13 Tech Things We Tried In 2015 And Recommend

Apps, hacks, and social media accounts that we recommend for 2016.

Each month, the BuzzFeed Life team recommends interesting beauty/craft/ recipe/lifestyle products, tricks, and apps its editors tested out in their own lives. It's always one of my favorite things to read – real, honest endorsements of some small thing that made someone's life a little better.

Monthly product recommendations aren't really what we do here at BuzzFeed Tech, but for the end of the year I asked our team to recommend things that made their lives a little better in 2015 (that's the idea of technology anyway, right?). Things that aren't life changing products or gadgets – perhaps a way of using something that already existed a little differently, or a website that we enjoyed or a social media account that cracks us up.

Here's to making 2016 a little better, in tiny ways.

1. The Mushroom Identification Forum Facebook group

2. The @kylizzlesnapchats Instagram account

3. De-Quantifying My Exercise

4. This.

5. Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist

6. Using the "Do Not Disturb" function on my phone to unplug

7. Snapchat

8. Using Siri on the new Apple TV

buzzfeed-video1.s3.amazonaws.com

I already owned a 5 year old Apple TV, and since it worked just fine I was skeptical about upgrading. The big new features like video games (which I hate playing) or Siri (which I never use on my phone) didn't seem like things I needed. However, John Paczkowski's very practical review of it for BuzzFeed convinced me it was worth it.

I thought Siri for Apple TV seemed like it would be one of those fun gimmicks you try a few times and never use again, like sending my heartbeat through the Apple watch to a friend. The act of watching the kind of things I use the Apple TV for (binging on Netflix shows or occasionally renting a specific movie through iTunes) don't require more than a few remote commands.

Then, I was desperate to find out what was going on Season 2 of Jane the Virgin. I toggled between Hulu, but only the most recent few episodes were available, leaving the first two out. So I flipped over to my cable system to see if the early episodes were on demand there, but they weren't. This meant I had to purchase the first few episodes, but I couldn't remember how many were missing from Hulu.

Switching between apps on the Apple TV is somewhat annoying. If you want to find a specific show or movie but aren't sure whether it's Hulu, Netflix, HBOGo, or iTunes, you have to search each app, laboriously spelling out the title on the dinky little remote.

So I just yelled at the TV, "SIRI FIND JANE THE VIRGIN!" and voilà – there was a screen with my show on all the options – season 1 was on Netflix, half of season 2 on Hulu, and the rest to buy on iTunes. It was by far 1 billion times easier than the annoying hunt.

Once I was caught up with Jane, Rogelio, Petra, and the gang, I went to catch up on the other of "my" shows. This time I didn't even fuck around with searching, I just yelled "SIRI SHOW ME YOU'RE THE WORST" (I have since been informed you don't need to say "Siri" but whatever, it feels good). –Katie Notopoulos

9. The Shade Room celebrity gossip Instagram account

10. NFL Sunday Ticket

vine.co

Until this year, I spent nearly every fall and winter Sunday drowning myself in Guinness beers at local sports pubs to bear witness the steady decline of the New York Football Jets and their fallen hero coach, Rex Ryan. I was always happy entering the bar, but dragging myself out after a few hours of postgame crying in the bathroom was never pleasant.

This season, the Jets got a new coach and I decided to try a new future-of-media strategy for watching the games. I signed up for a NFL Sunday Ticket, a cord-cutter's dream that, in exchange for money, lets you watch all the games from the comfort of your home. Right on your own damn computer! No more asking barkeep to please turn down the volume of Pittsburgh Steelers game. And c'mon, nobody likes Ben Roethlisberger anyway. The future is nice.

I give the streaming tech a B. It's often choppy and frequently reminds me that the internet has not yet surpassed good ol' TV for many viewing experiences. But considering my mental health, wallet and the person who mops floors at Halfcourt Sports Bar, this has worked out great. That's about the most you can ask for in this holiday season of giving and inspiration. –Alex Kantrowitz

11. Hoverboards

vine.co

Anyone who says a overboard isn't a hoverboard because its wheels don't touch the ground is a humorless scold who has never had the pleasure of riding one with any degree of competence.

Our office is littered with them and at the beginning, I was mostly scared. Not scared of being hurt, but scared of looking like an idiot. My first two attempts of riding it made a newborn colt look like Secretariat. But then, one night as I was waiting for edits, I got back on, knowing there were none of my friends at work to laugh at me if I stumbled, started to finally….hover.

And then I was hooked. I can't stop gliding. I still chug coffee to power through the afternoon doldrums, but a quick spin (actually two wheels spinning with their own motors that allow you to turn effortlessly just by slightly shifting your weight) is nearly as refreshing. If you're lucky enough to have an office with enough space and a lax enough culture, you should move like this as much as you can. Screw standing desks, hover around your deskbound colleagues. –Matt Zeitlin

12. Naming group chats and sending voice memos in iMessage

13. "DILFs of Disneyland" Instagram account