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Gizmo Guy: Last-Minute Gifts For Techies

Hey there, procrastinators. Still searching for a last-minute gizmo gift, small but valuable, to stuff in a stocking or perch on a mantel?

Google's Chromecast Audio device ($35) offers a music upgrade at a bargain price.
Google's Chromecast Audio device ($35) offers a music upgrade at a bargain price.Read more

Hey there, procrastinators. Still searching for a last-minute gizmo gift, small but valuable, to stuff in a stocking or perch on a mantel?

Consider . . .

Scotty, Beam Me Up: The just-out Apple Smart Battery Case ($99) for Apple 6 and 6S phones is a model of efficiency.

Unlike "third party" phone cases with button-activated supplemental batteries, Apple's tops off the primary battery charge automatically and constantly. So an on-screen icon continues to read "100 percent" all day long! The case also slips on and off easily (not common). And that soft-touch silicone finish and bumped-out backside make the package surprisingly grip-friendly, too.

Reenergizing any phone or tablet, the Tylt Energi 6K Smart wall charger ($69-$79) connects to your gear with an embedded Lightning or mini USB cable, plus a Universal USB port. Energi also is useful for on-the-go recharging, with its built-in 6000 mAh battery - three times the capacity of the Apple's encased Smart Battery.

Safe, Not Sorry: Buying a gift for a slippery-fingered sort? Help out this luckless character with one of Speck's drop-tested ("military grade") CandyShell phone cases. Lessens the chance for a dreaded cracked screen if dropped, and when bought in clear finish ($24.99 at still shows off the distinctive cosmetics of your mobile phone.

Music Upgrade: Small, smart, app-controlled speakers like the Sonos Play:1 and Bose SoundTouch 10 that stream music (free and paid) via a Wi-Fi-connected Internet service are wondrous things but demand a $199 hardware splurge.

Just $35 buys the tiny Google Chromecast Audio thingy that plugs into any stereo or powered speaker and offers a lot of the same content charms - app-based access to free Pandora and the huge TuneIn Radio global channel array, to paid subscription versions of Spotify and Deezer. Plus, you can wirelessly "cast" music to a Chromecast from the same iOS, Android, Mac, Windows, or Chromebook device.

Pack to Go: There are a multitude of Bluetooth speakers but only one UE Roll from Ultimate Ears. It's shaped like a pancake that's round and bulging in the midsection. Still, the Roll slips easily into a knapsack or suitcase and comes in a variety of colorful, rugged, waterproof finishes. Most crucially, the speaker sonically outpunches everything else in its weight and price ($99) range.

Make Your Own Music: The Jamstik+ Smart Guitar is an ultracompact and portable tool to learn and practice guitar notes and chord fingerings, with apps as your teacher. Jamstik+ also functions as a controller for Guitar Hero-style video games. And serious musicians will appreciate the device's MIDI-compatible charms.

While you're plucking away on guitar strings, the notes can sound and be recorded as if coming from a piano, banjo, or violin. Compatible with GarageBand on iPad Mini, iPad 3 or later, iPhone 4S or later, and Mac OS X. $299.

Shifting perspectives: The cameras in current smartphones are shockingly good but can't achieve the superwide angle, deep telephoto, macro, and fish-eye special effects of dedicated SLR shooters with swappable lenses.

That's where makers such as Olloclip, Mpow, and Techo come to the rescue, with clip-on specialty lenses (starting at $30) that fit over a phone's standard lens and manipulate the heck out of the image.

Olloclip's 4-in-1 designs (about $80) also pump up the action on a mobile phone's "Selfie" side camera, if the phone is out of its case and the screen protector is peeled off.

Smart Home 101: Want to give someone peace of mind? An iHome Control Smart Plug lets the recipient remotely light up the house or make sure the Crock-Pot was shut off, just by tapping an app and icon on a smartphone. Works with both Apple Home Kit and Android software, available in one-, two-, or three-packs ($36.76-$109.95) from Amazon.

For the gadgeteers who have almost everything, the 12-AC-outlet plus 2-USB-power-ported Monster Power Black Platinum power station ($199) lets 'em plug it all in. Features "Clean Power Stage 2" audio and video signal filtering for connected devices, plus an external Powerline Ethernet adapter, which boosts Internet signal strength from a modem/router located elsewhere in the abode.

A Gift That Keeps on Giving: Heard the protestation "Please don't get me anything"? Bet that selfless soul would still appreciate an online donation to a humanitarian group made in her/his name. Gizmo Guy has been charmed by the pitch of World Vision, a Christian-based (but nonsectarian- serving) charity that generates sustaining hunger relief. A $100 donation can send a Third World family a goat and two chickens to live on, $126 buys a sheep, producing milk, cheese, and wool. Tangible, handcrafted gifts are also available with donations at