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Front Page Talking Points


Holiday tech gifts: See what's new, clever and affordable


1.gifCan you spot gifts – digital or old-school – that you want?

2.gifFind a local holiday performance, display or other event that sounds like fun.

3.gifLook for people or a group helping the less fortunate. Who benefits and how?

Tech devices and accessories that you get or give this season can be practical as well as cool. Choices of digital gadgets and electronic diversions get more imaginative, portable and interactive each year. Check out a sampling of new phone accessories, games, audio gear and toys.

If you like to play games on your phone, or want a console-like experience that won’t bust a budget, the Backbone One mobile controller ($64) is an accessory for turning iPhones and Android devices into a Nintendo Switch-like console that can play local games and stream games from services like Google Stadia or Xbox Cloud Gaming. For friends or family members who prefer wired earbuds, Moondrop Quarks deliver high quality for just $11 (or nearly $13 with remote pickup and microphone for calls). And for TikTok users who want to boost videos to another level, a LetsGlow Studio set ($15) has reflective fashion accessories, colorful stickers and a 16-color LED glow light phone or tablet attachment to enliven presentations.

Here are more ideas:

  • A hand-controlled flying spinner ($38) resembles a globe and is a mini-drone that works without a remote controller. Different throwing angles and speeds create different flight lines and boomerang effect. Colorful LED lights make it cooler at night. When a hand goes near it, it flies in the opposite direction. The distinctive toy runs for eight to 10 minutes on each 20-minute charge via a USB.
  • In "Marvel Snap," a game for Android or iOS phones, players build a deck of cards based on characters from the Marvel comic books. Each card has a certain power level and cost to unlock, and many cards boast unique abilities that modify your power or downgrade your opponent's. Over six turns, cards are played on the board; whoever has the highest power in two of three locations on the board at the end of the game wins.
  • An OontZ Angle Solo Bluetooth Speaker from Cambridge Soundworks comes in four color choices and costs just $20. This five-watt portable music player has enhanced bass-pumping, a 100-foot Bluetooth range and 15-hour playtime between charges.
  • A battery-run Laser Tail cat toy ($19) moves a red laser beam around the floor and creates play patterns. It turns off after 10 minutes to keep the pet from being over-stimulated and to keep the thrill of the chase fresh.
  • A lightstrips kit from Phillips Hue ($70) illuminates a gaming room or other space with a row of LED lights that can be programmed to change color based on triggers like time of day or voice commands.
  • A Wacom Intuos art tablet ($70) includes software trials to get started with drawing, painting and photo editing. It also includes a battery-free stylus with three extra nibs.
  • Invisible ink pens aren’t digital tech, but have a special light on the cap to see "secret" messages.
  • Keychain portable chargers for a phone or tablet range from $20 to $40 for basic models to keep you juiced when away from an electric outlet.

Mini photo prints: Fujifilm's latest instant printer connects wirelessly to a phone via Bluetooth and can print any camera roll shot on two-inch by three-inch paper sold separately ($14 for 20 sheets). The $98 device comes in white, pink, and black.

Historic-setting video game: "Pentiment," a $20 release for Xbox, is a medieval narrative murder mystery set in a small town in Bavaria. Solo players who like text conversation can work with an illuminator of manuscripts at a fictional abbey as he tries to solve a rich baron's murder there. The 15-hour game demands a player converse with a range of characters with answers guiding the narrative and quests. Players can get a deep dive into 16th century art, history and culture as an encyclopedia continually fills with terms after conversations.

Tablet pen: The Meko Universal Stylus Pen ($14) lets users draw, sketch or write on iPads and other touchscreen devices. It comes with mesh tips and precision tips, including replacements, and has a transparent disc at the end to see where each mark is being made.

Front Page Talking Points is written by Alan Stamm for, Copyright 2024

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Common Core State Standard
SL.CCS.1/2/3/4 Grades 6-12: An essay of a current news event is provided for discussion to encourage participation, but also inspire the use of evidence to support logical claims using the main ideas of the article. Students must analyze background information provided about a current event within the news, draw out the main ideas and key details, and review different opinions on the issue. Then, students should present their own claims using facts and analysis for support.