Anna's 2013 Holiday Gift Guide

Anna Scantlin
Contributing Editor from  Kansas City, MO
| December 11, 2013

It's nearing the end of 2013, and already smack dab in the middle of the holiday season. With Thanksgiving feeling like it was just yesterday, we already find ourselves nearly to the middle of December. Gift giving season is definitely here, and although Black Friday and Cyber Monday deals have simmered down, there's still plenty of time to find good deals and get that gift shopping in before it officially becomes "crunch time". Although I can't tell you what kind of dog to get your kid (although it is a little known fact that Corgis almost never stop shedding) or what cut of diamond your wife wants (she prefers sapphires, by the way) I can do my best to point you in the right direction when it comes to looking for gifts in the mobile industry. So without further ado, let's see what kind of good stuff we can come up with for this year's holiday gift guide, shall we?


High-End Smartphone

This one is a toughie, because although I'm the type of person to look for the spec sheet before anything else when it comes to smartphones, I also care a lot about the price. Being that the season is about gift-giving, I decided that when it comes to what high-end smartphone I would recommend it would also be pretty rad if I could find something that was also somewhat budget savvy. Fortunately, my decision wasn't hard as it really came down to one phone: the Google Nexus 5. With this device starting out at just $349 for a 16GB model, the specs on this baby really are flagship worthy and come at a cheap price in a sea of flagships that can end up costing well over $600. Even if you had planned to splurge for something fancier, you can still upgrade your 16GB model for a 32GB model for just $50 more. This will give you double the memory and you're still sticking around $400 for a phone that has been described as a "Flagship phone without the flagship price." I would, however, like to take this time to remind everybody that most smartphones only have a return period of about 14 days. So if you're buying this gift for somebody other than yourself (because I wouldn't blame anybody for buying this gift for yourself) you might want to wait a little closer to Christmas to make the purchase. Just in case...


Low-End Smartphone

If there was one phone that easier to choose aside from the Nexus 5, it would be this one. For my low-end smartphone recommendation, the phone I would recommend could be none other than the Motorola Moto G. The Moto G is arguably the best low-end smartphone out there right now. Not only does it have one of the cheapest price tags on an unsubsidized device out there ($179), but it also doesn't flat out suck like you would expect a smartphone at that price to perform. It has a quad-core processor, a 5-megapixel camera, a good display with 326 ppi, and has a planned upgrade to Android 4.4 KitKat. When it comes to low-end devices this holiday season, or even for the next several months, I truly feel like the Moto G is a really solid choice. 



The tablet market is extremely saturated right now with choices. You have options from sketchy low-end devices from manufacturers you've never heard of to the famous iPad for hundreds of dollars more. Where do you start? What do you really want in a tablet? Again, for my tablet choice I tried to stick with something that had a reasonable price tag but still had a great performance. If you're looking for a tablet this holiday season, I would have to suggest looking into the new Nexus 7 from Google. Although the price is about $30 higher than the last generation Nexus 7, I feel like the extra money is worth it. Your device runs on Android 4.4 KitKat, has a higher resolution and you get access to the entire Google Play store. Although I went with a Kindle Fire HD last year as a Christmas present to myself, the biggest thing I felt like I was missing was the entire Google Play Store. For this reason is why I decided to suggest the new Nexus 7 from Google as a tablet this holiday season. You get everything, yet you don't have to spend all that much in order to get it. And, like the Nexus 5, if you're interested in more memory you can upgrade your 16GB model to a 32GB model for just $50 extra.



I did mention in an article not too terribly long ago that rarely do I ever suggest for people to get smartphones as gifts for the holidays, at least as a surprise gift. However, just because I don't suggest smartphones doesn't mean that I can't suggest other useful gadgets that could (or hopefully would) be able to be used universally. If you're in search of a gadget this holiday season, I had one gift in mind that I think would be pretty cool for anybody: a smartwatch. More specifically, a Pebble smartwatch. Although I don't see smartwatches as being so far advanced that they're something everybody wants to use, I do think the concept is neat. And, if you've been thinking of getting a smartwatch (either for yourself or somebody else) I would highly suggest Pebble as it seems the most practical out of any smartwatch on the market currently. The E Ink display makes the watch last for a lot longer than any other smartwatch, and it really just does the basic stuff you would want a smartwatch to do: notifications, alerts, music, and some app support. Not everybody is ready to take that crazy plunge and make your smartwatch like a second smartphone. Rather, the Pebble smartwatch really does just enhance your smartphone experience and keeps it pretty simple. It also has a pretty easy price point at just $150. 


Item over $1000

This was a hard one to come up with, especially with me trying to be so frugal all the time. And, in a sense, being frugal kind of came into play with how I came up with my "Over $1000" item for my holiday gift guide. Instead of just one item, which I surprisingly had a lot of trouble finding, I actually bundled two items together. If you're looking to spend a little more than just a couple hundred bucks, then for a more expensive taste you could go with a smartphone-accessory combo. I decided to go with the Samsung Galaxy Note 3, Unlocked (Full Price) with a Sony DSC-QX10-B Smartphone Attachable Lens. Basically, the smartphone that I consider to be the best on the market at the moment and a really cool accessory that will enhance your smartphone's camera.

Whether the Samsung Galaxy Note 3 is actually the best smartphone on the market is of course just a matter of opinion, but to me it has some of the best specs and features that a smartphone can have. S Pen functionality is still a main selling point, as it should be, especially with a phone that big. The phone is sold at different prices at different retailers, but it seems that the range is anywhere from $700-$900. Since this isn't over $1000, I decided that the phone needed a pretty suave accessory to accomodate it. The Sony QX10 seemed like the perfect candidate, especially for those who may have also been in the market for a new camera.

The Sony QX10 Attachable Lens sells for $250, and has an 18.2-megapixel resolution. You might be thinking, what's so great about this lens? Some smartphones have 20-megapixel, or even 41-megapixel cameras on the back nowadays. However, the Sony Attachable lens also has 10x optical zoom, which most smartphone cameras do not have. Digital zoom is still not quite as good as physically getting closer to the device, but that's strictly the opinion of somebody who doesn't know a whole lot about cameras in general. However, I do have eyes and from what my eyes can see, optical zoom seems like the way to go if you ask me. The QX10 is also an accessory that's adjustable, so even if you end up going with another smartphone down the line the accessory will (most likely) fit whatever.

Both gadgets also come with extra perks. The Samsung Galaxy Note 3 currently has a promotion going on that gets you $50 Google Play credit, which can go towards plenty of great applications on the market and get you off to a great start with your new smartphone. The Sony Lens also comes with free shipping as well as a free 16GB memory card. So, you have that going for you as well. 


Item under $50

This was also another hard choice for me, but if I had to suggest anything under $50 I would have to suggest a decent Bluetooth headset. From my experience, price doesn't necessarily equal quality. I've had a few Bluetooth headsets in my day, and although I've always been pressured to get some of the higher priced ones, I've found that the price doesn't necessarily match the performance of a headset. Some of my best headsets have been under $50. For the music lover, I would suggest a headset with two headphones instead of just the single ear. I use the LG Tone HBS-700 myself, which has a long battery life and is great for working out. A good single ear Bluetooth headset is also a very practical gift. There are plenty of headsets in both styles that are offered for under $50.


Kids' Tech

And last but not least we have tech that's meant for kids. This is an area I've been particularly thorough in researching this year as I try to find something to distract my son from my Galaxy Note 8, but isn't that expensive. One thing I can say I liked about my Kindle Fire HD was the Kindle FreeTime App, which allowed my son to use certain apps and to choose from his own set of (age appropriate) applications. I ended up selling my Kindle Fire, and I'm also not exactly that fond of spending upwards of $200 for a tablet for him. However, I have had my sights set on a Nabi or Nabi Jr. tablet. Nabi tablets are made of a thick durable plastic, and also features a line of accessories tailored specifically for (expected) drops. The tablets start at $99, which is pretty cheap, and have different models depending on what you're looking for in a tablet for your child. Nabi also has similar features to the Kindle FreeTime app, and can also limit time spent on the tablet.

So there you have it! I hope that this guide has helped give you some insight on what gadgets you're looking (or maybe not looking) to get this holiday season. What gadgets have you set your sights on this year? It could be gadgets for either giving or just purchasing for yourself! Let us know in the comments below!

Images via CNet, Pop Photo, Wired, Droid-Life, Geekdad