The holidays are almost upon us, and it's time to start thinking about gifts for your friends, your loved ones, and maybe even that frenemy you can't quite shake. It's 2017, so a knitted sweater doesn't feel quite right. Let's stroll the aisles of the local electronics store instead, or click around Amazon.com (NASDAQ: AMZN) in search of a high-tech gadget that's perfect for the least tech-savvy people in your life.
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Don't worry -- this will be easy. I have some ideas that will impress and delight your loved ones without leaving them baffled by techno-babble. You might as well throw away the manuals before you grab the wrapping paper and the tape dispenser.
Amazon's voice-controlled Echo Dot device was a smash hit a year ago, and it looks like a strong contender for sales records in the upcoming holiday season as well. And why not? This discreet little bundle of microphones and processors puts an Alexa-powered robotic helper in your home, ready to lend a hand with common tasks such as playing media, controlling your smart home devices, and fact-finding.
All of this is done with simple and flexible voice commands, and Echo Dot is affordable at $50 per unit. If you want to splurge on your spouse or your best friend, the larger Echo comes with a beefier speaker and sets you back $100 instead.
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Vinyl is back with a vengeance. The gift of a brand-new turntable and some classic records could be just the thing for a die-hard '70s rocker or a hip audiophile.
In addition to the nostalgia factor and some beautiful designs, modern record players come with some brand-new twists. Many turntables can now connect to speakers via Bluetooth, in addition to the traditional RCA cable. They can also record your albums straight into MP3 files, getting those clicks and pops ready for your smartphone. And only top-shelf systems will cost you more than $200.
iRobot Roomba 650
There are many vacuum robots on the market today, and I would encourage you to shop around a bit. But it's hard to beat the original Roomba-maker, and a slightly vintage model like the iRobot (NASDAQ: IRBT) Roomba 650 makes you look generous -- at a discount.
This particular model, which launched in 2012, has matured into a solid entry-level household cleaner that doesn't need a lot of service or explanation. That makes it perfect for your aging Aunt Mildred or that eternal bachelor, cousin Pete. Amazon offers the Roomba 650 for $300 (or $260 refurbished).
Netflix gift cards
The most popular Netflix (NASDAQ: NFLX) plan, which offers high-definition streaming and allows simultaneous viewing on two devices, costs just $11 per month. For $132 a year, you can cover the streaming video costs of a mid-sized family for the next year. At $8 per month, the low-end plan can keep a far-flung student entertained for an annual cost of $88, including a free one-month trial period.
Price-wise, that's on par with five or six Blu-ray movies. With Netflix, you get unlimited access to thousands of movie titles and a growing stable of award-winning Netflix original shows like Orange Is the New Black and Stranger Things. Best of all for your tech-handicapped loved ones, Netflix bends over backwards to make the streaming experience as simple and automatic as possible.
I know which gift I'd rather give -- and receive.
Nintendo's (NASDAQOTH: NTDOY) hit video-game console has been in short supply since launching eight months ago. Hardcore gamers and gaming newbies alike are raving about the device, which can be connected to your TV or played on the go.
Fortunately, it should soon be a lot easier to get your hands on one: Nintendo is doubling its Switch production efforts ahead of the holidays, according to The Wall Street Journal. That should make it easier to get a hold of the coveted system. Starting at $300, the Switch is one of the most expensive items on this list, but sometimes you get what you pay for. Mario, Peach, and Link are more than welcome in every home.
Seagate Backup Plus
You know the stories: Aunt Hilda lost five years' worth of digital baby pictures when her hard drive crashed. Uncle Jim spilled beer on his computer last September, destroying a carefully assembled collection of classic rock playlists and Camaro maintenance manuals.
Seagate Technology (NASDAQ: STX) can help your giftees avoid such digital tragedies. The Seagate Backup Plus series of portable hard drives comes with a single USB connector -- no power cord needed -- and a suite of single-click backup tools. Plug, click, wait five minutes, then stow the drive away somewhere safe and dry until the next backup session. If there's a tech-savvy helper on hand, you could even set up a completely automatic backup schedule. Restoring lost files when calamities happen is easy as can be. The Backup Plus product line starts at $58 for a single terabyte of life-saving backup space, topping out at $140 for a pro-grade 5 terabytes.
Google Pixel 2
A top-shelf smartphone is always a great gift. This year, it's hard to beat the latest and greatest Android device under Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) (NASDAQ: GOOGL) very own Pixel brand, especially when it's paired with a great discount from T-Mobile (NASDAQ: TMUS).
Under T-Mobile's limited-time discount program, you can get the $650 Google Pixel 2 at the bargain-bin price of $325. The same discount could also bring the Pixel 2 XL down from $850 to $525 per device, if you prefer. These are brand-new flagship devices, selling at deep value pricing as long as the phone is matched to a new T-Mobile service line. Given the magenta network's low-cost plans, that's an easy hurdle to clear.
T-Mobile has not announced an end date to its Pixel 2 rebate deal, so you might want to step on it if you're interested. The offer could expire any day now.
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John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods Market, an Amazon subsidiary, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Suzanne Frey, an executive at Alphabet, is a member of The Motley Fool's board of directors. Anders Bylund owns shares of Alphabet (A shares), Amazon, Netflix, and T-Mobile US. The Motley Fool owns shares of and recommends Alphabet (A and C shares), Amazon, iRobot, and Netflix. The Motley Fool also recommends T-Mobile US. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.