Tech Guide 2017

Life Made Easier

20 cool gadgets to help coddle, entertain, and organize you in 2017.

By Rob Walker
Photos by David Arky
5 min


Make beautiful music together—or apart
Using earbuds, listening to music can be a solitary affair. But wireless Sonos speakers ($200–$700) bring iTunes and other digital music into your living room; an app lets you play the speakers separately or in sync.
Pick your artwork … every day
The $300 Electric Objects digital-art display sets a high-definition screen within a traditional frame and allows you to change the image at will.
Get light where and when you need it
The Switchmate smart light switch ($40) clips directly over a standard wall switch. Use the accompanying smartphone app to, say, order the lights to turn on at dusk, indoors and out.
Tune in your TV again
A digital-age descendant of rabbit ears is catching on. If you cut the cable cord in favor of streaming services, try the Mohu Leaf Metro Indoor HDTV Antenna ($20) to pick up over-the-air broadcasts.
Relax the scientific way
The Perfect Chair (from $2,800), with a sleek look that sets it apart, provides a nice ergonomic function: Its “zero gravity” mode is designed to take pressure off your back in a way that’s good for your spine and undeniably comfy.
Shine a light on it
Motion-detecting outdoor lights are terrific for security; now there are wireless options, thanks to solar power. I like Maxsa’s Solar-Powered Dual Head LED Security Spotlight ($50), which you can adjust by time and motion sensitivity.
Spy on the deliveryman
The Ring Video Doorbell ($200) has a discreet camera and two-way intercom that connect to your smartphone, so you can tell the FedEx guy to leave that package on the porch.
Quantify your workout
Here’s an appealing new alternative to wrist-bound fitness trackers: Jabra Sports Pulse headphones ($160), which do the same thing.
Cook lighter
The Philips Airfryer ($250– $400) circulates hot air as an oil- free substitute for frying. My fried chicken was tasty, and making it was much easier and less messy than traditional frying.
Sleep deeper
Whether you have trouble nodding off or getting up, Brookstone’s Tranquil Moments Pro Sleep System ($200) can help. It has a range of restfulness technology, plus an alarm clock.
Turn up your personal volume
Want a little help hearing? Try loading the Jacoti ListenApp on your iPhone. Pop on earbuds and let the world in.


Share your family’s story online
This clever tool for documenting and sharing personal stories allows you to upload photos and even short video clips, or add audio and links to online material. The History Project lets you organize everything on a clickable timeline.
Give the most personalized gifts ever
Always wanted a pillow with a design consisting of family photos? A calendar featuring vacation highlights? makes it easy. Prices vary; a fleece blanket starts at $45, and a calendar starts at $16.
Take vacation pics to die for
For digital shutter-bugs who want more than smartphone snapshots, the LG 360 CAM ($200) offers 360-degree photos—very cool for nature shots.
Convert old photos to digital files
Dozens of services will now convert old media such as photos and slides for a fee. If you edit down what you really want to transfer, is a good deal; it speedily fulfilled my 65-photograph order for about 39 cents per image. For larger orders, try


Ride like the wind
Want to feel like a superhero? Hop on a Pedego Boomerang and crank the pedals. The electric motor will amplify your strength by the power you choose: level 1 for a gentle assist; level 5 to practically fly. Goose it further with a twist of the throttle. Starting at $2,295, the Boomerang isn’t cheap, but it may earn its keep through gas savings on commutes and errands.
Zip through customs
Nothing undermines a vacation abroad more than long customs delays. Mobile Passport, a free app for iOS and Android phones, eases that pain. Advance setup—scan your passport, take a selfie, type in flight details—takes about one minute. Plus, at 20 major airports (and counting) you can use a faster Mobile Passport lane.
Be phone ready at all times
Tired of dying-phone emergencies? The $50 Fluxmob Bolt works as a standard wall charger, juicing your device through a USB port. But there’s also a battery built in, so you can take the sleek three-ounce object along for on-the-go charging.
Shut out that engine noise
What’s better than a great set of noise-canceling headphones? A wireless version. Top reviewers give Bose QuietComfort 35 headphones—which pair with your computer or mobile device via Bluetooth—the highest marks, and I agree. At $350, they’re a quiet steal.
Get a smarter, stickier phone
Slip the Style Ring ($25) onto the back of your smartphone; the practical benefits outweigh the aesthetics. The metal loop makes it easier to hold the phone steady. Plus, the ring comes with a plastic doodad that functions as a car mount.