2015 Gift Guide: Tech

Holidays are the time when people give into their urge to splurge on something nicer (and more expensive), especially when it comes to tech devices. But we wanted to skip past the usual suspects of tech gear found in typical retail channels, so we scoured around to find a dozen tech products offering something slightly different, novel, or just plain cool…gifts which will actually be an unexpected surprise.


Poketo x Casetify Abstract iPhone 6/6 Plus Cases \\\ $40
Colorful and playful, these iPhone cases designed by LA design shop+brand Poketo will fit both the 6 and 6 Plus phones, and are covered in scribbles, doodles, and splashes of paint that will have you seeing flashbacks of your favorite outfits from the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.

CritterandGuitari KALEIDOLOOP

Critter & Guitari KALEIDOLOOP \\\ $300
Confusion, then delight. That’s probably the emotional response your gift recipient will reveal upon opening this perplexingly cool looking musical device. Designed to collect sounds and allow the user to manipulate playback into weird-cool cartoonish soundscapes, think of this small box as the loony-tunes portable cousin of autotuning.


Hard Graft Box Camera Bag \\\ $455
For the gentleman or lady who carries their DSLR or mirrorless camera everywhere, this classic looking leather exterior with an Italian wool felt interior should age better than the gear it carries.


DxO One 20.2MP Camera for iPhone \\\ $599
This is for that (very) special someone serious and obsessed with Instagram – the one who knows their favorite VSCOcam filters by name. A huge 1″ sensor and sensitive f/1.8 maximum aperture means this 32mm equivalent lens picks up where the built-in iPhone camera ends, producing beautiful photos even in low light conditions. The compact form factor makes the DxO One easy to throw into a pocket, and when connected to your phone turns the screen into one gigantic swiveling viewfinder. Seriously fun, especially with the pack of desktop software to process the SuperRAW mode photos.


Projects Watches Terra Time \\\ $145
It’s not smart, connected, nor digital, but there’s something scientific in spirit about this analog wristwatch with a topographic relief front face design (which the maker amusingly refers to as “six shades of gray”, each level representing a layer of the earth).


Neon Mfg Neon Signs \\\ $89-$159
How surprised would anyone be when you give them their very own neon sign? There are pre-made designs and messages, or you can have Neon Mfg. make a custom sign with the name or message of your choice.


Moshi Spatia Airplay Speaker \\\ $399
The new Spatia has the profile of an Art Deco sculpture, except this piece is an  Airplay-compatible speaker with two Class-D amplifiers powering five individual speakers: two 1-inch silk dome tweeters, two 2.75-inch mid-range drivers, and a 4-inch downward firing subwoofer. In our test it proved plenty loud and clear while streaming from our iPhone and iPad, and we liked we could tweak the sound using Moshi’s Spatia App with customizable equalizer and remote controls. There are even a small catalog of ambient sounds when all you want is some unobtrusive background sounds.


Atelier Schroeter Geodesic terrariums \\\ $Contact seller
These LED-lighting Geodesic terrariums remind me of the post-apocalyptic science fiction film, Silent Running, where enormous, greenhouse-like geodesic domed spaceships traveled across the galaxy in search of a new home. That’s reason enough to want one of these.


Definitive Technology W Studio Micro 3.1 Wireless Sound Bar \\\ $899
We’ve been wholeheartedly impressed with the surprisingly convincing cinematic sound this very sleek soundbar is capable of producing. Whether we’ve been immersed in episodes of the frenetic Mr. Roboto or sitting virtual courtside during NBA game broadcasts, this handsomely brushed dark aluminum speaker system fills the room with clear performance that gives character dialogue and the soundtrack breathing room. Sitting just 1.75” in height, the soundbar design thankfully never obstructs the view of any television it sits under. A faceted remote control and a wireless subwoofer are also notable features, but it’s the DTS Play-Fi technology which comes in the most handy for listening to audio streaming services when listening takes precedence over viewing.


AIAIAI TMA-2 Modular Headphones \\\ Starting at $145
The Danish company known for their memorable name, minimalist aesthetic, and quality audio gear wants you to configure their headphones according to your ear, eyes, and head. The TMA-2 system is a mix and match deal; choose from four modular categories using their online configurator: speaker units, earpads, headbands and cables. The novel customization process is akin to Nike iD meets IKEA flatpack furniture, with headphones optimized to fit well and sound best according to music preferences. Delivered in separate build-your-own packages, the headphones feel uniquely your own once pieced together by your own hands.


Xiaomi YI Action Camera \\\ $65
Wrapped inside the austere minimalist case is a Sony Exmor R BSI CMOS 16MP sensor capable of capturing 16 million pixels at 1080p and 60fps (recording to a microSD card). Those are some serious specs and hardware for a very modest price, an action camera so affordable, why not buy one for a friend and another one for yourself so you can record your travels in tandem?


A Century of Artifice by the VSCO Artist Initiative
\\\ $55
“A book? That’s not a tech gift?” Au contraire, mon frère, this special tome was put out by the digital art and imaging filter specialists, VSCO in partnership with experimental visual artist Michael Cina, famous for his work gracing the covers of electronic musicians such as Lucine, Shigeto, Pale Sketcher, and various other Ghostly label artists. It’s an art book that will appeal and appease the digital mind.

And be sure to check out our other tech accessories gift guide for additional recommendations.

Gregory Han is Tech Editor of Design Milk. A Los Angeles native with a profound love and curiosity for design, hiking, tide pools, and road trips, a selection of his adventures and musings can be found at