Our favorite picks of 2016
Quite a few iPhone and iPad accessories cross our desks all year long, but only the best of the best finds its way into our pockets, trusty everyday-carry bags—and wrapped up in paper and ribbons under our Christmas trees. These are the Macworld staff’s best picks, the things we spend our own money on, the things we’re confident enough in to give them to our loved ones as gifts, and we heartily recommend them to you.
Hex Solo Wallet Case
Like for a lot of men, the year 2016 was about realizing: Why the heck do I carry around such a bulky wallet? All I ever need is one good bank card, an ID, a Clipper card (for the transit system), and a keycard to get into the office building. That’s why I decided to get a new wallet case, and read our Macworld reviews for some much-needed guidance.
I’ve bought a briefcase from HEX before and I liked their style, so the Solo Wallet case was a no-brainer. And it’s also not super-expensive, like some iPhone cases can be. I picked the $40 vintage teal leather version, and haven’t looked back since. It’s helped me keep just the essential cards next to my iPhone. No more digging through my wallet or my backpack to pay for things or get on a bus.—Oscar Raymundo
Native Union Night Cable
Apple doesn’t make Lightning cables as long as they should be, especially for when we want to recharge our iPhones or iPads while in bed. But ever since Native Union’s Night Cable has come into my life, I haven’t had to hunch down next to a plug just so I could use my iPhone while charging.
The 10-foot-long charging cable gives you the option to roll around in a king-sized bed or even walk to the other side of the room while still plugged in. Plus, the braided nylon promises to be 6 times stronger than the plastic used in Apple Lightning cables. This Night Cable has a weight at the end of it (in the form of a adjustable knot) so that it won’t slip and fall if you place it on a tabletop. It may be a little pricey at $40, but hey, it’s cheaper than a visit to the chiropractor.—Oscar Raymundo
PhoneSuit Elite Pro Battery Case for iPhone 6/6s Plus
You’d think that with its big battery, the iPhone 6s Plus would have enough juice to last all day and then some. And it does, even after more than a year of regular use. But I play Pokémon Go, and it puts a serious demand on your iPhone’s battery. An hour of walking my dog and hunting for Pokémon sucks up about 25 percent of my battery’s life.
Since I’m not ready to give up my Pokémon habit, I really like PhoneSuit’s Elite Pro case. Its 4,200 mAh battery can fully charge a depleted iPhone 6s Plus battery, with power to spare. When the phone battery is fully charged, the Elite’s Smart Power Management can stop charging your phone’s battery.
While the case makes the iPhone 6s Plus even bigger, its sleek design keeps it easy to hold, and it’s also saved my iPhone a couple of times from drops to the sidewalk. The external connector is a micro USB port, so you may need to switch your Lightning cable to a micro USB cable, which PhoneSuit provides. You may also need to use the included headphone jack extender with your wired headphones. But overall, the Elite provides much needed power for my iPhone 6s Plus without getting in the way.—Roman Loyola
Apple’s Leather Case for iPhone 7
I am a firm believer in protecting your iPhone with a case. Some people prefer to go caseless in order to display the phone’s design in all its glory, but those people are playing Russian roulette. I’ve never shattered an iPhone screen, and I can only credit a sturdy case for that fortune (because lord knows I drop my phone daily).
My go-to accessory is Apple’s leather iPhone case ($45). I’ve used this case in various colors, but the best by far is the saddle brown. This is a case that grows more distinguished over time. Yes, that’s a ridiculous statement, but it’s true. The oils from your hands darken the leather around the edges, making this case look as elegant as a high-end leather bag. And Apple added machined aluminum button covers to the iPhone 7 version of the leather case, which it much easier to use with the phone than older models, which have stiff leather button covers.
Buy this for yourself. Buy it for a friend. Highly recommend.—Caitlin McGarry
Twelve South Forte Apple Watch stand
Sure, you can charge your Apple Watch flat on the charging cable it comes with, but a stylish stand for your bedside table just looks better. This year, I received TwelveSouth’s Forte watch stand ($60) as a gift, and it actually makes my watch more useful.
The chrome stand’s arm sits at a 40-degree angle, so you can view your watch in Nightstand or Portrait mode without moving from your bed. I have an alarm clock, an iPhone, and an Apple Watch sitting on my nightstand, and I can use any to check the time, but the TwelveSouth Forte makes my watch the default option.
The Forte’s leather base is also perfect for resting your iPhone on, which saves precious nightstand space (hey, I have a lot of books).—Caitlin McGarry
Incase City Backpack
I swore I would never wear a backpack again once I finished school, but when you have to carry around a MacBook, iPad, gym clothes, and other assorted devices and and accessories, it’s the only logical solution. Incase’s City lineup is my go-to. I have the compact version ($100), and plan to give the larger-sized City ($130) to a certain someone as a gift this holiday season.
It has pockets galore for all of your Apple devices, including a fleece-lined inner compartment for protecting your MacBook from scratches. Its padded straps make it comfortable enough for both commuting and travel—mine has taken several trips to the West Coast and to Europe.
Incase’s entire backpack line is a Macworld favorite, but if you need an affordable and stylish option, you can’t go wrong with the City.—Caitlin McGarry
Last year’s rolling Bluetooth BB–8 was certainly cute, but even a Star War droid can’t top Cozmo. Developed by Anki, the same people who built those awesome racing cars that Tim Cook showed off at WWDC in 2013, the tiny robot has the heart of Wall-E, the soul of R2D2, and a personality all its own.
Packed with smarts, sass, and boundless curiosity, Cozmo is more than an iPhone accessory—it’s the robotic friend you’ve always wanted. And you don’t need to be a geek to fall in love with him. The little guy is at the top of my 5-year-old son’s Christmas list. (Spoiler alert: Santa’s bringing him!)—Michael Simon
Marbotic Smart Letters
My own 5-year-old son loves his iPad time, but I don’t like him zoning out in front of YouTube. So he’s getting Marbotic’s Smart Letters ($50 on Amazon), a set of all 26 wooden letters with soft pads on the back so they don’t scratch the iPad screen. The letters interact with special iPad apps without any batteries or Bluetooth—they work with the static electricity from your own body.
The apps are adorable, too. Alphamoster teaches what the letters look and sound like, perfectly reinforcing what he’s learning in Pre-K. Vocabubble teaches words that start with each letter, and Bla Bla Box encourages kids to combine letters into syllables and words. (Marbotic also sells a set of numbers that work with three other apps, for $35, or you can get a bundle of letters and numbers for $80.) If he likes them as much as I do, I’ll give him some extra screen time.—Susie Ochs
I wouldn’t get them for anyone with an Android phone, but if you’re looking for the perfect gift for the Apple fan who has everything, well, they probably don’t have these yet. I do miss the convenience of the three-button remote that comes on the wired earbuds, but since I can move those controls to my Apple Watch, it’s OK.
But do you see what I mean about the Apple fan who has everything? The AirPods pair with iOS seamlessly and let you switch between an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac with no effort, keeping your Apple fan’s head bobbing for hours. The $159 AirPods were backordered on Apple.com from the day they went on sale, but you might be able to track some down at an Apple store.—Susie Ochs