Welcome to TechCrunch’s 2021 Christmas Gift Guide! Need help with gift ideas? We have lots of them. Check back between now and the end of December for more!
Less than two weeks until Christmas! Have you done your shopping? No? Yeah me neither.
Want to buy someone a great gadget but don’t want to break the bank? You have options! Below is a list of some of our favorite gadgets that (A) should get you in time for Christmas and (B) won’t cost you more than $100.
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Earlier this year Apple introduced the AirTag – a small puck-shaped widget that can be thrown in your pocket or attached to your keys to track their location. You know your bag is somewhere in the house but just can’t find it? Tap a button, let it beep.
And, well, these things are pretty good! I bought four expecting not to find a use for all of them, then pretty much immediately went back and bought four more. I put one in my wallet, one in my pool bag, one in my favorite jacket so I never lose it at a party, one in my car because I’m bad at parking, and more. The battery lasts a long time and is easily replaceable.
One catch: They really only work with iOS devices, so consider alternatives for Android users.
Price: one for $30 or four for $99
Apple didn’t invent the concept of fully wireless headphones with the AirPods — but they definitely helped blast the category.
A lot of competition has entered the market since then, much of which is worth checking out. Our very own Brian Heater checked out Nothing’s $99 Ear (1) buds (pictured above) and found them to be “solid”; Jabra’s Elite 3 wireless in-ear buds, on the other hand, are basic (don’t expect much in terms of noise-cancelling) but good.
If they specifically asked about AirPods, you’ll have to jump back a generation to get them for under $100. Gen 2 AirPods are still quite good, but compared to Gen 3, they have a different design, weaker battery life, no water resistance, and a few other key differences.
Price: Nothing Ear (1), $99| Jabra Elite 3, $80 at Amazon
Smart Hue bulbs
I started tinkering with smart Philips Hue bulbs a few years ago and they are slowly taking over my home. They’re a dead simple and relatively affordable way to add that touch to any room path fancier, allowing you to adjust the lighting (brightness, color, temperature, etc.) on the fly with your phone or, if you have smart speakers in your house, with your voice.
I have a dozen of these in my house now and they have been absolutely rock solid for years. Want more smart home gift ideas? Check out our smart home starter guide here.
Price: Three for $90 on Amazon
There are a million e-book readers out there… but for most people, and as much as it pains me, it’s hard to recommend anything over a Kindle. They are well built, polished and the process of getting a book on them is as easy as can be.
If you’re trying to stay under $100, the $75 base Kindle model will do the job. You won’t get the waterproofing or much brighter LEDs of the $140 Kindle Paperwhite or the $250 Kindle Oasis… but if you want a device that can carry around a million books at a time, with a battery that lasts for days / weeks, the base model checks all the boxes. If having ads on the home screen doesn’t seem like a big deal, they bring the price down to $55.
Price: $55 with ads or $75 without from Amazon
“This $99 device will help you make music without any prior knowledge,” writes Brian Heater.
Artiphon’s Orba is essentially a handheld/portable synth that offers a simple interface for throwing beats together on the go. Check out Brian’s hands-on here.
Price: $100 from Artiphone
Longer, better charging cables!
The charging cables that come with most phones aren’t great. They fall apart too quickly and are way too short—especially if you like looking at your phone in bed. Is It a Good Idea to Check Your Phone in Bed? nope! Do we all do it anyway? Yes!
Anker’s woven cables are a huge step forward. They’re nice and long (6-10 feet), come in Lightning or USB-C forms, and the woven nylon cable holds up path In my experience longer than the quickly fraying plastic of the supplied cables. I keep a few of these as storage containers and as gift replacements.
Price: Lightning cables, $20 for 2 from Amazon | USB-C cable, $16 for 2 from Amazon
Anker’s PowerCore Fusion
Speaking of anchors, I’m a big fan of their PowerCore Fusion backup battery.
It’s by no means the highest-capacity backup battery, but it does have a neat trick: it’s a wall charger and a backup battery, all in one. It charges your phone first and then its own internal 10,000mAh battery. So if you’re using it as a regular charger, you’ll never reach for your backup battery to find it’s dead, too. This thing has earned a forever spot in my travel bag and has saved my butt on multiple occasions.
Price: $50 from Amazon
I love streaming sticks. They’re ridiculously affordable for all the services they can cast to your TV (Netflix! Hulu! Paramount+! Disney+! HBO Max!) and are almost always far away far better than the apps built into most smart TVs.
I really like the Chromecast — both the standard $30 Chromecast and the $40 Chromecast with Google TV — because I mostly control my TV through apps on my phone. If you want 4K support, Apple TV+ support, or a remote control, go for the latter option.
Alternatively, Amazon’s Firestick range and Roku’s streaming sticks are all quite good.
Price: Chromecast, $30 | Chromecast with Google TV, $40 | Firestick 4K, $35 from Amazon
Basically a Google smart speaker with a display, the Nest Hub punches well above its weight. I put one in my kitchen about a year ago and now use it almost every time I cook — because I asked Google, “What temperature is medium rare?” For the 37th time starting timers without touching anything or play something from Hulu (pronounced “Bob’s Burgers.” Always “Bob’s Burgers”) when I’m making a recipe I’ve made a million times. Also, it’s on sale right now.
Price: $60 from Google, normally $100
I drove much less since the beginning of the pandemic. No commuting/less socializing will do that.
The unexpected side effect? My podcast listening time has dropped significantly. Turns out I really only listened to podcasts in the car or on the bus.
However, a few months ago I started listening to podcasts in the shower with one of these simple but solid JBL GO 2 waterproof speakers and I love it. It takes me about four showers to get through an episode I used to listen to in one go, but hey – I’m listening again!
I tend to just toss this speaker in my bag and take it with me everywhere; something I can’t say of the many, many Bluetooth speakers I’ve owned before. It’s small, feels indestructible, the battery life is good enough that I’m not concerned about it, and it’s loud enough to play music at a picnic without annoying everyone else in the park.
Price: $40 from Amazon
This thing turns the iPhone into a proper gaming device, and it feels path nicer than I would have guessed based on the price.
Extend the controller, plug in the iPhone, play. It’s my go-to device for Apple Arcade games (I’ve played way, way too much Sneaky Sasquatch with this thing) or for streaming PlayStation/Xbox games to my phone when I’m in another room.
Price: $99.99 from Backbone