Favorite tech stuff of 2023

As the year closes I look back at some of my favorite discoveries of new products and services ffor 2023.

iPhone cases

iPhone cases are now a billion dollar plus business with an enormous selection of all types -from clear to leather to wallets to waterproof. Amazon alone offers more than 2000 models! But my favorite remains the one I discovered when I bought my iPhone 10 about 5 years ago, the Urban Armor Gear Monarch Pro (see photo). It’s the right combination of protection, quality materials and heft that just feels right. The case now supports MagSafe, making it ideal for the latest generations of the iPhone. It’s not inexpensive at $99, but it is far superior to most every other case designed to provide rugged protection. For those that don’t like the bulk, the cases from Mous, a British company, are engineered to provide more protection than most. The company is famous for abusing iPhones in their cases by tossing them 20 feet into the air in front of an Apple store in London and seeing them survive. For a wallet case, it’s hard to beat the pricey Vaja wallet case made of beautiful soft Argentinian leather.

Tech advice

Jared Newman is a tech writer that I’ve known by his writing for many years for PC Magazine, Fast Company, and elsewhere. He now writes The Advisorator, a weekly newsletter filled with useful advice, tips and inside information on consumer technology. There’s often something I’m unwaware of that I learn, and I think I’m well informed. For the $5 I pay each month, I find it very worthwhile. Jared covers computers, and Android and iPhones – an equal opportunity columnist.

Acquired Podcast

Listening to Acquired is like reading a good business book. Each podcast tells a story about a different company or business personality in its 2 to 3 hour length. But it’s done in a fun, clever, and informative way. Each stands on its own so you can skip around and find those most interesting to you, whether it’s the story of how Costco works, or how an engineer at Texan Instruments founded the worlds most amazing semi-conductor company.

3 way night table charger

One category that’s gone from a few models to a few hundred in just a couple of years is the tabletop charger that works simultaneously with an Apple watch, iPhone and iPods. They vary in price from about $29 to $129, yet they all do much the same thing. There are so many it’s hard to make a selection. But I found this EXW model for my wife and it works flawlessly and looks good as well. The charging stand is a bargain at $30. A cord to charge just the watch costs about the same amount.

ChatGPT and Bard

These AI software products have been creating quite a splash this year, even though its hype got out in front of reality. (Remeber that lawyer quoting fake cases that ChatGPT invented?) But once you understand their limitations, the products can be very helpful. I’ve used them to create a job description, create an outline for a research paper, and create a recommendations for a 7-day trip to Greece. Bard (from Google) is more useful for more recent events or for doing an intelligent search, but both are worth experimenting with since they’re free.

Sonos Era300 Speakers

A pair of these new Sonos speakers can turn a room with just a TV and soundbar (equipped with Dolby Atmos) into a surround sound theater. When these speakers are positioned behind and to the sides of the listening area, everyone experiences this new effect. The speakers are best positioned at listening height on tables, a wall or stands. $449.

Combustion predictive thermometer

The $179  Combustion Predictive Extended Range Thermometer is a cordless probe about half the diameter of a pencil. It’s designed to measure the cooking temperature of your steak, chicken or other meat on a grill. It wirelessly connects to your phone and displays the current temperature as well as predicts when the food will be completed. The steel probe contains eight temperature sensors to measure the cooking temperature just outside the food, inside the grill, and several more spots in the food. It uses the temperature gradient it continuously measures to predict completion time.

Amazing Ribs Website

If you’re into outdoor cooking and BBQ, there’s not a better website than Amazing Ribs. It’s a site with deep content spanning product reviews, recipes and a lively community that discusses all things barbecue. It’s free of advertising and is a bargain at $35/year.

Neil Young Archives

Lastly, I have to put in a plug for Neil Young Archives website and apps, the site that I run with Neil. It’s the one place on the web for all things Neil Young, including his albums, outtakes and unpublished music tracks, most all in high resolution quality streamed to your phone, computer or car. It’s also has a newspaper that Neil edits, plus videos, films, and memorabilia. It’s a bargain at $2.99/mo or $25 per year.

Threads

If someone told me Mark Zuckerberg would be heralded as the “good guy” because he came up with this Twitter alternative, I’d never believe it. But because Musk pretty much destroyed Twitter, Threads became the place where the disgusted go instead. And even though it’s from the same team that brought us Facebook and Instagram, each with their own issues, Threads has escaped the criticism, because it is a pretty good replacement for Twitter. In other words it doesn’t have the insanity that Musk created. It’s now the fourth most popular downloaded app and has 100 million users. It’s now expanding to Europe from NA and should continue to grow.

by Phil Baker