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7 tech gadgets that make life a little easier

Smart solutions to common problems like overheating laptops, lost air buds, work-from-home concentration fatigue, and sore tech neck with these practical, affordable and easy-to-use tech accessories.

Researching a new laptop or smartphone is serious business because it is a significant cost and commitment, like the digital equivalent of buying a new car or couch. The smart accessories that help us get the most out of everyday items and save wear and tear are a little less noticed.

A few strategic pieces of tech gear, like a charging case that can supplement a weak smartphone battery and a laptop stand that can keep a workstation cool, are handy tools to optimize bigger investments. And don't forget the time-savers, such as a tracking tile (never look for lost keys again), air buds that don’t cost a fortune, and digital clocks (and analogue notebooks) for the Pomodoro Technique—a popular approach to increasing concentration and focus. 

To help navigate different needs, we’ve paired commonly-asked questions with cost-effective and convenient solutions, all available in Canada right now.  

WHY IS MY LAPTOP FAN SO LOUD?

Laptop fans are always on, and most have the same basic setup: the vents cycle cool air in and hot air out.  When the internal drive heats up, it works a little harder to keep it cool, so there’s a distinct “whirring” sound that isn’t necessarily bad, but it is annoying. Laptop cooling stations help on two levels: the external fan helps keep the outside cooler, and perhaps just as important, it keeps us from placing laptops on pillows, our laps, couches or the bed, all stifling spots that lead to blocked vents.

(If your laptop does not have a USB, you will need an external port for most cooling pads. This one is USB C to USB.)

WHY DOES MY PHONE BATTERY DIE SO FAST?

The most important detail to check when shopping for a charging case is that it fits the exact model of the phone. For example, this hefty Newdery case is a powerful charge that goes past 100% (meaning you can fully recharge it once and then some, without ever plugging into an outlet). It fits an iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 6.1 inch, but not the other 12 models. 

Another example is this Runsy Samsung Gallery S10e, which fits the 5.8-inch model and gives up to 120% more charge.

The iPhone 7 is the most commonly used in Canada. This highly rated mophie case fits and comes in black, gold and rose gold models.

HOW CAN I SOOTHE 'TECH NECK' AT HOME?

Theragun is the Dyson of muscle massagers (powerful, inventive and patented) and has many devotees who wouldn’t dream of going with a knock-off. The Theragun Mini is its fourth-generation model and cheaper than the full-size options (it’s also more compact, quieter and includes a soft travel case). There’s no skimping on the power as it has a Q35X motor like the Theragun Prime version, as well as three-speed settings. For a handheld machine, it definitely packs a punch.

WHERE CAN I GET INEXPENSIVE EARBUDS?

Apple changed the headphone game with AirPods, and like all Apple products, the price reflects the brand's ingenuity, design, and reputation. If you don’t want to worry about losing, dropping or stepping on an earbud that costs hundreds of dollars, consider an inexpensive dupe, like this $40 Umidigi wireless set.

WHERE'S MY WALLET?

Since the invention of pockets, people have been carrying around too much stuff (and misplacing a fair bit of it, too). For all the things we can lose—like a wallet, keys and phone—there’s a tiny tracking tile that sticks and can save a lot of mindless searching throughout the day.

HOW CAN I PAIR MY FITNESS TRACKER WITH A SCALE?

The Renpho's Bluetooth scale pairs with an app and goes beyond the pounds. It tracks 13 different metrics (like BMI, water percentage, bone mass, visceral fat and metabolic age), and the data is stored in the app. There’s no limit on how many people can use the scale/app, so a household only needs one.

HOW CAN I INCREASE MY CONCENTRATION?

Distractions are a part of a digitized life, and it's easy for an Instagram deep dive or a “pandas eating bamboo” Google search can derail an entire afternoon. The Pomodoro Technique, invented by Francesco Cirillo when he was a university student in Rome in the late 1980s, is all about short bursts of intense focus.

Here’s an overview of the method: write down a to-do list and set a timer for 25 minutes; focus on those tasks for the entire time (no exceptions); when the timer goes off, check off any completed tasks and take a 5-minute break. Repeat the process 3-4 before taking a longer 15-30 minute break. 

To get you started, you'll need a good notebook, and we also recommend an 18-month planner, like this Moleskin Classic, so that you can break that to-do list into more actionable, timely goals. 

And then there's the timer itself. You can opt for double-duty with a kitchen timer, stick to your standard 24-hour digital timer, or get a bit more creative with this Ainowes Visual Timer