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Tech devices that make for great last-minute gifts for anyone

Editor’s note: This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work.

It should be easy to give a gift. But it can be hard trying to choose what gift to give. That’s especially true with technology, where products tend to be more functional than emotional. Here’s what matters most: finding a present that connects to the recipient, creates a sense of enjoyment, and that they’re actually going to use. Here are five tech gifts that will appeal to almost anyone.

Jaybird X3 Wireless Sport Earbuds

The Jaybird X3 earbuds are designed for working out, but their design and great audio makes them perfect for anyone on the go. The X3’s interchangeable tips and fins offer a highly customizable, comfortable fit. Overall sound is high quality out of the box, but we like that the companion Jaybird app allows a tailored listening experience. Eight hours of playback time means you’ll be set throughout multiple workouts or a full work day.

Amazon Echo (2nd generation) Voice-Controlled Speaker

While there’s more than enough buzz surrounding voice-controlled speakers, they’re not yet considered a standard home item. But we think they’re helpful, and we know that a lot of folks find them incredibly useful for ordering food, listening to audiobooks, streaming music, or controlling their appliances and lighting. Our favorite is the Amazon Echo (2nd generation), which does more (and does it better) than any other current model. It supports a huge list of smart-home devices—including thermostats, light bulbs, and vacuums, and it has a set of skills, including offering custom weather, news and calendar alerts. (Note: If you’re giving one of these devices as a gift, make sure the recipient’s preferred music service is supported; Amazon’s devices, for example, work with its own Prime Music service, as well as Spotify, but not with Apple Music.)

Jackery Bolt USB Battery

A convenient device (which at times doubles as a lifesaver) is a gift that anyone would consider a necessity. We researched more than 300 USB power banks and battery packs and tested 40, naming the Jackery Bolt as our top pick. The Jackery Bolt is made out of aluminum and is the perfect size for carrying around in your bag or pocket every day. It has two connector cables (one Lightning and one MicroUSB), and its 6000 mAh battery has enough power to charge a medium-sized smartphone twice.

Nixplay Seed Digital Photo Frame

The Nixplay Seed digital photo frame is perfect way to keep faraway friends and family members in sight. Since it’s Wi-Fi-enabled, you can be anywhere and use social media platforms, cloud storage, or your smartphone to upload pictures. It’s a great gift because new and old moments can be shared anytime, giving viewers more reasons to touch base with you. It has a high-resolution IPS display that can show images in landscape or portrait orientation. The photo frame’s remote and sensor—which turns the device off when no one’s in the room — lets you choose what you want to see at your convenience. Multiple people can create photo playlists through the Nixplay website, or add pictures to be shown by sending them through email. With 8GB of storage it has the capacity to hold roughly 25,000 smartphone photos.

GoPro Hero5 Black Action Camera

The GoPro Hero5 Black is our top pick for action cameras because it can be used for everyday filming, capturing memories during travel adventures, and is great in environments that aren’t suitable for larger, pricier camera equipment. It doesn’t have a clunky case, but it’s still waterproof. For those who usually place tech integration at the top of their gear list, the GoPro Hero5 Black also has a touchscreen interface and voice-control capabilities. During testing we found its footage to be crisp and clear with accurate color in addition to sound quality that’s worth keeping in professional edits.

Garmin Vivosport Fitness Tracker

If you’re looking for a way to jumpstart your exercise routine and you haven’t picked up a fitness tracker, now’s the time.  We’ve tested 23 fitness trackers over the past three years and think the Garmin Vivosport is the best option. Its built-in GPS, long-lasting battery life and color display set it apart from others. In addition to monitoring your workouts (including strength-training reps), it helps keep tabs on your sleep and stress levels, and is Bluetooth-enabled for IOS and Android integration with streaming music and notifications.

This guide may have been updated by Wirecutter.

Note from Wirecutter: When readers choose to buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn affiliate commissions that support our work.

The Skagen Falster is a high fashion Android wearable

Danish understatement meets Mountain View tech

Skagen is a well-know maker of thin and uniquely Danish watches. Founded in 1989, the company is now part of the Fossil group and, as such, has begin dabbling in both the analog with the Hagen and now Android Wear with the Falster. The Falster is unique in that it stuffs all of the power of a standard Android Wear device into a watch that mimics the chromed aesthetic of Skagen’s austere design while offering just enough features to make you a fashionable smartwatch wearer.

The Falster, which costs $275 and is available now, has a fully round digital OLED face which means you can read the time at all times. When the watch wakes up you can see an ultra bright white on black time-telling color scheme and then tap the crown to jump into the various features including Android Fit and the always clever Translate feature that lets you record a sentence and then show it the person in front of you.

You can buy it with a leather or metal band and the mesh steel model costs $20 extra.

Sadly, in order stuff the electronics into such a small case, Skagen did away with GPS, LTE connectivity, and even a heart-rate monitor. In other words if you were expecting a workout companion then the Falster isn’t the Android you’re looking for. However, if you’re looking for a bare-bones fashion smartwatch, Skagen ticks all the boxes.

What you get from the Flasterou do get, however, is a low-cost, high-style Android Wear watch with most of the trimmings. I’ve worn this watch off and on few a few weeks now and, although I do definitely miss the heart rate monitor for workouts, the fact that this thing looks and acts like a normal watch 99% of the time makes it quite interesting. If obvious brand recognition nee ostentation are your goal, the Apple Watch or any of the Samsung Gear line are more your style. This watch, made by a company famous for its Danish understatement, offers the opposite of that.

Skagen offers a few very basic watch faces with the Skagen branding at various points on the dial. I particularly like the list face which includes world time or temperature in various spots around the world, offering you an at-a-glance view of timezones. Like most Android Wear systems you can change the display by pressing and holding on the face.

It lasts about a day on one charge although busy days may run down the battery sooner as notifications flood the screen. The notification system – essentially a little icon that appears over the watch face – sometimes fails and instead shows a baffling grey square. This is the single annoyance I noticed, UI-wise, when it came to the Falster. It works with both Android smartphones and iOS.

What this watch boils down to is an improved fitness tracker and notification system. If you’re wearing, say, a Fitbit, something like the Skagen Falster offers a superior experience in a very chic package. Because the watch is fairly compact (at 42mm I won’t say it’s small but it would work on a thinner wrist) it takes away a lot of the bulk of other smartwatches and, more important, doesn’t look like a smartwatch. Those of use who don’t want to look like we’re wearing robotic egg sacs on our wrists will enjoy that aspect of Skagen’s effort, even without all the trimmings we expect from a modern smartwatch.

Skagen, like so many other watch manufacturers, decided if it couldn’t been the digital revolution it would join it. The result is the Falster and, to a lesser degree, their analog collections. Whether or not traditional watchmakers will survive the 21st century is still up in the air but, as evidenced by this handsome and well-made watch, they’re at least giving it the old Danish try.

It’s (finally) the bicycle’s turn for a GPS of its own

The Beeline is exactly the kind of compass that cyclists need. Having your phone out while you’re on a bicycle ride is dangerous business, even if you’re using it for your GPS. If you have it strapped to your bike and keep looking down at the directions, you could crash pretty hard. If you pull it out of your pocket, one little bump could send it hurdling to the ground. And if you put on headphones to hear the turn-by-turn, they you could miss the sound of oncoming traffic.

This smart compass for your bike attaches to your handlebars and keeps you updated on your GPS info, eliminating the need to pull out your phone. Using the companion app, you can set your destination and get moving. The arrow displayed on the screen will always maneuver you in the right direction as you ride, so reminding yourself of your path is as easy as looking down to see where your Beeline is pointing.

You can also see the distance you have left, speedometer data, and what time it is with a flick of a finger.

Pick up your own Beeline for $132.59.

Google Maps and Lyft could soon be waaay more accurate thanks to this new GPS chip

Image: NurPhoto via Getty Images

Tired of your Lyft driver not knowing exactly where you are? A new extremely accurate GPS chip could help solve that problem — all while consuming half the power of current chips.

Broadcom’s BCM47755 chip will allow smartphones to be accurate within 30 centimeters, the company said at a conference in Portland, according to IEEE Spectrum. That’s compared to the current standard of 3 to 5 meters, the company said. Broadcom also said the BCM47755 would be more effective in cities than older chips. 

All of this would make them very useful for location-based apps. 

“For example, lane-level knowledge of the vehicle’s location vastly improves the turn-by-turn navigation performance,” Broadcam said in a statement.

“Further, combining this accurate location with the lane’s traffic pattern gives consumers a significantly better estimate of arrival times. In the same vein, ride hailing applications can be enhanced to more precisely pinpoint driver and client location.”

The chip has been included in the design of “some” smartphones slated for release next year, IEEE Spectrum reports, but Broadcom has not disclosed specifics.  

The increased accuracy of BCM47755 is due to its use of a more complex satellite signal, broadcast only by the newest generation of satellites. 

All global navigation satellite systems (GNSSs) currently broadcast their location with a signal called L1. New systems broadcast, in addition, a more complex and accurate signal called L5. 

BCM47755 is the first mass-market chip that uses both signals to orient itself. It locks onto satellites with L1, and then refines its position with L5. 

L5 is also less vulnerable to distortion by bouncing off buildings and other obstacles, meaning the signal holds up in urban environments.

Broadcom is far from the first developer to recognize a demand for GPS accuracy, but it is the first to release a chip with this potential. The Indian Space Research Association released GAGAN in September to streamline their GPS systems, but only for airplanes. And a European joint venture called Sapcorda, established in August, aims to provide centimeter-level GPS accuracy, but has yet to unveil a product. 

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