Can you believe that 2023 is almost over? Each year, I look back at the tech goodies I have had the pleasure of trying over the last 12 months. Some were fabulous, maybe even life-changers. Others were underwhelming or simply didn’t stand out. Selecting my favourites is usually simple. The criteria: they were easy to use and set-up, work beautifully, and fulfill the promise they set out to accomplish. I’d recommend each item on this list.
So, what tech made the list? Here they are, in no particular order. With each item, I discuss why I love it and link to my more detailed review.
Shokz OpenFit Open-Ear True Wireless Earbuds
The Shokz OpenFit true wireless earbuds aren’t the best-sounding earbuds I have tried this year. But I love how they wrap around the earlobes and sit on your ears versus plugging the eardrums. Available for $230, the downside is that you don’t get as effective noise cancellation as you would with in-ear buds. The upside, however, is a comfortable fit that you can wear for hours on end, whether it’s for exercising, walking or running, or managing endless Zoom calls during the workday. Use them for quiet calls at home, the occasional walks, or even for tunes at the gym so you can still be aware of your surroundings. Read my review of the Shokz OpenFits.
Kensington MagPro Elite Magnetic Privacy Screen
I predominantly work from home. But three nights a week, I take my son to Taekwondo practice and spend an hour in a local coffee shop with my laptop, an oat milk cappuccino, and some relaxing ambiance while I work away. It’s a lovely little café that’s always bustling with others doing the same thing (and locals enjoying craft beers and wine). A privacy screen can come in handy in such a situation, shielding my laptop screen from nearby prying eyes. And the Kensington MagPro Elite magnetic privacy screen works beautifully. Once magnetically placed overtop the laptop screen, anyone looking off axis will see only a dark black screen. Yet it doesn’t impede my view while I work away looking straight on. It’s a simple computing accessory but one that anyone who works in public places, shared office spaces, and students, will appreciate. Pricing varies based on the computer model but you can expect to pay about $65. Read my review of the Kensington MagPro Elite privacy screen.
Turo Car Sharing Service
I had the unfortunate necessity this year of having to take my car to the mechanic for expensive brake work. During the few days that I was carless, I opted to give Turo a try. Described as the Airbnb of car sharing, it works much the same way. Set up an account, check listings in your area for vehicles of all types meeting various parameters, reach out to the private owner, and arrange a rental. Once you go through the various requirements, including uploading a photo of yourself holding your valid driver’s license and adding the recommended insurance, you’re ready to go. You can arrange for the owner to drop the car off or pick it up at an agreed upon location. That could be anywhere from the airport to a GO station. A wonderful alternative to traditional car rentals, Turo is also a good option to try out a car you’ve always wanted to drive for a road trip. I went all out and got a 2022 Ford Mustang Mach-E in a bright orange colour that had me feeling like a superstar zooming down my local streets. The next time I’m ready for a long road trip, I’ll likely book with Turo and leave my car at home. Pricing varies based on the car, duration of time, and other add-ons. But you can book a basic sedan for as little as $100 a day. Read my review of the Turo car sharing service.
JBL Live Pro 2 True Wireless Earbuds
Another pair of earbuds that made the list, the JBL Live Pro 2 excel in sound quality. This comes as no surprise since JBL has a long and successful history in the audio business. They’re about $200 and offer excellent noise cancellation along with wind and noise interference. I’d recommend them for commuters, runners, hikers, and those who partake in other outdoor activities where noisy environments can become distracting. I love the ability to check the fit in the app before wearing them, though it can be frustrating if you can’t get a good seal. The detailed sound made such a difference in all types of music and audio, while the wind noise reduction was superior to many other buds I’ve tried this year. They’re comfortable and offer impressive battery life, too. Read my review of the JBL Live Pro 2.
Solos AirGo 3 Smart Glasses
Have you ever tried a pair of smart glasses? The Meta Ray-Ban smart glasses get tons of attention, but I tried the Solos AirGo 3 smart glasses, and it was a really fun experience. If you wear glasses normally, I’d recommend getting them with your prescription lenses or get a pair of sunglasses for driving and the summer months. They connect to your phone and the companion app. They can play tunes or you can engage in a phone conversation through the built-in speakers and mic. Even though they’re on your face above your ears, you still hear the sound as if they are coming from tiny buds, in much the same way as bone conduction or neckband headphones. Noise cancellation is pretty non-existent because of this, but there’s more with these glasses. With SolosChat, tap a button on the side of the glasses and ask the built-in ChatGPT assistant a myriad of questions. You can’t get real-time answers, like navigation, local recommendations, or details about traffic or weather. But you can ask information about a local landmark you’re standing in front of, a measurement conversion while cooking, or how to do something, like change a car tire. The service that really makes the glasses shine, though it requires a US$10/mo. subscription, is Live Translate. Speak or have someone speak to you and it will translate on the fly with both an audible translation and text in the app. It’s easy to see how these smart glasses would be useful both for travelers and for day-to-day wear. Read my review of the Solos AirGo 2 smart glasses.
Sonos Move 2 Portable Speaker
We have whole-home audio throughout the house, and even in the backyard. But sometimes, it’s easier just to bring a portable speaker with you. We use the Sonos Move 2 outside on the porch when doing things like raking leaves or putting up seasonal decorations since that’s the only spot that doesn’t have a speaker. Sometimes when my son cleans his room, he prefers to bring the Move 2 up there and be able to control tracks and volume from the top controls versus an app on his phone. With impressive battery life of up to 24 hours that blows the first-gen model out of the water along with features like Apple AirPlay 2 and a durable design, the Move 2 is perfect for playing tunes by the pool, at a party, or to use it as your home office speaker. It’s $559 and a bit bigger and heavier than you might expect, but the sound is fabulous. Read my review of the Sonos Move 2.
Urbanista Phoenix Solar True Wireless Earbuds
Yes, another pair of earbuds made the list this year. But the Urbanista Phoenix Solar true wireless earbuds have a feature that truly makes them stand out: they are solar-powered. After you charge them the first time via USB-C, as long as you wear the case outside in the sun often enough (it comes with a lanyard so you can wear it around your neck or clip it to a bag, backpack, or even bike handles) or place it by a window or near a strong artificial light source, you may never have to plug them in again. Perfect for travelers or busy individuals who are often doing outdoor activities, set-up is simple. Keep on top of battery status and light charging history in the app. While you might have trouble finding the right EQ setting for your music (there are only presets, no customizable options) most wearers will find the trade-off for being able to move freely without ever charging is worth it. Read my review of the Urbanista Phoenix Solar buds.
Wise Multi-Currency Card and Account
I have had a Wise account for years, but before a trip to Italy this summer, I ordered the multi-currency card to take with me. While I made sure to get Euros, having this card provided great peace-of-mind and made it easy to pay for items with a simple pin pad machine. Plus, the fees are much less than you’d pay with a traditional bank. Wise automatically converts funds to the currency of the country you’re in, then applies its nominal fees. To give you an idea, a meal that was 83.40 Euros was paid with the card, and US$91.10 was withdrawn. Need cash for things like tips or small businesses? Pop this card, which is free to order, into any compatible bank machine and withdraw local funds, the conversion made easily through the account. In addition to the physical card, you can download a virtual version of the card to a mobile wallet like Apple Wallet. I love that you can freeze the card via the app and unfreeze on the fly as needed, a great way to ensure that someone can’t make unauthorized payments should they somehow gain access to your account information. It’s also great for tracking expenses since a line list of every transaction appears in the app. I’d highly recommend this card for anyone who travels for business, pleasure, or both, and for those who accept payments in currencies other than their own. Read my review of the Wise multi-currency card in the 2023 travel tech guide.
Google Pixel Tablet
There were mixed feelings about the Google Pixel Tablet when it launched. Is it a tablet you take on the go, a smart home hub you use at home, or a digital photo frame? The answer: it’s all three. My son has come to love this tablet to play games, finding that it works flawlessly and quickly as he navigates games, apps, messages, and more. He uses his own account while I have my own, and we can both log in using the fingerprint sensor. You can load up to eight individual user profiles, so everyone in the family can use it and get their own personal experience. The tablet works like a traditional tablet when detached from its dock. Pop it on the speaker dock and enjoy enhanced sound as well as a tabletop stand and charger. It’s a unique set-up for families who want a global tablet that everyone can use. At $699 for both the tablet and the speaker dock, the price isn’t overwhelming either. Read my review of the Google Pixel Tablet.
Apple Watch Series 8 Smartwatch
Yes, the Apple Watch Series 9 is out now. But I still love the Apple Watch Series 8. It has become one of my most trusted and used devices from the moment I wake up to the time I go to bed. It allows me to track workouts and walks and delivers handy notifications. I use the Apple Wallet app on it to purchase cappuccinos from that aforementioned local café several times a week, even groceries and other items. It tracks my sleep, heart rate, blood oxygen, and more. Of course, you’re best off getting the latest and greatest Apple Watch Series 9 if you’re buying new. But if you can find the Series 8 model for a great deal, you wouldn’t be missing a ton by getting this one instead. Read my observations about the Apple Watch Series 8 and comparison to Fitbit.
Google Pixel 7a and 8 Smartphones
It’s no secret that I’m primarily an Apple user. But I also use Android devices for testing and research purposes. After using several of them, I have conceded that the cameras are superior. In particular, Google Pixel phones have really compelling features. I often turn to the Google Pixel 7a to snap photos for articles and reviews, always confident that I’ll get good results. The additional photo editing features like Photo Unblur and Magic Eraser make the process even cooler, especially with personal photos. With the latest Google Pixel 8 Pro, you get a faster and more powerful chip, more AI integration, and additional photo editing features like Magic Editor that lets you reposition subjects entirely, Audio Magic Eraser for removing distracting background noise, and Best Take (also in the Pixel 8) for combining several similar photos into one so you get the, well, best take. The Best Take feature is a game-changer. The Pixel 8 Pro starts at $1,349 and the Pixel 7a at $599. Read my Pixel 7a first impressions. If you think you’ll make use of Best Take and other upgrades with the Pixel 8, including a more powerful professor and AI integration, that phone starts at $749.
Withings Body Smart Scale
Withings has been making smart health tech for a long time, and the Withings Body Smart scale not only looks stunning, it also tracks a lot more than just your weight. Step abord and get measurements like visceral fat, metabolic age, basal metabolic rate, muscle mass, EDA, and more. My favourite feature is that the data is shared with my Apple Watch and vice versa so I can get a truly holistic picture of my health and wellness. I try to weigh myself at least once a week, if not more, so I can acquire as much data as possible and keep an eye on trends through the companion app. Am I gaining fat and losing muscle? Is my basal metabolic age getting younger? It’s US$100 so more than your typical digital scale. But anyone trying to lose weight, get in better shape, or who exercises will appreciate the comprehensive data it provides. Read my review of the Withings Body Smart smart scale.
Looking for more? Here were my 12 favourite tech products from 2022. In many cases, I still use these products to this day.