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The 10 best tech gadgets that solve real-world problems in 2024

Ring doorbells that can deter porch piracy; Tile trackers that find your phone. These and other items to make life a little easier.

The 10 best tech gadgets that solve real-world problems in 2024

Ever feel like Sisyphus? Constantly pushing that boulder up the hill, only to watch it roll back down again? I hear you; life can be hard sometimes, which is why I'm constantly on the lookout for ways to make it easier. The best tech gadgets not only solve major problems but also make daily tasks simpler. It might be something trivial (coffee got cold) or significant (purse or backpack is missing), or maybe you just want to prep for the next power outage so you're not sitting in the dark. I searched high and low for products like this and found gems like the Ring doorbell, which can help deter porch-pirates, and the Tile Pro Tracker, which helps you run down a misplaced purse or keychain.

I've tested these and other devices; the 10 listed below come with my enthusiastic recommendation. So if you're ready to stop pushing that boulder, read on!

Apple AirTags are the better-known lost-item finders, but they work only with iPhones and lack a key feature supported by Tiles: two-way finding. That means you can not only use your phone to locate the Tile attached to your keychain, purse or the like, but also use the Tile to locate your misplaced phone. (It'll make it ring, loudly, even if it's set to silent.) Plus, they're compatible with iPhones and Android phones alike. If you've ever been the least bit frustrated by misplaced things, you owe it to yourself to start using a tracker like this.

$100 at Amazon
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$100 at Tile$100 at Best Buy

Anyone who nurses their coffee or tea for more than a few minutes knows the agony of sipping a tepid or even cold cup, requiring a trip to the microwave and an ill-fated attempt to get it back to a drinkable temperature. The battery-powered Ember mug keeps your drink at exactly the temp you want, and can do so for upwards of an hour or more. It's a pricey item, no question, but it's also one of my prized possessions. Once you experience the joy of perfectly heated coffee from first sip to last, you can't go back.

$120 at Amazon
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$120 at Target$140 at Verishop
Modern mobile phones tend to have large screens, which makes them harder to operate one-handed. And if you're holding one for a long period, like while reading a book or watching a video, it can get uncomfortable. iPhone users should check out the MagOne, which magnetically clamps to the backside and provides both a silicone finger-grip and a fold-out stand. The former allows for more a comfortable grip (and decreases the likelihood of accidental drops), while the stand lets you prop up the screen in portrait or landscape orientation. Just make sure your iPhone or iPhone case supports MagSafe so you get a secure magnetic connection.
$18 at Amazon

Storms and other events can knock out the power for hours or even days. To keep your phone charged, Internet running and more, consider a power station like this one from EcoFlow. It's a solid mid-size model, with plenty of ports and ample juice to run small appliances. It takes only 70 minutes to fully recharge from an AC outlet, or you can use optional solar panels to keep the power flowing off-grid.

$429 at Amazon

Read more: The best power station for 2024 to help you prep for storms and blackouts

Trying to get some work done? That can be tough when you're surrounded by noise, whether from the street or the kids playing or that incessant leaf blower. Solution: Top-notch active noise-cancelling headphones like the Sony WH-1000XM5. Sony's over-the-ear cans automatically adjust to your environment and tailor the noise-cancelling accordingly. Beyond that you get premium sound and up to 30 hours of battery life. The sanity you save may be your own.

If you'd rather block out noise with something smaller, look no further than Apple AirPods Pro, which offer industry-leading ANC via compact wireless earbuds.

$302 at Groupon
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$328 at Adorama$328 at Amazon

Read more: The best wireless headphones for 2024, tested and reviewed

Read more: The best trackers for finding lost stuff

Photo albums were great when you might snap a few dozen new pictures every year. Now we do that almost weekly. So what's to be done with all the precious memories stored in new phones and old albums? Simple: Transfer them to a digital picture frame, so you can enjoy a rolling slideshow whenever you walk in the room. Nixplay's stylish frame can hold an unlimited (!) number of photos, and an energy-saving sensor keeps the screen dark until it detects movement. Just take note that it requires a full-time internet connection, as your photos stay largely in the cloud.

$150 at Amazon
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$199 at Newegg

Read more: The best digital photo frames of 2024

A great in-flight entertainment system doesn't do you much good if you have wireless earbuds like Apple AirPods, because for now most airplanes have wired headphone jacks. So much for your expensive noise-canceling earbuds, right? Wrong: The AirFly plugs into any 3.5mm audio jack and pairs with AirPods or other wireless earbuds or headphones. And it's not just for airplanes, either: If you have a Nintendo Switch, you've probably wished for a wireless audio option. This is it.

$55 at Amazon
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$55 at Office Depot$57 at Newegg

Read more: AirFly Pro review

Read more: The best MagSafe accessories, tested and reviewed

Read more: The best heated coffee mugs of 2024

This is actually two problems, because TV audio is often hard to hear owing to the size (small) and position (down- or rear-facing) of the speakers. But there's also the problem of hearing dialogue, which gets more difficult as our ears age. This soundbar not only amplifies the sound (and points it toward you) but also electronically boosts dialogue using Zvox's AccuVoice technology. It's especially useful for folks with some hearing loss, as you get six levels of voice enhancement. There's also an output-leveling feature designed to reduce the obnoxious volume of commercial breaks.

$300 at Amazon
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$355 at Newegg

Read more: The best soundbar for 2024

Porch piracy is a massive problem, and while a video doorbell won't physically stop a thief from stealing your packages, its mere presence can act as a deterrent. At a minimum, it can alert you when it detects motion, while also recording that motion for later viewing by police if needed. Ring makes some of the most popular doorbells on the market; this one has a built-in rechargeable battery so you can mount it just about anywhere (including outside an apartment door, where there's not likely to be existing doorbell wiring). Plus, it supports two-way audio, so if you get alerted to an unexpected presence on your porch, you can say, "Can I help you?" and hopefully scare off the would-be thief.

$60 at Amazon
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$60 at Kohl's$60 at Lowe's

Read more: The best video doorbells to buy in 2024

Ask a plumber for some horror stories and you'll get an earful. Burst pipes in second homes, leaks that happened while on vacation and so on. Even a little water damage can lead to a huge repair bill. That's why I've deployed these water sensors under sinks, near the hot-water heater, behind the washer and in other strategic spots. They detect water that's either on the floor or dripping from above, and they alert you in three ways: audible alarm, notification-via-app and even e-mail. In my house, they've already caught two leaks that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. This is the very definition of "an ounce of prevention," and it's an affordable ounce to boot.

$44 at Amazon