Are you on the nice list or the naughty list? The consumer technology industry has been very good this year, and it's hoping the holidays will treat it well in kind. According to research from the Consumer Technology Association, 65% of Americans are planning on buying tech gifts this year, with one in three holiday shoppers scooping up cutting edge devices like drones or smart home gear.
So, what should you be on the lookout for while you do your shopping? Here are some of the most popular items that people will hunting down this year.
4K and Ultra HD Televisions
With the release of the Vizio M Series, 2014 was the first time that 4K TVs dipped below the $1,000 mark. But this year is when people will actually start snapping them up.
Last holiday season, the inexpensive ultra-high definition televisions were hard to find. And with a lack of 4K content, there was little point in making the investment. Now with Netflix and Roku among some of the more popular companies supporting 4K video, there’s a reason to upgrade. And that's why more television makers are getting in on the game: LG, Panasonic, Samsung, and Sceptre have rolled out 4K screens at prices as low as $570.
Air Hogs Millennium Falcon Quadcopter
This is the quadcopter that made the Kessel Run in less than 12 parsecs. Okay, maybe that’s not entirely accurate (mostly because a parsec is a unit of distance, George Lucas, not time), but still, the Air Hogs Millennium Falcon is the closest thing we’ve got to flying through an asteroid field with Chewbacca by our side.
Just one of roughly 3,720 Star Wars toys on the market leading up to The Force Awakens, this $109 drone is the only one that can make the jump to hyperspace (or just simply hover) through the use of four rotors in the ship’s air ducts. So, in short—she’s fast enough for you, old man.
Combining two kitchen needs into one small footprint, the $179 Amazon Echo had been popping up in many Amazon shoppers' carts since its release this past summer. A Bluetooth speaker that packs a cloud-connected smart assistant, this cylindrical wonder can rattle off headlines, weather, traffic reports, and even control smart home gear like connected lights. And in a pinch, it even plays music. Since you can control it with your voice, it’s great for use while cooking.
Apple is at it again, adding an App Store to its set top box in a bid to redefine the television industry, just like it did digital movies and mobile phones. With a voice driven interface, the $149-and-up streaming box makes it a lot easier to find content to watch. Gone are the days of gnashing buttons to find your favorite shows. And with a Bluetooth touchpad remote, the new Apple TV also handles casual gaming with ease. Look for this gadget to start popping up in living rooms all over, as everyone will want to get their Jetpack Joyride fix on the living room screen.
BB-8 by Sphero
An app-enabled droid, BB-8 by Sphero is endless fun for kids of all ages, which is why it will be the Star Wars toy atop everyone’s list this year. But even before it rolled out this $150 rolling robot, the connected robotic ball-maker Sphero was already dominating wish lists. Now infused with a bit of The Force, they’ve become a growing power in the toy universe. Don’t believe me? This model has an adaptive personality, an autonomous mode, and the ability to listen and respond to people’s voices. In other words, it’s the droid you’ve been looking for.
Nothing says “love” like “I want you to live longer and be healthier,” which is why fitness monitors sell like hotcakes during the holidays. (Incidentally, hotcakes also sell like hotcakes, which is why we need fitness monitors.) Fitbit has emerged as the most recognizable brand among health tracking wearables, like Kleenex is for tissues and TiVo for digital video recorders. But fortunately for the company, Fitbit isn't just a popular name — it also sells a lot of devices. This year, the company’s hottest wearables—the Fitbit Surge and the Fitbit Charge HR—also continuously track wearers' heart rate, adding new insight to their already impressive collection of data. And they come in flashy new colors as well.
Amazon Fire Tablet
Another Amazon product is making shoppers' short lists, but this one isn’t nearly as innovative as the Echo. Instead, the $50 Amazon Fire Tablet blows away the competition when it comes to cost. Price aside, it’s a bare-bones machine, with just eight gigabytes of storage, a lower-than-usual resolution 7-inch display, and the Fire OS, which isn’t all that hot. But it has enough battery life to surf the web for seven hours, a microSD slot for up to 128 gigabytes of additional storage, and all the Amazon Prime connectivity you’d ever need. What more could you ask for? A lower price? Okay—after Thanksgiving, Amazon will drop the price to $35.
Though the big gaming consoles aren’t necessarily new, this is the time of year when many people pick one up. The big consoles have established their markets, and as always there’s lots of overlap between PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Last holiday season was a big one for Xbox, with a strong lineup of exclusive games helping it outsell Sony’s PlayStation. But this year, it appears that PlayStation is in the driver’s seat, with an exclusive Star Wars Battlefront bundle that's sure to attract new gamers looking for a platform to call home. To a lesser degree, Nintendo's Wii U will likely pick up some sales, with a lower price point and more kid-friendly fare.
GoPro Action Cameras
GoPro cameras have done some amazing things since bursting onto the scene. They’ve explored the depths of the ocean and survived jumps from the edge of space. But perhaps the nuttiest thing GoPro has done is put out a camera for practically every price point, making these a must-have gadget for anyone. GoPro's latest effort, the GoPro Hero 4 Session, takes the action camera’s already tiny casing and shrinks it down even smaller. Now the smallest and lightest GoPro yet, the Hero 4 Session is waterproof without any extra housing, and durable enough to survive most adventures—unlike your smartphone.
Meccanoid G15 Personal Robot
Every kid dreams of having his or her own robot. This year, the Meccanoid G15 Personal Robot is finally making that a reality. Looking like a mix between Short Circuit’s Johnny 5 and an Erector set, this programmable android comes in two-foot and four-foot varieties (with $179 and $399 price tags to match). Using an array of motors and a micro-controller, the gizmo can walk, talk, and even dance. But if you’re a parent, don’t be too excited—there’s some assembly of at least 621 parts required.
Parrot Bebop Drone
It’s the gift-giving season. That means it’s the time of year to reward those you love with incredibly cool things that they really don’t need. And the Parrot Bebop Drone fits that bill perfectly. A $499 drone (or $899 if you get one with the range-extending Skycontroller) that packs GPS capabilities, HD video recording, and programmable flight planning powers, the Bebop isn’t just a breeze to operate, it’s a lot of fun as well. And for that price, it ought to be.
View-Master Virtual Reality
Melding everyone’s childhood favorite slide-show toy with a blast of newfangled technology, the new View-Master Virtual Reality works with smartphones (because it’s 2015, and everything has to) to bring kids beyond the old-school into a digital representation of the world. With downloadable experiences, users can view virtual reality scenes as varied as walking across London's Tower Bridge to observing animals in the African Savanna. Viewing these scenes though the $29 eyepiece is almost as good as going there, but for a heck of a lot less money.