The Ars Technica Mother’s Day 2021 gift guide

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A garmin lily wearable on a woman's wrist
Enlarge / The Garmin Lily comes in six classic and sporty colorways.
Corey Gaskin / Ars Technica

While we’d never begrudge you treating your mom to flowers, chocolate, or scented candles for Mother’s Day, we at Ars always have tech on the brain, so we’d be remiss not to extol the benefits a good gadget can have on her daily life.

You’ll always know your mom’s tastes and interests better than we do, of course, but if she has room for a new piece of tech, we’ve rounded up a few useful, hassle-free, last-minute Mother’s Day gift ideas for your consideration below. Here’s hoping they give some thanks back to the woman who has put up with your nonsense all these years.

Note: Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.

Apple Watch Series 6

New blue and red Apple Watch colors add some much needed flare to the Series 6, while blood oxygen and sleep monitoring level-up wellness capabilities.
Enlarge / New blue and red Apple Watch colors add some much needed flare to the Series 6, while blood oxygen and sleep monitoring level-up wellness capabilities.
Corey Gaskin
(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

An Apple Watch is a timeless gift… so long as you pick the right generation. They’re stylish (especially in new colors), reliable, customizable, and do most everything you could ask of a smartwatch.
The Apple Watch Series 6 is the latest, best-looking, and most well-equipped of them all. Health-minded moms will appreciate features like blood oxygen monitoring, ECG readings, and all-day heart rate monitoring. It also features fall detection, which calls emergency services in the event of a hard fall or if the emergency buttons are manually triggered. For both aging and healthy parents, you can think of an Apple Watch as a Life Alert pendant that also monitors and tracks aspects of their health and fitness.

Apple is clear, as all wearable manufacturers are, that Apple Watches are not tools for medical diagnosis, though the sensors within are FDA approved and can help keep track of trends worth speaking to a doctor about. It’s the kind of health monitoring that approaches the futuristic idea of having a device in or on you that tells you when something’s wrong. Sleep tracking on the watch is another good example, as this shows you trends rather than any specific diagnosis. And right now, for the highest degree of health tracking, we don’t recommend anything lower than the Series 6.

Other wearables have these sensors, too, but Apple Watches further seal the deal with their wide-ranging support for various apps and services. If you have an active mom who’s into running, swimming, surfing, hiking, meditation, or gardening (just to name a few activities), there are dedicated Apple Watch apps for all of those. Or if your mom likes to keep track of certain sports, shows, audiobooks, podcasts, or news, there are Apple Watch apps for all of that, too. Really, whatever your mom’s into, there are apps for her to access or engage with it on her wrist.

Oh, and she can use a new Apple Watch to call or text you when she’s not by her phone. What mom doesn’t want more communication from their kids this Mother’s Day?
-Corey Gaskin

Garmin Lily

The Garmin Lily comes in six classic and sporty colorways.
Enlarge / The Garmin Lily comes in six classic and sporty colorways.
Corey Gaskin / Ars Technica
(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

Garmin’s Lily fitness tracking watch is a gorgeous wearable that emulates a classic timepiece aesthetic and comes in a variety of colorways for different tastes and occasions. These devices mimic jewelry more than tech. The Classic Edition has leather straps and a stainless-steel bezel in bronze or one of two shades of gold, while the Sport Edition has an anodized aluminum bezel and silicone straps. In all, there are six styles to choose from—three of each edition—and all of them are 5ATM water-resistant and fashionably versatile, from casual to classy.
Each has a metallic-looking dial with unique monochromatic patterns bolstering the refined looks. This masks a touchscreen underneath that presents information through a white light TFT LCD. It’s easy to read, even in the sun, so no matter what the situation she can read text messages and other notifications on her wrist, be it from an iPhone or Android device.

Being a Garmin watch, there are also sensors for heart rate and blood oxygen tracking that you can spot check, but they also inform easy-to-read aggregate health stats like stress levels, abnormal heart rate, fitness age, body battery, and sleep tracking. In-app, you can also track menstrual cycles.

GPS isn’t built in, though, nor is music storage, so if leaving the phone at home for on-the-go mom adventures is important to her, then this may not be the best pick. Otherwise, activities for strength training, cardio, elliptical training, stair-stepping, yoga, Pilates, and breathwork can all be initiated and tracked right on the watch.
-Corey Gaskin

Marshall Emberton

The Marshall Emberton portable Bluetooth speaker.
Enlarge / The Marshall Emberton portable Bluetooth speaker.
Jeff Dunn
Marshall Emberton product image

Marshall Emberton

(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

If your mom would appreciate a portable speaker that will let her better enjoy music or podcasts at home, on the road, in the shower, or at the beach, we like the Marshall Emberton. For a compact (2.7×6.3×3.0 inches) and not-too-heavy (1.5 pounds) device, it packs impressive audio quality. Compared to similarly sized speakers we have tested like the UE Wonderboom 2 or Sony SRS-XB33, it presents a fuller, smoother, and more natural sound, with a commendable level of balance and width. And while no speaker this size can pump out truly deep bass, the Emberton delivers a nice level of punch without ever distorting or blobbing up the fine details of any given track.
Besides that, we dig the Emberton’s guitar-amp-inspired design, which includes a handy battery-level indicator as well as a simple one-button control scheme for adjusting volume and playback. We found the battery itself to last roughly 10 hours per charge—though that will change depending on how loud you play—and the device recharges quickly over USB-C. The whole thing has an IPX7 rating, too, meaning it’s fully waterproof and will have no issues surviving splashes from the shower, pool, or kitchen sink.

That said, the Emberton is pricey for what it gives you. If you’d like to gift a less expensive speaker, consider Tribit’s XSound Go or StormBox Micro. Neither is as flashy looking or full sounding as the Emberton, but both are good value and similarly waterproof. We’ve recommended the former in the past, while the latter is even more compact and has a built-in rubber strap that lets it snap onto backpacks, bike handlebars, and the like.
-Jeff Dunn

Jabra Elite 75t and Apple AirPods Pro

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                  Jabra's Elite 75t is a wonderfully well-rounded pair of true wireless earphones.                    </div>
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                  Apple's AirPods Pro are the true wireless earbuds to get if you prioritize active noise cancellation or ease of use with Apple devices.                    </div>
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                                            <h3 class="ars-buy-box-title">Jabra Elite 75t &amp; Apple AirPods Pro                                                </h3>
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                                    <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://amzn.to/3t5NxfP" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Jabra Elite 75t: $130 at Amazon</a>
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                                    <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://amzn.to/3t2bjJr" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Apple AirPods Pro: $197 at Amazon</a>
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If Mom would like to get in on the “totally wireless” headphone trend, consider gifting the Jabra Elite 75t. They’re smaller and lighter than most other true wireless earbuds, with an in-ear design that stays secure and comfortable in the ear over multiple hours. We’ve had few issues pairing them with iOS, Android, Mac, or Windows devices. They get roughly seven hours of battery life per charge, which is above-average for a true wireless pair, and their easily portable charging case provides another 20+ hours on top of that. Their built-in microphone array does well to keep your voice sounding clear during phone calls, and they’re IP55 rated, so they can withstand sweat or light rain while Mom is out and about.
Like most true wireless earbuds, the Elite 75t don’t sound amazing, particularly for the price. They emphasize bass and treble out of the box, but lots of people enjoy that kind of sound. For what it is, it’s more fun than fatiguing. A recent update to Jabra’s companion app added a useful—if not world-beating—active noise canceling mode as well. A one-button control scheme on each earbud makes it easy to pause songs, answer calls, and adjust volume. Plus, if something ever goes wrong, Jabra covers the device with a two-year warranty.

If your mom only uses Apple devices, though, we can also vouch for Apple’s AirPods Pro as an iOS-friendly alternative. They’re typically more expensive than the Jabra pair, but they pair near-effortlessly with iPhones and iPads, and they have a more effective noise-canceling mode for blocking out rowdy environments while working or exercising. They also have a more balanced and neutral sound that could be more pleasant to certain tastes. That said, they aren’t quite as comfortable as the Elite 75t, they only get about five hours of battery life per charge, and they don’t have volume controls built into the earpieces. But for iPhone owners who’d prefer the simplest experience possible, the AirPods Pro do enough right to be worthwhile.
-Jeff Dunn

A protective or stylish Magsafe iPhone case

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                  Apple's leather wallet case comes in five different colors and affixes easily to your iPhone 12 or a MagSafe compatible case.                    </div>
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                  OtterBox's Magsafe cases add an appreciable amount of protection and can be used while charging your phone via Magsafe, but you'll still need a good screen protector.                    </div>
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                  Zagg's Invisible Shield Glass screen protectors are lifetime warrantied.                    </div>
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                                          Corey Gaskin                                          </div>
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Apple’s new Magsafe chargers are an easy way to rest your iPhone 12 (or prop it up) and give it a decently quick charge. Better yet, the magnets and technology within let you access that charge at full power through Magsafe compatible cases like those from OtterBox. Or, in the case of Apple’s magnetic leather wallet, you can attach the pouch-like case to the back of your iPhone for a slim and useful wallet solution.
The world’s opening up again, and we’ve found OtterBox’s Magsafe cases to provide substantial protection on adventures indoors and outdoors, while Apple’s Magsafe Leather Wallet makes traveling light and easy. Both come in a variety of colors to match Mom’s style. Pair them with Zagg’s lifetime warrantied (i.e., unlimited replacements, just pay shipping) glass screen protectors, and both Mom and her phone will be ready to enter the world again, provided she’s vaccinated, of course.
-Corey Gaskin

Apple Magsafe Accessories product image

Apple Magsafe Accessories

  • Apple MagSafe Charger: $34 at Amazon
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                                        <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://fave.co/3ucAvON" target="_blank" rel="noopener">OtterBox Magsafe Cases: From $50 at OtterBox</a>
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                                        <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://amzn.to/3eLvDtD" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Apple Magsafe Leather Wallet: $50 at Amazon</a>
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    Fast and elegant charging gear

    Of course, you can’t go out into the world with a dead phone battery. That’s why we love these charging solutions below. All of them either make charging easy and elegant or quick and powerful.

    Belkin 3-in-1 Magsafe Charger

    Belkin's 3-in-1 Magsafe charging stand is elegant, and capable, charging three Apple devices at once.
    Enlarge / Belkin’s 3-in-1 Magsafe charging stand is elegant, and capable, charging three Apple devices at once.
    Corey Gaskin / Ars Technica

    On the easy and elegant side, we have Belkin’s 3-in-1 Magsafe Wireless charger for all her iDevice essentials. Magsafe charging takes care of iPhone 12s, while the built-in Apple Watch charger sits next to it, and below both lies a wireless charging pad for AirPods. All of those devices can charge at top speeds simultaneously. It’s simple, sleek, and a perfect bedside companion that ensures she’ll never forget to charge or lose the chargers for any of these essential iDevices.

    Mophie All-in-One Portable Powerstation

    The portable Mophie All-in-one has a built in Apple Watch charger, wireless charging pad, and charging ports.
    Enlarge / The portable Mophie All-in-one has a built in Apple Watch charger, wireless charging pad, and charging ports.
    Corey Gaskin

    For the perfect on-the-go solution, Mophie’s All-in-One Powerstation has built-in wireless charging (non-Magsafe), an embedded Apple Watch Charger, a USB-C PD port for top-speed 18W iPhone charging (or other devices), and a USB-A port for charging any other devices. With 8,000 mAh capacity, you can drop this in a handbag and forget about it for a couple of charges.

    Fast wall charging for multiple devices

    Nekteck's 111W 5-Port desktop charger can charge most USB-C devices at or near maximum speeds.
    Enlarge / Nekteck’s 111W 5-Port desktop charger can charge most USB-C devices at or near maximum speeds.
    Nekteck

    Lastly, when you just need the fastest possible charge for your phone, tablet, or even certain laptops, Nekteck’s 111W USB-C Wall Charger Station is a great solution that can charge up to five devices at once.

    Pumping 87W through USB-C PD, you can charge laptops like the Dell XPS 15, the latest MacBook Pros, or an iPad Pro at or near top speed. At the same time, you can use the four 12W USB-A ports (USB-IF certified to prevent frying devices) to charge any USB-charged devices, again, simultaneously. It’s a great option for the nightstand, desk, or even kitchen, where you might be charging a number of devices at once.

    Pair this with Anker’s PowerLine II USB-C to Lightning cable for a lengthy six feet of safe and fast iDevice charging or Nekteck’s USB-C and Thunderbolt 3 cables for safe and top-speed charging on USB-C or Thunderbolt devices, like iPads, Nintendo Switches, and ereaders.
    -Corey Gaskin

    Fast Charging Accessories product image

    Fast Charging Accessories

    • Belkin BoostCharge Pro 3-in-1: $150 at Belkin
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                                          <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://www.dpbolvw.net/click-8984087-13986323?sid=ArsMothersDay2021&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.zagg.com%2Fen_us%2Fpowerstation-all-in-one" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Mophie PowerStation All-in-One: $100 at Mophie</a>
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                                          <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://amzn.to/3ucjuEF" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Nekteck 111W USB-C Charger: $45 at Amazon</a>
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      Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam

      Logitech's C920S HD Pro Webcam.
      Enlarge / Logitech’s C920S HD Pro Webcam.
      Logitech
      (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

      The past several months of Pandemic Living has taught us, among many other things, the importance of having a good webcam. If your mom will be working remotely for the foreseeable future, or if you just want to up her video quality during family chats, consider upgrading her laptop’s grainy built-in camera to the Logitech C920S HD Pro Webcam.
      The C920S is a few years old at this point, but it still takes crisp 1080p video at a smooth-enough 30 frames per second, with a wide enough 78-degree field of view for fitting multiple people into the frame if needed. It works nearly immediately after being plugged in (via a USB-A plug), and its folding design clips easily and securely onto a laptop or monitor with little fuss. Its autofocus is relatively quick to correct any blurring, its stereo mics keep your voice sounding clear, and you can tilt the camera up and down to get a better shot. It also comes with a nifty physical “privacy shutter” that can block the camera lens when you aren’t using it. While its picture isn’t quite as impressive in darker rooms, it does a decent job at automatically adjusting exposure when lighting is less consistent. It’s possible to manually adjust certain picture settings through Logitech’s companion software.

      For most, though, the C920S should present a good image by default. It’s not the most technically proficient webcam by any means—something like Logitech’s Brio steps up to 4K video, while other good cameras like the Logitech C922x Pro Stream or Razer Kiyo are better suited for livestreaming video online. But for a first webcam upgrade, the C920S still hits the sweet spot between price and performance. Importantly, we’ve also seen it come back into stock after a year of pandemic-fueled supply issues. That said, if that supply runs dry by the time you read this, the three alternatives mentioned above are all worthwhile for those willing to pay a bit extra.
      -Jeff Dunn

      Eufy Indoor Cam 2K

      Eufy's Indoor Cam 2K.
      Enlarge / Eufy’s Indoor Cam 2K.
      Jeff Dunn
      Eufy Indoor Cam 2K product image

      Eufy Indoor Cam 2K

      (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

      A good indoor security camera like Eufy’s Indoor Cam 2K can help your mom keep an eye on the house while she’s away. For $40, it provides crisp 2K resolution video that stays clear during the day and night, allowing her to see what the dog is doing, know when others have come home, or simply have peace of mind against unwanted guests.
      Eufy’s companion app is easy to read and will promptly send alerts and capture video when it detects specific sounds (crying, for instance) or motion. It lets you customize how frequently the camera will send those alerts, set specific “activity zones” that trigger a notification when someone wanders into them, or use the camera’s built-in mic and speaker to communicate with others in the house. You can manually trigger an alarm function if needed, while a nifty “Pet Command” feature can play an audio clip if a pet gets into a designated area. The device can also be integrated with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant devices.

      Any security camera carries some level of privacy concerns, but the Indoor Cam 2K gives the option to record video to the cloud—via Apple’s HomeKit Secure Video service or Eufy’s relatively affordable $3/month or $30/year plans for 30 days of clips—or locally to a microSD card. Only the latter stores video clips at a higher-than-1080p resolution, though. Either way, you might want to make sure everyone else in the house is cool with you giving Mom this much power ahead of time.

      The physical hardware of the Indoor Cam 2K isn’t much to write home about. It could stand to swivel a bit more, it’s almost entirely plastic, and the camera’s 125-degree field of view isn’t the widest we’ve seen. Even still, it delivers excellent performance and loads of useful features for the money, making it an excellent value for first-time owners of this kind of device.
      -Jeff Dunn

      A comfy lap desk

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                        The Ybj-ake Bamboo Laptop Desk is adjustable and versatile.                    </div>
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                        The LapGear Designer lap desk is a cushy option for making your lap a desktop.                    </div>
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      Over a year into a global pandemic and we’ve all learned how to be a little comfier at home, whether working, socializing, or just passing the time. Many of us have gotten creative with how and where we do these things, and the bed or couch is a tried-and-true cozy favorite.
      That’s why we’re fans of these two lap desks: one that lies on your lap with a cushioned undercarriage, the LapGear Designer, and another more traditional form factor that stands on its own, the Ybj-ake Laptop Desk.
      They both come in a variety of finishes (we recommend the black bamboo for the Ybj-ake, due to decreased splinter incidence in this finish), accommodate laptops up to 17 inches, and have raised stoppers to keep the laptop from sliding off at various angles. While the LapGear Designer’s angles depend on the angle of your lap, the Ybj-ake can extend its legs and raise its tabletop to various angles like an easel.

      Whichever you pick, it’ll be a nice change-up for Mom from the desk or kitchen table that also protects her from excess computer heat.
      -Corey Gaskin

      Recommended Lap Desks product image

      Recommended Lap Desks

      • LapGear Designer: $27 at Amazon
      •                                 <li class="ars-buy-box-list-item">
                                            <a class="button button-orange ars-buy-box-button ars-buy-box-list-button noskim" href="https://amzn.to/3ebzIs1" target="_blank" rel="noopener">Ybj-ake Laptop Desk: $29 at Amazon</a>
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            <div class="ars-component ars-component-affiliate-disclaimer">
                <div class="ars-affiliate-disclaimer-message">(Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through <a href="https://arstechnica.com/affiliate-link-policy/">affiliate programs</a>.)</div>
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        Google Chromecast with Google TV

        The Google Chromecast's home screen is well-spaced and aesthetically pleasing.
        Enlarge / The Google Chromecast’s home screen is well-spaced and aesthetically pleasing.
        Corey Gaskin
        Google Chromecast with Google TV product image

        Google Chromecast with Google TV

        (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

        If your mom only watches a couple of the most popular streaming services—Netflix, Disney+, etc.—she probably won’t need a dedicated media streamer, since many recent TVs and cable boxes already have built-in support for such apps. But if your folks are cutting the cord or just have more eclectic tastes, the Google Chromecast with Google TV could make their TV viewing more convenient.
        We recently found the newest Chromecast to be the best of the various $50 streaming sticks on the market, thanks to its wide-ranging app support, powerful and accurate search results, easy setup, and straightforward remote. Compared to competitors from Roku and Amazon, the Chromecast does a better job of displaying the apps you use the most, shows you’ve recently watched, and genuinely useful recommendations for new content you’re likely to enjoy. It does this on one screen, pulling from various streaming services, and with a modern design that doesn’t look bland. It supports Dolby Vision HDR and Dolby Atmos surround sound for those with higher-end entertainment setups (though not all services take advantage of those features), it loads apps and menus quickly, and like all Chromecasts, it lets you beam video straight from a mobile device or computer.

        The flipside here is that, in order to get the most out of the Chromecast’s excellent recommendation system, you have to share some level of browsing information with Google. Countless people already do this whenever they use Google Chrome, of course, but if you and your folks are especially privacy-conscious, the convenience may not be worth it. The Apple TV 4K is better about not tracking your viewing habits as extensively and now comes with a not-horrid remote, but it’s significantly more expensive. For $50, the new Chromecast is an excellent value for anyone looking to make a TV smarter.
        -Jeff Dunn

        LectroFan

        The LectroFan white noise machine.
        Enlarge / The LectroFan white noise machine.
        Jeff Dunn
        (Ars Technica may earn compensation for sales from links on this post through affiliate programs.)

        If your mom lives with a loud snorer or in an area where outside noise has been affecting her sleep, a good white noise machine like the LectroFan could help her drift off more easily. We’ve found its constant, random (i.e., not specific sounds of nature and the like, which could more easily disturb one’s sleep), and electronically generated noise effective at masking outside sounds without coming off as harsh. It has a wide 30-step volume range and 10 white noise settings that take aim at different frequencies, which help it work in both loud or relatively quiet surroundings. There’s also a 60-minute timer that’ll shut the machine off automatically over night. All of this is set through a few simple controls on the front of the diminutive device.
        To be clear, a white noise machine isn’t a magic cure-all for sleep troubles, and the science around its effectiveness isn’t definite. Sudden changes in sleep quality are still best discussed with a medical professional. There are smartphone apps that can produce similar effects, too, which may be helpful on the go since the LectroFan doesn’t run on battery power. (Though many phone speakers aren’t as full-sounding as the LectroFan.) But if your folks have been specifically dealing with environmental factors that prevent them from sleeping comfortably, enough people swear by these types of machines that gifting a good one might be worth a try.
        -Jeff Dunn

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