Android Gift Guide: 2013 holiday edition

As we edge towards the end of the year, we’re hitting prime gift giving (and shopping) season. If you’re looking for gift ideas for the Android fan in your life, here are a few suggestions.

Fitbit Force

Staying healthy can be a challenge these days, with a zillion different things calling for our attention, and that’s one of the reasons Fitbit’s line of activity trackers have taken off. First of all, they’re relatively discreet, which means people can wear them all day without attracting undue attention. Secondly, the connected smartphone app not only makes it easy for users to track their progress over time, but it gives them incentive to improve their weekly stats by showing performance relative to friends …there’s nothing like the kick in the motivation you get from falling behind a co-worker in your weekly stepcount.

The Fitbit Force is the newest tracking device from the company. The tracker is encased in a water-resistant wristband that looks like it could be a stylish watch, which means it won’t even look out of place with a three-piece suit. When you press the button on the side, the OLED display will show you the daily stats, including the current time, step count, distance traveled, calorie burn, stairs climbed and more. The Force is designed to last about seven days on a single charge; the included USB charging dongle connects to a port on the inside of the wristband.

It’s worth noting that there’s one killer feature that’s not going to be available until the next firmware update: call notification for your associated phone. When the feature goes live, the Force will display the name and number of the caller on the screen, which will allow users to know at a glance whether it’s even worth digging the phone out to take the call. But here’s the kicker that will make for some sad pandas: the firmware update will only activate the feature for iOS7. (Here’s hoping that Android smartphones will get call notification soon.)

At the moment, the Force only comes in two colors: black and slate (ie. blue-gray). If you’re shopping for someone who wants more color flexibility, you may want to consider the more compact and more modestly-spec’ed Fitbit Flex ($99.95) instead: the Flex’s tracking module can be removed from the wristband, allowing users to swap it into a pink, tangerine, teal or navy band instead (sold separately). However: the Flex doesn’t come with the full OLED display, only five dots that indicate the achieved fraction of the daily goal; it also doesn’t track stairs climbed. For those who are more concerned with step count, though, it’s still a great – and more affordable – option.


Tom Bihn Cache

If the Android fan in your life is currently dumping their Android tablet into a backpack or briefcase without any protection, the Cache is one way to keep it safe. The Cache is a padded sleeve that holds a tablet in either horizontal or vertical orientation; just insert the tablet, tuck in the flap, and the device is safe inside.

Like other Tom Bihn products, the product is made in the company’s Seattle location using rugged materials that are bound to last you for a while. (I’ve been using my Tom Bihn messenger bag daily for six years and it has yet to show any signs of fraying or wearing out.)

The Cache is available in sizes that fit 10-inch tablets, as well as 7- and 8-inch tablets. While the sizing listed on the Tom Bihn site uses the iPad as the main reference point, it fits most Android tablets just fine. (The iPad mini version I tried worked great with my Galaxy Note 8.) If you’d rather be safe than sorry, there’s a sizing guide on the site.


Sonos Play:1

For digital music fans, the streaming music system to beat is Sonos, and it’s not hard to see why: each of the components in the Sonos system are beautifully designed, easy to use, and awesome-sounding. If there’s any possible complaint, however, it’s that the pricing can be a bit intimidating for those looking to get started. Enter the Play:1.

At roughly 12 cm wide by 16 cm high, the Play:1 wireless speaker is a lot more compact than the other members of the Sonos line. And while that smaller size means that, yes, it’s less powerful than the larger Play:3 and Play:5 models, that still doesn’t prevent the Play:1 from pumping sound out that seems a lot bigger than its size.

As with previous models, the Play:1 will pull music from your local digital library, or stream from Internet services like Rdio, Spotify, Songza, SiriusXM, and more. And as always, you can control it from your Android smartphone or tablet, using the Sonos app.

The Play:1 is also the first Sonos player to feature a reconfigured button layout: instead of a mute button, the Play:1 comes with a play/pause button that also doubles as a track skip button when double tapped. (Other older members of the Sonos lineup will get this new button configuration through a firmware update. The icons on the buttons, alas, aren’t so easily updated.)

The bottom line: there’s a surprising amount of volume and bass in this little speaker, which means it’s a great choice for most rooms; in fact, because the Play:1 is humidity-resistant, its smaller size actually makes it a great choice for the bathroom or kitchen.


Google Play gift card
$10, 25 or 50

Of course, if you’re not quite sure what to get your Android fan, there’s always the gift of apps. Google Play gift cards are starting to appear all around the country on the same racks where you buy your other gift cards.

The cards will be applied as a credit to the user’s Google Play account, where they can be used for apps, movies, books and more. A bonus: the credit doesn’t expire! Great for a stocking stuffer.



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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers
Sean Carruthers is a freelance writer, video producer and host based in Toronto, Canada. Most recently, he was a Senior Producer at, where he was responsible for the conception, writing, production and editing of a number of web video shows, including Lab Rats, How Do I?, Status Update, The Noob, and more.

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