Maybe about half of what I lug around with me on a daily basis has changed this year, including what I lug things around in. These are not small changes. And change is hard. From a new gear bag to a new camera to new phones to new services ... 2015 brought a whole bunch of new toys and things to explore. (And I got a few new places to explore as well.)
Here's my best of the best from 2015.
1. Favorite smartphone: Nexus 6P
I'll be honest, I'm a little torn on this one. It was a very good year for smartphones. I still love the look and feel of the LG G4. But the software left a good bit to be desired. I enjoyed the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 far more than I expected to. It's still full of bloat that I'll never use, but the Samsung Pay MST stuff (which lets you use it just about anywhere, and not just at a terminal that specifically has contactless payments) is incredibly useful. The LG V10 is big, but also really good.
But the Nexus 6P, for me, strikes the balance between the things I want, with none of the things I don't. The only feature I think it's "missing" is the MST tech now owned by Samsung. The camera is good enough. The build quality is excellent. It's been nice to see Huawei get in the Nexus game. So for me, the Nexus 6P was the the best phone of the year.
2. Favorite gear bag: Peak Design Everyday Messenger
I can count on one hand the number of crowdfunded products that haven't disappointed me in some way. And the Everyday Messenger bag from Peak Design is at the top of that list. More than 17,000 people pledged more than $4.8 million to this bag, and it's lived up to every expectation. It shipped on time. It's what was advertised. And it's just a damned good bag.
It's maybe not as bottomless as my old Timbuk2 bag is, but that's also not a bad thing. I don't need to carry everything around. It's great for cameras and computers and phones and tablets and all the crap I have to carry for all of them. Easily the best money I've spent this year.
3. Favorite tablet: Nexus 9
I'm of the mind that Google doesn't necessarily need to put out a new tablet every year unless there's a compelling reason to do so. I'm not really sure why I think that, though — why tablets are different than smartphones in that respect. Maybe it's because I don't rely on a tablet like I do on a phone.
But that's not to say I never use a tablet. The Nexus 9 is a daily part of my electronics use, particularly at home. It's what I generally use to read. What I use for movies and TV when I'm traveling.
After a few days' use, I just don't think the Pixel C is going to supplant the Nexus 9 for me.
4. Favorite smartwatch: Huawei Watch
I've worn just about every Android Wear watch there is. And generally speaking they all do the same stuff. Of the watches currently available, the Huawei Watch has been the one that's stood out for me. The Fossil Watch is a close second. I'm a fan on heavier, stainless steel watches. But the flat-tire display just doesn't do it for me.
It's really just a matter of taste, and how much you want to spend. If you're on the fence about a watch, wait a few months. There either will be a new one on the way, or the price of what you want will drop a good bit.
5. Favorite camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
I still love the feel of a real DSLR. There's something about the weight and the sound of the shutter in an otherwise silent room that makes it feel like you're working, ya know? But my bag and my back were tired of the weight of the body and lenses. So in the summer I switched to micro-four-thirds and this Olympus camera. It's been an adjustment process — my Nikon D700 generally was easier to adjust on the fly by feel. But generally speaking pictures are about the same (or close enough for my purposes) and are really good.
Plus I'm no longer carrying a separate video camera, which saves even more weight. The only real negatives for me are battery life — I carry a couple spares now — and I'm not a huge fan of the digital viewfinder.
6. Favorite new services: Google Photos and Project Fi
Photo management is a pain. At least it used to be. I can't say enough about Google Photos and never having to worry about losing a picture ever again. Sure, I still also have everything feeding into Dropbox's camera uploads for quick-and-easy access. But for proper storage and search, nothing beats Google Photos for me. And I've had a blast just browsing around, finding new pics from years ago.
Project Fi is another one. I'd like to think Google's pseudo-mobile service was born out of frustration. Frustration for how annoying most carriers make it for you to see how much data you've used. Or how much much you're spending. Or — well, just pick a feature and Project Fi probably makes it easier. I'd love to be able to use this on any phone and haven't once regretted porting over my Google Voice number.