Holiday Gift Guide 2015: Accessories

Yes, it’s almost Christmas, but there are still a few days left to fill your loved ones’ stockings with some awesome tech gear. Here are some of the accessories that helped keep our mobile lives moving in 2015.http://buff.ly/1ZnpMfi

MiPow Power Tube 3000

accessories

There is no shortage of battery packs out that aim to give your device a boost in an emergency. One of the few that has been given a seal of approval by us is the MiPow Power Tube 3000 for the iPhone.

This portable battery is designed in the shape of a tube and measures in around 5-inches long and 2-inches thick. The overall weight is 85 grams and can easily be carried around in your pocket. There are several colours to choose from, including black, white, gray, turquoise, green, and pink.

On the side of the Smart Power Tube are three LEDs that display the power level. To use the 3000mAh charger you pop open the top and place the Lightning cable into your iPhone and to activate the charge you’ll have to press the button under the LED lights. From a complete drain of your iPhone 6s battery, which has a 1,715 mAh battery, takes approximately 5 hours. To recharge the Smart Power Tube you simply place the USB into your computer.

MiPow Power Tube 3000

For those serious about keeping up with the health of your battery, MiPow also created the JuiceSync app for the Smart Power Tube that enables users to connect via Bluetooth to monitor its power level. The app also brings the option to send you notifications when the battery on your phone is getting low and displays the power levels in terms of talk time and Internet usage.

Availability: Apple ($59.95), Telus ($54.99)

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UE Boom 2

Ultimate Ears’ first UE Boom remains one of the best wireless Bluetooth speakers on the market, and the speaker’s 2nd generation version, the UE Boom 2, is just as impressive.

It features IPX7 waterproofing, 25 percent louder volume, and improved wireless range over the original UE Boom. In addition to Bluetooth support, devices can be connected to the speaker via a standard 3.5mm audio input and it features speaker phone and alarm support.

The second version of the UE Boom also has the ability to pair to two audio sources at one time, which is a useful feature for people who play content from multiple devices. The UE Boom 2 also gets approximately 15 hours of playback, an improvement over the nine hours of the original UE Boom.

AvailabilityBest Buy ($219.99)

Nest Cam

Nest Cam

Nest Cam, née Dropcam, is one of the best ways to secure a home without actually adding any infrastructure.

The Nest Cam is a WiFi-connected cloud camera that streams 1080p video to a smartphone or laptop (through an app or webpage), with an optional monthly fee to record between 10 and 30 days of footage for archiving.

From monitoring pets, which is helped by the included microphone and speaker, to protecting against break-ins and theft, the Dropcam is portable, versatile and extremely useful. It’s only limitation is that it needs constant power — there is no battery included. (Homeboy is a good alternative for those who want a battery-powered cloud camera).

A great entry product into the smart home genre. (See also Nest Learning Thermostat and Nest Protect Smoke + CO Alarm.)

Availability: Google Store ($219), Best Buy ($219.99)

chromecast

Chromecast (2nd-gen)

An obvious choice for anyone looking to get into the smart TV space, the second-generation Chromecast is faster and more powerful than before, but still just as simple.

Stream music, video and files to an HDMI-connected television using a number of apps, either from Google or third-party developers, or mirror your Chrome web browser from a Chromebook, Mac or PC.

The second-generation Chromecast is great because it facilitates streaming to a home theatre receive from many popular audio and video apps, including Netflix, YouTube, Shomi, CraveTV, Spotfiy, CTV and more. It’s also the cheapest way to make a “dumb” TV smart.

Availability: Google Store ($45), Best Buy ($45)

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New Apple TV

On the other side of the smart TV argument is the new Apple TV, which provides far more functionality than the above Chromecast, but at nearly five times the price, it’s not for everyone.

What the new Apple TV does well is introduce the idea of apps — fully-formed and custom-designed for television — to a larger screen. And while it maintains many of the positives of its former, cheaper models, it loses much of the straightforward simplicity in the process.

Still, the new Apple TV is the best set-top box out there, buoyed by Apple’s commitment to improving its products over time (it has already received one major update, with more to come next year) and integration with other products such as the iPhone, Apple Music and iTunes.

Availability: Apple ($199), Best Buy ($199.99)

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JayBird X2 Bluetooth Headphones

Simply the best Bluetooth headphones you can buy, especially if you’re into exercising. JayBird’s second-generation X-series headphones are more comfortable and sound better than their predecessors, and come with a variety of tips to fit in even the most challenging of ears.

Better, they last for eight hours on a charge, and are sweat-proof so they’re stay in your ear while you run or work out.

The X2’s are compatible with all smartphones that support Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR and above (basically anything released in the past three years) and charge over microUSB. They come in six colours: black, camo, yellow, red, blue, and white.

AvailabilityBest Buy ($169.99), Amazon ($169.99), Telus ($199.99)

philipshue

Philips Hue Smart LED Light Bulb Starter Kit

One of the best ways to get into home automation is through the things you need to replace, anyway: light bulbs.

Philips was one of the first success stories in this space, and for good reason: its Hue series of connect light bulbs are attractive, intuitive and affordable. Controlled through a nicely-designed iOS or Android app, these light bulbs can act as replacements to existing incandescent or LED bulbs, varying their colour temperature from warm to cold, or be used to add colour and mood to any space.

The Starter Kit comes with three bulbs and a Hue Bridge, which connects the pieces to your home’s WiFi router. Combining a number of bulbs together can create an environment to relax or energize. One of Hue’s strengths is the ability to create groupings of bulbs based on room, floor or anything else, and using geofencing and time-based actions, lights can be programmed to turn on when the sun sets, or change colours when someone walks in the door.

Finally, this particular system has been updated to support Apple’s new HomeKit standard, so they can be controlled by Siri. Awesome.

Availability: Apple, Best Buy

aukey

Aukey Quick Charge 2.0 10,400mAh Portable External Battery Power Bank

Sometimes you don’t need a boost, but a refuel. If the MiPow Power Tube doesn’t suit your needs, perhaps something like Aukey’s $25 10,400mAh Portable Battery Power Bank will. Not only does it have a battery large enough to refill several phones and a tablet, but it supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 2.0 standard, which allows newer devices to juice even more quickly than using a regular USB port.

Aukey is a relatively new company to us here at MobileSyrup, but we’ve found their products to be well-made, reliable and inexpensive for what you get. They also make a pretty decent USB charging hub, which also supports Quick Charge from one of its five ports.

Availability: Amazon ($24.99)

glowheadphones

Glow Headphones

One of the more unique accessories to launch this year, Glow Headphones use Corning’s Fibrance light-diffusing fiber technology to shine a colourful beam of light through the see-through cord of these headphones.

Available exclusively through Bell, the $199.99 Glow Headphones may be expensive, but they pulse to the beat of any song, and will be customizable with an iOS and Android app coming early next year.

And they sound pretty good. Comfortable to wear, the Glow Headphones are not really meant to take on the audiophile space — there are plenty of great ones out there doing that already — but they should appeal to a certain type of music listener, and will make a great gift.

Availability: Bell ($199.99)

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