It’s that time of the year again: snow is on the ground, colored lights hang from garage rooftops and every store from here to Hong Kong is blaring Frosty the Snowman like it’s going out of style. ‘Tis the season for hooking your friends and family up with some sweet Android related gifts. We’ve talked to our staff and asked around a bit to come up with a couple good ideas if you’re looking for something to buy. Some sections are for specific products, while others cover item categories. If you have any extra suggestions, throw them out in the comments below. We’d love to hear what you’ve already bought for the Android lover in your life.
This might just be the most recommended gift this season, but there’s a really good reason for it. Chromecast is Google TV done right. Any TV with an HDMI port, so long as you have a smartphone, tablet or pc because you need those for Chromecast to function, can be used to watch Netflix, Hulu+, Pandora, YouTube and more. You can even use it as a second window for Chrome on your home PC. And the best part? It’s only $35. That’s a lot of gift for only a little give.
The smartwatch craze really started to pick up in 2013 with a handful released from all different manufacturers. Unfortunately, not many were actually any good. As of right now, there’s only one smartwatch we can easily recommend: Pebble. Pebble works with all sorts of apps, serving up information on your wrist from emails, calendar appointments, alarms and a whole lot more. Pebble also has downloadable watch faces, and there are some really neat accessories, like full body stickers, for customizations.
The variety in Android manufacturers translates over to Android accessory manufacturers. Quality with accessories can be all over the board. With a $2 case from eBay, taking the risk is no big deal. But when you’re buying expensive replacement, external and extended batteries, you need a name you can trust. In the past, we’ve had good luck with Anker products. They make all sorts of battery related products for all sorts of different phones. Gigantic 12000mAh external phone chargers? They’ve got that. Ridiculous 7600mAh extended batteries for the Galaxy S4? That’s some serious power, and they’ve got that. Take a look at their site for products to be used with all sorts of different phones. And as an added bonus, they have an Amazon storefront where you can find some great deals if you look around.
If you’re looking for Android phone cases, there’s some agreement between the staff here at Android and Me that there are a couple of companies who really stand out in both quality and custom care. And they also support just about every phone under the sun with a ton of options. If we were buying a phone case, the first three companies we’d look at are Spigen, CruzerLite and OtterBox. All three have a variety of products that offer different levels of protection. But if we had to push you off in a direction for where to look first, CruzerLite is for the serious Android enthusiast in your life, OtterBox offers the best in hardcore phone protection and Spigen is a step above the rest in terms of class and fashion.
Speakers and headphones
To bring you the best choices in audio accessories, speakers and headphones, we went with our resident sound-guy’s, Dima Aryeh, picks. He’s spent extensive time with tons of Bluetooth speakers and other audio accessories, and what he recommended comes with high praise not only from other Android and Me staffers, but from places like Amazon as well. For speakers, there’s the louder, more expensive G-Project G-Boom, and the slightly more affordable, elegant, beautifully designed Sound Spot. If you’re looking to really splurge on some awesome headphones, you can’t go wrong with JayBird BlueBuds.
We’ve talked briefly on the Android and Me podcast about how phones are very personal items, and that a lot of the time, you’d be better off not buying a phone for someone and just giving them a gift-card for the carrier of their choice or to Best Buy instead. But if you don’t want to go that route, and just want to buy an Android smartphone, we suggest the Nexus 5 or Motorola Moto G. Why these two phones? The answer is really pretty simple. Both are cheap, for smartphones, at $349 and $179, and they are both great devices. The Nexus 5 has top-of-the-line specs and will work on any GSM carrier, even the CDMA based Sprint, with full LTE support. The Moto G lacks LTE support and will only work on GSM carriers, but it’s nearly half the price. And is way better than most phones anywhere near its price. Both have good displays, both are plenty fast enough. The Nexus 5 has a good camera (Moto G, not so much). But the Moto G has replaceable backs (Nexus 5, not so much). Either one would make a fantastic gift. Thinking about getting something like an iPod Touch this year? Don’t. Get a Moto G instead. It’s cheaper and actually functions as a phone.
If you’re looking for on-contract suggestions, you can’t go wrong with any of the flagships from this year. The Galaxy S4, Note III, LG G2, HTC One and Moto X are all fantastic devices. Check out what you, our readers think make up the best phones of the year. We tend to agree with them.
Tablets are a bit harder for us to recommend, because for the first time in Android history, there are so many good ones. Overall, you can’t go wrong with the Nexus 7. It’s fast, has the latest version of Android and has a great display. If you’re looking for something a little bigger, try the LG G Pad Google Play edition. If you’re looking for something with some added functionality, check out the Galaxy Note 8, which receives high praise from several Android and Me staff members. Finally if you’re deeply entrenched in Amazon’s ecosystem, take a look at the new Kindle Fire HDX.
If it’s a bigger tablet you’re after, we hate to say it, but there’s not a lot of good stuff out right now. The newest Galaxy Note 10.1 is a pass, and the Nexus 10 is looking a little long in the tooth. Stick with something smaller this year.
Google Play gift card
The last item on our list is for the terminally indecisive. Can’t decide what to get? Don’t know what your friends and family want? Looking for something nice to compliment another gift? Go with a Google Play gift card. You can’t go wrong with free apps, movies, music and more. And they’re available everywhere.