SMART TECHNOLOGY


9 Great Gadgets for Less Than $100

Audio

Phoenix Wireless Bluetooth Speaker ($99.95). The Phoenix speaker is no bigger than a coffee mug, but its sound quality is surprisingly large. It is easy to pair with a Bluetooth-enabled phone, laptop or tablet, and the rechargeable battery lets you play tunes for up to eight hours.

SEE ALSO: 10 Ways to Make Your Smart Phone Pay for Itself

E-readers

Nook Simple Touch ($99). Barnes & Noble's entry-level e-reader has a crisp, non-backlit display that's great for outdoor reading. The 6-inch touch screen is easy to navigate, and B&N claims the device will run for more than two months between charges. Unlike the cheapest Kindle, you won't see "special offers" -- namely, ads -- on the Simple Touch.

Smart phones

Apple iPhone 4 (free with a two-year AT&T contract). Sure, this deal comes with the usual ball-and-chain: a contract that costs $60 or more per month. But if you're shopping for someone who's on your plan and dying for an iPhone, the iPhone 4 is a cheapskate's delight.

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Motorola Droid Razr Maxx 4G ($50 on Amazon with a two-year Verizon Wireless contract). This bargain Android phone has plenty of high-end features, including speedy 4G LTE wireless, a bright 4.3-inch display, and an 8-megapixel rear camera. But its best feature is its battery, which delivers up to 21 hours of talk time.

Nokia Lumia 900 ($50 with a two-year AT&T contract). Microsoft's Windows Phone software rivals the iPhone and Android in sophistication and simplicity. The Nokia Lumia is cheap and stylish -- a good phone at a great price.

Accessories

Apple iPhone 5 case ($25 to $30). Did someone on your gift list just get an iPhone 5? A protective case is a frugal way to show you care. The Moshi Origo ($25) is a snug silicone shell. The Cygnett UrbanShield ($30) is a slim carbon-fiber case with a screen protector.

PowerGen Dual USB Port 2A car charger (Amazon.com; $10). The PowerGen plugs into the cigarette lighter and can power two electronic gadgets simultaneously. It lists for $30.

Apple Wireless Keyboard ($69). The iPad is nifty for reading books and watching videos but lousy for long-form writing. Wordsmiths need a physical keyboard. Apple's $69 wireless model connects to the iPad via Bluetooth, runs on two AA batteries and automatically powers down when idle.

Sony CycleEnergy (about $60 to $100). Smart phones are notoriously power-hungry, and some run for only a few hours between charges. Sony CycleEnergy is an external battery that's easy to pack alongside a handset.

This article first appeared in Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine. For more help with your personal finances and investments, please subscribe to the magazine. It might be the best investment you ever make.

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