It’s that time of year once again when we like to bring you a few of our top app and gear picks to get you through the holiday season in one piece. This handy list has a little bit of everything, whether you’re looking for some neat gift ideas or you’re simply in need of tools/gadgets to get things done.
Food & Drink
Mela recipe app: Brought to you by Silvio Rizzi, creator of the famed Reeder RSS client, Mela is a beautiful recipe manager for iPhone, iPad, and Mac that excels at importing recipes from websites, even allowing you to subscribe to those sorts of sites and have recipes auto-added to your ‘Feeds’ inbox.
Husky water- and weater-resistant cooler: Forget that cheapy little plastic lunchbox you had as a kid — this cooler bag is a much better way to take a full meal (or two) anywhere. It’s heavy-duty, roomy inside, holds up to just about any abuse thrown at it, keeps stuff hot or cold for hours on end, and the thick padded handle and shoulder strap make it easy and comfortable to carry around.
Both the main compartment and front exterior pocket are insulated, and the side mesh pockets can each hold a big ol’ water bottle so you can stay well hydrated on the go.
KitchenAid Pro 600 Series stand mixer: This thing has the capacity to prepare up to 13 dozen cookies in a single batch and boasts 10 speeds to thoroughly mix, knead, and whip ingredients quickly and easily. And like their classic “Artisan” mixer, the 600 Series can be upgraded with various attachments for rolling out pasta, grinding meat, and more.
While you’re baking a bunch of things for the big party, these silicone baking cups will eliminate all that disposable paper muffin cup waste, and they work better besides.
Ember Mug² metallic smart mug: These shiny 10 oz. drinking vessels use built-in batteries to actively keep your drink at exactly the temperature you want for up to an hour and a half by themselves, or all day long if you pair them with the included charging coaster. That way you never have to guess whether your morning coffee’s going to burn your lips even after sitting a while.
Temperature control is handled via the companion app, which notifies you when your drink has reached your set temp. (There’s also an LED light on the mug that lets you know the same thing.)
Utilities & Organization
MusicHarbor: Whether you’re curious about what the latest great Christmas albums are, or you’re trying to stay on top of what your favorite music artists have been releasing (or will be soon), Marcos Tanaka’s MusicHarbor app keeps you up-to-date on that sort of thing so you’re never left in the dark.
The way it works is, you can have it scan your music library to find all the artists you listen to, or you can add them manually. Either way, once added in the app, you’ll be notified of new releases, upcoming ones, and even future concert dates/locations.
GameTrack: In a somewhat similar vein, this app makes it easy to manage your video game collection, which will come in handy should a handful of new games make their way into your possession this holiday season, whether by gifting or self-splurging.
With data pulled from the IGDB cross-platform database, and with the ability to link your PSN, Xbox, and/or Steam accounts to import games, trophies, and achievements, GameTrack is an ideal place to track the games you’re currently playing (down to completion percentage), keep tabs on the ones you’d like to play, discover upcoming releases, and archive the titles you’ve finished/completed/abandoned.
(And in an even more similar vein, Book Track is the same type of thing for your personal book collection/wishlist.)
Actie — A Daily Planner-by-Priority for iPhone: When it comes to building new habits, the pressure of trying to “not break the chain” can be anxiety-inducing for some of us. Maybe you just want to make sure the one or two most important things in your life get done each day, or maybe you’d like days off entirely from thinking those tasks.
That’s what makes Actie such a great daily planner app: It intelligently sorts your daily tasks by their importance. You define the tasks you’d like to stay on top of — whether they have deadlines or are simply routines you like to do regularly, like playing guitar or reading — and then assign a priority to each one.
All you have to do each day (or not, if you so choose) is work from the top down. No maintaining a streak, nor feelings of devastation when the “chain” breaks.
Matter: A new player in the “read it later” space, Matter aims to be a kind of one-stop shop for all the things you like to read. I don’t mean just blog posts and articles here — you can also save Twitter threads, PDFs, and even all of your email newsletter subscriptions!
Moreover, they’ve built some neat social features into the app, allowing you to follow your favorite writers across publications, get reading recommendations from friends and vice versa, see your friends’ highlights/annotations embedded within articles, and more.
You can also share “quoteshots” that look great on Twitter and elsewhere, and you have the ability to listen to articles in a natural voice via speech synthesis (making it a kind of podcast player, if you think about it). And this is just scratching the surface.
oriGrid classic organizer for iPad: Here we have an ingenious and fashionable way of adding physical storage onto the back of your iPad Pro, as long as it’s paired with a Magic Keyboard, a Smart Folio, or a Smart Keyboard Folio.
Available in both 12.9-inch and 11-inch variations, the oriGrid features both a mini elastic band organizer area (à la the Grid-It) — perfect for small external drives, chargers, cables, etc — and some leather pocket storage that’s cleverly placed so that the unit bends perfectly as you tilt your screen forward or back.
Essentially, this organizer may just remove the need to carry a bag around most of the time. Just grab your iPad Pro and head out the door, with all your necessary accessories held right there on the back of it.
Good Sudoku: Sometimes you just need to take a break from the holiday festivities for a few minutes. Y’know, decompress your brain a little. Developer Zach Gage has made a number of iOS games that are perfect fun distractions for those moments, and his Good Sudoku title — created in collaboration with designer Jack Schlesinger — definitely hits the spot, so to speak.
Unlike most of his titles, which typically involve a classic game with a silly twist, this is simply Sudoku done very well. The entire premise is that it strips out all the tedious aspects (aka busywork) of solving Sudoku puzzles, with a bunch of extra help being offered by the game’s custom AI-powered hint system.
Umbra “Rolz” chess/checkers set: Umbra is no stranger to novel chess sets, and their two-in-one “Rolz” set certainly meets that criteria. It was designed for easy storage and travel, featuring a specially cut wooden base topped with vegan leather that allows the board to roll up into a compact cylinder shape, which can then be inserted into the included two-ended holder with carry strap.
The game pieces themselves pop out of their storage tube — which lives in the center of the rolled-up board when stowed away — and can be used for checkers on one side or chess on the other.
Hades for Nintendo Switch: One of the best Switch titles from last year was Supergiant Games’ Hades, a Greek mythology-inspired action-RPG that’s classified as a ‘roguelike’. That is, your character — who happens to be the rebellious and immortal son of Hades himself and seeks to escape the Underworld altogether — will inevitably die a LOT as you send him into fierce battle through a series of randomly generated dungeons/realms, each run different from the last.
That’s right, death is more of an inconvenience for this protagonist than anything. Every time he’s defeated, he simply returns to his room in Hades’ palace, with the chance to try again…and again…and again… collecting new Olympian weapons, powers, and upgrades along the way so you can create your ultimate build and finally break free of his father’s clutches.
Not only is the hack-and-slash gameplay a treat to experience, the lush visuals, pumping soundtrack, wonderful character interactions, and top-notch voice acting all come together to put the game over the top in terms of entertainment and replay value.
Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir: From the author of The Martian comes another tale about a lone astronaut stranded far from Earth. But this time, rather than being stuck on Mars, the protagonist in Hail Mary (Ryland Grace) finds himself alone on a tiny spaceship hurtling through the far reaches of space.
Where it gets interesting is that Ryland only discovers this fact after waking from a long sleep with no memory of who he is, what he’s doing on this ship, and why there are two mummified corpses next to him. Seeing him piece together the clues of his own life and the mission ahead of him is one thing, but somehow it only gets wilder from there.
Gadgets & Gear
FULLLIGHT TECH Beanie with built-in Bluetooth earbuds: One cool (or is it warm?) gift idea for your list is this Bluetooth beanie hat, which has removable earbuds in the sides so the user can comfortably keep their head warm while jamming to their favorite tunes or listening to audiobooks in the brisk outdoors, or even taking phone calls on the go.
The earbuds can be controlled via three buttons (volume down, play/pause/power, and volume up) hidden in the leather patch on the righthand side, complete with indicator LEDs. They’re not the highest-end earbuds in the world, but still plenty clean-sounding and enjoyable to listen to.
The beanie itself is comfy enough that you can sleep in it without issue, so you have this whole other benefit of being able to put on relaxing sounds or soft music at night without disturbing your partner. The battery lasts for 16–20 hours as well, so the earbuds can run ’til morning if needed.
Bestek 75W in-car power inverter: Need to keep that crock pot warm until you get to the party? This handy little gizmo adds a three-prong power outlet to your car’s lighter plug port, allowing you to run a household appliance as you drive over to the get-together.
Just Mobile “ShutterGrip 2” smartphone camera grip: This phone add-on will change your whole smartphone photography game, adding a camera-style grip to just about any iOS or Android phone and making it much more comfortable to shoot with.
On top of the grip is a Bluetooth-connected shutter button, making it feel even more like the real deal. But what’s even crazier is, that shutter button is actually removable and can be used as a clicker remote up to 33 feet (10 meters) away from the phone!
Also built into the grip is an extendable (~6″ / 15cm) selfie-stick arm, a standard tripod-thread mount, an integrated cold shoe mount for attaching accessories like microphones, and more.
CIVIVI “Polymorph” titanium carabiner multi-tool: With this spring-loaded titanium carabiner, which is loaded with several useful tools, you’ll be prepared for anything. You’ll be able to cut into packages, open those annoyingly screwed-in battery compartments on your kids’ new toys, pop open drink bottles, and more.
Curated List of Must-Have Apps
We spend an inordinate amount of time sorting through hundreds of apps to find the very best. Our team here at The Sweet Setup put together a short list of our must-have, most-used apps in 2021.
You will get…
- The current list of The Sweet Setup’s top 8, must-have apps.
- A special, pro tip for each app to help you save time and become more of a power user.
- A hidden feature of each app that you may not have known about.
The Sweet Setup Staff Picks for 2021
These apps work on iPad, iPhone, and Mac. And they range across several different categories but are mostly focused on productivity. They will help you get the most out of your devices and your day.