Mothers… where would we be without them?
Unfortunately for me, and probably some of you who are reading this as well, my mother has been gone for 2 years now. Gone to the land of no return. As such, I’ve been relegated to just wishing she was still around so that I could spoil her with gifts now that I am in a position to do so. I am not saying this so that you can feel sorry for me. No, I have since reconciled with the fate that befell her and while she’s always popping up in my head as I go about my daily activities (more so for what she stood for, what she’d want for me and my siblings, things she warned me against etc), I am slowly learning to live without her presence, charm and priceless advise. This is about you who loves tech or maybe doesn’t but want to get your most special person something tech-related on Mother’s Day.
1. A good phone
You can never go wrong with a phone as a gift.
In Kenya today, and almost everywhere else in the developing world as well, the mobile phone is the most important tech gadget available. This is because its computing features, ease of use and competitive pricing, make it the first computer for many people. The thought of just learning how to use a computer alone scared the hell out of my mother, despite her encouraging and supporting me in my younger years as I learned the same. The phone? Not so much. She was pretty much at home with phones and most mothers will be. It’s even better if the mother figure in question happens to be a bit younger. Like a sister or a wife.
It could be a basic phone like the Nokia 3310 that takes her way back and reminds her of the days when she got her first phone or the best that there is like the Huawei P20 or the Samsung Galaxy S9 because mothers, and other motherly figures in our lives, deserve the very best that this life, and the next, has to offer.
2. A smartwatch cum fitness band
While any smartwatch or fitness band will make for a fitting gift, my personal favourite is the Fitbit Versa.
I recently had a chance to meet in person, and use for a limited period, the Fitbit Versa. I loved it. So much that I vowed to buy it. I don’t know if you have any idea how hard it has been to wean myself off my unparalleled obsession with the Huawei Watch.
The Fitbit Versa will not only help her be able to keep time in the most 21st century way, it will also let her indulge in any fitness regimen she’s into.
I remember someone asking me recently why I was saying I would be getting the Versa yet I don’t exercise. While I found that offensive, the key takeaway was the misguided notion that Fitbit products are just for fitness purposes. Sure, that was the San Francisco-based company’s focus for the longest time and, as a result, it came to be known more for its fitness bands. However, that has since changed and now it makes smartwatches like the Versa and the square-shaped and more pricey Fitbit Ionic, even though they still don’t do such a stellar job when it comes to being smartwatches.
What these smartwatches are doing is simply bringing to the fore the best of both worlds (fitness-focused features and features traditionally associated with other smartwatches) while also not limiting users and locking them to a walled garden like the Apple Watch does. They can be used on either mobile platform: our beloved Android or iOS, in case the intended motherly figure has an iPhone. Both Samsung and Google have made steps to make their wearable platforms accessible to users of devices on both platforms (to the point of Google renaming its platform to further emphasis this) but…
The only problem here is that the Fitbit Versa (and most products highlighted in this article) is hard to find locally. You’ll either sweat finding it somewhere in Nairobi or have to order from Amazon, something that may complicate things and actually ruin your plans for an immediate surprise on Mother’s Day.
A good alternative to the Versa that can easily be found within Kenya’s borders would be Samsung’s Gear Sport wearable. Sure, it’s based on a platform that’s competing with the one that this site seeks to shamelessly promote but it’s just as awesome if not a little bit better-looking, in my opinion.
3. A TV set
Just like phones, it’s hard to go wrong with a television set as a Mother’s Day gift.
The television used to be the centre of my mother’s house. The reason we never got to quarrel with my mother over the TV and, as such, I got to watch all the football that was available on the few channels her TV could access, probably had something to do with the fact that good grades in school were never an issue so I could get away with anything.
I know that if my mother was around, she’d appreciate another big screen in her living room. I doubt she’d care if it ran on Android or some other operating system but it’s what I’d strive to get her thanks to the platform’s nearly limitless capabilities. I am sure she’d just be happy to know she could easily move whatever she was watching or doing on her phone to her TV. She was also deep into Sony and since Sony and Android TV are one and the same (I know, don’t start a war about the validity of that statement), I’d be killing so many birds with one stone.
With the World Cup fast approaching, a good TV set, Android or no Android, makes for a perfect bonding session with everyone who gets to visit her, particularly the male figures in her life. More points if she’s actually a football fan.
4. A smart speaker
I don’t know… To be honest, this is not for everyone. It’s the one item on this list that you can pass on and probably not consider at all.
However, as far as surprises go, it’s a good one.
There are all manner of smart speakers out there but few brands have really stood out. Definitely, as an Android diehard, I’ll be first to recommend one that is powered by the Google Assistant since I have quite some experience with one. They work well and setting them up is not a chore. And the sound is good and the battery life (for those that can work while unplugged) is reasonable.
A smart speaker will allow her to automate a few basic tasks. She can just say a command and her favourite song comes on, she can look up recipes, she can get her daily devotion and she can have the news read to her. Bonus points if you can somehow manage to get a whole smart home setup that the smart speaker can take advantage of, up and running which is what I am driving towards with this article, anyway.
5. A media streamer
A media streamer is perfect because of the world we are living in. It gives you the chance to modernize your mother’s entertainment space by bringing it up to speed with what’s new without spending so much, like you would if you went all out to buy a brand new Android TV or other smart television set. It simply takes the old setup she has and makes it catch up with the rest of the world.
The only problem here is some good internet may be needed and we are still not at a point where home broadband in the country is not that common for me to make universal assumptions. That’s probably why you might want to check the bonus suggested gift below.
My first choice of media streamers is limited to two: the NVIDIA Shield and the Google Chromecast. For obvious reasons: I am heavily biased towards Android as a platform and these two are meant to play nicely with Android devices. The Shield even runs on Android (Android TV) and is perfect for taking up that space that is currently occupied by the DVD player below the TV.
Even then, there are options from competing platforms too that will work just fine and, like the aforementioned two, don’t have a steep learning curve: the Amazon Fire TV/Amazon Fire TV stick and the Roku (Express, Ultra or Streaming Stick). I don’t recommend Apple TV (because it doesn’t play nicely with non-Apple devices unlike the other media streamers listed here which work well on both major mobile platforms) but it, too, is a viable option and can be easily found in the country in the various stores stocking Apple products.
The only problem with the Shield and the Chromecast, other than the fact that you will need to ship them into the country (you can find Chromecasts locally at highly exaggerated prices) is that the former is quite costly when every other media streamer mentioned in this article, bar the Apple TV, actually costs less. On the other hand, the latter is pretty limited in this day and age of Android TV. That is why I have a newfound favourite that I highly recommend: the Safaricom Digital TV and Internet Box.
This is Safaricom’s second generation media streamer. Unlike the others highlighted in this article, it combines the functions of a standard Android box with those of a decoder, something that is still important in the Kenyan market given that we are still reeling from the shutdown of analogue TV signals 3 years ago.
I have used the Safaricom box for the last few days and I like the simplicity. Furthermore, it is powered by Android TV unlike its predecessor and its biggest selling point is that it comes with a built-in SIM which means that one is not limited to having Wi-Fi at home in order to use it, a big bonus for the millions who have access to cellular data but none of the home broadband options that some city dwellers have.
One more thing: it has the features of the Chromecast built-in as well. So, it has Android TV just like the Shield and Chromecast features just like the, well, Chromecast. I am not so sure how many birds you are killing with the Safaricom box but they are definitely more than two.
6. A Kindle Paperwhite
My mother was not quite the reader and neither is my dad. Guess what they had in common? They encouraged me to read and all the memories I have of interesting pieces of literature from religious works to science fiction are from their and my grandfather’s personal collections. So much that if my parents had spent any bit of their young lives in a digital age like the one we are living in, I’d definitely have had an electronic book reader in primary school.
While my mother was never a bookworm, the women in my life are. Some are already mothers and others hope to be, some day. For the coming Mother’s Day, a Kindle Paperwhite, like the one I use to feed my curiosity daily, is high up on my priority list as a gift item. It keeps the book aesthetic even though it’s just a piece of plastic with some silicon inside and an e-ink display on top, it’s affordable, it’s small enough to fit just about any reasonable pocket and mine averages a month on a single charge even with my reading obsession.
Safaricom Home Fibre
Get your mother, wife, sister, girlfriend or any other woman in your life, a Safaricom Home Fibre connection. I have been using Safaricom’s fibre-to-the-home product for half a year now and to say that it is good is to do it a great disservice. It is the best. If you’re getting someone any of the tech gadgets highlighted above then make sure this is part of the gift package, assuming they live in an area that is covered (else just stick with the media streamer from the same company). They’ll remember you for that. It is affordable, the speeds are amazing and you’re unlikely to be kept in the parking yard when you need assistance from the service provider. What’s your excuse?