A shiny Netflix subscription or Spotify gift card may not be the most fun item on your wish list, but they and other web services you use every day can still make great, useful gifts that keep giving long after the season is over. Here are some of our favourite premium apps and web services worth gifting.
Amazon Prime Video
Australia is still waiting on Amazon's shopping service to arrive, but Amazon Prime Video's Amazon Originals are now available. If you know anyone wanting to check out Man in the High Castle, Hand of God or Transparent, this might be a good gift for them.
Amazon Prime gift subscriptions are $US99 ($133) for one year.
Netflix may be rolling back on its licensed programming to produce more original content, but that's just fine by us because their original content is absolutely killer. Give your friends the gift of Luke Cage, Jessica Jones, Orange Is the New Black and House of Cards this year with a subscription they will actually thank you for, and one they can probably already use, no matter what kind of TV or set-top box or game console they own. Even better, if they already have a Netflix subscription, you can pay for a month or so and give them a bit of a break.
Streaming subscriptions range from $8.99/month to $14.99/month, with the standard being $11.99/month, and you can either email them gift cards or buy them a physical gift card instead.
Pandora Plus, formerly Pandora One, just picked up some great updates, and if you're the type who would rather hit play and let the music just flow, it's a great subscription to have, and an even better one to give. An easy, simple, one-touch radio experience is personally just what I prefer to listen to on a day to day basis, and it's much cheaper than admittedly more feature-packed music services -- but why pay for features you won't use? Pandora Plus gift cards are available right on Pandora's site to be either printed out and given by hand or emailed to your recipient right away. They will set you back $US55 ($74) for a year of Pandora Plus, which is normally $US60 ($81)/yr or $US5 ($7)/mo.
Maybe you or a loved one loves Spotify and listens to it all the time, but hasn't bothered to pay up for ad-free listening, unlimited skips or offline listening. Maybe they think the higher-quality audio just isn't worth the $11.99/month price tag. Help them out this holiday season with the gift of Spotify Premium, then, and show them what they're missing. Plus, if they're a family member and you all get on a family plan, you can save some dough together as long as you sign them up yourself.
If they're not a family member or you just want to go the old fashioned give-and-walk-away route, grab them a electronically delivered gift card (after you've logged in, first) for either one month ($11.99), three months ($35.97), six months ($71.94) or a full year ($143.88).
As long as hard drives fail, we'll keep telling you how important it is to back them and keep your data protected. Of course, backing up locally to an external hard drive is great and all, and you should absolutely do that, but offsite backups will keep your data safe and ready to restore to another computer if, heaven forbid, your computer AND that local hard drive are stolen or go up in flames.
That's where CrashPlan comes in. It's very easy to use, and its our favourite backup tool. It gives you encrypted backups with no file size limits as long as you're a subscriber. CrashPlan+ accounts are $69.30/yr, and you can give give subscriptions from CrashPlan's own site. If you know someone who's backing up local-only, or worse, not at all, give them the gift of peace of mind.
Everyone needs a password manager, and LastPass is one of our favourites. It's easy to set up, and gift subscriptions are available directly from LastPass, for $US12 ($16)/year. Plus, we all know that one person who can't remember any of their passwords, always has to reset their password for a service they haven't used recently or worse, reuses the same password for everything they sign up for. LastPass Premium gives them a tool that will help them make stronger passwords, gives them access to their passwords on the go and a number of other goodies like web access, secure notes and sharing and automatic backups.
PlayStation Plus/Xbox Live
Xbox Live Gold and PlayStation Plus both have lots of benefits you may not know about, so that you, or the gamer in your life, may not have considered it really worth the $79.95/yr (for Xbox Live Gold) or $69.95/yr (for PlayStation Plus) price tag. If you're looking for a great gift for that console owner on your list, consider upgrading their account for a year. They will get free games every month and a ton of advance access to betas and demos they wouldn't have access to otherwise.
This is a pretty popular gift, and gift cards for both platforms are easy to buy. You can buy three-month or full year PlayStation Plus cards from retailers like JB Hi-Fi and grab one-month, three-month or year-long Xbox Live Gold memberships from the Microsoft Store. Alternatively, you can grab those Xbox One gift cards from retailers as well.
If you travel at all, TripIt is one of our favourite travel planning apps, and a must-have to help you navigate airport gate changes, squeeze activities into a packed itinerary and combine all of your travel booking information -- from flights, hotels, hire cars, meetings and even the weather at your destination -- all into one reference app. It's a semi-pricey $US50 ($67)/yr, which may not seem worth it if you don't travel often, but if you do, it can be wonderful -- and if you know someone who's planning to take more than a few trips this year, give them a one-year gift subscription directly from TripIt's site. They will appreciate it.
A VPN Subscription
It's not the sexiest gift, but a VPN subscription can be invaluable, whether you want to get around geographic blocks on streaming media, stay safe on public Wi-Fi or just see if your ISP is throttling you. Of course, you'll need a VPN you can trust, especially if you plan to give the gift of security to someone else in your life, and while we have some favourites and there are a ton to choose from, we've had good experiences with Private Internet Access, and they offer completely anonymous gift card subscriptions you can give this holiday season.