The Best Apple-Related Gifts for 2021

It may seem early to start thinking about the holiday shopping season, but with the global supply chain problems I’m sure you’ve heard about, there’s no telling how long it will take to get something you order today. Apple has generally done a good job of managing supply chain issues, but even still, if you want to make sure you have an Apple something for that special someone, I recommend buying it soon. Here are my recommendations. Apologies if the links are out of stock, you may have to hunt around with various vendors. Target and Best Buy also make great alternatives.

Gift Cards

Gift cards are immune to supply chain problems so far. You can get them from Apple, Amazon, or you can even get a gift card for a session with me, which pairs well with a new device. Most new customers like to book two one-hour sessions with me, but we can also accomplish quite a bit with a single hour.

AirTag

Do you know someone who’s always misplacing their keys, purse, or backpack? Apple’s new AirTag tracker is the perfect gift for such a person. Attach one to a keyring (or with a $29 AirTag Loop or $39 AirTag Leather Loop) or drop it in a bag, and from then on, the person can use the Find My app to see where they left their stuff. Support for ultra-wideband enables precision finding with an iPhone 11 or later—with earlier iPhones, the detected location won’t be quite so precise. AirTag uses the Find My network, so even if the item is far away, passing Apple devices that detect it can securely share its location with you. One AirTag costs $29, or you can get a pack of four for $99. You can even have Apple personalize each AirTag with custom text and emoji if you order direct with them.

There are plenty of third-party AirTag attachment systems such as a less expensive and more compact option from Belkin or a hidden mount for a bicycle that attaches under your water bottle cage.

AirPods and AirPods Pro

Apple’s wireless earbuds remain popular, and the company just released the third-generation AirPods to supplement the second-generation AirPods and the AirPods Pro. All three make excellent gifts. The second-generation AirPods cost $129, have a relatively long stalk, and boast up to 5 hours of listening on one charge. The $179 third-generation AirPods shrink the stalk, switch to a force sensor for controls, add support for spatial audio with dynamic head tracking, feature sweat and water resistance, have a MagSafe wireless charging case, and last up to 6 hours on a single charge. For $249, the AirPods Pro include the features of the third-generation AirPods and add silicone ear tips and active noise cancellation with optional transparency mode, but they have only 4.5 hours of listening time with noise cancellation enabled. All three have charging cases, support Hey Siri commands, and automatically switch between Apple devices.

HomePod mini

Earlier this year, Apple discontinued the full-size HomePod, which wasn’t a big hit at its relatively high price of $299. However, the $99 HomePod mini remains available, and Apple is now selling it in five colors, with blue, orange, and yellow joining white and black. The grapefruit-sized HomePod mini may be small, but it produces great sound for its size, and it can do pretty much everything the larger HomePod could do. You can control it entirely via Siri, pair two for stereo sound, use it as a hub for your HomeKit home automation accessories, and even have it play the sound from your Apple TV. Put a HomePod mini in different rooms in the house, and you can use Intercom to communicate with family members using your voice. If you’re giving it as a gift, remember that it’s best when paired with an Apple Music subscription, which will soon be offered in a discounted $4.99 price that’s only accessible by Siri, designed specifically for HomePod users.

iPad and iPad mini

If you’re looking to give an iPad as a gift, you have many choices. The top-of-the-line iPad Pro may be overkill for most given its power and price—$799 for the 11-inch model and $1099 for the 12.9-inch model. But the fourth-generation iPad Air, which starts at $599, provides sufficient power for even the most intensive tasks, especially when coupled with a second-generation Apple Pencil ($129) and either a Magic Keyboard 12.9-inch ($349) or Magic Keyboard 11-inch ($299) or Smart Keyboard Folio ($179).

If those possibilities seem pricey for an iPad that’s destined for a kid or an adult with basic needs, look no further than the new ninth-generation iPad, which remains a bargain at $329. It works with the first-generation Apple Pencil ($99), and those who need to write can add the $159 Smart Keyboard. Finally, don’t forget the sixth-generation iPad mini, which benefited from a major redesign back in September. It’s now more like a diminutive version of the iPad Air and easy to hold one-handed, with more colors and a squared-off design compatible with the second-generation Apple Pencil. It’s $499, and if you need a keyboard, you’ll have to look to a third-party manufacturer or use a standard Bluetooth wireless keyboard.

Apple Watch Gift Certificate

Last but far from least, people love the Apple Watch, and it would seem to make a great gift. However, I urge caution. Because it is a fashion device, Apple provides a dizzying number of options for connectivity, size, material, and color, plus the band and color, making it difficult to know what would be most appreciated. So I’d encourage giving a certificate that’s good for a conversation about what to purchase. Then sit down with the recipient to run through all the decisions in the Apple Watch Studio.

There are three options this year: the new Apple Watch Series 7 (starting at $399), last year’s less expensive Apple Watch SE (starting at $279), or the much older Apple Watch Series 3 (starting at $199). Get the Series 7 if you want an Always-On Display, blood oxygen sensor, and ECG capabilities—it also boasts a larger screen than last year’s Series 6 while remaining compatible with all the bands. The Apple Watch SE lacks the Series 7’s advanced sensors and has a slightly smaller screen size, but it still provides the compass, altimeter, and fall detection features. The screen on the Series 3 is smaller yet, and it lacks a number of key features. Unless keeping the cost to a minimum is essential, I have a hard time recommending the Series 3—it’s getting too old. Apple has a helpful comparison tool.

You may have noticed that I didn’t include any Macs in this article. They are worthy gifts, but they’re quite a bit more expensive and more difficult to select without extensive discussion of the recipient’s needs. Let me know if you need help choosing the right Mac for someone on your list, but I’m partial to the M1-based MacBook Air and 24-inch iMac for most users.

(Featured image by Adam Engst)