When The Verge launched on November 1st, 2011, the iPhone 4S was Apple’s newest phone. The Galaxy Nexus was imminent. The PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 were modern game consoles. The original Amazon Echo was three years away. The first Apple Watch was more than four years away. So many gadgets that we take for granted nowadays looked a lot different 10 years ago or just didn’t exist at all.
But ever since day one of The Verge, we’ve diligently covered all of the gadgets we could possibly get our hands on. And over the course of the site’s life, some have wormed their way into our hearts (and in one case, a finger), so we wanted to write about them. We’re celebrating a lot for The Verge’s 10th anniversary, but this story is our place to nerd out about the gadgets we’ve loved. These are not the best or most important gadgets, necessarily, but the ones that stuck with us.
I’ve owned a lot of iPhones in the last 10 years, but the iPhone 5 was the first. Not only was it my first iPhone, it was the first phone that I went out and voluntarily spent money on, period. Until then, I subsisted on carrier-subsidized Razr flip phones and inherited, indestructible Nokia candy bars.
The iPhone 5 isn’t even that notable in the history of the iPhone, offering a marginally taller display from the 3.5-inch panel previous iPhone models had offered. There wasn’t any big jump in processor, hardware design, or display density (as with the iPhone 4) or new software features like Siri (on the iPhone 4S). Touch ID wouldn’t arrive until the iPhone 5S a year later, and the truly big screen sizes of modern iPhones wouldn’t come until the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus two years later.
Sure, it had LTE, but given that it was also the first phone I owned with data (that I would quickly blow through browsing Twitter on buses between classes), I didn’t really notice a jump in speed. After years of owning iPod touch models that were only useful near Wi-Fi, any kind of cellular data was a major improvement.
I’ve since moved on to bigger and better phones, and swap devices far more frequently than I did back in 2012. But the iPhone 5 still stands out to me after all these years since it was the first phone that was really mine, and the first “real” phone I ever had. —Chaim Gartenberg
Like Chaim, the iPhone 5 is my favorite gadget from the past 10 years, not because it’s the best, but because it was my first smartphone. I’d owned the likes of Blackberries, but nothing quite like a phone with features I was used to only computers boasting — and with a camera to boot.
That iPhone stands out even more to me because it literally opened up a whole new world when I was going through a rough time. I didn’t have a car or reliable public transportation, so the easy access to ridesharing apps it offered was a lifesaver. Plus, the easy-to-use camera produced such high-quality images, I found myself constantly stopping to take pictures, awakening my creativity. It sounds funny, but that also ended up helping me learn about and embrace the concept of mindfulness. The camera literally made me stop and stare to appreciate the beauty in things I previously thought of as mundane or never noticed — like flowers.
Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means anywhere close to being a professional photographer these days. I am, however, a far more peaceful, mindful person. I think the iPhone 5 helped me become that way. —Sheena Vasani
Valve’s Steam Controller
I love Valve’s weird, innovative Steam Controller. It went against well-established design norms, but it’s stuck with me through the years because it lets me fine-tune controls in a way no other gamepad does. Valve crammed in a pair of puzzling, circular touchpads that offer an overwhelming amount of customization, rear paddles for extra inputs, and gyroscopic motion support for aiming. Instead of rumble motors, it had haptic actuators that emulated vibration in games. (They could even be programmed to play songs with surprising accuracy.)
After the controller was introduced in 2015, Valve rolled out a feature allowing people to contribute custom control schemes on a per-game basis — which meant the gaming community sometimes made better control schemes than game developers themselves. You can even switch to a completely different control scheme while you’re playing a game with the press of a button.
I don’t think I’ll ever come close to taking full advantage of the Steam Controller, but it helped me achieve success in games that I felt hopeless playing before. For instance, I bounced off Dark Souls on PC numerous times, but I felt much more dialed-in while using the Steam Controller’s touchpad to control the camera. I ended up beating the game with it. It’s also my preferred gamepad for Rocket League.
It’s easy to think of the Steam Controller as a failure because, well, it isn’t available for purchase anymore. And even if you weren’t a fan of the divisive controller, it had a huge impact on the platform. Valve’s efforts drastically improved support for gamepads on PC, period, and the company proved that some of its weird ideas worked. The upcoming Steam Deck handheld PC basically has a Steam Controller built into it — weird touchpads and all. —Cameron Faulkner
Electric bikes weren’t invented during my 10 years at The Verge, but there certainly wasn’t anything like the VanMoof X3 available in 2011. An impulse purchase I made in the early stages of the pandemic, back when riding the subway felt like life-threatening behavior, turned out to be my most impactful new possession of the past decade. I don’t worry too much about taking public transport these days — but why would I ever want to?
An e-bike like the X3 completely alters your relationship with the city you live in. A steep hill gets flattened out by the press of a boost button. Meeting friends at night turns into an opportunity to travel down miles of streets and alleys you’ve never seen before. A dreaded trip to the supermarket in 98-degree heat and 100 percent humidity becomes a literal breeze. I ride my X3 in almost every situation where it’s practical, and never regret doing so.
The X3 is a gadget as much as it’s a bike, from the Bluetooth unlocking system to the LED matrix display on the frame, but I mostly went with VanMoof because they have a store and service center near me. In general, I think the rise of e-bikes is the most positive tech trend of the past few years. I’m as interested in new consumer electronics as just about anyone on the planet, but it’s rare that I’d say a product markedly improves my life. The VanMoof X3 absolutely has done that, and I know I’ll never be without an e-bike again. —Sam Byford
Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA
Back in the mid-2010s, when really lightweight laptops were either hard to find or hard to afford, I needed to get myself a small, not-too-heavy computer that I could take with me to meetings and trade shows — specifically, to CES, the huge tech trade show in Las Vegas. As someone with not a lot of upper-body strength who was going to spend whole days wandering around immense show floors, then trekking to various hotels for evening product meetings, I knew putting a six-or-more-pound laptop in my backpack would have me in pain by lunchtime and useless by dinner. There were some really nice lightweights available, but definitely not in my price range.
I ended up with the Asus Chromebook Flip C100PA, a 10-inch Chromebook that weighed just under two pounds and cost me about $250. It wasn’t an ideal computer — the small keyboard wasn’t the most comfortable to type on, and Chromebooks at the time had less access to the type of business apps that might have proved helpful. But it was a joy to carry around, hooked up to whatever Wi-Fi connection was available with no trouble, held a charge through a busy day (its just-in-case power cord added very little additional weight), and allowed me to get my articles written, my day-to-day editing done, and my emails taken care of. And I didn’t have to constantly worry about dropping or losing it — it was a pretty sturdy little Chromebook, and if I did leave it in the press room or have it swiped during a party, I’d be out about $250 instead of $1,250.
If it weren’t for Google’s unfortunate policy of phasing out Chromebooks (it can no longer get software updates, dammit), I might be carrying it around with me yet. —Barbara Krasnoff
The iPhone 6S
Like Chaim and Sheena with the iPhone 5, my nostalgia for the iPhone 6S probably stems from the fact that it was the first phone I bought with my own money. (Largely because I was working at Apple and got a hefty employee discount, but let’s not talk about that). But it also sticks with me because it was the end of an era — Apple’s last phone to include both Touch ID and a headphone jack.
I don’t think I need to belabor the point of why wired headphones are still awesome any further, but there really are times that I miss the fingerprint sensor, too. The version included in the 6S was faster than the one that launched with the iPhone 5S in 2013, and while facial recognition systems like Windows Hello and Apple’s own Face ID have largely overshadowed Touch ID in 2021, it was the gold standard for unlocking your phone for a long time. Even now, people will talk about how Face ID doesn’t “just work” the first time like Touch ID often did (which is doubly true in the age of masks). Plus, it’s still kicking on Apple’s M1-powered Macs, even if you could argue they should really use Face ID instead.
I don’t think I’m alone in loving the 6S. It’s still getting the latest updates from Apple, though I can’t imagine that’ll last much longer. It’ll be a sad day when the updates stop coming — it was the last iPhone that I could look at without feeling like something was missing. —Mitchell Clark
When it became obvious that my husband and I were never going to return my friend’s Nintendo Switch, we bought it from him instead. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild had become an addiction for us, even though we didn’t get around to playing it until a year or so after the heaps of positive reviews.
There was a bit of a learning curve from Ocarina of Time, which I spent many hours in my teens playing. But Breath of the Wild brought back everything I loved about Ocarina of Time and amplified it to the point I couldn’t quit — even when some cursed glitch between our TV and the Switch dock eventually brought the console to its knees and made it inoperable, we sent it in to Nintendo support, had it “repaired” (they sent us a different, un-cursed unit), and played through the whole game all over again.
This was in the early days of lockdown, and when we beat Breath of the Wild a second time, we were more ready to move on to other games. (There was quite literally nothing else to do.) So we played through Inside, Luigi’s Mansion, and Firewatch. I farmed scorpions in Animal Crossing: New Horizons when you could still do that. We acquired a PS4 from another friend, and our renewed gaming enthusiasm spread to a whole new platform through hours of Horizon Zero Dawn and Diablo 3, which we’re still playing now (my barbarian build is lit, y’all). But it was the Switch and Zelda that brought me back to gaming after so many years. I wouldn’t even be too upset if we lost our save data and had to play it all over again. —Allison Johnson
There aren’t many gadgets I can say I use every few hours, every single day, transforming my home. The Amazon Echo is exactly that. It sits patiently in my living room, or my hallway, listening for me to shout commands at it. I’ve been using it every day for the past five years to control my lights, set reminders to feed my dog, even turn on my TV and switch channels.
While Alexa is not always great at answering general questions, the automations and routines make sure I don’t leave any lights on overnight, or when I leave the house. My original Amazon Echo does exactly what I need, reliably, and it has survived five years of updates without any issues. There aren’t enough gadgets like that these days.
Amazon seems to be creeping toward cameras on every Echo device now, and I’m not a fan. I’m only just about comfortable with a microphone that listens for commands. But as long as the Echo keeps reliably controlling my devices, I’ll be happy in my little smart home. —Tom Warren
The first-gen Amazon Echo was a defining device of the 2010s. It represented a sea change for the smart home, and ushered in a wave of Alexa-compatible devices, from speakers to wall outlets to connected microwaves. To be honest, though, I never had much interest in Amazon’s uber-popular virtual assistant — until Sonos threw it into a speaker that actually sounded good.
For me, no product in the past 10 years has gotten more use than the Sonos One. The excellent smart speaker has sat on my desk since I purchased it upon its release in 2017, allowing me to control my lighting, quickly set alarms, and take advantage of a host of Amazon skills that range from clever to borderline bizarre (Skyrim Very Special Edition, anyone?). More importantly, however, is that the speaker is just as capable at kicking out the weather forecast and NPR-friendly podcasts as the searing guitar solos of Adam Granduciel and The War on Drugs, all while maintaining the company’s penchant for rich, balanced sound.
It’s only become more versatile with time, too. When the One first launched, it offered stereo pairing and seamless integration with the rest of the Sonos lineup. The company also touted future support for Spotify, AirPlay 2, and Google Assistant down the line via a series of software updates. What seemed like little more than promises at the time actually came to fruition, bettering a speaker that was already good enough to begin with. —Brandon Widder
Most of the other people contributing to this story are writing about cool gadgets: gaming on the Switch, a particularly memorable phone, an envy-inducing e-bike. So yes, I am deeply embarrassed to be writing about a vacuum.
But you have to understand — the vacuum is good. There are no hard feelings with this vacuum. The range of improvement from old vacuum to this vacuum is just so immense, it brings me joy every time I pick it up.
The vacuum is light. It’s small. It’s battery-powered. I can pick it up, vacuum for 30 seconds, and be done with it. It turns what used to feel like a chore (and I mean simply setting up a vacuum) into something quick and just a little exciting. In an instant, I can suck up a giant pillow of cat hair. Just as quickly, I can stash the vacuum away. There’s no pulling a lumbering appliance out of a closet, no constant shuffling a plug between power outlets, no wondering why the power cord is bizarrely thick and won’t wrap up properly.
Why does this device stand out to me so much? Is it because I’m over 30 now? Is it because I got a cat? I don’t know. But I never expected to have any positive feelings toward a vacuum, and that delta stands out every time I use the Dyson. —Jake Kastrenakes
Nest Learning Thermostat
I’m crazy about climate control. What sparked this love affair? The Nest Thermostat. No, not the dinky plastic thing Google is pushing now, but the original, gloriously spinny, solid metal marvel that is the Nest Learning Thermostat. I purchased two in 2013 when I moved into a 1960s ranch house in steamy South Carolina. We had a new heating and air conditioning unit installed, and the technician looked at me like I was bonkers when I handed him the gadgets. But considering he was going to charge me $400 for a couple of dinky plastic analog thermostats, the Nest was a relative bargain at $250 a pop. In the decade since, I always return to the Nest. I test smart thermostats for a living, so I’ve installed approximately two dozen since the Nest’s 2011 debut, and none of them have ever made me as happy nor as comfortable.
As a piece of tech, the Nest does the two things every smart home gadget should do, and it does them both brilliantly. It works with almost no intervention from me — I don’t have to worry about it, mess with it, program it, or troubleshoot it. And it looks really smart. The first-generation model I have (and which still works flawlessly) has a better design than all its competitors. The third generation, with its Farsight feature, adds another level of usefulness, doubling as a clock or indoor weather station.
As a way to control my climate intelligently (a real challenge in the South where temperature swings of 30 degrees in one day are not uncommon), the Nest has never failed me. Many others have. And while I do mourn the smart home flexibility I lost when Works with Nest was killed (and no, Google has not replaced all that functionality yet, despite its promises), as a smart thermostat, Nest is still undoubtedly the best. —Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
While a laptop has been the most essential part of my job, nothing has given me more of a sense of accomplishment than using Sony’s little point-and-shoot camera, the RX100. I’ve gone through several iterations and loved every single one. The magic of the RX100 is that it puts all the mirrorless camera features I need into something pocketable. It’s always competent in auto mode, and if I’m feeling confident I can step into full manual mode and get something better.
Often, I need something small that actually does a good enough job to publish on our website. Until relatively recently, smartphone cameras weren’t up to that task. Instead, I used an RX100. I’ve used it to liveblog entire Apple keynotes, tethered to a Mac. While everybody else around was using heavy DSLRs, I was getting good-enough photos with my tiny point-and-shoot.
The RX100 (and now the ZV-1) have also been essential on-ramp tools for video, at least for me. For a relatively affordable price, I’ve been able to shoot my own Verge review videos. The fact that these cameras have Sony’s best-in-class eye autofocus has also been a huge boon. With most cameras I tend to not trust autofocus enough and go full manual, but when you’re shooting entirely on your own (especially when you’re not a pro), focus issues are often a recipe for reshoots.
Smartphones have nearly caught up to (and in some cases surpassed) the image and video quality of the RX100. Full-size mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses have gotten better than the RX100 too. Even though RX100 cameras are not as essential now as they once were for me, it’s still the camera that helped me learn how photography and video works on a practical level, so it’s my favorite. —Dieter Bohn
In January 2013, living rent-free in my mom’s basement, the Leica M9 convinced me to blow an absurd amount of money I had no business spending. The M9 was groundbreaking for its time, with a full-frame 18-megapixel sensor in a compact and portable system camera coupled to a lens ecosystem dating back to 1954. Its rear LCD was a low-res joke, its battery life was awful, and its processing speeds felt like it had the CPU of a TI-83 Plus graphing calculator, but the experience was one-of-a-kind and the files were rich with amazing image quality. It sold incredibly well for a camera priced at $7,000, in part because the primary competition was bulky DSLRs.
It ended up being a worthwhile investment, as it got me engaged in an enthusiastic side of photography I had not felt since Photo I class in college — and led to a nearly seven-year career at Leica itself before I joined The Verge.
Yes, it was released in 2009, but I bought mine secondhand in January 2013 so I’m not entirely cheating. I’d first picked up an old Leica M6 film camera and started enjoying how the rangefinders handled. When I saw an M9 listed for sale on a photo forum, I realized I could combine that experience with digital convenience. We were reaching peak-DSLR around then, and the M9 was the grail of the pre-mirrorless world. It helped me approach photography in a new way and made me feel more cultured than I was as a DSLR snob: A manual focus rangefinder is like a palate cleanser in a world awash with varying degrees of the same flavor.
Now, mirrorless cameras are ubiquitous for most enthusiasts and pros, all but sealing the fate of DSLRs the same way that smartphones have largely replaced point-and-shoot cameras, and the M9 is showing its age. But if the M6 I still own today is the film camera I may take with me to the grave, the M9 is the camera I’ll always recall as a gem of the digital photography age. —Antonio G. Di Benedetto
The HTC Flyer was the first tablet I owned, and it’s one of the few pieces of old, unused technology I refuse to part with. It went on sale in May of 2011 – technically before The Verge launched, but there was a review on ThisIsMyNext.com and that review still exists – and I knew I wanted it as soon as I saw it in person.
The feature everyone talked about was the stylus. Well, that and the fact that it ran Android 3.0 Honeycomb, which seemed like a big deal at the time. That stylus was a complement to one of my favorite features on any device I’ve ever owned: the bezel. Yes, the bezel on the HTC Flyer is perfect.
It curves up, and that curved corner nestles your thumb perfectly and makes the device much easier to hold. And because the bezels are so thick, your thumb won’t accidentally tap a button while it’s over there. Another surprise: that thick, curved bezel also houses a button that can only be activated by the stylus. Click the stylus on the button and you get a radial menu with all the drawing options you need.
Truly, no one thought about bezels the way HTC did. They decided to make them a feature, not a burden. So while tablets might have “edge-to-edge screens,” they’re missing out on being perfect. —Creighton DeSimone
Anker PowerCore 5000
A battery pack might seem like the most boring gadget, but a) it’s not and b) just listen. Over the past 10 years, no other single gadget has been more useful to me than my battery packs. No other gadget has saved the day so frequently or helped others so much in their time of need. No other gadget is as welcome in its appearance or as uncomplicated in its use. There are no drivers to install or settings to fiddle with, just “charge me and I will charge you” — less an instruction manual and more a mantra of cosmic benevolence. Without battery packs, other gadgets would fail. With battery packs, they are lifted up for second life.
Over the years I’ve owned units of varying wattage and design, but eventually settled on one particular product: the Anker PowerCore 5000. It is, to me, the epitome of the genre: a small, sleek cylinder that nestles reassuringly in the hand and slips easily into bags and pockets. I used to pair the PowerCore with a hardshell carry case and bags of short braided cables, Lightning and Micro-USB, that tucked neatly into a mesh compartment. It was an unbeatable combo, every element simple and practical. Taking it out of your bag and plugging in an ailing phone or pair of earbuds felt like the action of someone who knew what they were doing in life. Someone with a plan. It was such an effortless pairing that I used to buy a PowerCore, case, and cables for friends and family as gifts. “Oh, thank you, I guess,” was the initial reaction. Then, some weeks later: “Oh my god, thank you, this is actually so useful.”
That was, of course, when battery packs were necessary items. I don’t use mine as much these days, partly because phone batteries are bigger and partly because being confined indoors for the last couple of years has lessened the need. But there are still times when I think, “Hmm, don’t want to run out of juice,” grab my little pack and drop it into my bag. It’s a little dose of certainty. A solution to a problem no one should have. A king among gadgets. —James Vincent
Philips Hue Lights
Every weeknight at 5:15 my desk lamp automatically turns off. Middle of winter or the height of summer, that light powers down, and I’m reminded that the work day is nearly over and I should start wrapping things up so I can sign off. It’s because I stuck a Hue lightbulb in there. Smart lights are a very minor part of the long-promised and rarely-delivered future smart home, but they’re something I use every single day.
They were first installed when I lived in a tiny “half bedroom” that required crawling across the bed to turn on the lights when I got home. At the time the extremely pricey bulbs were a necessary luxury. Finally, a way to enter my bedroom at night and not be immersed in total darkness! I made a similar excuse when I moved into a practically window-free basement two years later and dropped $400 on Hue bulbs.
Years later the price of the bulbs has come down. Heck, you don’t even need a $50 hub to make the new Bluetooth ones work. Plenty of much more affordable imitators have followed in Hue’s footsteps (I have some of them, too). Most people know Hue for the vibrant colors the bulbs cast, and you can spend hours on Reddit looking at people’s Dayglo-lit homes festooned in more LEDs than a Vegas hotel lobby. But I love them for their consistency and flexibility.
Sure, I can light my house like a John Wick movie. But the real value is having the lights pop on when I return from a dog walk, or cast the bathroom in a cool glow when I stumble there at 2AM. It took me a few days to program them to automatically do the things I want. Then, I stopped thinking about lights entirely. —Alex Cranz
Of all the mechanical keyboards to have emerged over the past decade, the WhiteFox is the one I’ve loved the most. Developed by a passionate group of keyboard enthusiasts and sold via what was effectively a crowdfunding campaign on Massdrop in 2015, the WhiteFox brought a level of quality you’d normally only find in keyboards you assemble yourself.
Priced between $200 and $300, the WhiteFox was wildly expensive, and lacked the bells and whistles you’d get out of much cheaper and more mainstream models from the likes of Razer and Corsair. But what it lacked in functionality it made up for with sheer charm: The WhiteFox really is bizarrely small and compact compared to what most people think of when they imagine a computer keyboard.
Of course, the WhiteFox was also designed to be easy to take apart and tinker with, so you better believe that’s exactly what I’ve done with mine. The original far-too-stiff Cherry MX Clear switches have long since made way for a set of crisp Zealios, and the original keycaps swapped out for another set in a lovely retro beige color scheme. My WhiteFox came with a UK layout as part of the original production run, and was a variant that manufacturer Input Club never produced again. I later found out that it abandoned the layout because of the lack of interest, and that my UK-layout WhiteFox was one of only 20 ever produced.
Although I’d always intended the WhiteFox to be the last keyboard I ever bought, my presence as The Verge’s resident keyboard weirdo has meant that I barely get to use mine anymore as I hop between newer models. But damn, it’s just such a nice keyboard. —Jon Porter
Bose QuietComfort 20 earbuds
When I first flipped the switch on these noise-canceling earbuds, it felt like stepping into another dimension. I hadn’t really had any noise-canceling tech until I got the Bose QC20 for Christmas years ago. Before, when it got noisy, I just turned up whatever headphones came along with my phone, and tried to make do. Now, I could turn down the outside world as well — and the soft tips were vastly better than the hard plastic I was used to.
I’ve never been a huge audiophile, so I didn’t care that they were as bass-heavy as my colleague Chris Welch wrote back in 2013; I slowly loved them to death. They helped drown out the noise from my neighbors in the apartment with the paper-thin walls. They accompanied me through the rumbling New York subway on the hour-long trek to Queens where my boyfriend (now husband) lived. They shushed the roar of planes as I traveled to see my family scattered in different states. Along the way, I abused the heck out of them. They got tossed into the bottom of my purse, tangled around pens, scratched and bumped and jolted, and yet they kept working through it all.
After many years, I noticed the casing was cracking near the charging port, and the coating on the wire near the headphone jack was splitting, but I kept using them until a recent Christmas when I was gifted a set of AirPods Pro. The new wireless noise-canceling earbuds relegated my old wired headphones to the bucket o’ e-waste in my pantry, where they now sit atop a heap of dead batteries. They didn’t stay with me forever, but they were great while they lasted. —Mary Beth Griggs
Samsung Galaxy Note
Out of all the many smartphones I’ve played with over the past 10 years, I’ve always loved the Samsung Galaxy Note the most. From the first time I heard about the first-generation Note with the S Pen in October 2011, I was hooked. The OG Note’s 5.3-inch HD Super AMOLED display was positively monstrous. Journalists and consumers were falling over themselves coming up with new “phablet” jokes. (Is the Note a phone or a tablet or IS IT BOTH?)
But what Note fans knew from the get-go was that a bigger screen also meant a bigger battery, and the Note was the biggest of all. Whenever my iPhone-toting friends ran out of power, I’d still have at least enough juice to get me home. Of course, the battery also got Samsung into a lot of trouble with the cursed Note 7, but they were recalled before I could buy one.
Since I didn’t (and still don’t) take many phone calls, I’ve always appreciated that the Note lets me do more than just consume content. I’ve been able to sign important documents, create a lookbook for my wedding, and annotate screenshots to provide remote tech support to my parents. I’m pretty sure I can’t say the same about other gadgets I’ve used in the past decade.
I am pretty sure I use my AirPods more than any other gadget I own. While I work, my AirPods basically never leave my ears. During the weekend, I use them to listen to music and podcasts while I’m on a long run or walking around the city. And now that the Nintendo Switch finally supports Bluetooth headphones, AirPods are my headphone of choice for after-work gaming sessions.
Sure, AirPods don’t sound as good as other in-ear buds. But they’re just so damn useful. They connect reliably to my phone and computer, recharge quickly in their case, and are small enough to carry around in a pocket, meaning that I can immerse myself in audio nearly everywhere I go, with no muss, no fuss, and no wires.
I was dubious of AirPods when Apple first announced them in 2016, but ever since I started using them, I’ve been a believer. —Jay Peters
Surface Book 2
I have loved many things in life, but few can top the Surface Book 2 that I purchased for myself in 2018. But Monica, I can already hear the Twitter masses shrieking, the Surface Book is silly-looking, ridiculously top-heavy, and way too expensive. Sure, whatever. It’s also awesome.
The most common criticism I hear is nobody knows how they’re supposed to use the detachable screen. First off: piano music. I am card-carrying Gen Z; I don’t own a printer and have no idea where I’d print something if I wanted to. My piano music lives on my computer. Prior to my purchase of the Book 2, I was doing all kinds of magic tricks to balance a 2013 MacBook Pro on my piano stand. No longer — I pop the screen off, and it fits perfectly.
Second: carrying. Two-in-one computers are great, but they’re almost all too heavy to comfortably hold up as a tablet for long periods of time if you’re planning to use one to give a presentation, or just to walk around your kitchen with while waiting for water to boil (which I unashamedly do all the time). Even the Surface Pro 8 is close to two pounds. But the Surface Book’s tablet is a tablet tablet. It’s just over a pound and a half; it’s light.
The magic of the Surface Book goes beyond its detachable screen; it’s the use cases that it uniquely combines into one. There is no other device on the market where you can run AAA games and carry it up to a keynote one-handed. Sure, you could buy a Razer Blade and an iPad. But I like having them as one thing. If I’m going on vacation, or going to a friend’s house, or traveling to a conference, I only need to put one thing in my backpack. It’s great!
Finally, battery life. The Surface Book 2 has two batteries — one in the base, one in the tablet — and it never dies on me. I use it for hours every day, and charge it very occasionally. It’s great to never have to worry about bringing a charger with me if I’m going out to a coffee shop or on a day trip. My lifestyle has adapted so much to the Book 2’s battery life, I’m at a bit of a loss for what to buy next (because the Surface Laptop Studio’s lifespan just doesn’t cut it). If not Microsoft, I hope another company will find a way to replicate this. —Monica Chin
Logitech PowerPlay mousepad
There is something undeniably cool about having a top-tier wireless gaming mouse that you never have to plug in. Logitech’s Powerplay system just works. You plug a $120 mouse pad into your desktop, slot a small, silver-dollar-sized disc into your Logitech mouse of choice, and you’re done thinking about cords and charging for good. Clarke’s third law states that “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” and wireless charging feels like it to me.
I personally own several bags that are full of charging cables that I’ve collected over the years, cables that will almost certainly, eventually, end up in a landfill. Then I think about all the gadget fiends I know and how they’re probably in a similar position. When was the last time you saw someone on Star Trek looking for a charging cable for their tricorder? If we can get wireless charging to a point of ubiquity, we’d save a substantial amount of e-waste, or at least cut down on the number of friendships that get ruined because SOMEBODY stole SOMEONE’S iPhone charger (you know who you are).
I know we’re a long way off from being able to charge our devices simply by walking into a room, or being able to eliminate outlets altogether. But wireless charging belongs in more stuff, and I’m excited to see how we apply it in the future. —Alice Newcome-Beill
Pebble Time Round
Let’s face it — most smartwatches are just beepers on your wrist. Apple figured out how to turn them into a fitness device. But the best alternative to the Apple Watch? Pebble. Support for Pebble devices officially died in June 2019, and there still hasn’t been a smartwatch like it since.
The Pebble Time Round was the first time I could wear a smartwatch without it drawing attention. It didn’t look like a smartwatch at all, where other wrist devices stood out and made a statement whether you liked it or not. Almost every day, I would go into the Pebble watch face store on the app and find a watch face that fit my mood, wardrobe, or interests at the time. Pokemon Go was huge, so I had a Pikachu watch face. If I wanted to go retro, there were dozens upon dozens of watch faces to choose from. And the buttons! Side buttons just make sense for a watch. Easy to control with gloves or wet hands. Intuitive to how watches have worked for decades.
Fitbit bought Pebble, then Google bought Fitbit. But somehow there still hasn’t been a smartwatch with the sleek and functional design of the Pebble Time Round. Why? —Andru Marino
Toshiba Satellite Radius 12
I am a bad gadget owner. I have a tendency to drop or otherwise (unintentionally! inadvertently!) abuse phones, laptops, and any other gadget that has the misfortune of coming into my orbit. Whatever the electronic equivalent is of a brown thumb in gardening, that is what I have. I try to avoid buying the newest iteration (I know, I know) of phones and computers, because I’ve become very risk-averse and instead wait to acquire expensive electronic devices only after they have been thoroughly vetted by more adventurous and knowledgeable peers.
One of the rare times I did stray from my self-imposed gadget rules was a few years ago when I left my miserable day job for a (brief) stint as a full-time freelancer, and I needed a new laptop. I got a Toshiba Satellite Radius 12. Reader, I absolutely loved it. It was the most substantial computer I have ever owned, from its chunky form factor, its impossibly heavy weight, its mostly useless ability to convert from laptop to tablet, its beautiful touchscreen, and its squishy, backlit keyboard. I should probably not do product reviews.
It was too big to reasonably fit into any normal-sized shoulder bag (so I got a bigger one, obviously), and it was so heavy that after lugging it around all day I usually had a sore neck (yes, I am saying the thing I loved was literally a pain in my neck). It was beautiful, and it could tolerate my abuse more than any other device I had ever owned, as if it knew I didn’t mean it when I dropped it on the subway or spilled water (OK it was wine) on its keyboard.
Eventually, the hinge that let it convert from laptop to tablet wore out, and damaged the power socket which was located impractically close to the hinge so I could no longer charge it, despite the valiant efforts of the guys at my local uBreakiFix shop. I still mourn this laptop’s demise — and I have not been able to part with it completely, so it occupies an obnoxiously large spot on my bookshelf. I was saddened when Toshiba announced it was getting out of the laptop business because it meant I wouldn’t ever be able to find a suitable updated version. I will never forget you, Toshiba Satellite Radius, you big, dumb, beautiful mess. —Kim Lyons
The ZBoard Pro wasn’t the lightest, or the sleekest, or the fastest electric skateboard. It wasn’t the easiest thing to learn to ride. The small company that made it was around for just a few years before vanishing into oblivion.
But the experience of riding the ZBoard Pro still kicks around in my brain more than any other electric skateboard — more than even the many smooth, quick trips I’ve taken over the years with the category-defining boards Boosted made before it went out of business.
The original ZBoard was a beast — 25 pounds of wood, metal, and electronics sitting on relatively enormous wheels. That was part of its charm. The ZBoard Pro could tackle the toughest sections of New York City’s streets, which is no small feat. Rocks, sticks, and other debris can spell quick doom when you’re on a skateboard, more so when it’s motorized. And yet I remember enjoying the snap of branches that dared sneak under the ZBoard Pro’s chunky wheels. That feeling made it worth lugging the colossal board around (and the built-in handles helped, too).
What made the ZBoard special was that you controlled it using pressure-sensitive footpads embedded in the deck. It really, truly, took some getting used to accelerating and braking by shifting my weight. But the beauty of this control scheme was that it made riding the ZBoard eerily similar to riding a snowboard. For most people, I think Boosted’s hand remote is still the best electric skateboard controller made to date. I always thought ZBoard’s approach was more fun, though.
Boosted gets all the credit for establishing the electric skateboard market, and creating the best product. But the ZBoard Pro arrived on the scene at nearly the exact same time. In another universe, maybe the roles are flipped. In this world, ZBoard only made it far enough to develop a second-generation board (smaller, lighter, but with the same control scheme) before it flamed out. Some people who preordered that newer board were lucky enough to get theirs, but most, it seems, never did — a shame, because the original board was truly unique. —Sean O’Kane
HTC Evo 3D
I’m pretty sure I’ve included this pick in at least one other list over the past 10 years, and I don’t care. I loved this phone. Not for the gimmicky 3D screen. Or the fact it came preloaded with Seth Rogen’s The Green Hornet. Or because it was arguably another forgettable Android phone running version I-don’t-even-remember. Why did I love this phone? It had a very good button.
The Evo 3D came with a two-stage camera shutter button. (And since there may be people at this point who have never used a traditional camera, a two-stage button works like this: you press it halfway to activate autofocus, and then all the way to snap the photo.) It was a perfectly-placed, circular metal button on the side of the phone with a 2D/3D photo toggle button next door. And it felt so good to press.
Did the phone take good photos? Of course not. We’re talking about a 2011 Android device. It produced hot garbage by today’s standards. But… that button. I’ll never forget that button.
The Evo 3D’s shutter button wasn’t just interesting because HTC dared to do something different as devices began converging on anonymous rectangle design. It was legitimately useful. Despite today’s advances in image stabilization and software processing, I still don’t feel totally comfortable having to tap the screen of my phone to take a photo or to tweak the focus. The genius of the shutter button on the phone was that you could hold the phone steady with two hands while still being able to manage focus and pick the right shot at the right time.
Smartphones are incredible these days. They do so many things so well that improvements from year to year have become painfully incremental. But even the most advanced iPhone is still missing something. Give me that button. —TC Sottek
For my entire life, I’ve been losing things. In the last few months, I was tested for ADHD and found out my memory is less reliable than a bargain-brand cassette tape. But for nearly four decades, the only thing I knew is that I don’t know where anything is.
If I put it down, it disappears — and in far too many cases, my wallets, keys, electronics, and other items vanished for good. After I had to replace everything in my wallet, again, a few years ago, I bought a couple of Tile’s Bluetooth trackers and the problem stopped.
Even for me, completely losing an important item is rare, but getting stuck in the house because I can’t locate something important is an everyday struggle. Tile pretty much ended that, too, as suddenly my wallet and keys can speak up to announce their locations, even if the app’s ability to narrow down their hiding spot via wireless signal is questionable. Better yet, the Tiles themselves can find my phone, wherever it might be, like in the freezer, behind the couch, or outside, somehow. I’ve tried some other solutions I liked, too, but Tile’s the one that finally solved it for me.
I think there are negatives to consider about the impact of tracking devices, whether made by Tile or others, when it comes to increasing waste and managing our digital footprint. Now there are some Tiles with replaceable batteries, but it’s not every model, and it doesn’t do much for millions of older units already out there.
With the release of ultra wideband trackers, range and precision are increasing to a whole new level, highlighting privacy and stalking issues that haven’t been fully addressed yet, too. It’s also annoying that Tile locks important features like unlimited sharing and location history behind a subscription — but I really can’t overstate the amount of time saved and peace of mind that these little trackers bring. —Richard Lawler
I’m a video director and photographer here at The Verge, so it’s no surprise that my favorite gadget in the last decade would be a camera. But it might surprise you that it’s not a full-frame or medium-format behemoth, or even a massive cine camera. Rather, it’s Fujifilm’s tiny, retro-style, fixed-lens mirrorless camera — the Fuji X100T.
Technically, this camera leaves a lot to be desired. The processor and the sensor both feel outdated. Noise handling isn’t all that good at higher ISO. Its fixed, non-removable 35mm-equivalent lens is a bit soft at f/2.0. There’s technically a video mode, but not much reason to use it. Fujifilm’s software has also improved greatly since this camera was first released in 2013.
All these things are kind of missing the point, though. For me, this was the camera that brought me back to loving the actual process of taking photos. Initially I was just looking for a secondary, lighter, non-intrusive camera to carry with me daily. I was won over by the X100T’s absolutely beautiful retro design, its hybrid EVF, its ability to simulate the colors of retro film and its deliberately restricting nature. I was totally sold on the idea of becoming the next Robert Frank (still waiting on that last part to happen).
But it did change my approach toward photography, made me slower and more deliberate with how I compose my images. It was the camera that convinced me to switch away entirely from my trusted Canon 5D Mark II (which I still kept for sentimental reasons) to mirrorless. I don’t use the X100T as much as I used to, but I bring it every time I visit New York City: There’s something very special about shooting around the city in the black-and-white film simulation mode. —Vjeran Pavic
MiSTer FPGA retro console
I’m not sure if my growing obsession with classic video games over the last 10 years is a byproduct of the steady, unyielding passage of time, or if it’s a byproduct of some truly incredible advances in retro gaming technology… so let’s go ahead and agree on the latter and move on. From HDMI mods on everything from the NES to the Dreamcast, to the incredible clone consoles from Analogue, the retro gaming faithful are truly blessed. But there’s perhaps no greater blessing for me than the MiSTer project.
Like I explained recently, “MiSTer is an open-source project designed to recreate the functionality of classic PCs, arcade games, and consoles as accurately as possible,” and it does this using FPGA (field-programmable gate array) technology. “While traditional CPUs are fixed from the point of manufacture,” Sam Byford explained in his own MiSTer story, “FPGAs can be reprogrammed to work as if they came right off the conveyor belt with the actual silicon you want to use.”
While I still cherish my IKEA shelf full of consoles and my shelves full of games, I’ve increasingly found myself firing up my tiny little MiSTer when I want to play a classic game. While I can use an HDMI display, I most often default to the warm, irradiated glow of my Sony PVM CRT coupled with, well, almost any controller you can think of. I play Gunstar Heroes on the Sega Genesis core, or recently, TMNT on the Game Boy Advance core. I have an emulated 486 running everything from Doom to Loom. I have a hardware-accurate NeoGeo clone running games in crystal-clear 240p, truly a future that my 1990s teenage self could only imagine.
Every week there is something new happening in the world of MiSTer, from new cores to cases to controllers. The MiSTer’s vitality encourages me to take the occasional break from whatever new release I’m playing to spend time with its progenitors — pausing Metroid Dread to pick up the GBA’s Metroid Fusion, for example. But to my surprise, over time, I’ve found my attention falls more and more often to the MiSTer. —Chris Grant
iPod classic 160GB
Sometimes, all I want to do is listen to my music in peace without seeing a trillion tweet notifications and new emails. That’s when I miss my iPod classic the most. With my iPod, if I wanted to shuffle through songs before falling asleep, I didn’t even have to look at the device. I could close my eyes and rely on actual buttons and the iPod’s comforting scrolling sound to shuffle through music. Now, I have to confront my phone’s blue light just to skip songs. Instead of being an escape, music sometimes sucks me back into doomscrolling.
I’m cheating a little bit with this entry, because the last iPod classic model came out in 2009. But I hung onto mine until at least 2014, when I moved from Southern California to New York City. Coming from a place with very little public transportation, the sound of subway cars’ clanging low-key terrified me when I first arrived. I could drown that out and pass the time during my commute with my iPod — without draining my phone battery, or having to rely on data, or finding underground Wi-Fi to stream songs. I didn’t realize I was lugging around a dinosaur until another commuter told me one day that he hadn’t seen an iPod like mine “in years.”
I should have taken it as a compliment. As The Verge’s environmental reporter, I write about what a nasty problem e-waste is. The most eco-friendly choice you can make when it comes to picking a device isn’t buying a greener new device — it’s generally to keep the one you have until it’s dead. My iPod is, sadly, lost — probably in some box of sentimental crap I lug around with me whenever I move apartments. I can’t pinpoint exactly when or why I stopped using it. But if I ever find it again, I’d love to give it another spin. —Justine Calma
I think most people would consider Google Glass to be an abject failure and certainly not worthy of my Gadget of the Decade. But not me. I think it’s a clear winner. Not because it was great (it definitely wasn’t), not because it was a brave attempt by Google to make a truly revolutionary device (though it was), but because it made me think differently about my approach to taking pictures.
Glass wasn’t just another iteration of a smartphone camera; this was a computer that you wore on your face! Which, of course, turned out to be not great from a self-esteem or privacy point of view.
The Google Glass Explorer Edition was announced in 2013. I immediately signed up and went to Google’s showroom in Chelsea Market in New York to part with my $1,500 to buy one. When it came to selecting the color, I opted for the Shale model as the one least likely to make me feel self-conscious. Unfortunately it didn’t work. As soon as I stepped into the street I felt like a complete jerk.
I felt so conspicuous that I soon gave up wearing Glass just for the hell of it. Instead, I became interested in using it as a still and video camera. I found taking photos without looking through a viewfinder or at a screen meant that the images were always slightly off from what I was expecting; it was like shooting with an extreme, exaggerated parallax. Being unable to accurately compose the photo, I was really just shooting a best guess. And I liked that.
Of course the quality and resolution of Glass’s camera was bad — even for 2013. But to me that wasn’t the point. I liked the limitations. I appreciated that Glass forced me to think differently about how I was taking pictures in ways that using a smartphone never had.
Yes, Google Glass was ultimately a failure as a consumer gadget. But it has had a lasting impact in how I think about new technology and the art of taking photos. —James Bareham
A finger magnet
For about half the past decade, I had magnetic powers. I don’t anymore. It’s a long story.
I got a magnet implanted in my finger back in 2012. The minor surgery was fairly common among DIY biohackers: fans of physical augmentations like RFID chips, implanted headphones, and other futuristic “upgrades.” And it’s one of the most delightful things I’ve ever done. There is nothing in the world like being able to physically feel the fields around speakers and microwaves, pull loose screws from their housings with one finger, and impress strangers by performing minor telekinesis with paperclips and bottle caps.
Unfortunately, this didn’t last. My working theory is that a coat of scar tissue slowly insulated the magnet until it couldn’t function; this is backed up by some advice from biohackers and also the permanently bruised swelling that’s bloomed on my fingerpad. I acknowledge that might sound off-putting, but I promise it’s painless. Almost.
I’ve got no practical reason to keep the magnet now, just nostalgia. There was a brief period where emerging tech felt exhilarating, transformative, and within ordinary people’s control. For me personally, that period feels long gone. It’s been nine years; I’ve watched a lot of cool-seeming innovations flop or backfire or concentrate in the hands of a few companies that used them irresponsibly. Magnet powers and microchips are now the stuff of pandemic conspiracy theories — I can’t even joke about having really been magnetized, because I’m pretty sure someone would take it seriously.
The thing is, though, I’d do the surgery again without hesitation. I still consider getting another magnet, although you can’t easily swap a new implant into the same slot, so the threat of running out of fingers stops me. I browse Dangerous Things to see if there’s anything neat I could get stuck under other parts of my skin. I want a fully implanted low-maintenance compass so very badly.
Lots of biohacking was never as high-tech as its proponents made it sound. But there’s something satisfyingly grokkable about its tiny, discrete pieces of hardware. And these days, in a complex and vastly networked world, casual fun feels hard to come by. —Adi Robertson
30-inch Apple Cinema Display
One of my favorite gadgets is also my oldest, faithfully serving me for over 16 years. I purchased Apple’s 30-inch Cinema Display with an incredible (for the time) 2560 x 1600 resolution for about $2,300 way back in early 2005. I didn’t need it, I wasn’t even employed at the time, but I wanted it.
So, I bought the behemoth primarily out of spite at a very difficult time in my life, when things, I thought, would bring me more happiness than experiences. It’s now the single oldest piece of consumer tech in my house, yet I still use it every day. I feel pretty good about that in a culture and industry that promotes overconsumption as a virtue.
This Cinema Display was my only monitor when I began tech blogging on a PowerMac G5 back in 2005, it was there when I helped launch The Verge in 2011 from behind a MacBook Pro, and I’m looking at it right now as I type these words into my new Mac Mini.
I wrote my first paid article on this monitor and it was here that I edited videos of my wedding and the photos of my daughter’s birth. Such intimate longevity has created emotional attachment, making it more than just a display. It’s a 30-inch totem that represents the through-line of my professional career and family life. How could I ever give it up? —Thomas Ricker