It’s that time of year again — the Christmas season is upon us, which means that you’ve probably been racking your brain to find the perfect gift for at least one person you know. Well, we’re here to help you out with the first instalment in our 2018 Holiday Gift Guide, in which we’ll be rounding up some of the best products we’ve reviewed over the past couple of years, and highlighting those that we think make especially good gifts for the iPhone owners in your life. Today we’re start out with a broader overview of a variety of smaller categories; we’ll be dedicating Part 2, due early next week, to the large collection of speakers, headphones, and other audio accessories that make up the bulk of our review coverage. We hope you’ll find something here to inspire you.
If you’ve got a friend or family member with a recent iPhone model, Twelve South’s PowerPic Wireless Charger for iPhone (Amazon – $80) could very well be one of the coolest gifts you can give this holiday season. Hiding a wireless charger behind a picture frame is one of these things that we’re surprised nobody thought of until now, and as an added bonus, you can even include an appropriate photo of a loved one in the frame, and e-mail the recipient a corresponding wallpaper to match on Christmas morning. The only catch is that you may want to make sure that you throw in a USB power adapter as well, since Twelve South doesn’t include one in the box. Any USB charger will do, but if you want to give something a bit extra, Scosche’s PowerVolt 3.0 (Amazon – $40) offers a fast-charging USB-C port as a nice bonus.
Another great gift for the iPhone and Apple Watch user in your life is Belkin’s Boost Up Special Edition Wireless Charging Dock for iPhone + Apple Watch (Apple Store – $160), which offers wireless charging for both Apple devices in a package that, in our opinion, will simply look great on most bedside tables, and it’s entirely ready to go out of the box — just find somewhere to plug it in, and then drop an iPhone and Apple Watch onto it to start charging. If you’ve got a friend who has been juggling cables and chargers at night, this will greatly simplify their life.
Mophie’s new Charge Stream Desk Stand (Amazon – $70) provides a great place to rest and wirelessly charge an iPhone at your desk while keeping it in a stable, upright position — in either portrait or landscape orientations. As an added bonus, the charging disc also comes off and can be used as a standard, flat charging pad, so it’s really two devices in one. However, if you’re looking for something in a more traditional coaster-style wireless charger, there’s Belkin’s Boost Up Special Edition Wireless Charging Pad (Apple Store – $60), and Mophie’s classic Charge Stream Pad+ (Amazon – $60).
Power on the Go
iPhone batteries are getting better all the time, but for the heavy iPhone user or road warrior, there’s always going to be a craving for more power, and fortunately there are lots of accessories to keep you going.
As usual, Mophie is at the front of the line here, with power packs that cover just about every scenario you can think of. Mophie’s Powerstation Plus XL 10,000 mAh Portable Charger with Lightning and Wireless Charging (Mophie – $100), sports a built-in Lightning cable, and can also be recharged from any Qi wireless charger, so it’s really easy to ensure that it’s always ready to go, and makes an especially great gift for somebody who already has a few wireless chargers around their home or office. On the other hand, Mophie’s Charge Stream Powerstation Wireless XL (Amazon – $100) goes the other way, recharging via a traditional USB connection, but delivering power to an iPhone via an integrated Qi charger.
Another option worth considering is Odoyo’s Wireless Charging Dock and Portable Battery Pack (Odoyo – $60), which combines a portable 5,000 mAh battery and docking charger, so it can do double-duty as a Qi-enabled desk stand or an extra battery pack for use on the go. Along a similar line of dockable batteries, Mangata’s Orbit Dual Power Bank Set with Wireless Charging Station (Tablet2Cases – $40) offers a pair of ultra-portable wired 5,000 mAh batteries and a docking station that you can easily pop them into at night for power on the go.
Finally, if all you’re looking for is raw power at a good price, consider ZMI’s PowerPack 20000 USB PD 20,000 mAh Portable Backup Battery & Hub (Amazon – $70), which offers the best bang you can get for the buck, and it supports USB-C PD charging as well, so it will juice up a 2018 iPhone model in no time at all, with power to spare.
If you’re looking for a gift that goes beyond iPhone charging, Mophie also has its Mophie powerstation AC Portable Power Pack (Amazon – $200) that provides 22,000 mAh of juice with an AC port that can put out 100 watts of power for handling other electronics. However, if you’ve got really good friends who are serious outdoor enthusiasts, you can’t go wrong with EcoFlow’s River Mobile Power Station (Amazon – $500) which packs a staggering 104,000 mAh of power and can put out up to 300 watts of continuous power through its dual AC ports — enough to keep your iPhones charged and your small electronics going all weekend, with room to handle things like inflating air mattresses.
For the mobile photographer
There’s no doubt that the iPhone is becoming a great camera, but anybody who is serious about photography will know that there are still limits as to what small lenses and flashes can accomplish.
If you’ve got somebody in your life who wants to up their iPhone photography game, consider the olloclip & Incase Limited Edition Filmer’s Kit (Olloclip – $160–$220), which provides a complete set of Olloclip’s Essential lenses to expand what can be captured on an iPhone, all bundled into a nice case along with all of the necessary other accoutrements for mounting and taking great photos and videos with an iPhone. It’s basically an iPhone photography gift set.
If you want to do something nice for a more serious photography enthusiast, however, there’s also Olloclip’s Super-Wide Pro and Telephoto Pro Lenses (Olloclip – $100), which offer noticeably improved photographic quality that goes beyond the casual Instragram shots, and unless they’re always shooting outdoor, daylight photography, chances are additional lighting will always be a plus, and for that the Lume Cube Creative Lighting Kit for iPhone (Apple Store – $150) makes a great gift for anybody who wants to use their iPhone for serious indoor photography and videography.
Of course, for many folks Christmas is all about toys, and Anki has been our favourite within the iOS ecosystem, with this year’s introduction of Vector (Amazon – $175), a super-cute and autonomous little robot that can wander around your living space like a pet, responding to voice commands, recognizing family members, and answering questions, and will also soon feature Alexa support.
However, as cute as Vector is, we’re still huge fans of Anki’s original Cozmo (Amazon – $140), and if you have kids, Cozmo is definitely still the gift to get. You’ll need to pair him with an iPhone or iPad, but once you’ve done that, Cozmo is a lot more interactive and educational, supporting a wide range of games, and even providing the tools to teach kids to code.
For a more traditional toy, Anki’s Overdrive Fast and Furious Edition (Amazon – $80), also makes a really great choice, offering fun for the whole family with a series of iOS controlled slot racing cars and a whole array of expansion options to make it your own. The only risk to this one is that you’ll not only get caught up in spending endless hours playing with it, but also spending even more money to further expand it with new cars and track pieces.
For those with young kids, Cinemood’s Storyteller Portable Projector ($400) also makes for a good family gift. This micro-projector is targeted at entertaining kids rather than the usual business applications, with a built-in library of Disney videos and direct support for playing content from YouTube and Netflix, and it’s battery powered and small enough to take anywhere, so you can keep your kids engaged whether it’s in the back of a van, on a camping trip, or in a hotel room.
If you’ve got a friend who is a budding digital musician, IK Multimedia’s iRig Keys I/O (Amazon – $250) is a great way to inspire their creativity, letting them simply connect up an iPad to compose, mix and sequence whole musical works, or even serve as the hub for their fledgling garage band.
Cutting the Cord
If you or your friends have decided it’s finally time to cut the cord, this may be the year to provide a little nudge with some great hardware for getting — and recording — free over-the-air television. After all, most people still want a bit more out of their TV service than Netflix can provide. Our perennial favourite remains Nuvyyo’s Tablo series of devices, and this year’s Tablo Dual Lite Over-the-Air Television DVR (Amazon – $100) provides a great entry-level option, although if you want to record programs, you’ll need to add your own storage or rely on Tablo’s cloud, so while it costs a bit more, we tend to think that Nuvyyo’s Tablo Dual 64GB model (Amazon – $270) makes for a better gift, since it provides almost everything that’s necessary in a single box. Since Tablo makes a great solution for users who are less tech-savvy, the value of an integrated solution can’t be underestimated.
Of course, the one thing you’ll still need is an antenna to hook it up to, and even if you or your friends already have one, it’s worth taking a look at Winegard’s Elite 7550 Long Range VHF/UHF Outdoor HDTV Antenna (Amazon – $150) which does a great job of picking up a lot of over-the-air channels in quality HD, even in major urban areas due to its ability to filter out the interference that comes from LTE cellular networks.
Around the Home
We always like products that solve problems we’re not even aware we have, and of course such things make great gift ideas as well, as chances as your friends and family are in the same boat. For this reason, we think that PhoneSoap’s PhoneSoap 3 Smartphone UV Sanitizer (Amazon – $60) is worth adding to your Christmas list, especially if you know people who are otherwise very health-conscious but haven’t given much thought to what’s on their iPhone. It’s an inexpensive and efficient way to keep your iPhone clean, and it’s even available in limited-edition Cranberry Red for the holidays.
Although we’ll talk about speakers more seriously next week, Flexound’s
HUMU Augmented Audio Cushion (Indiegogo – $279) seems like a more appropriate fit here, since it’s more of a home item than a traditional speaker. Make no mistake, though, this isn’t some kitschy novelty item — HUMU actually produces a unique listening experience, creating a tactile envelope of sound around the listener. It’s not for everybody, but it’s definitely a creative and unique gift if you have somebody in your life who will appreciate it.
If you’ve got friends or family members who are beginning to dip their toes into home automation, we’ve seen some great products recently for Apple’s HomeKit ecosystem, with Wemo’s products, such as the Wemo Mini Smart Plug (Amazon – $30) recently gaining HomeKit support, and Koogeek’s Wi-Fi Enabled Smart Outlet HomeKit Power Strip (Amazon – $80) providing three independently-controllable outlets. There’s also Connect Sense’s new Smart Outlet² ($59) that offers two traditional wall outlets, with power monitoring, and iHome’s iSP100 Outdoor Smart Plug (Amazon – $34) that’s a great way to remotely control outdoor Christmas or patio lights.
Of course, there’s more to HomeKit than wall outlets. Ecobee’s ecobee3 remains our favourite smart thermostat, although if you’re planning to give it as a gift, you’ll probably want to provide the recipient with the necessary help of installing it. While the ecobee3 is still a solid choice, it’s been superseded by the ecobee4 (Amazon – $200), which adds Alexa support to all of the other great smart thermostat features of the classic ecobee3.
For those who want to take home automation to the next level, there’s also the Eve Aqua Smart Water Controller (Amazon – $100), which will save water by managing your sprinkler schedule for you and letting you control it remotely, and the second-generation Eve Room HomeKit Air Quality Sensor (Amazon – $100) that can be used to improve your overall indoor environment, especially when paired with other HomeKit accessories such as fans, humidifiers, and thermostats to make automatic adjustments.
For those in your circle of friends who have recently moved into a new home, or are simply thinking of beefing up their home security, we’ve always found smart locks to be a great gift idea. August’s Smart Lock Pro (Amazon – $238) remains our favourite choice, as it’s one of the simplest to install, lets you use your existing locking hardware, and has a great feature set. For those looking for a bit more sophistication on the outisde of the lock, however, there’s also Yale’s Assure Lock SL (Amazon – $300), which also now includes August integration.
If your friends are away from home a lot, August’s Doorbell Cam Pro (Amazon – $200) and D-Link’s Omna 180 Cam HD (Apple Store – $130) are also both cool options. While the August Doorbell Cam is sadly still not HomeKit-enabled, it works really well with August’s own Smart Lock, letting you see who is at your door and unlock it remotely as needed, using August’s own app. D-Link’s camera, however, is one of the first — and still one of the best — HomeKit-enabled cameras, which can not only show you what’s going on at home, with a 180-degree field of view, but also send you notifications when motion is detected.