Today’s connected devices are supposed to make our lives easier, but sometimes being constantly connected is more of a burden than a help. There’s work and family schedules to manage, devices to keep track of, and dinner to cook. Who has time for all that? Fortunately, there are new devices that will actually make your life easier, or at least a bit more convenient, so you can focus on the things that matter to you.
Portable Battery Power
Portable power is a must have for all your battery-sucking smartphones. With an Anker PowerCore 10,000 in your bag, you can fully recharge an iPhone (three times) or Samsung Galaxy phone, even an iPad Air. It’s one of the smallest, lightest external batteries you can carry. You can also get a hybrid device like the Anker PowerCore Fusion. It’s a dual-port high-speed wall charger to use in the office or at home, that also becomes a portable battery source you take with you for extra power on the go.
Here’s a portable charger that’s powerful enough to charge up your laptop, but small enough to carry in your pocket. Anker’s PowerPort Atom wall charger is packed in 30W of power so it’s capable of charging a MacBook at full speed. Since it’s designed for USB-C devices, it can charge an iPhone 8 or higher (as well as other USB-C devices) up to 50% in about 30 minutes, great for those times when you’re at an airport and need a quick charge or running out of power in a meeting.
Got lots of big digital files you need to always have with you but not enough room on your laptop’s hard drive? Western Digital’s My Passport SSD is a portable storage lifesaver. This small device comes in configurations up to 2TB, has hardware encryption to keeps the contents safe and secure and has super-fast transfer speeds. It works with Mac and PC and is USB Type-C ready, so your data is always with you, even when your laptop’s not.
Who says good assistants are hard to find? Having an Amazon Echo device in your home or office can save time and keep you informed. Use an Echo Dot at home to ask virtual assistant Alexa to play your favorite music, remind you when it’s time for your conference call or let you know how bad the traffic is, so you know when to leave for your meeting. Add an Echo Show device and view connected smart devices like doorbells and security cameras right on the 10-inch screen. If you’re expecting FedEx or a guest, the live stream from your Ring video doorbell shows up on your display, along with 2-way audio so you never have to leave your desk.
Next time you travel, whether for business or for fun, liven up the hotel entertainment by bringing your own streaming stick. The Roku Streaming Stick Plus is small and portable enough to throw in your bag and offers a huge variety of content in 4K. Plug it into the TV’s HDMI port and you’ll be watching Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services as if you were home. If you are home, the Plus has 4 times the wireless range, meaning you can stream content in a room that’s far away from your home’s router, without any buffering. It comes with a remote that controls TV power and volume and has voice capability so you can search for shows just by speaking the title.
Sous Vide Cooking
Lots of devices claim to make cooking dinner easier and more efficient, but the Anova Precision Cooker Nano takes the cake, so to speak. It’s a Sous Vide Circulator that gets placed in a pot of water along with ingredients like meat and veggies sealed in an airtight bag. The Nano is Bluetooth enabled so you can set the temp and time in the smartphone app or choose from one of the interactive in-app recipes. Then you can relax, get out of the kitchen and take care of other things while dinner cooks itself.
Smart Video Doorbell
Smart video doorbells are safe and convenient but figuring out what kind of wiring you need to replace your existing doorbell can be a challenge for some. The August View Video doorbell is wire free so it can be installed anywhere, has rechargeable batteries and streams full HD video of your home’s main entrance to your smart phone. The app sends alerts to your phone when the doorbell rings or when someone approaches your door. Two-way audio lets you answer your door even if you’re not home so you can ask the delivery guy to leave your package with a neighbor.
Pro Smartphone Lenses
Our smartphones have become our cameras but sometimes you need to shoot an image or video than even your top-of-the-line smartphone can’t manage. The Black Eye mobile universal lens system seriously steps up your photo game. It’s a small clip-on that attaches to most smartphones to turn the existing lens into a mobile photo studio. Get the Pro Portrait Tele lens for up-close shots or widen your field of view with the G4 Pro Cinema wide angle lens. Want more lenses? The Pro Kit G4 includes a variety of interchangeable lenses like macro and Fisheye.
Smart Garage Door
For those mornings when you leave home for a business trip and are certain you forgot to close the garage door, Chamberlain’s myQ Smart Garage Hub will ease your anxiety. Connect the hub and sensor to your garage door, pair it to your smartphone and use the app to see if the garage door is open or closed. If you did leave it open, one tap closes it for you. Even more helpful; get notifications anytime your garage door is opened or closed. Peace of mind if priceless.
If you’re one of those people who runs around at the last minute looking for your keys, your wallet, or your kids’ backpacks, Adero wants to de-stress your morning. It’s a smart organization system that works with what it calls Smart Tags and Taglets. It takes a bit of set-up but once it’s done, you don’t have to think about anything. Attach a Tag to your work bag, your gym bag, or your purse and use Taglets on all the important things you want to always have with you. Heading to work? Tap the Tag on your work bag and if it’s green, you’re good to go. If it’s red, check the app to see what’s missing. It’s a great way to never forget your kid’s soccer cleats or your favorite headphones.
Somehow, no matter how digital the work flow is, there’s always paper needing to get scanned and digitized. Whether you work in an office or at home, Fujitsu’s ScanSnap ix1500 can help you get organized. You can scan receipts, business cards, (why do we still even use those?) and documents and the scanner will automatically recognize what it is and output the best image. The 4.3-inch touch screen has customizable icons so you don’t need to waste time scrolling through menus, and Wi-Fi connectivity means you can send a scanned document right to DropBox, Google Drive, or OneDrive, among others.
Free up Desk Space
If you have big projects and little desk space, upgrade to Samsung’s Space Monitor. It has an adjustable arm stand that lets you push back the monitor when you’re not using it, giving you more desk surface to spread out your work. The arm stand has an integrated clamp so it’s easy to install and fits different desk sizes. The monitor comes in 27” and 32” with a stunning 4K UHD display.
If you’re looking to add big sound to your home theater, check out the compact Sonos Beam soundbar. It’s packed with functionality including four woofers, one tweeter and built-in Alexa voice control. Plug it in and connect it to your TV via an HDMI cable (HDMI ARC) or using the included optical audio adapter. The Beam connects to your home Wi-Fi so it can be paired with other Sonos speakers for multi-room audio. It also supports Apple’s AirPlay 2. The top of the soundbar has touch-sensitive controls or you can use your TV remote or your voice to turn the TV on/off, adjust the volume, play and pause. Prefer not to have Alexa listening in? Just mute the microphone, sit back and enjoy the room-filling sound. And don’t be surprised if you can understand the TV dialogue a bit better too.
Smart Ceiling Fan
Changing the speed of your ceiling fan isn’t exactly a tiring task but we’re big fans of anything you can automate or use your voice to control. Caséta by Lutron Fan Speed Control turns your overhead fan into a smart fan. It’s wired into your existing wall switch giving you touch controls for on/off and fan speed, so you never have to pull on that fan chain again. You can also use the Lutron app or your voice to control the fan with an Amazon Echo device, Google Assistant or Apple HomeKit.