Welcome to iLounge’s Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide for 2014, a rundown of the best recent accessories for iOS devices. The guide is designed to show consumers what they might have missed during the past few months. For a more comprehensive list of top-notch accessories in more categories, we recommend reading our Best of the Year Awards for 2014, and if you’re interested in anything else, please search through our massive review section. With this guide, we aim to fill in the gap between our year-end awards and the inevitable blitz of new products we’ll be seeing at the 2015 International CES.
iPad Air 2 cases
So far, the case selection for Apple’s newest full-sized iPad has been rather disappointing. We’ve seen a few cases reworked to fit both an iPad Air and iPad Air 2, detracting from the newer iPad’s thin profile. Our favorite case for the device so far is STM’s Skinny Pro ($40). We’ve seen the case before for older iPads, and though it’s not perfect, it’s nice-looking, reasonably priced, and relatively thin — it’s what we’d pick if we needed an iPad Air 2 case right now.
If you’re in need of an iPad Air 2 keyboard case, Belkin’s Qode Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case ($150) is your best bet. Even though Belkin is one of the very first companies to release an iPad Air 2 keyboard case, we’re confident the Qode Ultimate Pro Keyboard Case will remain one of the best options for some time — it compares favorably to the best keyboard cases we saw for Apple’s first iPad Air.
iPhone 6/6 Plus cases
We’ve reviewed plenty of new cases for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus by now — see our iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus case galleries for more information. As for iPhone 6 cases we’ve reviewed in the past six weeks or so, we’ve really liked Skech’s soft-touch Ice ($30), Magpul’s inexpensive, no-nonsense Field Case ($17), and Logitech’s protection+ ($35), which is a good standalone case that also fits into Logitech’s existing mounting system.
We’ve seen two excellent iOS device stands in recent weeks. Twelve South’s HiRise Deluxe for iPhone + iPad ($60) is a minimal, premium stand that comes with both one Lightning cable and one micro-USB cable. HiRise Deluxe comes in gold, a new color option for Twelve South’s HiRise stand. We were also impressed by Heckler Design’s revamped @Rest Stand for iPad ($29). The all-steel @Rest can accommodate any iPad, and $29 is a fantastic price for an attractive, durable stand.
G-Project recently released two great new affordable speakers — G-Drop ($50) is a small, submersible waterproof speaker that packs a lot of punch at a low price point. G-Go ($55) is a larger, but similarly portable Bluetooth speaker. The water-resistant speaker debuted at $60, but G-Project is now selling it for $55 — another great deal.
Sol Republic’s Punk ($70) has been out for a little longer, but it’s another impressive portable Bluetooth speaker for those looking at lower-priced options. Listeners interested in a bigger, stronger Bluetooth speaker should take a look at the attractive Infinity One ($300) from Harman Audio’s Infinity group.
Apps, Toys, and Games
If you’re getting a new iOS device this holiday season, you may want to do some early research on apps and games. Our Best of the Year Awards offered our top picks in both apps and games. Though there haven’t been many brand new standout apps in recent weeks, it’s been a good time for gamers. Among other big titles, Square Enix’s Dragon Quest III ($10) and Oddworld Inhabitants’ Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath ($6) have both been ported over from other systems recently. The much-anticipated Vainglory (free) from Super Evil Megacorp made its official full launch not long ago, and the Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game has been earning rave reviews thus far.
Those who find themselves getting serious about mobile gaming should take a look at some of the newer MFi gamepads — early products were overpriced and lacking in quality, but that’s changed a bit. Mad Catz’ newly released controllers — C.T.R.L.i and Micro C.T.R.L.i ($40-$50) — are our favorites so far. We already liked C.T.R.L.i at its $60 MRSP, but Mad Catz has dropped the price to a very reasonable $50. SteelSeries’ Stratus XL ($70) is a bit pricier, but it’s a very good controller, and a big improvement from the first Stratus gamepad.
If you’re looking for a different kind of toy or game for a youngster, take a look at Evollve’s Ozobot ($50). It’s not for everyone, but kids of a certain age who have an interest in robots or computer programming might be smitten with this tiny robot, which can follow drawn lines across iPads or pieces of paper.
We’re hoping this last-minute guide leads you to the right gift this season. Happy Holidays!