The holidays are the one time a year where you have a chance to bring your family and friends the best in the gadget world, things that you just know they'd never get for themselves. Let's be honest though, it's also a good excuse to get a few things for yourself while the deals are good in December.
So what things do I have on my list to give (and keep) this holiday season? Read on past the break and see.
A good, sturdy messenger bag is an essential part of my daily life. I need to keep my laptop, camera, phone(s) and all related accessories with me pretty much whenever I leave the house. That means I need a bag that's big enough, comfortable and it doesn't hurt if the bag looks good doing it. I have a canvas one from Fossil that holds everything nicely even with room to spare, and has a look that I like. If you're looking for something a bit more modern -- and frankly a little less hipster -- you should take a look at the bags from Timbuk2. They have 'em in all shapes, sizes and colors with more pockets and zippers than you can shake a stick at.
Google Nexus 4
I've got two of these on the way for my parents to use as their first smartphones, for several reasons. The price is amazing -- if you're thinking about moving to prepaid (or a T-Mobile Value Plan), getting in the door of a top-end smartphone at $299 is a no brainer. Also, if I'm going to be doing tech support for a device I give as a gift, you better believe it's going to be something I know my way around, and that's stock Android. Nexus devices have come a long way in usability, and I can easily feel comfortable giving it as a gift to a first-time smartphone user.
Micro four thirds camera
It really is easier than ever to get into photography nowadays if you're so inclined, and I'm a big proponent of the Micro Four Thirds format over a "traditional" full DSLR rig for beginners. They do a good job at bridging the gap between a point-and-shoot and a DSLR -- that means easy to use features and great automatic modes, along with high-quality pictures. And when the user is ready to step into more advanced stuff, the camera can grow with them.
I'm using an Olympus E-PL1 and it's fantastic, so I wouldn't hesitate to recommend Olympus PEN line. You can get the latest kit (E-PL5) for about $599, or some of the older ones (E-PL1 and PL2) for under $300 brand new. Get out there and take some nice pictures!
If someone you know spends a lot of time with these things jammed in their ears, there's no reason not to invest a little bit and get more than your money's worth in audio quality improvement. I've got a set of these Ultimate Ears on the way to try out because they're specifically made for Android with the proper controls, but there are tons of great options out there. Phil talked about a pair of Bose headphones on his list that are a bit pricier, but you can easily find something nice in the $50 range. Honestly though, anything is better than the ones that come in the box with your phone.
This may not be the case everywhere, but the winters up in Washington get a little rough. It's not as bad as many places, but its cold and windy enough here that I wear a couple of coats and carry gloves in the winter. You don't want to be put in the position of choosing whether to check and respond to an email or keep the feeling in your hands -- so why not pick up a pair of gloves that lets you do both? These are available on Shop Android for $18, a no-brainer stocking stuffer.