Not every cool gift idea fits into a neat little category. In fact, some of the best stuff doesn't. That's why we have a special guide just for the awesome gadgets we fancied throughout the year. Here is some of the most awesome stuff we like.
Belkin WeMo Home Automation
Belkin's WeMo home automation appliances can bring your home into the 2015 you've always dreamed of (and no, I am still not tired of making Back to the Future references). The company sells light switches (it's dangerous to enter without lights on), power outlets, light bulbs, and more, all programmable using the company's normal app or with IFTTT triggers. It's awesome home automation without all the fuss of rewiring your whole house. Or buying a DeLorean. OK, I'll stop.
The original streaming stick, Google’s Chromecast, uses your phone or tablet as the interface and remote, instead of a menu on the TV. It does, however, support a wide array of apps and services directly from your phone.
Since the Chromecast is mostly a receiver for apps that support it, finding something to watch is as easy (or as hard) as finding it in that service’s app itself. This can be a double-edged sword. If you can’t find something interesting to watch on Netflix, you’ll need to jump to another app to keep looking. The Chromecast app only gives you a few suggestions per service, so you still might spend a lot of time bouncing between apps looking for something to watch. The latest 5G Wi-Fi version costs $59, while the newer $99 model lets you stream your favourite entertainment at up to 4K UHD resolution and HDR.
A Good Bluetooth Speaker
You remember the 90s, when everyone was walking around with boomboxes strapped to their heads? Those were the days. While Bluetooth speakers don't command quite the same presence, they're still pretty awesome for bringing the party with you. Check out our list of the five best Bluetooth speakers.
Anker Astro Battery Pack
It's almost a given at this point that your smartphone will die at some point during the day, especially if you use it a lot. This sucks. Fortunately, external batteries like the Anker Astro Battery Packs can give you the juice that phone manufacturers apparently can't. The Anker Astro was voted the best battery pack by US Lifehacker readers, and it's still a solid deal.
A Good Set of Headphones
Picking the right pair of headphones is serious business. Everyone has their own personal preferences, so it's hard to recommend one perfect headset (unless you're buying for our editor-in-chief), but you guys picked your five favourite headphones, which is a good place to start. The Grado SR80e ($US99) is the most popular, but the others are all good choices — and if you want something a little less pricey, you can also check out our guide to the best headphones you can buy under $US20.
We've recommended Aqua Notes ($US7) for a couple years now, and that's because it's still awesome. If you've ever had a brilliant idea in the shower, when you're too wet to write it down, Aqua Notes will save your creativity. Simply stick the notepad to your shower wall and, when inspiration strikes, scribble down your idea. When you're done, you can yank off the page and go. Simple, but brilliant.
Primula Cold Brew Coffee Maker
Cold brew coffee (which, as you'll remember, is different than just making coffee and icing it) is delicious any time of year, but most cold brew methods require multiple tools to brew, steep, and filter, even at their easiest. The Primula Cold Brew Carafe does it all in one. Plus, it doesn't look like a chemistry experiment in your fridge. Just grind your coffee, add it to the filter, add water, and let it steep. When it's done, press the coffee, and pull the filter (and the coffee) right out for easy clean up, leaving tasty cold brew concentrate behind in the carafe. Enjoy.
Moleskine Pro Notebook
If you (or your gift recipient) are the type to use written notes even in the digital age, it's obvious how much a good notebook is worth. The Moleskine Pro ($US20) pulls out all the stops, with ruled pages, dedicated to-do list sections, and a set of adhesive tabs to quickly jump through your notes. Every page is numbered, so you can easily find your place later, and there's even space for an index in the back, pleasing even the most hyper-organised among us. If you like to use your written notes in tandem with an online service like Evernote, Moleskine offers a notebook specifically built for digitising handwritten notes.