Apple gift guide: How to pick the perfect iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac!

Apple Black Friday & Holiday gift guide: How to pick the perfect iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac!

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!

Apple TV

Apple TV receives minor software update

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

iPod shuffle

If you need an ultra-light, ultra-cheap way to take just your audio with you, you want the iPod shuffle

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.

iPod classic

If you need 160GB of music and video in your pocket, you want the iPod classic

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.

iPod nano

If you need your music and media on the go but don't need apps, you want the iPod nano

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.

iPod touch

iPod touch

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.

iPhone 5c

If you want a phone that's a little less expensive (and futuristic), but arguably even more fun, you want an iPhone 5c

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.

Cons: Requires a carrier voice and data plan. No Touch ID or Apple A7/M7 chipset.

More info: iPhone 5c review, iPhone 5c buyers guide

iPhone 5s

iPhone 5s review

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.

More info: iPhone 5s review, iPhone 5s buyers guide

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.

More info: iPad mini with Retina display review, iPad mini buyers guide

iPad Air

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.

More info: iPad Air review, iPad mini buyers guide

MacBook Air

If you need a full computer but portability is more important than power, get the MacBook Air

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

MacBook Pro

If you need a powerful computer that's still portable, you need the MacBook Pro

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

Mac mini

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!)

iMac

Everything you need to know about the all-new iMac: Apple's all-in-one, faster, more powerful, and thinner than ever

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

Mac Pro

EIf you need maximum power and speed, you need the Mac Pro

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

iPad buyers guide

Mac buyers guide

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!

Rene Ritchie

Editor-in-Chief of iMore, co-host of Iterate, Debug, Review, Vector, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Apple gift guide: How to pick the perfect iPod, iPhone, iPad, and Mac!

7 Comments

Absolutely exhaustive product guide, Mr. Ritchie... It's as if you're working for that special end of the year superlative Apple enthusiast bonus! xD
...Yeah, I know... It doesn't exist, but if one did... You'd get my vote, sir.
Like my sister's baked turkey dinner... Well done, sir. Well done.

Holy crap there's been so many buyers guides lately! The iMore team must be working overtime! Great guide tho!

Sent from the iMore App

Excellent guide! There was a whole lot of information but it was done in a very clear and concise manner.
Hopefully, next year, I'll be able to get a late Christmas present for me and my mom - a retina iPad Mini for me and an iPad Air for her.

Sent from the iMore App

Really good overview of all current apple products. It's great to be able to see all of them at a glance. Nice to see pictures and then a simple overview of the devices. Well done!

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If it wasn't for blowing a huge chunk of cash for the iPad mini Retina, I'd get a lot of nice accessories here.

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