This third gift guide was written by me, Mitchel Broussard, with a focus on the third-party accessories I tend to use the most. Outside of that realm, there's a handful of items here that I don't own, but which I've had my eyes on over the years and that I've heard positive things about from friends and family. All-in-all, everything in the guide should satisfy the Apple Watch, MacBook, iPad, and iPhone owners on your own personal shopping list.
Apple Watch Gift Ideas
One of the best third-party Apple accessory manufacturers is Pad & Quill, whose products are well worth investing in if you're willing to spend a little extra money. With a big focus on products made from natural leathers and woodgrains, the company's entire lineup is infused with a homemade, natural feel that tends to gel nicely with Apple's slick design. I thankfully got a few of their Apple Watch products in to review this year, and I've stuck with using most on a daily basis.
Pad & Quill Timber Nightstand ($89.95) / Timber Catchall ($99.00)
The Pad & Quill Timber Nightstand is the go-to home base for my Apple Watch. Its footprint is compact enough to fit on a small bedside table, but roomy enough to provide extra space for a band or two to hang out behind the charging cradle. The stand comes in two attractive color options (I have the lighter American Cherry, but Exotic Sapele will be perfect for those who prefer a darker stand) and supports Nightstand Mode, along with both closed-loop and open-loop bands.
Even with all of that aside, my favorite part of the Timber Nightstand is its sturdiness; it feels solid and substantial, despite its small 4.7 by 6.2 inch frame. Still, if you're looking for bigger, Pad & Quill sells the somewhat massive Timber Catchall as well, which will net you a resting spot for your iPhone and a nook for change or keys for about $10 more than the Timber Nightstand (both models vary in price, depending on wood grain).
Pad & Quill Classic Apple Watch Band ($99.95)
On the wearable side, Pad & Quill's Classic Apple Watch Band is a nice alternative to Apple's Classic Buckle, and at $99 you can save around $50 if choosing to go with Pad & Quill's leather band. I wore the Chocolate Leather version pretty much daily during the early fall months and genuinely loved the look of it. Like most true leather products, the band begins to fold and crack and fade over the weeks to give it a personal, used-in quality. Although it may not have the Classic Buckle's clean edges and slim clasping mechanism, it's arguably the second-best high-quality leather Apple Watch band out there right now.
Check out the Lowry Leather Band ($109.95) and Lowry Leather Cuff ($129.95) for alternative, more intricate designs. All of the company's bands are sitting in pre-order states currently, but are promised to arrive before Christmas. The Classic Band option I first mentioned also lets you choose the metal color to match the Apple Watch's casing, so be sure to know whether the person on your list has a stainless steel or space black stainless steel Apple Watch.
Pad & Quill Tidbits
Perfect for stocking stuffers and big presents alike, the company's website is full of great ideas for any Apple fan this holiday. Of note are the Luxury Travel Kit ($119.99) and Luxury Travel Pouch ($119.99) that give the company's Apple Watch Pocket Stand (included) and extra bands a snug, safe home during travel. There's also the particularly impressive Roll Top Leather Backpack ($319.00), and other similar bags, if you're looking to spend a little extra cash on gifting a unique, hand-crafted, and long-lasting storage solution for Apple devices and beyond. The company even extends its rustic-inspired roots to a few neat iPhone and iPad cases that are sure to make an Apple product stand out in a crowd. I haven't personally used any of the items on this tidbit list, but I'm sold on Pad & Quill's faithfulness to design in any capacity.
Composure Collection by Rest (~$210)
Filed under the "Don't Own, But Want" list, Rest's Composure Collection offers Apple fanatics an OCD-level of organization for all of their favorite products with magnetically attachable partitions that you can mix-and-match at your leisure. The Phone Bed, Apple Watch Dock, and Organizer Bed ($74 each) give users little home bases for an iPhone and Apple Watch, plus glasses, change, and keys.
Charging cables need to be provided by the user and the beds are little more than designated organizational areas for your favorite Apple products, but nonetheless, there's an attractive simplicity to Rest's Composure Collection that would also kill two birds with one stone if you're looking for multiple charging solutions for someone on your gift list. The company's currently running a promo where new users can get $10 off your first order if you agree to sign up for their "infrequent" newsletter, so now may be the right time to bite the bullet on the collection.
Retina MacBook Gift Ideas
Although it may not be the most in-demand item this holiday season, if you know someone who is getting Apple's ultra-thin Retina MacBook as a gift, you'd be doing them a favor in buying some of the following accessories for the 12-inch laptop.
The MacBook comes with just two sources of input: a 3.5mm headphone jack and a new USB Type-C port that acts as the double-duty location to provide charge to the computer and open itself up for any potential accessories. To help beef up the capabilities of your loved one's new computer, start with a basic USB to USB-C adapter.
Satechi Type-C USB Adapter ($14.99) / Apple USB-C to USB Adapter ($19.00)
One of the cheapest, no-frills options is Satechi's basic Type-C USB Adapter. It's small and lightweight enough to toss in a backpack but doesn't feel cheaply made. If the person you're shopping for prefers to stay in the Apple family, at a $5 price increase Apple actually offers its own form of this device in the USB-C to USB Adapter. If you know they'll require connecting to external HDMI or VGA enabled displays (both run $79.00), Apple has you covered there too.
SanDisk Dual USB Drive Type-C ($37.99)
But maybe the best option for the simple transferring of files from a USB-C computer like the MacBook to a traditional USB port is the SanDisk Dual USB Drive Type-C, a little thumbdrive that morphs together the dual power of each input into one device. What this means is that you can plug it into the new MacBook in the USB-C side, transfer a few files onto the 32GB drive, remove it, and then plug the other side in to a traditional USB port found on most computers.
Without the need of a somewhat awkward dongle that Satechi and Apple offer, SanDisk found a way to cut out the middle man, and it's been my go-to for file transfers most of the year. The drive runs $64.99 on SanDisk's site, but places like Best Buy and Amazon are offering it for around $40.
Waterfield Dash MacBook Sleeve ($59)
Sleeves and protective cases are perhaps the most ubiquitous third party accessory for any Apple product, and as such there are plenty of options even for the 8-month old Retina MacBook. Still, since I went hands-on with one of the first earlier this year, I'll mention WaterField Design's sparse yet highly functional Dash MacBook Sleeve. With two simple pockets -- enough to fit the MacBook, its charging cable, and maybe a few of the previously mentioned accessory dongles -- the Dash is perfect for someone who prefers form and utility over brazen style.
Retina MacBook Cases and Sleeves
But if you're shopping for someone who doesn't mind a little color, there are plenty of options at your disposal. Incase's classic Hardshell Case ($49.95) now comes in a 12-inch MacBook option and with a mix of safe and bold colorways. The Herschel Supply Co.'s 12-inch Anchor Sleeve for MacBook ($39.95) is a unique option as well, with some diverse designs from floral to color-blocked neon pink and aqua.
Headphone Gift Ideas
YurBuds Inspire 400 Earphones ($39.95) / Powerbeats 2 Wireless Earphones ($129.99)
Shopping for quality headphones that surpass Apple's own bundled-in EarPods can be a bit of an overwhelming task. I still rely on the company's EarPods for day-to-day music playback, but they're definitely lacking for more extreme, outdoor environments. As such, for the headphones section of my guide, I'll focus on those that I've gained particularly lasting mileage out of while running or generally working out.
My favorites are YurBuds' Inspire 400 Earphones, which I got for Christmas about three years ago and have yet to stop using. They take some getting used to, but the unique in-ear FlexSoft silicone inserts feel secure yet unobtrusive, even after long periods of use, and the lanyard's multi-functional volume/playback controller gives the earphones the same functionality as Apple's headphones. Most importantly, in all my time with the YurBuds, I've never had them accidentally fall out while running or get ruined from sweat, making them a great workout companion.
Similarly to YurBuds, Beats' Powerbeats 2 Wireless headphones offer a secure high-intensity option for users looking to listen to music while working out. The big difference is that Beats' headphones are wireless and connect to an iPhone through bluetooth, particularly useful without the connective cord of a headset hanging between your iPhone and ears while running. The battery life on the Beats isn't exactly impressive, however, so keep that in mind if you're buying for someone less likely to remember to charge yet another electronic device in their life. The Powerbeats 2 run for $199.95 on Beats' official website, but you can find them on Amazon right now for $129.99.
Miscellaneous Gift Ideas
HoverBar 3 for iPad ($59.99)
Twelve South is a well-regarded manufacturer of quality Apple accessories and for good reason -- their products provide unique solutions to everyday problems while sticking closely to Apple's sleek design rules. I've owned a handful of their merchandise over the years, but my most recent purchase with the company has turned into an instant favorite: the HoverBar 3 for iPad.
The sturdy, malleable arm connects an iPad, iPad Air, or iPad mini to a desk or iMac to act as a second screen. Perfect for throwing chat windows or Twitter feeds off of a main work screen, or as a recipe companion in the kitchen, the HoverBar has subsequently de-cluttered my daily work station, and I love it.
Apple First Party Accessories
It's probably obvious to mention, but some of the best gift ideas come from Apple itself. Personally, I use the iPhone 6s Plus Leather Case ($49.00), a handful of Apple Watch Sport Bands ($49.00 for 38mm and 42mm sizes) in multiple colors, and the company's own Lightning Dock ($49.00) on a daily basis. If you're willing to splurge, nicer Apple Watch bands like the Leather Loop ($149.00, only 42mm) and -- my personal favorite -- the Milanese Loop ($149.00 for 38mm and 42mm) are perfect to spruce up someone's stainless steel Apple Watch.
Beats Pill ($149.99, varying with color)
I'll end my guide with the item I easily rely on the most on a daily basis: the Beats Pill. Although I'm still on the older, last-gen model of the Pill (Beats By Dre recently launched the redesigned Beats Pill+), my little blue speaker has been used for hours on a near-daily basis since I purchased it sometime in 2013. The Pill is the perfect size to become your new favorite bathroom and kitchen jam session companion, and although I'm not an audiophile, it packs enough of a wallop in sound quality that it's above-average price is justified.
Some people harp on the top-tier pricing of Beats By Dre products in general, but ever since the launch of the new speakers ($229.95), you can find the one I use for as low as $150 at resellers like Amazon (I even saw some refurbished models selling for around $120 at my local Best Buy). For something as reliable and easy-to-use as the Pill's bluetooth iPhone connectivity, it's a perfect, crowd-pleasing holiday gift for any music lover on your list.
The MacRumors staff will continue sharing their favorite products in the form of these gift guides over the next week, so be sure to keep an eye out for them. Join in on the community curated list of cool Apple-related products over in the 2015 Holiday Gift Guide Master List to voice your own opinion on the best accessories out there.