The best gifts are those that are surprising and yet are the ones you have always wanted. In other words, gifts that will not sit at the back of the drawer and will be part of your daily life. I asked my colleagues to name the best gifts they received this holiday season, and here are their responses. Clearly, tablets and phones aren’t high on our priority list.
Pencil by 53
For me, there were two gifts this holiday season that earned the “best” sobriquet. One was the Kaweco Art Sport pen, which has become my favorite in no time. The second one is Pencil, a Bluetooth stylus from 53, the makers of Paper. It is perfectly designed, easy to hold and if that was not enough, it has the beauty and simplicity of an analog pencil. Pencil is only a few days old and it has become indispensable as I am using it to make small notes and creating visuals that can be used as future blog post ideas. It allows me to also experiment with my sketching skills — turns out, I have none. It’s a little addition that has made my iPad Air even more indispensable. — Om Malik
Nexus wireless charger from Google
The coolest tech gift I got was the Nexus wireless charger from Google, which works with the Nexus 4, 5 and 7 — just a small square block about three inches on each side that charges your phone or tablet when you sit them on top of it. It’s a lot easier than having to plug your phone cable in every time you want to charge it up. — Mathew Ingram
This year, my boyfriend went “off-list” and purchased a MaKey MaKey, a programmable controller kit developed by folks at the MIT Media Lab. As a total maker newbie, I was initially daunted by the idea of transforming anything (Play Doh, bananas, soup and even drawings, among others) into a workable controller on my computer. But, after making a keyboard out of Play Doh, I realized that making isn’t so hard after all — and quite an enjoyable way to spend a chilly winter afternoon. — Lauren Hockenson
J.Crew touch screen gloves
My favorite tech gift this year is actually a pair of gloves. Not only do these leather gloves from J. Crew have a classy, timeless appeal, they’re specially treated to work with touchscreen devices. January is already off to a cold start in New York, and on my commute this morning I was able to change songs on my iPhone and flip through pages on my Kindle Paperwhite without having to take my gloves off. Oh, and did I mention they’re lined in cashmere? — Alex Colon
Thermos Water Bottle
Hydration is essential for health and while I’m excited about the possibility of connected water bottles, my best Christmas gift was this $9.95 Thermos water bottle that holds 20 ounces and has a dial I can turn to track how many bottles I’ve consumed. I enter it into my Fitbit dashboard and I’m on my way to a well-hydrated 2014. — Stacey Higginbotham
I can honestly say that I’m not sure I want or need a smartwatch now that I got a Fitbit Force (see disclosure). The little OLED display on this quiet wearable makes a big difference in the value, mainly because I always have the time available to me alongside my daily health bits: steps taken, distance traveled, stairs climbed, minutes active and calories burned. I love the silent alarm that vibrates to wake me up.
Fitbit says the call notifications are coming in the future and I’m fine with that but I don’t really want more noise on my wrist. Instead, Fitbit Force is a passive wearable that provides and captures just the information I want. And it does so by making the technology behind it completely invisible. — Kevin Tofel
Anker Astro Mini charger
Since moving to San Francisco a year ago, my phone has run out of battery just about every day. My iPhone just isn’t up to the task of answering emails, clocking the next Muni bus, tracking my run and snapping a picture of every single cable car ever for 16 hours straight. The Anker Astro Mini changed that. It’s a charger that’s about the size of a pack of gum and works with any USB charging cord. It was a lifesaver during a long trek back from Wisconsin I made after the holidays. — Signe Brewster
Disclosure: Fitbit is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom. Om Malik, founder of Gigaom, is also a venture partner at True.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock user alexmillos.