Colorful and kitschy, the products at Fredflare are intended to be more whimsical than useful. The company is actually named after legendary actor and dancer Fred Astaire, who made everything he touched seem entertaining. Perhaps a geek in your life will find Fredflare’s over-sized earbud speakers ($60), or Banana flip phone cover ($14) endlessly amusing.
Charles & Marie
Charlesandmarie.comCharlesandmarie.com is a lesser-known but very clever San Francisco “cool-hunting” site. You won’t see this stuff everywhere else, and that exclusivity appeals to tech nerds who like to think that their tastes are rarefied and rather special. This sandblasted glass “Sunjar” incorporates LEDs and a solar panel to collect light during the day and ooze it out at night. The site also sells what very well might be the smallest or lightest Bluetooth headset around—the Argard M10 weights 5 grams and secures itself in your ear without an over-ear hook. Smaller than a quarter.
This is the store most Web surfers think of when asked where to buy gifts for, well, tech geeks. The site started as a home base for geek goods that appealed to engineers and programmers burning the midnight oil at startups around the country in the 1990s. That’s why you’ll still find things like “caffeinated soap” at ThinkGeek. Of course, you’ll also find dog-humping USB drives, and Battlestar Galactica pinups. It’s a geek culture paradise. But we can’t think of a geek that wouldn’t wear this $19.99 electronic shirt that serves as a Wi-Fi finder (those keychain Wi-Fi detectors are so passé).
Brando.com.hkThis Hong Kong company is a gadget-accessory superstore, and the useless USB product capital of the Internet (This alarm clock has 7 USB ports. Why?). But you’ll also find innovative products at the site that haven’t made the rounds on numerous blogs or mainstream retailers. Check out the USB Notebook Cooling Pad, a $33 thigh-saver featuring three USB ports, two fans, and a 2.5-inch SATA HDD slot. And here’s a white bread mouse wrist rest. Say that five times fast.
Yes, trendy suburban teeny-bopper clothing outlet Urban Outfitters sells funky tech gear. They mostly deal in old-timey devices like Holga lomography cameras and USB Turntables (kids today…they think they’re so retro-cool). But there’s other interesting stuff too: a USB mini vacuum that actually “sucks,” and a $120 device called the miShare for connecting two iPods and sharing files between them without a computer (kids, watch out for the RIAA). The $10 Bottlecap tripod for point-and-shoot cameras isn’t bad either.
Nerdyshirts.comOkay, so there are plenty of places on the Interwebs to find tees with Internet culture references, gaming and tech jokes. Nerdyshirts is just one of those shops. We like the Nintendo family tree shirt, the “On the Internet, I’m a 15 year old girl,” shirt, the hex code shirt, and the w-a-s-d keys battling the arrow keys shirt. But around the holidays, what could be more true than this take on a Virginia state classic. Says the shirt description: “The internet is a neat place. Many people have found romance, many have found love. I found some mp3s.”
Perpetualkid.comThis store’s slogan is “Entertain Your Inner Child,” but it isn’t baby stuff—it’s most run-of-the-mill USB add-ons. But these are rather functional. We wouldn’t mind the USB-heated gloves, for example. Perpatualkid.com feels my pain: “Is your office freezing? Do you sit under an air conditioning vent that building maintenance says they can't close? We've all been there before!” Um, yes! These wooly fingerless mittens offer two levels of warmth for $25. There’s also a USB heated blanket. You’ll also find a trick 2GB USB drive that looks like a torn-to-shreds USB cable designed to scare people into thinking they've been vandalized. Eek!
You know this store—it’s all over-priced executive toys sold in airline magazines, right? Yeah, probably. But we managed to find a few things besides nose hair trimmers and fancy alarm clocks—even things we’ve never come across before. How about this $60 “Roll Up Drum Kit?” A little more complex than your average USB gadget, huh? Pull it out of your desk drawer on you coffee break, unfurl it, and practice 70 percussion patterns along to your favorite songs, with eight special effects including cymbals or djembe, and a wide array of tempos. It’ll record and play back your best stuff. Works with XP or Vista.
eToys.comThis site is dedicated to kiddie gadgets. Where else are you going to find whole departments on toy cell phones, laptops, Mp3 players and cameras that babies clamor to get their hands on to be just like Mommy and Daddy? We especially were fond of the slideshow of fake laptops: in Barbie Diamond Castle, Batman, Hot Wheels, Wall-E, and Star Wars editions. They’re kind of kitschy, in a way.
You’ve seen a lot of this stuff before: mobile phone accessories and chargers, iPod cases, USB toys, etc. “The Bone Collection” offers cute and colorful versions of these items, but we prefer things like this $149 VuPoint photo converter. Yes, we know a scanner is cheaper and more useful. But the VuPoint looks fun—and simple, for people who *only* want to scan paper snapshots by clicking one button. As the site says, “Load the photo tray, press the purple button, and bam!” Fits up to 5x7 photos.
Things You Never Knew Existed
Thingsyouneverknew.comA catalog company founded in 1914, the Things You Never Knew Existed store sells a bunch of junk that you’d never want to foist upon anybody, including a “Pound of Pennies” for $37.98, and a pole dancing kit. But if you dig through the garbage, you’re bound to find something original, and perfect for that wacky weirdo friend of yours that either owns everything already, has terrible taste, or hates almost everything. We got a kick out of this $9.98 Digital Scale keychain with a clip for weighing letters and other small objects. Useless? No, not really.