This is part one of our holiday gift guide for your Quartziest friends and relatives. Watch for new installments each day this week; collect them all here.
If 50 billion things will be connected to the internet by the end of this century, you and your loved ones might as well own a few of them. But at this early stage of the internet of things, with so much experimentation going on, it’s hard to find devices meant for consumers that are well designed, easy to use, and actually useful. We’ve identified several that fit all three criteria—and also point to the broader promise of a world in which everything is connected to the web.
These gifts are just technical enough to satisfy real nerds, but would be appropriate under the tree of anyone who’s constantly connected to the internet.
The little printer that could
Little Printer — BERG — $219
The cutest printer you’ll ever meet comes out of a design shop in London. BERG’s Little Printer sits unobtrusively on a breakfast table or office desk, delivering short “publications” that look like receipts but are much more delightful: tweets, news alerts, weather reports, crosswords, your daily diary, cats of the day.
We have one in the Quartz office that (who?) prints out new annotations left by readers on the site. In using it, we’ve particularly appreciated how small touches—you have to cut that little guy’s hair, for instance—give the device a personality not normally associated with electronics, let alone printers. And best of all, the Little Printer just works without much fuss. He’s not just a pretty face.
Flip an internet-connected switch
WeMo Insight Switch — Belkin — $59.99
It’s the ultimate stocking stuffer: small, unusual, and utilitarian. Place the WeMo Insight Switch between a plug and an outlet to take control of any electronic device over the internet. Using apps for iOS or Android, you can turn on an air conditioner remotely, set lights according to a schedule, and other handy tricks. Seriously, powering up your AC from afar sounds mundane until you do it and feel like the world is at your command.
Many companies offer products like this, but only Belkin has managed to create ones that are easy to use. The WeMo line, which also includes wall switches and motion sensors, offers a plug-and-play solution for simple home automation. And if you want to get fancy, the WeMo devices can be programmed with IFTTT recipes—for example, when my Jawbone Up detects I’m awake, turn on my coffee maker. That’s how we built the lightbulb in our office that lit up whenever Quartz was mentioned on Twitter. The possibilities are endless.
Here are a few other home automation products we like:
The quantified self against the crowd
Strava Premium Status — Strava — $59/year
Strava has transformed hundreds of thousands of amateur cyclists into aspiring “kings of the mountain.” That’s the term, borrowed from the Tour de France, for a Strava user who has recorded the fastest time over any arbitrary stretch of land. With this social fitness network, the whole world is a racetrack.
Plenty of apps help you track your rides and runs. Strava has stood out—in particular among cyclists, though runners use it, too—because of its well designed focus on progress and achievement. (This isn’t for everyone: Competitive spirits are required.) Users upload data about their rides from a GPS device or the Strava app for iPhone or Android. The premium version adds plenty of useful features, including the ability to set personal goals and analyze rides in ways that will make you believe in the quantified self.
All your eggs in one wired basket
Egg Minder — Quirky — $69.99
A $70 egg tray? Seriously?
We won’t try to argue that anyone needs an internet-connected egg tray in his life, but that’s what makes it the perfect gift for your favorite nerd who spends time in the kitchen. Egg Minder, jointly produced by General Electric and crowdfunding startup Quirky, is a small step toward that nirvana of self-aware refrigerators capable of ordering bread when you’re running low and conserving energy usage when you’re on vacation.
This egg tray isn’t quite that advanced, but it will tell you—through an app for iPhones and Android phones—how many eggs you have left and how fresh they are. Essential? Hardly. But as we wrote in July, when the device was released, “Egg Minder has the potential to help normalize the notion that pretty soon just about everything we own will have some degree of self-awareness.” It’s a fun way to feel a part of that movement.
Light up someone’s internet
Hue Starter Pack — Philips — $199.95
Put a few of these internet-connected lightbulbs behind your Christmas tree for an ethereal holiday season. The Philips Hue bulbs can change color, manually or based on rules you set, to evoke a soothing sunset or manic dance party, depending on your mood. We use them in the Quartz office to alert us when it’s raining or a fresh pot of coffee has brewed, though tricks like that require some hacking.
Hue would be particularly delightful for a curious child or young adult who already has a device that can run Apple or Android apps (to control the bulbs with the thoughtfully considered app). It will be endlessly amusing, at least until the entire house has turned purple.