This past week, I (along with several of my co-workers)…
Hey, has anybody seen 2013? It was here just a second ago. Well, dang, I’ve checked my pockets, my car, even the couch cushions — crazy thing has up and vanished.
That’s okay, I’ve got one foot in 2014 anyway. But before I go, I want to take one final look back, and talk about my favorite products from the year gone by. As it happens, my picks aren’t the everyday tablets and smartwatches you might expect, but rather some lesser-known goodies that came along–often out of the blue–to make the year a little sweeter. Take a look:
Favorite Productivity Tool
The NeatConnect scanner is not only one of my favorite products of 2013, but also my favorite scanner ever. That’s because it shoots all your documents, receipts, and business cards straight to the cloud–no PC required. Scans can land right in your Evernote account, your Google Drive, and so on. Brilliant! Now for the bad news: The scanner costs $500, and you’ll have to pay a monthly fee — pretty much for life — to keep your cloud options active.
Favorite Budget Smartphone
Want a bells-and-whistles smartphone without the sky-high two-year contract? Until this year, that wasn’t an option. But Republic Wireless answered the (sorry) call with the Motorola Moto X, a state-of-the-art phone at an impossibly good price: $299 for the phone, then a no-contract service plan with prices ranging from just $5-40. Too good to be true? No, too good to pass up.
Favorite Smartphone Accessory
I like stuff that makes life easier, not more complicated. The $12.95 Keyprop is small plastic key that clips to your keychain. When you want to watch a movie or have a video-chat on your smartphone, the Keyprop props it up at the perfect viewing angle. Smart, simple, effective, and no extra batteries required.
Favorite Tablet Accessory
Livescribe pens have long offered the ability to “record” your handwritten notes, but early models required manual PC syncing when you wanted to view them. Last year’s Sky Wifi added cloud syncing to the mix, delivering your scribbles straight to your Evernote account–but only when connected to a Wi-Fi network.
With the Livescribe 3, the pen pairs with your iPad (sorry, Android users) via Bluetooth, instantly syncing to the free Livescribe app everything you write on special paper. From there, of course, you can share digitized notes via e-mail, SMS, AirDrop, Dropbox, Evernote, and so on. Awesome.
Favorite Laptop Accessory
To really boost your productivity, add a second monitor. The AOC E1659Fwu makes it effortless; this 16-inch LCD screen is powered entirely by USB. Just plug it into a laptop USB port for instant second-screen action. It features a fold-out stand and support for both portrait and landscape viewing. Best of all, it’s kind of a bargain at $129.99.
After years of relying on a standalone password manager, this year I adopted Dashlane–and haven’t looked back. This Windows-based tool offers a gorgeous interface, seamless integration with my Web browser, and storage for other data I like to keep accessible and protected: credit card numbers, software registration codes, and so on. Plus, it’s free, though if you pay just $20 annually, you get real-time syncing with your other PCs and your mobile devices–a convenience that’s well worth the price.
Favorite Audio Product
Earlier this year I suggested the Braven 850 might be the best Bluetooth speaker ever, and I haven’t changed my mind. This compact, portable speaker’s size belies its surprising power–and I don’t just mean its volume. No, the Braven also packs a 20-hour battery that can recharge your smartphone (and other mobile devices). Oh, and it’s a speakerphone, too. If you’re willing to splurge (each 850 costs $299), pair two for the ultimate wireless audio experience.
Okay, those are my picks. Now let’s hear which tech products made your year.