How to pick the perfect Apple gift for the iPhone, iPad, iPod, and Mac lovers in your life!
We're entering what is, for many, the biggest shopping and gift-giving season of the year, and by virtue of their quality, cachet, and overall coolness, Apple gifts are always high on everyone's lists. Whether you're looking for that perfect present for that special someone, or just want to take advantage of the once-a-year sales for yourself, it can be a challenge to figure out exactly which Apple devices to get. When does a Retina iPad mini make more sense than a full-sized iPad Air? When does a MacBook Air? iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c? MacBook Pro or iMac? What about an iPod? Figuring out which iPod, iPhone, iPad, or Mac is your best buy this year is the questions we get asked the most often, and with Black Friday and the Holidays upon us, here are our answers!
Apple holiday gift guide podcast
Rather watch or listen than read? No problem! Rene, Richard, and Chris sort through Apple's 2013 product line up and pick the best Apple iPod, iPad, iPhone, and Mac gifts and for who!
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If you'd love to have everything on your iPod, iPad, iPhone, or Mac on your big screen HDTV, you'd love an Apple TV
Pros: Incredibly easy to setup. Incredibly inexpensive. Includes on-board channels for iTunes TV, Movies, Music, Netflix, and many more, as well as the ability to AirPlay content from iOS or OS X devices.
Cons: Streaming-only. Only works with on-board channels and AirPlay. Hasn't been updated since Spring 2012.
Bottom line: If all you want is the ability to stream content from Apple and their partners, and put what's on your Apple devices onto your big screen TV, all you need is an Apple TV
- $99 - Buy now
If you need an ultra-light, ultra-cheap way to take just your audio with you, you want the iPod shuffle
Pros: 2GB of storages (enough for hundreds of songs), 15 hours of battery life. Convenient clip, available in blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, space gray, silver, and red (Apple Store exclusive). Weighs on 12.5 grams, costs only $49.
Cons: Requires a tethered connection to a Windows or Mac PC running iTunes to transfer audio files and playlists. No screen, no videos, no apps.
Bottom line: Whether you're exercising or traveling, if you want just enough music, podcasts, and audiobooks to get you through your workout or work day, and not care if you lose it, get the iPod shuffle.
- $49 - Buy now
If you need 160GB of music and video in your pocket, you want the iPod classic
Pros: Can hold 40,000 songs or 200 hours of video. 36 hours of battery life. Can store photos, play extremely limited games.
Cons: Requires a tethered connection to a Windows or Mac PC running iTunes to transfer audio files and playlists. Small screen, no App Store.
Bottom line: If you're a serious audiophile with serious audio collection, and want all of it in your pocket, get the iPod classic.
- $249 - Buy now
If you need your music and media on the go but don't need apps, you want the iPod nano
Pros: 2.5-inch multitouch display. 16GB of storage. Includes apps for music, podcasts, video, exercise (pedometer, Nike+). Includes Bluetooth and FM radios. Available in blue, green, yellow, pink, purple, space gray, silver (white), and red (Apple Store exclusive). Weighs only 31 grams. Costs only $149.
Cons: Requires a tethered connection to a Windows or Mac PC running iTunes to transfer audio files and playlists. No Wi-Fi, no iCloud. Built-in apps only, no iOS, App Store. No 32GB option.
Bottom line: If an iPod touch is just too much, and all you want is a good amount of audio and video to keep you company at the gym, on a run, or on a trip, in the absolute smallest, lightest package available, get the iPod nano.
- $149 - Buy now
If you need incredibly mobile computing but don't want another phone or phone bill, you want the iPod touch
Pros: 4-inch Retina display. Shoots 5mp photos and takes 1080p videos. 32GB and 64GB options. Available in space gray, silver, pink, blue, and red (Apple Store exclusive). Runs iOS, can play audio and video, read ebooks, and runs millions of App Store apps and games.
Cons: No cellular option (3G/LTE). Smaller screen than iPad line.
Bottom line: If an iPhone and all its apps would be perfect but you just don't want or need a phone, get the even thinner, lighter iPod touch.
- Starting at $299 - Buy now
If you want a phone that's a little less expensive (and futuristic), but arguably even more fun, you want an iPhone 5c
Pros: 4-inch Retina display. Shoots 8mp photos and takes 1080p videos. 16GB, 32GB options. Available in white, pink, green, blue, and yellow. Runs iOS, can play audio and video, read ebooks, and runs over a million App Store apps and games. Subsidized prices start at $99 on contract.
- $99 on contract and up - Buy now
If you want the most futuristic, most feature-filled iPhone on the plant, you want the iPhone 5s
Pros: 4-inch Retina display. Shoots 8mp photos and takes 1080p videos. 16GB, 32GB and 64GB options. Available in space gray/black, silver/white, or gold/white. 64-bit Apple A7 chipset with Apple M7 coprocessor and Touch ID fingerprint sensor. Runs iOS, can play audio and video, read ebooks, and runs over one million App Store apps and games. Subsidized prices start at $199 on contract.
Cons: Requires a carrier voice and data plan.
Bottom line: If you need a phone, the iPhone can literally be your one iOS device to rule them all. If you need the ultimate in convergence, with mobile web, apps, and communications all in one place, get the iPhone.
- $199 on contract and up - Buy now
iPad mini with Retina display
If portability is more important to your than size, you want an iPad mini
Pros: 7.9-inch Retina display. Shoots 5mp photos and takes 1080p videos. 16GB, 32GB, 64GB, 128GB options. Available in space gray/black or silver/white. Plays audio and video, reads ebooks. Runs iOS, all App Store apps, including almost half-a-million tablet-specific iPad apps. Fits in purses, large jacket pockets. Cellular/LTE available. Weighs 331 grams.
Cons: Smaller screen, 100Mhz slower, narrower color gamut.
Bottom line: If you want a tablet but the full-sized iPad is just too big and too heavy, get the Retina iPad mini.
- Starting at $399 - Buy now
If you need to do computing but don't want to lug around a laptop, you want an iPad
Pros: 9.7-inch screen. Shoots 5mp photos and takes 1080p videos. 16GB, 32GB, and 64GB options. Available with black or white front plates. Plays audio and video, reads ebooks. Runs iOS, all App Store apps, including hundreds of thousands of tablet-specific iPad apps. Weighs 652 grams. Cellular/LTE available.
Cons: Heavier than iPad mini, not as functional as a full MacBook for power users.
Bottom line: If you don't need a laptop but still want a big screen and a powerful, convenient way to get a lot of things done, get an iPad Air.
- Starting at $499 - Buy now
If you need a full computer but portability is more important than power, get the MacBook Air
Pros: 11 or 13-inch screen. Intel i5 or i7 processors. USB 3 and ThunderBolt ports. Up to Core i7. Up to 8GB or RAM. Up to 512GB of flash storage. Runs OS X and full desktop-class software. Weighs only 2.37 or 2.96lbs. 9 or 12 hours of battery life. Can be attached to 27-inch Thunderbolt display.
Cons: No Retina display, no optical drives, lack of high-powered graphics options hinders some types of software.
Bottom line: If you want something portable but still need to be able to run Office, Photoshop, Xcode, etc., get a MacBook Air. If you need maximum portability, get the 11-inch model. If you need maximum pixels, get the 13-inch model.
More info: Mac buyers guide
- Starting at $999 - Buy now
If you need a powerful computer that's still portable, you need the MacBook Pro
Pros: 13- or 15-inch Retina displays. Dual-core i5 or quad-core i7 processors. USB 3 and ThunderBolt ports. Up to 16GB of RAM. Up to 1TB of flash storage. 9 to 8 hours of batter life. NVidia graphics option. Weighs only 3.46 or 4.46 lbs.
Cons: Less battery life. No optical drives.
Bottom line: If you want the state-of-the-art of laptops with the best displays in the business and power to match, get a MacBook Pro.
More info: Mac buyers guide
- Starting at $1299 - Buy now
If you need a small Mac you can slide into any setup or workflow, you want the Mac mini
Pros: Dual-core i5 or quad-core i7 processors. USB 3, Ethernet, HDMI, FireWire 800, and ThunderBolt ports. 2GB, 8GB, or 16GB of RAM. Conventional hard drive, SSD, or Fusion Drive options. Starts at $599.
Cons: Requires separate display. No internal expansion ports. OVERDUE FOR UPDATE.
Bottom line: If you want a Mac for you server rack or home server closet, to add to an existing PC setup, or to use as a home theater, get a Mac mini.
More info: Mac buyers guide
- Starting at $599 - Buy now (Warning: Overdue for update. Wait if you can!)
If you need full desktop power in an all-in-one package, you want the iMac
Pros: 21.5- and 27-inch displays. Quad-core i5 or quad-core i7 processors. 8GB or 16GB of RAM. Conventional hard drive, flash storage or Fusion Drive options. Multiple graphics options. Ethernet, UBS 3, and ThunderBolt ports. Incredibly thin design.
Cons: No internal expansion ports.
Bottom line: If you want an incredibly powerful Mac wrapped in an incredibly elegant design, get an iMac.
More info: Mac buyers guide
- From $1299 - Buy now
If you need maximum power and speed, you need the Mac Pro
Pros: State-of-the-art computing. Up to 8-core Xeon E5 processor. Up to 64GB RAM. Up to dual AMD FirePro D700 graphics cards. Up to 1TB of flash storage. Up to three 4K displays, six Thunderbolt displays. 4x USB3, 6x Thunderbolt, 2x Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI 1.4 UHD ports. 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.0.
Cons: No internal expansion ports. OpenCL/GPU focused.
Bottom line: If you need the Mac equivalent of Bugatti Veyron, you need a Mac Pro.
More info: Mac buyers guide
- Ships later in December.
Need more help?
If you're still not sure what you want, or which exact model you want, or all the options you want, we have complete buyers guides to help walk you through every decision along the way! We also have the iMore forums where you can ask questions, get answers, and talk about all your choices!
iPhone buyers guide
- iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c: Should you upgrade?
- How to sell your iPhone
- iPhone vs. Android vs. BlackBerry vs. Windows Phone: Which phone should you get?
- What's the difference between iPhones?
- iPhone 5s vs. iPhone 5c vs. iPhone 4s: Which iPhone should you get?
- Gold vs. silver vs. space gray: Which iPhone 5S color should you get?
- Green vs. blue vs. yellow vs. pink vs. white: Which iPhone 5c color should get?
- 16GB vs. 32GB vs. 64GB: Which iPhone 5c and iPhone 5s storage size should you get?
- Verizon vs AT&T vs Sprint vs T-Mobile: Which iPhone 5c/iPhone 5s carrier should you choose?
- Rogers vs. Bell vs. TELUS: Which Canadian iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c carrier should you get?
- Three vs O2 vs EE vs Vodafone: Which UK iPhone 5s or iPhone 5c carrier should you get?
- AppleCare+ vs. insurance vs. nothing: Which iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c protection plan should you get?
iPad buyers guide
- iPad Air 2 vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple ultra-portable should you get?
- Should you upgrade to the iPad Air 2 and iPad mini 3?
- How to sell your old iPad
- Which iPad should you get?
- What color iPad should you get: Silver, gold, or space gray?
- What iPad storage size should you get: 16GB vs 64GB vs 128GB?
- iPad insurance: Should you get AppleCare or something else?
Mac buyers guide
- iPad Air vs. MacBook Air: Which Apple ultra-portable should you get?
- MacBook Air vs. MacBook Pro: Which laptop should you get?
- MacBook Air 11-inch vs. 13-inch: Which ultralight laptop should you get?
- MacBook Pro with Retina display 13-inch vs. 15-inch: Which powerful Mac laptop should you get?
- Mac mini vs. iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Apple desktop should you get?
- Retina 5K iMac vs. Mac Pro: Which Mac powerhouse should you get?
- Mac mini: Which entry-level options should you get?
- 21.5-inch iMac vs. 27-inch iMac vs Retina 5K iMac: Which all-in-one desktop Mac should you get?
- The New Mac Pro: What options to Apple's high-end Mac should you get?
- CPU vs. RAM vs. SSD: Which Mac upgrades should you get?
Your perfect Apple gift?
Are you buying anyone an iOS or Mac gift this year? Are you hoping to get one? Let me know what you're giving or looking to receive! What's your perfect Apple gift?
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!
- Apple gift guide: How to pick the perfect iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac!
- Rene's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Georgia's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Ally's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Richard's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Anthony's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Peter's favorite tech: 2013 holiday gift guide
- Gifts for alpha-geeks: Best beverage-making gadgets
- Gifts for alpha-geeks: Best coffee-making gadgets for the caffeine junkie in your life