iDB 2012 holiday gift guide: Jim’s budget saver picks

As we barrel into the holiday season at an alarming rate, I am assuming that you, like I, have not finished purchasing gifts. As an iDB reader, you know that tech gifts are the best gifts and we are hoping to make choosing a little easier. When I was little, I always preferred something cool and new under the Christmas tree. Thanks to iOS devices, there are many new ways to pick up a new innovative or interactive gift for the kids or kids-at-heart.

My guide is split between age groups and all suggestions fall into the stocking-stuffer category, thanks to their sub $75 price tags. Why spend huge bucks when there are decent options for less? With the bargain shopper in mind, the following might not be the best toy or accessory money can buy, but they are great deals for the dollar…

Kids under 15

CarBot by Desk Pets

As a child I obsessed over remote control anything. Cars. Boats. Planes. You name it, I almost always had an RC car on my Santa list. For the similarly obsessed kid on your list, CarBot is an easy solution. With four different modes, including one that will cause the vehicle to autonomously navigate a maze, there are a lot of options for a small price. If little Tommy’s friend also has a CarBot, they can even race each other around the house, complete with flashing headlights and sound effects. The controls are operated via iOS CarBot companion app, which is simple enough, but recommended by the manufacturer for ages 8+. A CES 2013 Design and Engineering Award Honoree, Desk Pets is a great option for a mere $29.99 and comes in multiple colors. Having played with one recently, it is worth all of $30, but not more. The limited controls would frustrate older users, but it is enough to keep smaller kids busy.

Color Studio HD and iMarker by Crayola and Griffin Technologies


Crayola is a staple company in any child’s life and if you think crayons and colored pencils are only for paper, you are wrong. With the iMarker child’s stylus and ColorStudio HD companion app, your favorite person will be coloring for hours. The app has built in interactive coloring pages, hundreds of colors, and a writing utensil chooser. The iMarker will behave as either a marker, crayon, highlighter, pencil, or paint brush depending on the selection. If children get bored with the included coloring pages, there is a free-draw option or the ability to use clipart to build customized pages. Once finished with a new masterpiece, print it directly from the app and put it on the fridge! I really enjoyed playing with this one myself, but it would be a great gift to anyone over age 3, with adult supervision. At $29.99, and slightly cheaper on Amazon, it is a great gift at a great price. Battery included.

A Charlie Brown Christmas by Loud Crow Interactive

First, before suggesting an app as a gift, make sure the child you “gift” an app to understands that getting a cool app is a decent gift. Most kids are looking to hold something in their hand, but an app does not fill that desire. However, A Charlie Brown Christmas interactive e-book app is an amazing addition to a young person’s library. Bringing the story of Charles Shultz’ A Charlie Brown Christmas to life right on the iPad is a magical thing. Read through the story or have Charlie Brown’s voice actor read it aloud to enjoy the story yourself. Play Shroeder’s piano and decorate Charlie’s little tree. It is currently on sale for $2.99 so gift it fast!

Kids at heart 15+

Satechi BT Pocket Speaker by Satechi

Older kids want to rock! This Satechi pocket sized mini Bluetooth speaker is a great portable option for your teen or kid-at-heart. As a collapsable speaker that only stands approximately 3″ tall, it is not going to please an audiophile, but the goal here is portability, not a crystal clear concert. It is a peppy little guy that surprisingly puts out a decent volume, making it a great addition to a backpack or a desk. USB charging prevents extra batteries and it can even answer phone calls if paired with an iPhone. Complete with a travel pouch, get this for the on-the-go person on your list. At $34.99, it is a nice stocking stuffer.

8-bitty by Think Geek

Longing for an old-school D-pad for your iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad? Think Geek’s 8-bitty is a Bluetooth controller that is clearly reminiscent of Nintendo’s original controller. 8-bitty is compatible with all iCade enabled apps and games, perfect for the gamer in your life. However, before you run off to buy one, check out the full and updated list of compatible games. I spent a while playing Beyond Ynth HD with the 8-bitty and it really brings a new level of gameplay to iOS devices. At $29.99, this is a steal. Don’t forget to buy two “AAA” batteries too.

Helo TC Assault by Griffin Technologies

A remote controlled helicopter is certainly for the oldest young adult on the list. The Helo TC Assault is a missile firing, flying disaster, and giving one to the nephew will make you the coolest uncle, ever. This is not the only RC helicopter I have commanded and let me be the first to tell you there is a steep learning curve to the controls and even a slight delay on the handset. There is something that makes me giddy about flying something from my iPhone. I can feel the testosterone coursing through my veins, which is tempered slightly by the pain of learning to keep it from destroying everything I wreck it into. After multiple test flights, you will be well on your way to patrolling the house. Complete with a HELO TC companion app and additional hardware, an iPhone or iPod Touch is required. At $52, this is the most expensive suggestion, but a cool toy at a sub $75 price. It is a helicopter, after all. Don’t forget to buy four “AA” batteries too.

Remember, these are not top tier suggestions, but affordable options for the tech-minded people on your list. Often we get caught up trying to buy something expensive, just for the sake of buying something pricey. Hopefully my list will help you make educated and affordable decisions.

If you haven’t, check out Sebastien’s list and keep an eye open for everyone else’s list in the next few days! Ultimately, they will all end up archived in our Holiday Gift Guide section.

Thanks to Desk Pets, Crayola, Griffin, Satechi, and Think Geek for sending over review units to make sure I wasn’t making blind recommendations.