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Top 10 Christmas gadget gifts of 2015

christmas presents

Stuck for gift ideas for that gadget-fixated special someone? From pocket-friendly stocking fillers to the shiniest smartphones, here's our pick of Christmas 2015 most-wanted gadgets.

1) Sphero BB-8 Star Wars (£130 RRP)

This year, as surely as 'fear leads to anger and anger leads to hate', the number-one slot in the Xmas 2015 movie chart belongs to Star Wars. That the BB-8 sphero is sitting pretty in the top spot in this rundown too is just as inevitable.

A massive hit on social media as soon as it rolled into view, the BB-8 sphero blends spell-binding kineticism and a charming vocab of whimsical electronic wibbles. Which means it feels closer to an actual movie prop or lavish special effect than a toy.

It's controlled by your smartphone, via a dedicated BB-8 app, or with voice commands. And as with earlier-build Astromech droids (R2-D2, we're looking at you), it can create and send holographic messages to your friends too.

Want one? The bad news is that huge demand means you're unlikely to pick one up cheap from the Jawas' dodgy used-droid market. But it's currently on offer from Amazon for £130 or so. Snap it up before eBay hucksters and opportunistic secondary-market sellers send prices sky-high.

Track it down here: BB-8 Sphero

2) Lego Dimensions (£80 RRP)

lego dimensions

Sure, there's been the odd ‘sexist’ catcall directed at Lego's Friends range. And there've been a few complaints that all those heavy-weaponry-fixated movie tie-in are a betrayal of Lego's original, peacenik spirit. But in 2015 it's actually really hard to find anyone who doesn’t love Lego.

Like the huge-selling Skylanders game, Lego Dimensions combines a PlayStation or Xbox game with a range of toys, which come to life as playable characters on your screen. The effect is like those childhood dreams/fancies in which, the minute your back is turned, you imagine your toys spring into action and interact with each other.

Perhaps the best thing about Lego Dimensions is that it fulfills every geeky fanboys' fantasy of allowing you to mix and match characters from Lego universes of Lord of the Rings, Marvel, D.C. and Lego's own Ninjago line. And find out once and for all who'd win in a fight between Batman and Spiderman.

The only downside is that legal wrangles mean that Star Wars minifigures aren’t compatible.

Track it down here: Lego Dimensions Starter Pack

3) iPhone 6S (From £459 or £35 per month on contract)

iPhone 6s on wood

The 6S gives lie to the idea that so-called ‘S release’ iPhones are minor upgrades of last year's model. 2015's Apple handset ushered in nothing short of a brand new way of interacting with your phone. And went to some way to deflecting claims that innovation in smartphones is an increasingly hard to come by.

It owes that exalted rep to 3D Touch technology, which detects how hard you press the screen and delivers 'pop-up' mini menus with shortcuts to key features.

It also lets you preview content and sites, with a ‘snapshot’ feature so you can decide whether you really want to open a link you’ve been sent. And you can do all this without leaving the app you’re using at the time.

Team 3D Touch with a beefier construction, better battery life and lush 4K video recording and it's easy to overlook the disappointment that the phone is actually marginally heavier than last year’s model and looks identical.

Track it down here: iPhone 6S

4) Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge (£499 off-contract RRP. Or free from £26 per month)

samsung galaxy s6 edge

The S6 Edge, or more specifically its secondary screen that lights up with colour-codes notifications, was maligned in some quarters as a pointless novelty.

Not in these parts, though. The S6 variant was a huge hit with the most tech-savvy staff at uSwitch, who loved its “genuinely arresting design, great camera and luxury look and feel”. Others were even more immodest in their admiration, dubbing it 'tomorrow's smartphone, today'. High praise indeed.

Track it down here: Samsung Galaxy S6

5) EDF HeatSmart designed by Philip Starck (£169)

Someone much smarter than me once recommended that you should “have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful”. The HeartSmart smart thermostat actually has a claim to be both.

Overseen by French design doyen Philip Starck, the HeartSmart smart thermostat can be controlled remotely via your smartphone or with a battery-operated remote in your home.

It also lets you set schedules, so you've got total control over your heating. And features a frost guard function that turns your boiler on to a minimum level, so the pipes won’t freeze up.

The downside is that the HeatSmart, which is available whichever energy supplier you’re with, can’t control your water. That’s a surprising omission given that rival devices offer that function. But those devices don't look anything like as good as the HeatSmart.

Track it down here: EDF HeatSmart

6) Rocket 2 Wheel Hoverboard / Swegway (£499 RRP)

Whatever the product description suggests, so-called 'hoverboards' don't actually hover. So your Marty McFly fantasies will just have to remain fantasies. For now.

But swegways, to give them their alternative, more 'street' name, still feel like they've been beamed in from the future. Albeit a Judge Dredd-style dystopian future where swollen, obese humans rely on motorised platforms for short trips to the corner shop.

That's not to say we don't like swegways. They're loads of fun. And once you've got the hang of tilting to control your speed and direction, it feels like there's strange Pacific Rim-style man-machine mind-meld going on.

The MonoRover 2 is easy to get to grips with (you'll be competent in ten minutes or so), and has been well reviewed by tech press and punters alike. And at £300, is pretty keenly priced.

Now de-rigeur among big-city kids, Swegways are banned from pavements in the UK. But all that's done is burnish their outlaw appeal.

Track it down here: Rocket 2 Wheel Hoverboard.

7 Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker and Sleep Wristband (£80 RRP)


Unlike some so-called 'quantified self' apps, the Fitbit Flex band doesn't overload you with fitness data. It restricts itself to tracking steps taken, calories expended and the amount of hours of sleep you're getting.

That's not ideal if you're eyeing a sub-three hour marathon or take your fitness as seriously as a second job. But it's just right if you want to achieve their recommended 10,000 steps per day. Or shift a bit of timber from around the waist.

Track it down here: Fitbit Flex Wireless Activity Tracker

8 GoPro HERO4 Camera - Adventure Edition (£329 RRP)

go pro 4

This ace body-mounted action camera offers lush 4K video recording, a range of neat HD slo-mo options and a touchscreen. It also features low-light and night-photo modes and takes still images with a 12 megapixel lens.

Ideally, there'd be some means of watching footage you've just captured. But given that you're getting an awful lot of camera for the sort of outlay you'd normally expect for an entry-level SLR, that's no-one's idea of a deal-breaker.

Track it down here: GoPro Hero4 - Adventure Edition

9 Google Chromecast 2 (£30 RRP)

google chromecast 2

Like the first Chromecast, this lets you stream content from your tablet, smartphone or laptop to a TV screen, using your smartphone (it's compatible with Android and iPhone) as a remote control.

This time around, though, it's faster for better streaming and doubles as a games console too. And it runs apps, effectively turning old-school TVs into modish smart TVs. At £30, it's a snip.

Track it down here: Google Chromecast 2

10 Withings Activité Pop Smart Watch and Activity Tracker (£120 RRP)

Withings Activité Pop Smart Watch

With a look and feel that's distinctly analogue, the best-looking smartwatch by some distance is the one that doesn't look like a smartwatch at all.

But it's still smarter than the average watch. It tracks steps, as well as distance travelled in your runs and lengths at the swimming pool. It measures sleep and counts calories burned too. And syncs easily to your phone.

The Activitie Pop also breaks with form for smartwatches when it comes to battery life. Where most of the competition struggle to last a day on a full charge, this gives you eight months' of use before it'll need juicing up again.

Track it down here: Withings Activité Pop Smart Watch

Category: Features
Tagged: apple, android

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