The Best Apple-Related Gifts for 2017

It’s that time of year again, when many of us start wracking our brains for gift ideas for our loved ones—or for our own wish lists. If your special someone is an Apple user, we have a few suggestions.

Chargers, Cables, and Adapters, Oh My!

We know that giving someone a cable feels a bit like buying them socks, but Apple’s minimalist design and focus on USB-C and Lightning ports means that many users would appreciate extra cables or adapters. You’ll want to ask them what they find most annoying about their current cable situation—they might want an extra Lightning to headphone adapter, a USB-C to USB-A cable for connecting some peripheral, or an HDMI cable to run a big-screen TV.

Plus, giving someone a second iPhone, Mac, or Apple Watch charger could reduce battery anxiety or make it less likely that they’d forget to pack one while traveling.

AirPods

Apple’s most surprising hit of 2017 was the AirPods, svelte wireless earbuds that pair quickly and seamlessly to all Apple devices logged in to the same iCloud account. They’re light, stay in the ear well, and are comfortable even for many people who couldn’t wear the wired EarPods. At $159, they’re not cheap, but they’re still less expensive than many competing wireless earbuds.

The only catch? Apple has had trouble making AirPods fast enough, so don’t assume you can buy a pair as a last-minute gift.

Apple Watch

Apple always intended the Apple Watch as an iPhone accessory, so it makes a great add-on for any iPhone user who doesn’t already have their iPhone in hand most of the day. For most people, the $249 Apple Watch Series 1 is a fine gift, although the $329 Series 3 is faster and brighter, and doesn’t need the iPhone to track a run or bike ride via GPS.

Consider the $399 Series 3 with cellular access only if you’re certain the recipient will make use of the watch while out and about without the iPhone, since its data plan costs $10 extra per month.

And, if someone on your gift list already has an Apple Watch, a new band might make a great present—Apple offers a wide variety of attractive and comfortable bands.

Apple TV

Although it’s a few years old, the $149 fourth-generation Apple TV still makes a good present for anyone who watches TV shows and movies from Netflix, iTunes, Hulu, and other Internet streaming video services.

For most people, the $179 Apple TV 4K is overkill, since its support for 4K video and HDR color require a compatible 4K HDR TV purchased in the last year or so.

So stick with the previous Apple TV, and if you’re looking for a related stocking stuffer, search for silicone cases that protect the brittle Siri Remote and make it easier to orient in the dark.

iPad

Last, but far from least, if someone in your family has never tried an iPad or is limping along with one of the early models, the current fifth-generation iPad combines good performance and a gorgeous screen with a compellingly low price starting at $329.

At $399, the smaller iPad mini 4 doesn’t provide as much bang for the buck, but it could be the perfect present for a child.

Particularly when buying an iPad for a kid, a durable case is a must—perhaps suggest that as a gift idea to another family member.

Turn Down the Music! (Eh? What did you say?)

Long gone are the days of ghetto blasters and monster speakers—now we pump music directly into our eardrums with EarPods and AirPods. Noise-induced hearing loss is a real problem, though, with millions of people damaging their hearing by playing music too loud, sometimes inadvertently. Happily, iOS can help protect your ears, and those of your loved ones. Navigate to Settings > Music > Volume Limit and lower the slider. If you’re doing this for a child, you can prevent them from changing it in Settings > General > Restrictions > Volume Limit > Don’t Allow Changes. This requires first setting a Restrictions passcode that only you know.

4 New Apple OS Features You Can Use Today

Apple just released new versions of all its operating systems—iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS—fixing bugs, plugging security holes, and, best of all, adding a few new features. Here are four things you can do once you’ve updated. (If you’re concerned that installing the updates may cause other problems, check with us first, but it’s best to stay current.)

1: Sleep better after using your Mac late at night.

macOS 10.12.4 Sierra has gained Night Shift, a feature from iOS that automatically shifts the colors of the screen to the warmer end of the spectrum after dark. Night Shift may help you sleep better by reducing the amount of blue light that tricks your body into thinking it’s earlier than it is.

To set up Night Shift, open System Preferences > Displays > Night Shift and choose Sunset to Sunrise from the Schedule pop-up menu. Night Shift knows when the sun rises and sets wherever you are, but if you prefer, you can also set custom on and off times. (If you don’t see the Night Shift button in the Displays preference pane after upgrading to 10.12.4, your Mac is unfortunately too old to support Night Shift.)

If you’re working with graphics at night, or if video looks odd, you can turn off Night Shift manually. Do that either in the Displays preference pane or by scrolling down in Notification Center (click it in the upper-right corner of the screen) to see the Night Shift switch.

2: Find the AirPod that fell between the couch cushions.

Apple’s wireless AirPods earbuds are cute, but they’re also easy to misplace. If you can’t find yours, iOS 10.3’s Find My iPhone app can help. Bring it up, tap the AirPods icon in the display, and then tap the Play Sound button to make them play a locator sound. If you’ve lost only one AirPod, you can mute the other so it’s easier to hear where the sound is coming from.

Note that Find My AirPods works only when in range of a paired iOS device, so it may not help if you lose an AirPod while running.

3: Don’t be “that person with the Apple Watch” at the theater.

You’re in a darkened theater, at a movie or a play, and when you move in your seat or cover your mouth to cough, your Apple Watch’s screen turns on, annoying the people around you. Even worse is when a notification rolls in, causing the watch to make a sound. Embarrassing, we know. Happily, watchOS 3.2 adds Theater Mode, which turns on Silent mode and keeps the screen dark by disabling its standard “raise to wake” behavior.

To enable Theater mode, open Control Center by swiping up from the bottom of the screen. Then tap the Theater Mode button, which is emblazoned with theater masks. After the performance, you’ll need to disable Theater mode manually by tapping its button again.

If you do need to check the time surreptitiously (who knew this performance would go so long!), tap your Apple Watch’s screen, or press the Digital Crown or side button.

4: Ask Siri to find your car in a humongous parking lot

We’ve all been there. You parked at the mall, but got turned around while you were inside, and now you can’t find your car in the sea of automobiles. In iOS 10.3, you can now search for “parked car” in Maps, or just ask Siri, “Where did I park?”

And if you ever lose your car at a place like Disney World, this feature alone will be worth the price of the iPhone!

Apple Unveils iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and AirPods

As we anticipated, Apple used its September 7th media event (which you can watch) to announce the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the new Apple Watch Series 2 and a pair of wireless earbuds called AirPods. Apple also announced that iOS 10 and watchOS 3 are due to ship on September 13th. Although Apple didn’t mention the iPad or Mac during the event, the company later modified its iPad lineup with new configurations and pricing and said that macOS Sierra would ship on September 20th. Let’s look at the key details of Apple’s announcements and explore what they might mean to you — there’s a lot to get through!

iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus

It’s what we were all waiting for. Apple announced the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, which are the same sizes as the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus, respectively. The company stuck with the silver, gold, and rose gold case colors, but dropped space gray in favor of two black finishes: a matte black and a polished jet black.

iPhone-7
As rumored, the new models drop the 3.5mm analog headphone jack entirely, but they come with a pair of Lightning-based EarPods for listening to music and making phone calls, plus a free Lightning-to-headphone adapter so you can continue to use older audio equipment. You can also buy additional adapters for $9.

The new iPhones have notably improved cameras. Along with a 7-megapixel front-facing camera that offers body and face detection plus image stabilization, the main rear-facing camera provides a 12-megapixel sensor with an ƒ/1.8 aperture lens that Apple claims is 60 percent faster and 30 percent more energy efficient than the camera in the iPhone 6s. The flash features four LEDs for 50% more light, plus a flicker sensor to help correct for artificial lighting. Even better, optical image stabilization is now standard on both models, and both can capture raw images with wide-gamut color.

For photography buffs, the iPhone 7 Plus is particularly interesting, because it features another rear-facing camera, which provides a telephoto lens with an ƒ/2.8 aperture. Apple’s Camera app seamlessly combines the two cameras to provide 2x optical zoom (up to 10x digital zoom) and will have a Portrait mode that focuses on people in the foreground while blurring the background. (Portrait mode is due to ship in an update to iOS later this year.)

The Home button takes a page from the Force Touch trackpad; it’s no longer a physical button but instead uses Apple’s Taptic Engine to make it feel as though you’re pushing a button. Apple says it should be more responsive and more reliable.

Losing the headphone jack and making the Home button force-sensitive helped Apple in another way: the iPhone 7 models are now dust and water resistant. Don’t toss your iPhone 7 in the pool, since they’re rated for immersion in only up to 1 meter of water, but it should withstand an errant splash or fall into the waves at the beach.

The iPhone 7 models are powered by Apple’s quad-core A10 Fusion processor, which automatically switches between two cores dedicated to high performance and two that are optimized for power efficiency to prolong battery life. Their screens are improved too, with Apple promising 25% more brightness with a wider color display.

Pricing of the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus remains the same, but the storage amounts double from those available for the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus. For the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus, then, the 32 GB models cost $649 and $749, 128 GB of storage costs $749 and $869, and 256 GB will run you $849 and $969. Oddly, the jet black color is available only in 128 GB and 256 GB sizes. Or you can choose the iPhone Upgrade Program’s payments of $32 to $46 per month for 2 years, depending on which model you want. Preorders for the new iPhone 7 models start on 9 September 2016, with availability coming a week later.

Apple Watch Series 2

Less expected than the iPhone 7 was the Apple Watch Series 2, Apple’s first hardware update to the company’s wrist-based iPhone accessory, adding a much-requested GPS chip and making the watch significantly more water resistant.

Apple-Watch-Series-2

From the outside, little has changed, although Apple did discontinue the mega-expensive gold Apple Watch Edition (which topped out at $17,000) in favor of the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition Series 2, which starts at $1249. Apple extended its lifestyle partnerships, updating the Apple Watch Hermès edition and introducing an Apple Watch Nike+, both of which differ from the stock models only in bands and custom watch faces.

The most significant addition is the GPS chip, which enables runners to track their routes and get performance information without carrying a bulky iPhone. When you complete a workout, the Activity app shows a map of your route along with speed data. Third-party apps like Strava and Runkeeper should also be able to take advantage of the GPS chip. Apple also doubled the brightness of the screen to make it easier to see in direct sunlight.

Swimmers, rejoice! Apple made the new watch water resistant to a depth of 50 meters and beefed up the Workout app with Pool and Open Water workout options that count laps and track average lap pace. You still can’t take it scuba diving or waterskiing, but for most standard aquatic activities, you shouldn’t have to worry about water damage.

Finally, those who found the original Apple Watch sluggish will appreciate Apple’s second-generation S2 System in a Package (SiP) chip, which Apple claims is 50% faster and includes a graphics processing unit that can double performance. Of course, the new models come with watchOS 3, which also provides significant speed boosts.

The Apple Watch Series 2 starts at $369 for the 38 mm model. Prices increase with the 42 mm model and with certain bands. You can preorder on September 9th, with availability on September 16th, although the Nike+ version won’t ship until October and the Hermès version ships on September 23rd.

If the Apple Watch still feels a little pricey, you can buy an Apple Watch Series 1 starting at $269—it’s an upgraded original model with the new S2 processor but not the GPS chip, water resistance, or brighter screen.

AirPods

Although Apple did the right thing and included a Lightning-to-headphone adapter with every iPhone 7, the company also said, “the future is wireless.” To bolster that claim, Apple announced the AirPods, a pair of wireless headphones that eliminate the iconic white wires while still providing high-quality audio output and input.

AirPods

The AirPods pair simultaneously to your iPhone and Apple Watch with a simple one-tap setup, and you can switch them to work with your iPad or Mac easily. (They act as normal Bluetooth earbuds when used with non-Apple devices—it remains to be seen how well that works.) Thanks to optical sensors and an accelerometer, the AirPods can detect when they are in your ears, turning on and off automatically to save power. Apple claims you can get 5 hours of listening time on one charge; you recharge them in a special case that holds multiple additional charges for 24 hours of life before it too needs recharging via a Lightning cable.

The AirPods include beamforming microphones that can focus on where your voice is coming from and filter out background noise, which should improve phone calls and recognition with Siri. Speaking of which, just double-tap one of the AirPods to invoke Siri to issue commands to whatever device the AirPods are paired with.

Apple says the AirPods will be available in late October for $159.

iPad Lineup Changes

Apple currently sells three standard iPads, the iPad Air 2, the iPad mini 4, and the iPad mini 2, and they just became better deals. Prices remain the same, but for each price point, Apple doubled the base storage, so you can now buy the iPad Air 2 or iPad mini 4 with either 32 GB ($399 for Wi-Fi or $529 for Wi-Fi plus cellular) or 128 GB ($499/$629), and the iPad mini 2 in just a 32 GB configuration ($269/$399).

If you’re instead considering a 9.7-inch or 12.9-inch iPad Pro, the storage options are unchanged, but the 128 GB model dropped in price by $50, and the 256 GB model is now $100 cheaper.

iPad-pricing


Twitter: Apple has announced the new iPhone 7, Apple Watch Series 2, and wireless AirPods—head over to our blog for details!

Facebook: At its special event on September 7th, Apple unveiled the new iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, along with the GPS-enabled Apple Watch Series 2 and the wireless AirPods for wire-free audio. We have the key details over at our blog, including pricing and when all these goodies will become available.

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