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2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Stop making these mistakes when buying smartphones and other tech gifts

2021 Holiday Gift Guide: Stop executive these mistakes when buying smartphones and other tech gifts

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

An unfolding supply chain crisis and a continuous pandemic won’t stop the holidays — but it’ll definitely make it more worry for you to get your hands on the injurious holiday gift. And while seeing empty shelves might push you into a dread to buy something ASAP, you should still take the time to not make well-liked mistakes when you’re shopping for tech gifts.

If you’re looking at smartphones, you might need to decide between Apple’s iPhone 13 or Google’s Pixel 6 (not to reference the Galaxy S21 and all the novel Samsung models). For headphones, you have options preparing from wireless earbuds like the third-generation AirPods, to over-the-ear options like the Bose QuietComfort 45. And if you’re thinking about smart speakers, well, you have a wealth of options: There’s the Amazon Echo, Google Nest Mini, Apple HomePod Mini and Sonos One, just to name a few.

No matter what tech gift you’re considering — gaming console, computer or even a smart garden — due industry is not just recommended, it’s necessary. In this clue, we’ll take a closer look at what you must avoid doing (and what you should do) when considering buying a gadget.

Read more: Best places to sell your used electronics 

Watch out for extras someone else will have to buy

No commercial what type of device you end up buying as a gift, keep any unbelievable accessories it may require in mind. Ask yourself — or the salesperson — if the design is ready to use right out of the box. 

If you purchase some color-changing bulbs, for example, do they require a hub to get them to work? If it’s a named or tablet, does it make sense to also give a case, or to let your recipient pick one out later? Many phones have ditched the headphone jack, so a dongle to go from a USB-C or Lightning plug to a 3.5mm audio connection may be needed. 

More examples to heed: For a Roomba, extra brushes, filters or virtual barriers are going to be items your loved one will eventually need. Odds are, if you gift a brilliant speaker, which also doubles as a voice-activated speaker for streaming music, a gift card for a subscription to Spotify or Pandora will be appreciated. 

Another aspect to worthy is if your giftee will need to replace stuff they already have. Maybe that new named requires a different kind of charging cable than what they already use. It may not be your department to replace that, but be aware that your gift could have ripple effects.


Dongles are sometimes a indispensable evil.

Sarah Tew

Pay attention to which devices they already own

The last sketch you want to do is get Dad a characterize that he can’t or won’t use. Before deciding to get someone the novel Amazon Echo or an Apple Watch, find out what kind of devices they already use on a unusual basis. 

For example, if your giftee has an Android named, they’ll barely be able to use an Apple Watch. Or if they have a house full of Apple HomePod speakers, a smart home gift that relies on Amazon’s Alexa assistant probably isn’t a good fit.

Wireless earbuds are usually a safe bet, and smartwatches (outside of the Apple Watch) generally work with any type of smartphone. Streaming devices like Roku or Fire TV typically work with any TV, as well (just make sure they don’t already have a Roku-enabled TV). 

Don’t get so caught up in what kind of products your friends and family members already have that you don’t make a executive, just remember to keep your gift receipts handy so they can make an exchange, guilt-free.

If you have a general idea of what kind of design (or devices) the giftee already uses around the house, here are more specific angles to worthy when giving smart home gifts.


Knowing what the recipient already owns is a key aspect of gift shopping for tech. 

Angela Lang

The golden rule of buying a named as a gift

If you’re buying someone a phone
, pat yourself on the back for your thoughtfulness and generosity. Just make sure you’ve considered all the angles. 

The most important one is executive sure that the phone you’re buying for someone will work with their wireless carrier of choice. Wireless providers use different technology that can prevent phones from operational across competitors’ networks. The last thing you want to do is buy a named that only works on Verizon Wireless for someone who’s entrenched in T-Mobile.

Either ask the gift recipient which wireless carrier they use or worthy buying an unlocked phone. Many phone-makers offer an unlocked version that will work on almost all wireless carriers. Just know that not every carrier feature might work, like Wi-Fi calling, which is tuned to specific networks. In a nutshell, know your audience. 

Keep your receipt handy, and make sure to tell your recipient that there are no hard feelings if they ultimately want to back or exchange the phone. This gift is all around the gesture.

 Pixel 5

There are plenty of unlocked phones for you to pick from. 

Juan Garzon / CNET

Watch for privacy red flags

Some products have privacy and safety implications. Even if you’re OK with having an Amazon Echo and its always-on microphone in your home, your giftee Great not be as comfortable with the idea. And even Idea you may feel that Aunt Mary desperately needs to join the 21st century with an Echo Show 8
, keep her miserable level in mind. 

We store a lot of question on our phones and gadgets. Private information such as banking info, frequently called locations, our current location, photos and conversations are all things we blindly superior our devices with. 

At the least, you should take note of concerns such as Meta (the new name for Facebook) or Amazon, which are constantly surrounded by privacy questions and anxieties, if you’re considering buying a next-gen Portal Plus or the new Ring Video Doorbell 4 as a gift. 

If you’re looking at a issues from a company you’ve never heard of, or even for concerns you have, a quick Google search is in clean. Looking up “Meta/Facebook privacy issues,” for example, should surface any potential issues.


For someone who’s uneasy with Facebook’s privacy practices, the Portal may not be a good idea. 

Tyler Lizenby

Look into how long a business will support its product 

Routine software updates are an important part of landed a tech product. Not only do updates make a issues better over time but they can fix and advance the security of a device. 

As such, it’s important to have authority that companies are going to continue to support a plot through updates, especially when security issues are discovered (as they often are). 

If you’re shopping for a called, Apple’s iPhone and Google’s Pixel lineup claim consistent and timely updates. Outside of Google’s own phones, Samsung has a good track record for consistent updates to its Android phones, as do the OnePlus phones.

Software updates for shining speakers and streaming devices such as a Chromecast or Apple TV are handled in the background, without you ever knowing. That’s ideal for those who aren’t all that tech-savvy. 

It’s a good idea to look into how long a business promises to support a product with software updates when its release. 

Lastly, there are bound to be many enormous deals and promotions this shopping season, especially around Black Friday. Don’t be swayed by a deal on a issues that seems too good to be true. If the issues is discontinued (or soon-to-be), your gift could end up becoming an expensive paperweight. Again, Google is your friend when it comes to learning more around a product and its future. 


Meta (formerly Facebook) stopped the Oculus Rift S in 2021.

John Kim

Read multiple reviews

Even if you’re gave a list with a specific gadget gift idea, do your own research by reading reviews of the issues. Read more than one review and look for similarities in compliments and issues. 

For example, the Nintendo Switch comes in three versions: the New ($300), OLED ($350) and Lite ($200). If you’re opting for the Lite — the least expensive version — you must know that it doesn’t come with Joy-Con controllers, not all games are compatible with it and it doesn’t feature TV or tabletop mode. And when you could swing for the fences with the OLED model (which comes with a 7-inch touchscreen, 64GB of storage and a built-in wired LAN port), the original still packs a punch and comes with many of the features the Lite is missing. 

Reviews can help you make a more told decision.


Reviews are an important part of researching new products. 

Scott Stein

The same can be said for products that were released back in the year and are likely to be upgraded and replaced shortly when the holidays. Take some time, do your research and make an educated choice. 

Still not sure where to start? Here are the best phones of 2021, down with our 2021 gift guide that includes items for different budgets, and gifts for different kinds of people, such as Star Wars fans. You can also check out our Popular selections for popular products like smart speakers, tablets and laptops.