Looking for a gift for the Android user in your life? Here are a few options for either home or business users.
TP-LINK 150Mbps Wireless N Nano Router (TL-WR702N)
For the regular business traveler, connectivity can be a bit of a mixed bag: even though a lot of hotels or conference rooms offer Wi-Fi, often it can be so spotty as to be unusable. The Wireless N Nano router plugs into a free Ethernet port of a laptop, to provide your own hotspot. It’s powered by a standard micro-USB connector, which means those who don’t want to carry around the included power brick can boost the power off a notebook’s USB port or the USB port on the back of a hotel TV. Better, it’s small enough that it can fit easily into a suit pocket. It already comes preconfigured with secured WPA2 encryption, but the password can be changed if you prefer. After it’s connected, it can be used as an access point, a repeater, or a wireless bridge, which means you can get your notebook, tablet or smartphone connected to the net in a variety of configs.
Belkin WeMo LED Starter Kit
Belkin has been slowly growing its WeMo home automation line, but that doesn’t mean you need to keep the items inside the home. The WeMo LED Starter Kit might actually be a great choice for small businesses with traditional light sockets (rather than the ubiquitous overhead fluorescent tubes): Plug the adapter into any standard electrical outlet, connect it to your Wi-Fi network using your WeMo smartphone app, and then you can turn either of the two included power-saving 60W-equivalent light bulbs on and off from the net. You can set them up on a schedule, program them to turn on when a WeMo motion sensor (sold separately) is triggered, or program them to react to certain Internet triggers using IFTTT (such as dimming to 50% when the outside temperature changes, if you really want to). The controller included in the box can control up to 50 separate WeMo bulbs, which will also be available separately, meaning you can start small but build up a net-connected lightbulb empire down the road.
Parrot Zik 2.0
The first gen Starck-designed Zik was one of the best Bluetooth-connected headsets out there: high-quality audio, a touch-sensitive right earpiece for volume and playback controls, noise-cancellation capability, NFC tap-to-connect, and more. Parrot’s new Zik 2.0 headset ups the ante, replacing the first gen’s plastic look with a faux-leather outer design, dropping the weight by 17%, and bumping up the battery life. The Zik 2.0 also features more microphones for better adaptive noise cancellation and phone call quality. The presence sensor can still be a bit touchy (it kills my music if I yawn while wearing them, for example), but that feature is easy enough to turn off. Quirks aside, they’re a great choice for music lovers who are always on the road, and are now available in black, white, orange, blue, yellow or mocha for those who want a splash of colour on their ears.
For those who are prone to sitting around at a desk all day, a fitness tracker might just be the kick in the Aeron needed to actually get some exercise, and Fitbit remains one of the more popular fitness-tracking ecosystems. The new Charge model is the spiritual successor to the Force, but has been updated to remove the potentially allergenic materials on the underside of that previously-withdrawn model. The new model has a textured band, and is slightly lighter, too; it also updates the clasp that keeps it on the wrist. The Charge features call notifications on the built-in OLED display (via the Charge’s Bluetooth connection). It also now features auto-sleep detection, as well as a new workout mode that allows users to clock in and out of a workout…then choose the activity type from the app. The Charge comes in black, slate, blue and burgundy, and is available with small, large and extra large wristbands (though XL will only be available online from the Fitbit site).
One thing worth noting: while the Fitbit Charge will count steps and how many floors you climb up/down, you’ll have to wait until next year for the models that will also track your heart rate. The Charge HR ($170) has two LEDs that point at your skin, and sensors that can measure your heart rate, and you can set up the display to show your heart rate with a simple double-tap. Or if you really want to go all-out, the Surge ($280) will feature a wider, more watch-like body, and a larger e-ink display in addition to the heart rate sensor; it’ll also come with an onboard GPS for more accurate distance tracking and run mapping, as well as the ability to select your activity type right from your wrist. Expected in early 2015, they’re unfortunately not available in time for the holiday gift-giving season, unless you write up an IOU coupon.