December 25th is almost here and you’re probably feeling those stress levels rising. But a little bit of tech could help make the whole Christmas season run a bit more smoothly, especially if you're entertaining.
Whether it's a smart speaker to get the party started, or a robot vacuum cleaner to make cleaning up a breeze, here are the eight gadgets every homeowner needs this Christmas. Get Alexa to order them for you, and you can sit down with a mince pie to watch Home Alone for the 300th time. Merry Christmas!
1. Invest in a smart thermometer
When it comes to cooking, a smart oven gives you greater and more convenient control over your oven, allowing you to preheat it and turn it off using your phone – great for when you need to get away from the kitchen for some family time. But something like the Meater Plus Wi-Fi thermometer can be delivered in time for Christmas and will help to ensure the turkey is perfectly cooked. Simply put it into the thickest part of the bird and load up the app – it will ask a few questions about what you’re cooking and how, and then can offer you notifications for key stages in the cooking process.
2. Start the party with a smart speaker
When it comes to entertainment, smart speakers – or even multi-room music systems – are fantastic for spreading the Christmas cheer throughout your house, whether you fancy the Christmas classics or a bit of Bublé. The Amazon Echo Plus is best for sound quality, but even the smaller Amazon Echo Dot will get the party started. If you want to stream Christmas tunes in the bedroom, you can pre-order the Amazon Echo Dot with clock, which also doubles as an alarm (not that you'll need one of those when the kids wake up at 4am on Christmas Day!).
3. Get your game face on
Games that can be played on a tablet are a lot of fun. A real party favourite is Heads Up, where one person holds the tablet or phone up in front of them, words flash up, and their fellow game players have to give clues to help them guess what word it is. It’s free to download with a few themes for free, with others available for around 99p each. You can also play a variety of games with through your smart speaker, Alexa, for instance, has free games that include a song quiz and name-that-movie challenge.
4. Get a robot vacuum cleaner
Cleaning up is probably the worst part of entertaining, but a robot vacuum could make life easier. It’s no replacement for a deep clean, and it’s not going to clear up the mountains of wrapping paper, but it’s great for staying on top of things. You can set it to do a quick run around the kitchen and living room when you sit down to eat, to ensure things are looking a little fresher for those after-dinner drinks and games. The very best will work over wooden floors, rugs and carpet, and even return themselves to their docking station for charging, so your guests are none the wiser you have a robot helper!
5. Upgrade your dishwasher
Unfortunately, we still don’t have appliances that can do the washing up for us, but there are smart dishwashers that can give you a bit of extra control to make getting through the piles of dishes a little easier. The cleverest adjust their settings depending on how dirty the dishes are, to avoid them needing a manual clean at the end. You can also control wash cycles from your phone, turning the dishwasher on and off to suit, as well as receive notifications on when it’s ready for the next load.
6. Shop with your voice
Still need to do some last-minute shopping? Then tech can help you out with that, too. If you have a smart speaker that supports Alexa, you can order things from Amazon just using your voice, be that presents, paper or Prosecco. You will have to have the various settings in place on your connected Amazon account to make it work, such as 1-Click ordering and valid payment details, but it only takes a few minutes to get that set up if it sounds helpful.
7. Take deliveries when you're out
The only problem with all those online orders? Being around to accept them all. Installing a smart lock is a good way to allow delivery people access to your home, porch or secure parcel box, so they can tuck your packages safely away inside and you don’t spend hours in the Post Office queue. It works by giving them a one-time access code, which expires immediately after use. Some come with, or work in conjunction with, connected security cameras so if you’re letting someone into your home, you can be sure to watch them leave again! If you don’t feel comfortable with that, a smart doorbell, like the Ring 2 Video Doorbell, will allow you to speak to delivery people as they arrive, and tell them a safe place to leave your precious parcels.
8. Non-stop Christmas movies
Whether your fave Christmas movie is Elf, Die Hard or It's A Wonderful Life, you need a smart TV in your life. Order now and you'll be able to stream all manner of movies whenever you want – some services like Netflix will require a subscription, while others will be chargeable per movie. If you don't want to invest in a new TV but want smart capabilities, invest in an Amazon Fire Stick, which simply plugs into the USB port on your TV and allows you to steam content from Amazon Prime and other providers.