11, $600 

Cut the cord on audio devices

a selection of audio hardware, including headphones and speakers
A pair of Sony WH-1000XM4 headphones, center, can block out noise around you while you're listening to music and stop the song when you start talking to someone else.
Neil Godwin/Future Publishing via Getty Images

Not only are a pair of wireless earbuds or headphones ideal for those who love music, but they can also be used to listen to podcasts and audiobooks, stream audio from a Bluetooth-enabled smart TV and take calls hands-free from a nearby smartphone.

Over-ear headphones. One of the highest-rated headphones this year, the Sony WH-1000XM4 offers a comfortable fit, good sound quality and powerful active noise canceling (ANC) capabilities. As soon as you speak to someone, a handy “speak to chat” feature stops the music and lets in surrounding sound so you can conduct a conversation. A 10-minute quick charge yields five hours of music playback when the battery is low.

Battery life: 16 to 30 hours 

Price: $350 

Also consider: House of Marley’s Positive Vibration XL or JBL Live 460NC wireless headphones, both $100 

Smaller, in-ear option. Bose QuietComfort Earbuds II also feature active noise canceling for those who want some peace and quiet by blocking out the racket in a room, such as the constant hiss inside an airplane cabin, which is a lower-pitched version of white noise called pink noise.

Battery life: up to six hours

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Price: $299 

Also consider: JLab’s Jbuds Air ANC second generation, $69; Apple’s third generation AirPods, $169; Apple AirPods Pro, $249 

Made for sleeping. The QuietOn 3.1 is billed as the world’s smallest ANC earbud that can fit entirely inside the ear. It’s specifically designed to improve sleep by reducing low-frequency noises that often interrupt sleep, including noisy neighbors, snoring partners and street traffic, so it doesn’t stream audio from other devices.

Battery life: about 28 hours 

Price: $289 

Bluetooth speakers. You don’t have to break the bank to give the Anker Soundcore 3 portable Bluetooth speaker or its sibling from last year. Along with its size, a IPX5 rating for water resistance — which means it can handle a low-pressure spray of water in addition to splashes — simple controls and USB recharging make it easy to bring to pool parties, on road trips and to a barbecue.

Battery life: 24 hours

Price: $51 

Also consider: Anker Soundcore 2, $28; JBL Clip 3, $50; Ultimate Ears Wonderboom 3, $100

Homebodies can snuggle up

Stream movies and TV shows in up to 4K resolution and with support for high dynamic range (HDR) for better contrast, brightness and richer color. Then have a “cuppa,” as they say on BBC shows, that will stay warm while you’re binge-watching.

The Google option. If your smart TV doesn’t have all the apps that you want, Chromecast with Google TV plugs into your TV's HDMI port and includes a simple remote, plus you can use your voice by pressing the Google Assistant button to ask for something to watch. The home screen displays content from all your services, including live cable TV, all in one place, so no more switching among apps to decide what to watch.

Price: from $20 without streaming service subscriptions

The Amazon option. Similarly, the Fire TV Stick 4K Max is Amazon’s most powerful streaming stick with faster app starts, smooth 4K streaming and fluid navigation, thanks, in part, to its Wi-Fi 6 support.

Price: $40; a “lite” version is $20, neither includes streaming service subscriptions 

a horizontal picture of an ember mug full of whipped cream and caramel on a wooden surface
The Ember Mug2 can keep your favorite beverage at your favorite temperature from 120 to 145 degrees, whether it's a cup of regular coffee or an apple crisp macchiato.
Ember

Precision warming for a beverage. The Ember Mug² lets you enjoy your favorite hot drink at your favorite temperature between 120 degrees to 145 degrees for up to 1½ hours — or all day when it sits on its charging coaster. A lid is also included to keep coffee warm during the morning commute without spilling it on the upholstery. Select your ideal temperature and receive notifications via the companion Ember app for both Android and Apple, and a small LED light on the dishwasher-safe mug confirms it has reached the desired heat. 

Battery life: 90 minutes, 10-ounce mug; 80 minutes, 14-ounce mug

Price: $130, 10-ounce mug; $150, 14-ounce mug

Also consider: OHOM Ui Plus self-heating mug; no app but the base keeps liquid at 130 degrees and doubles as a wireless charger for a smartphone or earbuds; from $88.