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The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

Nathan Ingraham
·Deputy Managing Editor
·8-min read

There will probably always be at least a little stigma around giving a gift card or a “digital” gift, but there doesn’t have to be. For gadget-lovers who seemingly have everything, gift cards might help them get even more out of the stuff they already own and love. From essential entertainment options like Disney’s service bundle and HBO Max to something to calm your mind like Endel, we have a variety of digital gifts at multiple price points. And if you know someone with a shiny new PS5 or Xbox Series X, game subscription services will give them something to play immediately.

Masterclass all-access pass

MasterClass
MasterClass

We’ve lately all been spending a lot more time inside than we’d like, so if you know someone who’s climbing the walls and could use a new hobby right about now, consider a Masterclass subscription. The site features video lessons from dozens of top minds in their respective fields. Think: a creative writing class from Margaret Atwood or step-by-step cooking with Thomas Keller. Sounds a lot better than searching through dozens of YouTube videos to find legit information, eh? $180 per year grants access to everything on Masterclass, making it a great way to experiment with new skills and learn more about things you’re already familiar with.

Buy Masterclass starting at $15/month

Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

Holiday Gift Guide: Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate
Holiday Gift Guide: Microsoft Xbox Game Pass Ultimate

If you know someone lucky enough to receive a new Xbox this year, Microsoft’s Xbox Game Pass is a great addition. A $15-per-month Ultimate subscription includes access to a rotating library of over 100 Xbox games that can be played both on the Xbox console as well as a PC. Games from Microsoft’s first-party games are added on the day of launch, and a recent partnership with EA means some of that developer’s top games are available on the service as well.

Xbox Game Pass also includes Microsoft’s long-standing Xbox Gold subscription, which is a necessity if you want to play games online. Finally, it also lets you stream games directly from the cloud to Android smartphones, a futuristic bit of streaming tech that might be worth trying. Xbox Game Pass is particularly good for people who haven’t owned an Xbox before, as the game library includes plenty of classics to catch up on.

Buy Game Pass Ultimate for $15/month

The Disney Bundle

Holiday Gift Guide: Disney+ bundle with Hulu, ESPN+
Holiday Gift Guide: Disney+ bundle with Hulu, ESPN+

Disney+ may have a vast catalog, but if you know someone who loves both sports and Pixar flicks, upgrade them to the Disney Bundle. For $13 a month, it includes access to Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu (with ads). As you probably already know, Disney+ has everything in the house of the mouse, including tons of old Disney and Pixar movies, basically everything in the Marvel cinematic universe, the entire Star Wars saga, original content like The Mandalorian and more.

Adding on Hulu gives access to a vast slate of current and classic TV shows, a good selection of movies and a small but strong collection of originals including The Handmaid's Tale, Little Fires Everywhere, Pen15 and Veronica Mars. ESPN+, meanwhile, adds on live sports coverage, the entire 30 for 30 documentary series and a smattering of ESPN+ originals. All of that for $13 a month makes the Disney bundle one of the best streaming deals out there.

Buy Disney Bundle for $13/month

Sony PlayStation Now

Holiday Gift Guide: PlayStation Now
Holiday Gift Guide: PlayStation Now

The PlayStation Now service isn’t perfect, but if you know someone who just got a PS4 or PS5, it’s a good way for them to catch up on lots of classic games. For $60 a year (there’s also a $10 monthly plan and a $25 three-month subscription), you get access to a library of 700-odd PS4, PS3 and PS2 games. There’s a lot of filler, but also plenty of critically acclaimed titles like Doom, Hitman 2, the Uncharted series, The Last of Us, Bloodbourne, Final Fantasy XV and more. Some of the newer titles rotate in and out, but most of the older games are always available. It’s not the best choice if the gamer on your list has kept up with recent PlayStation games, but it’s a great way for someone to try things they might have missed.

Buy PS Now for $60/year

Endel premium subscription

Holiday Gift Guide: Endel (algorithmically generated chill / focus audio)
Holiday Gift Guide: Endel (algorithmically generated chill / focus audio)

Endel isn’t the easiest app to describe, but in a nutshell it plays algorithmically generated soundscapes for when you are on-the-go or want to focus, relax or sleep. Those are the four basic sound models you can choose from, and Endel creates an ongoing soundtrack based on data it collects from your phone (if you give it permission, of course). Endel can adjust the sounds based on things like time of day, weather, location or heart rate (from an Apple Watch). There are also modes like “deep work” or “meditate” that you can set a timer for and get a focused soundtrack for that activity. It’s a solid relaxation tool, and a premium subscription unlocks the experience and carries your history and settings across any device or platform you want, including iPhone, Apple Watch, Android, Alexa and more.

Buy Endel premium starting at $6/month

HBO Max

Holiday Gift Guide: HBOMax
Holiday Gift Guide: HBOMax

HBO Max was a little bit of a mess when it launched, but it still has one of the best video libraries you can find. HBO’s own collection of original shows and films is still unrivaled in a lot of ways, from classics like The Wire and The Sopranos to newer shows like Westworld and Lovecraft Country. HBO also has a vast, rotating selection of mainstream films, and now it’s also home to some series that you can’t stream anywhere else, like Friends and South Park. Yes, there are far too many places to watch shows these days, but HBO’s vast set of high-quality original shows set it apart from the competition.

Buy HBO Max for $15/month

Audible

Holiday Gift Guide: Audible
Holiday Gift Guide: Audible

For years, Audible has been the go-to service for audiobook fans, with good reason. It has a vast Amazon-backed catalog of basically any type of book you might want to listen to. Fifteen dollars a month unlocks one “credit” that can be used to add a “premium” book to a permanent collection; Amazon Prime members get two credits a month. Along with that is a selection of podcasts and audiobooks plus some Audible originals. But the book credits are the real draw here -- for $15, you add an audiobook to your library every month.

If you’d prefer to patronize a non-Amazon company audiobooks, Libro.fm lets you “buy” audiobooks from a local bookstore. It also offers a $15 monthly subscription that includes one book a month, and it offers gifting options for one, three, six or 12 months of books.

Buy Audible membership starting at $15/month

Marvel Unlimited

Holiday Gift Guide: Marvel Unlimited
Holiday Gift Guide: Marvel Unlimited

Sadly, it’s going to be a while before we can enjoy more Marvel movies in theaters. But if you have a Marvel junkie in your life, this might be the time to introduce them to the vast back catalog of comics that inspired the movies. A $10-per-month Marvel Unlimited subscription unlocks access to 28,000 issues of comics from all eras of Marvel’s vast library. The app works on iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows PCs and is updated weekly with new content. And if you’re not sure where to start, it also includes a solid collection of curated reading lists for various key Marvel characters.

Buy Marvel Unlimited for $10/month

DC Universe Infinite

Holiday Gift Guide: DC Universe
Holiday Gift Guide: DC Universe

For the person who prefers Batman and Wonder Woman to Captain American and Spider-Man, look no further than a DC Universe Infinite subscription. Eight dollars per month or $75 per year gets access to 24,000 comics from 80 years of DC’s history. Starting in January, recent comics will come to the platform faster than before, as well; it used to be a full year before new comics would hit DC’s subscription service, but now they’ll arrive after six months. The service is available on iOS and Android as well as the web.

Buy DC Universe Infinite for $75/year

Tunnelbear

Holiday Gift Guide: Tunnelbear monthly subscription
Holiday Gift Guide: Tunnelbear monthly subscription

A VPN isn’t the most exciting holiday gift, but it’s also becoming an increasingly smart thing to have, especially if you want to keep your online activity as private as possible. Tunnelbear is one of our favorite options, combining an easy-to-use interface with an affordable cost. $120 gets you a three-year subscription, while $60 covers you for one year. There’s also a recurring $10 monthly subscription, but it’s hard to recommend that over the big savings you’ll get signing up for an annual plan. Tunnelbear has a great reputation for security, and its subscription plan lets you use it across five devices, including mobile phones, Mac and Windows machines, and through browsers like Firefox, Opera and Chrome.

Buy Tunnelbear for $60/year

1Password

Holiday Gift Guide: 1Password
Holiday Gift Guide: 1Password

If you know someone who doesn’t use a password manager, do them a favor and get them set up as a holiday kindness. 1Password is one of the best: It works on unlimited devices, sends alerts for compromised websites and passwords, stores an unlimited number of entries, includes a digital wallet for credit cards and has a travel mode for keeping data secure when you cross borders. An annual subscription costs $36, and it’s the kind of thing that once you start using, you’ll wonder how you went without it for so long.

Buy 1Password for $36/year

Engadget’s 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

Engadget's 2020 Holiday Gift Guide
Engadget's 2020 Holiday Gift Guide

The best laptops and tablets to give as gifts

Computer and phone accessories that make great gifts

The best gifts for the PC gamer in your life

The best tech toys for kids

The best smartwatches, fitness trackers and wearables to gift

The best tech gifts to upgrade your home theater

These are the audio gadgets to gift this season

Smart home gadgets and kitchen tech that make great gifts

The best digital gifts to send your friends and family

The best gear to give to the photographer in your life

The books, movies and music we're gifting this year

Everything in our gift guide that you can buy for under $50

The best fitness gadgets for the athlete in your life

The best tech gifts for new parents

The best board games to gift this holiday season

The gear to get for your next winter adventure

Small, affordable gadgets that make great stocking stuffers