It’s been a banner year for iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch accessories. Our 2015 list includes two great HomeKit products, the droid everyone has been looking for, and more.
The AppAdvice Accessory of 2015
Apple’s HomeKit was easily the biggest accessory story of 2015. After being announced in June 2014, products supporting the protocol began to ship earlier this year. And so far, the cream of the crop is the Ecobee3 Smart Thermostat.
But first off, a quick refresher about exactly what HomeKit does. The Apple-designed protocol was designed to make it easier for users to interact with products in the growing smart home market. The biggest advantage, for now, is the ability to control and check the status of different devices by simply asking Siri.
I reviewed the Ecobee3 back in November, and it gives a great glimpse into the smart home future. It’s highly recommended and can even pay for itself with the energy savings.
Since the Apple Watch arrived back in April, a huge number of different dock options have hit the market. But the best overall choice is Belkin’s Valet Charge Dock. Thanks to the beautiful Apple-like design and ease of use, it’s easily the best combination Apple Watch and iPhone dock I’ve tested so far. While the high cost could be a turn off for some potential buyers, I think it it’s worth a look – especially if you don’t have spare cables lying around.
An inexpensive way to try out HomeKit, the iHome iSP5 SmartPlug can turn any regular power outlet into a Internet-enabled switch. Any appliance, 1,800 watts and under, can be plugged into the outlet. That includes things like lamps, lights, window air conditioners, fans, portable heaters, coffee makers, home audio systems, and other products. For more information on how the device works, take a look at my review from August.
The best overall speaker of the year is easily the second-generation Sonos Play:5. Packed with six drivers, three mid-woofers, and three tweeters, the speaker can easily fill a room with sound. Along with a horizontal orientation as a standalone speaker, you can pair two speakers together in either a vertical or horizontal position for massive stereo sound. The top of the speaker features touch controls that allows users to play, pause, and change the music track along with adjusting the volume.
My colleague Bryan M. Wolfe recently reviewed the Play:5 and found that the sound quality of the speaker is well worth the cost of admission. And with the recently added Apple Music support, the new Play: 5 can easily act as a great start to a wonderful whole-house music system.
A step up from Apple’s stock Lightning cable, Griffin’s option has two distinct advantages. First up, the reversible USB plug can be fit into any port no matter how it is inserted. The cable itself is made with a braided material and aluminum connector housings that should easily stand the test of time.
You can select from a silver, space gray, or gold version of the cable to match the color scheme of an iPhone or iPad.
You don’t need an iPad Pro to get real work done with a tablet. The BrydgeAir Keyboard is designed to bring a MacBook-like typing experience to the mid-sized tablet. A special hinge can rotate your iPad a full 180 degrees so you can find that perfect typing angle.
The keyboard itself is backlit and does offer a number of iOS-specific shortcuts like home, search, and more. The speakers are designed to provide an enhanced, stereo-like audio experience. A built-in battery can last for up to three months on a single charge.
You can purchase a silver, space gray, or gold version of the keyboard designed to match the three different tablet colors.
A perfect Lightning cable to take anywhere, the Fuse Chicken Titan Loop Keychain Cable is 9 inches long but can loop in half to attach to your backpack, bag, or keychain. Along with being MFi certified, the cable is wrapped with industrial-strength material, and the connectors are fused directly onto the metal. Fuse Chicken backs the cable with a limited lifetime warranty.
Released earlier this month, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has become the fastest movie ever to rake in $1 billion at the box office. And you can bring home a part of the flick with the new BB-8 by Sphero
Thanks to the companion iOS app, users can guide the droid around their home. With an adaptive personality, the droid’s unique attitude and interactions change as your child interacts with it. It even responds and reacts to your specific voice. If that wasn’t fun enough, you can even record virtual holographic videos just like in the Star Wars universe. The built-in battery can go for more than an hour of play before needing to recharge.
On the other end of the spectrum of Apple Watch charging stands is the Bluelounge Kosta. Available in three different colors – dark gray, light gray, and green – the Kosta literally takes seconds to get up and running. Simply insert the charging cord disc through the top and you’re ready to go. It’s made with silicon so it won’t slip or slide around your desk or scratch the watch. As the name suggests, it definitely reminds me of a drink coaster.
Thanks to a built-in magnet in the center of the coaster, the cord will always stay in place even when you’re not charging a watch. When it is charging time, you’ll just need to place the watch in the coaster and flip the disc up. It’s that simple.
It even supports Nightstand Mode in WatchOS 2.0.
In an era of overpriced and flashy plastic headphones, Grain Audio is a true success story. The company got its start on Kickstarter back in 2013 with the simple idea to make the absolute best sounding headphones and speakers. The small company, based in Pennsylvania, believes the best way to do that is by using generous amounts of wood to provide an authentic and natural sound.
The company’s OEHP.1 Solid Wood Over-Ear Headphones truly delivers and sound as great as they look.