The tech we couldn't live without in 2021

CNN Business Staff

    (CNN) -- Supply shortages are everywhere. New smartphones have been hit by shipping delays and video game consoles are almost impossible to find. But as we do each year, the staff at CNN Business is reflecting on the tech, services and apps that made a big impact on our everyday livesin2021 — not just the most sought out products on holiday wish lists that may be hard to come by.

Here's what impressed our editors, reporters and producers the most — and not onlyhelped us survive 2021 but also brought some joy during another tumultuous year.

Lenovo smart clock

Lenovo Smart Clock ($29) is a cheap, basic alarm clock that allows me to leave my phone in the other room before bed and not check it right when I wake up. I was worried at first that it wouldn't go off and I'd be late for work, but it has always worked. And it's been great to create that distance from my phone. Whenever I need to really focus on a writing task without distractions, I also throw on Freedom, a free website blocker, for a set time period. It's been a huge help and prevents me from checking social media and other websites that tend to suck up my time. — Nathaniel Meyersohn, retail reporter

B The Method

During yet another year of working from home when my movement consisted of walking from my couch to my desk and back again, Lia Bartha's pilates app, B the Method, has been a huge boost to my mental and physical health. The range of class formats and times makes it easy to take a 15-minute midday cardio break from work or to wind down at the end of the day with an hour of slower, more meditative movement. An annual subscription costs $159.99 (or $17.99 per month), and the app has totally made me appreciate exercising from home. — Clare Duffy, tech writer

Philips Smart Hue light bulbs

The thought of having your lightbulbs connect to your WiFi, at first, seemed completely useless to me. But I've become a huge fan of Philips Hue smart light bulbs (starter kits start at $59) and controlling my apartment's lighting with just my phone. It makes moving through the apartment a lot easier, even if it makes me a bit lazier. — John General, video producer

Peloton bike

I used to bike daily, but with two little kids, it's nearly impossible to find time to go out on a ride. This year I dedicated myself to getting back on the bike, at least indoors. In May, I bought a Peloton ($1495, plus $39 monthly for classes), and it has truly been life-altering. I've been using it most days every week for a quick workout, and my husband — who was initially skeptical of the purchase — has also become a devotee. Eight months later, we're in noticeably better shape and really glad to be back in a healthier routine. — Rachel Metz, senior tech writer

GoPro camera

I stole my dad's old GoPro Hero 5 Session ($699)that he wasn't using, and it's been a great gadget to have during Year 2 of the pandemic. I largely swapped bars and restaurants for outdoorsy California activities because of business closures and safety concerns. That's made for some good Rishi's-eye-view movies of fun backpacking, camping and kayaking trips. GoPro has newer models on its website, too, but I've loved this version. — Rishi Iyengar, tech writer

Common Sense Media app reviews

For many families, mine included, handing over a tablet to little fingers to get through the days inside has become a necessity. But I felt much better about how my son spent his screen time this year thanks to Common Sense Media's apps reviews. The organization researches, rates and reviews apps, TV shows and books, weighing in on what's age appropriate and the best options for growing minds. I swapped a handful of apps for ones that encourage imagination play, problem solving and building — apps he loves and actually learns from. — Samantha Kelly, senior tech editor

Apple AirTags

As someone who chronically loses their keys in between couch cushions, I'm glad to have a button that can tell me my item is exactly three feet northwest from my current location. Apple's AirTags ($29 each) can be fastened to keys, cars, bookbags, remotes and other things you might want to track down. Its precision finding feature has saved me so much time and many headaches. — Jennifer Korn, writer

Whirlpool side-by-side fridge

Some people mark the pandemic by lockdown periods. I mark it by refrigeration equipment. In year one, we panic bought a large chest freezer and shoved it in the corner of our small galley kitchen to stockpile all the food we couldn't fit in our lousy 20-year-old fridge. Then, in a burst of post-vaxx optimism, we ditched the freezer — only to have our busted old fridge break. A bleak period of heightened mini-fridge scarcity followed before we somehow scored a Whirlpool side-by-side refrigerator ($1700) during the supply chain crunch. Whirlpool: Enough space to support the good times and the bad, side-by-side. — Seth Fiegerman, tech editor

Google Nest Hub

Putting a screen on a smart speaker makes it so much smarter. The Nest Hub (on sale for $59) is primarily a digital photo frame that intelligently displays photos from recent events and anniversaries but it also syncs with Google Photos and is easy to manage. It also works with Google's video calling app, Duo, and if you put it on a bedside table, it's an unobtrusive smartphone replacement if you're trying to kick your phone addiction without missing an alarm. — David Goldman, managing editor

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