Flowers are all well and good this Mother's Day, but let's face it: they're ephemeral. And cliche. And not terribly practical. That's probably why a recent survey showed that moms covet tech gear nearly as much as they do spa trips and jewelry.
If you want to get Mom something that's useful, entertaining, and long-lasting, look no further than the tech department. I've rounded up five gadgets, all priced below $100, that should make Mom a happy camper this year -- and on into next.
Most earbuds are basic black or Apple white -- either way, boring. ChicBuds are colorful earbuds designed to match Mom's sense of style (or give her one). Available in Blue Graffiti (shown), Pink Leopard, and Zebra Stripes, they're covered in fashionable patterns from one end of their flat, tangle-free cords to the other.
These are canal-type earbuds, meaning they're designed to create a noise-isolating seal in the ear canal. They come with three gel-tip sizes to assure the best possible fit. ChicBuds are priced at $29.99 apiece.
Apple TV or Roku LT
What Mom really wants for Mother's Day is to watch "Downton Abbey." That's a snap with the Apple TV or Roku LT; these diminutive boxes plug into nearly any TV and stream video from various services (most notably Netflix, which offers "Abbey" as one of its Watch Instantly selections).
OK, but which box is best? They're both excellent, but if Mom has an iPhone, I recommend the Apple TV solely for its AirPlay capabilities: Mom can beam snapshots and videos from her phone to the TV.
On the flipside, the Roku boxes support Amazon Instant Video and Hulu Plus, which together offer more viewing options than iTunes alone.
The Apple TV costs $99, while the Roku LT runs $49.99. However, the latter tops out at 720p video, so it's not quite a fair comparison. If you want 1080p, which is the Apple TV's top resolution, the Roku 2 HD has it -- and it's still cheaper at $79.99. Still can't decide? Check out CNET's Apple-TV-versus-Roku rundown.
Kindle Touch or Barnes & Noble Nook Simple Touch
The time has come for Mom to see what all the e-reader fuss is about. The only tough part: deciding which model to get her.
Amazon's $99 Kindle Touch received four stars and an Editors' Choice from CNET. Barnes & Noble's Nook Simple Touch also received four stars and an Editors' Choice. However, the latter was just reduced to $79 (from $99) in honor of -- you guessed it -- Mother's Day.
There's no bad choice here; it's just a matter of which e-book ecosystem you want to lock Mom into, Amazon's or B&N's. I tend to prefer the former, if only because I've found it a bit easier to stock my Kindle with free e-books checked out from the library.
Most moms I know are always trying to get in shape. The Fitbit Ultra is one of the first gadgets that can actually help. This clip-on activity tracker measures just about everything: steps taken, stairs climbed, distance traveled, and calories burned. It can even monitor your sleep patterns (though the actual benefits of that are a bit more vague).
The real fun comes in checking all your stats online or in the companion Android/iOS apps. It even syncs with popular apps like Lose It and RunKeeper. Want to learn more? Check out CNET's review of the Fitbit Ultra.
Creative D100 Bluetooth Speaker
If your mom has a smartphone or tablet, chances are good she enjoys listening to playlists, podcasts, Pandora -- maybe all that and more. That's the beauty of a Bluetooth speaker: it can go just about anywhere Mom goes, and it can play any audio she wants to hear. (Just make sure her device supports A2DP Bluetooth. Most modern gadgets do, but a few tablets -- most notably the Nook Tablet and Kindle Fire -- don't.)
There are countless Bluetooth speakers to choose from, many of them priced under $100. (Indeed, check out CNET's recent roundup of the best portable Bluetooth speakers for less than $100.) I picked the Creative D100 largely because CNET called it "the best bargain in Bluetooth speakers today," and because you can find it selling as low as $60. And it comes in your choice of colors.
Looking for more Mother's Day goodies? Check out Molly Wood's Top 5 tech gifts for Mother's Day (that aren't an iPad). She wisely chose a couple of the same product categories as me, if not the same products.