You can spend your money on all sorts of bizarre gadgets, from Bluetooth-enabled toothbrushes to toasters that print your selfie on your breakfast. But there’s only a handful of tech accessories that we really can’t live without.
Here is TIME’s list of 20 types of gadgets that pretty much everybody should have. We’ve also included a few models for each category that we’ve used and we like.
Good wireless headphones
Wireless headphones are finally getting affordable while delivering quality sound and being comfortable to wear. Check out Apple’s new BeatsX or the Jaybird Freedom Wireless, both of which are solid, workout-friendly options. If you prefer on-ear headphones, try the Jabra Move Wireless.
A pair of cheap earbuds
Even if you’ve got a nice pair of headphones, it’s a great idea to grab a pair of high-quality but cheap earbuds to throw in your bag and have when you need them. We love these Xiaomi buds, which offer great sound and noise isolation at a remarkably low price.
A Bluetooth speaker
The latest smartphones can pump out pretty great sound, but they can’t hold a candle to the audio quality from a dedicated Bluetooth speaker. We like the rugged UE Roll 2 for the beach and the pool, but the Bose SoundLink Mini II offers better sound for your living room or kitchen. If audio fidelity isn’t as important to you, you might also consider going with the Amazon Echo, which does double duty as a music speaker and an Internet-connected, voice-activated assistant.
A portable smartphone charger
It’s a terrible feeling to head out the door without knowing if your smartphone’s battery will survive the night. Get rid of that “range anxiety” with a portable charger, like the Mophie Powerstation Mini. It’ll give you all the extra juice you need without needing to top off at a wall plug.
A streaming stick
Streaming sticks, which let you beam video content from your phone or computer to your TV, are one of the most useful new gadgets to pop up over the last few years. The Google Chromecast started the trend, but you should also consider the Amazon Fire TV Stick or the Roku Streaming Stick, both of which come with handy remotes. Apple fans might opt for the AirPlay-compatible Apple TV, though it’s more expensive than these options.
A decent camera
Yes, your smartphone camera is probably pretty good. But it’s still worth owning a standalone digital camera, as I’ve argued before. The Sony RX100 is an incredible little point-and-shoot, though it’s expensive enough that you might as well consider an entry-level DSLR instead. For something a little cheaper, try the Canon PowerShot 350 HS.
The latest GoPro Hero5 models are remarkable little cameras, made all the more useful by the addition of voice control. I particularly like the smaller, cube-shaped Session, which produces stunning results despite its diminutive size. If you don’t need the latest and greatest video quality and other bells and whistles, the entry-level Hero+ model is a great option as well. Many users have reported that the Chinese-made Yi 4K Action Camera is a fine choice, too.
A selfie stick
Make fun of them if you want, but nothing this side of a drone can get quality group photos the way a selfie stick can. I like this model, but it doesn’t have any connectivity, meaning you’ll need to use your phone’s auto-timer. If that sounds like too much work, try this one instead.
A fitness tracker
Want to keep an eye on how many steps you take, miles you walk or stairs you climb in a given day? Try a fitness tracker like the Fitbit Charge 2, Fitbit Alta, or Samsung Gear Fit2. More hardcore athletes should consider higher-end models with GPS and waterproofing, like the Garmin Vivoactive HR. Apple fans, meanwhile, should check out the Apple Watch, which does a great job as a fitness tracker.
There’s something magical about e-readers like the Amazon Kindle, which can hold hundreds of books with the weight of a magazine. I particularly love mine after a long day of staring at a computer screen, because the e-ink display is more like reading a regular book than a tablet display.
A smartphone stand
If you work at a computer all day, it’s great to have a little stand for your phone that’ll help keep it charged through the workday. We like the Native Union DOCK+ for the iPhone, while Android users should consider this Belkin stand.
A cigarette lighter USB adapter
If you’re often on the road, one of these cigarette lighter-to-usb adapters is an incredibly handy tool to stash in your car. This model, meanwhile, does double duty as a Bluetooth receiver and FM transmitter, meaning it can let you use your phone to play tunes in older cars without USB or aux-in cables.
A flash drive
Despite the rise of cloud services like Dropbox and Google Drive, sometimes you need to haul big files from one computer to another. That’s when it’s great to have a flash drive, which are getting smaller and cheaper all the time. This SanDisk model is the gold standard, but you can also try something like this, which attaches to your keyring so it’s always with you. There’s even a Swiss Army Knife with a USB drive attached.
A backup drive
Every hard drive will eventually fail, including the one holding all your files, photos and videos right this instant. Get peace of mind by investing in a backup drive like the Western Digital My Passport, then remember to back up regularly (at least once a month.) Buy a model that has more storage space than your computer to ensure you can do a full backup.
A small power strip
If you often work from coffeehouses or airport terminals while waiting for a flight, you know that fighting for an open power outlet can be nothing short of a Darwinist struggle. Be a peacemaker of power by packing a small power strip like this one that can turn one open outlet into many. (Bonus: It also includes USB charging ports.)
A lost-stuff finder
Prone to losing stuff all the time? Grab a Tile Mate and keep it on your eyes, with your phone or in your wallet. Then, you’ll be able to track the location of that item with a map. When you’re close, you can trigger a homing beacon sound to help you locate your wayward goods.
An Amazon Echo or Google Home
If you’ve ever dreamed of having the voice-activated computer from Star Trek in your kitchen or living room, you’re in luck: The Amazon Echo and Google Home can answer basic questions, tell you the weather forecast and sports scores, and even request an Uber or Lyft for you. If you’re interested in the Echo, you should also consider its smaller and more affordable cousin, the Echo Dot. (Also be sure to read our ultimate guide to the Amazon Echo.)
A super-comfy mouse
If you’re upgrading your keyboard, you might as well get a nice, comfy mouse as well. You can’t go wrong with the Logitech Performance Mouse MX, which I’ve used for years. It fits my hand perfectly and you can stash the Bluetooth receiver in the battery compartment for easy transport when you’re working remotely. Apple users should also consider the Magic Mouse 2.
A cheap VR viewer
The world is suddenly awash in virtual reality and 360 video content. But unless you’re a hardcore gamer, it’s probably not worth investing in a high-end VR headset just yet. Instead, dip your toes (or, uh, eyes) in the water with a Samsung Gear VR or Google Daydream View, both of which are affordable alternatives powered by your smartphone.
Home security camera
Want to keep an eye on your kingdom when you’re at the office or traveling abroad? Pick up an Internet-connected like the Nest Cam or the Logitech Logi Circle, which work with a smartphone app to become your eyes and ears while you’re out of the house.
- Inside Mississippi's Last Abortion Clinic—and the Biggest Fight for Abortion Rights in a Generation
- Do Current COVID-19 Tests Still Detect Omicron?
- The First U.S. Offshore Wind Farm Could Be a Lifeline for Struggling New England Cities
- Welcome to TV's Era of Peak Redundancy
- The Key Role a Local Newspaper Played in the Trial Over Ahmaud Arbery's Murder
- TIME's Top 100 Photos of 2021
- 2021: The Year the Grift Kept Giving