I buy a lot of stuff I probably don't need. But while that leaves my bank account bare for long stretches of time, it also means it's easy for me to pick out items that truly stand out from the rest. This is my first personal pick list for TUAW, having joined the team just a couple of months ago, but I have several items that I just can't get through a day without, so let's begin!
iPhone 5 (starting at $199 with contract)
I have a nasty secret to share with you all: I really, really wanted Apple to reveal an all-new iPhone at the end of 2011. So much so that I started to buy into all the loosely-sourced rumors that the iPhone 5 would debut before 2012, complete with the new, larger screen that I wanted so badly. When the iPhone 4S was announced, I was impressed with its functionality, but still a bit disappointed that my iPhone 4 wouldn't be replaced by a larger device. So I did the unthinkable: I purchased the Galaxy S III as soon as it became available. When the phone of my dreams -- the iPhone 5 -- finally became a reality, I simply couldn't stop myself from returning to the iPhone pool, and I'm glad I did.
The iPhone 5 is the finest smartphone I've ever owned, and despite being dwarfed by Samsung's best offering in terms of screen size, the fit and finish of Apple's newest iPhone just can't be topped. Of course, if you're on this site already, you probably don't need me to tell you that the iPhone 5 is the cream of the crop, but when it comes to my own purchases in 2012, it's the last thing I'd be willing to part with.
I've wanted a MacBook Air for a while now, but in 2012 I finally got the chance to own one myself. If you've never used one, it's difficult to explain just how much faster things move on a notebook without a disc-based storage drive. You click and it happens instantly. There's really no going back. But that's only one of the reasons why I adore the Air so much and the rest of the list includes what you might expect from an Apple product, like the notebook's extremely sturdy construction, remarkably thin design, and impressive battery life.
There are few things that upset me more than having a gadget die when on a trip or in any other situation where I can't immediately recharge it. The Targus Backup Battery for iPad has pulled its weight for me on many occasions, and during long flights it has become an inseparable part of my carry-on gear. The company has a few different backup battery offerings, including ones marketed specifically at smartphone users, but the iPad version is all you'll really need. You can recharge just about anything with it, and I've gotten several full charges for my iPhone 5 out of a single fully-charged Targus unit. Simply outstanding.
As someone who spends his workdays from the comfort (and endless clutter) of a home office, finding organization and productivity solutions isn't as easy as it was when I worked in an actual office. I can't just call and IT or maintenance guy anymore; I have to find what works through trial and error. With my acquisition of a new 2012 MacBook Air earlier in the year, I started looking at various laptop stands and other options that would allow me to use it as an easily-accessible 3rd (or 4th) screen. The Fellowes Laptop Arm is exactly what I needed, and its simple design and sturdy construction are commendable. Add extra touches like a cord organizer and foam grips that don't scratch my new aluminum notebook, and it simply can't be beat.
I get headaches. I get headaches a lot. So, when I get a skull-splitting pain in my brain after sitting at my desk for 10 hours, it's pretty clear that my eyes -- and their torrid relationship with my LCD monitors -- are to blame. To give my peepers a bit of relief, I decided to try out bias lighting. For those of you unacquainted with the concept, bias lighting is the idea that by lighting the wall behind your monitor, your eyes will be less likely to cry foul when staring at them for hours on end.
Antec's Bias Lighting kit consists of 6 reasonably bright LEDs on a long adhesive strip. The strip is powered via a USB port, so it's always on when your computer is up and running. I have three of these strips currently in use: One on the back of each of my 24" ASUS monitors, and a third running along the back of my desk, just for good measure. I still get the occasional eye-strain pain after particularly lengthy writing sessions, but I can safely say that my intake of Excedrin has dropped considerably since installing them. If you get computer-related headaches, it's easily worth the price to see if bias lighting works for you.
Munitio makes high-quality earbuds that you probably won't find at your local discount electronics outlet. The company's "Nines" line is its top-tier offering, and they're totally worth it. I had my Nines for about six months now, and they've gone everywhere with me. In fact, they've even gone some places where other earbuds would have met their demise, including my washing machine, a glass of Sprite, and my cat's jaws. I won't explain how each of those events occurred, but the important part is that they are just as loud and clear as the day I got them. They might be the last pair of earbuds you ever buy.
iPhone and iPad apps