Tips When Gifting Tech

By Tracey Dowdy

No matter how tech-savvy or tech-challenged you are, there are things to consider when gifting technology to someone else. Apple or Android? Google Smart Home devices or Amazon Alexa compatible?

There’s no need to stress, just follow these simple guidelines to avoid giving a gift the recipient can’t or won’t use. 

Find out which operating system they prefer. For example, if they’re Android phone user or PC fan, then Apple products like an Apple watch may not integrate seamlessly. Or, if they’re using a Google Nest Hub, an Amazon Alexa isn’t the best choice. Look for products that work across platforms like a Roku or Fire Stick that work with most TV’s, or select wireless earbuds or smartwatches (just not an Apple Watch) are generally compatible with any type of smartphone. If in doubt, include a gift receipt for easy exchanges. CNET has a great smart home compatibility chart to help you navigate your options. 

Consider hidden costs. Whether you’re giving a laptop or headphones, keep in mind any accessories that the recipient may have to purchase. If you’re unsure, Ask the salesperson if the device is ready to use right out of the box. For example, if you’re gifting headphones, remember many smartphones have eliminated the headphone jack, so consider whether you should include a dongle with your present. Or, if you’re gifting a laptop, should you include a case or allow them to choose their own. If they’re someone who is hard on their devices or works in a rough environment, consider whether an extended warranty or protection plan is necessary.

If you’re gifting a smartphone, it’s important to know which carrier they are or will be using to ensure the phone is compatible with their service. CNET’s Jason Cipriani suggests specifically asking which wireless carrier they use or choose an unlocked phone. These days, most smartphone makers offer an unlocked version that will work on almost all wireless carriers, across platforms, however, not every carrier feature might work, particularly Wi-Fi calling, which is tuned to specific networks.

Consider privacy concerns. With stories in the news of smart home devices being hacked, be mindful that not everyone is comfortable with this type of technology in their home. Even though it appears to be the WiFi network and password that have been hacked in these cases, many people still have reservations and would not appreciate a smart home device. 

Look at software support. Some smart devices, like phones and laptops, require the user to regularly update their software. It’s not difficult, but may be intimidating to some users. Other smart devices like speakers, Alexa, and Chromecast run their updates in the background making them a good choice for less tech savvy gift recipients. 

Tracey Dowdy is a freelance writer based just outside Washington DC. After years working for non-profits and charities, she now freelances, edits and researches on subjects ranging from family and education to history and trends in technology. Follow Tracey on Twitter.

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