En español | The promise of technology is that it will help us save time and hassle while improving our lives. But too often for those of us who didn't grow up downloading, streaming and LOL-ing, tech ends up being an exercise in patience, perseverance and, at times, anger management. The good news? We're here to help.
On the following pages are gadgets and apps we've tested and selected —to help smooth out the wrinkles in your daily life, helping you live smarter — one touch, click or command at a time.
Make Life Easier
1. The Tile tracker
Attach the wireless Tile to your wallet or keys, install the app on your phone, and if the wallet or keys are lost, use the app and the Tile will beep. Can't find your phone? The Tile can make your phone beep, too (thetileapp.com; $25).
2. EcoBee 3 Wi-Fi Thermostat
This smart thermostat senses when someone is in the room and adjusts the temperature to make it comfortable. When no one is around, the device reduces the heating or cooling, so it pays for itself (ecobee.com; $249).
3. Amazon Echo
Ask the Echo — or Alexa, as she likes to be called — for the weather, a sports score or the name of a favorite song and then sit back and wait for her to answer. She will even give you a wake-up call (amazon.com; $180).
4. iRobot Roomba 650
The Roomba 650 saves your back and even allows you to schedule cleaning times so it can work while you're out of the house. iRobot has more expensive models, but this one suited us just fine (irobot.com; pricing starts at $400).
Manage Your Money Simply
Need to keep an eye on all your accounts from one place while you're on the go? Use Mint.com's app, from the makers of Quicken. It is free, safely links to all your financial accounts and provides a breakdown of your spending, for better budgeting (mint.com; free).
6. Level Money
A streamlined budgeting app, Level Money bills itself as a financial GPS, keeping your budget on the right path. It tells you how much you've spent this week and how much you have left to spend. It also allows you to track expenses by item (coffee, gas, lunches out, etc.). All your account information is locked down with the same 128-bit encryption used by banks (levelmoney.com; free).
7. The Krazy Coupon Lady
Create, and Save, Memories
8. Olloclip 4-in-1 photo lens
Clip this mobile lens onto your iPhone or Samsung Galaxy to shoot wide angles and close-ups (olloclip.com; $80 for an iPhone 6 lens; $70 for a Samsung Galaxy S4 or S5 lens).
9. Pigeon digital photo frame
Your family and friends can send photos directly to this digital frame from their smartphones. All you have to do is plug in the frame and enjoy the slideshow. Updated photos can be added and seen instantly (pigeon frame.com; $129).
10. SNAP! Pro
iPhone photos are easy to take but tough to take well. The SNAP! Pro is an iPhone 6 or 6s case with a shutter button, so you can snap with one hand while using wide-angle and three other lenses for better images (int-store.bitplayinc.com; $50 for an iPhone 6 or 6s; $60 for an iPhone 6 or 6s Plus; $25-$40 per lens).
11. Polaroid Zip Instant Photo Printer
Digital photos are great, but we love pics we can put on the fridge, frame or send with a card in the mail (of the U.S. Postal Service variety). This device turns your phone into an instant photo printer, popping out photos you shoot, on the spot (polaroid.com; $130).
Keep Loved Ones Safe
12. Lively safety watch
Sensors placed on pillboxes and refrigerators can monitor whether the watch wearer has skipped meals or medications. Also included is a button that contacts emergency personnel (mylively.com; $50 for the device, plus $28-$35 per month).
This small GPS device works with Google maps to allow you to track a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer's disease from your smartphone (pocketfinder.com; $130).
14. Netatmo Welcome camera
A minicam with face recognition, it records images and alerts you when someone walks in the door (netatmo.com/en-US/product/camera; $199).
The bSafe app connects a loved one who is out and about to friends and family, via GPS; an SOS goes out to those contacts if the loved one needs help (getbsafe.com; free).
Follow Your Fitness
We like this app's simplicity: It tracks how many steps you've walked or run, how much you've cycled and how many calories you've burned. No need to start the app; it's always on — though it does consume battery power (moves-app.com; free).
This helps you easily find the calorie count for every food you eat by brand — and even by restaurant — so you can track calories and weight. You can also enter your exercise and the app will tell you how many extra calories you've burned working out (my fitnesspal.com; free).
Travel Without Worry
18. Trakdot luggage tracker
The device uses cellular networks (not GPS) to find your luggage (trakdot.com; $50, plus $20 for the first year of service).
A digital concierge, it offers suggestions on what to do and where to eat in any of 22 major cities around the world. The recommendations come from the site's digital community, as well as local all-star teams of artists, chefs and other experts called Tastemakers (peek.com; free).
20. LikeThat Garden
Say you're taking a walk in Paris — or Grand Rapids — and you notice a beautiful flower you've never seen before. Take a photo of it with your smartphone and the LikeThat Garden app will let you know the bloom's name (likethat apps.com; free).
Here it is: a camera that allows you to keep tabs on your pooch or kitty when you're gone. You can even use your phone app to speak to your furry pal through the Petcube's speaker. Worried your pet is not having any fun? Play with Fido or Fifi by swiping your phone app back and forth, which controls a laser on the cube for him or her to chase around the room (petcube.com; $199).
Train Your Brain
Winner of Apple's 2014 iPhone app of the year, this personalized "brain trainer" is designed to strengthen your analytical and communication skills through games that work on focus, processing speed, memory, math, writing and reading (elevateapp.com; limited access, free; unlimited access, $5 per month).
25. Little Bits
These electronic building blocks allow you to use your imagination to create radios, fans, flashlights, alarms and more. It's like Lego bricks meet Snap Circuits for handy men and women of all ages. What's more, the troubleshooting will help keep your brain healthy (littlebits.cc; $99 for the base kit).
Brain Health Apps
Designed for smartphones and tablets, the brain games are fun and challenging, plus they offer multiple levels of difficulty.
26. Flow Free (flowfree.flowanswers.com; free).
27. Rush Hour (thinkfun.com/microsite/rushhour; 35 challenges, free; 2,500 challenges, $3).
28. Web sudoku (websudoku.com/ipad-android.php; iOS and Google Play versions, free)
Live Better Everyday
29. The Bean Quiet Sound Amplifier
If you sometimes wish you could turn up the volume on life, this personal amplifier could be for you. The Bean is not a hearing aid; it's an in-ear sound booster with multiple earbud options, to ensure proper fit. Volume is limited to two settings (normal and high) via the flip of a switch. The Bean uses a size-10 zinc button battery (etymotic.com; pricing starts at $299 for one earbud).
For people who believe in the powers of aromatherapy, the Lull delivers it in an ultrasonic way. Just diffuse a few drops of oil in tap water in the Lull, then turn it on. Its light can be dialed up or down. The device automatically shuts off when the liquid runs low (quooz.com; $60).
31. Sleep Bug
Research shows that natural sounds reduce our stress levels. Try this free app to hear any combination of ambient sounds you choose, from a crackling campfire to a steady rain (sleepbug.net; 12 scenes, free; 24 scenes, $2).
32. Insight Timer
This app not only provides guided meditations from well-known teachers — such as Eckhart Tolle and Thich Nhat Hanh — but also offers a timer you can set so you can do your meditation practice yourself (insighttimer.com; free).