2019 Holiday Tech Gift Guide

With the holiday’s right around the corner, it’s high time that we all need to start thinking about the gifts that we will be getting our friends and family, and with the next decade also coming up, it just feels fitting to get people some technology to add into their collections of smart devices. Tech gifts are often well received because of how much we all incorporate digital devices into our everyday life. It makes navigating throughout the world and it’s everyday stresses a lot more manageable, so this year, get your loved ones something that will help them manage their life a little more easily. 

A standard for tech gift giving is a good speaker system. Music and entertainment is how most of us enjoy unwinding, and more times than not is always playing the backgrounds of our day to day lives, so why not get a quality speaker to enjoy those moments to the best of their ability. One of the most popular brands for speakers on the market today is Sonos. Sonos has a myriad of options for anybody to enjoy. These speakers are bluetooth and battery powered, making them completely portable and easy to manage. If you purchase multiple Sonos speakers, you can connect to them all on the official Sonos app on your mobile device. This means you’ll have complete control over your entire home speaker system, all from your phone. So you can play one song in the living room while guests sit by the fire, and another in the kitchen while you cook your holiday turkey. Sonos speakers are available on the official Sonos website, as well as Amazon. They range in price, and do tend to lean more towards the pricier size, however, these speakers are the epitome of “you get what you pay for” in terms of advanced speaker technology. 

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Amazon also has it’s now iconic line of Alexa-powered Echo systems. There’s a vast range of Echo products, all of which range in prices, so if you want to spend a little less, you can buy an echo dot for your niece, and spend no more than $50, and the more interactive Echo Show, which has a tablet like presence, but will only cost you $80.  What’s great about the Alexa systems is that you can connect them to any smart products that you buy from Amazon, which includes plugs, light-bulbs, doorbell cameras, and more! This way, you’re able to turn off the lights upstairs and set a timer for 30 minutes, all without having to leave the couch. Browse through the many options, which also now include an Echo Glow speaker, perfect for any younger child in the family, and find the next best Smart home device for your loved ones. 

Speaking of smart homes and lighting, Philips has been a powerhouse for home lighting for years, and now, they’re dipping their toe into the Smart Home world with their brand “Philips Hue” the popular light-bulb brand that you control from your phone. Hue light-bulbs are typically much more pricier, due to the advanced technology, but also make a great gift. The newest release from Philips Hue, however, is a vintage style light-bulb that you can control either via app, or voice control, for the price of $25 per bulb. Hue also has starter kits from their original collection that is priced at $200 for a total of four bulbs and base outlet station. These light-bulbs are great for setting the mood for any occasion, whether it be a fun birthday party, or romantic dinner for two. With your hands full you can simply say “lights on blue” and you’re transported to an underwater paradise, right in your living room.

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Apple is no stranger to being one of the world’s top developers for smart technology, and this holiday season they have a whole bunch of products that would be great for any member of the family. They just released their next generation of smart watches and wristbands. As one of the original wearable tech experts, Apple’s smart watches are the perfect gift if you know anyone who’s constantly moving, to the point that even checking their phones becomes busy work. This way, they can just look at their wrist and quickly go through any emails, texts, or reminders that their phone is notifying them for. Additionally, one of the more popular Christmas gifts every year is Apple’s AirPods, and now Apple has released AirPods Pro, with noise cancelling technology, perfect for any commuters you know who dread the sound of buzzing cities and mass public transit. 

Apple also just released their next generation of iPhone, and while you may be thinking of a new phone is a pretty expensive gift, there’s a lot of parents out there who view Christmas as the perfect opportunity to upgrade their family lines. Apple also is now offering a bunch of trade in programs, which means you can get up to $300 off a new iPhone when you trade in your old one! Definitely worth it for anyone who’s constantly wanting to get the next best thing. 

Regardless of the smart gift, there’s plenty of options set at a variety of prices, making tech gift giving one of the easiest and smartest ways to get your holiday shopping done this season. 

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Amazon Alexa To Be Integrated In New Smart Glasses, Earbuds, And Rings

Amazon hosted a huge hardware/media event this week where they announced a whole bundle of new products. Is it any surprise that the star of the show was a lovely lady named Alexa?

The Amazon Echo family grew quite a bit this week as the companies attempt to give you the most access to its smart AI technology also grows. The company’s goal is to get as many devices in the home as possible, essentially turning everything into an Amazon smart home. 

Amazon first announced updates to it’s larger speaker collections releasing the Echo Speaker Generation 3, and the brand new Echo Studio, which is a large speaker meant to compete with brands like Sonos and Apple’s now popular HomePod. This is meant to be the company’s first ever “high end” speaker delivering 3D audio! A new feature in modern speaker technology that is meant to have music fill a room in the same way a stadium distributes noise during a concert. With the Echo Studio you’ll be able to ask Alexa to play all of your favorite songs in 3D audio, bringing the concert experience to your living room. The Echo Studio will be released November 3rd, but is currently available for pre-order and retails for $200.

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The Echo Speaker Generation 3 may not offer the same 3D audio technology, but does promise to deliver improved crystal clear audio thanks to a collaboration between Amazon and Dolby. If you’re looking for a large quality speaker but don’t want to break the bank as much, this could be the option for you. The Echo Speaker Generation 3 is also currently available to pre-order, and will begin shipping out October 16th for $100. 

The Echo Show also got a fresh new upgrade with a much larger eight inch screen compared to last generations five inch display. The Show retails for $130, and is currently available for pre-order to be shipped out on November 21st. Amazon also announced two cheaper Echo devices known as the Echo Glow, which can connect to any Alexa enabled device and can be set to change colors, set alarms, play music and strobe to the beat, and set timers. The Glow retails for $30 and will be shipped out on the 20th. Echo Flex is a small white box that you plug directly into a wall socket and boom! You have a mini Echo speaker directly plugged into an outlet. The speaker retails for $30, so the quality probably won’t compare to the new Amazon Studio’s 3D sound, but your wallet will surely thank you.

The Echo Dot got a make over for its third generation and is now known as the Echo Dot Clock, commemorating the digital time display on the speaker. The display can also be set to show alarms, timers and the temperature. This upgrade will be available on October 16th, and for pre-order, and retails for $60.

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All new Amazon Ring devices were also announced this week. Ring devices are all Alexa enabled, of course, and are specifically meant for home security purposes. Many updates were added to their security camera systems such as the Ring Stick Up Cam, which features images captured in 1080p to any of your house devices, which now retails at $100, which is much cheaper than last years model. The Ring Stick Up Elite Cam also got an upgrade with faster Ethernet processing speeds, and better quality cameras. The Elite will retail for $200, both will be available on October 23rd, but again are available for pre-order.

Amazon also announced it’s newest WiFi innovation, the Echo Eero. For $100 and currently available to pre-order, the Eero devices work on a mesh system. Mesh WiFi systems are becoming highly popularized, as they ensure that you’re WiFi router is sending signals to every room in the home. You can buy a bundle of 3 for $250 as well to ensure the fastest internet speeds possible. The Eero devices are also Alexa capable.

In an even larger attempt to get into every part of your home, Amazon has announced Alexa powered ovens, to go with your Alexa microwaves of course. While an Alexa oven doesn’t mean you’ll be able to speak to your oven like any other Echo device, it does connect to any other Echo device in the home, so you’re able to check on meals, preheat, set timers, etc. all without having to get up. These new smart kitchen appliances will be available on November 14th, but once again, of course you can pre-order.

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Finally, and arguably more significantly, Amazon released a new line of personal accessories that are all Alexa enabled. First, the long awaited Echo wireless earbuds have been announced. The tech community was waiting to see if Amazon would release a competitor to Apple’s popular Airpods, as normally Amazon releases similar technology to Apple but at a more desirable price point. The earbuds promise high end sound quality and combined Bose noise-cancelling technology as well. They also included an “ambient sound” mode, that would allow a user to be more aware of their surroundings. The earbuds should last for five hours on a single charge, and the case can charge them up to three times fully. They will cost $130 and are available to pre-order and ship out October 30th.

Amazon is also starting a new exclusive program known as the “Day 1 Edition” pilot program. The program is available only by invitation and if you want any shot at trying the next two devices you’ll need to get your hands on one. Luckily, you can apply on Amazon’s website, or by clicking here.

The first product being offered to this exclusive program are Amazon’s new smart glasses! No these won’t work like Virtual Reality video games, there are no holograms or displays on the lenses, which is the main reason they’re being advertised as having an all day battery life.

Amazon said in a statement that “They basically work like an audio smartwatch, reading your notifications out loud and allowing you to ask Alexa questions. They even support optional access to the Google Assistant. But the microphones can also be turned off when you want some extra privacy.”

The glasses will retail for $180 for those lucky enough to get into the Day 1 Edition program. Those individuals will also have access to the new Echo Loop! A new Amazon ring accessory, that also essentially works like a smart watch, but smaller! The $130 accessory has an action button that you press and can use to hear the weather, reminders, information regarding reservations, and basically anything else you would ask Alexa to do, you can even make short phone calls. Overall, Amazon has showed that they’re not going anywhere, and are ready for you to meet Alexa in her most advanced form yet!

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Amazon Continues To Build Market In India By Teaching Alexa Hindi

Amazon and Jeff Bezos alike have been working since 2014 to expand their market in India. The country has over half a billion potential internet users that Amazon has already started infiltrating. Just recently the company opened its largest office headquarters in Hyderabad, India’s business district. The building made headlines for its massive size, taking up 9 acres of land, and for the job market expansion it’s bringing in.  

Now, Amazon has taken another step to expand its Indian market by finalizing the technology to get their Amazon Alexa speakers to speak Hindi. The devices can now speak and understand the language which is spoken by about 530 million individuals living in India, according to its 2018 census. In addition to every Amazon Alexa device, some second party speakers that are powered by Alexa voice-assist will also be able to speak the language, as well as “Hinglish” which is a hybrid of both Hindi and English. Hinglish is said to be spoken widely across the country. 

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Amazon’s Newest Headquarters In Hyderabad, India

Experts with Amazon have been working with multiple tech developers in India in order to gain the technology to teach the Alexa hardware how to speak the complex language. Specifically the company has been focusing on working with Hindi voice app developers for around two months, where they’ve conducted workshops to “teach” the devices how to “speak” new languages. 

Amazon is already aware of the 600 million internet users in the country, they’re already clearly making multiple business decisions to appease to those current users. However, their biggest goal is to expand their market to reach the additional 700 million individuals in the country who have never even been on the internet. Language is the overlying code that needs to be cracked, India has citizens that speak over twenty languages in a hundred different dialects. Creating technology that can accommodate to any version of any language is what tech developers are working on globally, especially in Asia. 

The Asian Internet market is the most lucrative due to the densely saturated populations within every country. However, the diversity in population means a multitude of languages, meaning technology is needed that can work with those languages, this is especially apparent in India. 

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A Few Of The Newest Amazon Alexa Powered Devices

“India is somewhat unique in the degree to which multilinguality is expressed. Diversity in India is expressed to an extent that one does not see anywhere else. It’s very resistant to standardization of anything.” Prem Natarajan, an Alexa vice president heading the effort to teach the voice assistant new languages, told CNN Business.

Amazon has already introduced a Hindi language setting on its mobile app, pushing itself ahead of the curve in India compared to other tech companies. According to CNN, by 2021 India will have three times the amount of people accessing the internet in their own specific language, compared to those in the country using English. 

Amazon has already invested up to $5 billion in India alone, a majority of which went to their new headquarters, all in a greater effort to continue to expand and grow their market in India. “India is important to us, and I think it’s fair to expect us to continue working towards demonstrating that sort of importance and maximizing utility to the Indian user base,” Natarajan said.