Local tech expert knows holiday gifts kids, teens are looking for

This Christmas buying season, like most of this year, will look different than years past. Many major retailers that have traditionally been open on Thanksgiving will probably be closed, including Walmart, Target, Best Buy and Kohl’s. So, retailers who like to get a jump on Black Friday sales are switching their tactics; some are running sales throughout the month of November. A noted trend over the last several years has been retailers moving deals online and 2020 will likely be the biggest year we’ve ever seen for online shopping. Test your logins, reset forgotten passwords and create accounts now so you don’t waste time and miss out on these deals when they hit — sometimes items sell out in a matter of seconds!

Gaming: There are several exciting items to watch from a technology perspective, starting with both Sony and Microsoft releasing their next-generation gaming consoles in November. The Xbox Series X and the PlayStation 5 will certainly be at the top of many people’s wish lists, but don’t expect any discounts. Both consoles will run you around $500, with Sony offering a “Digital Edition” for about $400. The Digital Edition omits the Blu-ray drive, so buyer beware unless you have extremely fast (1Gb) internet. If portable gaming is paramount to you, the Nintendo Switch is your clear choice. There are several different bundle deals that will fit your style, and it will only set you back around $300 and the Lite (portable only) version is coming in at $200. But, as has been the case since the beginning of the console wars, your choice will likely come down to your favorite game titles as a number of titles are released exclusively on one platform or the other. For the PC gamers out there, this fall is an exciting time. Nvidia has released their first batch of new RTX 3000 series cards that bring big performance gains without a big price gain from the previous generation launch. The flagship model (RTX 3080) and the enthusiast model (RTX 3090) have been released, but have very limited availability, thanks in part to scalpers trying to make a buck on eBay. Some of the mid-tier, and more reasonably priced cards, are set to be released late October into November.

Phone:  At the iPhone 12 launch event on Oct. 13, four new models were announced.  The iPhone 12 brings a complete redesign.  Some of the many new features are 5G cellular, higher resolution display, better low-light camera performance and Corning Ceramic Shield display glass that is touted to offer four-times better drop protection than the previous generation.  If you’re tired of the ever-increasing sizes of smart phones, the iPhone 12 mini will be a pleasant surprise.  Apple claims the 12 mini is the smallest, lightest, and thinnest 5G smartphone in the world.

Watches:  With the recent release of the Apple Watch series 6, along with it came the budget-oriented Watch SE.  If you don’t need to measure your blood oxygen level or take an ECG anytime, anywhere, pick up the Watch SE starting at $279 MSRP.

Smart Speakers:  The three big players are Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple HomePod.  A lot of it comes down to your current ecosystem and desired integrations. Unfortunately, by the time of this writing, Amazon Prime Day (Oct. 13) will have come and gone. Keep a look out for deals on the 3rd generation Amazon Echo, and Echo Dot. I don’t want to fail to mention, if you’re looking for multi-room audio, might I suggest Sonos? They now offer smart speakers with Alexa integration (Sonos One) and they typically have excellent audio quality compared to the competition, albeit with a price premium.

Drones:  Again, there are a lot of choices, from toy drones as cheap as $20 to thousands of dollars for high-end prosumer models. I’m a fan of DJI; with their built-in GPS and myriad of sensors, they are easy to fly even for the beginner or novice.

Here are my recommendations:

Beginner (younger child):  SNAPTAIN S5C WiFi FPV Drone with 720p HD Camera; $60 on Amazon

Intermediate (older child or adult):  DJI Mavic Mini; $500  

Learning:  Do you want to feed your child’s creativity and expose them to technology in a fun and creative way?  Might I suggest the Piper Computer Kit. We purchased one of these for my 9-year-old daughter last Christmas, and she LOVED it. It teaches fine motor skills as you actually build the entire computer case, and install all the components. It’s powered by a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and comes loaded with a custom learning edition of Minecraft including fun, interactive missions that teach electrical circuit and programming concepts. You can Purchase the Piper Computer Kit for $249.