Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2018 Holiday Gift Guide! Need more gift ideas? Check out our Gift Guide Hub.
Whoops. You goofed up. It seemed like you had plenty of time before Christmas was here and now there are four days left and all the shops are slammed and you’ve (mostly) missed the shipping window.
It’s okay! We’ve all been there.
We’ve compiled a list of things we think are great but that you should still be able to get in time, be it online or in a local big box store.
Amazon Kindle Oasis
The Kindle Oasis ($250 on Amazon) is a really, really good e-book reader. It’s lightweight, the battery lasts forever and, as a very welcome bonus, it’s water-resistant — so a quick unexpected dunk in the bath tub won’t fry it.
Plus, as one of Amazon’s flagship devices, they keep it heavily stocked at all of their shipping centers… meaning even on the Friday before Christmas, you should be able to swing same-day delivery.
Your favorite books, sent right to their e-book reader
(Photo Credit: Andrzej Wojcicki from Getty Images)
Oh, they’ve already got a Kindle? Utilize it! Send them your favorite book(s) of 2018. Amazon makes it straightforward to have an e-book delivered as a gift; you can either email a code to yourself which you pop in a card, or have it sent straight to their inbox.
Chromecast or Fire TV
The Chromecast has found its way onto our Gift Guides for three years running now, and with good reason: it’s just excellent. Plug it into any TV, and you can now send content from most of your smartphone’s popular apps (Netflix/Hulu/HBO/Spotify/etc.) with the tap of a button. There’s no remote required, because your phone is the remote. The standard HD model goes for $35, while the 4K-friendly model bumps the price up to $60 — but both models should be available at your local Targets, Best Buys, etc.
(If your gift recipient is more about that Alexa-life, Amazon’s $35 Fire TV 4K stick is also a super-solid media streamer — and the remote has Alexa built in!)
You forgot to get them something for Christmas, so why not get them something for the next few months? A card explaining what’s on the way with an ETA on the first delivery, and bam, you’re set and no one knows you totally forgot about Christmas.
And there are so many options now! Friend got a green thumb? Succulent Studios delivers two hearty plants each month for around $16.50. Sweet tooth? Japan Crate (pictured above) airdrops all sorts of fun/whacky goodies with prices ranging from $12-$35 a month. LootCrate brings the geeky goods. TryTheWorld nurtures their inner-foodie.
Gift cards for services they already use
Does your friend binge watch The Office on Netflix on loop? Do they never have Spotify turned off? Why not subsidize those habits for them for a few months? Gift cards are normally the classic “Eh, I didn’t know what to get you, so buy your own thing” gift — but in this case, you’re saving them money you know they’re gonna spend otherwise.
A really long charging cable for their phone
No one has enough charging cables for their phone. I have probably 30 lightning cables, and I still find myself digging around for one a few times a week. Meanwhile, most people use the cable that comes with their phone, which are usually hilariously short and start to fray in about 30 seconds.
Anker’s PowerLine+ II cables are awesome, especially for the price; $10-$20 gets you a 10-ft cable to let your friend actually use their phone comfortably while it charges. The insulation is braided, which in addition to making it look fancy also means that it’s super tough. I’ve been using one for well over a year now and it still looks brand new. They’ve got options for whatever port their phone might use, be it Lightning, microUSB or USB-C.
Is it the most touching gift? Nope! But it’s suuuuper practical, and they’ll probably use it all the time.
A massive (or intentionally small!) battery pack
Phone screens are getting bigger. Phone processors are getting faster, and more power hungry.
Phone batteries, meanwhile, are hardly keeping up. I don’t know many people, at this point, who can get through a full day without worrying about their phone’s battery at least once. Why not take that stress away?
If they tend to carry a big bag or backpack, consider something like the Anker PowerCore ($55). With a 20,000mAh battery inside, it’ll juice up pretty much any phone multiple times before the battery itself needs a recharge. If they tend to go with smaller bags (or just their pockets), the PowerCore+ Mini ($20) is about the size of a tube of lipstick. It’s only 3,350mAh, but that’s enough to get most phones back up to nearly 100 percent. In case of emergency, batteries like this can save your life.
Your favorite apps
Know someone is getting a new phone for Christmas? Why not help them load it up? Think of all your favorite apps/games of 2018, and send them over as gifts.
Apple makes it easy to send specific iOS apps/games as gifts, assuming you know the recipients email address. If your friend’s on Android, it’s a bit trickier — you’ll probably want to just buy them a Google Play gift card and write your recommendations in a card.
Got a friend who’s always losing their keys? Or can never find their wallet?
Tiles are little Bluetooth-powered widgets that you strap to anything you tend to misplace. When that thing goes missing, you just pop into the app and ping it. If it’s close, it’ll start chirping away. If it’s not nearby — like, say, if you left it at a restaurant — it’ll go into “Community Find” mode; if anyone else using the Tile app happens to walk by and detect it, it’ll ping you with its exact location.
This year Tile released a new model that fixes one of the product’s only pain points: battery replacement. Whereas previous models lasted a year before requiring you to ship it in for replacement, the new Tile Mates ($60 for 4) use CR1632 batteries that can be swapped by the user.
If your friend is a coder/builder/tinkerer, giving them a Raspberry Pi is like giving an artist a big, beautiful blank canvas. It’s a surprisingly powerful itty-bitty computer, capable of powering an infinite number of DIY projects. It can be a media server! Or the brains for a self-driving RC car! Or the conductor of your Christmas Light symphony!
There are lots of options for the Raspberry Pi — from the tiny-but-powerful Pi Zero W (~$10) to any one of a ton of clones. If you’re not sure which one is right, the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B ($35) is probably a safe bet; it’s powerful and flexible, but still small and cheap.
If you somehow haven’t seen one of these out in the wild, a quick breakdown: PopSockets ($10) are collapsible grips that stick to your devices (phones, tablets, e-readers, etc) and make them easier to hold for extended periods of time. Slide the PopSocket between two fingers and your device pretty much holds itself. The PopSocket pops out (hence the name) when in use, but folds into itself and becomes super slim when it’s time to go back in your pocket.
I wasn’t super sold on these things at first; I was perfectly content just holding my phone the normal way, thank you very much.
Then I added one to my Kindle… and, well, it’s changed the way I read. I read more often, and I read everywhere. The Kindle is very light, but can be awkward to hold for hours on end. The PopSocket makes it so that the Kindle basically just floats along with my hand. It took about a day before I’d ordered another one for my phone.
They’re easy to find at Target or Best Buy, with a lot of locations dedicating entire aisles to them. They’ve got thousands of different looks (plus licensed stuff from Marvel, Star Wars, etc.) so you should be able to find one that fits your friend’s style.
Smart plugs are a perfect first dip into the smart home waters. They let you use your phone to toggle the lamps and other myriad non-connected devices you’ve got around the house. They’re super simple to set up — unplug your lamp, insert smart plug, reconnect the lamp through the smart plug, then get the plug on your Wi-Fi.
I’ve used a bunch of different plugs, but my current favorite is the Belkin Wemo Mini Smart Plug (~$25). It’s easy to install, and stable enough that they’re more or less set-and-forget.
If you hear “board games” and nothing but pained memories of hours-long Monopoly and Scrabble battles fill your brain, you’re in for a treat. Board games have been going through a wonderful revolution over the past decade or so, and some recent games are just incredible. You can team up to escape a sinking island in Forbidden Island, wear out your brain with Anomia or spend weeks (seriously!) saving the world with Pandemic: Legacy.
Need help finding the right game? Most big cities have a dedicated board game shop, and I’ve never been to one where the employees weren’t eager to help. We also have a list with some of our favorites for both 2018 and 2017.