5 Christmas apps to help the festive season go smoothly


It’s less than a month now and we can’t help feel a glimmer of excitement that Christmas is on its way. Each year we say to ourselves, “I’m going to start planning Christmas earlier this year,” but before we know it, it’s mid-December and we’ve not even bought one present. With the advances in technology planning Christmas couldn’t be easier and with the assistance of a few simple apps we’ve no excuse for leaving it all to the last minute.

Take a look at the following five best Christmas planning apps:

Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List

With a countdown timer, Facebook and contacts import for recipients, customised emails, wish lists, planning lists, shopping, individual gifts and much more all wrapped up in an fun and easy-to-use app, Santa’s Bag – Christmas Gift List could certainly help alleviate some of the stress from Christmas planning.

Setting budgets, keeping track of your spending and being ultra-organised this year is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users. – What’s more, Santa’s Bag is free.

No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius

“The only gift list app to score 5 out of 5 on Macworld,” iTunes’ proudly states – If Macworld’s anything to go by. Though with a string of complimentary user remarks related to the “awesomeness”, “uniqueness” and “beautiful design” of No More Socks, this “best app in the world” certainly seems to be ticking the right boxes.

So what exactly does it do?

Users can store and organise gift ideas all year round, locate and bookmark gifts online, shop, share ideas, get inspired and set up birthday reminders.

Compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPd touch the No More Socks: The Christmas List Genius app is free to download.

The Salvation Army Christmas Music

So Christmas planning isn’t confined to presents and shopping and for many households music takes centre stage throughout the festivities.  The Salvation Army Christmas Music provides you with a great variety of Christmas music, including the oldies, classical, hymns, instrumental, children’s, soul/jazz, around the world and the Salvation Army brass Christmas.

Without having to sieve through the CDs locating the Christmas favourites or spending hours downloading all the Xmas classics, this app could certainly simplify the music and entertainment aspect of Christmas planning.

Stream festive music onto your iPhone or iPod Touch for £1.99 – all proceeds go to the Salvation Army.

Santa’s Christmas Village

Christmas planning is all about getting into the festive spirit and if the adverts, lights and shops laden with Xmas items aren’t making you feel Christmassy then call upon Santa’s Christmas Village. With 17 fun activities, seasonal pictures and festive songs, all the family can have hours of fun with this creative festive app. And when the kids are entertained, Mum and Dad can get on with writing Christmas cards, wrapping the presents and preparing the turkey.

Santa’s Christmas Village is available for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users and costs £1.49.

Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown

Christmas is a whole lot easier to plan when you know exactly how long you’ve got to go. OK so different animated Christmas characters holding signs that count down the nights, hours, minutes and seconds until Christmas Day might prove a little annoying and send you into panic about what you’ve got left to do but at least the kids will love it – They can even shake your iPhone or iPod touch to make a sleigh bell noise!

Download the Sleeps to Christmas Lite – Christmas Countdown for free.


Christmas Stocking Fillers for under £15

Looking for that little gift for someone, or an extra to go in a stocking? Here’s a few ideas that won’t break the bank…


Anyone addicted to their iPad, smartphone or Kindle will like this SMARTball from Stabilo, which doubles up as a stylus. A neat idea for £10.49 from Amazon and stationers.


Getting tangled up in your earphone wires is a hazard many of us face, especially if we’re struggling in a crowded train to sort out hats, scarves, bags and whatever on the daily commute. That’s why these neat Thumbs Up zip earphones are such a clever idea. They zip up as far as you want them to, so that the wires won’t get caught up in your coat, pockets, or with other people! You can also unzip them if you want to share music with a friend, They come in black, red and pink, include two sizes of silicone ear tip and cost £12.99 from Thumbs Up


Here’s something for parents of young children – the Toddler B-Lock Case is a stylish cover that cleverly protects your iPhone from being tampered with by inquisitive fingers.  Designed by an Australian dad, the B-Lock simply clips on within seconds and comes in a range of colours including stylish black and white. The B-Lock can stay on your phone whether you are at work or play. A simple click of the case will protect the Home Button should you pass your precious phone to someone small for a few minutes to keep them entertained.

Used in conjunction with the free Toddler App, also available from The Toddler Design Company, children can watch cartoons and other Apps. They can also scroll through their photos and videos but won’t be able to delete them or send anything unknowingly.

The Toddler B-Lock Case is available through www.TheToddlerApp.com at £9.35 plus postage.


You could treat a friend or family member to some apps for Christmas. For students or anyone who enjoys classic literature, how about the Explore Shakespeare apps from Cambridge University Press, which let you read, listen and interact with the characters and text. Cambridge University Press’s definitive versions of the text have been reimagined for iPad, with illuminating visuals, helpful commentary and a compelling audio performance. The first two apps cover Romeo and Juliet and Macbeth and they cost £9.99 each from the App Store.


Getting ready for a Christmas party after work is fun, but who wants to cart round a big bottle of perfume to squirt on at the end of the day. That’s why this clever gadget has been devised – it attached to all perfume bottles so that you can take your favourite scent with you wherever you go – great for taking on holiday too. The Flo is a neat little 4.7ml atomiser that comes in glossy silver, black or pink. It costs £9.99 from Boots and John Lewis.

Xmas gadgets you can play with when the kids have gone to bed

Hands up anyone who’s bought their one-year-old son a Scalextric for Christmas – just so you can play with it yourself – yes, we know who you are. And you’re not alone, so we’ve put together a few other treats that the kids will love finding in their stocking in Christmas morning, and which you can play with once they’re tucked up fast asleep on Christmas night.


Let the kids loose with their own tablet. The Kurio is a safe and versatile Android tablet for families. In seven- and 10-inch models it will keep kids and adults entertained with a range of preloaded games such as Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Fruit Ninja, plus it can be used to watch movies, read books and listen to music. The special bumper ensures it can withstand the odd knock too. The tablet features the KurioGenius Advanced safe web filtering, time control lock and the easy-to-use Parental Area, which can be set for up to eight different profiles ensuring content is appropriate for the whole family.

It appears in the Top Ten Christmas Toys by John Lewis, was voted Best Of Show at this year’s Toy Fair on the recommendation of The Gadget Show, given a 5-star rating by Android magazine and Best Overall Toy by Right Start magazine

The 7in Kurio retails at £149.99 and the 10in Kurio at £199.99.


Battling Robots! Okay they’ve moved on a bit since the Raving Bonkers boxing robots from the 70s.  Attacknids are battling robots that can move 360 degrees and are remote controlled. The legs have been designed to move quickly and spring-loaded battle armour can be attached easily but only falls off when hit by an opponent. A 2GHx chip means you can connect up to 40 Attacknids for multiplayer awesomeness. They’ve already won awards and been named in the Toys R Us Top Twenty Terrific products for 2012. They cost £69.99 from Toys R Us and other retailers. More at www.combatcreatures.com


Find out about space with the National Geographic Space Tablet, a sleek and high tech looking device which offers young explorers an introduction to other worlds. Touch the icons to find fascinating facts, then test your knowledge in the quiz. For ages 4+, the tablet costs £19.99 from John Lewis and Shop Direct.


Scooters have gone electric this year – if you want to pop out to the corner shop early on Boxing Day hop on the kids’ Razor 90. For ages eight and above, this electric scooter has a push button start and foot brake if they need to slow down. £149.99 from Toys R Us.


Get your haul on with the Lego Technic Logging Truck (£99.99). Use the Power Functions control box for some serious lifting action. This massive model also has functioning steering, doors and hood that open, plus a detailed engine bay with working piston engine. Should you want to demolish hours of building joy within seconds, the 1,308 pieces can be rebuilt into a container truck with snow-plough! More at Technic.LEGO.co.uk


If you’ve got teenagers, how about the v929 Turbo Drone RC Quadrocopter from Paramount Zone? This remote control copter is suitable for ages 15+, and has LED lights and boasts the latest in Quad-Rotor technology. Suitable for indoor and outdoor use it’s pretty speedy and with a little practice it’s even possible to completely flip the ‘copter 360 degrees midflight! £49.99 in delivery from ParamountZone.com

Great Christmas Related Apps

Are you sitting comfortably? Now, I’m going to say this quietly and I don’t want you to panic. But as I write this there are only 51 days until Christmas (click here for an up-to-date countdown).

Stop running round the room waving your hands in the air – there is no need to panic because lots of clever people have compiled apps to help take some the pain out of buying all those gifts.So, pour yourself a cup of something soothing and read on to find out how your mobile device can be your friend as you enter the frantic festive foraging season.


One of our worst fears when shopping (apart from descending into the bowels of the M&S on Oxford Street and never being seen again) is that we’ll buy something that will become – whisper it – an unwanted present. Nobody wants to buy a gift that ends up being a prize at the next fete tombola or sent to the charity shop in a black bag. That’s why there’s an app called indulgeme.

It’s been designed to take the anxiety out of shopping for – and receiving – presents. The idea is that people create detailed wishlists of gifts, with pictures and barcode scans, the location of the shop and so on for events such as Christmas – as well as birthdays, anniversaries, baby showers or whatever. They can then share the item or list with family and friends via email / facebook / the app immediately or a number of days before the event, to give them enough time to make the right purchase for the occasion.

Get all your friends and family to download the app and you’ll be able to see their lists and tick of any pressies you’re planning to buy. If they don’t have an iPhone or iPad – maybe they should put it on their list – then they can access lists at www.indulgemeapp.com.

Indulgeme costs 59p.

If queues are the thing you most despite about Christmas shopping, you’ll need Qmatic. It’s free for iPhone and Android users (and a bespoke solution for retailers, costing around £2,500). It works by using GPS to help you find the nearest location or store and then lets you ‘virtually’ join a queue, so that you can be routed to a specialist service advisor before you arrive. It’s rather like getting a number from a ticket dispenser, but in this case your number is an electronic one, and you don’t have to wait around for it to be called. You can have a wander round the store, get a coffee or do some other shopping while you’re waiting. More on Qmatic can be found at www.qmatic.com/uk

We all like a bargain, and never are they more important than at Christmas time when you’ve got lots of people to buy gifts for.


Deal hunting community HotUKDeals is just about to launch a new app in time for you to get the best deals on your Christmas shopping.

If you’re not familiar with HotUKDeals, bargain hunters around the country identify and share good deals – there are 590,000 members at the moment, identifying up to 500 new deals a week.

If you want to share a deal while you’re out and about, simply grab the info on your camera phone and include a few details before sharing it with like-minded bargain hunters.

To find a deal you can search by location, categories and other filters. You can also set up push notification deals on your smartphone so you never miss out on the latest info.

The HotDealsUK app will be free on iOS and Android devices. We’ll let you know as soon as it goes live.


If you’re a fashionista or are searching for that special something for someone who is, the iPhone app Snap Fashion could help you out of your sartorial dilemma.

Take a photo or post a link of the fashion items – whether it’s a dress, top or shoes to die for – then Snap Fashion searches for matches among its list of affiliate retailers. The list includes high street giants including Gap, Jigsaw, Jaeger, Uniqlo, Warehouse, Topshop, LK Bennett, French Connection, Reiss, Monsoon, and Kurt Geiger, in addition to etailers Net A Porter, Mywardrobe.com, Stylebop.com and Farfetch.com and a host of department stores such as Harrods, Selfridges, Liberty, House of Fraser, and US fashion emporium, Bloomingdales.

You can even upload pictures of people you see on the street, images from magazines and snaps of celebs on the TV – and Snap Fashion can search for outfits based on colour, cut and styles.

The results can be browsed, favourites saved to buy later, or you can go straight through to a retailer’s website to buy straight away.

If you don’t have an iPhone, the search can be conducted via www.snapfashion.co.uk

That’s the Christmas shopping made easy then – now I just need to find some ‘make a load of money between now and Christmas’ apps to pay for it all…

Philips Avance Juicer: Buck the festive binging

As you can’t help but notice, it’s the holiday season, with endless exhortations to eat, drink and be bloated. It can be hard to cut down on the festive cheer, hence the popularity of January dates (and don’t worry we’ll be running our fair share of gadgets and apps to slim down features in the new year). But prevention is better than cure. What if there was a quick and easy way to maintain a healthy diet that you could get now with the joy of forethought, rather than the sadness of regret? Enter the Philips Avance Juicer, which aims to make all your detox and dieting needs that bit easier.


The problem I have with many diets is upkeep. At literally the first excuse I get I will lapse into my old habits, which makes maintaining a healthy lifestyle hard. “I have to wash the vegetable steamer? Oh well I guess I’m having chips tonight”

With this in mind, the Philips Avance Juicer has been developed to improve the juicing experience from start to finish and enable virtually ‘mess-free’ juicing. The Avance Juicer has a quick-clean sieve that has been electro-polished, which makes it easier to remove tricky fibres caught up in the mesh after juicing. So there’s no more need for awkward scrubbing or brushes while cleaning. Unlike other juicers, the pulp container is positioned right under the sieve to collect all the pulp for clean, easy disposal. Once finished, the entire machine can be easily dissembled and all removable parts put in the dishwasher or sink, ready for the next round.

The key features of the Juicer are:

– An XXL feeding chute which means you can throw in a whole orange or apple without cutting first

– A powerful 800W motor which means you can put the whole fruit (including Skins and cores) and collect juice on the other end

– One of the fastest and easiest juicers to clean , with its fancy quick clean sieve.

– Make up to 2.5 litres of juice in one go

– Comes with free book, from Jason Vale author of ‘7lbs in 7days the super juice diet’

The Philips Avance Juicer is available from Amazon:

ebay Christmas Boutique: Trading bar codes for QR codes

Since it was founded in 1995, Ebay quickly became one of the most outstanding success stories of the dot-com revolution. Unlike many entrepreneurial ventures that often demise as speedily as they rise, especially in the constantly evolving world of the internet, Ebay has maintained its spot as the number one internet consumer-to-consumer corporation. In fact so successful has the multi-billion dollar business become that, next month, it is opening its first high street store in the UK, forming a unique unification between high street shopping and the internet.


If you love in-store browsing but dread the inevitable Christmas queues that go hand-in-hand with high street Christmas shopping, then those entrepreneurial folk at Ebay seem to have come up with answer, well they didn’t become billionaires for no reason, did they?  From Thursday 1st December to Monday 5th December 2011, the eBay Christmas Boutique will be taking place on Dean Street in London’s West End. Shoppers will be able to browse through a selection of gifts and deals in the pop-up boutique, make their selections, but instead of taking their purchases and joining a ghastly 30ft-long queue, using mobile technology shoppers can simply scan the Quick Response (QR) code with their smartphone and make their purchase online in a matter of clicks.

This innovative shopping experience will be the UK’s first ever QR code shopping emporium, and in typical intuitive fashion, Ebay is opening its Christmas Boutique store during what is anticipated to be the busiest online shopping weekend of the year, with sales forecast to peak at over 30 gift items being bought every second.

So they sure have their timing right and their location, London’s West End has to be equally as intuitive as launching the Ebay Christmas Boutique on ‘Super Sunday, whereby  5.8 million shoppers are expected to log on to Ebay.co.uk to pick up a bargain Christmas gift, but are there any flaws in the American company’s latest consumer venture? Well, being only available to smartphone users could be one and considering that only 31% of the British population browse the internet on their phones – A phenomenal amount if you own Apple or Blackberry, but alienating a 69% of the British public from exploiting the unique consumer experience Ebay’s Christmas Boutique provides, is surely an all too hefty proportion of shoppers? Although Ebay does seem to have this area covered ensuring us that whether you own a smartphone or not, anyone can come along and try out QR code experience, browse the Christmas deals and enter a prize draw to win great Christmas prizes.

It sure sounds inquisitively entertaining, although I am still wondering, from an Ebay seller’s point of view, how you manage to get your items to be displayed in the Ebay Christmas Boutique.

Colourful & classy cases for MacBook Pro, Air and iPad

It’s that time of year when we start thinking about what we might ask Santa for, and pretty high on my list is a new case for my MacBook Pro. Now I’m not normally one to get too excited about things like laptop bags, but I will make an exception for the Black Raspberry range from be.ez.


A new addition to the Black Addict range, the Black Raspberry looks pretty ordinary from the outside, but open it up and you’ll be stunned by the fabulous shocking raspberry-coloured interior.

The LA robe sleeve for the MacBook Air 13in, MacBook 13in and MacBook Pro 15in are made from black jersey fabric surrounding be.ez’s low resilience polyurethane and 5in memory foam, which regains its shape if it is knocked or bumped. There is also a laptop bag, and prices start at £22.99 from www.be-ez.com/where.html


If you want some sounds on the move, how about the Scosche boomCan, which is about the size of a film canister (remember those?). For those who don’t, the speaker is less than 2.5inches tall and not quite 2 inches wide, yet it can pump out the sound thanks to a 40mm driver.

If you want audio when watching movies, listening to music or playing games on your portable media player, the boomCan plugs into any 3.5mm audio jack and has a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to seven hours of power. It is also possible to daisychain together several of the speakers to create your own sound system.

The price of this mini marvel? £19.99 from Square Group retail stores.


And finally if Santa has been kind enough to give you an iPad2, I personally don’t think you deserve anything else unless you have been exceptionally good. But if you have excelled yourself this year, why not ask him for a Pipetto Classic iPad case?

These luxurious cases are made from Italian leather and come in elegant finishes including patent, rocker black, vintage black or khaki brown. Close the cover and the iPad automatically reverts to ‘sleep’ mode.

A small back pocket can to be used to hold paperwork or cables.

Style and elegance doesn’t come cheap though – the Pipetto iPad2 case comes in at £99.99 from www.pipetto.co.uk.

My Keepon and Air Swimmers: New kids gadgets from Wow! Stuff!

If you’re looking to for a memorable toy to buy the kids this Christmas, then perhaps look no further than two new toys from the British-based toy manufacturer Wow! Stuff! – A limited edition interactive robot called My Keepon and remote controlled fish known as Air Swimmers.


Going into partnership with the US-based robot designer Beatbots, the soon to be available my Keepon has apparently been tipped by retailers to ‘steal the limelight this Christmas.’ No sooner was this little robotic toy, which resembles Sooty without any ears, was featured dancing on a video of indie rock band Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On”, ‘My keepon’ became an instant Internet sensation, boasting 6 million views on YouTube worldwide.

Recognising its potential to be a success beyond the digital boundaries of the World Wide Web, Wow! Stuff! is bringing a real version of My Keepon to the masses, which, having an array of touch sensors hidden underneath his skin, responds to every tickle, pat and squeeze. This loveable robotic toy can even sneeze, scratch his nose, act sad, sleepy, inquisitive, giggly and not to mention dance. With a built-in microphone in My Keepon’s nose, kids can listen to the music they play whilst their new friend mimics the beats – no wonder he’s been dubbed as stealing the toy limelight this Christmas!

This fluffy, yellow boogie toy is suitable, we are told, for children ages six and over and will soon be available at Toys R Us, Hamleys and Argos.

Although also battling for the number one toy spot this Christmas is Wow! Stuff!’s other audacious creation – giant sized flying fish known as Air Swimmers. These colossal flying fish come in two different species, an intimidating flying shark or an equally as frightening airborne clownfish – no wonder their only suitable for kids aged eight and upwards!

With radio controlled handsets, kids can play games and manoeuvre the helium-filled fish in whatever direction they desire – Scenes of nightmarish bedlam on Christmas day are beginning to fill my mind!

If making your child’s Christmas dreams come true this year by letting them wake up to the latest interactive toy this Christmas then head on down to Argos to pick up a giant Air Swimmer – although with a helium-filled fish this colossal, storing it may prove problematic!

Wow! Stuff!