Gifting techy gadgets and accessories is one of my favorite things to do during the holidays. But electronics can be super expensive (if you saw my last gift guide you know of what I speak) and budgets are still not big for everyone. Never fear, there are some cool, fun, practical, or darned useful gadget gifts that can be had for less than $50 that will bring joy to many a geeky heart. Many of which can be acquired at the last minute... not that I would know anything about that. Go forth and stuff some stockings! Or the non-specific gift-holding item of your choice.
For: Anyone with a screen to clean
By their very nature touchscreens are almost always dirty and in need of a wipe. That's what makes Toddy Cloths nice little gifts. Everyone needs one! Plus, they are the very best screen cleaning cloths I've ever used. The microfiber side safely scrubs away oil and debris, then the silky side gives the screen a little polish.
For: Not just gamers! Anyone who wants a more efficient mouse
This gaming mouse doesn't go too overboard with buttons and complications, which is why I'd suggest it as a gift for anyone who uses a mouse but wants a bit more efficiency. This one feels really good under the palm and all the buttons are in easy to reach places, which can cut down on aches.
For: Amazon Prime members who want to stream web content to their TV
There are a ton of TV sticks and set top boxes out there to choose from, including the Chromecast, which is only $35. If the person on your list is an Amazon Prime member (or you're giving them Prime as a gift), this one is a better deal and really easy to set up. They'll be able to stream Netflix and Hulu Plus and all the other usual suspects plus any of the TV shows and movies and music from the Prime catalog.
For: People who love their current headphones but also want a pair of Bluetooth ones
I'm a big fan of Bluetooth headphones. I love the ability to make and take calls and change the volume or music track on any phone, even Android, and have a few that I really covet. But then I'd have to give up the great wired headphones I already have. Not to mention spend a lot of money. If you know someone in this predicament then they will appreciate the Ribbon. It turns regular headphones into Bluetooth headphones. It also works with anything that has a 3.5mm headphone jack, including home stereo speakers. Keep the headphones you love and upgrade to wireless awesomeness.
For: Someone who wants all of their data backed up and/or accessible and who don't trust the cloud because they can't touch it.
USB drives might not be the sexiest gift ever. They are such a practical thing that it might maybe fall into the category of getting undershirts in the stocking. Except when the USB drive is very, very tiny yet holds a lotta, lotta data. That's the deal with this little guy. It's very tiny, it has a loop so you can add it to a keychain, it holds 64 whopping gigabytes of data (that's as much as some laptops these days), and costs under $30.
For: People with big cameras
I love the idea behind this combo camera strap and case. It's designed for big cameras -- compact mirrorless or DSLRs or long zoom models -- and is both a comfortable strap and makes it easy to wrap up and protect a camera in the bag with little fuss. It doesn't come in many cute designs or colors, but basic black is always in fashion.
For: Whoever is getting a new fancy camera
Know someone getting a new mirrorless or DSLR camera for the holidays? This is a nice little stocking stuffer for them. It's a clip that attaches to the camera strap and holds a lens cap securely so they won't lose it. That's it! Simple, inexpensive, totally useful.
For: People who shoot a lot of mobile phone video with crappy sound. Folks who do goggle hangouts on a phone or tablet. Anyone who dictates notes. Secret spies.
Some new mobile phones have fancy microphone arrays for excellent sound on phone calls, in video chats, and when recording videos. And then there's most other phones. Having a good mic for your phone or tablet is not only a bonus for podcasters and people recording woman on the street interviews, it's also good for Google Hangouts, dictating notes, recording class lectures, and other related activities. And yes, it works with iPhone, iPad, and Android (and Windows Phone).
For: People who travel a lot. That friend who spends all day writing in cafes.
So you're in an airport and you need to charge up your phone or tablet or laptop or whatever and it's not one of those fancy terminals with multitudes of charging stations so you can't find a free outlet or it is a fancy one but because it's the holidays every single plug for 40 gates is taken up by about a dozen people. This little gadget will save whoever you give it to from anxiety over outlet space no matter what the scenario. It turns one plug into three, has separate plugs just for USB charging for smartphones, tablets, and the like (making it five total), and is a surge protector on top of that.
For: That person you know who is always trying to juggle 15 gadgets
People who work with multiple devices are always looking for a way to consolidate, and this is one of those ways. The K480 works with anything that accepts Bluetooth keyboard input, from computers to tablets to phones. Instead of having to re-pair or re-connect each time you switch, just flip the dial. The keyboard can be connected to three things at once, and flipping between them takes little time or effort.
CandyShell Amped Samsung Galaxy S5 and iPhone 5/5S Cases ($45)
For: People who want to go old school and make everyone on the bus listen to their music
Smartphone speakers are usually weaksauce (the HTC One M8 excepted), and that's a bummer when you want to share a video with a friend or share your jam with everyone around you. This case -- which is an awesome protective case on its own -- will increase the volume of the sound coming from the Galaxy S5 or iPhone 5S/5 speakers. Yep, it really works.
For: People who need more juice
Now that external battery packs are a thing you can get them in fun shapes and colors instead of just black or gray. The Mimobot people have a fun lineup of them, and at only $20 they make a nice stocking stuffer. The batteries come with multiple tips, so it will work with Android, Apple things (old and new), cameras, and pretty much anything that uses a USB port to charge.