If I see one more email asking us whether I’ve got my gifts sorted out for Christmas at New Statesman Tech, I’m going to scream. Mostly because of course I haven’t, I’m still at work, what do you think? So here are some ideas for last-minute tech gifts, designed for all sizes of budgets:
Gifts to carry things in
When a real techy buys a laptop or tablet bag, generally the nearest and the cheapest go down well because we’re spending for ourselves and can’t justify a large spend. So this season it might be nice to upgrade your close professional’s carrying kit; Knomo offers some nicely-designed examples. I tried the Knomad Air Premium (pictured), adding a swish-looking portable charger from the same company, and was suitably impressed. Designed for the iPad Air, a Samsung A series was snug but OK and you could probably fit an iPad Mini plus a keyboard into the compartment.
The illustration shows that someone has squeezed their passport and credit cards into the same carrier and on the website they’ve put their phone into it as well. Although my wife’s warning that I’d leave such a small case on a train somewhere seemed a little cynical, I prefer to spread my valuables around different areas and will keep those items separate. However, there is ample space for a couple of sets of business cards, the charger, adapter cables and a lot else. It’s great for carrying items between meetings rather than carrying on public transport.
If I could change one thing it would be the pen holder in the middle, which doesn’t fit my smartpen; elasticating this instead of making it of rigid leather would make it perfect. One small caveat: although the charger comes with its own leather case, it’s probably not worth buying a technology professional one of these as a standalone present. It works perfectly, looks elegant…and IT people pick chargers up at trade shows as giveaways all the time.
Gifts for people who lose things
A fun little gadget to try out as a stocking-filler – you can get multiple packs – is the Tilemate. Connect it to your phone by Bluetooth, stick it into your wallet and you can always find either if you’re in range because each can make the other make a noise.
It’s worth being clear that this works on Bluetooth only so it’s not right for finding a wallet (or case, or anything else into which you’ve put a Tile) if it’s gone missing more than ten metres away. If your item is at a greater distance it’ll just tell you where it was when it went out of range.
However, if you can’t for the life of you remember which pocket your wallet is in, if you’re the type that flaps around wondering where the damned phone’s gone when you have only minutes to leave for a meeting, this is a great little widget for eliminating angst.
Gifts for people who type things
Most IT professionals will have a tablet of some sort, and a Bluetooth keyboard can be useful although not essential. I tried one from Brydge, currently launching into the UK. The good thing about these is that they look and feel like proper laptop keyboards, which for a writer is enough of a selling point. The slightly less good thing is that I use an iPad Mini sometimes and inevitably the keyboard is too small to use for long articles. For shorter note-taking (in other words for normal people’s use of an iPad) it’s ideal and the pricing is keen.
The spare phone
Years ago I had a phone from Orange (told you I was old). The sim had a second number on it so I could switch “work” off at will. I’ve never understood why these were discontinued; it’s led many people to consider a second phone as a good option (although setting your existing model to “friends and family” should also keep colleagues at bay when you want some private time).
Nuumobile is among the companies going some way to address this with dual-sim phones. The X4 is a decent enough Android phone, with a 13-megapixel wide angle lens camera with gesture control, five inch HD touchscreen and 16 gigs of storage expandable with a memory card slot. For people who prefer a second phone for emergencies/kids who’re likely to drop it and cost a fortune to replace the screen AGAIN, the A1 has a more basic display and camera but is good value at £39.99 – it’ll work as a phone, honest.
Building WiFi range
Professionals who work from home occasionally or full time can be frustrated if you’ve done something crazy like getting a TV/phone/Internet package and putting the router next to the TV rather than in their home office, which is at the other end of the house. Signals can fade so you need a WiFi extender. TP-Link’s AC1750 has more antennae than average so it gets a positive mark, and is of course compatible with just about any router on the market.
Of course I’d have to concede the best gift for a technologist would consist of absolutely anything other than technology. We get plenty of that at work. If you insist, though, the above look pretty good to me. But honestly, decent socks would be fine.