Welcome to TUAW's 2011 Holiday Gift Guide! We're here to help you choose the best gifts this holiday season, and once you've received your gifts we'll tell you what apps and accessories we think are best for your new Apple gear. Stay tuned every weekday from now until the end of the year for our picks and helpful guides and check our Gift Guide hub to see our guides as they become available. For even more holiday fun, check out sister site Engadget's gift guide.
Let's be honest -- while you might plunk down the cash for a MacBook Air or iPad for your loved ones, you're probably not going to go all out on a brand new device for your co-workers and acquaintances. But that doesn't mean you can't still support the various Macheads in your life -- no matter how many Apple devices someone might have, there are many more accessories for those various devices lining the shelves at Best Buy.
Cases, plug-ins, covers, and stick-ons, oh my! Let us take you on a quick tour through the Mac accessory landscape, and help you find some really great recommendations of all different prices for all of the Apple devices in your life. Even if there isn't a Mac fanatic around you who needs some of this stuff, no worries. Just bookmark this page, and come back after the holidays, whenever you yourself have unwrapped that big package "designed in California" that's sitting underneath your tree this year.
Perhaps the hottest Mac-cessory this year, the PlugBug turned all kinds of heads when TwelveSouth finally released it earlier this month. Yes, it's just a charger, but no, it's not just a charger -- it's a super useful and well-designed accessory that already works with those cords you got in the Apple box. You can charge both a MacBook (or Air or Pro) and a USB device like an iPhone or iPad from just one outlet, and all you need to pack in your bag is the usual cords and this little red adapter. It's a great, smart device that adds just a little bit of color to an already very Apple way of thinking. ($34.99 from TwelveSouth)
There were a few arcade cabinets for the iPad out this year, but the original iCade by ThinkGeek and Ion Audio. It originally started up as an April Fool's joke, and then was made real: An actual miniature arcade cabinet, complete with buttons and a joystick, that you can plug your iPad in to play arcade games on. The list of compatible titles is long and growing, so anyone in the house who loves playing old-school games on the iPad will really enjoy this one.($79.99 by ThinkGeek)
TenOne's Fling and Fling mini for iPad and iPhone
Again, there have been some very similar competitors pop up in this space, but when it comes to attaching a physical joystick to Apple's touch screens, the Fling is the original and the best. It's suprisingly simple, but feels and works great, especially on games where you'd normally use a virtual joystick, but it provides the tactile feedback that Apple's no buttons policy just can't match. Go ahead and buy a two-pack -- you'll need them both. (Two-pack is $29.95 for the iPad, $24.95 for the iPhone at TenOne Design)
Keyboard covers by KB Covers
Whether you're typing on a MacBook or a wireless Apple keyboard, a good keyboard cover can keep things clean and make your keyboard last longer and work better, no matter what your fingers have been touching lately. And KB Covers are the best we've seen -- not only are they made of a nice tough, stretchy plastic, but they're extremely useful, providing easy visual access to custom shortcuts for almost any app or International keyboard layout you'd ever want. No matter what Mac or keyboard model you have, or what you're doing with it (from editing in Avid to playing World of Warcraft), there's a KB Cover for you or your gift-getter. (Various prices, at KB Covers)
The Peel system can be complicated, so it's not necessarily for everybody. But for just the right person on your gift list, it might be perfect. The Peel consists of both a "fruit" unit that sits on your home entertainment system and plugs into your television, and then an app that runs on your iOS device, and can be used to not only control your A/V setup, but also find various shows and things to watch according to your tastes. We didn't think the Peel would work as your usual remote, unfortunately, but for the right gadgethead interested in using an iOS device to make their TV watching experience a little better, it would be a great gift. ($99 at Peel)
Yes, there will undoubtedly be a lot of iPhones and iPads sold this year, and odds are that everyone who gets a new one under their tree will also need to find an excellent case for it. Many times, this tends to be a very personal choice, so you might want to think twice about getting a case for some one, or at least remember to be gracious when you find out it's not exactly what they wanted. But still, there are plenty of great cases out there, from cases that make your device look like a book, to something you can use with a little more functionality as an actual wallet. Cases can be as individual as the people who buy them, so be a little careful as to which one you pick out, but the right choice for the right person can be a terrific and memorable gift. (Various)
Sure, functionality can be important, but sometimes you just want to have a little bit of remote fun with your Mac. How about a remote-controlled USB missle launcher that can even be activated over the Internet? One of those Ar.Drone quadricopters that can be controlled with your iOS device? Or you can even be the first to nab a Sphero, a little remote-controlled ball that's arriving just in time for Christmas later on this year. There's lots of kooky fun to be had with your Apple devices -- sure, it may not be too practical, but if you've already got all of the power Apple has put into these machines, why not put a little bit of it to work in real life? (Various)
A hard drive
Finally, we'll leave you with a choice that's a little more practical than those toys: Even with the advent of iCloud, the one thing any Mac user will always love getting is more hard drive space. With all of the apps coming out all of the time, and lots and lots of content being made and edited, anyone with a Mac or even an iPhone or iPad could probably use a few more gigabytes (or even terabytes) in their lives. Western Digital has released a few excellent standalone hard drives meant for Mac this year, but especially during Black Friday and the holiday season afterwards, Best Buy or any of the other big box electronics stores are usually running some great deals on external hard drives, so you can easily pick one up for around $50 or even under that some times. If you want to go a little more fancy, you can check out the Iomega Mac Companion, meant specifically to work with a Mac as a high-capacity backup drive. But whatever kind of storage you choose, there's no question that the Mac fan in your life will appreciate the extra digital storage space.
Happy holidays! Here's hoping you find just the right gift for the Mac lover in your life this year!