With the holidays upon us, it's time for everyone at iMore to share our favorite things to help inspire your ideas for shopping on Black Friday and throughout the holiday season. With the Mobile Nations gift guide already posted and Rene's Favorite Things available, I figured I'd throw in my two cents' worth in case you're looking for gift ideas or just need to get something nice for yourself.
Retina MacBook Pro
Whether you go 13-inch or 15-inch is largely a matter of taste and preference based on the kind of work you need to get done. But whichever way you choose, I think the Retina MacBook Pro is a superlative mobile workstation. The Retina MacBook Pro was the first Mac to get the Retina treatment and still the only portable Mac that offers such a high-resolution display. Apple refreshed the Retina MacBook Pro in 2014 with faster processors and more memory.
With the exception of Touch ID on the iPhone 5S, I can't remember another Apple technology that I adapted to as fast as the iPhone 6. I went from "is this too big" to "OMG my iPhone 5S was so tiny" in about three minutes of using it. Apple sure took its own sweet time bringing a 4.7-inch phone to market, but when they did, they brought an absolutely amazing phone to market. The iPhone 6 is faster, more capable and better in just about all ways than any iPhone before it, and Apple Pay makes it easier than ever to pay for goods at the register (where retailers support it, of course). I have no compunction whatsoever recommending it to anyone who's in the market for a new iPhone.
Professional image editing is no longer the domain only of designers who can afford applications like Adobe Photoshop. Pixelmator gets the job done for a fraction of the price, elegantly. Pixelmator's developers have been quick to adapt to new core OS X technologies that enable their software to run fast and lean on the Mac, without subjecting it to the sort of feature bloat that makes other applications less wieldy and more complicated to learn. You can use it to touch up photos, draw or paint, apply effects and more. What's more, Pixelmator supports the latest Yosemite features like Handoff and iCloud Drive, making it pair perfectly with its iPad counterpart.
Multiplayer Online Battle Arenas (MOBAs) have been all the rage now on computers for the last few years, but with a few precious exceptions, the genre hasn't done terrifically well on touch devices. Vainglory changes that — here's a MOBA that's designed from the ground up for your iPhone and iPad, pitting you against other players in 3-on-3 combat. It's free to play, with in app purchases available to instantly unlock new heroes. You'll need an iPhone 5S, iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus to play the iPhone version, which supports iOS 8's Metal technology. Vainglory on the iPad is a bit more forgiving system-wise.
With three different iOS devices to maintain backups on, iCloud-based photo sharing and an ever-increasing number of apps that store data in iCloud, I long ago decided to upgrade from the complimentary 5 GB plan to 20 GB. For that I was charged $40 annually, and while I was never thrilled to pay that amount, pay I did. With iCloud so central to Yosemite and iOS 8, I'm growing even more dependent on being able to store files there, so I upgraded to Apple's new monthly plans to get more bang for my buck. Now I pay $3.99 per month for 200 GB, which works out to be a bit more annually ($48 vs $40), but for ten times the storage.
Sure, it's all well and good to subscribe to a streaming music service, but I still prefer to own my music instead of rent it. My tastes tend to run more to the indie market than mainstream pop and rock, so I've long had an account with eMusic. Their selection of indie rock is great, but they also have a really great classical music selection and lots of other genres besides - jazz and blues, electronic, and more — 17 million songs' worth. eMusic works off a "subscription plan" model, where you pay a monthly fee that enables you to download that much worth of songs. The value is always better than iTunes and other download services I use, so I get more for my money.
I'm hard on my laptops, and I'm even harder on the cases I put them in to protect them from dents, dings and scratches. So far, the only one I've used that's held up to my abuse is STM's Grip. It snaps on to the MacBook case in just a second, and provides a ribbed surface that makes it easy to...well, grip. It looks good months after I first installed it. I will warn you that the black case shows fingerprints like crazy, so you might be better off with blue or red if they suit you.
I prefer having a pair of cups to anything that sits in-ear, so these MDR-10RBT's have my name all over them. Sony delivers a full, rich sound for less than Apple/Beats do. The earcups rotate to collapse the headset when you're not using it, and "passive mode" lets the headphone continue to work even after the batteries run out (it lasts for about 17 hours per charge).
I've gotten a lot more into tea this year, and I've learned that different kinds of teas require different water temperatures for optimal results. Rather than boiling the water with a regular kettle then waiting for it to cool down to the right temperature with a thermometer on hand, Cuisinart's CPK-17 lets you set it to the right temp with a handy button on the handle. It can hold 1.7 liters of water and is cordless. A blue backlit water window shows you how much is remaining in the pot, and a brushed stainless steel outer shell looks great in any kitchen.
Ever since my first Egg McMuffin I've been enchanted by the idea of being able to carry a hot, complete breakfast with one hand, but I don't like going to fast food places for them. Sure, I can make them myself, but it takes a bit of time and dirties a fair amount of cookware in the process. Hamilton Beach's solution is the Breakfast Sandwich Maker, which simultaneously toasts your bread of choice, cooks an egg, heats breakfast meat and toppings all together, producing a piping hot breakfast sandwich in five minutes. The removable parts are dishwasher-safe, which makes cleanup a breeze. I'm not a huge fan of single-purpose kitchen devices but this one gets a pass because breakfast is the most important meal of the day.