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The most hyped tech is often also the most expensive: flagship smartphones, ultra-powerful gaming laptops, immersive VR headsets and the like. But it would be wrong to assume that those are the only pieces of technology worth gifting. You don’t have to drain your wallet to get someone a cool gadget that will both be useful and make their lives easier. There are more solid, affordable gadgets out there now more than ever, but that also means you’ll discover some junk along the way. We’ve collected our favorite pieces of tech under $25 that make great gifts and help you to stick to a budget.
The world is full of phone stands for every use case and environment, but Elevation Lab’s Go stand is three important things in one: versatile, portable and affordable. It’s a sleek and unassuming way to prop up an Android or iPhone when you want to watch a video or just have its screen visible at all times. Viewing angles can be adjusted up to 45 degrees, and it’ll work with most handsets in landscape or portrait orientation. It’s case-friendly too, so your giftee won’t have to modify their phone before using the stand. And when they’re done with it, the stand folds into a slim, flat profile that will easily slide into a pocket or an overstuffed backpack.
Sure, charging cables aren’t the sexiest gift, but no one can deny their usefulness. Whether your loved one just got a new iPhone 15 or they have a power bank always on their person, an extra cable that can handle all kinds of devices will be an indispensable gift. This Anker USB-C to C cable supports a max output of 240W, so it will allow them to power up smartphones, laptops and other mobile devices at the fastest speeds possible (provided they have an equally powerful charging brick to use it with). At 10 feet long, it’ll also give your giftee a bit more flexibility when they use it (no more sitting on an airport floor just to be close to an outlet). It’s also partially made with plant-based materials and its braided nylon construction can withstand all of the standard bending and twisting they’ll put this cable through.
Yes, you can get a decent pair of wireless earbuds for $25. JLab’s Go Air Pop earned an honorable mention spot in our best budget wireless earbuds guide thanks to their lightweight design, decent isolation, IPX4 water resistance and at least eight hours of battery life on a single charge. Not only do their onboard touch controls actually work quite well, but JLab also has a feature that lets users swap between three different EQ presets directly from the earbuds themselves. The included charging case adds another 24 hours of use and they have a built-in charging cable so your giftee has one less thing to worry about losing.
You can’t get more stocking-friendly than a microSD card and, while it might not be the flashiest gift, the tech lover in your life will appreciate it. Our current top pick is the Samsung Pro Plus microSD card, and you can pick up a 128GB model for less than $25. It has read/write speeds up to 180/130MB/s and it was the most consistent card we tested. It also has a number of physical protections, including water-, temperature-, magnet- and drop-resistance, plus a 10-year warranty. Whether they end up using it in their camera or their Nintendo Switch, they’ll appreciate having the extra digital space.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who leaves home without their phone, and PopSocket’s phone wallet can make it easier for them to bring their most important cards and IDs with them every time. The slim accessory sticks to the back of smartphones and holds 3-5 cards, or a small bit of cash and an ID if that’s what your giftee prefers. It has a traditional PopSocket built in as well, which will make it much easier for them to hold their phone one-handed. While you can pick a color that suits your loved one’s personality, they can change the style of the grip if they choose thanks to the fact that it can pop out and be replaced with a different one.
If someone on your holiday shopping list is particularly forgetful, a Bluetooth tracker like the Tile Mate can help them keep tabs on their most important items. Thanks to its keyring hole, they can attach the Tile Mate to their keys or slip it inside of a pocket of a wallet to monitor the location of their stuff. Tile devices work across iOS and Android devices, so regardless of the phone they have, they’ll be able to download the companion app and find their misplaced items. And thanks to the Mate’s communication with their smartphone, they can choose to ring the Mate to find their stuff if it’s within close range, or their phone if they have the tracker in hand.
If your giftee wants to limit the number of charging cables they have lying about, a wireless charger like Anker’s 313 would make a great gift. Not only will it let them power up their phone just by sitting it on this easel-like stand, but it will also let them see the screen while they’re doing so. Stands like this one are great desk and nightstand options: users can easily see when an important notification or call comes through while they’re working, and they can quickly glance at the time when they wake in the middle of the night. Anker’s charging stand tops out at 5W for iPhones but can reach up to 10W for other handsets, and it can accommodate phone cases up to 5mm thick.
If you have a tech-lover in your life who hasn’t yet started their own smart home ecosystem, a smart plug is a good place to start. Amazon’s Smart Plug in particular has a low barrier to entry: plug it in, follow an easy setup process in the Alexa mobile app and turn a “dumb” device into a smart one. It’s made even easier by Alexa voice commands — using the mobile app or an Echo device they already have, they can ask the voice assistant to turn off that bedroom lamp before they go to bed or turn on the coffee machine to get it percolating in anticipation of their morning cup of joe. Plus, the Alexa app lets them set schedules and routines for the plug, so that new smart gadgets can run in the background of their lives without missing a beat.
No one wants to forget a crucial piece of tech when they’re going on a business trip or packing for a vacation. Bagsmart’s electronics organizer can help them keep everything they need in one place, from charging cables to adapters to wireless earbuds and more. It has a number of stretchy pockets and folds of various sizes that do a good job of keeping gear separate and findable, but together without spilling out of the bag too easily. The bag also opens up 180-degrees, which will make it much easier to see exactly what they have packed and what they may be forgetting, and there’s one large zippered pocket for any valuables they need to keep close without mingling with the rest of their gear.
If you have someone on your list who must have their coffee in the morning or who loves a good hot chocolate or matcha in the afternoon, a frother like this one from Zulay will fit right into their kitchen. These handheld frothers are super convenient because they’re much smaller and easier to use than larger, standalone frothers or those that come attached to expensive coffee machines. This one in particular comes with three attachments so they can make lattes, cappuccinos and even scrambled eggs all with one device, plus it has a rechargeable battery and an included USB-C cable for powering up. It also comes with a handy cover, so they can toss it in their carry-on when they head out for a weekend trip.
There are some moments during the day when your loved one will want a distraction-free experience. Noise-canceling headphones work well if they want music to be their companion, but a solid pair of earplugs like these from Loop will be better for total focus. These soft-touch silicone plugs offer impressive noise suppression, and they’re leaps and bounds more comfortable than traditional plugs too. I’ve used these to block out the sound of my partner snoring and the dull roar of an air conditioner while I sleep, and they work great. The Quiet ear plugs come with four ear tip sizes so they can get the best fit, plus a small storage case so they can keep them clean (and in one spot) when they inevitably throw them into the abyss of their travel bag ahead of vacation.
It never hurts to have an extra bag with you whenever you go out, and most people end up needing one precisely when they least expect it. There are thousands of options out there, but we included Peak Design’s packable tote in our gift guide because it doesn’t have the typical reusable bag design and it remains fairly affordable at only $20. The bag is made of 100-percent recycled ripstop nylon, which is resilient as well as water resistant, and it has a zip closure, something most other reusable bags don’t have. It’ll keep your items more secure and it’s easier to carry thanks to its single shoulder/hand strap that sports microfiber padding for extra comfort. We also like that it has an interior pocket that can hold a phone, wallet or keys, and it takes up a surprisingly little amount of space when it’s packed into itself.
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