Article Lead Image

Photo via Douglas Paul Perkins/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0) | Pattern via Carlos Aguilar | Remix by Rob Price

Best apps you can gift as gifts

Who needs a gift you can touch?


Alex La Ferla


Posted on Dec 15, 2014   Updated on May 29, 2021, 11:48 pm CDT

If you’re looking to give friends and loved ones the best hardware and gadgets of the year… well, you’ve come to the wrong place. Of course, we do have some great device recommendations for you, but no one ever said you had to give a physical gift for the holidays, right? In that spirit, here are some of the best and most popular apps for gift giving this holiday season.

TV and music streaming apps

Spotify Premium

Platform: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android

The reigning king of on-demand music streaming is offering a pretty good deal on their premium streaming service for the holidays. For the first three months you can get all the premium benefits for $0.99/month, after which point the rate reverts to the standard $9.99/month. If someone you know hasn’t yet made the leap to a streaming service, this could be a great time to give them the gift of on-demand music at a reduced rate. Premium features include an ad-free experience, as well as other goodies like offline playback and improved sound quality. Just be sure to keep an eye on the subscription as it automatically renews every month until you unsubscribe.


Platform: Web, iOS, Android, Windows

Netflix upped the price on their standard streaming service earlier this year, but at $8.99/month it’s still a fairly affordable way to watch some of your favorite content, including popular shows only available on Netflix, like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.

Hulu Plus

Platform: Web, iOS, Android, Windows

Hulu Plus is a great alternative or supplement to a Netflix subscription for anyone on your gift list who likes to keep up with new episodes of currently airing TV shows and additional movie titles. Buy a Hulu Plus subscription as a gift for anywhere between one and twelve months at a price of $7.99 per month.

Photo-editing and design apps


Platform: Mac, iOS

If you’re looking to give someone a photo-editing app, but don’t want to break the bank on an Adobe product, Pixelmator is a very solid and affordable alternative at $29.99 for the Mac version. Pixelmator is also available on the iPad for $4.99. Additionally, unlike Adobe’s Photoshop Touch ($9.99 in the app store), Pixelmator does not require an ongoing subscription.

Pinnacle Studio 2.0

Platform: iOS

We all know iMovie is a great, but it does have some limitations. If you know someone looking for a slightly more robust video editing tool, Pinnacle Studio 2.0 might be the right app for them. At $9.99 for the iphone and $12.99 for the iPad, this app offers some nice features like full 1080p output and high quality transitions. As an added bonus, all in app purchases are free to download and use forever through the end of December.

Paper, Pencil, and Mix by 53

Platform: iOS

53’s paper is a really beautiful free app for illustrating and sharing ideas. Coupled with the company’s equally cool, Pencil stylus ($59.99), this could be a great gift for artists, illustrators, and anyone who likes to think with their hands.


Minecraft Pocket Edition

Platform: iOS and Android, coming to Windows apps store very soon

Fans of the popular open world video game will love the on-the-go version as well. Users will be able to build and explore to their hearts’ content on any Apple or Android device with a download from the App Store or Google Play for $6.99.

Sim City 4 Deluxe

Platform: Mac

This hugely popular city simulator made it back into the App Store earlier this year and has been a big hit ever since, ranking as one of Apple’s top apps of 2014. For $19.99 you can once again enjoy giving rise to your very own metropolis.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Platform: iOS, Android, Windows

OK, so it’s not the newest title in the GTA line. In fact, San Andreas is now a decade old. But it is still the most recent in the series to be released on a mobile device. And come on, how much different does running around jacking cars really ever need to be? If you enjoyed the original, or any of the GTA series for that matter, you should like playing the mobile version.  At $6.99 this is also a very affordable gift. Just don’t blame us if this game turns your niece or nephew into a cold blooded menace to society.

Education and productivity


Platform: Web, iOS, Android, and Windows, creator of a wide array of video tutorials in fields ranging from design to IT and marketing, offers a $59 gift subscription for three months of their service. This could be a perfect gift for a student on summer vacation, or really for anyone who enjoys using the Internet for learning in addition watching cat videos.

Reading Rainbow

Platform: iOS, coming soon for Android and the Web

Anyone who was a child or had a child in the late 1980s or 1990s might recall PBS Kids’ Reading Rainbow and it’s host, LeVar Burton with great fondness. Now, after an enormously successful Kickstarter campaign, Burton is making reading exciting again, this time for kids of the digital age. The Reading Rainbow app is free to download and sample and has several subscription options for continuing use.

Evernote Premium

Platform: Mac, Windows, iOS, Android

The Premium upgrade to the acclaimed note-taking app costs $5/month or $45/year and comes with in-document searches and an offline mode so you can continue taking notes without an Internet connection.


Platform: Mac, Windows, iOS, and Android

This year, give the gift of a memory uncluttered by dozens of passwords. While the age of the password might soon be over, no one knows exactly when or how seamlessly this transition will occur. In the meantime 1Password offers a reliable and secure way to store all your passwords in one place. 1Password was originally a Mac-only app, but after a few years of trusted password management they have expanded to iOS, Android, and Windows. Create a bulletproof master password with assistance from the app and it will do the rest, storing all of your passwords under 256-bit AES encryption. You can purchase 1Password on your Mac or Windows computer for $49.99 or on iOS for $17.99. Select the “this is a gift option” at checkout to give the app as a gift. 

Photo via Douglas Paul Perkins/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0) Pattern via Carlos Aguilar Remix by Rob Price



Share this article
*First Published: Dec 15, 2014, 10:56 am CST