I get sent free gadgets. Sorry. That’s just how it is. There’s plenty not to envy about my life: my girlish giggle, back pain, dyspraxia. But I do write about technology, and as such, I get sent LOADS of free gadgets. I’ve got so many smartphones, there’s one I use exclusively for reading recipes in the kitchen. I have a games console I use as a DVD player. I have a smartpen I use as a biro. It’s obscene.
But in truth, most stuff I’m sent is a bit… rubbish. Tablets that crash as soon as you turn them on. In-car headsets that take an hour searching for software updates whenever you change the battery.
Technology improves all the time, yet most of it is merely adequate, and I end up using it – and writing about it – just because it’s there, just because it’s new, and not because it’s particularly pleasurable. The Chromebook I’m using to write this column is a perfect example – it’s fine, but I wouldn’t actually choose to spend my own money buying it.
So, with Christmas round the corner, I thought I’d make a list of ten gadgets I’ve been sent which aren’t rubbish; products I regularly use and that genuinely bring me pleasure, and upon which I would actually spend my own money, if the appalling scenario should ever unfold that people stopped sending me things for free. I hope you find it helpful. Not all these products are new, fashionable, or even easily available. But it’s my real list.
Bayan Audio Streamport Universal, £59.99
Last century, I bought a micro hi-fi by Denon to take to uni, and I loved it. It played cassettes and Mini Discs flawlessly. But, um, I haven’t had much call for those services in the past decade, so it ended up living in the loft – until this little wireless audio adaptor came along. It plugs into the auxillary inputs round the back, syncs with my smartphone via Bluetooth, and results in Spotify sounding great, pumping out of my old sound system.
Roku 2 XS 1080p Streaming Player, £69.99
No doubt you already have some fiddly way to watch House Of Cards on your TV – an iPad cable dangling precariously over the fireplace; a clunky ‘smart TV’ interface; a TiVo box slower than time itself. But Roku is quick and cool and simple, and makes a doddle of streaming Netflix and iPlayer with a proper remote control. The big push this Christmas is for Roku 3, which is £99 and includes unnecessary extras like a gyrometer for gaming. Get last year’s model instead.
Contigo Morgan Double Wall Insulated Mug, $7.99
All insulating mugs contain liquid. Most (though sadly not all) insulating mugs keep that liquid hot. This one includes a crucial third feature – a double lock mechanism empowering you to chuck it in your backpack or briefcase with confidence, safe in the knowledge it won’t haemorrhage tea all over your clothes and paperwork. Simply depress both buttons to sip from it. I use it every day.
Braun Oral-B Professional Care 3000, £44.99
I used to think it was charming and rustic to use an analogue toothbrush. Then my dentist told me my teeth were falling out. Now I use one of these and it’s transformed a mundane everyday task into something genuinely exhilarating. But beware: the more expensive model, which come with an LCD wall-mounted display, is for IDIOTS. It just incomprehensibly heckles you in your own bathroom for not brushing your teeth properly, which is like moving back in with your parents.