36 coolest gadgets of 2013
It’s by far the cheapest gadget on this list, but it might change your life. “I consider this the best $10 I spent this year,” Fortune reporter Anne VanderMey says. The Sprng is a spring-like accessory created by Ohm Industrial Design that clips to the stem of Apple’s EarPod earphones, which are included with every iPhone and iPod, to create an extra point of contact in the ear for people that have fit issues with Apple’s (AAPL) standard issue buds.
Xbox One, $499 and up
“Two words: Xbox One!” Fortune reporter JP Mangalindan replied when we asked him what his favorite gadget of the year was. He’s not alone: nearly every configuration of Microsoft’s next-generation gaming console has sold out since it launched in November. For good reason: Microsoft (MSFT) updated the Kinect motion sensor, added additional cloud-based elements, and fully embraced the device’s role as a media-streaming hub.
Pebble Smartwatch, $150
For Fortune senior writer Jessi Hempel, 2013 was all about “watches, watches, watches!” At the top of that list is the Pebble Smartwatch, which will track your runs and get you the game score with equal aplomb. Pebble says the device will last five to seven days on a single charge and can go almost 100 feet underwater without issue. Not that you were planning on pushing those boundaries, right?
Kindle Fire HDX, $229 and up
Amazon’s (AMZN) latest Kindle device is not an e-reader, but a full-fledged tablet computer. “It’s pretty amazing. Very light, super fast, longer battery life,” Fortune art and photo coordinator Rachael Hugh says. “The best part is the excellent customer service video help.” That’s courtesy of the “Mayday” button, which connects you to a real technical support person with a single tap.
Wii U, $299
OK, we’ll level: Technically, Nintendo’s Wii U gaming console was released in late 2012. No matter: 2013 was the year where the device really took off, no more clearly than bundled with Vicarious Visions’ Skylanders SWAP Force game, which only arrived in October. “My five-year-old son Charlie got a Wii U and this game,” says Brett Krasnove, product director for Fortune Digital. “It’s very cool. The fact that my son can experience something tangible on his Wii U — he can place a character on this stage that plugs into the Wii, and it recognizes it — is pretty wild. I don’t think I had anything like this when I was a kid.”
iPad Air, $499 and up
“This was the first time in my life where I went online the day it was available and ordered the new Apple device,” Fortune senior editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky says, before admitting: “I love it.” The newest version of Apple’s popular tablet computer is thinner, lighter, and faster than the old one, and comes loaded with the redesigned iOS7 operating system.
Roku 3, $99
The diminutive streaming media player has been a hit with parents in particular, who use it as a secret weapon to distract bored children. “Love it,” Fortune senior editor-at-large Adam Lashinsky says. “It just works perfectly. Ninety-five percent of my usage is for my daughter to watch cartoons on Netflix.” Fortune writer Michal Lev-Ram agrees. “I am loving the whole experience.” Enough said.
iPad mini, $299 and up
In October, Apple gave its smaller tablet computer an overhaul, mostly on the inside: a new processor, a larger storage option, and the all-new iOS7 operating system. “I love my iPad mini,” Fortune copy coordinator Maria Carmicino says. “When I was traveling in Rome in June, my iPhone was stolen. The iPad mini subbed in for my camera and was great to use to access the Internet in hotels. Also, because of iCloud, I lost only one day of photos.”
Nest Protect, $129
The design-forward company that reinvented the lowly thermostat set its sights on smoke detectors in 2013. The result is, well, gorgeous. “It’s awesome,” Fortune writer-reporter Dan Roberts says.
“Suddenly, everyone has one,” Fortune senior writer Jessi Hempel says. “It’s great for vegans.” Part juicer, part blender, the 600-watt Nutribullet promises to break down food without wrecking the fiber or leaving unwanted chunks — perfect for smoothies.
The electronic wallet that promises to replace all of your plastic debit and credit cards captured many an imagination at Fortune HQ — so much so that reporter Colleen Leahey wrote a whole story about it and technologies like it. “I was so excited when I saw the introductory video,” she writes. Don’t worry, Colleen — we were, too.
Dell UltraSharp U2713HM, $699
There’s no question that this is a lot of dough to blow on a computer display. In an increasingly all-mobile world, though, it’s a rock solid bet. “As a journalist in a big city, I’m always on the go. So when I buy a laptop, I always choose the smallest and lightest option,” Fortune senior editor Andrew Nusca says. “When I need to get a serious amount of work done, though, I plug that tiny laptop into my large Dell monitor at home and watch the productivity levels spike.”
Egg Minder, $69
This collaboration between the crowdsourcing website Quirky and industrial giant GE (GE) wirelessly connects to your mobile device to track the number of eggs you have and tell you when they’re going bad. LED lights in the tray tell you which egg is the oldest, and push notifications notify you when you’re running low. “Gotta get it,” Fortune senior writer Jessi Hempel says.
Fitbit Flex, $99
Tracking your activity was all the rage this year, and one of the most popular devices came from Fitbit. The company’s first foray into a wristband-style device brings with it water resistance and all the sensors found in the original One, tracking your steps, burned calories, distance, and sleep patterns. “I got one for my Dad for Christmas,” Fortune reporter Chanelle Bessette says.
Samsung UNF8000, $2,300
There is many a football fan hiding within the ranks at Fortune, which means we’re quietly giddy about this year’s NFL championship game — Super Bowl XLVIII — happening across the river from our New York headquarters. But an outdoor game in December may have us rethinking attending, and that’s where Samsung’s UNF8000 television comes in. At 55 inches, and with an edge-lit display framed by a seriously minimalist bezel, it’s the perfect game day companion.
Panono: Panoramic Ball Camera, $499
Have you ever taken a photograph of a beautiful vista and wished that you could just get higher up for that perfect shot? And perhaps include yourself in the photo? The Panono wants to fix that. A “throwable” panoramic ball camera, Panono takes 72-megapixel, 360-degree by 360-degree spherical images and sends them, wirelessly, to your phone. So the next time you find yourself in need of fisheye-style album cover art (or maybe just a neat picture of the family), pull out the Panono.
Google Chromecast, $35
To call this device a “dongle” doesn’t give it enough credit. Google’s (GOOG) Chromecast allows you to watch movies, TV shows, and more on the TV you already own. The idea is to move your Netflix (NFLX), YouTube, HBO GO, Hulu Plus, and Google Play viewing habits to the screen that’s actually made for long-term channel surfing.
Ultimate Ears Boom, $199
When it comes to sound, Logitech-owned Ultimate Ears (LOGI) gets it: It’s the company behind the custom in-ear monitors that performing artists use to stay in line during big concerts. That’s why we like its UE BOOM speaker box, which looks great, sounds even better, and is entirely portable. Details like water resistance and a 15-hour battery life seal the deal.
Mophie Juice Pack Helium, $79
“All-day battery life” is what so many electronics makers claim lately, but the reality doesn’t always add up. We’re no fan of searching frantically for an outlet at the end of the day, which is why we like Mophie’s Juice Pack. The “Helium” version for the iPhone 5/5S comes in seven different colors and is surprisingly thin.
Bonavita BV382510V Variable Temperature Electric Kettle, $95
You must forgive us for having exacting standards: We drink an awful lot of coffee here at Fortune headquarters. This Bonavita kettle allows you to specify the temperature of your water, making for more exacting coffees and teas. Though it was first introduced in 2012, it’s as good as new for Fortune associate photo editor Neil Harris: “Now I can really nerd out when I’m making good coffee at home.”
The best gadgets are sometimes apps, and one of our favorites by far is Uber, which with a few taps will dispatch a taxi cab, limousine, or sport-utility vehicle to wherever you’re standing, as long as that’s in one of the many cities around the globe that Uber serves. At Fortune, that most often means “desolate parts of Brooklyn, Queens, and San Francisco,” reporter Catherine Dunn says. Assistant managing editor Leigh Gallagher is also impressed. “It’s maybe the only consumer product in history that gets so many people to buy something without knowing the price,” she says. “I don’t even notice or care that I don’t know.”
Cuisinart DCC-2900 Perfec Temp 12-Cup Thermal Programmable Coffeemaker, $129
Did we mention we love a strong cup of coffee here at Fortune? This machine promises a hotter brew, which is key for proper extraction, and a simple interface that won’t challenge you when it’s far too early to wake up. “I cannot live without my Cuisanart 12-cup auto-drip coffee maker, filters, and a full supply of Peet’s French Roast coffee,” photography director Mia Diehl says. “Nothing really else matters!”
Califone CAS1500 cassette player-recorder, $40
We’ve included several items on this list that aren’t brand new for 2013, but this item is definitely old school. “It’s kind of shameful, but to be totally honest, this is my favorite piece of technology right now,” Fortune editor Ryan Bradley admits. Why? With large, physical buttons, it’s ridiculously simple to operate — especially when you’re making magic in the kitchen. “The fidelity can’t really be beat when you’re cooking.”
Jawbone UP24, $150
The wearable technology revolution is upon us, and this flexible band-and-app combo is the latest from the popular digital accessories company, which released the first UP in 2011. What’s new? Round-the-clock tracking of your eating, sleeping, and movement patterns so you can make smarter choices about — well, everything. “Grudging respect,” resident Fortune wearables skeptic Ryan Bradley says.
Buck EdgeTek Ultra Steel Diamond Sharpener 10″ Tri-Grit, $45
Let’s be frank: sometimes the best gadget is as simple as a caveman’s tool. With a diamond coating and three grit densities on the same rod, however, this knife sharpener is no Pleistocene implement. “Keeps your kitchen knives surgically sharp without the need for a bench stone,” Fortune senior features editor Tim Smith says.
LinkedIn CardMunch, free
This innovative mobile app, which has been around since 2011, is still top of mind for Fortune reporter Erika Fry, thanks to its ability to quickly scan and digitize the information on a physical business card — critical for a journalist on the go. “I have heard multiple people rave about it,” she says.
Nikon 1 AW1, $800
Look, we get it: Eight bills is a lot of dough for a camera in an era when most people use smartphones to snap selfies. But if you’re the kind of person that spends his or her weekend scaling a rock wall only to dive into a lagoon — or maybe you’re just a professional photographer — this rugged, waterproof, shockproof interchangeable lens camera is for you.
This file-storing and -syncing web service was first launched way back in 2008. Five years later, it has been refined to sheer brilliance. “Dropbox has basically changed the way I work forever,” Fortune assistant managing editor Leigh Gallagher says. “I don’t like working on web-based anything, but with Dropbox I can store all my files in a little drop-menu folder at the top of my desktop, and when I get home and get on my laptop, the same files are in the same place, in the same order. It’s like magic. And whenever I have what I think is some brilliant idea or epiphany that needs to be added to any of these documents, I throw it on the file at home and it shows up on the document at the office.”
Google Drive, free
Like Dropbox, Google Drive allows you to store and sync files across multiple devices. The difference: Drive has editing software baked right in, so you can create, modify and share documents, spreadsheets and presentations extremely easily. “The fact that my wife and I can share spreadsheets and edit them independently, wherever we are, has made so many otherwise mind-numbing tasks so much easier,” Fortune deputy art director Michael Solita says. “It helped save our sanity while tracking our wedding guest list, managing addresses, and sending thank you cards. We still use it year-round to track our monthly budget and expenses.”
This mobile app is supremely simple: It unifies all of your inboxes, then gives you the ability to “snooze” on select e-mail, making it much easier to clear out your inbox. Instead, they’ll return to the inbox at a chosen interval, instead of just sitting there staring at you. “The greatest mail app ever created,” Fortune photo editor Jaclyn LoRaso says.
Apple EarPods with Remote and Mic, $29
These headphones (earphones?) are the all-new, redesigned version that come with every new iPod and iPhone. Fortune writer-reporter Jen Wieczner is a big fan: “I can wear them on my bike without them falling out — a big issue with the previous model. I actually consider these so essential that I asked both my boyfriend and my sister to get me these for the holidays. I was happy to get two pairs.”
This five-year-old mobile app, which syncs notes, files, and images across multiple devices, is still going strong with Fortune’s writing corps. A new fan? Senior editor Jennifer Reingold, who has seen the light: “I just used it to record an interview. No more digital recorders!”
The concept driving the Dashlane mobile app is simple: Humans can only remember so many passwords, and the Information Age has asked us to remember far too many. Dashlane will do it for you, for every website, and store them securely so you don’t have to. (As if that Post-it note was really secure.) When we asked Fortune contributor David Kaplan what his favorite gadget was, he responded with only one word: “Dashlane!”
Exuvius Titan Multi-tool Collar Stays, $30
Fortune’s resident MacGyver, creative director Brandon Kavulla, loves these titanium sartorial implements because he can remove them from his shirt collar at any time and drive a screw, cut a wire, and open a bottle without blinking. “I’ve got ’em in today,” he says. “Kinda awesome.”
Amazon Kindle Paperwhite, $119
The appeal of Amazon’s top-of-the-line e-reader isn’t hard to discern: It has thousands of books at its disposal, it’s light, portable, the battery lasts seemingly forever, and the night-light solves a key issue with older e-readers. “I love that it’s ad-free, dedicated to a single purpose, and connects me instantly to the world wide web of reading,” Fortune editor-at-large David Whitford says.
LiveScribe 3, $150
This “smartpen,” as its maker calls it, turns your written words into digital documentation — and continues to get better with every release. “My LiveScribe smartpen has become an essential tool to record interviews while taking notes,” Fortune senior writer Miguel Helft says.