aNewDomain — With the December holidays inching closer, it’s time to start thinking about what kinds of gifts you want to give to friends and family.
I checked out the Pepcom Holiday Spectacular press event in New York City and saw six cool products you definitely should consider for your holiday-gift lists.
Check out the tech gadgets I found, below.
1. Samsung Gear S2 smartwatch: a sporty selection
At the recent Pepcom show, Samsung announced the U.S. release of its Gear S2 smartwatch. Though relatively small, the Gear S2 is the first round smartwatch from Samsung. It’s also the first to feature a rotary bezel, which provides some easy-to-use functionality.
For instance, if you swipe up from the bottom, you can see all recent apps. If you swipe down from the top, you can view a menu of controls for battery, Bluetooth, brightness and so forth. Rotating the dial gradually to the right will let you view a single app at a time.
The smartwatch is available in two models. The elegant Gear S2 classic, offered in black, features a leather strap. The sportier Gear S2 comes in a choice of silver or dark gray. MSRPs are $299.99 for the Gear S2 and $349.99 for the classic model.
Like earlier Samsung watches, the Gear S2 runs on Tizen, Samsung’s proprietary operating system (OS). While the user interface is slick, users are limited to running Tizen OS apps, which are scarcer than apps for either AndroidWear or Apple Watch. But Samsung’s new watch comes with at least 20 built-in apps, including Gmail, Facebook, Music Player and FindMyPhone. Additional apps can be downloaded from the Gear app store.
The watch can already be purchased through Samsung, Amazon, Best Buy and Macy’s, according to the spokesperson. On October 16, consumers will be able to play around with the product at 50 Macy’s stores throughout the U.S. Later this fall, U.S. Cellular is expected to start carrying a Bluetooth-only version, while Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile, and AT&T will release network-capable editions.
If you’ve been looking for a smartwatch, this might be the best new gadget around.
2. Epson ET-2500: ink abundant EcoTank printers
One big problem with printers is that they run out of ink, typically at the most inconvenient moments — like when you’re trying to print out a set of directions to the mall for Uncle Harold, who’s visiting from out of town; or you’re right in the middle of finishing a long report for work. We’ve all been there.
Epson’s ET-2500 — and four higher-end members of the company’s new EcoTank family — is aimed at preventing those printing emergencies.
Priced from $379 to $1,199, these home/small office inkjet color printers aren’t perfect, but each is bundled with ink supplies that, according to Epson, will last two years. They come with 20 sets of color ink cartridges, the equivalent of “50 ink cartridge sets” that normal printers use.
Not only are they set for an estimated two years, but the color is cheap to replace. Talk about convenient. You don’t have to wait for Staples or Best Buy to open in the morning so you can go out and buy new ink cartridges for finishing that printout.
The printer’s specs are super decent, too. The ET-2500 offers print speeds of 9.2 ppm (black) and 4.5 ppm (color) with a 100-sheet paper capacity. The ET-2550, priced just slightly higher at $399, adds niceties like a 1.44-inch LCD, built-in memory card slot and Wi-Fi Direct.
The ET printers are available as of September 2015 at Best Buy, Staples, Walmart, Amazon and other big online and brick-and-mortar retailers.
3. LG G Flex 2: A curvy Android smartphone
Is there an Android phone enthusiast on your holiday list? Ten months after announcing the G Flex 2 at CES, LG released the phone in the U.S. this month, with availability through AT&T, Sprint and U.S. Cellular. Like it or not, the G Flex 2 retains the same curved shape as the original G Flex. Meanwhile, the specs have improved on a number of levels.
On the new phone, LG has reduced the screen to 5.5-inches, while raising resolution to 1080p. Chemically treated gorilla glass produces a panel that’s touted as 20 percent stronger. The G Flex 2 is powered by a faster Snapdragon 810 processor, and it’s equipped with 2GB of RAM and support for LTE Category 6. The new phone also brings a better camera: the same 13 MP autofocus camera which appears in the LG G3.
If you’ve got an upgrade waiting, this is a good bet.
4. Philips Izzy home audio system: hassle-free streaming
Also at Pepcom, Philips announced impending first-time U.S. availability for Izzy, a home audio system that rivals Sonos. Designed to remove the hassles of connecting speakers for multiple rooms in a house, Philips’ BM5 and BM50 speakers allow you to stream music from multiple sources — including CDs, radio and mobile apps — via Bluetooth, with no need for a Wi-Fi connection.
After you’ve paired one of the speakers to your phone or tablet, you can simply tap the “Group” button on the speaker to pair other Izzy speakers in the home. The BM5 is a simple box speaker that can work with up to four other Izzy speakers. The BM50 – which can either be networked through “Izzylink” or used on a standalone basis — adds a radio, CD player and USB playback.
On its U.S. website, Philips currently states that the new speakers are “coming soon” to this side of the Atlantic. In some other countries, Izzy is considerably less pricey than Sonos. If you’re interested in Izzy, keep checking Philips’ U.S. site for pricing and availability.
5. iRobot Roomba 980: An even-brainier, floor-cleaning robot
iRobot pioneered early with robots that roam the house, cleaning the floors all on their own. The latest iteration of the vacuuming gadget, the Roomba 980, is aimed at making it easier than ever for busy householders to manage the cleanup of multiple rooms.
The Roomba 980 is being sold at retail for $899. The new robot is outfitted with a camera and internal sensors that are designed to let it map and then vacuum all the rooms on the floor of a home, stopping now and again for recharging. In this new version, the robot is no longer limited to the previous method of using external “lighthouses” to guide it from one room to the next.
Need a cleaner floor? Check this robot out.
6. Bissell SmartClean Robotic Vacuum: an affordable option
Vacuums are another market that seems to be heating up, as there are two on my list. Across the way at Pepcom, vacuum cleaner maven Bissell showed its first entry in the robotics space, already available online from Bissell and Target and slated to arrive at brick-and-mortar retail stores later this month.
Bissell’s SmartClean Robotic Vacuum carries the much more attractive price point of $299.99, but it seems to be oriented to cleaning a room or two at a time, rather than a whole floor of a house. It doesn’t include a mapping feature, but a navigation system is indeed aboard.
These are some serious new entries into the consumer market this year. Maybe one of these is a perfect gift for someone else. Then again, maybe one is a perfect gift for you. Why wait for the holidays?
For aNewDomain, I’m Jacqueline Emigh.
Images in order: Samsung Gear2 Smartwatch screenshot courtesy Samsung; Epson ET printer screenshot courtesy Epson; LG G Flex 2 screenshot courtesy LG; Izzy speaker screenshot courtesy Philips.