It's holiday time again and that can only mean one thing — it's time for all of us here at iMore to tell you what our favorite things are as we close out the year. While our comprehensive Mobile Nations gift guide is sure to have something for everyone, we always like to give you guys something a little more personal by telling you what we've been using ourselves throughout the year. While you can of course expect the usual gadgetry and accessories, some of my picks are a little more personal and completely non-tech related. So no matter who you're shopping for, or if you're looking for ideas for yourself, here are some of my favorite purchases this year!
iPad Air 2
Our of all the devices Apple released this year, my iPad Air 2 is the purchase I'm most satisfied with. Aside from finally having support for Touch ID, the iPad Air 2 is lighter, thinner, and more powerful than before. Oh, and it comes in gold! I've also been enjoying the screen even more than the original iPad Air. The laminated screen really does make a nice difference. For anyone who travels frequently or wants the best portable media device available, the iPad Air 2 makes the perfect gift.
I almost upgraded to a retina MacBook Pro this year but held off. I just can't let go of the amazing battery life my MacBook Air offers. While I want a Retina Display, I'd almost rather have battery life that gets me through a complete work day and then some. Refreshed or not, Retina or non-retina, the MacBook Air is an amazing little computer and still my favorite in Apple's current lineup. If someone on your gift list needs a new computer, the MacBook Air is the perfect fit for the majority.
Even though the Apple TV hasn't been updated for a few years now, it's still a great little device for only $99. It's one we couldn't live without in our home and we actually have gotten to the point of having one in every room. We don't even have cable in any room but the living room anymore thanks to the Apple TV. We stream Netflix, Hulu Plus, and access all our iTunes moves, tv shows, music, and more from every room. No matter what's next for the Apple TV, the current one is still a great value for what it offers.
One of my favorite games of the year has to be Monument Valley. The levels are stunningly beautiful and will immediately put you in a trance. The goal is simple, guide the silent princess Ida through many levels. Along the way you'll have to riddle out optical illusions and evade the mysterious Crow People. The soundtrack is just an awesome added bonus. No matter what kind of gamer you are, it's impossible for anyone not to become thoroughly engrossed in Monument Valley.
Pixelmator is an amazingly awesome image editor that's available for both iPad and Mac. If you saw the iPad launch event keynote, you may remember Pixelmator on stage. Yeah, they made a goat disappear from a photo in a matter of seconds. That's some pretty powerful software in the palm of your hands. Not only that, with Handoff support, you can easily pass projects back and forth between your Mac and iPad effortlessly. Take that Photoshop!
Smash Hit is an incredibly addicting game that involves nothing more than smashing glass that stands in your way. Sound easy enough? Think again. You'll have to evade different glass obstacles that stand in your way without hitting them or before you run out of balls. Grab power ups along the way and try and get as far as you can. While Smash Hit is free to play, you can buy the premium version to unlock stats, checkpoints, iCloud sync, and more.
We watch more Netflix in our house than we do any other service. From Netflix original series like Orange Is The New Black to reruns of old favorites, whenever we are bored and want something to watch Netflix is always what we turn to. And considering a subscription for unlimited streaming on all devices is only $7.99 per month, it makes a moderately priced gift that almost anyone can afford.
Streaming music is a great way to enjoy thousands and thousands of songs for one great price. Rdio has been a favorite of mine for a long time due to the great experience the app offers combined with a decent selection of music, over 30 million tracks to be exact. They also have one of the best Mac apps where streaming services are concerned, which is a plus for those that listen while at their desks. Not only can you stream, you can also save tracks for listening offline. All for a mere $9.99 per month which includes mobile and web access. If you have a music lover in your life, Rdio makes a great gift not only for the holidays, but all year long.
Our very own Kevin Michaluk and Rene Ritchie turned me onto Sonos at the beginning of the this year and I'm honestly not quite sure how I worked from home without it. I listen to music almost the entire day while I'm working from home and Sonos has taken that to an entirely new level, while enhancing our home theater setup at the same time. The apps make it super simple to control music and audio in every room. The sound quality is amazing and setup couldn't have been any easier. We started off with a Playbar and two Play:1's for the living room and a Play:3 for the office. Later we added a few more Play:1's for other rooms.
I have a love hate relationship with iPhone cases. A lot of that can be attributed to the fact that I take a lot of the photos you see floating around iMore. I just hate having to tear a case on and off multiple times a day. That combined with the fact that I love the feel of naked iPhones in my hand has made me one of the pickiest people in the world in terms of cases. The Apple leather cases never really caught my interest prior to the 6 and 6 Plus but I'm glad they did. My girlfriend got one first and I quickly realized how easy they are to take on and off. They're also super thin which I love. I now have the flexibility of using a case when I want, but being able to go naked for photos without enlisting the help of pry tools and fingernails.
I like headphones that are easy to carry around, which is why I'm not a huge fan of over the ear models. When I was looking for new headphones this past spring, I specifically wanted noise canceling headphones for use on flights. I've now traveled with this many times since the spring and I'm completely happy with them. Even more than that, when working in a noisy Starbucks I can simply flip a switch and drown out everything except the music in my ears. Glorious silence, or music. Whichever you want, the QC20i's offer it with the amazing sound quality you'd expect from Bose. They're rated at 5 hours of noise cancellation on one charge but I seem to get a lot more than that.
I took the suggestion of our very own Rene Ritchie last holiday season before traveling and picked up an Incase DSLR Pro Pack. Holy hell does this bag fit a lot of things in it. Not only was I able to tote my camera, tripod, and all my lenses around while traveling, I was even able to get my MacBook Air, iPad, and much more in there when I really wanted to. Over the year I've used this bag for many things from shoving clothes in the back of it to taking it to tech conferences. Each and every time it fit everything I needed and more. It's slightly bulky but for what it fits, you'd have to almost expect a little bulk. Either way, it's a sacrifice I'm willing to make for what can fit in it.
I don't know many people that actually enjoy flossing their teeth. Luckily, that's exactly what a Waterpik is for. Not only is it less abrasive, it's quicker and easier. We picked one up a few months ago and I'm not sure how anyone would still want to floss while these wonderful little inventions are readily available. There are lots of models available but we prefer the cordless one that's rechargeable because it fits under the sink and doesn't have a large tank attached.
One rainy day this fall we went over to a friend's house and had some fun making homemade apple sauce. After peeling and chopping, she pulled out an immersion blender. I was amazed at how easy of a job it made of breaking down an entire pot of apples. I don't spend a ton of time in the kitchen but I know there are tons of times an immersion blender would have come in handy, especially with the attachments. There are tons of brands but the Cuisinart model with accessories is more than enough for most.