It’s hard to believe, but we’re already coming up on the end of 2021. And while the strangeness of last year crept over into this year, so too did the impressive hardware launches. From both Apple and third parties, the product launches this year have been absolutely stellar, from new iPhones and Macs to third-party cases adopting MagSafe.
The iMore team submitted our favorite products to launch or receive a major update in 2021 and then voted on which of these products should win for innovation, technological advancements, and usability. Here are our picks for the best products of 2021.
Best iPhone of 2021
Best getting better
iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro is a considerable step up from last year’s pro effort.
The iPhone 13 Pro is Apple’s best-ever iPhone, thanks to the awesome power of the A15 Bionic chip. Its standout features are its stunning new camera and the 120Hz ProMotion display that makes scrolling through your iPhone a dream. We also got a couple of amazing new colors and even saved a bit on price compared to the iPhone 12 of last year. Packing in even more bang for just as much buck, the iPhone 13 Pro shines in the iPhone’s lineup as the optimum choice for power and performance.
Best iPhone value of 2021
Bang for your buck
A great iPhone for most Apple customers.
Only eschewing a couple of the high-end features found in the iPhone 13 Pro, the mainstream iPhone 13 represents the best value iPhone released in 2021 with its excellent cameras and improved battery life. For most people, it’s the best iPhone per dollar.
Best iPhone camera of 2021
Apple’s best camera
iPhone 13 Pro
The iPhone 13 Pro is a huge step up from last year’s pro effort.
The iPhone 13 Pro or iPhone 13 Pro Max is the iPhone to get if your iPhone is your primary camera, and you want to get the best photos. The Pro camera module contains three camera lenses: Telephoto with 3x optical zoom, Wide, and Ultra-Wide, which can focus as close as 2 centimeters for amazing macro shots. Low light photography is better than ever with a LiDAR Scanner and Night mode. Shoot videos that look more professional than ever with Cinematic mode, which automatically transitions the focus between your subjects and lets you adjust the bokeh to maximize your creativity.
Best Mac desktop of 2021
The power of color
iMac with M1
A powerful rainbow revitalizes Apple’s most popular desktop.
The iMac (2021) was the update to the all-in-one Mac that we all wanted, and since it’s powered by the M1 chip, it’s got both the power and the brains to do it all. It’s more than enough computer to accomplish all the basic tasks you could ask of it and powerful enough to get some more serious work done, too. Wrap that all up in a beautiful two-toned colored package and the iMac is one hell of a machine.
Best Mac laptop of 2021
MacBook Pro with M1 Pro/M1 Max
A powerful rainbow revitalizes Apple’s most popular desktop.
The MacBook Pro is finally a MacBook Pro again, thanks to Apple silicon and the return of professional-required ports. It’s expensive but worth the price of admission.
Best iPad of 2021
iPad Pro (2021)
The iPad goes truly pro, thanks to the M1 inside.
If you want to go all-in on iPad, you can’t argue with the performance of the iPad Pro (2021). Adopting the M1 chip first found in Apple’s Mac lineup, it’s more powerful than ever, plus it now has a Thunderbolt 3 port and the option for 5G connectivity. The 12.9-inch model even has a gorgeous Liquid Retina XDR display with mini-LED technology.
Best iPad value of 2021
Popular for a reason
Apple’s most popular iPad is a better buy than ever.
While the iPad (2021) wasn’t the biggest update we’ve seen, the inclusion of the proper 1080p front-facing camera finally makes it a device that’s worth taking FaceTime calls with. Add in the faster processing and the same Apple Pencil (first-generation) support we know and love, and it’s the best the basic iPad has ever been.
Best Apple Watch of 2021
Apple Watch Series 7
A larger screen, a built-in keyboard, and faster charging offer an interesting package.
The new, bigger always-on display of the Apple Watch Series 7 is absolutely stunning, and it makes a big difference once you strap it on your wrist. Its all-day battery life is now supplemented with fast charging, meaning the time you don’t have your Apple Watch on your wrist is even less. With all the health features and fitness tracking you want, the Apple Watch Series 7 is the best Apple Watch you can buy.
Best Apple-brand accessory of 2021
Keep track of everything with Apple’s tiny beacons.
Apple’s AirTag has made finding all your essential items nearly effortless. Its integration into the Find My app is beautiful and incredibly intuitive, making it a no-brainer for anyone with an iPhone to track their important gear.
Best Apple Watch accessory of 2021
Show your pride
Pride Braided Solo Loop
Wear your pride on your wrist.
The Pride Edition Braided Solo Loop is a stunner inspired by the LGBTQ+ Pride movement. It’s woven out of polyester yarn and silicone in the colors of various Pride flags. This gorgeous band lets your Apple Watch stand out from the crowd. You can even download the Pride Woven watch face to match. Measure your wrist to get a precise fit; there are no buckles or clasps. The water-resistant band feels soft and comfortable to wear anywhere.
Best iPad accessory of 2021
It comes in white now
Magic Keyboard for iPad in White
Apple’s keyboard and trackpad are the best out there.
For anyone who wants to replace their computer with a tablet, this is the one accessory you need. It works terrifically and looks amazing.
Best Mac accessory of 2021
Touch ID for your iMac
Magic Keyboard with Touch ID
Combines the convenience of Touch ID and Bluetooth.
With this keyboard, Touch ID has finally come to iMac, and I can’t be more thrilled. It’s a great keyboard that also adds a layer of security missing on iMac until now.
Best HomeKit accessory of 2021
Fits in any home
This small speaker is a home automation powerhouse.
The HomePod mini is a dream smart home device. Its tiny form factor and unique design make it stand out anywhere you place it, but it’s also small and subtle enough not to look out of place. It packs a tremendous punch from its speakers despite its small size and works with Siri for seamless integration across the entire ecosystem. It can be used to control anything from your smart lights to your thermostat and every HomeKit device in between. It also costs just $99 and is probably the HomePod Apple should have always made.
Best Apple-made iPhone case of 2021
Leather and magnets
iPhone 13 Leather case with MagSafe
Wrap your iPhone 13 in leather.
The iPhone 13 Leather case with MagSafe is just perfectly Apple. It fits snug as a bug, lets you use MagSafe charging when you want, and has a slightly raised edge around the display and camera bump, so you can lay it flat on the table. It’s elegant and simple, what more could you want?
Best third-party iPhone case of 2021
A solid alternative
Mous Infinity MagSafe case
Doing MagSafe right.
Mous cases have that “cool” factor and come in an interesting variety of materials and textures. Mous cases are streamlined and yet ultra-protective with AiroShock impact-absorbing technology. Their latest lineup includes MagSafe-compatible cases, so you can use your MagSafe charger as well as all other MagSafe accessories from wallets to car mounts.
Best iPhone charging stand of 2021
Best iPhone app of 2021
Twitter, in order
Tweetbot uses the new Twitter APIs to great effect in version 6.
For years, using Tweetbot has been a way to steer clear of Twitter’s tinkering with the official app. In early 2021, Tweetbot 6 brought with it support for Twitter’s API 2.0, which laid the groundwork for previously missing features, like viewing polls, to be added, which developers Tapbots have done throughout the year. It’s got gorgeous themes, custom icons, a chronological timeline, a Home screen widget, and no sponsored tweets.
Best iPhone/iPad game of 2021
Falling with style
Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City
Alto returns in a new adventure to uncover the secrets of The Lost City.
Alto’s Odyssey: The Lost City brings the award-winning iOS game to Apple Arcade with the addition of a new biome, updated graphics, and music, as well as new challenges. It’s the best entry point for those new to the game who want the whole experience, and players of the original game can import their progress to just focus on the new content. It offers a truly engrossing experience on both iPhone and iPad.
Best portable iPhone charger of 2021
Falling with style
Mophie Snap Plus Juice Pack Mini
Better than Apple’s own portable battery.
The Mophie Snap Plus Juice Pack Mini snaps onto the back of your iPhone for on-the-go MagSafe charging. With 5,000mAh, it will give your iPhone roughly one full charge. While larger than Apple’s 1,460mAh MagSafe Battery Pack, it’s not overly bulky, and it offers more than triple the power.
Best earbuds of 2021
The best for most
Apple AirPods 3
Continuing to set the standard.
The AirPods 3 are an absolute delight and have been improved over its predecessor in every way. With increased battery life, better sound quality, and a new design, they are more comfortable and pleasing to stick in your ears than ever before.
Best Apple-made iPad case
Apple Smart Folio
Full-body iPad protection.
Apple’s Smart Folio for iPad has existed for many years, but a new version was released in 2021 to support the redesigned 6th-generation iPad mini. It’s the perfect, slim cover for your smallest iPad. It connects magnetically, adds virtually no bulk, and protects both the display and the back of the device. It also doubles as a stand in a pinch.
Best third-party iPad case
Crystal-clear iPad defense
Affordable iPad protection with some style.
The Fintie SlimShell has everything I look for in an iPad case: Protection, slim form factor, great looks, decent price point, Sleep/Wake functionality, and it folds into a multi-angle stand for video viewing or typing. Choose from several iPad sizes and colorful designs.
Best Apple Watch band case
Ready for action
Twelve South ActionBand
This band is ready to keep your Apple Watch secure through any activity.
Though there’s a lot of choice, actual innovation in the Apple Watch band market is quite rare, which is what makes Twelve South’s ActionBand stand out. The company has ingeniously transformed a full-size sweatband into an Apple Watch band without impairing the Apple Watch’s capabilities at all. Lightweight and comfortable, the machine-washable band is the perfect choice for runners, Fitness+ users, and gym-goers.
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