The best new tech ideas 2021

Sometimes the best technological advancements are the ones that don’t try to change everything.

Instead, they come in the form of simple improvements to the products we already use. These are ideas that seem so smart that you suddenly wish every business would copy them.

In an age when the tech world is turning to barriers with metaverse, blockchains, augmented reality and AI, let’s take a step back and celebrate some small innovations that you can take advantage of today. Here are the smartest little ideas that have made technology more fun to use over the past year:

Simple productivity boosters

Take notes from anywhere: Jotting down ideas just got a lot easier in MacOS Monterey, whose Quick Note feature lets you open a miniature notepad without leaving your current app. Just press Fn-Q on the keyboard or move your cursor to the bottom right of the screen, then start writing. In Safari, you can click any highlighted text while holding down the Ctrl key or share links to add them to your Quick Notes as well. (The same feature is also available on iPad by swiping diagonally from the lower left corner of the screen or by pressing Globe + Q on a keyboard.)

Faster access to files: To improve the efficiency of Chromebooks, Google added a cool feature called “Tote” in the ChromeOS taskbar. With one click, you can access recent downloads, screenshots, scanned documents, and favorite files, which you can pin through the file browser. That way, whatever you’re working on is never more than a click away.

Gather your tabs: Vivaldi’s various tab management tools make it a great web browser for productivity, but its most ingenious idea yet is the two-tiered tab stack. This allows each tab to have its own secondary row of tabs below, so that you can group similar web pages together without cluttering your main tab bar. The same functionality is also available in Vivaldi’s Android browser, in case you are also suffering from tab overload on your phone.

A more useful MacBook notch: Of all the clever ideas people have had to deal with the new MacBook Pro’s camera notch, NotchCam is the most practical. The $ 1 Mac app opens up a quick webcam preview when you click the notch area, so you can double-check yourself before moving on to your next Zoom call. For good measure, it works even with Macs without a notch.

Enter real world text: Apple isn’t the first to let you copy real text from your camera—Google’s Lens function has been doing this for years, but he had the clever idea of ​​cooking his Live Text Tool in each input field in iOS 15. Just tap any space the text can go to, then select “Scan Text” and you will see a thumbnail view of the camera to transfer words, phrases or numbers to. phone on the screen. This subtle change in execution makes the whole concept much more useful.

Correction of frequent inconveniences

Less notification worries: Apple’s Focus feature didn’t seem like a big deal initially when it launched as part of iOS 15 this fall, but this more granular form of Do Not Disturb can be a big help in eliminating specific distractions. in your life. Work mode is especially useful, as it can prevent your phone from turning on with emails or Instagram alerts when you’re head down on a project. You can also configure modes for driving, sleeping, reading, etc.

Automatic rotation: Tucked away deep in the settings menu for Google’s Pixel phones, you’ll find what is arguably the most useful display setting of all time: Starting with Android 12, you can now enable face detection for the phone. auto rotate, so the screen only switches to landscape mode when your head is perpendicular to the phone. In other words, you won’t trigger auto-rotate when lying in bed or on the sofa, but it will still trigger when viewing photos or videos in landscape mode. Google is expected to require other Android phone makers to now support this feature.

Smarter Location Limits: Taking a page from iOS and Android, the Brave web browser now allows you to grant unique permission to privacy sensitive features, such as your location or webcam. This means that you can allow a retailer or restaurant to search for nearby locations without giving that site constant access to your whereabouts. It’s a smarter way to approach privacy permissions on desktop browsers.

Avoid slackening after working hours: Instead of harassing your coworkers at night or on the weekend, consider scheduling a Slack message to arrive during working hours. The recently launched schedule feature lets you click the down arrow next to the send button on the desktop app to choose a date and time to deliver the message. On iOS and Android, you can schedule messages by long pressing the send button. All messaging apps, and especially work-centric ones, should follow suit.

Less annoying material

Automatic earphone awareness: Samsung incorporated a pretty neat feature called “Voice Detect” into its Galaxy Buds Pro earphones earlier this year. When you start talking, the headphones can automatically turn off noise cancellation and switch to Ambient mode, which lets in outside sound, then switch back when they no longer detect your voice. It beats the annoyance of having pressed a button or squeezing the stems on your headphones just to have a quick conversation.

The stand meets the quay: If you are using your laptop at your desk, you may want a laptop stand to support the screen and a USB hub to connect external devices. Kudos to UGREEN for doing the logical thing and combining the two into one product. the X-Kit Laptop Stand has two USB ports, 4K HDMI output and SD card slots built into its rail, so you can turn your laptop into a desktop workstation just by plugging it in with a USB-C cable.

Choose your own ports: The Framework laptop is impressive mainly because of its emphasis on repairability, but its smartest feature is a set of interchangeable ports that fit into the left and right sides of the laptop. When ordering the laptop, you can choose any combination of USB-C, USB-A, MicroSD, HDMI, DisplayPort storage expansion modules and you can swap them out whenever you want. Why should you choose a computer based on its port selection when you can do things the other way around?

The secret speaker: After launching a hybrid bookshelf-speaker in 2019, Ikea went further this year with its Symfonisk photo frame, which is actually a disguised Sonos speaker. If you don’t like the included abstract art, you can buy an interchangeable cover Where get custom print from a third-party vendor. The only difficult part is figuring out how to tastefully hide the power cord.

Improved media

Easier private listening: For years, Roku’s mobile app allowed you to listen to TV privately with headphones, but in 2021 it became more accommodating with Bluetooth headphones. With a new sync feature, you can eliminate the audio lag between the headphones and the TV and keep your headphones paired with the phone. Other streaming players require Bluetooth pairing directly with your headphones, which is much more complicated.

Something for everyone: While most of the major streaming services now support multiple user profiles, almost all of them also mistakenly assume that only one person is watching TV at a time. Apple has been wise this year by adding the “For Both of You” and “For You All” recommendations to the TV app. When multiple users have set up a profile on Apple TV, this row suggests things to watch based on individual viewing habits. It’s a long overdue idea that makes more sense than setting up of common profiles.

Music for two: Speaking of joint recommendations, Spotify Blends feature launched out of beta in August, allowing two users to create a shared playlist based on their combined tastes. Both users can see a match score showing how well their interests align, and the playlists are updated daily based on what each person is listening to. Used wisely, it should settle a lot of music-related arguments on road trips.

Meet Jared Advisors Bulletin to learn simpler technical tricks.

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