Holiday Buying Guide 2015: Gifts for the home

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This year, some of the best holiday tech gifts are for the connected home. Over recent years, home automation and the internet of things has become a major area of focus among manufacturers. Some of the most popular ones being light automation, smart thermostats, virtual locks for your home, unified remotes, and of course, video games and TV. Streaming media saw an incremental increase this year and manufacturers are making sure you have the right tools to stay right at home. There’s no better time to get invested in gadgets for the home than the holiday season because of all the hot deals.

Buying gifts can be a difficult process because of the wide range of devices available. At Talk Android, we made the process easy for you. Here’s what we believe are the top gifts of 2015 for the connected home.

Chromecast

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Google launched a new version of its popular dongle in June. This year’s Chromecast has a totally new design and a totally refreshed application with tons of new features.

The new Chromecast works in the exact same way as the previous generation and can be purchased at the same $35 price tag. You plug the Chromecast into your television to stream movies, TV shows, music, games and more. Once you’re done setting it up, a Cast icon will appear across apps and throughout your device’s interface indicating you can send the media on-screen to your television. And you can give your television a name while allowing guests to join the casting fun as well.

For only $35, it’s hard to go wrong. The Chromecast makes a great stocking stuffer for anyone looking to stream their favorite content to the big screen. Some of the supported apps include Hulu, Netflix, Pandora, ESPN, Spotify, YouTube, and HBO. Best of all, the list of partners is growing by the day. New to the Chromecast is the ability to cast your device’s screen in full and set up a slideshow of your favorite photo album. It’s quick, simple and enjoyable for the whole family. The dongle is available in stores today in black, lemonade and coral color options.

[Google Store] [Best Buy]

Chromecast Audio

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If you’re looking for something slightly different, you may want to consider the Chromecast Audio. This device allows you to turn virtually any speakers into wireless ones. Simply connect the Chromecast Audio to your speakers via a 3.5mm headphone jack, optical or RCA connection, login to your WiFi network, and cast away. The audio will be transmitted through WiFi to the connected speakers. Friends and family can even join in on the experience on their own phones with no additional setup or pairing required. For only $35, playing music to your favorite speakers wirelessly is just a step away. It’s compatible on Android, iOS and select laptops.

[Google Store] [Best Buy]
[Best Buy – Bundle]

Nest Learning Thermostat

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The Nest Learning Thermostat is a great holiday gift for the home. Although the product isn’t brand new, it has improved greatly with recent software updates. The Nest Learning Thermostat is basically a remote thermostat for your home that has a few tricks up its sleeve. Nest requires a WiFi connection and a paired smartphone or tablet to work at its full ability.

The Nest Learning Thermostat can be controlled from just about anywhere using your smartphone, tablet or laptop. You can control the temperature in your house using the Nest application available on Android and iOS. Nest has the capability to learn what temperatures you like and what time of day you like them. For example, if it notices a repeated pattern, it will automatically make the adjustments for you. Nest can also turn off the air-conditioning or heat when you’re away at work or on vacation to save power. Additionally, when Nest knows you’re coming home, it’ll turn on automatically and have your house just how you like in time for your return.

One of the best capabilities of the Nest Learning Thermostat is the ability to check the amount of energy you’re using through the app. Nest provides 10-day history so that you can see exactly how much energy you’ve been using, which ultimately lets you save more bucks. With a bit of work, you can also use voice commands to adjust the temperature in your home with your smartphone, tablet or Amazon Echo.

The Nest Learning Thermostat works with 95% of low-voltage heating and cooling systems including gas, forced air, heat pump, solar, radiant, electric, oil, geothermal, and hot water. Nest makes the process easy to install, and if you’re still unsure, Nest makes it easy to hire an expert to do it for you. The Nest Learning Thermostat retails between $200-$250, but with the holiday season up ahead, you might just catch a deal.

[Nest] [Google Store] [Amazon] [Best Buy]

August Smart Lock

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The August Smart Lock is among the best in its category. This smart lock, unsurprisingly, is all about keeping your home as safe as possible. Depending on the source, the August Smart Lock can retail anywhere from $150-$250. It’s compatible with Android and iOS and comes in a variety of color options including silver, red, champagne and dark grey.

The August Smart Lock is a keyless way of entering your home. With the replacement of your door’s existing deadbolt, the August Smart Lock brings a whole new level of security to your home. Using a smartphone or tablet, you’re able to manage who has access to enter your home. Your phone acts as the key to the door and can be sent to friends and family via an invitation. Once the door recognizes your phone is near, it’ll unlock almost instantly. Most interestingly, you’ll be alerted when someone arrives or tries breaking into your house. You’ll also be notified when someone leaves your house. The sensor also has a built-in LED indicator which shows whether your door is locked or unlocked. You can do this using the app or by standard means from both the inside and outside of your home.

August will also send you a notification of when your battery is nearing the end of its life, which shouldn’t be very often. This device puts an end to carrying around keys, getting up to let someone inside and having to remember to lock the door all the time.

[August] [Amazon] [Best Buy]

Philips Hue

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Philips’ set of Hue lights have been around for some time, but have come a long way since they first launched.

Philips’ Hue lights work with Android and iOS devices. Although a bit pricey, they can make life a lot easier and have the power to last a long time without the need to be replaced. Philips offers a wide range of bulbs and light strips at its online store in a variety of different colors. Many in which support changing from color to color. Using the Hue application, users can connect their light system to their smartphone and/or tablet and have access to a multitude of controls. These include on/off switches, adjustments to sleeping patterns, color changes, brightness and a whole lot more. You can also have the lights alter to match the setting and/or time of day. These actions can be controlled via the app even when you’re miles away from your home.

If you’re interested in light automation, the Philips Hue lights are one of the best options available. For starters, you’ll need to purchase a starter kit. This will include everything you need to get started with setting up your lights along with three bulbs. You can find this at the company’s website, your local Best Buy or on Amazon. Pricing is a near $200 but can vary by source. Additional bulbs, light strips and portable lights are available at extra cost.

[Phillips] [Amazon] [Best Buy]

NVIDIA SHIELD

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The NVIDIA SHIELD is a set-top box that holds the power of a gaming console and the library of a media player.

With the creation of the SHIELD, the company set out to create the best all-in-one console for TV’s. The set-top box offers an advanced gaming experience like no other with its beastly Tegra X1 processor and 256-core Maxwell GPU. It supports Dolby 7.1 and 5.1 surround sound and 4K video with 10-bit color and playback at 60fps.

Not only is the SHIELD a gaming console, it’s also a media player. The set-top box comes with Google’s Android TV platform built-in, giving users access to a plethora of popular apps and services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO and a lot more. You can also cast your favorite shows, movies and music directly from your smartphone or tablet with Google Cast support.

The SHIELD is the perfect companion for your home theater. It’ll quickly become the centerpiece for all the entertainment that goes on in your home. For the 16GB model, it’ll cost you around $200. If you need additional space, the 500GB model is available for approximately $100 more. The SHIELD is quite the value if you want to forgo investing in the ecosystems built by Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft with their gaming consoles.

[NVIDIA] [Google Store] [Amazon] [Best Buy]

Logitech Harmony

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Have you ever had trouble finding the right remote? We’ve all been there. That’s why Logitech’s collection of universal remotes take the last spot on our list for this list.

Logitech offers a whole series of Harmony remotes each with different functions and capabilities. However, the main purpose is generally the same: a universal remote simplifies your home theater experience by centralizing all your remotes into one. This means you’ll no longer need to switch between different remotes to control your gaming console, home theater gear, A/V equipment and television. The majority of Logitech’s Harmony remotes include vibration feedback, touch controls, volume, rewinding, fast-forwarding, and backlighting.

The Harmony series of remotes work with Android devices running version 4.2 or higher and Apple devices running iOS 8+ using the Harmony mobile app. In the app, you will have access to bonus features such as device groups, programmed activation, and multi-device one-touch activities.

Having one of Logitech’s universal remotes is essential to bringing the connected home together. Pricing varies on the model and can cost you anywhere from $49-$349.

[Logitech] [Best Buy]

Well there you have it! Our picks for the best gifts for your home. The connected home is becoming a major focus among manufacturers, and as we head into the new year, we can only expect more to jump on the trend. Looking ahead, we can’t wait to see what manufacturer’s put together in the years to come. Feel free to let us know what you’re asking for in the comments down below.


About the Author: Doug Demagistris

Doug was raised in New York and currently attends Muhlenberg College where he is majoring in Accounting. He has been a die-hard Google and Android enthusiast ever since he purchased the Samsung Galaxy Vibrant. Doug strongly prefers Android over competitors for its customization, flat Material Design and exceptional integration with Google Services. Currently, Doug switches between the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 and Nexus 5X, and travels with a Nexus 9. In addition, Doug wears an Android Wear smartwatch and has other gadgets such as a Nexus Player and Cardboard viewer. Aside from writing with Talk Android, Doug enjoys testing new applications, designing concepts and studying Android application development all while attempting to keep up with the rapid world of technology. He’s hopeful that his high productivity will make lives easier and more meaningful. Doug’s dream is to attend Google I/O.