Black Friday 2015 Gift Guide: Hottest Gadgets & Tech This Holiday Season
It's almost that time again: Black Friday 2015, when Americans wait in the cold after Thanksgiving to get the best deals on gifts for the holiday season, is approaching fast.
But before spending time in line or online, it helps to know what's hot in tech in 2015. Here's a guide to some of the best gadgets you can get your loved ones (or yourself) when Black Friday rolls around.
BB-8 by Sphero:
The Must-Have Star Wars Toy
This holiday season is unlike any other in years, because 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' is being released right in the middle of it. And that means Star Wars mania, which means someone on your shopping list is definitely going to want the BB-8, the cute soccer ball droid to be featured in Star Wars Episode VII this year.
The BB-8 by Sphero is an excellent toy version of the little bouncing droid you've seen in the Star Wars trailers, since it's not just a piece of memorabilia or an inanimate toy: BB-8 is a fully-functioning, app-enabled (iOS and Android), remote controlled droid.
But it's even more than that, as BB-8 features an "adaptive personality" as Sphero puts it. That means BB-8 has a fully autonomous mode and it will evolve its actions and "attitude" to better fit your style the more you interact with it. It also features wireless, inductive charging, a one-hour battery life, and the ability to respond to voice commands.
The BB-8 sells for about $150. You can get it from Sphero's site, Apple Store retail locations, and at Best Buy.
Roku SE, 2, 3, 4, or Stick:
Streaming at Any Price Point
If someone on your list is looking to get streaming video going in their living rooms, Roku has friendly, versatile, and easy-to-use streaming gadgets in any size -- and every price point.
The priciest Roku, the recently released Roku 4, costs $130 on Roku's site and at big retail stores like Best Buy and Walmart. It's 4K Ultra HD ready and works with 1080p HDTVs as well, and comes with an enhanced remote for voice search, gaming, or quiet listening through the remote's headphone jack.
The Roku 3, also a 2015 release, brings those same features, minus the 4K HD capability. At about $100, it's a great purchase for someone who doesn't already have a 4K TV and was naughty enough that they won't get one this year. You can get the 2015-updated Roku 2 for about $70, if your intended gift recipient isn't interested in gaming or the headphone jack on the remote.
At the $50 price point, you can get a Roku Streaming stick, which mounts to the back of the HDTV and offers the same interface, apps, and remote as the Roku 2, minus the ability to stream content from a connected USB thumbstick drive and the Ethernet port.
Finally, the rock-bottom price of the new Roku SE, about $25, makes it easy to give the gift of streaming even as a stocking stuffer. It's a limited-supply offering starting on Black Friday, and is backwards-compatible with older TVs with composite (three-color RCA) plugs. But it still works with 1080p streaming through its HDMI port, just in case Grandma or Grandpa get a new HDTV on the same day you give them this basic streaming box.
UE Boom 2
Bluetooth Speakers Designed to Last
The worst thing about Bluetooth speakers is that, while most are designed to be portable, it's easy to accidentally leave your speaker in a situation where it gets damaged -- either by the pool, in a backpack, or simply outside. If that happens (and it happens a lot), that's money wasted.
The UE Boom 2 portable Bluetooth speaker by Ultimate Ears is a little expensive, at a $200 price point, but it's an investment that will last a long time. That's because, unlike most speakers you can pick up for cheaper in stores, the UE Boom 2 is IPX7-rated.
For non-techies, that means you can drop the speaker in up to three feet of water for 30 minutes and it won't be ruined. A 15-hour battery life, 100 foot Bluetooth range, and shock-proof design are all bonuses, as is Ultimate Ears' reputation for making great sounding, powerful portable speakers.