The Best of 2011

iPad, iPod TouchIt's that time of year again when the iPhone Life writers pick out their favorite products. Considering the extensive product lineup of iPhone, iPad, and iPod, this is a daunting task because there are so many great products available. Therefore, I have come up with a simple litmus test: If I am still using the product after one month, it gets my vote. Also, this list is not exclusively about products that have been released this year. I'll share with you my personal favorites.

Cases and Covers

1. iFrogz 


iFrogzThe original iFrogz line of cases for the first iPad has a two-piece construction that is easy to install with attractive two-tone color schemes. For iPad 2 owners, the iPad 2 Summit Case ($59.99, shown left) is a stylish and innovative choice.

2. Speck Candy Shell 


Speck Candy ShellIf I have to stretch a cover to get it on my iPhone, I want it to be sturdy enough not to tear, and impact-resistant enough to withstand a fall. The candy shell is that product, and I recommend it for any flavor of iPad, iPod, or iPhone. 

3. Otterbox Defender 


Defender for iPadThe Defender series is my pick for iOS gear when I need superior device protection—something that I can trust and that also looks good when traveling. The Defender has an inner and outer combo case/cover design that does just that. 

Coolest Audio Docks and Speakers

New audio accessories are constantly evolving for all iOS devices, and starting earlier this year at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), I witnessed some great ones in action. I prefer something compact, with good quality sound, and affordability. An integrated app is nice, but not crucial. Here are the products I really like:

1. Sonos Play:3 


Sonos Play 3This is a portable, streaming-capable speaker system that supports wireless or wired playback of your iTunes collection. Wrapped in an appealingly svelte and techie look, the Play:3 can be positioned horizontally or vertically and paired with a second Sonos Play for true Left/Right separation of sound.

2. Stem TimeCommand 


Stem TimeCommandIf you are looking for an alarm clock and dock with audio punch, an integrated app with nature sounds, and even the ability to turn down your bedside lamp, consider the TimeCommand. Shaped like a large hockey puck, this little powerhouse does it all, and has superior sound.

3. Speakal Cool iPig 


cool-ipigOne of my favorite vendors at CES was Speakal. The Cool iPig can break eardrums, has a detachable rechargeable battery, and motion-sensing control. It also looks cute and is completely mobile! 

Choosing your Power

Depending on your needs, you might want to carefully consider a good power-up gadget or dock. If you only need something around the house, a good sturdy charging base is the way to go. If you're on the go for long periods of the day, you might consider a portable external battery unit.

Best Apps

I may have hundreds of apps installed at any one time, but I only use around 5 apps regularly, which helps to narrow down my favorites. These apps cover the most common things I do with my iPad or iPod touch: games, music, writing, and social networking. 

1. Evernote


EvernoteThis free service is on many top lists every year and for good reason. I type most of my reviews and blog posts, and even cloud-sync pictures from my camera using the awesome Evernote app. You can even export notes to PDF, Word, and other popular formats, but that requires paying for the premium service.

2. Pulse


PulsePulse is a great newsreader for the iPad that kicked Flipboard off its perch (sorry Flipboard). Stay up to date on anything... from your favorite Twitterers to major news feeds, and do it with a quick swipe across the filmstrip-like rows. Pulse provides cloud syncing and includes Google Reader and Evernote integration.

3. TeamViewer


Team ViewerLooking for a free app to remote control your PC, Mac, or Linux machine? You need to check out TeamViewer! It is one of the best remote control apps I have ever used and is very simple to configure. I use it to grab a screenshot or picture from my PC when I'm writing a review.

4. SoundPrism


SoundPrismThis easy-to-use keyboard and synth emulator allows you to create music like a pro without any knowledge or even music skill. CoreMIDI integration lets you do more keyboard wizardry using a PC or Mac.

5. Jet Car Stunts


Jet Car StuntsThe concept is to race through 3D high-flying aerial stunt courses with your rocket powered jet car. (Who wouldn't want one of those?) Includes both time trial and platform modes, expansion courses, and is probably the most addictive time killer I have ever encountered!

Other Stuff I Really Like

You can look up reviews and information on these great add-ons or apps up at

1. Pinball Magic 

(Free app,, plus $35 pinball base)

An "app"cessory that turns your iPod or iPhone into a mini-pinball machine complete with flashing lights, real flipper action, and even a dreaded tilt!

2. Sonos Dock 


The dock brings the Sonos product family full circle by incorporating your iOS device as another media source. You can read full reviews of Sonos products by searching for "Sonos" at

3. Joystick-It


Converts the iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch into a mini-arcade experience. Attach it to your screen and control the action with a real joystick (or two if required)!

4. AmigoCase


This is an iPhone case/battery combo that flips around like something from Star Trek. The ECO Solar battery lets you power-up using only the sun (or a USB powered port). Keystone has great charging accessories and other great gear as well.

5. Breitling Reno Air Races


This is a realistic 3D air race game that lets you go head to head against other racers (over a network), or against computer opponents using several jet types. Best of all, it's free! 

6. Peavey Link/AmpKit


Peavey Link/AmpKitI jammed with one of these at CES, and I was wowed at how versatile and simple it was to use. Not only can you record while playing, you can also add amp effects and patches in a cinch, and even add backing tracks.

7. Monster Trouble


A tower defense game in 3D, Monster Trouble is perfect for the iPad, but also a blast on an iPod touch or iPhone! The object is to provide an adequate defense—building towers and then putting fighters on them—to keep the goblins at bay. 

8. Paper Racer


Run your paper car around the obstacle course trying to stay on the track as much as possible and ahead of your opponents. You need to place in the top 3 to advance. You can also create your own custom car using the camera and even share it with others!

9. Tiny Wings


This bird can't fly very well, but timing your descent between hills gives you a boost. Try to make it as far as you can across the various islands before nightfall!

10. Companions

(iPad only: $4.99 , 

This is a super fun and well-developed adventure game. One tip for new adventurers, if your character's life is getting low, run away!

My Favorite Cases, Apps, and Audio Accessories
2011 Buyers Guide
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