To all the things I've loved before ... Well, in 2014, anyway
I have too much stuff. Too many phones. Too many tablets. Too many little things here and there that do various things. It's a curse of this job, of course. (To say nothing of my basic packrat mentality.) But things do manage to rise to the top a bit. There are phones I've loved and lost. Some better off not remembered. Watches that have made their way from my wrist to the back of a drawer. Tablets I wish I'd kept for myself.
I've got a lot of favorite things from 2014. Some more favorite than others, perhaps. But all of these things I list before you here today are gadgets I could not do without. OK, they're things I don't want to have to do without. Please let me keep playing with these things. Please send more new things. All the things.
Here, now, are a few of my favorite things from 2014.
My favorite phones — The HTC One M8 and Moto X
I've switched between all the flagships several time over the past 12 months. The Samsung Galaxy S5 and Note 4. The LG G3. The Nexus 6. Moto X. OnePlus One. Even some time with the Xperia Z3. Each, of course, has its quirks. For my money, though, I've always come back to the HTC One M8. I could pick any number of reasons why. I love the BoomSound speakers. (Though Sony and Motorola are getting better at that.) It fits in the cupholder of my car. So many other phones this year flat-out fail that test. It's still among the fastest phones in terms of software. And the battery life is still really good given the capacity. (And now that we have quick charging ...)
And while I'm usually never one to stick to an older version of an operating system, but at this point the fact that the M8 hasn't updated to Android 5.0 is a plus for me. I really don't enjoy the mess that is notifications and volume control in Lollipop.
The bad? The M8 is still a slippery devil. It was the first phone I used at any great length with a case attached. And the camera's still just OK. On the other hand, so is the camera in my other favorite phone of the year.
That'd be the Moto X. For as much as I think I preferred the smaller size of the 2013 model, I got used to this year's quickly enough, and it's still my favorite to hold, I think. (See that previous paragraph.) Lollipop quirks not withstanding, you can't beat the lightweight software. And I simply love having that leather back on there. It looks and feels like nothing else anyone's carrying around. (At least I like to think I'm the only one.)
The bad here? Again, a mediocre camera. That's not to say I can't get good shots out of it, but I still want to see Motorola do better.
My favorite tablet this year — Nexus 7 (2013)
I'm using a Nexus 9 right now as my tablet. That doesn't mean it's my favorite, and with the trade-off in performance you get with full encryption, I really just can't recommend it at this point. It's simply not a good experience, and not something I can in good conscience tell someone to spend $600 or so on. (That the damned thing gets so hot to the touch is another big strike against it.) So that brings me back to the 2013 Nexus 7. The ASUS-made tablet that's been around for more than a year.
All things being equal (which of course they're not), I think I still prefer the 16:9 aspect ratio of the Nexus 7, as well as the smaller size, particularly for reading. I don't use a phablet for my phone, so I still have that gulf between phone and tablet, even with a "mere" 7-inch device. And, again, there's that encryption speed thing. Lollipop on the Nexus 7 flies just fine.
So why am I on the Nexus 9 if I think the Nexus 7 is better? Because I'm starting my 8-year-old daughter out right, and she's inherited it. The things we do for our kids.
My favorite smartwatches — The ASUS ZenWatch and Moto 360
I've had a really hard time picking between these two. The ZenWatch and Moto 360 both look great. They both feel great. They both are roughly equals in terms of software and power. And I've swapped out the stock leather straps for metal bracelets. (The leather on both is great, but it's humid where I live, and I just like the feel of steel, I guess.)
The round Moto 360 has a better touch experience, with the display going from one edge to the other. The ZenWatch is thinner and also has an excellent design. And it's more flexible for third-party straps. Plus, the charger is easier to carry around. Both have turned heads every time I've worn them.
None of that is to say the Android Wear experience is perfect yet. If you're not the early adopter type, better to wait, still. But for me, they've been a lot of fun.
Favorite TV appendage — Nexus Player
This year I replaced the $35 Chromecast in my living room with the $99 Nexus Player. The latter does everything the former does, plus adds the cooler interface for movies and music and such. Then there are all the apps. I love being able to play games on my TV. No, it's not as good as a real console. And the 8GB of onboard storage is embarrassing. But, dammit, this thing's fun, warts and all.
Oh, but don't even bother using the remote control app on your phone. Those still are nowhere near as good as a proper physical remote.
In my ears at 35,000 feet — Bose QuietComfort 20i
I've spent more money on headphones than I care to admit. But I'm glad I finally pulled the trigger on the Bose QC 20i earbuds. They look a lot like the ones I wear when we podcast, only with a tighter fit. And with a blocky box toward the end of the cable. That, of course, is for the active noise cancellation. And once you experience it, you can't go back. It lets you listen to music at a much lower volume, which definitely is easier on the ears. Or if you just want to zone out for a bit, you can turn on the active noise cancellation and just drift away.
These aren't cheap. I burned some airline points on them, and they run about $299 on Amazon. But they're so worth it.
In every room — Sonos
Another expensive toy. But, again, it's worth it. Sonos sounds great — even the introductory Play 1 speaker. It's ridiculously simple to set up, works with myriad streaming music options (including Google Play Music) and basically makes me wonder how I ever lived without it. (I can recall spending hours running speaker wire through our house with my father some 25 years ago.)
I haven't sprung for the Soundbar and Subwoofer yet because, again, these things are not inexpensive. But it's probably just a matter of time. Sonos has easily become one of the things I've used most in the past year.
And on the wall — Nest
I picked up a Nest Thermostat after Google bought the company about a year ago. And I've been mostly happy with it. It satisfies my need for laziness by letting me adjust the temperature from anywhere. It looks cool. And it means I don't have to remember to turn the heat off when I leave. Or deal with schedules. It just takes care of it all for me.
And I'm still pretty excited about the whole "Works with Nest" thing. It's the early days yet, and some of it feels a little forced. (Turning on your connected sprinklers — and Rachio should get an honorable mention here — if a Nest Protect detects a fire? I'm not sure the first responders will appreciate that as much as we'd like to think they will.) But automatically turning on your Dropcam if your Nest is set to Away? That's handy.
Nest isn't cheap either. But I definitely think it's been a good investment.
Here's my question: How long will these be my favorites in 2015?