Technology has totally changed the lives of teenagers and students in this generation, both for the good and the bad. There are apps and products that dramatically make our lives easier and more efficient, but also things that kill our productivity. I’m generally more favorable to the latter of those two, but I’ll breakdown the best of both worlds and exactly what gift the teens and students in your life today might be interested in this holiday season.
Sylvania HomeKit Light Strip
Of course, you can’t go wrong purchasing a teen an iTunes Gift Card, and we’ve seen some great deals on those so far this holiday season. For more deals on gift cards (and all products) keep an eye on 9to5Toys.com. If you want to get a little more personal, however, you can gift them specific apps via the App Store, or even buy them some tech hardware that you know they’ll love and be able to put to use in school and on the weekends. No matter which route you decide to take year, I’ve listed some of the best apps and hardware for your loving and caring teen below.
As someone who doesn’t like to read and always dreads hearing a teacher or professor announce the latest book we’re supposed to read in class, I was always very hesitant to get any sort of Kindle product. Earlier this year, however, I finally broke down and pulled the trigger on a Kindle Paperwhite, and surprisingly, it turned even someone like me into a reader.
The Kindle Paperwhite features a backlit display, meaning you can read it even in the dark and still avoid the dreaded eyestrain that you’ll experience when reading on a tablet. One of my favorite features of the device is the built in dictionary. If you’re reading along and come to a word that you don’t recognize, you can simply tap on the word and be presented with a detailed definition.
The Kindle Paperwhite starts $119 for the WiFi-only model with special offers (ads on the lock screen). Without special offers, the WiFi-only model runs $139. For built-in 3G, you’re looking at $189 with special offers and $209 without.
Tylt Energi Backpack + Battery
With smartphones becoming a more and more important variable in classrooms everywhere, making it through the day on a single charge can be a challenge. Finding an outlet in lecture halls and classrooms can also be a huge pain, so that’s where the Tylt Energi Backpack comes into play. On the outside, the Energi Backpack looks like any other backpack, but it gets interesting when you open it up.
On the inside of the Tylt Energi Backpack are two USB ports with 1Amp support for charging phones and tablets. From the central power compartment in the backpack, you can run charging cables to any of the 6 storage areas and even outside of the backpack. This means that you can be charging and using your phone while wearing the backpack, all at the same time. The Tylt doesn’t lack storage space either, with over 1,450 cubic inches of space and dedicated laptop and tablet compartments. I use the Tylt Energi backpack everyday and love not having to worry about my phone dying in the middle of class or having to fight for an outlet.
The Tylt Energi Backpack + Battery costs $129.99 on Amazon, and while it seems expensive, it’s worth every penny to that student your shopping for this holiday season. A more affordable alternative is the Powerbag Instant Messenger Laptop Bag, which I also use, and costs $67.75 on Amazon.
Acer C720 Chromebook
If your favorite student is still without their own laptop this holiday season, the Chromebook is an excellent way to get them into the future. While there are a variety of different Chromebooks available, the best and most affordable model is the Acer C720. With an 11.6-inch display and Intel Celeron processor, it’s not the most powerful machine by any stretch of the imagination, but for taking notes and writing papers, it’s by far the best option.
Chrome OS offers amazing Google Drive support, which many schools now fully support, as well as compatibility with services like Dropbox and Evernote. Acer touts an amazing 8.5 hours of battery life as well, which is great for long days of notes and paper writing.
The baseline Acer C720 is currently just $149.99 on Amazon, while an upgraded model with an Intel i3 processor starts at $274. Of course, the Macbook Air is the ultimate on-the-go machine, but it’s considerably more expensive, starting at $899.
Logitech UE Mini Boom Bluetooth Speaker
Teens love music and while it might not be the most conducive product to keeping grades up, Bluetooth speakers are always a popular gift. Our resident Bluetooth speaker expert Seth Weintraub has broken down the best of the best several times, and using his advice, I personally love the Logitech UE Mini Boom speaker.
The Mini Boom offers great sound quality whether you’re listening to Taylor Swift, Eminem, Coldplay, or anything else while also being affordable and easy to carry around. The speaker is also incredibly durable, something I did not expect when I originally purchased it. I have dropped it countless times on surfaces from concrete to hardwood flooring and even a few times in the shower, but it still works flawlessly. Logitech touts that the UE Mini Boom gets up to 10 hours of battery life and can stream music from a device that’s up to 50 feet away.
The UE Mini Boom is available on Amazon and starts at $72.18 for the black model. The orange, red, and purple models all cost $79.99. There are a variety of other Bluetooth speakers available, both cheaper and more expensive, so be sure to read Seth’s full mega review for all the details.
Teens everywhere love to game, whether it’s on their iPhones and iPads or on the big screen with an Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 3, or Playstation 4. The holidays are always a popular time for developers to release games and this year is no different. Below are some of the most popular games on each platform that would undoubtedly make any teen happy this holiday season:
- Call of Duty Advanced Warfare – Xbox 360 ($44.99), Xbox One ($49.99), Playstation 3 ($44.99), Playstation 4 ($49.99)
- Madden 15 – Xbox 360 ($40.99), Xbox One ($29.99), Playstation 3 ($49.85), Playstation 4 ($29.99)
- Fifa 15 – Xbox 360 ($29.99), Xbox One ($35), Playstation 3 ($29.99), Playstation 4 ($35)
- Mario Kart 8 – Wii U ($51.99)
- NBA 2K15 – Xbox 360 ($39.99), Xbox One ($49.94), Playstation 3 ($39.99), Playstation 4 ($42.39)
- Grand Theft Auto V – Xbox 360 ($38.67), Xbox One ($59.96), Playstation 3 ($45.60), Playstation 4 ($59.99)
Apps (via iTunes Gift Card or Gift)
There are numerous apps and services that are incredibly useful for students. Many can be bought with that inevitable iTunes gift card they’ll get this year, but some can also be purchased and gifted specifically from you to them.
iStudiez (Mac and iOS)
When it comes to high school, college, or any level of higher education, you pretty much have to have some sort of organization method. For years this process consisted of writing assignments, tests, and dates down in a physical notebook or on the back of your hand. Nowadays, however, there are numerous apps that make being an organized student even easier. I personally prefer to use iStudiez on my iPhone and Mac.
iStudiez has a variety of features for high school and college students, as well as teachers and professors. You start by simply entering your schedule of classes and can then enter all your assignments and their due dates. The set-up process can take a little while, depending on how many classes you’re taking and the complexity of your schedule, but once you get going, it’s an incredibly seamless experience. The app will remind you about each of your classes and every assignment, hopefully helping you get rid of those dreaded zeroes in the grade book.
iStudiez is available in both free and paid versions. iStudiez Pro costs $2.99 on the iPhone and $9.99 on the Mac App Store. Until December 5th, however, the iPhone version costs just $0.99 and the Mac version $4.99.
Quizlet (Web and iOS)
The days of cutting up flashcards or using index cards are quickly going by the wayside, thanks in large part to Quizlet. Quizlet is an app and website that allows users to create flashcards and practice tests for anything imaginable. Whether it be creating a study guide for an American History test or simple flashcards for a Latin vocabulary test, you can do it on Quizlet.
Many teachers now take advantage of Quizlet as well and upload all of their study guides and vocab assignments directly to the service, making the process even easier for students. On the iPhone and iPad, Quizlet allows students to view flashcards and quiz themselves over the material. The app will also generate a practice test using the data you give it. Many teachers use this functionality, meaning that if you’re a student, there’s a good chance you’ll generate the exact test your teacher will give you.
Quizlet on the iPhone and iPad is free, but many students like to upgrade to the Plus level, which gives them the ability to upload images, add voice memos, and makes the service ad-free. Quizlet Plus runs $15 a year.
This year, one of my biggest goals for the school year was to make sure I wouldn’t ever have to bring a textbook home again. Surprisingly, I was able to achieve this goal relatively easily. With many schools providing students with PDF versions of their textbooks (and many others easily obtainable with a quick Google search), hardcover textbooks are quickly losing their value.
In doing this, however, I needed to find the best and easiest way to view and annotate my textbooks on the iPad. After trying a handful of PDF readers, I quickly settled with Documents 5 by Readdle. Documents is easily the best file manager and viewer on the iPad, with a built-in browser for easy file downloading, Dropbox support, Google Drive support, and much more.
In addition to Documents 5, I also use PDF Expert 5 by Readdle which adds the ability to annotate PDFs within Documents 5. Scanner Pro by Readdle is also a must have, allowing you to easily scan documents into the Documents 5. I use this for notes and study guides that I may get from teachers to avoid losing them.
Documents 5 is free and available for both iPhone and iPad. PDF Expert 5 is $9.99 on the App Store, while Scanner Pro is $2.99. But they are both well worth the money and make excellent gift apps for your student.
Evernote is one of the best note taking apps available. The service syncs wirelessly between all of your devices and allows you to create different notebooks, in this instance, perhaps one for each of your classes.
Evernote is available for free on the Mac and iOS, but the upgrade to a premium adds a handful of very useful features. For instance, it adds the ability to search within documents, which is very useful for those pages and pages of notes you may take in a class. Premium also adds the ability to upload higher-resolution images and files. Finally, Evernote Premium adds the ability to create new notes without a data connection.
Evernote Premium costs $4.99 a month or $45 a year and is purchasable via an in-app purchase. That means that you can buy your favorite student an iTunes Gift Card and tell them to use it to buy Evernote Premium
Spotify/Netflix/Hulu Plus/Amazon Prime/Xbox Live Subscription
There’s no questioning that teens love music and TV, and one of the most popular ways to listen and watch content nowadays is via a streaming service like Netflix, Hulu, or Spotify. Teens don’t always have the funds to pay for a monthly subscription, however, so one of the most popular gifts every year is a year subscription to any of those services.
Spotify makes an especially great subscription gift for college students. The company sells $10, $30, and $60 gift cards for its premium tier, which gives normal customers 1 month, 3 months, and 6 months of the service respectively.
Yearly subscriptions are available from a variety of retailers, including Target, Walgreens, and Walmart.
- Hulu Plus 1 year subscription – $95.88
- Spotify – $10, $30, $60 denominations
- Netflix – $30 and $60 denominations
- Amazon Prime – $99 a year ($49 w/ .edu)
- Xbox Live Gold Membership – $13, $50, and $100 denominations
So there you have the best gifts for your favorite teens and students this year. We’ve got plenty of more holiday gift guides this year, and as always check out 9to5Toys for the best deals you can find.