How technology can make your Christmas Day perfect
Gadgets and tech tips to get you through the Winter Gifting Period
Surviving Christmas Day
Christmas is a time to kick back, relax and forget all about the modern world. Like hell it is.
Since smart fridges and cookers aren't quite able to cook Christmas dinner for you yet, you're on your own in the kitchen. Elsewhere, however, Christmas can be automated to a greater degree than ever.
From streaming Driving Home For Christmas around the house to blocking it out completely (and even plotting your escape), and from filming a souvenir video to compiling a first aid kit for gifts, we've got all the tech you need for an extra-ordinarily electronic Christmas Day.
Whole-house Christmas music
Follow the lead of department stores everywhere by broadcasting The Christmas Album around your home for as long as possible (October onwards now permitted). The most affordable way is by using a couple of Bluetooth speakers in key rooms, though there are myriad options.
AirPlay makes music from an iPhone sound so much better than Bluetooth (cue speaker docks like the B&W Zeppelin Wireless, which can be bought for £499.95, $699.49 or around AU$1,039), while Sonos remains the most polished multi-room system. However, another quick fix comes from Chromecast Audio (which costs £30, $20, around AU$63) and Roku 3 (£99, $79, around AU$205) which will stream songs from a phone to a TV.
Escape the din
If the music isn't enough to drown out the kids and the inevitable arguments in the kitchen, there is a nuclear option. Surely the ultimate in anti-social tech (hey, it's Christmas!) is a pair of noise-cancelling headphones from the likes of Bose, Harmon Kardon, Philips, Parrot or Sennheiser, which will let you block out the din with a flick of the switch.
While such headphones have long been favourites with frequent travellers to 35,000ft, there are now slimline options that are equally as effective (and a tad more discreet). Try the pocket-sized Sony XBA-NC85D, Creative EP-3NC or the ultimate in quality, the Bose QuietComfort 20 for Android or iOS.
Keep powered up
Who's going to be the first of your friends to text a 'Merry Xmas' message to all their contacts on Christmas morning? Although it's thankfully still a relatively quiet day in the world of social media, The Big C is still a time to text, post pictures, film videos and stream music.
It's also become an e-commerce occasion, with online Boxing Day sales now beginning on December 25 itself. Can your smartphone or tablet stand up to all of this activity? Probably not, so keep a cable and charger to hand – or even a portable battery.
The latter come in all kinds of capacities, although most offer power-ups of only a few percent; choose one that promises at least 8,000mAh, and so can recharge your phone a few times over. Also look for a tablet-friendly 2.1-amp USB output.
Film a Christmas video
Planning on taking videos of the kids opening their presents? Or of little Johnny piloting his first drone? Great idea, but you won't thank yourself in a few years when the wobbly, low-resolution results are played back on your Ultra HD 4K TV as a Ghost of Christmas Past.
Keep the detail that your smartphone is capable of (avoid filming on tablets if possible – the sensors aren't as good) by using a tripod such as the Kenu Stance, which inserts straight into an iPhone's Apple Lightning slot; or for a GoPro or compact camera, try the small XSories Bendy.
OlloClip also does a handy Quick-Flip case for the iPhone 5 or iPhone 5S that has both a tripod thread and a gap for slotting-on its 4-in-1 lens, which includes useful wide-angle and fun fish-eye lenses to squeeze all the Crimbo action into the frame.
Don't forget the sound
Getting a steady shot is one thing, but what about sound? The video capabilities of smartphones are excellent, but the sound is routinely awful. However, there are several ways of improving it to professional levels, with the iRig Mic Cast ultra-compact microphone producing excellent all-round results.
Other options include the Mikey Digital stereo condenser microphone, and the reference-level RØDE i-XY, which delivers nothing less than a 24-bit/96k recording that's fit for the family Christmas archive.
Show just how inactive you are
Apple Watch prompts you to move once per hour, but that's not even long enough for The Muppet Christmas Carol. With any kind of smartwatch or activity tracker attached to you, or even a smartphone with fitness apps like Runkeeper – as well as Apple's default Move and Google's own Fit app – your Christmas Day challenge is to move as little as possible. Can you keep below 200 steps for the day?
Keep warm outside
If you must move during the festive break, the most likely reason will be for the Annual Christmas Family Walk, a post-turkey stroll to work off a couple of calories.
As well as having cold feet about the whole idea, you'll probably suffer physically, too. But not with some battery-powered socks on your tootsies, which each take three AA batteries and reach about 40 °C after about ten minutes. They're great for snowman-building too, but don't put them in the washing machine.
Boxing Day is for box sets
Netflix fans are legion, but the service does lack movies. Now TV has by far the biggest collection of newer movies – it's higher in the queue for new releases than the others – and Amazon Video is somewhere in between.
However, if you're after a Boxing Day binge of HBO dramas, it's Netflix all the way. From Daredevil, Orange Is The New Black and Marco Polo to House of Cards, Homeland and Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul, Netflix has something for everyone. Or you could just spend the afternoon browsing the entire catalogue and adding things to your 'watch later' list for 2016.
Keep a tech survival kit handy
We all have a box of cables, tech and other detritus from various gadget un-boxings, and Christmas is when it emerges from the back of the wardrobe and saves the day. A kid opens a present to find his dream toy. He switches it on. Nothing. Anyone got any batteries?
Save the day with a stash of batteries, cables and chargers that can make an ill-prepared parent and child alike cry with relief. A pack of AA and AAA batteries are the staple ingredients of such a stash, but don't forget a couple of CR2032 'watch' batteries, which are routinely used in telescopes (and, err, watches), and increasingly in Bluetooth gadgets. Since built-in lithium-ion batteries are now just as popular, keep a microUSB cable and a wall USB plug handy, too.
Stress-free Christmas driving
The roads won't be completely deserted even on Christmas Day, and if you're planning to drive cross-country at any other time over the holiday season, it's going to be busy. Google Maps on a smartphone will get you basic directions, but only an advanced sat-nav will give you detailed information on traffic jams.
Traffic alerts are delivered straight to the new Garmin nüvi 2529LMT-D, and the TomTom GO app also gives you updates on traffic conditions while turning your smartphone into a fully-fledged sat-nav device.
You can also use Foursquare to find food, fuel and ATMs, and share your progress so relatives know where you are and how long you'll be. Well, you wouldn't want anyone over-cooking those sprouts…