There are many gift guides out there. But I bet you haven't read a lot of selfish ones!
I consider myself a pretty good gift-giver—I love surprising my friends and family, especially when I can find the perfect strange and unique gift for a particular person. This gets dangerous, however, when I see something that would be, well... perfect for me. (Especially if there are droids involved.)
I bought a lot of crazy technology in 2015 on this principle. And after a year of scavenging through the life-changing and the not so much, here are the gifts I got that I would unabashedly recommend to others. They may have initially appealed to my selfish desires, but they're also pretty great gadgets—and worth a consideration on your own Christmas list.
The Philips Hue starter kit
It's no secret that I have a minor HomeKit obsession, and when Philips announced HomeKit compatibility for its Hue line, that obsession tripled in size. I have something like ten Hue bulbs in the house now, but the initial catalyst was the Philips Hue Starter Kit. It offers a HomeKit-compatible hub and three colored bulbs for you to attach to any light fixture you desire. From there, adding bulbs is as easy as buying one and setting it up with your network. The native Hue app isn't great, but third-party apps more than make up for it, and the bulbs are functional delights.
Breville Immersion Blender
This kitchen pick was actually a legitimate gift from my mother (admittedly, one she picked up after I ranted excitedly about The Sweethome's recommendation. If you make soup, smoothies, or need something ground up but don't have the counter space for a full food processor, this thing is utterly fantastic. I've used it on the stove, with its companion processor accessories, in drinks, in mixing bowls... as someone who doesn't quite have the budget for a full KitchenAid mixer or the need for a gigantic processor, this immersion blender fits perfectly—and it's only $100.
Apple TV remote stand
At $12, Studio Neat's stand is probably the most inexpensive Apple TV accessory you can pick up, but I love the little walnut rectangle. It's designed to prop up your Apple TV remote so the black bar doesn't mysteriously vanish behind couch cushions or under tables. While it doesn't offer a charging port, it gives your Apple TV remote somewhere to belong—pretty important given its slender and easily losable size.
SteelSeries Nimbus controller
Continuing with the Apple TV accessory recommendations, we have the SteelSeries Nimbus game controller. It's not the only Made-for-iPhone controller out there, but it's by far the best, charging by Lightning and offering a comfortable grip that should please Xbox and Playstation vets alike. I've used it far too often these past few months to immerse myself in the world of Rayman Adventures, but to each their own.
Sonos Play:5 speaker
I'm a relatively recent convert to Sonos, a wireless speaker system that hooks into your music library and streaming tastes to build a queue you can play throughout your house. And while I've loved the company's TV Playbar for years, the Sonos Play:5 took things to a different level. I loved iMore's review unit so much that I'm getting one of these for my own house, and probably getting a second when I can afford it. They're great speakers on their own, with Sonos's wireless controls making them even better.
Twelve South Forté Apple Watch stand
I've been pretty picky about Apple Watch stands since getting mine, eventually preferring to thread a charging cable into my jewelry box. But the Forté is excellent, and I've set one up in the office for both displaying my Apple Watch and charging it while I test apps and software on the display. The metal-and-leather stand is gorgeous, all while keeping the charging cord tucked away and out of sight.
BB-8 and Rey
I couldn't write a gift guide without praising my new favorite desk additions: Sphero's app-controlled droid is my favorite little bit of 2015 toy technology, and Funko's Rey figurine is sized perfectly alongside the diminuitive droid. While you need to have the app open to get the full sound and motion effect, BB-8 is just as cute hanging out on your desk in its little USB charger. C'mon. Tiny droid. What is there not to love?
On the go
Jabra Move wireless headphones
I love these little Bluetooth on-ear headphones. They may not be the flashiest or have the best sound ever, but they're reliable, comfortable, and travel well. You can connect multiple devices via Bluetooth—iOS or Mac—and even listen wired if you run out of battery or want to use an airplane headrest. I've had a few bugs with simultaneous connections, but those flaws are tiny in comparison to the value you get for your money.
Outback Solo for iPad Pro
Put this beautiful little bag in my "want" column—I don't own the Outback Solo for iPad Pro yet, but it's only a matter of time. I've used several of WaterField Designs's bags and luggage in the past, and they're top-tier; it's no stretch to assume the Outback Solo will be equally fantastic. Personally, I like that the Outback provides space for the iPad and keyboard case and a few accessories, to boot. (I'm also eyeing the Indy Leather Bag, though it doesn't yet offer a proper iPad Pro size.)
Forget iPhone, Apple Watch, and even my beautiful 4K Retina iMac—the iPad Pro will probably go down as my best tech purchase in 2015. It gave me the excuse I needed to properly embrace the iPad platform whole-heartedly for doing my work, and moreover, it's got me drawing again for the first time in years. It might just be the best laptop I've owned since the PowerBook Duo.
The only reason the Apple Pencil isn't my favorite tech purchase of 2015 is because I need an iPad Pro to use it: This pen is everything I've wanted from a stylus for literally decades. It's comfortable to use whether I'm writing or drawing, the battery life is great, and it works flawlessly with almost every app—even those that don't properly support it. And don't knock its weird end-cap charging: As strange as it looks, I've become quite fond of a Lightning top-up to continue my drawing streak.
The iPad Pro "Pro" App Pack
This pick is less a proper choice and more a $100 gift card's worth of apps I'd recommend for any artist, writer, or editor who wants to get started with the iPad Pro.
- Pixelmator: Essential for high-level photography edits.
- Procreate: The big kahuna for drawing, sketching, and drafting.
- Pinnacle Studio Pro: Corel's attempt at pro movie-editing software is an awesome strike at iMovie.
- Astropad Use your iPad Pro like a Wacom Cintiq for your Mac. Enough said.
- Paper: The best digital sketchbook you'll ever own.
- Whink: An app for traditional note-takers that works flawlessly with the Pencil.
- 1Writer: I'm using it to write this article right now. Markdown support, a built-in browser, and so much more.
Jins Screen glasses
I used to get terrible headaches from working late and staring into the depths of my computer screen. I rarely do any more, and Jins' blue-screen light-blocking glasses are at least in part to thank. They look like normal glasses—and if you wear prescription, the Screen coating can be applied to your regular set—but block much of the nasty blue light waves emitted from screens that can mess up your sleep patterns and provoke terrible tension headaches.
Pad & Quill Classic Slim band
If you want a way to class up your Apple Watch Sport or steel model but don't want to shell out for Apple's Modern Buckle, Pad & Quill's line of bands are a lovely alternative. I've had the Classic Slim for about a month now, and found myself wearing it far more often than my Modern Buckle; I still like Apple's offering, but it's great to have the variety.
Your top picks?
What's the best thing you bought this year? Let us know in the comments.