Ah, 2016. You were… well… interesting, to say the least. With the new year beginning and CES happening this week, we want to highlight the products and apps that helped get us through last year. Some that made the list are older apps that have made significant improvements to user experience or have a much better ecosystem today. Some of our favorites help us set kitchen timers when our hands are covered in food. Some allow us to easily invite family and friends to celebrate special events with us. Whether training for a marathon, learning a new language, or optimizing our email, these were our favorites of 2016.

IoT

Bragi Dash

“This gesture-controlled BT ‘Hearable’ can play music (and store up to 1 GB, so you can leave your phone at home), track activity, take phone calls, and more. It was my best friend during half-marathon training.” – Erika

Amazon Echo Dot

“I made fun of Dan for buying it, because I had no idea how we would use it. I was wrong. I use it for everything. Setting timers when my hands are covered in food, help with the NYT Sunday crossword, listening to music, buying stuff on Amazon, adding to my grocery list, weather and news updates, and we’ve connected it to our other smart home products, so I can just ask Alexa to ‘warm up the upstairs’ or ‘turn off the bedroom lamp’ when I don’t feel like getting up and using my stupid human hands to do those things myself. It was pretty inexpensive, it’s small (so it doesn’t look weird or ruin the aesthetics of my house), and Alexa is waaaaaaay better than Siri, as far as understanding what you’re asking and responding back to you in a natural way. I always remember to say ‘thank you’ after she completes a task for me, because I would like my life to be spared in the Robot Uprising.” – Lauren

JayBird Headphones

“I’ve grown very attached to these this year from half marathon training. They are my first pair of BT headphones, and they have great range.” – Elyse

WeMo Wifi Enabled Light Switch

“2016 was the year of the smart home for us. I picked this product to showcase over some of the other products we purchased because it’s the one I have to think about the least. This wifi enabled light switch is hooked up to our outdoor lights, and it turns the lights on or off automatically, depending on the sunrise and sunset for the day. It just works. We set it once, and I’ve never touched it again. Lights are always on when it gets dark and off when it’s light outside. This is great because we would always forget to turn off the lights in the morning when we were doing it manually – it’s paid for itself in saved energy. And it just looks like a regular paddle switch, so it blends in with the rest of our house.” – Lauren

Kinesis Advantage2 Keyboard

“BEST KEYBOARD EVER! So ergonomic! So comfy! The keyboard is concave to match the length of one’s fingers. Better yet, the entire keyboard is customizable: you can remap keys as you like, at the hardware level. This means that your custom keymap is there regardless of what computer you plug into. Pricey, but worth every penny.” – Jason S.

Spire

“Billed as a ‘mindfulness & activity tracker,’ this sleek little device meets all my criteria for wearables: it’s well-designed, I immediately forget I’m wearing it as soon as I put it on, it has long battery life, and charging is a snap (just set it down on the included charging pad). Spire tracks your steps, but it also tracks your breathing patterns to determine your stress level, and gently vibrates to remind you to take a deep breath or relax when your stress is elevated.” – Erika

Apps

.bashrc generator

“Customizing my bash on whatever machine I’m working on makes me feel at home and more productive. This tool makes it super easy to replicate a setup you’ve had on other machines or to experiment and tweak to your heart’s delight.” – Brandon

Hobnob Invites

“This app is a must have for serial entertainers. It actually makes it fun to send invitations via text. It’s also great because it includes awesome features such as directions, chatting between guests, and a way to share photos from the event.” – Nikki

Audible

“On long runs, making a playlist or searching for one can get old very quickly. I’ve loved the app updates, making it very easy to use. Amy Schumer’s Girl With The Lower Back Tattoo absolutely killed me.” – Elyse

MapMyRun

“Under Armour has made great updates since buying MapMyRun. It used to be a lot jankier, now the experience, speed, and accuracy is much better.” – Elyse

Fantastical 2

“I was heartbroken when the Sunrise calendar app went sunset, but Fantastical has proven to be an excellent replacement. I love being able to get a rundown of my day at a glance, and even on mobile, adding events is quick and easy. Plus, it’s pretty!” – Erika

Duolingo

“My favorite app of 2016. I’ve been learning Swedish with Duolingo since May, and its engaging exercises and focus on maintaining a daily practice ‘streak’ have helped me get much further than I expected.” – Erika

Notion Email App

“Notion does a great job at allowing you to see everything in your email on one list, but really notice the important stuff. This is especially helpful if you’re always behind on email, like me. For the email that isn’t marked as important, you can quickly multi-swipe it away to your preferred space. I particularly like the radar feature, which notices questions that need your input and keeps them in a queue for you to handle. This is now my default mobile email app.” – Matt L.

The Wonder Weeks App

“They have really been adding a lot of great features to this app. As a parent, when you’re up with a screaming 8-month-old in the middle of the night and you wonder ‘why, why, why?’ They’re changed, fed, etc., but still miserable. This app brings a little sanity. What I appreciate from a technical perspective is that when they first launched the app they did a super lightweight version – it was all about the content. Now, as more people are using it they are adding features to that first MVP and they have the advantage of knowing what their users are looking for.” – Jenai

CashorTrade App

“I’m a huge live music fan and CashorTrade is a site for buying and selling tickets at face value only. The advantage is never having or pay exorbitant amounts for tickets on the secondary market. The disadvantage is the high demand. That’s why I love the app. If you become a gold member and you have the app, you’ll receive notifications for tickets that become available at an earlier time than the rest of the public. It’s not the greatest looking mobile experience, but it is extremely reliable and offers tremendous value.” – Josh D.

GIPHY Keys

“I communicate mostly in gifs. The giphy keys, and their newer iMessage app, allow me to find the gifs I need in the most efficient manner.” – Will H.