What a year it’s been. While the global pandemic has upended our lives no end, it’s been quite a vintage one in terms of tech.
Apple launched not one, not two, but four new iPhones, to go with its more wallet-friendly model. Gamers got next-gen consoles from both Sony and Microsoft, with disc drive-less, digital-only models that are also easier on the wallet. And TV tech moved on considerably, with industry-leading OLED tech coming in smaller sets than ever before.
The big question: what do you buy for that special someone?
We’ve rounded up the best gifts available spanning all manner of gadgets, from TVs to phone deals to games consoles and stocking fillers for kids. So peruse this list and get shopping. Of course, you could always pick up something for yourself while you’re at it...
Sony’s next-gen games console is this year’s hottest Christmas gift, the Buzz Lightyear figure of 2020. But everywhere’s sold out, making it harder to get hold of than one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets. Fear not, all hope is not lost.
StockX is an auction site a bit like eBay, mostly used by trainer aficionados looking to their fix of rare kicks. Now it’s home to a thriving market of PS5 resellers. You will pay over the odds (at time of writing, prices start around £700, about £250 more than the usual retail price), but it depends how badly you want one.
And you don’t have to worry about the receiving a battered, played-with PS5 in return for your massive outlay. StockX checks all items before they’re sent out, so you can guarantee what you’re getting is box fresh. Just like some trainers, as per the site’s intended use.
No joy there? EE customers have the option of buying a PS5 using the network’s Add to Plan service – this lets you add items like games consoles or home entertainment systems to your phone plan, and pay for the cost in interest-free instalments over 11 months. Both the PS5 and Xbox Series X are offered, though at time of writing both are sold out. Still, keep checking – you never know your luck!
Apple’s latest and greatest iPhone is one stellar handset, but it’s more affordable than you might think. This Sky Mobile deal gets you the phone with nothing to pay upfront, then £38 a month gets you 20GB of data and unlimited calls and texts.
Tempted? We don’t blame you. The iPhone 12 packs a 6.1-inch screen that uses OLED tech – this is a big step on from the LCD panel found in the iPhone 11. Because there’s no backlighting involved, OLED screens deliver truer black levels than rival technologies – instead of colouring a pixel an approximating of black (which is usually closer to grey), it just switches it off. Not only does it mean deeper, inkier blacks, it also enhances the colours and lighter parts of the image, making for a more immersive picture all round.
On the back is a dual camera set-up with both wide-angle and ultra-wide angle lenses. These are ideal for shooting landscapes, or for group shots where you want to fit in a lot of people.
Magsafe tech means accessories snap on using magnets. This means they stay in place, so you don’t have to worry about cases slipping off or wireless chargers not connecting properly.
5G comes as standard, so you can browse, download and stream at superfast speeds. And it comes in five snazzy colours. Certain to make anyone’s Christmas.
Get the iPhone 12 today
Amazon’s bestselling smart speaker has had a redesign. Gone is the hockey puck look – now it has a spherical shape that’s more like a bubble that’s popped up on your kitchen counter. But while it might have changed on the outside, it’s still largely the same inside.
Namely, Alexa is still on board. Amazon’s voice-activated personal assistant pricks up its ears as soon as you say its name. It can read you the news, traffic and weather reports, look up trivia answers, play music streaming services, set timers, control smart home appliances like your thermostat and lights, and much, much more. All you have to do is say.
The Dot is smaller and lighter than the standard Echo, meaning it’s easier to move from room to room. But if you want a fuller sound, pay a little more and go for the Echo instead.
Get the Amazon Echo Dot
Three’s deal on the Galaxy S20 gives you a whopping 100GB of data (which should be enough for even the most ardent of Netflix binge-watchers), and unlimited calls and texts for £41 a month. Even better, there’s nothing to pay upfront. Merry Christmas!
The S20 is one of the finest phones of the year. New features include 5G for quicker browsing, downloading and streaming (those binge-watchers will be happy), and a 120Hz display. This is double the refresh rate of most phones, and will render fast-moving action like gaming and sports much more lifelike with minimal blur.
The camera set-up has also been rejigged. It now has a triple-lens arrangement, comprising a 12-megapixel ultra-wide, 12-megapixel wide-angle and 64-megapixel telephoto lenses. Digital zoom has been boosted to 10x, it takes better snaps in low light, and you can now record video in 8K. Perfect for capturing Christmas dinner for posterity.
Get the Samsung Galaxy S20
Apple’s iPads don’t change drastically with each new generation, but the new iPad Air is a bigger departure than most. For starters, it comes in five colours, including rose gold, making for a much more eye-catching tablet. It has a new all-screen design with sculpted detail around the camera shutter. And the anti-reflective screen makes it easier to use in bright sunshine.
It has some new skills, too. For the first time, the Touch ID fingerprint sensor is built into the power/wake button on the top (it used to be found in the home button) for easier operation. USB-C now comes as standard on the iPad Air, making it compatible with modern accessories. And the cameras are a 7-megapixel front snapper with 1080p HD for video calls, and the same 12-megapixel rear camera as the iPad Pro, which supports 4K video with improved stabilisation.
Improvements all round, then. And considering the previous iPad Air was a true five-star product, this is something of a must buy.
Get the Apple iPad Air
OLED TV screens are absolute pinnacle of TV watching – there’s a reason the best smartphones use OLED panels instead of LCD. They have better contrast, better colours, and are just better all round. The downside? No one makes OLED TVs under 55 inches in size.
At least they didn’t use to. Sony wasn’t the first to make a 48-inch OLED TV (LG beat it to the punch), but its ‘small’ screen is the best offering for anyone with a more modestly-sized lounge.
The KD-48A9 is small all over, with narrow bezels and a low profile pedestal stand. But it puts in a big performance, thanks to its X1 Ultimate processor, which renders images in a stunning amount of detail. It comes with almost every streaming app under the sun (LG’s was missing some essentials on launch), and its motion control is industry leading. Good news for gamers, or fans of fast-moving sports.
Get the Sony KD-48A9 OLED TV
Retro gamers will get a real kick out of this Super Mario Bros Game & Watch. It was made to celebrate the 35th anniversary of Super Mario Bros, and includes the original game, Super Mario Bros: The Lost Levels, Ball (Mario version) and a digital clock.
Admittedly it’s more of a collector’s item than something you’ll whip out and play on the bus. But still, plenty of gamers will love having an authentic Game & Watch to treasure.
Get the Nintendo Game & Watch: Super Mario Bros
Affordable Mobiles’ deal on the Huawei P30 Pro gets you 25GB of data a month, along with unlimited calls and texts. And all for just £29 a month, with nothing to pay upfront.
The P30 Pro’s quad camera set-up is one of the most advanced around. Other highlights include a fingerprint sensor that’s built into the screen, premium design with super slim bezels, and a glorious 6.47-inch OLED screen. The notch that houses the front camera is small and unobtrusive, too, so doesn’t get in the way of what’s on screen.
If you’re looking for a phone that’s a little different to the Apple and Samsung herd, the P30 Pro is a great choice.
Get the Huawei P30 Pro
It’s true, the new MacBook Air is sexier, but if it’s a workhorse you’re after, something that’s going to see you through the next few months of working from home without breaking a sweat, this Dell is tough to beat.
It’s a real looker, too. Thanks to its InfinityEdge display, it’s virtually all screen, which puts the focus very much on what’s on screen. Which is exactly as it should be.
The 12-hour battery life will see you through all but the most torturous of working days, and there’s plenty of grunt under the bonnet. One to see you through Christmas, New Year, Easter and beyond.
Get the Dell XPS-13
Be honest, when offices do start reopening, you’re not going to want to cram onto public transport inhaling everyone’s germs. So why not commute the healthy way with an electric bike instead?
The Cowboy 3 is pedal assist – you can’t sit back and let it do all the work, but as soon as you pedal, the motor kicks in and gives you a little extra nudge. It feels like you don’t know your own strength. Not only will this get you where you’re going faster, you also won’t arrive a sweating, panting mess. Always a plus.
It’s really smart, too. You can unlock it with your phone, and the partner app has GPS onboard to work as a handlebar-mounted satnav. You’ll never get lost again.
Get the Cowboy 3 e-bike
If you’re shopping for the cyclist who has everything, how about these ace lights from Australian brand Knog? They’re the world’s first lights with a 330-degree field of view, meaning you’ll be seen from almost any angle imaginable.
They’re a doddle to use, too. A long press of the button turns the lights on and off, and a short press cycles through the various flashing modes. And with 320 lumens at the front light and 170 at the rear, you’ll be lit up like a Christmas tree on those dark winter evenings.
Knog Mid Cobber Twinpack
This is one of the new generation of iPhone accessories that use Apple’s MagSafe magnetic tech to snap into place. Just place it on the back and it’ll stay where it should be. But it’s more than just a case – there’s space on the back to hold your credit and debit cards too. Because with Apple Pay, Google Pay and the like, you really don’t need many physical cards at all.
It’s made – sorry, crafted – from specially tanned and finished French leather, giving it that reassuringly premium feel that you want from a wallet.
Get the iPhone Leather Wallet with MagSafe
If you fancy giving a young ‘un a smartwatch, but don’t fancy dropping hundreds on an Apple Watch, Neo is a cheaper and more fun alternative. It features a host of Disney characters, including Minnie Mouse, Darth Vader, Buzz Lightyear and The Child (aka Baby Yoda) – select one, and the whole theme of the smartwatch changes. Radiating positivity? Buzz is your guy. Bit moody? Maybe Darth should be your companion today.
But just because it’s for kids, that doesn’t mean it’s a mere toy. It’s a proper, bells and whistles smartwatch, complete with video calling, messaging, activity tracking and calendar and weather apps. Parents can get in on the action too, using the accompanying Vodafone Smart App to approve trusted contacts, manage screen time and keep tabs on where the little scamp has got to.
Admittedly it doesn’t go on sale until early next year, so the recipient won’t be unwrapping it under the tree come Crimbo day. But you can register your interest now and be first in line when they do go on sale.
Get the Neo smartwatch
True wireless earbuds have come on leaps and bounds of late. And the Apple AirPods certainly aren’t the only game in town. This stellar pair from Cambridge Audio are a fraction of the cost of a pair of AirPods, sound superb, and they thrash them in the battery life stakes, too. You get nine hours of run time from the buds themselves, plus an extra 36 from the carry case-cum-charger. That’s a total playing time of 45 hours before needing a plug socket. That’s nearly two days.
Because they’re a true wireless pair, there are no wires whatsoever, not even a cable connecting the buds to each other. Just careful you don’t lose one.
Get the Cambridge Audio Melomania 1
If the height of sophisticated gifts when you were young was a Bic 4-in-1 retractable biro... let’s just say toys have come on a bit. The Sphero Bolt is a programmable robotic ball that you control using an app on your phone. Not only do you build it yourself, you also learn coding through the app in order to programme it.
Not quite ready to start coding? You can just take it for a spin using the app instead. Probably more our pace – we’re still getting the hang of that Bic.
Get the Sphero Bolt
A Bluetooth speaker is a great addition to any house. The JBL Flip 5 is rugged (and weather-resistant) enough for use in a garden during a downpour-ridden barbecue, and sounds good enough to listen to by candlelight for date night.
It can stand horizontally or vertically, so will fit in no matter your surroundings, and the battery lasts 12 hours on a single charge. You can pair two to give stereo sound using a dedicated mode, or link multiple speakers to create quite a racket. Maybe not on date night.
Get the JBL Flip 5
One for the musician in your life, the Soundbrenner Core smartwatch has a built-in metronome that can buzz along on your wrist, helping you keep time whether you’re banging a bass drum or tinkling the ivories.
There’s a contact tuner onboard too, which will help you tune bass guitars, regular guitars, violins and ukuleles. And the decibel meter will warn you when sound levels reach earsplitting volumes.
Get the Soundbrenner Core
Streaming comes to pretty much any TV with this, the cheapest Fire TV streaming stick that Amazon makes.
It’s new for this year, and offers a stripped back experience compared to the pricier models. There’s no 4K resolution, for instance, and no Dolby Atmos sound tech. But you do get all the big apps, like BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, plus voice controls courtesy of Alexa. And all in a package cheaper than a night at Pizza Express.
Get the Amazon Fire TV Stick Lite
LEGO and Nintendo are a match made in toy heaven, so this collaboration will be manna to big kids of a certain age. This LEGO recreation of the 1980’s NES games console isn’t actually playable, unfortunately, but it is faithfully recreated down to the very littlest detail – there’s a Game Pak cartridge that actually slots into the console, a controller, and even a boxy 80s telly to play it on. And LEGO blocks perfectly suit the blocky graphics of the age.
You can actually press the buttons on the controller, and crank the handle on the TV to move Mario across the screen. If only you had to blow into the bottom of the game cartridge to get it working, the experience would be truly authentic.
Get the LEGO NES