From digital assistants to high-definition televisions to the coolest kids' toys you can find, here's our picks of some consumer technology products to consider for your wish list and their stockings.
If price is not an object this holiday, then at the top of your list is the iPhone X. With it’s new design and all of the features that come in the phone courtesy of FaceID, it’s the most functional pocket computer in the world right now.
For those in the Apple ecosystem, the iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus are also solid devices, with much of the same functionality (minus the form factor and animoji).
And the iPhone cases for discerning consumers this holiday are from Otterbox. There are five Star Wars case designs available featuring Darth Vader, Rey and R2-D2, BB-8, a storm trooper helmet, and a red case with a distressed Star Wars logo. They range in price from US$45 to $55.
The Google Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL had some stutters when they were released, mostly fixed with software updates by the company, and these are the premium Android devices now available. With arguably the best cameras you can get on a mobile device, Google has released a new Android app called Datally, that can help you monitor your data use.
The iPad Pro is still the best tablet on the market. The 10.5-inch model is easy to handle but the 12.9-inch version is the one preferred by artists and designers who are using the Apple Pencil to draw on the screen.
Amazon finally solved the final piece of the digital book puzzle with the new, waterproof Kindle Oasis. Now you can take that book with you to the bath or the beach and not have to worry. And the digital ink display means you can read easily even in bright sunlight. It’s also light and has a battery that can last for weeks.
And I’ve taken to using small, waterproof Bluetooth speakers that were designed for use outdoors when riding my bike around the neighbourhood. The Ultimate Ears Roll 2 was built with a bungie cord attached to it so it’s easy to strap onto a bike frame or backpack. The new Bose SoundLink Micro speaker is even smaller, has a silicon strap for attaching it, and has a built-in microphone so you can also use it for making and taking calls.
Electric cars may be all the rage, but don't overlook electric bicycles. They are even better on the environment that the car versions, and it's easier to find parking for them, too. And every time you pedal, you're helping to charge the battery.
Some of the best electric bikes are built right here in the Lower Mainland. Check out Ohm Electric Bikes in North Vancouver for commuters, Burnaby's Volt Bikes for some off road models, Vancouver's Motorino electric-bicycles which has cruisers and fat bikes, and Pedego, in Nelson, which has an electric bike built for two and a cargo tricycle.
If you're looking for a new TV, it's time to think about moving up to super high-def. There's more 4K content being produced all the time, and if you get a screen that is also equipped with HDR you'll notice the difference (and you'll be happy with it).
Every manufacturer has a 4K model, and they are all coming up with ways to set their brand apart. Samsung's QLED models are significant because of what the company calls the One Connect box, which is the connectivity guts from the TV pulled out from the screen, and in a box that can be dozens of metres away from the screen itself.
What this means is that you can put your TV on the wall and not have to look at an black, umbilical mass of wires and cables. You plug all your connections into the One Connect box, and run a nearly invisible optical cable to the TV.
The best thing to plug into that new TV is the new Microsoft Xbox One X ($600), which has the distinction of being the "world's most powerful console". According to the technical specs it really is, but it's also a really great device that provides full support of 4K and HDR video from streaming sources, but also from 4K Blu-ray discs.
If you're thinking about getting a 4K Blu-ray player, the best one on the market is the Xbox One X. And it plays games, too.
The new Apple TV 4K ($229 and $249) is something else you can connect to your new TV. It comes with the benefit that you can play the 4K versions of any of the movies you've purchased through iTunes library that have been released in the upgraded resolution.
But it's not the only option. The Roku Ultra media streamer is only $120, and gives you access to the same streaming services, including 4K and HDR pictures when they are available. The remote control for the Roku has a built-in finder feature, which is handy if yours keeps getting lost in the cushions. And you can plug headphones into the remote, too, in the event you need to keep the volume down.
When it comes to voice-activated speakers, there are now many options to choose from.
Google Home (regularly $179 but on sale right now for only $99) was joined this year by Google Home Mini, a small, portable speaker that, for only $39, gives you access to Google’s information network.
And Amazon recently announced that Alexa was officially coming to Canada with the entire line of Echo speakers.
The original Echo is now in a second generation with better speaker components and costs $100, while the Dot is a hockey puck-sized version ($50) you can use around the house.
The Echo Plus ($170) adds smart home features.
One of the cool things you can do with the Echos is talk to other rooms in your house where you also have Echos set up. You can call your kids upstairs for dinner, for example. And you can use the Echo to make phone calls, too.
The WEMO Mini Smart Plug from Belkin ($50) works with Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home and gives you some out-of-home control over whatever you plug into it.
My other favourite automated home gifts are the Philips Hue LED bulbs which are amazing, and the Dyson 360 eye robot vacuum.
And finally, there’s the Instant Pot, the digital pressure cooker invented in Canada, that has changed cooking around the world. What else can you use to cook a frozen chicken perfectly in only 30 minutes? Instant Pots are between $80 and $100, depending on the volume you want.
Toys and kid stuff
It’s no secret that I’m a fan of Lego as a device for creative, unstructured fun. Lego Boost brings some more technical to the play by merging play with programming. I’ve written about how it is packed with potential. A kit, which brings hours of fun, is $199.
Cozmo is a cute programmable robot is for an older kid who is ready to explore more sophisticated coding possibilities. Exclusively sold in Canada at Best Buy for $250.
For the past couple of years, Sphero has been all about BB-8 droids that you can operate with a smartphone. This year, R2-D2 gets the attention. Get your own R2 unit for $250.
The great Canadian invention is the Hatchimal, and it's what every kid wants. They get to care for an egg until it hatches, and then nurture the young creature as it matures, digitally. There are many to choose from starting at $85.
Young kids may not know how easy it is to damage their hearing. Kidz Gear headphones have a limiting device so that you can make sure that the sound from their Nintendo 2DS or iPad Mini doesn’t blow their doors off. Around $30 for wired headphones, also wireless option.
Perfect for younger kids, SmartMax magnetic construction toys are too big to swallow, and are great for learning how to build. Early exploration with the power of magnets and magnetic fields will set toddlers up for long careers in science and technology. Between $45 and $180 depending on the kit.
Looking for more gift ideas? Check out the Georgia Straight's 2017 holiday gift guide here.More