Just like that, 2020 is around the corner and, yes, it sounds so futuristic — perhaps it’s the year to up your gadget game.
From facilitating more meaningful connections with those who matter most to freeing you up from chores around the house, there’s a ton of technology designed to help you be a better you. Here are our picks.
Turn a regular TV into a smart TV.. That’s the simple premise behind Roku. Simply plug a small doohickey into the back or side of your television with the included HDMI cable (yes, all TVs over the past decade or more have included this port), join your Wi-Fi network, then use the remote (or optional Roku app) to stream hundreds of thousands of movies and TV episodes. Most of the popular services are supported, including Disney+, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, The Roku Channel, Global TV, and CBS All Access. Oh, and this works anywhere you’ve got Wi-Fi, so ideal for snowbirds to bring down south, a cottage or cabin up north or even for use on hotel room TVs. $49, my.roku.com
2. iRobot Braava
You’ve probably heard of iRobot’s Roomba vacuums but are you aware of its mopping ‘bots? The Braava jet m6 cleans your hard floors — whether you’re there or not. Simply attach either a wet mopping pad (for sticky messes and grime) or a dry sweeping pad (for dirt, dust and pet hair, and it does the rest. As with many of the Roomba robots, this autonomous mopper uses artificial intelligence to get to know your home’s floor plan and optimize its clean accordingly. You can even control which rooms are cleaned. And if you own a Roomba robot vacuum (model i, s, or 900 Series), after finishing a job, it communicates with the Braava to then mop automatically! $699, irobot.com
What gets measured gets done. The Fitbit Versa 2 may be just what you need to keep your fitness resolutions in 2020. As you’d expect from this attractive smartwatch, it tracks your calories burned, steps and stairs taken, distance travelled and heart rate — and even your sleeping patterns — and shows you information clearly on its large 1.34-inch display as well as on the Fitbit companion app (for a deeper dive into the data that includes handy graphs and progress charts). The water-resistant Fitbit Versa 2 also syncs with your iPhone or Android phone so you can see notifications such as texts, emails, calls, social media posts and calendar appointments. Plus, Amazon Alexa is built-in so you can simply ask the watch for the weather or to set a timer/ alarm or even control your smart home devices. $249, fitbit.com
Keeping up with the kids, grandkids or friends from anywhere, anytime via the Facebook Portal Mini. It features an 8-inch high-definition display with camera that lets you make free video calls over Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp (up to 7 people at once with Facebook Messenger!). Simply join the Portal Mini to your Wi-Fi, log into your Facebook account and then place a video call as easy as a phone call (tap a Facebook friend’s icon on the screen or say “Hey Portal, call so and so.” Not only does the screen adapt to any room’s lighting condition automatically but its Smart Sound also follows your movements so you’ll always be seen and heard clearly. Facebook Portal Mini can also display Facebook and Instagram photos, plus there’s a built-in Alexa smart assistant to answer questions and relay your commands. $179, portal.facebook.com
5. Ring Video Doorbell 2
Speaking of video, see who’s at your door — whether you’re home or not — with the Ring Video Doorbell 2. Join it to your Wi-Fi, and the high-tech camera (with night vision) lets you keep an eye on your place from anywhere. In fact, you can have a two-way conversation with your visitor through your smartphone so they wouldn’t even know if you’re not home. Motion sensors detect movement up to 30 feet and send you automatic alerts so you’re notified even before they press the doorbell. All recorded footage is temporarily stored to the cloud, in case you ever need it and can be stored longer for an extra fee. $199 ($50/year for extended data storage), shop.ring.com
6. iPhone 11
There’s a lot to like — nay, love — about Apple’s latest iPhone. Available in six colours, including a funky purple, iPhone 11 boasts a great-looking 6.1-inch Liquid Retina display for better content viewing, battery performance that trumps its predecessors and twin rear cameras for taking exceptionally good photos — including professional-looking portraits and auto-stabilizing video of the grandkids. And the front-facing wide-angle camera rocks, too, for squeezing all the family into one selfie. In other words, expect to be the envy of your friends on social media and, as you’d expect, your Siri personal assistant is built into this water-resistant device. Plus you can download up to two million apps and games from the App Store and set up Apple Pay to securely tap your iPhone for purchases. From $280 on a two-year carrier plan, apple.ca
The biggest pain point when it comes to printers has been solved. Of course, that’s running out of ink — always at the most inopportune time — and then having to pay through the nose for a cartridge that doesn’t last long. With the Epson EcoTank ET-2760 all-in-one, you get enough ink out of the box to last up to two years — that’s up to 6,000 pages in colour or 7,500 pages in black. Yes, you read that correctly. When it’s time to buy more ink, they’re inexpensive and easy-to-install bottles rather than cartridges. This compact printer/scanner/copier features a 100-page paper tray, support for two-sided printing and voice-activated printing, and lets you wirelessly print from your computer, smartphone or tablet. $299, epson.ca