Sometimes, the best tech is simple.
While 2016 was littered with futuristic gadgets â mind-melting virtual reality headsets, an iPhone without a headphone jack â we’d wager most of the technology you use day to day is a bit less amazing. Maybe you have a really good keyboard, or a neat smartphone app that saves you money: they may not dazzle, exactly, but they make a difference in your life.
In that spirit, we’ve collected recommendations from Mashable staffers about the gadgets, apps and doohickies they couldn’t live without this year. Some of it stretches the definition of “tech,” and most of the picks have been around for a little while. But it’s all worth checking out (or buying for your loved ones this holiday season) if you’re trying to make life just a bit sweeter.
Let’s dive in.
Kamenoko Tawashi Scrubber ($10)
This little Japanese scrub brush is one of my favorite things in my apartment because it works on everything, and it never doesn’t work. It also comes in this wonderful orange packaging with a turtle on it that makes you feel like you’re about to bring something extraordinarily special into your life â which you are, unless you are a dirty dish, in which case, you are about to be cleaned, wholly, and have the multitudes of grime you may or may not be attached to wiped from you, for good, and you will be indelibly changed forever. Hopefully, you are not a dirty dish, let alone one owned by someone who just purchased this brush. âFoster Kamer
Logitech K480 Wireless Keyboard ($49.99)
I have too many devices at home: a desktop computer, an iPad, an iPhone and an Android device. This Bluetooth keyboard works with all of them. It’s not the most elegant-looking gadget, but it works perfectly. A little knob lets you switch between three preset devices so you can seamlessly go from typing on your phone to your computer, say, and it has a handy slot to rest mobile devices in. The keys feel sturdy and sound delicious (if a bit loud) when pressed, and it’s light and thin enough to carry around in your bag. âDamon Beres
Eero Wi-Fi System ($199 – $499, depending on your needs)
I’ve wanted to boost my home network for years, but every “simple” solution was a fail. Eero was dead-simple to set up, and I only needed two to extend and power up my Wi-Fi into virtually every corner of my home and backyard. I may buy one more to boost third-floor coverage. It’s a rare product I bought after reviewing. âLance Ulanoff
Square Cash app (Free)
Because Venmo takes too damn long. âVicky Leta
A lot of gadgets came into my life in 2016, but the one thatâs really changed it is the Joule. About the size of an old-school flashlight, the ChefSteps Joule is a ‘smart’ device for sous vide cooking, which sounds fancy but is really just putting food in bags, immersing them in water and then heating the water to the “done” temperature. Sounds faddish, looks underwhelming, but the result is awesome: perfectly done food, every time. DÃ©licieux! âPete Pachal
Wink Light Bulbs ($99 for kit with Wink Hub and two light bulbs)
I hate waking up. Wink turns my lights on at 6:30 a.m. no matter what. That means I hate Wink â but it’s essential to my adulthood. I’ve heard Philips Hue is even better and bought that for my parents. âJason Abbruzzese
C By GE Light Bulbs ($74.99 for starter pack)
First and best reason: I don’t have to get out of bed to turn the lights on and off! The app that comes with the bulbs is also great â it remembers what time you want the lights to turn on and which color shades (blue, warm, etc) to use. The app also allows you to have presets like “sleep” and “wake up.” You can control intensity of light and it’s super easy to use. âJasmine YookÂ
Snapchat’s face filters make me look beautiful. âDennie Bright
I’ve watched Instagram’s cat video channel nonstop since the election. âKarissa Bell
Stainless steel ‘soap’ (Cost varies; generally no more than $10)
This isn’t actually a soap, it’s a piece of stainless steel shaped like soap. (Is anything ever really what it says it is?) But categorically â maybe even philosophically â this indeed cleanses you like a soap, but really, more like a sophisticated piece of modern alchemy.Â
Basically, if you’re even a halfway decent cook, and your hands have ever smelled from garlic or onions or fish or anything, you already know soap won’t get the smell off. This guy will. Something about ions and science. Honestly, I could care less how it works. Put it in your hands under running water and they no longer smell. If you own anything more purely magical in your house please email me at email@example.com and I’ll eat this goddamn metal soap. âFK
ModKat Litter Box ($139)
Perhaps this is more a device my cats couldn’t live without in 2016. Regardless, my two felines dump prodigiously, and this is the finest litter box they’ve ever done so in. It’s expensive but worth it: The ModKat is as fashionable as a cat’s toilet will ever be, it prevents litter from getting everywhere, its handy liner is easy to dump out and replace, and you will giggle to yourself as your beloved animal moves in and out of it like it’s a little turd-filled house. Because it is, basically. âDB
Inbox by Gmail (Free)
One reason: search. The way Inbox organizes emails isn’t for everyone, but nothing can search your inbox faster or more accurately. There have been so many times it has saved my life because I was out and about and desperately needed to find one specific email. âKB
ZILU External Battery Pack with Flashlight ($49.99)
It displays how much battery is left so you never assume it’s full and wind up stranded, and it has a dope built-in flashlight so you don’t have to waste your phone’s. Best thing: It comes in pink!. âSophie Hirsh