Amid a tsunami of tech products flooding the market, which ones are genuinely useful? I don’t mean laptops or smartphones, which most of us have now as a basic household device. I don’t even mean Alexa smart speakers which, although incredibly handy, have been around long enough now not to count as something you haven’t really tried yet.
So for those who consider themselves late adopters, here is the ultimate list of the five most useful tech gadgets.
1. AirTag (from €35)
For those who regularly mislay keys or their phone, Apple AirTags are a godsend. Not only do they beep when you remotely tell them to (through your iPhone or iPad or MacBook), but they actually show you their geographical location outside your house. They do this through other passing iPhones that pick up their signal and communicate (anonymously to the passing iPhone user) where the Airtagged item is.
2. Video doorbell (from €70)
Made by giants such as Amazon (Ring, from €70), Google (Nest, from €200) and others, these have surged in popularity since people started going back to offices to work. While they are often interpreted as a security aide, they are arguably handier for communicating with delivery staff in our new age of online shopping and deliveries. Available in wired or battery formats, the video doorbells allow you to see who’s at the door on your phone. You can then talk to the person in a two-way conversation too.
3. Wi-Fi security cameras (from €35)
But if it’s security you’re after, the new generation of inexpensive, Wi-Fi-enabled security cameras can be very useful to people who feel that their home is sometimes vulnerable. Amazon’s Blink Mini (€35) is probably the best example of these devices. The small gadget plugs into any socket and sits inside your home with a wide angle of view of a room. Any motion will trigger it into life and it will instantly record footage into the cloud, where you can review it. You can also check it live from your phone and there’s a two-way speaker on it so that if you need to say something to someone in the room, you can.
4. Mesh Wi-Fi extender (from €90)
Regular readers of this column will know that I’ve often recommended mesh Wi-Fi extender systems to help people get their broadband signal around the house, and not just concentrated in the one or two rooms close to the router. There are umpteen models to choose from, with good ones from Google, Linksys, TP-Link and others. They start at about €90 for a two-piece set. The advantage of using this system is that you usually keep adding onto the virtual daisy chain with additional units. So if you put a garden office in the back, you should be able to extend your broadband there by simply placing an extra mesh device in the room.
5. Wireless earbuds (from €60)
While many people have these now, I’m often surprised by the number of older people (in particular) who have yet to try wireless Bluetooth earbuds. Once you try them, though, you rarely go back to anything else: they’re simply too useful in a variety of situations. Best of all is that active noise cancellation, which used to be awful on earbuds but is now very competent. This lets you dampen down all sorts of objectionable noise and din around you when you’re going about your day. Apple’s AirPods (from €159) are the best-known brand, but there are dozens of decent ones around, from about €60 up. Expect to pay over €100 if you want noise cancellation included.