We’re suckers for unusual home gadgets: if it looks cool, does things differently or promises to make our life easier we’re there.
Which probably explains why we have so many cupboards full of gadgets we don’t use. But it’ll take more than common sense and bitter personal experience to stop us from getting excited about quirky home gadgets, and as you’ll discover there are all kinds of quirky gadgets out there.
Some are of the head-slapping “why didn’t I think of that?” variety, and some are of the head-slapping “why did they think of that?” variety. But they’re fun, and some of them are even functional. Let’s go to quirk!
1. Anova Precision Cooker
We’ve got one of these and it’s brilliant: why cook normally when you can stick your dinner in a bath? The French call it sous vide, and it’s famous both for the amazing tenderness of its results and the massive and expensive cookers it requires. Anova gives you the same results without the hassle or expense: you stick it in a pot and let it control the water temperature while your food, safely wrapped in vacuum bags, cooks slowly and delicately. It’s amazing for steak and delicate fish, and being able to monitor and control it from your phone is both completely unnecessary and utterly brilliant.
2. Bruno, the smart bin
A smart bin! What a time to be alive! Bruno claims to be the world’s first smart trash can, and it combines a bin with a smartphone app to remind you when it’s time to put the bins out. More usefully it has an integrated vacuum that means you don’t need to worry about bending down to brush dust into a pan: just sweep it in front of Bruno and the pet hair, crumbs, dust and other debris are pulled into the bin and dumped in the bag – useful for households where people have allergies to airborne irritants. It’s currently taking pre-orders for July delivery.
Isn’t “clong" a brilliant word? It’s great in movie titles: Clong in Sixty Seconds. Clong With The Wind. King Clong. You probably won’t see Clongs winning an Oscar, but they might win a place in your kitchen: they’re elevated tongs that sit above the worktop and that use a pen-style clicker to lock them open or shut. The elevation is quite useful as it prevents some food from ending up on the worktop (although the design doesn’t stop drips), and otherwise, they’re just like any other silicone tongs – albeit tongs with a much better name that we can’t stop saying. As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s Clongs.
4. CTA Digital Pedestal Stand for iPad / Surface Pro
We have seen things that you wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. C-beams glittering in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. An iPad stand for the bathroom that doubles as a toilet roll holder. Yes, thanks to CTA Digital you can use your iPad (or another tablet) hands-free without having to reach too far for the Andrex – although we beg to differ on the manufacturer’s claim that this item’s “elegant chrome pedestal adds style to decor”. An iPad stand for the smallest room is many things, but stylish ain’t one of them.
5. Ember mug
There is absolutely no way any sensible person can justify dropping nearly $130 on a copper mug. And yet there’s something about the Ember that’s really compelling, because it promises the Holy Grail of hot beverages: a drink that’s at the absolutely perfect temperature and that stays there for a whole hour. If you keep making coffee or tea, forgetting about it and taking a big swig of something that turns out to be far too cold, $130 is going to seem like a bargain. There’s also a cheaper ceramic version at $79.95 and a hilariously expensive travel mug at $159.95.
Flossing is a bit like sex. Bear with us on this one. It’s true: many people like to claim that they do it a lot more often than they actually do. Flosstime can help with that. The flossing, we mean. The other stuff is your business. “The world’s only smart floss dispenser” has “fun LED lights” that “frown at you when you forget to floss”. It vends the perfect length of floss, its batteries last for three months and it absolutely won’t end up completely ignored for months on end until you realise you’ve got a dentist’s appointment tomorrow.
7. Hamilton Dual Breakfast Sandwich Maker
Bad news for UK foodies: this US breakfast sensation costs silly money when it’s brought across the Atlantic. But in the US it’s a cheap and potentially awesome addition to your breakfast arsenal: not only does it make your eggs but it handles (precooked) meat, cheese and buns, making two breakfast sandwiches simultaneously. The whole thing takes less than five minutes from start to finish and all the removable bits are dishwasher safe. It’s actually quite cool, but the Hamilton Beach site doesn’t do it many favours: its selection of recipes is unintentionally hilarious as the photos manage to make every single thing look spectacularly unappealing.
8. Hidrate Spark bottle
The Hidrate Spark is a very clever water bottle. It tracks your water intake, glowing to remind you when it’s time to take a drink, and it connects to its own app as well as a whole bunch of iOS and Android fitness tracking apps. The swappable bottle is dishwasher safe (although the sensor needs to be hand washed) and the batteries last for ages, so you don’t need to worry about regular recharging. We’re not sure our friends like us enough to compare water intake via the Hydrate App but as bottles go this one’s a cute, clever and quirky option.
9. LED shower head
There are approximately eleventy billion different models of LED shower head on the various big-name shopping sites, but they all do the same thing: they have a colour-changing LED that adds a faint colour to the streaming water. This may be brilliant news for anybody who showers in the dark and wants to know what it would be like to go to a rave in the pouring rain while watching it through a balaclava. Amazingly for a cheap novelty product made by a variety of obscure manufacturers, some reviews suggest that the quality and longevity of their exciting LED shower heads aren’t brilliant. If you could see us, you’d be able to see our shocked face.
10. Petcube Bites
This one’s tons of fun for pet owners. It’s an app-controlled pet treat dispenser, and while it may seem ludicrously expensive it does deliver a lot of bark for your buck. Sorry. You can use the app to schedule treat delivery or do it manually, and you can throw treats at varying distances while watching your pet via the 1080p HD video stream. You can talk to your pet too, and hear their response – and with 4 hours of cloud-based video storage you can easily grab any funny bits to post on social media. It holds up to 2lbs (just under 1kg) of treats.
11. Porkfolio smart piggy bank
Fans of irony will like the fact that some Amazon listings for this money-saving gadget are selling it for a whopping £173.86, which is more than its users are ever likely to save. It’s an app-enabled piggy bank with some clever features and a whole bunch of pork-related puns we won’t horrify you with here. The app enables you to set goals and check your piggy bank’s balance, and its built-in accelerometer means nobody can come in and do a sneaky shakedown. If you’re outside the US it’s a bit less useful, sadly, as it’s designed to work with and sense US quarters.
12. Rollie Egg Master
This one gives us a funny feeling: it enables you to turn eggs into something that looks like it came from inside a space alien. That’s not the official pitch, of course: it’s a “vertical grill” designed to turn eggs into omelettes. And it does, in a faintly horrifying way: it produces a long, sausage-like roll of egg. According to The Colbert Report, it was the long-awaited answer to the question “How can I make my breakfast fit more snugly into my colon?” It’s simple and may be an effective weight loss tool: pour eggs into the top, wait seven or eight minutes and realise that you’re not actually hungry after all.
13. SpreadTHAT! self-Heating butter knife
How’s this for a solution to a first world problem? If too-cold butter is making you sad at breakfast time and you don’t want to use a butter dish or spreadable butter like normal people, you can drop twenty quid on a self-heating butter knife. This one’s clever: it doesn’t use batteries or require charging; it claims to transfer the heat from your hands to the blade, warming it up enough to glide through butter like, er, a warm knife through butter. The reviews are mixed: while most say that it does exactly what it claims to do, Patricia Reynolds begs to differ. “DOES NOT SPREAD BUTTER EASILY,” she writes, “AND THAT IS WHAT I EXPECTED FROM THIS PRODUCT”.
14. Tefal Toast and Egg
Don’t let the more expensive, baked bean-heating version tempt you away from this, the purest model of the Toast and Egg range: as the name suggests, it makes toast, and also egg. It does this through the magic of glueing an egg cooker to a toaster. There’s a 1200W two-slice toaster, for toast. And there’s a steaming/poaching tray for cooking your eggs, either by poaching them individually or boiling up to four at once. That also doubles as a warming tray for “heating pre-cooked meats”. We’re gently mocking but it’s useful for places that don’t have, can’t afford or don’t need a microwave.