After I bought my first iPhone, something changed. When I bought a new electronic device, I was often filled with regret rather than joy.
The problem was this: Once I bought the new gadget, I realized that a cheap smartphone app could easily replace it. For example, I bought a snazzy point-and-shoot camera, wanting better-looking photos. Later, photo-editing apps like Camera Plus and Instagram appeared in the App Store to touch up my iPhone photos with a few taps. I haven't used the point-and-shoot camera in years.
Another time I bought a cheap all-in-one printer, thinking it would be good to have a scanner for my home office. Later, I realized an app called JotNot Pro was excellent at making iPhone photos look like scanned documents. (As for the printer portion of the all-in-one -- who prints things anymore?)
I even sometimes regret buying an iPad because the iPhone can perform the same tasks, and it's more portable. True, the iPad is a great couch companion -- but how often does a New Yorker stay home and relax?
I'm well aware my chronic buyer's remorse can be considered a "first world pain," but you can learn from it. If you want to be wise about the gadgets you buy post-smartphone, keep the following items in mind.
JAMBOX BLUETOOTH SPEAKER The Jambox is a brick-shaped wireless audio speaker. It can play sound from any device with a wireless Bluetooth connection, including smartphones and most laptops and tablets. It is small, lightweight and has decent audio quality.
Want to listen to NPR while showering? Put the speaker on the side table in the bathroom. Traveling for vacation? You can play your own music from the Jambox in the hotel room. Heading to the beach or a rooftop party? Your friends will love you for bringing some tunes. Along with the Jambox, which costs $130, there are plenty of similarly priced bluetooth speakers to buy from companies like Logitech, Soundfreaq and Jensen.
MACBOOK AIR I use my MacBook Air every day and take it with me to cafes and wherever I travel. Like the iPad, it's extremely thin and light. But unlike the iPad, it has all the tools I need for work and goofing off, including Microsoft Word and Adobe Flash. It's powerful enough to occasionally edit photos and videos. If you are shopping for a computer and have to choose between a tablet or a superlightweight laptop, I would vote the latter. And I wouldn't even consider a traditional laptop, unless I were a professional video editor who needed extra horsepower.
At $1,000, the MacBook Air is pricey. But there are lots of ultrathin "Ultrabook" laptops on the market from companies like Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo and Asus, which usually sell for upward of $800.
ASUS ROUTER Routers are kind of like sunglasses. Buy a cheap one, and you will probably end up purchasing several more because pretty soon it will break, just like the flimsy shades you bought at the flea market. After going through several routers over the years, I finally invested in a nice one, the $130 RT-N56U from Asus, and realized that buying a fancy router goes a long way. It's extremely easy to set up, fast and reliable.
SYNOLOGY N.A.S. Not many people own a network attached storage device because they can be expensive, but they make life much easier. It's basically a hard drive connected to the Internet. I use the Synology DS213 NAS ($300) to do wireless backups for my MacBook Air, and to add bulky files the notebook can't hold, like movies and big audio files.
The connected drive can also stream videos and music to any multimedia player. For example, if you have an Xbox or Apple TV in the living room, you can wirelessly stream media from the Synology onto those devices. It's been a nice way to keep my backups and entertainment media all in one place, and make media accessible from any device.
Some might argue that buying an external hard drive is unnecessary now that we can live in "the cloud." But most people have at least some sensitive files they don't want to store on a company's online server, so I think a network attached storage device is still a solid investment.
BACKUP BATTERY Almost every time I have friends at my house, someone asks to borrow my phone charger because of a dead phone battery. Other times I have been on the run, juggling text messages and e-mails, and my phone died. Smartphones typically do not have great battery life. You will be lucky to have power by dinnertime if you use yours to play a few games or post some Instagram photos throughout the day.
When I finally bought a backup battery, it cured a lot of headaches. The backup battery I bought was a Mophie Juice Pack Air, which is an $80 iPhone case with a battery inside it. There are also lots of nifty keychain accessories containing backup batteries, which sell for upward of $30.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.