Over the past few months, I’ve introduced you to a lot of different types of tech entrepreneurs and techies, and I’m sure at least one of these types of people is on your holiday shopping list. Don’t know what to get ’em? Don’t worry. I’ve tested out some of the latest tech gadgetry available in phones, tablets and wearables this season to give you a leg up.—Lynne d Johnson
Who’s It For: The Jack-of-All-Trades
What It Does: The iPhone 6S Plus, like its predecessors, is a phone that manages to help its users do everything they need to do on the go. The phone features one of the most beautiful displays of all smartphones, with a Retina HD display and “dual-domain pixels,” so there’s less contrast, deeper darks and shaper text. This means the view is soft from nearly every angle, making it easier to use your phone in nearly any lighting situation.
Most notable from the 6S Plus is a faster Touch ID sensor, which makes unlocking the phone a lot faster than it has been in the past. This also means a fast fingerprint scanner that will become useful when using Apple Pay. Another notable feature is 3D Touch, which gives the user the ability to “peek and pop,” which translates into a soft push for one action on an app like pressing down to preview (“peek”) an email, and then pressing harder to go a layer deeper to open it (“pop.”) For the jack-of-all-trades who needs to be able to do everything all at once, Apple’s 3D Touch makes fast app switching even faster than ever.
Who’s It For: The Hacker
What It Does: With the Nexus 5X, users get a new phone that was developed alongside the latest Android OS, Android 6.0 Marshmallow. It’s also the purest stripped down Android device (besides the Nexus 6P) on the market, because it comes directly from Google. With that said, it’s an unlocked phone that works on every major US carrier. This phone offers freedom of choice to users who want to choose their own carrier, as well as their software experience, on a phone with the ability to better control and customize app permissions. And isn’t that just what every hacker wants?
Getting Google’s Android experience means seeing things as Google intended Android to function, without a layer of another operating system on top of it (like Samsung does with Touch Wiz or HTC does with Sense). What’s great about this phone is the experience of Google Now on Tap, which offers you insight into the app you’re currently using just by pressing down the home button.
For instance, while reading an email or text message someone may mention a restaurant or movie, and you’ll be able to pull up information about it. Or you could be listening to music and press the home button to get related information about the artist. All of this without even having to do a search. There’s also fingerprint support, an ambient display, and much better restore/backup features on this model.
Who’s It For: The Wannabe Photographer
What It Does: With its 16 MP rear camera, the Galaxy S6 Edge+ has the most impressive camera by far of the latest smartphones on the market. Which means the camera is able to take some really nice nighttime shots. Its competitors generally average around 12 MP. Accessing the camera is simple and comes with just two button clicks from the homescreen.
Other special camera features include advanced selfie technology and auto real time HDR that can be used for capturing action shots without blur. But the camera is not all this phone is good for. There are also some vibrant videos to be made with 4K/UHD for impressive crystal clear details. Plus there’s speed control for the ability to slow things down a bit.
Overall, this phone features the best of all Samsung phones combined, which also means it features the worst. It’s great for people who want a larger S6 Edge with more power and more features, where the curved edge is used as an information stream featuring alerts from apps like Twitter trends. You can also use it to get in touch with your favorite contacts. This phone also features a fingerprint scanner, to be used with both Android Pay and Samsung Pay.
Who’s It For: The Entertainment Junkie
What It Does: With access to all of the content in Amazon’s ecosystem, this latest tablet is great for first-time users. Amazon Prime members can stream or download movies and TV shows, download games exclusively free from Amazon Underground—and with Kindle Unlimited there’s an abundance of books that readers can access.
The new design of this tablet has a great user interface, making it easier to navigate, with tabs at the top that you can swipe through for Recent, Home, Books, Video, Games, Shop, Apps, Music, Audiobooks and Newsstand. Each section features your most recent downloads, streams and recommendations from Amazon. Sharing a device with your kids has never been easier. With FreeTime parental controls, you can set up the device for the young ones to have access to Disney, Nickelodeon and Star Wars apps and shows.
The most useful feature is Mayday Screen Sharing, which enables you to share your screen with Amazon customer service so they can better help you figure out what you’re doing. And there’s a microSD slot to increase your storage space for all of that entertainment you’ll be indulging in.
Who’s It For: The 80/20 Rule Abider
What It Does: The YOGA Tab 3 Pro is the kind of tablet that helps you get the most important tasks done during your prime time of work (which should be 20% of your time) while using the other 80% to enjoy your life. With up to 15 hours of life on a charge, it’s definitely set up to make that happen.
While you can make and view media easily on this multimedia tablet device, it’s also the kind of device that, if you’re an entrepreneur, let’s you create the most awesome presentations and spreadsheets to show off to those investors. While it’s an Android device, it also has some exclusive Lenovo features, i.e., a Smart Side Bar, which gives you a menu of shortcuts to apps and settings. And there’s also the Smart Window 2, which enables multiple app windows to be opened simultaneously.
The YOGA Tab 3 Pro features a 10.1 inch display, a pico projector, a kickstand that folds out on the back to make viewing easier, a smart camera that rotates 180 degrees, front facing speakers with JBL sound and Dolby Atmos technology, and a microSD slot to make sure you have enough space to work with the content that’s going to make a difference to your bottom line. With the pico projector, you can project this tablet onto any wall to simulate a large widescreen TV.
Who’s It For: The Pomodoro Technique Enthusiast
What It Does: Since the pomodoro technique enthusiast is into breaking work down into 25-minute intervals, with three to five minute short breaks and one long 15-30 minute break after four pomodoros, the beautifully crafted Gear S2 with its quick motion interaction on a clever rotating bezel is just the right gift.
Part watch, part fitness tracker, the S2 plays along nicely with most Android smartphones via Bluetooth or wi-fi, enabling you to receive vibrating notifications on your wrist that you can tap to respond to, scroll through, or swipe away. Notifications are grouped by app and lined up in the chronological order of when it was received.
You’ll also be able to receive messages, see the weather and time, look at appointments, listen to music, and track your heart rate during a workout, among other activities like voice-activated actions. Talking to the device with S Voice assists with functions like initiating calls, sending texts, setting alarms, getting local weather, playing music, and checking appointments. And when it’s time for a break, you can set the do-not-disturb mode. Most important, the watch can still work when not connected to a phone—but they both have to be on and logged into the same account.
Who’s It For: The Self-Quantifier
What It Does: Self-quantifiers are into body hacking even more than software hacking, and they want to know how their bodies are performing at all times. The Fitbit Surge is an always-on device that does just that. It features vibration for a silent alarm, automatic sleep tracking, and a continuous heart rate monitor and GPS to track runs.
This model also tracks hiking, yoga, elliptical, kickboxing, circuit training, tennis, biking, and weight lifting, among other physical activities. While it does support incoming texts and call notifications from your smartphone, it’s a more serious fitness tracker than it is a smartwatch. The always-on interface enables you to keep tabs on all your steps, distance traveled, miles run, calories burned, hours slept, active minutes and heart rate all-day long.
With the GPS sensor, you can map your runs with step-by-step graphs showing elevation, pace, heart rate and calories burned. Unlike other fitness trackers that you have to tell you’re going to sleep, the Surge will automatically detect your sleep cycle. You’ll have to log all of the food you eat in order to make real use of the calories burned feature.
With all of this data on tap, the self-quantifier will be able to alter sleep patterns and workout routines to better achieve their desired body results.
UP2 by Jawbone
Who’s It For: The Fitness Buff
What It Does: The most minimal in design of the fitness trackers, the UP2 provides simple activity and auto sleep tracking. The band can also wake you up at your optimal wake time with a light vibration. While the sleep tracker isn’t perfect (for instance, you may be at rest but sitting up instead of laying down), it does give a nearly accurate picture of your patterns.
This tracker includes an optical heart-rate sensor, and it can track the number of steps you take each day, the distance traveled, and calories burned, which also looks at when you’re active vs. when you’re idle. You can also track other activities, from Zumba to hiking.
Jawbone’s mobile app, available for both Andoid and iPhone, presents a data dashboard the helps you to track and make sense of all of your fitness data and also allows you to pair with third-party fitness apps like Withthings, IFTTT, RunKeeper and MyFitnessPal. Jawbone’s SmartCoach, built into the mobile app, offers innovative insights into your behaviors, such as how your weekly averages compare and whether you’re improving or falling off. It also displays your sleep and steps goals. There are also food, drink and mood tracking, and you can create teams by connecting to your social networks to compete with friends.