Still having trouble picking out a special gift for that special someone? Don’t worry, iDB is here to help with our second annual holiday gift guide. Just like last year, we’ve each compiled a list of our top picks for holiday gift ideas, and I’ve elected to go first.
Below you’ll find a list of products that I’m either giving as a gift, hoping to receive as a gift, or are just known for being awesome. The items range from tablets to sunglasses, and everything in between, and come in at various price points. So let’s get started…
Once the hockey puck-sized set-top box is hooked up to your home Wi-Fi network, it’s capable of streaming Netflix, Hulu Plus, iTunes media and loads of other content to any HDMI-capable TV. Sure there are products out there like the Roku Box or Google’s Chromecast that offer similar functionality at a cheaper price, but for my money, the Apple TV is the better buy. It’s easy to setup, easy to use, and can communicate with Apple’s iPhones and iPads for things like photo slideshows, video playback and video games.
This is the second year in a row I’ve named the Apple TV as one of my top gift picks, and I still think it’s a steal at $99.
iPad mini with Retina display
Tablets are this year’s hot ticket item, so if you’ve got a friend or family member that doesn’t have one yet, or is due for an upgrade, it’s certainly something to consider. And while there are more options this season than ever before, I still think the iPad is the way to go. Its build quality is second to none, it’s extremely easy to use, and it comes with Apple’s vast iTunes ecosystem of music, movies, books and apps.
But which model to choose is up to you. If money isn’t an issue, you might check out the top-of-the-line iPad Air, which starts at $499. And if you think that might be overkill, Apple sells the ultra-portable iPad mini for just $299. My personal preference is the new iPad mini with Retina display, as it’s the perfect combination of performance and portability, and it’s priced in the middle starting at $399.
Jawbone Mini Jambox
So what do you get for that person that already has a smartphone or tablet? How about a Bluetooth speaker? They’re wireless, portable and allow you to stream audio from virtually any source on a compatible device including music, movies, video games and more.
The new MINI JAMBOX by Jawbone isn’t the best Bluetooth speaker on the market, but there are several reasons why I like it. For starters, the thing just looks cool. Jawbone has the world famous Yves Béhar helping it design its products, and I have to tell you, the aesthetics blow the competition out of the water. I also really like its size (roughly 6 x 1 x 2 inches), its 10-hour battery life, and the fact that it’s super easy to setup. The audio quality won’t impress audiophiles, but it’s still good enough to fill a large room with warm sound. Again, there are other choices out there, but I say go with the sleek and sexy Mini Jambox for $150.
Pad & Quill Little Pocket Book for iPhone
I don’t typically recommend getting a case for someone unless you know them and their tastes extremely well, but wallet-case combos are a different story. Everyone hates lugging around more gear than they have to, so if you pick out a decent-looking one, chances are your recipient will at least use it on occasion.
I’ve played with a handful of the top iPhone wallet cases on the market, including TwelveSouth’s BookBook and Hex’s Icon Wallet, but my favorite right now is the Little Pocket Book by Pad & Quill. It houses your iPhone 5 or 5s in a hand-finished wooden cradle (with padded corners and an iSight camera hole), opposite a card holder with an ID window, 3 card slots and a cash pocket, and covered in top grain leather. When closed, it looks like a high-end pocket book, and I get compliments on it nearly every time I pull it out. I think it’s well worth the $69.99 price tag.
For those who missed it, Apple finally added official support for third-party game controllers this fall, meaning developers can now design their iPhone and iPad games to work with physical buttons and joysticks. Unfortunately, since the tech is so new, there are only 2 controllers available—the Moga Ace Power and the Logitech PowerShell—and not many iOS games support them yet.
That being said, I still think one of these controllers would provide hours of gaming fun on Christmas morning and beyond, but which one you decide to go with is up to you. They both feature a cradle-like design, both have built-in battery packs, and they both cost $100. True, the Moga is the only one with dual analog control sticks, but I’m leaning towards the Logitech. I like that it has fewer buttons (fewer things to break) and the company has a solid reputation in the accessory industry.
Honestly, either of these controllers would make a good gift, but I’m leaning toward the PowerShell for $99.99.
Ray Ban Wayfarer
Since there’s a good chance that not everyone on your shopping list this season is a techie, I figured I better include at least one non-gadget suggestion. These kinds of gifts are a lot tougher for me, because they’re usually very specific — for example, you could give an iPad to your mother and father, but you probably wouldn’t give them both a purse and a bottle of scotch — but I do have a recommendation: sunglasses.
Most everyone I know has at least one pair of sunglasses, and many have 2 or 3 sets. So I think that a classy pair of shades makes the perfect non-tech gift. Obviously there are thousands of options to choose from, but my favorite pair right now are the Classic Wayfarers from Ray Ban. The iconic accessory has been around since the 1950s, and still remains one of the best-selling models to date. They’re retro, they’re modern, and they just look down-right cool. And best of all they’re unisex. Price will vary depending on the color and size you pick out, but the standard pair of Wayfarers goes for $70+.
Gifts under $30
I realize that many of the above gift suggestions are a bit pricey, so I’ve rounded up some of my favorite items that cost less than $30 as well.
The Anker Astro Mini 3000mAh portable USB charger: This lipstick-sized pack is capable of fully-charging your dead iPhone or iPad, costs less than $20 and is rated 4.5 stars by nearly 20,000 reviews on Amazon. Add in the credit card-sized Nomad ChargeCard for $25, and they’ll be able to carry a full power station in their back pocket.
Adonit Jot Pro: Styli also make good stocking stuffers, and my favorite under $30 right now is the Adonit Jot Pro. It looks great, it’s made of quality materials, and it has one of the finest, most accurate tips around. Get it here for $29.99.
iPhone dock: Chances are if the person you’re shopping for already has an iPhone or iPod touch, they already have Apple’s iPhone dock. But trust me when I say that they probably wouldn’t mind having another one. The newest version works with the iPhone 5, 5s and the latest iPod touch, and makes throwing your device on the charger effortless. Want to go the extra mile? Throw in an Apple-made USB Lightning cable as well.
iTunes gift card: These cards can be purchased in virtually any denomination between $15 and $100, and work in any iTunes Store, meaning they can be used to purchase apps, games, books, music or movies.
A 3-pack of Field Notes notebooks: In a world gone digital, you’d be surprised how far a notepad will go. They’re well-made, multi-purpose, and inexpensive at just $9.99.
Hopefully these suggestions have given you a few ideas. But if none of them are appealing, don’t worry, Sebastien and the rest of the iDB crew will be along shortly with their own recommendations. Also feel free leave feedback or share your own gift ideas down in the comments below.