A good gadget solves a problem, but solving a problem isn’t the same as making your life easier.
A fitness tracker might help you live healthier, but being constantly reminded to move isn’t very relaxing. A drone might help you take awesome photos, but you have to not crash it. A smartphonemight let you communicate with anyone in the world, but social media exists.
Below we’ve rounded up a few gadgets that can add to your day, but don’t demand much in return. Some are specific, some are general ideas, but none of them will wind up being Another Thing to Worry About.
The Amazon Echo
As you’ve probably heard by now, the Amazon Echo has transformed from a competent-sounding Bluetooth speaker to a competent-sounding Bluetooth speaker that can control your home. Just call on Alexa, Amazon’s cloud-based virtual assistant, and the Echo can quickly start up a Spotify stream, call an Uber, control your smart lights, order a pizza, or follow a growing number of other quirky commands. It’s always listening, but it serves you, and it does so swiftly and accurately.
A portable battery
The next time your phone dies before you could call that cab home, you’ll have wished you had a portable battery on you. We’ve recommended Anker’s PowerCore series before, and its PowerCore 10000 packs plenty of power in a compact, not-that-expensive package.
A wireless charger
The open secret about wireless chargers is that they’re not really wireless — a charging pad can’t produce power on its own, so you’ll have to plug it into a wall somewhere. Still, plopping your phone down on a pad and picking it up when it’s time to go is much smoother than making sure your microUSB cord is going in the right way for the hundredth time. Just make sure your phone uses the same wireless charging standard as the charger itself; the Anker PowerPort Qi here is a reliable choice for Qi-enabled phones like the Samsung Galaxy S8.
The hangup with bringing a portable battery around is that you’ll need to carry a charging cable along with it. Something like the NomadKey lets you keep a (USB 2.0) connector on your person. The bendy little accessory clips easily around a key ring, making it so you don’t have to stuff a lengthier wire in your pockets.
*NOTE: Currently only available through third party sellers*
A good multitool saves you the trouble of digging through a toolbox just to perform a quick fix around the house, packing a bevy of helpful devices into a gadget that fits in your pocket. We’ve touted the Leatherman Sidekick as a worthy choice for beginners, while the Leatherman Waveis a solid step up.
If you’re worried you might lose something valuable, throw a Tile on it. The diminutive Bluetooth tracker can talk with (and remotely ring) your phone from over 100 feet away, telling you exactly where you left your particular thing. A nifty “Community Find” feature helps you locate anything beyond that. We’ve taken a closer look before.
Philips Hue smart bulbs
Instagram / @philipshue
Although they’re a definite luxury, smart bulbs can also make frustrating situations a lot easier.
In my case, I can turn my overhead apartment light on and off without having to cross the room each time. For you, it could be turning lights on when you’re not home because of safety concerns, or answering the question “did I turn off the light in the garage” once and for all.
This starter kit includes three bulbs and a Hue Bridge, which is required to connect the bulbs to your home network. Each bridge can support up to 50 Hue devices, so you can always add more later on.
A Roku media streamer
Instagram / @rokuplayer
If you’re looking for the easiest way to stream media from the largest number of sources, Roku’s streaming stick is the best solution. It’s small enough to take when you travel and can be powered by your TV’s USB port, and it gives you access to more content than you’ll be able to consume.
Whether you want to watch the next season of “House of Cards” the day it’s released, catch up on older shows you missed the first time around, or find something completely new, there’ll be a Roku channel for you.
A universal remote
It’s hard enough for some people to keep track of one clicker — saddle yourself with a full home theater’s worth, and it might not be long before one goes missing. A good universal remote lessens that risk, and makes it so you don’t have to switch between four different pads just to set up movie night.
A Kindle Paperwhite
Let’s be clear: Nothing will ever truly replace the look, feel, or experience of reading a physical book. But sometimes you’re in a situation where space is a major concern and compromises have to be made.
The Kindle Paperwhite can hold hundreds of books, last weeks between charges, and has a couple of features the standard Kindle lacks. Its higher-resolution screen is easier on your eyes and makes the text appear almost as clean as actual print, and its back lights will help you read in the dark without relying on an overhead light source.
You can check out our Kindle guide to figure out if the Paperwhite is the model that best suits your needs, but it’s definitely the one we recommend for most people.