Even before the collapse of the world's financial system, this wasn't looking like a year of major breakthroughs and eye-popping innovations on the technology front. This winter's hottest tech gifts are refinements of existing gizmos, often in an effort to make them leaner, meaner, less expensive and more efficient. Apple rolled out an updated lineup of iPods this fall with a slightly lower median price, ranging all the way from less than $50 (for the 1GB iPod Shuffle) all the way up to nearly $400 (for the 32GB iPod Touch). As kajillions of users already know, this delicious little multimedia whatzit has an Achilles' heel: battery life. OK, maybe the Achilles' heel is users too frazzled to recharge the damn thing, but either way the Kensington Mini Battery Extender and Charger ($32.94) is this year's No. 1 iPod/iPhone accessory for a reason. Dinky enough to keep hooked up to your iHooble while you're using it, this high-capacity, rechargeable lithium-ion Polymer battery pack claims to provide 30 hours of music, six hours of video or three hours of chatting. At a touch over $30 (or a touch under, if you bargain hunt), it's an essential stocking stuffer.
Hell, while you're at it, chuck in the Belkin RockStar 5-Way 3.5-mm Headphone Splitter ($13.85) along with that Pod/Phone, since it resolves the other most common user grump. No more bonking heads with your BFF on the train or bus while you each catch half of a stereo signal! (Although it's admittedly cute to watch.) The RockStar can patch together as many as five different MP3 players (not just iPods), headphones, DVD players and any other damn thing with a mini output jack.