Taking care of Christmas for the gadget guru in your life isn't easy. They tend to want a lot more than their two front teeth. They want 'shiny'. They want 'new'. They want postcards from tech's cutting-edge. And they want it all now.
Our handy guide to the year's coolest gadgets takes in cheapie stocking fillers, handsets that put the 'art' in smartphones and goofy gifts. Read on for the gen...
1 My KeepOn
Back in the ‘90s Flat Eric and his gonzo dance to Mr Oizo’s Flatbeat helped Levi's shift warehouses full of denim. Ten years later and his indefatigable zeal, groovy manoeuvres and yellow-y tint have resurfaced in KeepOn.
Originally conceived by a team of boffins as a $30,000 robot to help study social interaction, the KeepOn you’ll be buying isn’t quite as jaw-dropping as the one you may have seen in myriad YouTube videos. Cost constraints (this model is a snip at £50) saw to that.
But thanks to advanced beat-sensing technology, he still displays an instinct for rhythm to shame James Brown. And when he’s tired you out with his raving, you can switch on a downtime mode and your robo-companion will react to touches, taps and tickles. He is, frankly, rather adorable.
2 Samsung Galaxy Nexus
The year’s most anticipated Android phone teams the latest Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) version of Google’s platform with a 4.65-inch Super AMOLED HD display of the kind that helped the Galaxy S2 to such a hit, a five-megapixel camera, a secondary front-facing snapper and a 1.2GHz dual core processor.
But it’s the functions that are exclusive to ICS that float our boat. Not least the Android Beam feature that lets you share content simply by tapping your Galaxy Nexus with another Near Field Communications-enabled kit.
Better still, though, is the none-cooler Face Unlock security lock, which uses face detection technology to keep your handset and personal details out the hands of sticky-fingered imps.
You also get the vanilla version of Android, that won’t be tainted by custom user interfaces such as HTC Sense that too often hold up the arrival of OS updates. That means you can look forward to tasty future operating system bumps just as soon Google announces them in time-honoured style with a snack-themed statue on the lawn of its Cali HQ.
MiFis create a localised 3G Wi-Fi signal within a five metre radius, which you can share with multiple web-enabled devices simultaneously. Three’s isn’t the only one on the market. But it’s the best by some margin.
Because it features HSPA+ technology it can deliver maximum connection speeds of up to 21.6Mbps. Even if realistically you’re not going to get near that too often. But we averaged speeds of up to 8Mb, which still knocks spots off its rivals.
Sweetening the deal is that the Huawei E586 features a slot for a microSD card, which supports up to 32GB of storage space, allowing you to use the Mi-Fi as a flash drive, too.
Granted, this looks like little more than one of those Super Soaker water pistols favoured by US jocks getting ker-azy and part-ay perverted on the beach during Spring Break. But it’s nothing as lunk-headed as that.
AppBlaster is actually a smart iPhone peripheral teamed an augmented reality shoot ‘em up Alien Attack. As is the way with these things, you’re tasked with facing down wave upon wave of Mekon-style extra-terrestrials who, thanks to the handset’s camera, appear to be colonising your immediate surroundings. Select the 360 mode and they’ll even creep up behind you, so you’ll have to keep ‘em peeled and then spin around Apocalypse Now-style to terminate them with extreme prejudice.
5 iPhone 4S
Apple’s fifth-generation handset is touted as the best iPhone yet – so far, so typical of a company who’ve never knowingly undersold one of their products. Thing is: although there is a case to be made that it’s little more than an iterative update from predecessor, that’s still enough to make it a pretty stellar bit of kit.
The eight-megapixel camera outperforms even the 12-megapixel lenses we’ve seen on other smartphones and might just be the best snapper on a phone out there. Siri is a blast to use and will be genuinely useful once Apple gets around to adding navigation/route-finding functionality for the UK. And the sinewy dual core processor, HSPA+ connectivity and all-new version of the phone’s iOS software make for a smartphone experience with genuine kick about it.
The latest instalment of the PSOne favourite features a very familiar blend of runny, jumpy platform action and RPG strategy. The twist this time around, though, is that it comes with a set of action figures and a special board. When placed on said platform, the figures come to life in the game.
Naturally, in a Pokemon ‘gotta catch ‘em all’ style there are lots of characters to collect. But suspend your cynicism about the creators’ intent to fleece ver kids. Watching a wee one see their favourite figure spring into action in the game is actually a bit magical. After all, what child hasn’t dreamt of their toys having a will of their own a la Bagpuss the minute their back is turned?
7 Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3
Infinity Ward’s first-person behemoth is a glorious orgy of fragging and lavish set-pieces. As well as the kind of embarrassing dialogue that recently got the Graun’s Charlie Brooker even more violently het-up than usual.
But for all it's hokeyness, it’s also genuinely pulse-quickening and epic in execution and scale. And it’s unlikely that anyone has ever taken a copy of the series back to a branch of [insert preferred games retailer] demanding a refund from the till monkey because “the characters were unconvincing" and "there wasn’t enough exploration of the hero’s motivation”.
8 HTC Explorer
£190 on pay as you go gets Android 2.3.5 - aka Gingerbread, tons of apps to choose from and plenty of home screens to customise with widgets, shortcuts and whathaveyou. For young teens or anyone looking to make the step up from the feature phone backwater to the smartphone big leagues, HTC’s wallet-friendly handset is the just the ticket.
High gloss, minimum loss and ace sound even when connecting over Bluetooth come together in these prize-winning cans from the House of Dre.
Currently exclusive to the US, they’re not cheap at $279. And you’ll probably have to pay import costs on top of that, too. But if you're a music addict and have the spare cash lying around, they’re totally worth it.
10 Copycat Portable Scanner
Everything you could want to read is on the web right? Wrong. Even in 2011, there are still print magazine articles and books a-plenty that never make their way over to the internets (CF: all features in the Guardian Saturday colour supplement, funny little music and football ‘zines, short stories in magazines etc).
The Copycat Portable Scanner gets around that. Just swipe it across the page you want to capture and it converts a magazine or book page in seconds and then saves the text and images therein to the on board 32GB microSD card.
You can then transfer them to your computer and you’re good to go. Handily, it also converts text images to editable text in Word, Excel or Clipboard so you can tinker to your heart’s content.