Technology is no longer an acquired taste. It’s an integral part of our lives. The ubiquity can make it feel commonplace and mundane but from where I sit it’s never less than interesting and sometimes even exciting. There is, however, another level of innovation where using a product, service, feature, or technology leaves me exhilarated and altered. Of all the things I tested, tried, and reviewed in 2022, these are the ones that left their mark.
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra
It’s funny how a collection of features and attributes can overcome one’s predisposition. I don’t like big phones. Anything over 220 grams and 6.1 inches is simply too big and feels like a burden in my pocket. And yet, I loved carrying the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra, especially once I discovered its spectacular Space Zoom capabilities. They simply never got old. Samsung uses a combination of excellent optics, a 108MP sensor, and some very crafty Image AIs to capture (create?) some of the best digitally zoomed photos I’ve seen – ever. I used it to literally shoot the moon and a concert where I did not buy the best seat. It all but made me a lunar visitor and put me in the middle of the stage. Once I discovered this capability, I wanted to take this big handset everywhere.
Do enough AI-assisted art and it all starts to blend but get involved with a text-based AI and things get a little weird. OpenAI’s ChatGPT is the kind of society-altering breakthrough that makes you question your place in life. As someone who writes for a living, I’m more than a little concerned at how ably (and quickly) ChatGPT fulfills my text-based prompts. It’s like a very talented journalism graduate who never makes a grammatical error.
There are moments when its grasp of facts seems tenuous, at best, but 95% of what it produced for me could be used in most professional settings.
Just this week I saw a lawyer on TikTok talk about how ChatGPT’s casework output could put some lawyers out of work. In any case, I’m astounded by ChatGPT, love using it, and think this is just the beginning.
AirPods Pro 2
It would be easy to mistake AirPods Pro 2 for their predecessors; the design has barely changed. On the inside, though, is the remarkable H2 chip that powers the best in-ear noise cancellation I’ve ever heard, or not heard. Activating ANC with a long press on one stem launches you into an almost sound-free and slightly pressurized space that is not typical of Bluetooth earbuds.
I don’t know that these buds have the best fit, but at least there are more silicon ear tips to choose from and I have yet to lose mine. I’ve tested a lot of earbuds in recent years, but it’s the AirPod Pros 2 that are my constant audio companions. Also, I do love the small changes Apple made to the charging case, like a lanyard slot and tiny speakers that can help me find my misplaced case by using FindMy.
Google Pixel 7 Pro Magic Eraser
Google Pixel 7 Pro is a lovely big phone with a sleek and not overpowering design. It has great cameras, but as is often the case with Pixels, it’s the software that counts. The camera is ready to fix the blurry photos of hyperactive kids and, more incredibly, it can instantly evaporate unwanted objects and subjects from your photos with Magic Eraser.
Granted, this is a feature that launched with the Google Pixel 6, but that phone barely had time to cool from the manufacturer's oven before Google Pixel 7 and 7 Pro arrived. Naturally, I ended up testing it on the latter, which, since it’s backed by the new Tensor G2 chip, is probably better at making things disappear than its predecessor. Yes, I loved it and found an unusual and, to be honest, startling use for it.
Meta Quest Pro 2
Sometimes when I talk to people about VR, they make a face and tell me they tried it once and were sick (or sick of it) within 15 minutes. I get this. Early headsets were inconsistent at best. However, Meta (late of Oculus) has slowly built a series of progressively better VR headgear, which culminates in the Meta Quest Pro.
Wearing and using it makes you realize that this is what VR could be like. A comfortable headset (yet it still looks awkward) that you can wear without pain or dizziness for an hour or more. I remember thinking that the optics on last year’s Meta Quest 2 were pretty good. They’re nothing compared to the Quest Pro. The eye-tracking capability really helps keep the visuals in tune with your view and I challenge anyone to get motion sickness.
And then there’s the AR or mixed reality view, which is better than anything I’ve experienced before, including Microsoft’s HoloLens. It’s a shame that the headgear is so wildly expensive, but if you think of it as a wearable gaming console, you might think it’s not such a terrible deal.
Put simply, even though I’ve only just started exploring this VR gear, Meta Quest Pro is already one of my favorite gadgets of 2023
I love Wordle and I refuse to apologize for it. Rarely have I found an online game that was so smart, so simple, and still so captivating. Sure, I spent more time than most normal people probing the best start words, best solutions, and other odd intricacies of the game.
The 5-letter puzzle was so popular, The New York Times snapped it up. Say what you will about the changes they’ve made, but Wordle remains compelling enough that, 12 months after first discovering it, I’m still playing it almost every single day.
iPhone 14 Pro
Apple earns its spot in my list of favorites by not doing too much, but also doing just enough to ensure that at least one model of iPhone will remain among my favorite products. This year, it’s the perfectly sized and awesomely powerful iPhone 14 Pro. With a 48MP main processor, it still takes some of the most beautiful main camera photos of any smartphone on the market.
But I also love it for the new Dynamic Island. What a wonderful, innovative way to say goodbye to the Notch. It’s a brilliant bit of hardware engineering and programming. No other phone manufacturer has thought to animate their screen cutouts like this. I love its versatility and utility.
I have used so many phones this year and yet, I return to the iPhone time and time again. It remains the best companion for my iCloud/Apple ID world.
Victrola Stream Carbon
Stacked up in my musty basement is my unused vinyl collection, albums gathered over decades and now sitting, forlorn next to an ancient tube TV I haven’t turned on in years. So, forgive me, if my enthusiasm for Victrola’s so-smart and expertly designed Stream Carbon record player captured my fancy.
Aside from having looks that would be at home in any modern living room, this is the first Sonos-certified record player, which means it connects automatically to one of your favorite Wi-Fi-connected Sonos speakers. This might be the best way to give your old collection of albums a new life. When I heard the player with my own ears a few months ago, I was instantly transported by the iconic sound only possible through needle-on-vinyl.
It's not the cheapest turntable, but it’s such a great way to bridge the gap between 20th-century audio technology, and modern-day sonic bliss.
Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4
You might call the Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 4 a folding Android phone, but for me it will always be an unfolding tablet. While I would sometimes use the decent cover screen for email and other crucial tasks, the real fun began whenever I opened it up to its full 7.6-inches. This is the dream fold, a tablet-sized screen that can fit in any pocket. Even with the screen bend, watching Netflix on it while on the train was a pleasure. It was also great for email, multi-tasking, image manipulation, and gaming.
It's not perfect. The Z Fold 4 is expensive and a bit of a dust magnet, but I can overlook all that for the sheer utility of the device.
Personal satellite services technology
It’s so rare that I get a prediction right, but this time I just knew Apple was getting ready to beat all competitors to the market with personal satellite services. Granted, I didn’t know in exactly what form, but Apple’s Emergency SOS via Satellite is the perfect application of this emerging consumer-grade service.
While my initial interactions with it were slightly underwhelming, getting a hands-on tryout made me a convert. This will obviously save lives (it may have done so already). It’s probably one of the best and most important tech introductions of the year.
There are a handful of holographic telepresence technologies on the market. None of them are true holograms, but they can make it look as if you’ve been magically transported into a new meeting space.
My personal favorite ARHT Media’s Holopresence, which let me beam in like Star Trek’s Captain Kirk. I also spoke to the company’s CEO who beamed in from Canada. The effect, with the right lighting, is quite cool. Plus, it’s a totally portable system. Trying it out was one of my favorite experiences of the year. Now beam me out of here, Scotty.
iOS 16 Lock Screen
Honorable mention goes to Apple’s excellent iOS 16 lock screen update. Obviously, I love the always-on display and have found myself glancing at it during meetings and even idle chit-chat to make sure I don’t miss my next appointment.
It’s amazing just how much innovation Apple poured into this small, but important iOS 16 feature. Apple’s use of image segmentation takes my decent photos of family and things like the Space Shuttle to the next level, letting, for instance, my wife’s head or the top of the Shuttle’s fuel tank, occlude the redesigned clock. It’s a subtle but striking effect. And, yes, I love the customizable widgets and how my notifications no longer block the lovely lock screen I worked so hard to create.
What were some of your favorite gadgets of the year? Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
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A 35-year industry veteran and award-winning journalist, Lance has covered technology since PCs were the size of suitcases and “on line” meant “waiting.” He’s a former Lifewire Editor-in-Chief, Mashable Editor-in-Chief, and, before that, Editor in Chief of PCMag.com and Senior Vice President of Content for Ziff Davis, Inc. He also wrote a popular, weekly tech column for Medium called The Upgrade.
Lance Ulanoff makes frequent appearances on national, international, and local news programs including Live with Kelly and Ryan, Fox News, Fox Business, the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNBC, CNN, and the BBC.