My 6 gadget heroes (and one villain) of 2014

I'm a big lover of technology generally and gadgets per se. I'm an early adopter, an over investor and a willing beta tester.

I'm no longer quite sure what constitutes a "gadget" nowadays. Some equate the term with gimmicks. Others with electronic tech. I guess for me its a combination of both.

Anyway here are my winners and losers for 2014:



Six Heroes (in no particular order)

ColdBruer Cold Brew Coffee System Arrived at the start of year, a cold brew system makes coffee by dripping iced water slowly through coffee grinds over a 10-12 hour period. The result is a smoother, less acidic brew which you can heat up, add to hot water or drink cold over ice. I'm pleased to see independent coffee shops now selling cold brew, and ColdBruer is a great way to make it at home. Unfortunately the system arrived a week after I scaled back my coffee consumption (!) but great, nevertheless.

Sonos PLAY:1. I've had a Sonos multi-room system for 8 years now. A relatively early adopter those initial years were somewhat troubled with connectivity and filseharing issues. Plus the original controller was very clunky, even though the concept was cool. Now the technical issues have disappeared and the iOS App is much cooler (and far easier to use). I already had a three room system, but I got the Play:1 to add a fourth. The form factor is so elegant, solid and well designed. It just works and looks damn good to boot. In fact, Sonos based around the Play:1 is likely up there as one of my favourite gadgets of the last decade.

Cocoon Grid-It! Organiser. Continually losing charging cables, VGA adaptors and USB sticks? Grid-It! keeps them all safe on a flat portable surface consisting of elasticised bands in umpteen configurations. Yes, you could shove everything in a zip up bag, but what i like about this is it lays flat. So I can fit it easier alongside my laptop in my laptop case or on the top of my stuff in my suitcase.

TeckNet PowerZen 15,000 mAh USB External Battery. If like me you carry and use multiple devices and get frustrated when part way through the day you're running out of juice, then this behemoth of an external battery is for you. This beauty can re-charge your iPhone or iPad up to 10 times before its drained. Plus if you don't use it for a week or so, the battery doesn't go flat. So much better than those "lipstick" USB chargers than can barely do one charge.

Apple iPhone 6Plus. I'm a big investor in Apple tech and I love my 6Plus. Its faster, has a better quality screen and a much better battery life than its predecessors. Plus I'm finding it a really useful form factor in between my iPhone 5s and my iPad Air. I'm using it more to couch-surf and when I'm travelling and downloading video content on-the-go.

Belkin Wemo Automation Switch. I dipped my toe in the water of home automation last year with the installation of the British Gas Connected Homes App which lets me control my home's heating remotely. The Wemo lets you switch anything connected to it remotely on or off and/or lets you set up on/off schedules. I've hooked it up one of our floor lamps. Useful for when you're away and want to scare away the burglars. I'm going to get their lightbulbs next - allowing you to the same, but with screw-in lights.

One Villain

UP24. I've tried to get on board the wearable fitness train. From Nike shoes that housed an Apple pedometer, to Nike+ and now to UP. From winner to sinner in a year - UP was one of my gadgets of 2013. But sadly things went downhill. I've now had three UP devices (two original and one "24" model) in 18 months. And all three stopped working. I'm not talking about they didn't quite do what  expected. Or I found the functionality limited. They just stopped working. And this for a device that only switches between active and sleep mode or is charging. Surely a Minimal Viable Product should start with just being able to be switched on. But no, 3 UP bands all stopped working (oh, and you've probably guessed i'm a city-dweller with a desk job so I've hardly put them through the mill). I would switch to FitBit but their band brings me up in a rash *despondent sigh*. So sorry Jawbone, three strikes and you're out. I tried, I really did.