The Nerds On Call 2020 Tech Gift Guide
As the holidays are upon us, it’s hard to imagine being more excited to see a year come to a close. 2020 has created a world of unique experiences and challenges, so this year’s tech gift guide is geared toward gadgets that can bring some joy to the stay-at-home experience and help connect distant loved ones. Oh, and we also give a nod to our ever present (be they loved or hated) mobile devices.
Hopefully there’s a gift suggestion for just about any nerd – and non-nerd – on your list.
Our main Nerd Ryan is (perhaps a little too) excited to play with the latest all-in-one VR headset, the Oculus Quest 2 VR($299). Gamers aged 13 or older – or anyone looking for a more engaging workout, movie or virtual travel experience – will be awed by the immersive environments created by virtual reality.
While some less expensive headsets work with a smartphone basically strapped to your face, they can’t hold a candle to the Oculus experience. The latest generation adds full-body interaction to allow for the addition of fitness games and classes, as well as environmental awareness when you leave a “safe circle” so you don’t have to worry about bumping into things in your home while you get into the game.
Star Wars fans can unlock a one-of-a-kind Jedi experience with Star Wars: Tales from the Galaxy’s Edge. This original storyline takes place between Star Wars: The Last Jedi and Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, letting you explore and extend the world of Batuu like never before.
Since you can’t go to the gym, Oculus Quest brings the workout to you with active apps and Games: FitXR ($30) has an interactive group class style. Games allow you to compete with other users online (no private friends-only room option yet), including boxing, dance and more. OhShape ($20) has you dodging obstacles, punching through walls and matching poses. These are just two of the various active games and apps available.
There are also a wide variety of travel and experience apps (since you can’t go there in real life): National Geographic Explore VR ($10) lets you visit Antarctica or Machu Piccu while Wander ($10) let’s you wander Google Earth street view and explore new places and revisit fond memories. You can even go with friends in VR.
Unlock virtual experiences (since you can’t go there either): MelodyVR lets you attend concerts in VR (from artists like Imagine Dragons & Bebe Rexha), while Venues creates virtual venues like movie theaters, concerts or comedy shows complete with other VR attendees from around the world to socialize with.
The pandemic has definitely highlighted how gross and germy our hands are – which carries over to the things we touch. Namely, our cellphones, keys and small electronics. But we can’t spray them down with lysol or dip them in hand sanitizer (PSA: for reals – don’t do that).
Instead, give you loved ones the gift of (safely) clean devices with the Mophie UV Sanitizer ($80). We got ours from Verizon where it retails for about $80. This small, desktop device uses UV lights to kill most common surface bacteria on your phone or small electronics (keys, remote controls and earbuds) without using damaging heat, liquid, or chemicals.
Four UV-C bulbs sanitize your phone, killing up to 99.99% of the most common bacteria
In just 5 minutes without loud buzzing or fans. Special bonus: there is even a wireless charging pad for Qi-enabled devices on top of the unit, so you can charge your phone while waiting for your keys to get sanitized.
We instantly fell in love with Aura’s Carver 10.1 Inch HD WiFi Smart Digital Picture Frame ($169). Not only are there a variety of beautiful frames to fit any style or decor preference, you can send photos to the frame directly from an app on your phone – so great for sharing photos with distant friends and family.
Adding photos to the frame wirelessly through the Aura app is a snap (haha, pun intended). Many digital frames require you to load photos onto a memory card housed in the unit. I don’t know how tech savvy your parents are, but my mom would never load more photos herself onto a frame like that.
While there are less expensive WiFi enabled digital frames on the market, most charge for cloud photo storage so you’ll be roped into a monthly fee for life to keep the frame loaded with photos. Not Aura frames: they include free unlimited storage!
You also have the ability to allow loved ones to send photos to your frame. Just send them an invite to install the app and give them permission to share to your frame. My favorite part? It lets you share with grandma the photos she wants without having to deal with social media drama to stay in touch on Instagram or Facebook!
Bonus: from plug in to photos on display takes about 5 minutes through the Aura app. It was one of the easiest tech gadget set-up processes I’ve experienced.
We all know that staying at home = staying glued to our handheld mobile devices. The Scosche Baselynx Modular Charger (starting at around $50) just does charging better.
Modular charging station means that you can customize this to accommodate all of YOUR devices, and create your own perfectly designed charging unit.
For example, if you have a Qi-enabled device that charges through a charging pad, you can purchase the wireless charging pad piece for $50 each. If you have an Apple watch you can buy the watch charging piece for $70. Lots of tablets or looking to charge your laptop? The vertical charging piece lets you stack and charge up to 3 items vertically.
Each piece can be used individually, or connected to additional charging pieces to create your family’s perfect charging station. Buy pieces individually, or you can get a pre-configured kit for $100 to $210 depending on the parts you want included.
Available in black or white, this lets you create a central charging station in your home when it’s time to unplug yourself (and your kids).
We can’t have a tech gift segment without including some stocking stuffers. And we couldn’t call ourselves nerds if we didn’t include something with “Mando” and Grogu (AKA “Baby Yoda”).
Presenting Verizon’s Otterbox Mandalorian Phone Case for iPhone 12 and iPhone SE versions. Priced at about $55 for this Verizon-exclusive design, you get the awesome of the Mandalorian without sacrificing reliable protection for your phone.
If you (gasp, I don’t even want to say it) are not a Mandalorian fan (shudder), these Speck BUILT by Girls Phone Cases start at $18 each and super cute with a great cause to boot.
BUILT BY GIRLS encourages young women to pursue careers in technology. “We Build our Own Table” was designed by Shannon L., 18, from New York, an aspiring creative technologist and UX designer. The cobalt blue cartoon drawn version was designed Dyllen N., 17, from California. She aspires to use her voice through design, tech and theatre to help elevate others and innovate for the social good.
Equally important to a cool design is that these cases can absorb shock and prevent damage from drops up to 13 feet.
Happy holidays from our nerdy family to yours!