It's the holiday shopping season and many of you are trying to find that perfect gift for the Apple owner in your life. Rather than a plain gift guide to help you navigate the sea of hardware, software and accessories, we decided to bring things down to a personal level and provide individual lists of TUAW's favorite gear. Each writer will share a list of the top items that we bought or used this year. I get to go first, so here is my list:
iPad mini (starting at US$329)
The iPad mini was criticized in early reviews because it has a non-Retina screen. Yes, I notice a small difference when I switch from the Retina iPad to the mini, but once I start using the mini, it's like any other iPad. I love the portability and the 4G LTE connectivity of the device. And for parents, the size and weight is just perfect for using while you are feeding a baby or holding a sleeping child.
The iPad mini needs a case and after trying a few from Griffin and Logitech, I decided on the Belkin Dot folio case. It covers the edges of the iPad and gives it some protection in a fall. It also has a solid stand that lets you prop up your iPad mini on your desk. The outer material has a grippy feel, while the inner part is soft to the touch.
Fourth-Generation iPad (starting at $499)
Though it's not an upgrade that I would recommend for everyone, I did sell my iPad 3 on eBay and used that money to buy an iPad 4. I did this primarily for the Lightning port, so I would only have to travel with one charging cable. The improved performance of the fourth-generation model was an added benefit.
I wanted a good keyboard case for my iPad 4 and my latest choice is Zagg's PROfolio + case. The keys on the keyboard are solid and the case has a nice rubber coating that makes it less slippery than leather and a bit more protective in a fall. I also like the backlit keys, which are nice when I am working in a darkened room. The only complaint against this case is that the keyboard part won't fold back flat, so using the iPad on the couch as a tablet requires you to remove the device from the case.
iPhone 5 (starting at $199 with contract)
I bought the iPhone 5 for its bigger screen and LTE connectivity. I had an available upgrade and am on a shared data plan with free tethering, so buying it to use a stand-alone phone and a WiFi hotspot for my MacBook Pro was a no-brainer.
Though the iPhone 5 has shed the glass backing of the iPhone 4/4S, I still need a rugged case as my children are always grabbing my phone. The 1-year-old chews on it, the 3-year-old throws it and the 5-year-old runs into the corner to play Minecraft on it. The Otterbox case provides ample protection for the phone and I'm impressed with the improvements the company has made with its cases over the past few years. They are still bulky, but Otterbox has trimmed them down a bit over the years and has use a more rugged rubber that doesn't stretch or tear as easily.
I tear through the iPhone 5 battery when I am out and about running errands or traveling. I'm always using the phone to check my to-do list, my grocery list, my email, incoming tweets and so on. When traveling any distance, I use Glympse and Apple Maps for navigation. I need an external power supply like the Satechi to give me those extra hours of usage. As an added bonus, the battery pack will charge the iPhone and iPad at the same time.
Wacom Bamboo Stylus Solo ($20)
Sometimes I like to use a stylus to write and draw on my iPad. I chose the Bamboo stylus because it has replaceable nibs, which is much needed in a household with children. It only takes a few seconds for a 1-year-old to chew off the end of the stylus, drop it and run.
Nikon D5100 DSLR Camera ($549)
I needed a DSLR for work and selected the D5100 due to its price and feature set. It's an entry-level DSLR with a price tag of just under $600 with a kit lens. It's RAW-compatible with OS X Mountain Lion and takes video in Mac-friendly MOV format. One of my favorite features is its side-swiveling LCD display which is perfect for those tough angle shots. It's a great all-around camera. A close competitor to the D5100 is the Canon T3i.
The V700M from Panasonic is not the most Mac-friendly video camera on the market as it shoots HD video in AVCHD format, which can cause some Macs to go into a panic. I deal with this format by converting the clip to MOV before importing it into iMovie. Despite this drawback, I love the V700M as it has the best zoom feature and image stabilization I have seen on a consumer-level camera. It also has an SD card slot and 16 GB of onboard storage.
For $30, the Kinivos are great for listening to podcasts and videos on your Mac or iOS devices. They are not for audiophiles, but they are perfect for someone who wants an inexpensive set of wireless headphones to have around the house. The Kinivos also support the headset profile so you can use them to send and receive phone calls.
iPod nano seventh generation ($149)
Last, but not least is the latest iPod nano. I bought this mainly to replace my dying Cowon D2, which I have had for years. I like the small size and the larger screen of the latest nano. The Bluetooth was the clincher. I just had to have the hands-free for exercising on the treadmill.
Here's a list of iOS software that I use on an almost daily basis: WeatherBug Elite, Grocery Gadget, PocketMoney, Scanner Pro, Glympse, LastPass, Total Control Multicam 8 for my baby webcam, Minecraft, in:play for music, Tweetbot, Woot On!, cPRO+ for Craigslist, Camera +, Over, Rdio, CalenGoo, Netflix, Say Anything, Evernote, 2DO, Penultimate, Maxjournal, Amazon Cloud Player, Google Drive, Chronicle Touch Bill Reminders and Dropbox.
And now my OS X choices: Fantastical, Alfred, Chronicle Bill Management, Reeder, Dropbox, Image Bucket, Chrome, Fluid, Evernote, Handbrake, iClip, Markdown Pro, Pixelmator, Howler Pro, Snapheal, Textual IRC, TaskNotes, Tweetdeck, Postbox and VLC.