ETCH A SKETCH IPAD CASE ($40) This hard plastic case for your iPad from Headcase is a perfect replica of an old Etch A Sketch. You pry the halves apart with a coin, seat your iPad inside, snap it all together and there you go. The jacks and buttons remain accessible, and two flip-out legs on the back raise the whole thing off the desk slightly for easier on-screen typing.
There are much better, lighter, less bulky iPad cases. But this one isn’t about utility. It’s about hilarity.
POWER PLUG STICKERS ($6 FOR 40) You can totally imagine how some guy came up with the idea for these white, round, dime-size vinyl stickers. He was probably crawling under the desk among the dust bunnies, trying to unplug one of his gadgets — and couldn’t tell which power cord was which.
Each sticker has a tiny line drawing of the gadget it’s connected to: coffee maker, toaster oven, laptop, whatever. Three sets, from ID Pilot, are available: one each for kitchen appliances, office equipment and electronics. You’re supposed to stick one onto each plug as it enters the outlet or power strip.
The tiny drawings aren’t especially clear; text labels might work better. And, of course, you could accomplish exactly the same thing with a Sharpie and some masking tape. But have you?
TIVO SLIDE REMOTE ($90) These days, the requirement to type into your set-top box is becoming more urgent, and the on-screen click-a-letter system is exhausting. It’s not just typing the name of a show you want to record; it’s also searching the built-in services like YouTube, Amazon and Netflix .
This remote resembles the classic, peanut-shaped TiVo remote, but the bottom half slides open to reveal a full, illuminated qwerty keyboard. It works great. You’re supposed to plug the included, tiny Bluetooth receiver into the back of your TiVo. So, $90 for a replacement remote, just to enter text gracefully? A bit extreme, no? No. We TiVo-holics know who we are.
POWERMAT WIRELESS CHARGER ($80) We love our gadgets, we hate charging them. But wireless charging pads like this one offer a tantalizing dream; you can come home, slap down your phone and camera, and walk away. A magnetic grab and a happy “got it!” sound let you know that your gizmos are now charging via magnetic induction, and you never had to plug anything in.
Unfortunately, each gadget has to be retrofitted to work with the PowerMat. For a BlackBerry or Nintendo DS, that means buying a $20 replacement battery door, which adds an awkward raised hump on the back. For an iPhone or iPod Touch, you have to buy a $30 or $40 case that includes the same bulky bulge on the back.
To charge other gadgets, you have to buy a $30 “universal charger,” a coaster that sits on the PowerMat and plugs into your gadget with a cable. But isn’t the whole point of the PowerMat to avoid plugging in cables? Bottom line: The PowerMat, and its rival, the WildCharge mat, seem to demand a lot of inconvenience in the name of a little convenience.
All right, little gadgets, you’ve had your big moment. Now it’s back to the manufacturers with you. To-do list completed. Closet space reclaimed. Guilt assuaged.
David Pogue is a columnist for the New York Times and contributor to CNBC. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.