It’s time to come out of denial and acknowledge that the holiday shopping season is indeed upon us. And if you’re aiming for the traditional December 25 for Christmas, you only have 16 days left to decide on what to procure for your friends, family, and coworkers.
Even if you’re the type who avoids gift exchanges like the plague (*raises hand*), it seems there’s no way to avoid buying at least a couple things for those close to you. And if you’re like most of us, you probably have a budget in mind, along with some kind of organization system. It should come as no surprise that gift planning and organization has made its way from paper into mobile app form, and some apps have even been around for a while. This year, it seems the market is becoming even more saturated with apps aimed at helping you do your holiday shopping, so we decided to take a look at some of the applications that were recommended by Ars readers.
Before you roll your eyes at the idea of using an app to gift shop, hear us out. Some of these apps are actually quite useful—undoubtedly more useful than the vague gift spreadsheet you’ve composed in your brain—while others can be left in the scrap pile. This is certainly not a review of every single gift app to exist on the iOS App Store, but it’s a look at five that were either the most recommended or most prominent when we asked around. All of the apps below are available for all iOS devices unless otherwise noted.
GiftBox—or at least this particular version of it—is an app that I’ve known about for a couple years now thanks to friends and acquaintances. (And as it turns out, there are at least a couple apps in the App Store named GiftBox.) The basic idea is to add individual people to your list and then add gift ideas to each person’s sub-list. You can add as many gifts per person as you like, along with an estimated price and notes field, and they show up as a checklist under each name. The main screen (shown above) shows you your overall list with the total dollar amount of the gifts you have listed for each person.
For me, the most valuable part of this app is the budget feature, which you have to turn on manually in the settings. When you do this and set a ceiling for the amount you’re willing to spend, you can then go back to the main screen to see how much of your budget you’ve spent so far. When you check off items in each person’s sub-list, it’s automatically counted towards your total budget:
This app can import your contacts so the names autocomplete, or you can add them manually. There’s also an app-specific passcode lock, in case your kids or spouse are allowed to use your phone but are not allowed to snoop around for gift clues.
The app is simple and straightforward although as you can see from the screenshots, it’s not yet formatted for the iPhone 5 screen. Another niggle is that the progress bar for the budget isn’t exactly proportional—in the screenshot above, the bar would have you believe I’m 80 percent to my budget max, but $120 out of $600 is only 20 percent. Other than these nitpicks, however, I liked the app—and when you compare against some of the others in this post, it’s one of the more functional when it comes to holiday shopping.
Gift Plan: $2.99
Gift Plan is like the app above, but with an injection of gifting steroids. The app can automatically import birthdays from your iOS Contacts or from Facebook, or you can choose to skip that step if you want to enter special dates manually. Indeed, this app delineates between holidays like Christmas, anniversaries, birthdays, or your own occasions, and comes with a handy calendar view for a quick reference for each date.
When creating your lists, you start by adding the gift receiver, then specifying an occasion type and date. You can then add gift ideas or make notes on that person’s likes/dislikes and clothing sizes. That’s what makes this app particularly useful—its value goes beyond the holidays. You can keep a running list of things that person is interested in throughout the year, then use those notes to inform future gift ideas.
When looking at your list, Gift Plan shows you how many weeks or days you have left before your deadline (useful if you’re buying for a birthday or anniversary), as well as how much you’ve already spent. You can mark bought items by tapping the gift basket icon, though there’s no budgeting feature to show when you’re getting close to your max amount. The app can also alert you with two layers of notifications when important dates are coming up.
I liked this app, although I think it might include more features than most users would normally take advantage of. But if you’re dead serious about your gift-giving all year-long, it’s probably worth the $2.99.
Nice List: free
It’s worth pointing out up front that the free (and only) version of Nice List that you can download from the App Store is considered by its creators to be a “lite” version. As such, the app limits the number of people and gifts you can add to your lists, and you can remove those limits by upgrading via in-app purchase for $0.99. So depending on the number of giftees/gifts you plan to give, you might be able to get away with using the free version, but otherwise it costs just south of a dollar to run this app.
Nice List is the most like GiftBox of all the apps in this writeup. It’s simple and straightforward by allowing you to add gift ideas, cost, and notes for each person on your list. There is also an app-specific passcode lock for Nice List (beneficial for the same reasons listed under GiftBox), though there are a few tweaks to the UI that make this slightly different from the other apps, like icons that let you indicate whether you’ve purchased or shipped an item.
Again, there is no budget feature in this app, which puts it at a slight disadvantage against GiftBox because the two are so similar. Then again, Nice List is either free or $0.99, so the “savings” of $1-2 may be worth the tradeoff—after all, it’s not that hard to remember that you’re only supposed to spend $600 (or whatever your actual limit is). Nice List is also not formatted for the iPhone 5 yet, but otherwise, I had few complaints with this app.
AnyList was an app that was recommended to me by multiple people, but it’s important to note that this is the only one in the list that isn’t a gift-specific list app. It’s really more geared toward grocery shopping, though AnyList can be used to create… well, any kind of list.
AnyList, unlike most of the others, requires you to make an account before you can use the app. This is mainly for the purpose of sharing lists with others, but also lets you manage lists across multiple iOS devices. Once I got over my slight annoyance at having to create an account, I actually did appreciate being able to share lists with others in my household, since we tend to do our gift (and grocery) shopping as one unit.
Because this app is more of a generalized list app, there’s no way to add specific giftees, unless you create an individual list for each person. You pretty much just add each item (or gift) to one big list, and you check off items by tapping on them to cross them out. There are buttons at the top for all items or remaining, and you can share your lists via e-mail, text message, or by printing them.
One of the cooler features of AnyList is its ability to automatically import any reminders you may have set for yourself using Siri. As such, you could tell Siri “add a Speak & Spell to my gift list” at any time, and the next time you launch AnyList, it’ll be brought in automatically.
Amazon Santa: free
Amazon Santa is unique among the apps in this writeup—it’s really not like the others in any way. As one might guess, Amazon Santa was made to specifically interact with Amazon and its own products; it’s not a generalized list-making app where you can estimate costs and budgets or anything along those lines. In addition, Amazon Santa is targeted towards children, something I did not know when I was first recommended this app. It plays music and is stylized in a very kid-like way, and adults would probably not want to use it. Also, it’s iPad-only—sorry iPhone and iPod touch users!
That said, Amazon Santa does let kids search Amazon for stuff they want, and add those items to an Amazon Wish List of their very own. If you’re an Amazon addict (like many of us are), this can be particularly useful for when you need to catch up on the wish lists later, because all you have to do is add those items to your cart and you’re done. The app allows you to create multiple wish lists for multiple kids, too, so there’s no need to fight over the app (or the iPad) when it comes to telling Santa what they want.
One of the downsides—at least if you’re an adult trying to use the app—is that it only searches Amazon items that are available for kids. So forget the whiskey stones or Kindle Fires—you won’t be able to add those to any wish list through this app, whether you’re 5 years old or 50. On the upside, once kids are done adding things to their list, they can “send the list to Santa,” which sends the list directly to you (or whoever the Amazon account holder is). Users also have the option to send the list to any other e-mail address, so you can send it along to grandma too.
I wouldn’t recommend this app for most everyday (adult) users who are looking to organize their gift-buying process for the holidays. I would recommend this app to people who have kids and are addicted to the easy shopping options that Amazon provides. Letting them add things to an Amazon wish list for easy purchasing later does seem really simplified, especially when kids are involved, but you’re obviously limited to what Amazon offers (and then, limited to what’s considered appropriate for children). You could easily use this app with your kids and any of the other apps in this writeup for yourself and your other gift-buying ventures.
Source Original From: http://arstechnica.com/apple/2012/12/making-a-list-and-checking-it-twice-five-ios-gift-planning-apps/