For many of us, the holidays are when we level-up devices for ourselves and our loved ones, because pretty much everything is on sale. It’s right after Apple, Google, and Samsung have refreshed their offerings. As Gizmodo’s resident smartphone expert, I think this is the best time to toss out the old and swap in the new—but only if it’s truly time for an upgrade.
Every piece of hardware that hit my desk in 2023 felt like a launch that was finally substantial enough to justify moving on from a three-, four-, or five-year-old device. I still have family members on the iPhone 8; I want to convince them to upgrade to the regular iPhone 15 this holiday, the first Apple smartphone to use the universal USB-C standard and a colorful reprise of last year’s highly rated iPhone 14 Pro. The Pixel 8 is also an excellent consideration if you want to buy a small Android phone, and it pairs nicely with the Pixel Watch 2, which is effectively everything that its predecessor should have been.
The following is a list of devices worth upgrading to this year. I opted not to include flagship devices like the iPhone 15 Pro Max, with new 5x optical zoom, or the Pixel 8 Pro, as those are impressive devices, but they’re not necessary for most people.
The best iPhone for most users
You can’t deny that the iPhone 15 Pro Max contains the best of everything Apple offers, but the iPhone is for diehards and power users—people who wouldn’t look to you to provide update advice.
This year, I’m telling iPhone folks on 12 or older to consider the iPhone 15, even though it’s only the first generation with USB-C. Removing all those Lightning cables will be a chore, but the iPhone 15 is basically the iPhone 14 Pro renewed and recharged. I also like that it’s available in an approachable array of colors. Plus, there’s support for new-gen iPhone features like Emergency SOS via satellite and the clever Dynamic Island. Price: Starts at $800 Where to buy: Apple
Small phone with big performance
Are you sick of big, gigantic phones? Me, too. That is why I don’t wield any of the big phones daily. Right now, I’m on the Pixel 8. It’s a mere tenth smaller than the Pixel 7, but the difference is noticeable.
The hardware inside is reminiscent of the Pixel 8 Pro with the new Google Tensor processor and photo edits enabled by AI. Google has also committed to seven years of Android updates to its Pixel lineup, which is an excellent guarantee if you’re someone who hardly upgrades. Price: Starts at $700 Where to buy: Google Store
AirPods Pro with USB-C:
The best earbuds you could gift
If you’re still holding on to a crusty old pair of AirPods, or perhaps the first-gen variant is starting to crackle, the $250 AirPods Pro will guarantee you have MagSafe Charging and USB-C to match all future iPhones and iPads. Price: $250 Where to buy: Apple
Sonos Era 300:
The best AirPlay-compatible Bluetooth speaker
If you love living inside your well-tailored walled garden, the Sonos Era 300 is a nice addition to any home using AirPlay. The Era 300 features six drivers, all of which are positioned in a way that ensures music and sound reach all corners of the rooms. Amazon Alexa is also available as an optional smart home controller. Price: $450 Where to buy: Sonos
The best non-Apple tablet worth getting
Google’s new Pixel Tablet runs Android, but the software has been improving with each new feature drop. It’s a chameleon: you can use it for work with a Bluetooth keyboard and stand, hook up a controller for cloud games, or dock it perpetually as a centralized smart home controller. Price: $499 for the 128GB version Where to buy: Google Store
Apple Watch Series 9:
A smartwatch worth upgrading to
The Apple Watch is the best smartwatch for any Apple user. But this year’s Series 9 release is exciting with its Double Tap gesture, which makes one-handed use with the smartwatch seem like a magic trick. The smartwatch also features offline Siri commands, which help access everyday actions on the Apple Watch by voice without delay. Price: Starts at $400 for the 41mm, $430 for the 45mm Where to buy: Apple
Apple Pencil with Slide-Out USB-C:
A stylus for the artist in your life
The artist in your life deserves an easier way to charge their powerful Apple Pencil. The good news is that the Apple Pencil 3 is now available with USB-C, so you don’t have to carry more than one cable on digital drawing excursions. Price: $80 Where to buy: Apple