Ally's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide

Ally's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide

Every December the iMore and Mobile Nations teams come together and talk about what they've been using the most in the last 12 months. This year we're going beyond just the iOS hardware, not only to reflect our extended coverage of all things Apple, but also to capture the tech from all sources that gives us pleasure in our daily lives. After all, we're more than a brand, we're more than a category. We're just tech geeks at heart! So, here's what I've enjoyed using the most this year!

Computer hardware

27 inch iMac

My main machine for doing all the things video, photo, and podcasting related is my 27 inch iMac. I picked up a late 2012 model fully spec'd out with a 1 terabyte Fusion Drive earlier this year and couldn't be happier. It's the machine I do about 80% of my work on so I went all out. It razor thin, takes up less space on your desk than you might think, and performs like a beast.

13 inch MacBook Air

When I'm not at home or I don't feel like sitting behind a desk, my MacBook Air is my go to machine. It's thin, it's light, and the battery lasts forever. I opted to wait to upgrade my older 15" MacBook Pro until new Haswell models were available this year and I'm glad I did. I can literally go an entire day and shut places down without the word battery even crossing my mind.

Mobile devices

iPhone 5s

Even though I picked up the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c on launch day, the iPhone 5s is my device of choice. Touch ID has made my life simpler by allowing me to not be bothered with a passcode (I just wish it worked with touch sensitive gloves!) and the camera improvements allow me to leave my DSLR at home almost 90% of the time unless I have a reason to have it on me.

iPad Air

I passed on the iPad mini with Retina Display in favor of the iPad Air this year. I missed being able to punch out articles on it with a keyboard case. When I want to get serious writing done with zero distractions, I take my iPad to the local coffee shop, turn on Airplane Mode, and pop open Byword. I get stuff done, then disable Airplane Mode so everything can sync up to the cloud. Nothing beats no distractions when you need to focus. The iPad Air's super light design and small form factor make it even more convenient and easy to transport than ever. This is the device of the year from Apple in my opinion, not the iPhone 5s.

Apple TV

We have three Apple TVs in our house, yes you heard that right, three. Sadly we still have cable but we're getting closer to cutting the cord. Instead of paying Comcast to have little stupid boxes in each room, we've only got one in the living room and the other two rooms have an Apple TV instead. The living room has one as well. We buy all our movies in iTunes and stream them, and subscribe to Netflix and Hulu Plus. I rarely use the Netflix and Hulu apps for iOS but we use the services every day on the Apple TV. Damn you Showtime, hop on the Apple TV bandwagon already!

Software & apps

Fantastical

I've tried tons of task and calendar apps. I'm not kidding, probably everything in both the iOS App Store and Mac App Store. Nothing has worked for me like Fantastical has. With Fantastical 2 for iPhone, I can even manage my tasks and reminders without a separate app. It's the way Apple should have done calendars and reminders to begin with. Drop whatever you're doing and buy it right now.

Dropbox

If I even think I may need a file on hand at a random point in time, it gets saved in Dropbox. Anything important that I can't afford not having a backup of if my iMac or MacBook Air crashed, it goes in Dropbox. Photos I'd never want to go without, documents I may need randomly, you name it, I have it in Dropbox. It's also the number one collaboration tool we use for sharing files for iMore. It's absolutely indispensable in my daily workflow.

Napkin for Mac

I write about 90% of the how to content you see on iMore. A while back Rene introduced me to Napkin, and the rest is history. I use it every single day for iMore and even find myself using it to export directions for family and friends when they're having issues with their devices. It really is that damned good. You won't find anything like it and if you need annotation and markup software for the Mac, you absolutely need Napkin.

Byword

I've tried a lot of writing apps on both iOS and Mac and I keep coming back to Byword. It's simple, syncs flawlessly, comes at a reasonable price across all platforms, and does exactly what I need it to do. When I want to focus on writing, I open Byword and close everything else.

1Password

I don't have the same password for any two accounts, it just isn't safe. But I have a lot of accounts. From banking to credit cards to social logins and back, there's a lot to remember. That's where 1Password comes in. It's compatible with pretty much every platform and mobile device ever created and not only remembers all your passwords, it autofills them, generates random strong ones, and stores identity for easy autofill. It's one of the very first apps I install on both iOS and OS X.

Rdio

I work from home or a coffee shop and I have to have music playing in the background. Rdio is my streaming service of choice simply because it has such a wide variety of music and lets me store as much music as I'd like for offline playing. You can stream stations for free or subscribe to their paid service. I couldn't live without the paid service.

Tweetbot

I spend more time on Twitter than any other social network and no matter how many apps I try, I always come back to Tweetbot. The newest iteration for iPhone is better than ever and provides the best Twitter experience of any app available. The Mac version is pretty much the best Twitter app for Mac that money can buy. If you live on Twitter, you need Tweetbot.

Mobile accessories

ZAGGKeys Folio for iPad Air

When I want to hit up a coffee shop to do some writing, my iPad Air always comes with me. Sometimes I end up using my MacBook Air but when I want to use my iPad, I use the ZAGGKeys Folio. The illuminated backlit keys and great keyboard layout put it at the top of its class. The battery lasts forever and it literally looks and feels like a little netbook. Perfect for carrying under your arm. The fact that the keys change between all kinds of awesome colors is just an added bonus.

Olloclip for iPhone 5/5s

The iPhone 5s has an amazing camera on it already but the Olloclip makes it even better. It adds the ability to capture macro, wide-angle, and fisheye shots. It means serious business and the new version even has two macro options with 10x and 15x zoom. If you're an iPhoneographer, an Olloclip is a must.

Auvio 6 foot Lightning to USB cable

Auvio is Radio Shack's home brand and a lot of people don't give it enough credit. My favorite cables in the world are the braided cables they make. They're durable and come in longer lengths. Honestly, they're higher quality than Apple's and work great. I prefer the 6 foot length ones but they come in 3 and 9 foot as well. As for color choices, there's black and white to match your device. No gold, because it sucks. Ok, I'm kidding, but not really.

Lightning to SD card reader

When I can't use my iPhone and need to use my Nikon to grab a shot, I like to have my card adapter on hand for quick edits on my iPad. I don't use it a ton but it's saved me a few times and I always keep it in my gear bag.

Nike+ Fuelband

I've never been good at remembering to launch apps to track steps, or carrying a pedometer. That is until the Nike+ Fuelband came out. Paired with the Nike+ app, you can beat personal goals, see where your friends rank, and track your progress. It's worn right on your wrist and stays out of the way. By far one of the best fitness investments I've made thus far.

Camera Gear

Nikon D7000

I've been using the Nikon D7000 for about 2 years now and I couldn't be happier. It's versatile, not too heavy, and does what I need it to do. It produces high quality images, most of which you see right here on iMore everyday. I've thought a few times about upgrading to a full frame camera but at the end of the day, I just don't need it right now. And with how much the D7000 has come down in price recently, it's a fabulous camera and quite possibly one of the best ones Nikon has ever released.

Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G AF-S DX lens

Even though this is one of Nikon's cheapest offerings, don't let it fool you. It's an amazingly versatile fixed focus lens that should be in almost every Nikon photographer's gear bag. I see very little reason to spend the extra money on the f/1.4 aperture as this lens performs and handles extremely well. It's responsive, lightweight, and quiet. I take about 75% of the photos you see on iMore with it.

incase DSLR Pro Pack

I just recently picked up an incase DSLR Pro Pack on the recommendation of both Rene and our Mobile Nations videographer, Martin Reisch. It's not heavy, it holds my camera, lens collection, MacBook Air, iPad Air, chargers, camera cards, and then some. You can fit up to a 15" MacBook Pro in it for those wondering. I chose the backpack version as opposed to the sling since I've had back problems in the past. So far I'm loving it and I can't wait to really put it through its paces in a few weeks when we're in London and Paris.

Miscellaneous

iRobot Roomba 770

We have two dogs and a cat in our house, all of which shed. Both of us are also self-employed and work ridiculous hours most of the time. The last thing either of us want to do when we come home is pull out a vacuum. While we still do that on occasion, the Roomba has greatly spaced out how often we have to. We schedule it and forget it. Just empty the bin each night and we're good to go for the next day. It's easily one of the best investments we made this year on household tech.

Keurig Platinum

We go through a LOT of coffee in our house but it's in spurts. That means a whole pot of coffee quickly goes to waste with only two of us. The Keurig has been our brewer of choice year after year mainly because they stand behind their products. It also allows us to drink coffee on our own schedules, not when the other person wants some. I even use it to make hot water for tea. Why use a kettle if I can just run the Keurig with no cup in it?

Your picks?

That's some of my favorite tech - and tech-supporting - stuff from the last year. I'd love to know what you love, however, so let me know!

More great gift guides!

Looking for more great gift ideas for the geeks - and non-geeks - in your life? Check out the rest of our 2013 holiday guides!

Allyson Kazmucha

Help and how to editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

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Reader comments

Ally's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide

18 Comments
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Awesome list, Alley. Great insight into what "just works" for others. I've really enjoyed this series and look forward to the rest as well.

Wow! Allyson... Rollin' like a boss with that SDMF attitude about your picks.

"...performs like a beast"
"I can literally go an entire day and shut places down..."
"It's the way Apple should have done calendars and reminders to begin with. Drop whatever you're doing and buy it right now."
"No gold, because it sucks. Ok, I'm kidding, but not really."

I like it - You rock! \m/

Great post ally! I love your iPad air keyboard review series and it is good to see that zagg is your weapon of choice. May have to pick it up for mi madre =)

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Ally you certainly have some great tech gear/tools. I like that you included other items like the Roomba.

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Great list!
I agree that the Apple's Device of the Year may be the iPad Air and not the iPhone 5S (even though I'd prefer to get a retina Mini).
I would love to get a iRobot Roomba 770. Lots of dogs in the house. There's one in particular that likes to go in to my room.

I am considering fantastical for my mac now that it's $10. Just not sure how useful it will be. I love it on my iPhone but that's where I do 99% of my calendar inputs. I rarely use my mac for work. Yet I still think I want it. Someone twist my arm and convince me.

It sits in the task tray. I thought i'd never use it but i actually use it more now. As i think of things i just add them quickly to reminders in Fantastical for Mac and sort/change later on iphone or Mac.

I was not aware of the ZAGGkeys Folio, but the backlit keys make it my first choice over Logitech for my next iPad. Will have to make a large hole in the back for my Hand-E-Holder though.......

Hey Allyson, I forgot to ask, how do you manage having 2 iPhones?
With regards to software, do you make them identical? Is one a "business" phone? Do you have one just for the "bling" of it?
Just curious.

I only use one regularly nowadays but I've got 2 iPhone 5s' and one iPhone 5c. One of the 5s' and the 5c were purchased factory unlocked and used for for testing apps, product photos, restoring for how to's, jailbreak stuff (when that happens) etc.. also when I travel internationally. We leave our AT&T phones at home and just pop local SIMs into these. Much cheaper. When I did use two separate iPhones regularly when I ran a business, they were different. Business relevant apps on one phone, my personal stuff on the other. That way if I needed to pass it off to an employee when i was out, they didn't have access to any of my stuff.

I really liked those write ups. As a matter of fact I'm giving Napkin as a gift this year and I'm going to refer to your recommendation. Thanks!

Also, those braided cables really are nice. I've used them before and have had no complaints.