For the right recipient, it doesn’t get more exciting than a drone – a flying robot that can take aerial pictures and beam them back to your phone.
These little quadcopters can now be had for as little as £20, but you won’t get much for your money. A more sensible model for an amateur photographer wanting better elevation than a selfie stick can provide, will cost a little less than £100, and facilitate reasonable quality video transmission, and control from a mobile phone.
Even so, it’s only really suitable for taking still photos. If you want video that looks remotely professional – the type now familiar from documentaries about the countryside – the price goes up nearly seven-fold and is well outside Santa’s usual range. The expensive part is the gimbal, a gyroscopically stabilised mount that keeps the camera upright no matter how much the drone tilts and dives.
For the lower price, you can expect around 15 minutes flying time between battery charges, automatic takeoff and landing, and several programmable modes. You don’t currently need a licence to fly one, but you’re forbidden to fly further than your line of sight or higher than 400ft. Jessops and Currys are among the high street stores to stock them.
Smart products like the Amazon Echo Dot, which listen for your voice and do what you tell them, within reason, have also gained traction this year and will create a focal point for your Christmas gathering. The third generation Echo Dot, at £50, has an improved speaker that will let you make hands-free calls to your relatives abroad, with sound that should be loud enough for even the largest lounge. It also streams music from Spotify or elsewhere, and can be connected to your hi-fi system via Bluetooth or cable.
Similarly, a new smart device plugged into the back of your TV might extend your range of festive viewing. If you’re not fussed about watching in ultra high definition, the first generation Amazon Fire TV Stick is now only £40, and connects with the iPlayer, Netflix and most – though not all – of the other streaming services, Like the Echo Dot, you can control it by shouting at it.
Tablets have been around for nearly a decade now, and although supplanted for many of us by mobile phones, they are still useful when you want a bigger screen without the heft of a laptop. Many models are available, but the Lenovo Tab E10, at just under £100, is a decent buy if you want a 10in screen Don’t expect PC performance, but as a replacement for an ageing and stuttering iPad, it’s not bad.
Vinyl record players have been around longer still, of course. Around £50 will get you one with a USB socket for transferring your old LPs to computer-friendly MP3 files. A gift voucher for Spotify will accomplish more or less the same thing, and with less hassle.
And finally, that pair of driving gloves might not be such a bad idea. The ones with fingertips made of capacitive thread can be used to touch and swipe your phone or sat nav, so no matter how often you lose your way to your relatives’ houses on Boxing Day, your hands will stay snug.