9 smart home gifts for a smarter smart home

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9 smart home gifts for a smarter smart home

Welcome to the 2017 TechCrunch Holiday Gift Guide! We check out a lot of really cool stuff here at TechCrunch, so we figured we ought to put that experience to good use and help you get your holiday shopping done quickly. Need help with some other ideas? Check out the full Gift Guide here!

It’s hard to build a smart home. It’s even harder to buy smart home gifts for someone else. Assembled here is a collection of gadgets, gizmos and electronics that can work for anyone on your holiday shopping list. I own or have extensively used all the items on this list and feel comfortable recommending them to you and yours.


Netgear Orbi

The Netgear Orbi is part of a new class of Wifi routers that use multiple units to blanket a home in Wifi. This one just works. For medium to large size homes, the Orbi will radically improve your Wifi performance.

I’ve used a few of Orbi’s competitors and prefer the Orbi for several reasons. Installation was straight forward and follows traditional router setup routines. The units themselves sport more ethernet jacks than competitors, and from what I can tell, the Netgear Orbi app is the most feature-packed yet best designed.

The Orbi system is expensive with basic systems starting out around $300 though with holiday sales, they can be found for around $200 and up.





Amazon Echo Dot

The Echo Dot is fantastic. It’s small, cheap and still works like its bigger siblings. The retail price is $50 but it can be had for much less with holiday sales.

The Echo Dot can do everything: play music, tell the weather, control smart home devices and output audio to an audio system. Because of this vast amount of functions there’s something here for everyone.

Have someone on your list that just wants to listen to music? Get them the Dot. Do they already have another Alexa device but have a large house? Get them another Dot; I have six throughout (and outside) of my home. Do they listen to a lot of music through a big audio system? The Dot can send its audio out over a 3.5mm jack and into a dedicated audio system.


iRobot Roomba 980

Listen, the Roomba 980, at $799 is the most expensive Roomba available, but it’s the best one I’ve tested. This Roomba features two power levels for the vacuum and it makes a big difference. We have a golden retriever and the 980 can dig an impressive amount of hair out of the carpet.

But if you don’t have a giant shedding dog, look at the less expensive Roombas. Most of the Wifi connected units can still be controlled by Alexa and I’ve found little in life more satisfying than yelling into the air and hearing a robot start vacuuming my floor.


iRobot Braava Jet

Mopping sucks. That’s why we have robots and the $200 Braava Jet 240 does a decent job at keeping my hardwood floor clean. It’s not perfect, but the little robot is so damn adorable. The Braava Jet has a Wall-E vibe to it and I love it.

The Braava Jet is less autonomous than its Roomba siblings. The unit does not have a dock. Instead, there’s a battery pack that needs to be recharged, and users will need to fill the bot with water and install a fresh cleaning pad. Once those are done, though, press the button on top twice, and the robot starts working.

Get this for the person that clearly needs a cleaner floors and have so far not shown a desire to keep them clean themselves. The Braava Jet doesn’t replace a good ol’ mop and bucket — but if used enough it keeps the floors a bit more sparkly.


SnapPower Outlet Covers

SnapPower’s outlet covers are amazing. I backed the Kickstarter back in 2014 and have been a customer since. The products just work.

The idea is crazy simple: Built into the outlet cover are LED lights or USB outlets or child-proof outlet covers. Simply take off the old outlet cover and snap this one in its place. It’s the snap itself that powers the device; the covers sport metal clips that grab onto the outlet’s conductors and powers the light or USB outlet (they’re UL listed in the US).

I have a couple of the LED plates throughout the house and a USB outlet cover in the kitchen. Prices start around $15. A boring gift? Yeah, but an amazing gift too.


Kwikset smart deadbolts

Am I recommending a deadbolt for a gift guide? Yep.

I’m not sold on home locks that require a keyfob or smartphone to open. Kwikset has a superior solution. The lock company has a line of deadbolts that use keypads, and to state the obvious, keypads do not require a smartphone to unlock.

Some of Kwikset’s keypad locks include other smart functions such as individual user codes and Alexa control.

Prices start around $80 and the products can be found in home stores and big box electronic retailers.



Tiles are devices people do not know they need. They’re little tags that help users find their devices, keys or bags. I have one in several computer bags and my wife has one on her keys and in wallet.

They’re handy and unobtrusive. They’re also cheap and easy to give as a gift. There are several companies that sell similar products but I find the Tile app the best of the bunch.


Philips Wake-up Light

I’m convinced waking up to a loud alarm will shorten a person’s life, but this alarm is different. Made by Philips and available in several different models, this device slowly starts getting brighter as the alarm nears. Philips says it helps a person wake up in a more natural way. All I know is it works.

I bought one of these devices last year and it improved my morning routine. However it works, I tend to wake up more refreshed and in a better mood though it’s not perfect. The on-device controls are touchy and the clock can be hard to read. It could use Alexa integration.

Also, why is the women in the stock photo staring at the light? Don’t do that.


Sensibo Sky

Think of the Sensibo as a Nest Thermostat for everyone else. If a person has a window air conditioner, portable room heater or modern heat pump — any device that has a remote control — the Senisbo will control the temperature.

The company launched in our Hardware Battlefield competition in 2015 and has since evolved the product into a powerful platform that can automate a person’s heating and cooling needs.

The latest version retails for $149 and works great. If you have multiple heating and cooling devices, get a couple of these devices to have complete control.