Original illustration by Haobin Ye
When the ornaments come down and the dazzle of holiday lights dims, you're left with two types of gifts: the stocking fillers that seemed like a great idea at the time and the presents that you'll actually use for months, if not years, to come. Of all gift types, tech gadgets can prove the most difficult to pick. Is that iPhone lens gimmicky or great? Will a self-charging suitcase actually be useful?
To sort the gadgets from the gimmicks, we went in search of the 13 best buys of 2016 that your friends and family will actually use. Forget plugged-in, console-touting teens—the latest grown-up products are suited to almost any person on your gift list, from outdoor adventure seekers and homebodies to travelers and work wives. Just pick their area of interest (fitness, home tech, art, and more), and shop our top picks. Believe us—these 13 tech gifts will be a favorite well after the holidays have ended.
One of the coolest looking and best performing Bluetooth speakers on the market, Bang & Olufsen's BeoPlay A1, is made for adventure-seekers who don't want to compromise on design. The sleek, pebble-like device has clear sound, ample volume, and plenty of bass when played indoors or outdoors. Our pick is the special-edition deep red player, inspired by the "rich mineral clay of Nordic nature."
Perfect for the wellness devotee in your life, Spire tracks your breathing patterns and offers advice to quell anxiety and improve focus via guided breathing exercises and meditation on a connected app.
Know an avid hiker? This innovative device turns your cell phone into an off-grid communication tool so you don't need to have cell reception to access maps or message those around you. If your S.O. is an adventure-seeker, this gadget allows them to stay connected and safe, no matter how far they roam.
Home tech devices used to be bulky and beige, but this new smart air sensor is good-looking enough to keep on display. Awair monitors Co2, humidity, dust, and other vital factors to assess how office or home air quality impacts your sleep patterns or productivity. It's connected to a handy app that suggests ways to alter your environment for different goals and doubles as a minimalist clock.
Amazon's Alexa was the It gift of 2015, and this year, it's all about Echo Dot. The compact device harnesses Alexa to play music, read the news, control other smart devices, and more.
Hate the look of messy cords or technology that doesn't suit the design of your home? Plume's purpose is to make routers retro. The beautiful jewel-like plugs provide WiFi through a cloud system, so you can a have super-fast connection no matter where you move in the house. Bye-bye, black cords.
Virtual reality will be huge in 2017, and Google's Tilt Brush will completely change the way you think about painting. The remote-like device allows you to "paint" a 3D space to turn your home into a canvas. If you're considering this gift for a friend or family member, make sure they have a VR headset first.
Granted, this cheeky selfie fan definitely falls into the gimmick category, but it's the perfect Secret Santa gift to poke fun at your Instagram-loving colleague. The tiny device plugs into iPhones to create a soft breeze that tousles hair for a comical selfie.
Shopping on a budget? It's hard to go wrong with a quirky phone case, like this embroidered iPhone 6 case by Zero Gravity, a perfect White Elephant gift.
Know someone with a notoriously messy desk? Native Union's solid marble charging dock with a lightning cable is premium-looking and practical.
This year has been the year of smart luggage, and Away's new Morocco Collection offers yet another reason to embrace the trend. This carry-on bag is ideal for short escapes, and comes complete with an inbuilt USB charger to keep your devices juiced on the go.
Apple products often take the limelight for cool accessories, but the latest collection of Motorola devices might make you rethink your phone of choice. This snap-on accessory allows you to project movies on any plain, flat surface, turning your bedroom walls or hotel blinds into a cinema screen.
Ideal for the business traveler in your life, this luxe leather tech envelope keeps cords, cables, cards, cash, tablets, and passports organized on the go.