Our first gift guide was written by me, Juli Clover, and features a list of items that I own and love, would love to receive, or would love to gift to someone. There is no theme here, but as I'll explain along with each suggestion, all of these items are things that I own personally or have done a lot of research on.
I've been using the Philips Hue line of lights since they first came out in 2012 and I have nothing but good things to say about these bulbs, which can be set to a whole range of different colors or various shades of white. The most recent Hue Starter Kit includes HomeKit integration and features brighter 800 lumen bulbs. HomeKit integration isn't a must, but it is simpler than opening the app and you can ask Siri to do things like turn all your lights cerulean or hot pink.
If you know someone who already has a Hue setup, an extra light is a fun gift to give. I'd recommend the $90 Hue Go portable light or the $90 LightStrip Plus, good for ambient lighting anywhere. A $60 Hue Tap for activating four different scenes from a single switch is also a useful accessory.
- Pressed Flower iPhone Case ($40)
With the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, I opted to get a rose gold iPhone. It's a gorgeous color that I want to show off, so I've been looking into case options that let the color peek through. Searching through cases on the Internet, I found these lovely dried flower and leaf cases, a nice alternative to a traditional case. I've also see similar cases on Etsy that are priced more affordably, around $18.
Alternatively, Casetify is also a good site to visit for case designs that go well with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. There are dozens of community-created clear-style cases that showcase the iPhone's design, priced at $40.
- UE Roll Bluetooth Speaker ($99)
Lately I've been lusting over a waterproof Bluetooth speaker so I can listen to music and audiobooks in the shower, and I think this compact speaker from Ultimate Ears hits a sweet spot between price, design, and sound quality. It has a strap so it can hang up and it's flat enough to comfortably fit into a bag so it can come along to the beach or the pool.
For louder sound, there's also the UE Boom 2 ($199), which we actually reviewed earlier this year. We haven't tested the UE Roll, but we were fans of the UE Boom.
- Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack ($60 to $100)
I bought a Kanken laptop backpack from Fjallraven just before CES last year to a comfortable, not-too-large solution for toting my Retina MacBook Pro around, and it's turned into one of my favorite bags. Different versions of the Kanken hold up to a 17-inch laptop, and my version for the 15-inch RMBP is impressively compact for all that it can hold.
It has a separate zip compartment for my laptop (excellent for airport security), along with a front pocket, two side water bottle pockets, and an inner pocket that holds my iPad Pro. The internal space is big enough to hold all the accessories I use, including hard drives, over-ear headphones, a purse, and more, and the straps are padded so it's comfortable even when weighted down. Mine's purple, but it comes in a bunch of colors, all made from water resistant fabric. I liked it so much that I bought another mini Kanken (~$60) for hiking and day trips. The mini is big enough for an iPhone or an iPad mini, but nothing larger.
- Knomo Elektronista iPad Purse ($295)
The Knomo Elektronista is one of my favorite products I reviewed this year. It functions as either a purse or an electronics organizer with a ton of pockets and an included battery pack. It has dedicated inner pockets for an iPad, an iPhone, credit cards, cables, and other odds and ends, plus two outer pockets and a removable strap.
It unzips at the sides so everything inside can be accessed quickly, and my favorite part - it's slim enough that it can fit inside a larger backpack or purse when you need more carrying space. I'd also like to point out the accessories from Intrepid Bag Co. to anyone looking for a laptop/ipad bag. We've partnered up with Intrepid on some giveaways and response has been super positive - they make some gorgeous (but expensive) bags. I can also recommend bags from Chrome Industries -- they're rugged, have tons of pockets, and are good for people who commute but need to carry a laptop or iPad.
- Cable organizing solutions
I've been working on keeping my office more organized, and one step towards that has been implementing some useful cable management solutions. I bought the $27 CableBox from BlueLounge after it was suggested to me by a co-worker to hide my power strip and all attached cords, and I loved it so much I bought one for my mom right afterwards.
Cable storage may be an unconventional gift, but if you know someone who has an uncontrollably messy desk (like our editor-in-chief Eric Slivka), it'll definitely be appreciated. Paired with the CableBox, I like the CableDrops ($10), which keep cords on desks, and Cable Turtles ($25) for winding up excess cord. If you want to get fancy, there's the Griffin Guide Magnetic Cable Management set I reviewed last month, but it's on the pricy side at $40.
For travel, something like the Cordito ($38) or the Cord Taco ($32 for 5) is ideal because they keep all those pesky iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch cables from getting tangled. For organizing both cords and small accessories, I use a Grid-It from Cocoon ($15) in my backpack, and it's also been a popular gift I've given in the past.
- Anova Precision Cooker ($199)
I haven't used an Anova Precision Cooker for sous vide before, but when we posted about Apple selling it recently, our forum members were quick to chime in about how awesome it is. A couple of my co-workers are also big fans, so this seems like an ideal gift for a cooking enthusiast. The newest version includes Wi-Fi so you can keep an eye on your food from the iPhone, but there are older, less expensive versions that are Bluetooth only.
- iSkelter Canvas Smart Desk for iPad Pro ($68)
iSkelter makes traditional desks and lap desks for Apple accessories by hand, and the Canvas Smart Desk is its newest product, designed for the iPad Pro. I have one of these on hand to test ahead of an upcoming giveaway, and it's one of my favorite iPad Pro accessories so far because it's perfect for working away from my desk.
There's a cutout for the iPad Pro itself, where the iPad Pro lays flat for drawing or playing games, but it also fits the Smart Keyboard when propped up, giving me a stable surface for typing. There's a cutout for the Apple Pencil at the side, and another cutout for an iPhone or another iPad. A larger Canvas Pro edition is also available for $68 and includes extra space for holding something like a coffee cup. These are on Kickstarter, but will ship before Christmas.
- Apple Pencil ($99)
If you can get your hands on one, an Apple Pencil also makes for an awesome gift for a new iPad Pro owner. Apple Pencils are out of stock, so the only way to get one ahead of Christmas is to check your local Apple Store repeatedly. Apple Pencils aren't just good for artists - they're fun for everyone. Paired with some simple doodle drawing books (some of my favorites are by Sachiko Umoto), an Apple Pencil is a good way to unwind and pick up a new hobby.
We're going to be sharing additional gift guides over the next two weeks, so make sure to keep an eye out for them. If you have a favorite product, feel free to add it to our 2015 Holiday Gift Guide Master List, which is going to be turned into a gift guide culled from our forum members' most loved items.