On 2010: My Favorite New Things

End of the year. List your favorite tech products. You know the drill.

I’ll restrict it to products and services that either just came out this year (or came into widespread usage this year).

1) The iPad

Maybe the best v1 product Apple has ever made? Maybe the best v1 product anyone has ever made? There was so much hype leading up to the launch that it seemed impossible that it would live up to the hype. But, remarkably, the iPad blew past it. 

It’s crazy to think that Apple will improve it greatly with v2, but you know they will. It has already changed the face of personal computing.

2) 2010 MacBook Air

I almost feel as if Apple underplayed the importance of this product. It seems as if nearly everyone I know now has one or is thinking about getting one. And many of those people are replacing their MacBook Pros with it. That’s exactly what I did.

I think when the holiday sales figures come out, this will be a surprise massive hit for Apple. And I suspect the MacBook proper will go away in favor of the MBA. And the MBP will undoubtedly lift some of its features (flash memory) as well. It will have to. The MBP feels like carrying around a ton of bricks for no reason now.

3) Instagram

A little over a year ago, I started using a service called “Burbn”. It was good, but what it evolved into, Instagram, became great. Not surprisingly to me, it has caught on in a big way — despite being only on the iPhone.

While everyone points to the filters as being the key to the service, I think the real key is the speed and simplicity. People don’t really think about it, but because Instagram doesn’t use huge, full-sized images, they’re able to upload and syndicate pictures out at insane speeds. This matters. 

Mobile devices were just waiting for a streamlined way to share pictures quickly. Instagram is it.

4) iPhone 4

No surprise here. The best got better. I recently had to use the iPhone 3GS for about a week after several months on the iPhone 4 — the difference is pretty amazing. If you just hold the two side by side for a second, it might not be so apparent, but the 4 is a major upgrade.

What about the antenna issue? It’s real. But it’s really not a big deal. I never think about it during a day. The bigger issue remains AT&T. Hopefully Apple fixes that shortly.

5) Quora

Quora is really interesting to me because when it first launched, my initial reaction was “meh”. There was too much information on the screen for me to make sense of anything. But when I started actually using it, and it became a more tailored experience, I saw it’s true potential.

Now one of my favorite things to do during any brief downtime is to look through Quora threads for interesting nuggets of information. I’m addicted.

6) New Twitter and Twitter for iPad

Twitter, obviously, is nothing new. But the so-called “New Twitter" revitalized the service. Twitter for iPad, meanwhile, is changing the way a lot of content services are thinking about their products — including New Twitter.

The right-side pane idea is a great one and is already spreading quickly over the rest of the Internet and apps. 

7) Reeder/Flipboard/Pulse

I’m going to lump all of these together because each has fundamentally altered the way I’m able to keep up with news on the go.

Reeder actually existed before 2010, but in my opinion, version 2 (which came out in March) really took it to the next level. Plus 2010 saw the iPad and Mac versions released as well. The iPad version in particular is awesome.

Meanwhile, Flipboard and Pulse created entirely new interfaces to consume information away from the traditional computer. The latest version of Flipboard is particularly interesting to me.

8) Canon S95

The best compact camera, the S90, got a little better with a slightly new build and the ability to shoot 720p video. Plus, I think it’s actually better in low-light, which I didn’t think was possible.

9) Uber

I hit two buttons on my iPhone and a driver shows up at my doorstep without me having to utter a word. I take a quick ride and then I pay via the iPhone. 

Taxis, pretty universally, suck. Limo services are way too expensive. Uber is a nice in-between. There’s a reason local governments are scared.

10) 2010 Apple TV

The new Apple TV is a lot like the old Apple TV, but greatly simplified. Previously, I was basically using the old Apple TV the way the new one is set up — that is, to stream from my computer with all my media on it. 

Apple shaved $100+ off the price, and added the all-important Netflix streaming. The rental TV selection blows, but hopefully that will improve in 2011. And if this thing gains app support, it could be my #1 device in 2011. That said, I’m still waiting for Apple to make an actual TV.

Honorable Mentions: 

Path — It was finally released after a few months of buzz, and a lot of people scoffed at it. While I’m not sure what it’s actual path (heh) to success is, there is something fundamentally interesting about Path to me. Plus, I’ve been seeing usage pick up during the holiday times, if that means anything. And the video implementation is actually kind of cool.

Beluga — It just came out, so it’s too early to tell just how much I will actually end up using Beluga. But so far, so good. Group messaging is already pretty big, but I think these guys have nailed the mixture of simplicity and features. The location and picture implementation are particularly great.

Facebook Messages — I love, LOVE, that Facebook is trying to change the way we message online. This needs to be disrupted badly. So far, the website version is pretty solid (though not everyone has it yet). But the mobile stuff is lacking. If they can nail the mobile implementation, this is going to be huge in 2011. And I hope Gmail copies it.

Apple Magic Trackpad — Currently, I’m using a combination of the Magic Trackpad and the Magic Mouse. I anticipated moving away from the mouse quickly given how much I love trackpads on MacBooks, but my desktop ways were pretty set in stone. Still, when OS X Lion ships, I suspect gestures will be a bigger part and the Magic Trackpad will be perfect for that interaction. The mouse is still dead — just not yet.

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