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.
If you're an iPhone or an iPad owner, or you're looking to acquire or gift them, a good dock is a worthwhile accessory. Some docks will handle both. They're great for a dorm room, your desk at work or a nightstand so you can keep your iOS device charged while you're sleeping. Here's some suggested docks to get you started, and below we have a few usage scenarios for them.
For the bedroom or dorm room
A dock in the bedroom can serve as a great secondary stereo system. Several systems double as alarm clocks, so you can make sure you wake up on time and with your iPhone fully charged (all prices are USD).
Sony Speaker Dock for iPod and iPhone (on sale for $79.95, normally $99.95) -- An earlier model of this system is the one I currently have in my bedroom, and it's been fantastic. The speakers are robust and the sound is rich. The alarm is loud and you can program dual settings for more than one person. The Sony remote (included) is small, but still easy to spot and I haven't lost mine yet. If you want to control the dock with your phone, use the free D-Suppli app. The one drawback is that the dock itself doesn't work well with some cases that cover the 30-pin slot, such as some of Otterbox's cases.
Stem TimeCommand Audio Alarm Dock ($99.95) -- Fellow TUAW blogger Steve Sande reviewed this dock a few months ago, and he was impressed with the features. It'll charge your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch and has many of the usual alarm clock features. What sets the TimeCommand apart is the extra plug on the AC adapter for plugging in a lamp. Using the free Stem:Connect app, you can control dimming your bedside lamp, get access to free Internet radio stations and control the dock's features. This clock is available only through Apple retail stores.
For the office
For those who want a dock at work, the best rule of thumb is to find a compact system that will deliver good sound.
JBL On Stage Micro III Portable Loudspeaker Dock ($99.95) -- This compact speaker is from a line that's consistently delivered great sound, going all the way back to early generation iPods. This model is battery-operated and can easily be locked in a drawer when not in use. An included USB cable will allow sync and charging. A remote is included, and the fan-shaped speaker makes it an attractive item to have on your desk.
For the iPad
While Apple has a basic iPad dock for around $30, these docks are worth considering for better sound and features.
Sony Speaker Dock for iPad, iPhone/iPod ($299.95) -- The RDP-X500IP came out in October and is compatible with the D-Sappli app. The speakers have a built-in subwoofer and dual passive radiators, and a magnetic fluid system that Sony says delivers higher sound pressure with less distortion.
iHome iD91 ($99.95) -- For a lower-cost alternative to the Sony model, the iHome alarm clock dock for iPad offers many of the same features. It has a time-sync button, allowing you to set the clock quickly by using your iPhone. It works with both the iHome+Sleep and iHome+Radio apps, and the alarm has a gradual wake and sleep feature, increasing and decreasing the alarm as needed.
iLuv WorkStation ($129.99) -- It's not pretty, but the iLuv WorkStation does its best to transform an iPad into a full-fledged desktop. It has a bracket that lets you tilt and rotate your iPad, speakers and a keyboard.
Griffin PowerDock Duo ($59.95) -- The Griffin PowerDock Duo is a compact dock that holds both an iPad and iPhone, and also other small items such as change and keys. It's well-suited for a desk or dorm room and leaves both screens unrestricted.