Last-minute tech and mobile gifts you can still buy right now

It's too late to ship anything, but you can still impress and upgrade your friends and relatives

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Gift cards are not your only last-minute option, and you might not even need to make a store trip.

Photo by Mac Morrison on Flickr.

Your selection of Chrome extensions, mobile apps, and email filters is meticulous, thoughtful, with an eye toward the future. Your holiday gifts to family and friends? They resemble nothing so much as a desperate scramble made at 11:42 p.m. on Dec. 24.

Which is what they still can be, if you keep in mind that drug stores and the web are open pretty much any time you're awake. And assuming the recipient has some kind of smartphone, tablet, Kindle, or web-connected television or disc player. So this is a guide to making your gift-giving seem as savvy as your online life.

Gracious thanks to Andy Ihnatko at the Chicago Sun-Times, whose column last year inspired this gently updated and revised guide.

Gift cards and subscriptions you can buy online or at drug stores

  • iTunes gift cards, the gold standard, and available just about everywhere. You can either give them a sum to spend, a monthly "allowance" for younger users, or send the specific songs, album, TV show, TV season, movie, book, audiobook, or app you want, to show that you put some thought into this.

  • Google Play gift cards, which are now widely available at retailers and available for online purchase. You can't gift specific apps, books, movies, or TV shows (yet), but I say that just knowing your recipient has an Android phone or tablet, and therefore knowing that an iTunes card isn't as helpful, is specific enough.

  • Spotify Premium gift cards, available at Target and through online purchase. I say it's a really good gift for someone who is already using Spotify in its free form, with ads, without mobile access, with a lower-quality audio stream. Give them a few months of universal access to nearly unlimited music, and they'll have a chance to know whether the $10/month is really worth it.

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