In 2021, we loved these gadgets. You will too.

Protocol staffers share the gadgets that changed the way they worked, played and even received packages in 2021.

Nintendo switch, Keychron mechanical keyboard, erasable pens

Protocol staffers shared their favorite gadgets in 2021.

Photo: Nintendo; Chamberlain Group; Pilot; Keychron; Belkin

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In 2021, we used gadgets to escape, to cope and to organize our COVID-induced chaos. At a time when we were asked to do almost everything — from working to working out — online, technology became not just convenient. It became essential.

We asked Protocol staffers to share their favorite gadgets that changed the way they worked, played and even received packages in 2021. Here’s what they said:

Nintendo Switch

“I got my Switch late in the pandemic. I’m not really a gamer but my family has been a devoted Mario Kart household since we got a Wii when I was in high school. I use the online play feature to play my parents every Sunday, which allows me to absolutely nuke my dad with a red shell even when I’m 3,000 miles away, thus keeping him humble [and] maintaining a connection with my beloved parents even when I’m far from home <3.” Becca Evans, copy editor

Suprus USB lighter

“As a person stereotypically obsessed with candles, I used to have plastic lighters scattered all over the house, most of them out of lighter fluid and not in the trash because I just didn’t want to buy another lighter. This little, extremely cheap USB lighter has transformed my candle habits (this is not an exaggeration). It almost never dies or needs recharging, seems to last forever and has the added bonus of confusing and freaking out everyone you know who thinks you just happen to carry around an extremely large vape pen for no reason. Plus, it’s long enough that you never struggle to light a big candle, even when the wick is at the bottom of a large jar.” Anna Kramer, reporter

Keychron mechanical keyboard

“It took returning to the office to make me realize how much I love my mechanical keyboard, but I can’t bring it with me, as the clickity-clackity sound would drive every colleague mad. But when I’m alone at home and writing/coding for hours, that sound will be the perfect white noise for me to stay focused. Also, sometimes being at home and typing into a laptop doesn’t feel like working, but the sound materializes the minute labor of pressing a key: It gives me the confirmation that I’m doing work bit by bit that gets me closer to the daily finish line.” Zeyi Yang, reporter

A notebook and erasable pens

“I’m on an eternal quest to stay organized. I set calendar reminders for everything. My phone and computer are riddled with task list apps, calendar apps and note-taking apps, some of them used for only a week before being abandoned for something else. I’ve read blogs on how to organize life ("Send yourself emails!”) and how to organize work (“Block off an hour on your calendar!”), but nothing has worked better for me than just writing things down. The erasable pens come in many colors, so I can prioritize and separate sections in various ways; there are even erasable highlighters! And my graph-paper notebook allows me to draw little squares that can be checked off once I’ve finished the task, because as a wise person once said: The only way to continue using a thing you’ve been using is to make it pretty. I love gadgets big and small, but sometimes being analog is the way to go.” —Karyne Levy, West Coast editor

AirPods Pro

“I've been extremely resistant to Bluetooth earbuds since one fell out of my ear and got run over by a car while I was doing laundry two years ago, but I finally bought some AirPods. I didn't want to spend over $100 on something I was sure would get run over by a car again, but the AirPods Pro, remarkably, have not fallen out of my ears yet. The customizable rubber tips are extremely useful, and the noise-canceling feature is pretty powerful, too.” Jane Seidel, digital editor

Audio-Technica microphone

“I am as allergic to gadgets as Protocol Editorial Director David Pierce is obsessed with them. So my favorite gadget is, fittingly, one that David bought for me after we recorded one too many podcasts where my audio sounded crappy. The microphone arrived at my house, and David promised me it was so easy to use, there was no way I could screw it up. I laughed, thinking I’d almost certainly prove him wrong. But, turns out David knows a thing or two about gadgets. It is insanely easy to use and makes recorded audio sound 1,000 times better.” —Issie Lapowsky, chief correspondent

iPhone 13 Mini

“I bought the iPhone 13 Mini on preorder earlier this year, and it was a great decision. Coming from the iPhone 11, I was worried that the phone would be too small, but I’m actually enjoying a return to the good old days when cell phones could actually fit in your pocket. The camera is a major upgrade from the 11, especially in dark settings. And I’ve noticed longer battery life as well: I can easily go more than a day without charging my phone if I don’t have heavy usage. I’ve always been a fan of flat edges and how it makes a phone feel in your hand, too.” —Aisha Counts, reporter

Sonos Roam

“2021 has been another weird year, with working from home, home-schooling, home renovations and … generally being at home A LOT. Our backyard in particular has seen a ton of usage, and, among other things, become an extension of the home office. Being able to bring music into that space without having to wear headphones all day long has been a godsend. I could probably get by with any other Bluetooth speaker, but I like the fact that the Sonos Roam doesn’t require me to fiddle with my phone all the time, and I’ve actually found some of the Sonos Radio stations to be quite good. Yay for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar curating Impulse Records!” Janko Roettgers, senior reporter

Wemo WiFi Smart Plug

“A few years ago, I had a very new smart-lighting startup come to my house to replace all my light switches with ‘smart’ light switches so I could tell my Alexa or my iPhone to turn on and off the lights instead of having to do it myself. At the time, I covered the smart home as part of my beat, so I should have known better. Reader, I did not. The switches were never compatible with Apple’s HomeKit, and earlier this year they stopped connecting to my Amazon Echo devices for no good reason at all. When I tried to contact support, I learned that the company had gone out of business at least a year earlier. The switches still (sort of) work as regular dumb switches, so I haven’t been living in the dark since then. But now when I ask Alexa to turn on and off the lights, she orders me three dozen rolls of toilet paper from Amazon instead. This brings me to my favorite gadget of this year — the simple Wemo WiFi Smart Plug from Belkin. It’s not like I think it will last forever, but it’s much easier, cheaper and more reliable to make your home smart through a simple solution like a smart plug rather than an entire lighting system.” Meg Morrone, Workplace editor

MyQ garage door

“I’ll admit the idea of Amazon opening my garage door absolutely creeped me out, and it kind of still does! But that hasn’t kept me from loving having one of the myQ smart garage doors that works with Amazon Key. Now if I can’t remember whether I shut the garage door or not, I can just check it in the app and close it if I need to. Amazon can also directly deliver packages into the garage so I don’t have to worry about them being stolen off the porch. It could just be San Francisco problems that I’m this concerned about theft, but having a smart garage door gives me surprising peace of mind.” Biz Carson, senior reporter


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