Netflix ($7.99 a month, $95.88 for full year; netflix.ca)
Netflix has been maligned since the service came to Canada, but the library of content available has steadily improved. You might not get the latest releases quickly, but the catalogue of films, TV shows and documentaries is still substantial and makes for a nice gift. You can opt to give a loved one a gift subscription from as low as one month to one year. Make sure they know they can watch on a smart TV, smartphone, tablet, certain Blu-ray players, Apple TV, Roku, Boxee Box, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii (including the new Wii U).
Rdio ($4.99 a month for Web browser only, $9.99 a month for browser and mobile devices; rdio.com/gift)
The popular music streaming service now offers 18 million tracks in its catalogue, including many from independent Canadian artists. Rdio fuses social networking with music discovery, making it easy to listen to playlists created by other users. An Unlimited subscription offers broad support for streaming on both Web browsers and mobile devices, plus the ability to save songs and playlists to listen offline when no Internet connection is available. And since music is streamed rather than downloaded to own, there is no limit on the number of tracks in your library.
BBC iPlayer ($8.99 a month, $84.99 for annual subscription; bbc.com/iplayer/tv)
It’s not quite the British Invasion, but there is plenty of good content on BBC iPlayer that could entertain anyone. Whether it’s Top Gear, Doctor Who, Waking the Dead or The Office, there’s a lot to wade through in this neatly organized app. You won’t get all the content that users in Britain enjoy, nor the same level of fresh programming and updates, but there’s still enough quantity and quality to warrant a subscription for someone who likes what the BBC produces. One subscription covers all devices with iOS, Apple’s operating system.
The Professional Chef ($49.99, Apple App Store. inkling.com/store/book/professional-chef-cia-9th)
Hailing from the Culinary Institute of America, this iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch app is aimed at aspiring chefs, but any foodie or cooking aficionado would learn from the recipes and video demos. There are 1,200 pages of info, complemented by more than 100 videos, 850 recipes and 750 photographs of nothing but food. It can be an indispensable reference guide in the kitchen.
Air Display ($9.99. Apple App Store and Google Play. avatron.com/apps/air-display)
If you’ve considered what it would be like for your iOS or Android device to be a second monitor for your Mac or Windows PC, look no further. Both the mobile device and computer need to be connected to the same home network, and a small program (free) needs to be installed on the Mac or PC first. From there, the app turns the phone or tablet into a second display, wherein you can move over anything you want to allocate more space to the task on the main screen.
djay ($4.99, Apple App Store; algoriddim.com/djay)
This app for the iPhone or iPad takes music from a user’s iTunes library and allows him or her to play, mix, scratch and otherwise tinker with existing tracks on a virtual turntable. The app presents a range of features, effects and options that would keep any amateur DJ busy, including recording mix tapes that can be exported to iTunes on a Mac or PC, or streamed directly to an Apple TV or AirPlay-enabled stereo system.
LogMeIn ($69.99 a year for LogMeIn Pro. Free for iPad and iPhone. $29.99 for Ignition for Android; logmein.com)
This app has been around for some time, but can be an indispensable tool for students or small business owners that require being off-site often. It allows for remote access into a host Mac or PC from another computer, iPad, iPhone or Android smartphone or tablet. This opens up access to the desktop, files and applications, making it almost like your home or office computer is always with you.
Golfshot: Golf GPS ($19.99, Apple App Store and Google Play; golfshot.com)
Avid golfers, regardless of how talented they are, will appreciate the depth this app offers. It covers 40,000 courses, each viewable from above, and lets you measure distances of your shots via GPS. Plus, you can set touch points to see the distance to any point or to the green. Full scorecards and detailed stats are kept for your perusal during and after every round, including graphs to compare with friends.
Snapseed ($4.99, Apple App Store; snapseed.com)
There is no shortage of photo-editing apps, but this one is a gem that is worth paying for. The features are less about the intricate and pro level tools à la Photoshop, and more about utilizing digital art filters and creative enhancements to complement the basic tools Snapseed provides. The proof is in the pudding, however, and this app delivers some fabulous photo transformations.
1Password Pro ($14.99, Apple App Store and Google Play; agilebits.com/onepassword)
If you have the nasty habit of using the same password for the numerous accounts you have online, you can change that with 1Password. It saves and stores user names, passwords, software serial numbers, credit cards, social insurance numbers, driver’s licences and more behind a four-digit code and master password. Copy and paste names, passwords and numbers when necessary, and also sync with the PC and Mac versions via Dropbox.
Proloquo2Go ($189.99, Apple App Store; assistiveware.com/product/proloquo2go)
For parents who have children with disabilities, this app could potentially make a significant difference in helping them communicate and gain some confidence. Proloquo2Go uses a system of words, pictures and icons that kids tap to piece together sentences. The interface is meant to be universal, and can apply to kids with autism, deafness, cerebral palsy, Down syndrome or speech impediments.