Five good and simple last-minute gift ideas

From the obvious to the not-so-obvious, from the high-priced to the not-so-expensive

Technology trends and news by Ronny Kerr
December 21, 2010
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Let’s be honest. You probably shouldn’t be reading this article. Over the past few weeks, you’ve probably been so busy following the escalating drama of the Google/Groupon deal (and its denoument), reading about all those sweet location deals (from the comfort of your home), and vicariously experiencing the first ever Vator Splash in New York, that you’ve probably had no time at all to get any shopping done. You should be out shopping, not reading!

Well, in case you’re in a panic, here are five (some more obvious than others) amazing gifts that can still be shipped in time for Christmas and work for about anyone. I’ve purposely picked items in a whole bunch of price ranges because, as we all know, not all gift recipients are created equal.

iPadApple iPad

Is this that obvious? If so, then let its ubiquity be a tell-tale sign: anyone you get this for will probably be pretty happy with it. The iPad might be the easiest most foolproof gift you could get at the last minute, but this convenience comes at a hefty price: between $500 and $830, depending on capacity and whether you want a Wi-Fi only or Wi-Fi + 3G. (Just remember that if you choose Wi-Fi + 3G, you’re also gifting AT&T’s infamously crippled and not inexpensive service.) Don’t bother shopping around for an Android tablet because right now it really doesn’t get better than this. Though an iPad is probably not as essential as a powerful smartphone, we’re aiming for last-minute gifts simply meant to please, not intended to change lives.

Amazon Kindle 3G

If you are looking to change lives, however, the Amazon Kindle 3G is the way to go. For $189, you can give someone one of the best, if not the best, e-reading devices on the market, forever ridding them of the burden of carrying books around. It’s got a six-inch screen, battery life that lasts a month (with wireless turned off) and 3G service that’s completely paid for, making it a great choice for people that travel a lot. And it’s still possible to get it by December 24.

Kindle 3G

Photo products

Everyone’s at least a little sentimental, right? Try building a cool photo product on Snapfish. You’ll have to put in a little creative effort, deciding on what kind of product you want--calendars, photo books, etc.--and which photos to include, but the final effort reflects your personalization in the best possible way. (By the way, moms and girlfriends, in particular, melt for this kind of stuff.) If you’re bargain hunting, check out the Merry Deal Reveal, a deal-of-the-day promotion currently running on Snapfish; today’s deal, for example, is for 8”x10” prints priced at just $1 with the coupon code “1221MERRY.” Pretty amazing.

SkyDanceGrouponicus holiday deals

This is my personal favorite. Maybe it’s because I really just want someone to spend $99 ($169 value) to buy me a tandem skydiving experience, something I’ve always wanted to do. Grouponicus is the holiday spin-off of Groupon, posting several cool holiday gift ideas that, uncharacteristically for Groupon, last for several days on the site. There’s really something for everyone and at many different price ranges: $55 for 18 holes of golf ($110 value), $13 for a one-year subscription to ESPN Magazine ($40 value), $25 for a customized 20”x30” photo print ($90 value). (Note: these are all the deals for San Francisco area. Deals vary by area.) Some of these gifts are so good, you’ll probably end up buying one for yourself.

Gift cards

What a cop-out, I know. But really, giving gift cards shouldn’t be so bad as it once was, as long as it’s done right. For example, anyone that owns any sort of iOS device--iPad, iPhone, etc.--will love an iTunes gift card because they can use it to purchase, not just music and movies, but also apps. And we all love shopping for apps. Similarly, if you forgot to get minor gifts for all those nieces and nephews, be the one cool adult and post their personalized Amazon gift card to their Facebook wall. There’s really very little missing from the biggest online retailer, so I don’t think anyone will complain about an Amazon gift card.

Disclaimer: these are just ideas. Responsibility for any failed gift giving efforts falls solely on the one giving the gifts. If all else fails, write on a blank piece of paper the following: "one hour free tech support" and my email underneath. I'll help you out.