The holiday season is almost upon us, and so we’ve taken the liberty of digging up some of the most useful, fun, and interesting gifts for iPhone and iPad users.
Whether you’re looking for something to buy your nearest and dearest or just trying to decide what to put on your own Christmas list, we’ve got you covered with some of the coolest iOS-enabled accessories around. Here are ten of our favorites, starting with the cheapest.
Note: all prices are accurate at the time of writing, but do occasionally change – both up and down. We encourage you to shop around for the best price!
OTG Strap – $9
This inexpensive rubber strap can securely affix an iPhone to the handlebars of a bike, which is great news if you want to use your device as a sat-nav while on two wheels, or if you want to film an exciting bike ride without splashing out on a GoPro. It’s a clever design that feels incredibly sturdy, and in our testing we were impressed by how well the OTG Strap held an iPhone in place.
It’s not just cyclists who can benefit from this versatile mount – the manufacturers suggest plenty other uses. You could attach it to your trolley at the supermarket for easy shopping list access, mount it to a pushchair for walks, or pop it onto a golf cart. Oh, and if you were wondering – OTG stands for “on the go.”
Pop Sockets – $10
These things are one of the breakout hits of the year, and a big hit with teens. Pop Sockets are little circular discs that stick to the back of an iPhone. They can be “popped” out to create a kind of handle to make it much easier to hold the iPhone securely, which is particularly helpful if you’re, say, taking a selfie near the edge of a cliff and are concerned about dropping your phone. As you do.
Pop Sockets are easy to remove and reposition without causing damage, and they can also be used to prop your iPhone at an angle for watching videos. They come in a frankly ridiculous range of colors and designs – our favorite is the pink donut – and present an inexpensive way to personalize a device. We also found it incredibly satisfying to “pop” them open and closed, meaning your device can double as a rudimentary fidget cube.
Wireless Charger – $25
Wireless charging has finally hit the masses. It’s been available on certain Android devices for a while, and the latest iPhones – 8, 8 Plus, and X – are capable of recharging wirelessly when placed on a Qi-compatible charging pad. Having a few of these charging pads on side tables around the house means you can keep topping up your iPhone whenever you put it down, without fiddling with cables.
Apple’s official charging mat won’t be released until 2018 (and is bound to cost a pretty penny) but in the meantime perhaps the best third-party charger comes from Samsung. It’s powerful enough to charge at the iPhone’s max 7.5W and though wireless charging is still slower than a conventional Lightning cable, it’s a really convenient technology.
VR Headset – $33
Virtual Reality can be an expensive hobby if you aim for the high-end, but those wanting to dabble in virtual worlds can do so using an iPhone. There’s a growing range of incredible VR experiences on the App Store, but to get the most out of them you’ll want to invest in a headset. Based on customer satisfaction levels, we’d recommend a Canbor headset – for a pretty reasonable fee you’ll get a comfortable plastic design with space to insert any model of iPhone. Destek makes a similarly well-received headset in the UK.
The benefits of a headset like that are manifold: the lenses focus you in on the action while the head strap absolves your arms from holding the device to your face the whole time. Perhaps most importantly, it blacks out the rest of the room for full, focused immersion.
Waterproof Case – $80
The latest iPhones feature various levels of water resistance, but while their IP67 ratings mean they’ll probably survive a drop in a sink it doesn’t make it advisable to take them for a dip in the pool. That’s where the Catalyst case is in a world of its own – it’s the best fully waterproof case we’ve tested, perfect for trips to the beach where you want to take pictures amidst the waves or even under the surface. These waterproof cases are available for many – but not all – iPhone models. We tested an iPhone 7 Plus case from these guys without a drop reaching the device, so we’re confident in the quality provided here.
If you’re not concerned about liquid but are worried about other damage, the same company also offers shock and drop-proof cases for most iPhones for about half the price of a waterproof case. See the full range of Catalyst cases below, and make sure to get one that fits the iPhone of the giftee!
Droid Inventor Kit – $100
Star Wars has always been a huge franchise, but with Episode VIII releasing so close to Christmas its merchandising efforts are more apparent than ever. This year we’re ditching the overpriced figurines, instead focusing on toys that connect to iOS. R2D2 and BB-8 droids that roll around at the behest of an app are pretty popular and a lot of fun, but our recommendation goes a step beyond even that.
This product takes the fun of controlling a robot with your phone and adds an educational twist: the Droid Inventor Kit from LittleBits provides all the pieces and instructions to build your very own droid from scratch. It’ll teach kids the basics of programming, electronics, and DIY – and we’re pretty sure parents will be itching to help out, too.
Gamevice Controller – $100
A few years back, gaming on iOS was mostly limited to the likes of Candy Crush and Angry Birds. But with recent advances in technology, we’re seeing more and more premium content ported to the App Store from home consoles. While the latest processing chips can handle impressive graphics, there’s no getting around the fact that these games don’t always translate well to touchscreen controls. That’s why a decent controller is a must for anyone interested in serious gaming sessions on an iPhone or iPad.
Gamevice is our favorite solution to this problem, with a two-part design that clamps to either side of the device to make it look like an Apple-branded Nintendo Switch. The company even makes an iPad version. Anyone who uses their iOS device for gaming would get a lot from one of these, although bear in mind, not all games are compatible with the controller.
Moment Lens – $104
The best camera is the one you have on you, or so they say, which is perhaps why the iPhone is the most popular camera in the world. The quality is pretty high already, especially if you have one of the more recent devices – but anyone interested in taking great pictures with their iPhone should invest in some accessories to give them more options when shooting. A detachable lens is an easy way to improve your shots, and Moment makes some of the best around. If you have an iPhone with 2x zoom already, there’s not much need for the telephoto lens – but grab a wide angle and you’ll notice the difference immediately, as you’ll be able to fit much more into a single shot. It’s great for landscapes or for shots in cramped spaces where you don’t have much room to maneuver.
If you have an iPhone X, or something from the iPhone 7 or 8 range you’ll need a compatible Moment case to clip the lens onto. For older devices, you’ll need to find the specific lens for your iPhone model. It’ll be cheaper, but you won’t be able to reuse it when you get a new iPhone. Check out the full Moment range below. These ship from the US, so double check the shipping times before buying from elsewhere in the world.
Snap Spectacles – $130
Forget selfie sticks, the hot new trend is selfie specs. Well – not quite. The makers of the highly popular Snapchat app released these video-capture sunglasses last year, and despite some early promise they didn’t really catch on. The concept is cool, though, if a little weird – at the press of a button the glasses will record ten seconds of wide-angle circular video, perfect for sharing via Snapchat (or anywhere else for that matter.)
For hands-free first-person video, it’s cheaper than a Go Pro and you won’t look as dorky wearing them. Rumor has it there are entire warehouses full of excess stock, so if you don’t mind buying into a commercial flop you may be able to bag one of these pretty cheap.
iPhone X – $999
Okay, so this is a big present. But if you have the cash spare and love someone enough, what better way to treat them than with the best smartphone ever made? Face ID, Super Retina, Portrait Lighting – there are plenty of reasons to covet the latest iPhone. It’s been in short supply since release, but stocks are finally leveling out and you should easily be able to get one by Christmas.
Alternatively, for the same price, you could get 100 Pop Sockets and post them out instead of Christmas cards this year. Your call.