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The Verge’s favorite holiday gifts under $100

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The Verge’s favorite holiday gifts under $100

Apple EarPods with USB-C

Here’s a fun fact: Apple’s wired earbuds still feature some of the best-sounding mics you can get for taking phone calls outside of a professional microphone. What’s more, they’re now available with one of three connectors — 3.5mm, Lightning, or USB-C — meaning your giftee will never have to worry about them dying midway through an important conversation.
Price: $17.98+

Baboon to the Moon Fannypack

You don’t need to lug around a full-on backpack if all you plan to carry with you is ChapStick, a phone, and a few other everyday essentials. Thankfully, there are space-saving alternatives like the Baboon to the Moon Fannypack, which offers three liters of space and comes in a colorful, spill-proof design that’s as unmistakable as it is durable.
Price: $35+

GuliKit KingKong 2 Pro Controller

GuliKit’s KingKong 2 Pro Controller looks a lot like Nintendo’s Pro controller, but its Hall effect sticks are drift-proof for better long-term reliability — something that’s especially handy for those that play their Nintendo Switch while docked. The gamepad offers a rubberized grip as well, and you can even rearrange the face buttons into an Xbox layout for playing on PC.
Price: $55.76

Nomad Stand

Although you can pick up a magnetic iPhone charger on Amazon for as little as $10, chances are it won’t be anywhere near as slick as Nomad’s latest MagSafe-compatible offering. The blacked-out charging stand offers slower 7.5W charging speeds, but it also features a glass panel and a sleek metal chassis that allows it to easily level up any desk setup.
Price: $80

REI Co-op Wallace Lake Flannel Shirt

The dream of the ’90s is alive at REI, apparently. The co-op’s handsome Wallace Lake Flannel is a hardy button-up that’s available in an assortment of retro-inspired patterns for both men and women, all of which exude lumberjack chic without ever requiring you to pick up a splitting maul and put in the actual work.
Price: $74.95

Amazfit Band 7

The number of premium features the Amazfit Band 7 offers for the price is kind of mind-boggling. For less than $50, you get a quality fitness tracker that nails the essentials while boasting abnormal heart rate notifications, stress tracking, and a nice OLED display. Add in 18 days of battery life, and it’s easy to see why it’s such a steal.
Price: $44.99+

Tekton Everybit Tech Rescue Kit

For a paltry $25, Tekton’s versatile Everybit Tech Rescue Kit provides you with everything you need to tune up your PC, iPhone, controllers, and most other gadgets. The 46-piece screwdriver kit is chock-full of tools — including a tweezer, a metal spudger, a suction cup, and a smorgasbord of quality bits — all of which lower the threshold for at-home tinkering.
Price: $24+

Echo Show 5 (third-gen)

Amazon’s third-gen Echo Show 5 is the ultimate bedside alarm clock. The 5.5-inch smart display is small enough that it won’t commandeer your entire nightstand, yet it still lets you easily catch up on the news, check the weather, and tap into whatever white noise lulls you to sleep best. Coqui frog sounds, anyone?
Price: $39.99

Epomaker TH80 Pro

The Epomaker TH80 is one of our favorite 75 percent mechanical keyboards. It’s fantastic to type on, it supports simultaneous Bluetooth connections, and it comes with hot-swappable switches that let you nail that perfect typing feel. The step-up Pro model is just as great, too, only it offers a slightly bigger battery and a few welcome functionality improvements.
Price: $80.99+

Black & Decker Furbuster

High-end robovacs with auto-empty docks and AI obstacle avoidance are great and all, but sometimes a classic handheld is all you need. Black & Decker’s rechargeable Furbuster is a great option for picking up fur, dirt, and other debris, especially since it offers a surprising amount of suction and an extra-long crevice tool for hitting those hard-to-reach areas.
Price: $74.93+

Marvel’s Spider-Man 2

Sony’s latest PlayStation 5 exclusive is all about dizzying cityscapes, emo angst, and the kind of web-slinging antics only Insomniac can conjure up. That is to say, it’s an excellent sequel, one that places you in control of not one but two spider-men as you take on Kraven, Venom, and a who’s who of classic Spider-Man villains. It’s superhero wish fulfillment at its finest.
Price: $69.99

Jabra Elite 4

It’s easy to overlook the Jabra Elite 4 given their sub-$100 competition — which is unfortunate given the wireless earbuds offer quite a lot for the money, including both ANC and multipoint. They’re just as reliable as the last-gen model, too, and unlike other Bluetooth buds, they aren’t locked into a single ecosystem.
Price: $59.99+

Fujifilm Instax Mini 12

There’s something magical about holding a photo seconds after capturing it, which is why Fujifilm’s Instax Mini 12 rules. The terrific instant camera is incredibly easy to use — just point and shoot — making it a great option for capturing card-size photos of family, friends, and anyone else your giftee wants to unwillingly subject to their artistic pursuits.
Price: $79+

UE Wonderboom 3

Nobody should be without a solid Bluetooth speaker, and the UE Wonderboom 3 remains an excellent option. The waterproof orb-shaped speaker is remarkably loud for its size, can last up to 14 hours on a single charge, and can pair with two Bluetooth devices simultaneously. The fact that it actually floats is just a plus.
Price: $79.99

Lego Piranha Plant

Over the last few years, Lego has launched a slew of clever botanical sets for adults that can add a touch of color to any room with absolutely no maintenance. The Lego Super Mario Piranha Plant is kind of like that, only it’s a posable 540-piece replica of one of Mario’s iconic baddies instead of a Welsh poppy or your run-of-the-mill larkspur.
Price: $59.99

Govee LED Strip Light M1 Matter

If you’re hoping to brighten a drab staircase to liven up your holiday party with some colorful lighting that can sync to the latest Bad Bunny track, Govee’s LED Strip Light M1 can provide. The tunable, ultrabright LED lights are also Matter-ready, so you can use them with Amazon Alexa, Apple Home, and any other Matter-compatible platform.

Price: $41.99+

L.L.Bean Wicked Good Moccasins

Frigid days call for more than a decent pair of wool socks and a warm beverage. L.L.Bean’s sheepskin-lined moccasins live up to their name, though, providing something supremely cozy to slip into when the temperatures start to dip. The treaded mocs also come in several cuts and colors, ensuring they won’t look out of touch with the rest of your giftee’s wardrobe.
Price: $79.99+

Apple AirTag

Apple’s AirTags are becoming as ubiquitous as a set of keys — and for good reason. The handy ultra wideband item trackers are our go-to recommendation for Apple users thanks to their user-replaceable batteries and ability to tap into Apple’s extensive Find My network, which lets you and up to five others keep tabs on whatever belongings you can’t afford to live without.
Price: $27+

Secretly Society subscription

Assuming your loved one owns a turntable, a Secretly Society subscription is a more tangible way to give the gift of music. Each month they’ll receive a limited edition LP from one Secretly’s superb collection of labels (Dead Oceans, JagJaguwar, etc.), providing them with a new Angel Olsen, Slowdive, or Jason Molina LP to spin when they get tired of the ol’ Spotify algorithm.
Price: $75+

Amazon Kindle (2022)

If your giftee is a big reader, Amazon’s newest entry-level Kindle is the e-reader to buy. It has USB-C charging and a screen that’s as sharp as the display on the latest Kindle Paperwhite, yet it comes in a smaller, more affordable package. It even comes standard with 16GB of storage, which is more than enough for the average person’s reading collection.
Price: $99.99

Keith Haring Colorful Chess Set

When a board game has been around for as long as chess, style updates aren’t just inevitable, they’re welcome. MoMA’s gorgeous Keith Haring-inspired set features colorful humans, barking dogs, and other iconographic pieces adapted from some of the artist’s most famous works, all lacquered and offset by Haring’s trademark black outlines.
Price: $49.50+

Backbone One mobile controller (USB-C)

The PlayStation Portal may be the hot new PS5 accessory, but the Backbone One remains a more versatile gadget for playing mobile games and tapping into Xbox Game Pass and Remote Play. Not only does the mobile controller accommodate both Android and Apple devices, depending on the model, but it also features a 3.5mm audio jack, dual analog sticks, and its own software for capturing screenshots.
Price: $74.99

A Psalm for the Wild-Built

BookTok recs can be hit or miss, but the first book in Becky Chambers’ cozy Monk & Robot series is a certified hit if there ever was one. It’s a surprisingly philosophical and optimistic sci-fi novella as told through a series of quiet conversations between a wandering monk and a sentient robot who can’t help but ponder life’s biggest questions.
Price: $11.99+

Ring Pet Tag

The Ring Pet Tag doesn’t feature GPS tracking, Bluetooth, or any newfangled features. What it does offer is a simple QR code, which lets any good Samaritan who happens upon your pet start a two-way conversation with you or look up any relevant health info you want to provide on your furry friend. It even shields your personal info in the process, something traditional dog tags don’t allow.
Price: $9.99

Kendama

There’s something special about gifting an analog game like Kendama in the age of Fortnite — even more so when you consider that the Japanese toy has changed little since it was first developed hundreds of years ago. The cup-and-ball game remains easy to learn but difficult to master, too, making it a good fit for anyone looking to hone a skill over time.
Price: $34.99

EWA The New MagOne

There are plenty of PopSockets alternatives out there, but we’ve found EWA’s The New MagOne to offer the perfect blend of form and function. It’s a relatively thin accessory with a built-in kickstand and a loop for your finger, yet it’s also compatible with Apple’s MagSafe tech so you don’t have to worry about tossing it on an iPhone charger.
Price: $18.99+

Red/White Verge Waffle Beanie

It’s time we all admit that we’re living in the golden age of honeycomb weaves. These days, nearly every piece of clothing you can imagine is available in some sort of waffle fabric, including The Verge’s latest beanie. It’s a great little skullcap, if we do say so ourselves, with an excellent logo and a solid warmth-to-weight ratio.
Price: $34.99

Mpowerd Luci Solar String Lights: Color

Mpowerd’s solar-powered string lights are perfect if your giftee is brave enough to camp in the fall or host a backyard shindig (weather permitting). Not only can the 18-foot string dish out six different colors and last up to 15 hours on a single charge but it also doubles as a portable charger that will let your loved one top off their phone as needed.
Price: $30.25+

The Diversity of Life

It’s hard to scoff at a proper collector’s edition. The Folio take on The Diversity of Life is a great case in point, one that adds an extra level of gravitas to E.O. Wilson’s thoughtful examination of the origins of biodiversity and the dangers humans pose to it. It’s loaded with stunning illustrations and blocked in iridescent foil, rendering it a great fit for any budding naturalist.
Price: $95

Pinecil portable soldering iron

If someone you know still uses a basic soldering iron that looks like it was bought at RadioShack to repair their electronics, it’s time for an upgrade. Luckily, the Pinecil is a fairly inexpensive gadget that heats up in seconds, has a tiny OLED display for dialing in your exact temperature, and can be powered using either a DC adapter or USB-C.
Price: $25.99+

Monopoly Deal

No one has time for Monopoly. Fortunately, the fast-paced Monopoly Deal takes the best parts of everyone’s favorite capitalist-driven board game and distills the mechanics down to the bare fundamentals. There are still properties to be bought and plenty of backstabbing to be had, though, this time around, the entire thing takes 15 minutes.
Price: $4.99+

Le Creuset London Mugs (six-pack)

Le Creuset’s Dutch oven has been a cast iron icon for so long that it’s easy to dismiss everything else the French cookware giant has done since. That’s a shame considering the company’s hefty stoneware mugs are just as classic and far more affordable, which is probably why they’ve made the wish list of several Verge staffers this year.
Price: $79.95+

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Microsoft is working with Nvidia, AMD, and Intel to improve upscaling support in PC games

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Microsoft is working with Nvidia, AMD, and Intel to improve upscaling support in PC games

Microsoft has outlined a new Windows API designed to offer a seamless way for game developers to integrate super resolution AI-upscaling features from Nvidia, AMD, and Intel. In a new blog post, program manager Joshua Tucker describes Microsoft’s new DirectSR API as the “missing link” between games and super resolution technologies, and says it should provide “a smoother, more efficient experience that scales across hardware.”

“This API enables multi-vendor SR [super resolution] through a common set of inputs and outputs, allowing a single code path to activate a variety of solutions including Nvidia DLSS Super Resolution, AMD FidelityFX Super Resolution, and Intel XeSS,” the post reads. The pitch seems to be that developers will be able to support this DirectSR API, rather than having to write code for each and every upscaling technology.

The blog post comes a couple of weeks after an “Automatic Super Resolution” feature was spotted in a test version of Windows 11, which promised to “use AI to make supported games play more smoothly with enhanced details.” Now, it seems the feature will plug into existing super resolution technologies like DLSS, FSR, and XeSS rather than offering a Windows-level alternative. 

Microsoft says that the new API will be available soon via a preview version of its Agility SDK. It plans to offer a “sneak peek” of how DirectSR can be used during a developer session at the forthcoming Game Developers Conference (GDC). The session will take place on March 21st, and will include representatives from both Microsoft as well as Nvidia and AMD.

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Apple warns against using rice to dry out your wet iPhone; here’s what to do instead

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Apple warns against using rice to dry out your wet iPhone; here’s what to do instead

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Cellphones getting water damage is nothing new. Before the iPhone, I had a flip phone that fell into a swimming pool. The first thing everyone told me to do was to dry the phone out with rice.

The idea is that the rice will draw out any excess water, saving your phone from being destroyed by water damage.

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This method remains many people’s tried-and-true method for saving a waterlogged phone, and I’ve seen it work firsthand. 

However, a new support document by Apple has just come out, and the company is asking people to please not place their iPhones in a bowl or bag of rice.

CLICK TO GET KURT’S FREE CYBERGUY NEWSLETTER WITH SECURITY ALERTS, QUICK VIDEO TIPS, TECH REVIEWS AND EASY HOW-TO’S TO MAKE YOU SMARTER

An iPhone in a bowl of rice (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

Why shouldn’t you put your wet iPhone in rice?

Apple is now warning customers that placing their iPhones into a bowl or bag of rice might actually slow down the drying process and damage their phone’s internal components. In particular, the company warns that small particles of wet rice may end up in your iPhone, damaging the phone’s logic board.

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iPhone rice trick 2

Wet iPhone (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

What Apple recommends you do instead

Next time your iPhone takes a dip in the swimming pool or the toilet, instead of running for the rice in the cabinet, Apple suggests doing this instead.

Step 1 – Tap the water out

Apple suggests that your first immediate step should be lightly tapping the iPhone against your hand with the charging connector pointed down. This should pull some of the water inside your iPhone out. Don’t be alarmed if only a few drops of water come from the connector port. Leave your iPhone somewhere dry, with some airflow.

iPhone rice trick 3

Image of an iPhone and power cord (Kurt “CyberGuy” Knutsson)

MORE: BEST ACCESSORIES FOR YOUR PHONE

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Step 2 – Wait 30 minutes, then try to charge your iPhone

You should leave your iPhone alone for a period of 30 minutes. Once 30 minutes have gone by, you can attempt to charge your iPhone again. If your iPhone charges, congratulations. There’s no water damage to your iPhone and you can resume using it. If you receive an alert saying “liquid detected in USB-C (or lightning) port,” you unfortunately still have water in your iPhone. However, luckily, hope isn’t lost.

MORE: 5 BEST PORTABLE PHONE CHARGERS OF 2024

iPhone rice trick 4

Liquid Detected alert on iPhone (Apple)

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Step 3 – Leave your iPhone in a dry area for 24 hours

If you receive an alert saying “liquid detected in USB-C (or lightning) port,” you unfortunately still have water in your iPhone. Apple warns against using a blow-dryer or any other heat gun device to dry your iPhone after it takes a splash. You should instead leave your phone in a dry area with some airflow and allow for 24 hours to pass. A room with a ceiling fan is a great place to leave your iPhone while it dries.

iPhone rice trick 5

Charging Not Available alert on iPhone (Apple)

Step 4 – Retest the connector

After 24 hours have passed, you should try to charge your iPhone again. If your iPhone charges, you are all good. If it doesn’t charge, Apple recommends removing the charging cable from the wall outlet and changing electrical sources for a moment. Apple recommends against trying to insert a cotton swab or any other foreign object into your charging port.

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If your iPhone’s charging port is damaged or not working properly, you may want to consider alternative charging methods that do not rely on the port. For example, some iPhones support wireless charging, which uses a magnetic pad or stand to charge your phone without plugging in a cable. This way, you can avoid inserting anything into the port and prevent further damage. 

Now, if all that doesn’t work and your iPhone still does not charge or shows signs of water damage, such as a wet screen, distorted audio or malfunctioning buttons, you may need to contact Apple for repair or replacement. You can check your warranty status and common issues not covered under warranty by clicking here.

Remember to back up your data before sending your iPhone for repair, as you may lose some or all of your information.

MORE: HOW TO PROTECT AN IPHONE & IPAD FROM MALWARE 2024

Kurt’s key takeaways

It’s important to remember that all iPhones since the iPhone 12 are able to safely withstand submersion in water of up to 20 feet for 30 minutes. If you do end up dropping your iPhone in the water, just don’t run for the rice.

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Do you think Apple should make their iPhones more water-resistant or waterproof? Let us know by writing us at Cyberguy.com/Contact.

For more of my tech tips & security alerts, subscribe to my free CyberGuy Report Newsletter by heading to Cyberguy.com/Newsletter.

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X adds live video to Spaces instead of bringing back Periscope

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X adds live video to Spaces instead of bringing back Periscope

Spaces, the live audio feature for X, is now letting hosts turn on their video during chat sessions. The platform formerly known as Twitter announced the news on Wednesday as owner / CTO Elon Musk reposted a walkthrough from a user named “Dogedesigner.”

Spaces users will notice a new option to “enable video” when they first create a new Spaces session. Hosts can opt for either their phone’s front or back-facing cameras as well as either a landscape or vertical view of their video feed. 

The Video Spaces are available on the iOS version of the X app, but we haven’t seen them available on Android or the web yet. Multiple users reported significant lag while trying out the feature so far.

Right now, only hosts have the ability to turn on video. The end result is a prominent display of the host’s video feed, which is then surrounded by icons of co-hosts, speakers, and any listeners. At first glance, it’s an environment that resembles Twitch — expect for the fact that any selected audience members can chime in at any minute. A host’s video feed also only lives inside a Spaces session, so users will have to join the session in order to tune in.

When Elon Musk announced that Spaces would get video late last year, his description of it sounded closer to a videoconferencing app or video call app like FaceTime, where the video feed switches to whoever is currently speaking. 

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But for now, a typical Spaces with video session prominently features the host’s video feed, which is surrounded by the smaller icons of any other speakers, co-hosts, or listeners in the room. It’s not exactly like Twitch since anyone you give permission to can speak back to you, but it does turn the host into the main event in a similar fashion. 

The new video integration of X Spaces is separate from the platform’s existing live broadcast feature, which lets users directly livestream video. Spaces functions as a live chatroom, where multiple users can tune in and speak. In contrast, the audience in a typical live broadcast can only comment or send hearts

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