As we head into the holiday season, I thought I’d throw my hat in the “best of the year post” ring with a list of a few of my favorite personal tech items of the year. Some of these are bigger than others, but I wanted to list out some things I’m thankful for this year.
Apple Watch Series 5
I’ve owned the Series 0 (review here and here) and a few Series 3 versions before pulling the trigger on the 5 this year and the always on display is a game changer. I’ve gotten into sleep tracking by using the fantastic Autosleep app alongside the built-in fitness tracking and it’s really been illuminating. I’ve changed my sleep habits as a result and feel like I have more of an understanding of my exercise, eating and sleep habits by simply creating a habit of quantifying all of the things I do.
I actually got gen 1 AirPods last year for Father’s Day but my use has really skyrocketed in the past year. I have noise-cancelling QC35s and almost never use them because the AirPods are just so darn convenient. The AirPods Pro seem like game changers, and I’m hoping my gen 1 models last until there’s a second generation of the pros.
With iOS 13, Siri Shortcuts have gotten super powerful. I’ve been setting more and more of these up over the past few months and it’s helped me automate a lot of little things that Tasker for Android used to allow me to do (and more!) A few examples:
- Bus commute: when I leave my work on weekdays between 3-6pm. It checks my departure time in that area against the bus schedule and assumes I’m on the nearest one before the current time. It then sends a text to my wife with my departure time and expected arrival time.
- Reading time: I’m asked how long I’d like to read and in which app (Kindle or Apple Books). It then turns on Do Not Disturb for that time period, turns on dark mode, adjusts the volume/brightness and starts up some chill instrumental music. Finally, the app I chose launches.
- Create packing list: this shortcut pulls from a Bear note template that I have and creates a new packing list based on the type of trip and prefixes it with a lot of metadata. That way, each trip I go on I update the template with any things I typically forget or need.
Chromecast / Nest Hub music management
Chromecasts can finally “hand off” to other groups/speakers like you can with Airplay 2. So I can be in the Kitchen and say “play this on all speakers” and it’ll keep playing the same music but throughout the entire home. Additionally, the Nest Home Hub now allows you to have more control over speakers from the UI so you can adjust volume for groups and individual speakers. I use this a ton, so I’m super thankful it’s here.
DuckDuckGo is finally good enough
I’ve mostly stopped using Google for search in the past year. DuckDuckGo is a super powerful search engine with privacy at it’s core, and the results are finally good enough for me to put my digital information eggs in multiple baskets. A recent Wired article makes the point better than I ever could. I still use Gmail and Calendar, with an occasional Google Maps search so I’m not burning anything down. Heck, as you can see above, I’m still using Nest stuff so I’m not going anywhere. But I’m also wary of the idea of Surveillance Capitalism being something we’re okay with.