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Gift Guide 2012: For the Apple-user on your list

Here's a look at some of my favorite hardware items for the Apple user on your shopping list. This year's list includes my favorite headphones, bluetooth speakers and items for your desk, home, and car.
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By Jason D. O'Grady, Contributor on
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A little something for everyone

Welcome to my 2012 Gift Guide. I've chosen my favorite hardware items that pair well with someone that already has a MacBook, iPad or iPhone which, let's face it, is almost everyone these days. But only a couple of items on my list are exclusively for Apple users, many are platform agnostic, so click through for a some tech-oriented gift ideas for the geek on your holiday shopping list. Click on "Next" button in the upper-right of the collage above to get started. 

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ScotteVest Sport Coat - $200

Even the most self-respecting geek has to go out once in a while. But the reason why we hate it is because we can't bring our iPad with us without looking like, well, a geek. That's where the ScotteVest Sport Coat comes in. Like the company's spiffy fleece jacket (which I reviewed in November), the SEV sport coat is a high-quality garment suitable for fine dining, the annual office holiday party or even a few pints at the neighborhood bar. What makes it amazing is its 23 pockets -- enough to store all your gadgets, including an iPad -- without tipping off your date or co-worker.

The well-concealed pockets are designed so that they don't pull and bulge, giving away your secret passion for portable devices. The SeV sport coat can easily carry your wallet, passport, sunglasses, iPhone and iPad without making you look like a robot. Plus it has a stylish, classic sport coat shape with traditional three-button tailoring. It only comes in black because, let's face it, black goes with everything. 

While the fleece jacket is great for colder climates (like here in the northeast), the sport coat is dressier and more appropriate for a date or holiday dinner. If you're fortunate enough to live in the sun belt (or Vegas!), SeV makes a killer, pin-striped After Hours Shirt ($80) with eight concealed pockets perfect for stashing your iPhone while jumping from ZipCar to OpenTable. All garments should have pockets like this. 

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Cobra iRadar 200 radar detector - $159

Nobody likes getting speeding tickets, they're unnecessarily time-consuming and expensive moving violations cut into your discretionary income (and gadget budget). That's why the iRadar 200 from Cobra is an essential piece of kit for lead-footed driver. Instead of spending extra cash for features on a purpose-built device, Cobra offloads the expensive stuff (like color screens) to your iPhone, keeping the price low. 

iRadar 200 detects radar and laser guns with 360-degree protection and city/highway modes. While it will operate without a smartphone, the companion iPhone app (available for free in the App Store) is what makes it shine. When paired via Bluetooth the iPhone app displays live radar and laser alerts information from other iRadar users and allows you to submit your own.

The iRadar app (also on Android) warns you of speed and red light cameras, known speed traps, and dangerous intersections from the verified AURA camera database. While iRadar lists for $159, Amazon is selling it for a wallet-friendly $76. Read more in the CNET Review.

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Sol Republic Tracks Ultra on-ear headphones - $179

If you have an iPhone or an iPad, you probably also have a kickin' iTunes library. But why waste it on a pair of dinky white earbuds that don't do your tunes justice? If you spend any amount of time listening to music (or podcasts) on your iDevice you owe it to yourself to ditch the stock Apple earbuds and invest in a quality pair of headphones. My favorite are the Tracks Ultra on-ear headphones from Sol Republic

You might recognize Tracks as the headphones of choice of a certain gold medal winner from the U.S. Olympic swimming team. I reviewed the Tracks HD headphones after watching the 2012 Summer Olympics in August. The Ultra models crank it up a notch by offering even better sound and deeper, richer bass courtesy of the company's V12 Sound Engine speakers. The Ultras are finished with a gorgeous, spun-aluminum finish and super-soft speaker pads.

All Tracks headphones come with a practically indestructable headband and interchangeable cable with omni-directional microphone, volume controls and a 90-degree angle plug. And if the Ultras are too luxe for your budget, Sol Republic offers Tracks headphones starting at $99. 

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Mikey Digital microphone for iPhone and iPad - $99

Even iPhone and iPad is also a very capable voice recorder, capable or recording meetings, letures and interviews. The problem is the whimpy microphone that's built into Apple devices. It's servicable at close range but terrible for recording anything far away. That's where the Mikey Digital microphone from Blue Microphones comes in.

Mikey Digital is a cardiod condenser microphone with two custom-tuned Blue capsules for stereo recording, a line-input, rotating 230-degree design, and USB pass through. It works with the iPod touch (4th generation), iPhone 4 and all iPads (newer devices require Apple's Lightning adapter). It records to Apple's Voice Memos app for iOS although I recommend recording with GarageBand for iOS ($4.99, App Store) for best results. iOS recognizes Mikey Digital as a microphone in any app except phone and Facetime.

It's an ideal solution for field recording and includes three gain settings from everything from a loud concert to a quiet conversation. List is $99, but you can find Mikey for around $82 on Amazon.

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Nest Learning Thermostat 2.0 - $249

The father of the iPod is at it again and he's developed something for your house that can save you money this winter. Tony Fadell, former SVP of Apple Inc.'s wildly popular iPod division has turned his attention to something more pedestrian: home thermostats. The first Nest thermostat (my May 2012 review) revolutionized home HVAC systems allowing you to control it via the Nest Mobile app from just about anywhere. 

The Nest concept is brilliant: install it then turn it up and down like you would on amanual thermostat. Nest learns from your patterns and notices that you like it at 72 degrees when you wake up at 7 a.m. and 70 degrees when you arrive home at 5:30 p.m. Nest is also smart enough to know that no one's home from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will automatically set itself to "away mode" saving you money. 

The second-generation Nest Learning Thermostat hardware is 20 percent thinner, even easier to install, and compatible with 95% of low voltage heating and cooling systems and whole-home humidifiers and dehumidifiers (you can check compatibility here). But the biggest changes come in the Nest 3.0 software, which was pushed to every Nest device. 

The updated software includes enhanced Auto-Away mode, more languages, Auto-Schedule in Heat/Cool mode and new System Match technology that automatically activates specific features like True Radiant, Heat Pump Balance, Early-On and Filter Reminders. Although it's spendy, after you use it for a week, you can't live without it. As a bonus Nest emails you a monthly Energy Report that details your energy usage with tips to help you save.

For more information read the CNET review.

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FoxL v2 Bluetooth speaker with apt-X - $199.99

The FoxL v2 Bluetooth speaker's ($199.99) huge sound belies its tiny size, it produces mids and lows that I didn't think could come from such a small footprint. I loved it when I reviewed the original FoxL in 2011 and the updated version adds apt-X support which produces CD-like quality when Bluetooth streaming from apt-X compatible devices like the Mac Mini, MacBook Air, iMac, MacBook, MacBook Pro (with OS X Snow Leopard or higher).

The FoxL v2 sounded better than every Bluetooth speaker (of the same size) on display at my local Apple Store -- especially when playing songs in my "bass test" playlist, like the opening minute of Outkast's "The way you move." The FoxL v2 also has an amazing battery that I charge less than once per month. It's the perfect shelf speaker for the kitchen, bedroom or bathroom and it's small size makes it an ideal traveling companion for an iPhone or iPad. 

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BookArc Pro desktop stand for MacBook Pro - $49.99

The desktop computer is dead. Long live the desktop.

If you're like me you use a MacBook as your primary computer and connect it to a large monitor and keyboard when the need arises. A notebook computer is simply more versatile than a desktop which is why most people them as a desktop. If you're in this camp (and your desk looks anything like mine) you need all the space you can get. Enter the BookArc Pro desktop stand for MacBook Pro which essetially turns your notebook into a desktop by keeping it vertical and out of the way while running with the lid closed (a.k.a. "clamshell mode").

TwelveSouth engineered BookArc to fit the MacBook Pro perfectly and it even added subtle touches like integrated cable management to keep your desk from turning into a rat's nest. It includes silicone inserts for both the unibody and Retina MacBook Pro in the box. BookArc is also available for the MacBook Air ($39.99) and iPad ($29.99) and doubles as a great shelf stand to store your expensive Mac gear up and away -- which is amazing if you have little kids at home. 

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Wheelmate Laptop Steering Wheel Desk - $29.99

Everyone could be more productive, especially in the car. That's where the Laptop Steering Wheel Desk from Wheelmate comes in handy. You'll find it hard to believe that you didn't think of this a long time ago. Be sure to read the customer reviews and to look at the customer images for this amazing product before ordering and, be safe out there!

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