Believe it or not, Christmas is almost here, and we’ll mark this midwinter festival by getting together with friends and family and continuing to drink and eat far too much.
Meanwhile, we also buy gifts for those same friends and family members, whether they want them or not. Luckily, we’re here to help, and if you follow our festive advice, your gifts just might make it into the “wanted” category.
From now until Christmas, Cult of Mac will be putting together holiday gift guys full of ideas for the special ones in your life, no matter what their interests or your budget. Today, we’re looking at gifts that cost less than $50. Yes, you can appear to be a big spender, but without actually spending that much.
The holiday season is all about excess. Excess food. Excessive drinking. And excess baggage fees as you carry all the gifts and excess food and drink with you to your far-away family’s home.
So why not try to tame the excess with Belkin’s Conserve Insight, a little plug-in gadget that tells you how much power your other plug-in gadgets are using? You can get the readout in dollars for maximum impact, and you can use it with any appliance you like to find out just how badly you’re screwing up the environment.
“It’s like a firehose, man!” So goes my favorite adult movie line ever, and now I can smile to myself every time the lucky receiver of this gift pulls his phone from his pants pocket. Perhaps I’ll even borrow his iPhone for a few minutes and personalize my incoming ringtone to be me saying the line out loud, with all the surprise and bad acting required for a genuine porn quote.
Or not. Whatever — buy this recycled firehose for your iPhone 4/S or iPhone 5-owning friend and he’ll love you forever. But not in that way.
Longer is almost always better, except for meetings, which should be kept to under the amount of time it takes to eat the catered cakes and miniature sandwiches. And these telephoto lenses for the iPhone are certainly longer than the paltry 0x (or is it 1X?) zoom built into the iPhone.
There are two models, each of which comes with a case to fit the appropriate iPhone model, and onto which the lens will clip. The 4/S version offers an 8X magnification, and the iPhone 5 version gives a 12X boost. That’s enough to snap sneaky pictures through your neighbor’s windows, should that be your thing (and that should be your thing).
The PlugBug is so smart that Apple should have built in into the regular MacBook power bricks (but then it couldn’t sell all those spare iOS chargers). It replaces the wall-plug adapter section of the brick with its own prong-box, and this box also contains a USB socket.
Thus, you can juice your iPad and your MacBook at from the same socket, at the same time.
Strap Notebook — $44
$44 is clearly outrageous as a price for notebooks — it even makes Moleskines look cheap. But the handy strap not only keeps the notebook closed but also provides storage for pens and pencils. Could you make your own? Sure. Will you? Of course not — you’ll buy this instead.
Satechi continues its tradition of not-quite-junk gadgets with the X-Pointer, a hardware/software combo that will overexcite the PowerPoint jockey in your life.
A red laser pointer slots into the iPhone’s headphone jack (not so practical with the iPhone 5’s downward-firing socket) and a companion app lets you flip slides or whatever it is you’re supposed to do to put your audience to sleep.
Bonus: The pointer comes with a little holder which doubles as a stubby stylus.
Upload your photos, tweak the design and order a totally personalized iPhone case. The opportunities for inappropriate gifts here are literally endless, limited only by your imagination and your willingness to upload pictures of your genital to a case-supplier’s website.
The DoubleUp will charge not one but two (2!) iPads at full speed (which is still slow if you have an iPad 3 or 4). It packs a pair of 2.1-Amp USB ports into a single wall-wart, making it ideal for travelers or English people, who can only have one power outlet per room (as mandated by ancient laws passed in the Middle Ages).
And yes, it comes in at €50, not $50, but as it’s so useful for old-world folks in their old-fashioned houses, we’ll let it slide.
The PadPivot is the best iPad stand I have ever used, and it costs a mere $20. I will be posting a full review this week, but until then all you need to know is that you should buy it.
Why? It has an adjustable, nano-sticky surface which sticks to any shiny, flat-backed gadget (iPads and iPhones work great). It provides a sturdy thigh-top mount. and is also good for keeping iDevices off countertops and so on.
But the shape also conceals a stand which lets you prop up the iPad in landscape and portrait, at many angles, all of which are surprisingly sturdy. And the whole lot folds up into a jeans pocket.
The Trygger is a bumper case with a too-small rear panel. Too small to cover the back, that is, but the perfect size to slice up and down and put a polarizer filter over the iPhone’s camera.
This lets you use the camera with or without the filter — sliding it into place to deepen colors on sunny days, or to cut out refections on glass or water, or even to use a a neutral-density-filter-with-benefits.
And because the filter is mounted on a case, you can turn it to get the maximum affect (for that’s how polarizers work). I would certainly be happy to find one of these under my tree.
The Viper is deceptively simple. It’s a sleeve with no way to fasten it closed, and no handle. But it is great nonetheless.
Its stiff fabric means that the opening snaps closed with the computer inside or out. And the stiffness combines with the reinforcing ribs (which are just cleverly-shaped hollow bulges) to offer a lot of protection in a ridiculously lightweight case.
And if you’re one of those people who can’t bear to put their computer onto a table in a public place, you can put the MacBook (Air or Retina Pro) on top, whereupon those ribs let the air flow freely twixt case and computer.
Unbearably cute, and unexpectedly useful — that’s Pad&Quill’s Little Black Book for the iPod Nano (old version). The LBB is a tiny version of P&Q’s great iPad and iPhone cases, and uses the same bookbindery cover and Baltic birch frame. Once snapped (very firmly) in place, the Nano is both protected, and way easier to use with one hand. Think “miniature Star Trek communicator” and you’re just about there.
The DockBoss Air is ingenious: Instead of replacing your various docks with Lightning-equipped versions (not that are many available yet), you simply slide the DockBoss onto the dock to transform it into a Bluetooth receiver, which will work with every current-gen Apple device except the Shuffle.
It’s powered by the dock itself, so needs no charging or batteries. You can literally set it and forget it.