No physical item can repay your mother for all the love she’s sent your way, but Mother’s Day is still a good time to give Mom some token of your affection. So, as we’ve done in the past, we’ve rounded up a handful of Ars-y items that might make her life a little more pleasant.
Now, not all the gadgets, services, and books we’ve recommended will be great choices for your mom. Some people might enjoy a new fitness tracker, while others would prefer a trip to the spa. You know your mother better than we do. But we’re all about gear and practicality here at Ars, and any of the gift ideas below should serve Mom longer than flowers and chocolates.
Fitbit Versa Lite/Fitbit Inspire HR
Lifestyle changes aren’t just for the New Year. If Mom wants to get more active or more informed about her health, Fitbit has a few new trackers to help. The Versa Lite smartwatch is a more affordable take on the original Versa that came out last year. At $160, it sticks to the basics: it tracks all-day activity, sleep, and continuous heart rate, and it can map outdoor workouts using its connected GPS feature. It also has the design of the original Versa with a few minor changes (if you never used the original Versa, you won’t miss anything).
To keep the price down, Fitbit removed the altimeter from the Versa Lite as well as the ability to track swim laps (although it can track swimming in general since it is water resistant up to 50 meters). The Versa Lite also lacks NFC for Fitbit Pay, and you can’t download Fitbit Coach workouts and follow along from the smartwatch’s display. Aside from the altimeter, most users can do without those features. If Mom likes the idea of a smartwatch but doesn’t want anything too fancy, the Versa Lite is a great pick.
Those who prefer the look of a fitness band should go for the $99 Inspire HR. It’s the new fitness band that replaces the Alta HR in Fitbit’s lineup, and it’s a slightly redesigned, updated version of an already killer device. It, too, tracks all-day activity, sleep, and continuous heart rate, and it can map workouts using connected GPS.
The sacrifices come in the Inspire HR’s design, which—while attractive with interchangeable bands—runs a somewhat limited version of Fitbit OS. You won’t get the richly colored apps like you would on the Versa Lite, and the screen space on which you can tap and swipe is more limited. However, it may be the best fitness tracker you can get for $99.
Fitbit Versa Lite
Fitbit Inspire HR
Mophie Charge Stream Pad +
Wireless charging for your smartphone is easier than fussing with wires, and Mophie’s Charge Stream Pad+ is one of the best wireless chargers you can get. Most new smartphones, including the iPhone XR and the Samsung Galaxy S10, support Qi wireless charging, allowing them to sit on compatible pads or stands and then power up without being plugged in. This wireless charging pad is simple and efficient enough to become a permanent fixture on Mom’s nightstand.
The Qi standard means that the technology inside the wireless charging pad communicates with the technology in the smartphone, allowing it to sense that the smartphone needs a charge and providing it power. After charging the device to 100 percent, the flow of energy stops, so the charger won’t damage the smartphone’s battery or make it excessively warm. Mophie’s pad also has internal circuitry that prevents more general overheating.
It’s not an eye-catching accessory, but it’s not supposed to be. The minimalist circle has a TPU coating that prevents it from sliding around on a table or desk, and it also prevents a smartphone from slipping off while charging. The pad is case-friendly—it can wirelessly charge a smartphone even when it’s in a protective case (just make sure that case is 3mm thick or less). In our testing, almost every smartphone we benchmarked charged from 0 to over 40 percent after sitting on the Charge Stream Pad+ for just one hour. At about $50, Mophie’s charging pad might make Mom’s life a little simpler for relatively little cash.
Mophie Charge Stream Pad+
USB-C power bank, wall charger, and cable
If Mom prefers charging the old-fashioned way, you might take advantage of the main benefit that traditional chargers have over wireless ones: increased power. If your mom has a newer phone, you can save her lots of time by upgrading the gear she uses to refill the phone’s battery.
That means getting her aboard the USB-C Power Delivery train. Devices that work with this robust charging spec will drastically decrease the time it takes to bring her handset back to full. With mobile devices, you’re looking for gear that can supply at least 18 watts of power. That’s enough to get newer iPhones—specifically the iPhone 8 and up—and Android devices (in the US, at least) charging at their maximum rate.
For the road, Aukey’s PB-Y13 is a power bank that meets this benchmark in a portable package. It’s about the size of an iPhone XS, so it’s not , but it’s compact enough to fit in a purse or handbag. In our testing, it got an iPhone XS from 0 percent battery to just under 80 percent in an hour. That’s not much faster than more common power banks that charge at 15W and have no USB-C ports, but it’s roughly twice as powerful as the dinky chargers companies like Apple still include in the box with their devices. Plus, at $30, that extra punch doesn’t come at a big premium. With a capacity of 10,000mAh—or 37Wh—it can fill up an iPhone XS about three times before needing a recharge itself. It also comes with two USB-A ports; those will lessen the power of the USB-C PD port if they’re used simultaneously, but the flexibility is nice.
For a wall charger, try Anker’s PowerPort Atom PD 1. It comes with a 30W USB-C port—the extra wattage doesn’t add much speed to smartphone charging, but it is enough to charge newer USB-C laptops (albeit slowly, if the laptop is bulky). More notably, it has all that juice in a design that’s less than two inches thick, so it’s easy to pack. If your mom often has multiple devices to charge, Anker’s PowerPort PD 2 is bigger but has the same fast 30W USB-C port along with a USB-A port. Both cost $30; either should prove reliable.
Finally, you’ll need to ensure that Mom has the appropriate cables to make all this work. We’ll turn to Anker again here: its MFi-certified PowerLine II USB-C to Lightning cable work just as well as Apple’s own cables but cost a few bucks less, while the USB-C to USB-C variant should do the trick with an Android device. Both come with lifetime warranties if things ever go wrong.
No, a package like this won’t be the flashiest or most sentimental gift, but it’s an upgrade that could help Mom on a daily basis. The best part? You can just tell her to use the stuff with “the really thin port” instead of spending six hours trying to explain the difference between the 70 different USB standards.
Aukey PB-Y13 Power Bank
Anker PowerPort Atom PD 1
In the late 1960s, four female scientists successfully create a time-travel machine and their lives are changed forever. In 2017, when time travel is mainstream, one of the scientist’s granddaughters receives a note from the future about a death—but whose death is it, and can she stop it? Kate Mascarenhas’ debut novel, , is a complex, slow-burn thriller with an integral sci-fi element. Time travel can be a tricky subject to tackle, but Mascarenhas, with her background in literature and psychology, does so in a unique and engaging way.
Told in alternating past and present timelines, dives deep into the relationships between the four female scientists and the impact their invention had on the world. The mystery element comes in the present chapters when a woman is found dead, and it’s possible that a note from the future holds the key to why she died. Not only is the premise unique, but features an almost entirely female cast—a welcome breath of fresh air for the sci-fi genre.
The novel is just as much about the lives of these women as it is about time travel and solving the “whodunnit” murder mystery. While the alternating timeline structure can be confusing, is worth a read for anyone who loves a challenging yet touching story about how time changes us all.
What happens when the government turns to an artificial consciousness to help save the human race after the Sun’s expansion threatens to decimate the world? Mom can find out in , M.G. Wheaton’s new novel that centers around Emily, an artificial consciousness that acts like a woman in her 20s even though she’s technically only a few years old. Developed by MIT scientists, Emily “lives” on a college campus where her expertise in machine learning and human consciousness help her help others work through trauma. But when she’s called upon to use her skills to save the human race from the rapidly expanding Sun, she questions the morality of those who claim to be doing what’s right—and her own role in the grand plan.
What follows is a fast-paced novel full of vibrant characters who have to deal with morally gray situations. Wheaton sprinkles just the right amount of technical description into the book to make things feel realistic, though readers will have to suspend their disbelief to get behind the whole idea of an artificial consciousness. Emily is nothing like Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri. If Mom can get behind Emily’s existence, she should be able to appreciate her unique role in a save-the-world story like this. It’s hard to pigeonhole into one genre because it has elements of speculative sci-fi, thriller, and romance spread throughout—and that makes for an engaging read.