While going through a folder linked to an old personal blog, I found this quick-hit piece from 2009 listing my Top 3 Gadgets of the time. I’ve added a brief update to each item for some modern day perspective.
When it comes to my top three favorite gadgets, the iPhone 3Gs stands head & shoulders above all others. I love that my wife and I can have twin phones, with our own app setups, yet share essential information. I love that I can add an appointment to my calendar and it shows up on my wife’s phone automatically — reminders and all. I love that I can update a relative’s phone number in contacts and it’s fixed on my wife’s handset, as well. Of course, I also love carrying more than a thousand songs, hours of TV shows and a fistful of feature-length movies in my pocket everywhere I go. It’s exciting that Android, HP/Palm’s webOS and a reemergent Windows Phone are offering choice and forcing all players to both iterate and innovate.
In early 2020, Android is still a powerful and full-featured alternative to what we now call iOS, but webOS and Windows Phone are no more. Some of the paradigms and a lot of the beauty of what Palm shipped live on in both surviving smartphone platforms. And what I wrote in 2009 still holds true. The competition between Apple and Google keeps both companies on their toes and consumers benefit.
The iPhone 11 Pro I carry today is measurably better than the 3Gs I used all those years ago, yet I love it less. Because these glass slabs are such a part of our lives now, a lot of the romance is gone. That’s not Apple’s fault. It’s progress.
I have a love-hate relationship with TiVo. Next to the smartphone, the DVR has changed my life more than any other gadget. It’s nearly impossible to watch TV in real time after a decade with TiVo. I wish the company were stronger and could offer up more exciting tweaks, but it’s still the best solution for television time-shifting.
YouTube TV finally replaced having a heat-producing, hard drive-stuffed DVR in my entertainment center, but the transition hasn’t been seamless. TiVo continued its slow slide into irrelevancy and the promised living room utopia of a la carte television never truly materialized. Instead of picking and choosing just the channels we want, consumers must decide between an ever-increasing number of pay streaming services. I currently subscribe to the OG, Netflix, as well as Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV+, HBO, Hulu and YouTube TV.
While I no longer pay for TiVo service or rent a janky DVR from my cable company, I’m not saving any money either. Instead of one big cable bill, it’s the nickel and dime subscription services which dent my wallet. Subscription fatigue is real.
While TV is much better than it was a decade ago, this streaming world still has gaps. It’s hockey season and I’m a lifelong fan. When my team (Go Preds!) fired its coach this week, I couldn’t follow live coverage on NHL Network, because YouTube TV doesn’t carry it. On the 40th floor of a skyscraper far away, Kabletown executives are laughing “We told you so.”
My final favorite gadget is my aging, original version Amazon Kindle. It’s slow, it’s crashy and it’s a real pain to wake up if I let the battery completely drain. Flaws aside, the Kindle — like TiVo — has changed the way I look at an everyday activity. It’s an amazing thing to be able to buy any obscure book one can think of while in the passenger seat of a car, at 70 miles an hour, on the way to Las Vegas. Paper is dead to me.
Amazon’s Kindle has arguably come as far as Apple’s iPhone when it comes to innovation and decade-over-decade change. That “crashy” beige device with the clicky chiclet keys has given way to the inexpensive Kindle Paperwhite in my bag today. I also have a Kindle Oasis, Amazon’s top-of-the-line e-reader. Its slick aluminum chassis and expansive screen represent the Cadillac (the Tesla?) of e-readers, but I have a “Three Bears” relationship with my gadgets. That beautiful metal body and bigger screen means it feels a tad heavy and I prefer my older Paperwhite.
Ridiculous? Absolutely and undeniably, but with instant gratification and Amazon Prime, Goldilocks can find whatever is “just right” with 1-Click precision. And as members can attest, that personal perfection can often be delivered “tonight by 6 p.m.”