With 2016 coming to end, I thought it would be interesting to look back at some of my favorite products of the last year.
I prefer products that seamlessly blend into my life. That means they shouldn't require a lot of updates or ask me to change my behavior very much in order to enjoy them. I bought Nest thermostat two years ago hoping it would help save on energy costs as well as make controlling the temperature in our home a little easier. As much as I enjoy turning on the heat from my phone from bed, it was a much bigger hassle to "train" than I thought it would be. I still like the Nest a lot, but I wouldn't recommend it without reservation so it didn't make my list.
With that in mind, here are five of my favorite products of 2016. I use them every day. They were easy to setup and just as simple to use. I would buy all of them again without hesitation.
This is a voice-activated speaker and competitor to the Amazon Echo, but it's designed to work with Google's services. I placed it in our kitchen and then watched my spouse and kids use it multiple times a day. My kids ask it math questions and my spouse asks it to play her Google Play playlists throughout the day. My favorite easter egg? Greet Home with a "Good Morning" and it will give you a run-down of today's agenda, followed by a weather report and top news stories.
We've had a Bluetooth speaker in our kitchen for a while, but it didn't get used a lot. Too much hassle pairing and connecting required. Google Home removes all friction. It's so easy, my 4-year old likes to ask it weird questions like, "How many steps does it take to get to the moon?" Google Home is priced at $129.
After using Apple Music and Spotify, I've settled on Google Play Music. I wrote about this service in more detail in September so I won't rehash it here. I'd be hard pressed for find a better bargain than six accounts for $15/month under their family plan. It works great with Google Home too. I also can't imagine telling my kids they have to watch YouTube ads again once they get used to YouTube Red that's included with Google Play Music.
HP OfficeJet Pro 8720 All-in-One Printer
I can't believe I'm putting a printer, of all things, on my favorites list, but it's well-deserved. I don't print a lot, but I need my printer to work when I do need it. I occasionally copy and scan receipts for my business, and this HP makes both easy to accomplish. It includes a touch screen that's responsive and helpful.
My test for any printer is this: Do I have to read the manual? Not with this one. The wireless printing actually works for laptops, tablets and phones. I'm leery of any printer given years of terrible experiences I've had with them, but this one is a winner. It retails for $300, but you can find it online for about $200.
I've tried to cut way back on the Diet Coke this year, and this fully insulated stainless steel water bottle is a huge help. Each morning I fill it with ice and water, and it keeps the water cold all day. I own the 40 ounce model which you can find for about $45 online.
My spouse has the more manageable 32 ounce while my kids take the 18 ounce bottles to school. I keep mine at my desk while working on my computer throughout the day, and it keeps me from reaching for unhealthy beverages. I have no problem taking it in the car with me or carrying it around town either. I've had more people ask me about this bottle than any other product this year.
I was hesitant to go wireless for a number of reasons: hassle factor, sound quality, battery life. But I wanted a pair of wireless earbuds for the gym. After reading reviews for over a month, I gave these a try and was impressed. I've been using them every day since that time, and they have held up very well. I get about 8 hours of battery life on a charge. JayBird includes both a memory foam and silicon tips. I found the best fit and seal with the silicon tips. I didn't think I'd use them around my home very often, but I do because you quickly get used to not having to deal with wires. You can find the JayBird X2 online for about $150.
Well, that's a wrap on my five favorite products of 2016. I could have listed another five, but these are my favorite that I actually enjoy using each day. What products would make your list?