Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 22, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome, so psyched you found us, and also, you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.)
This week, I’ve been reading about the unbearable sameness of coffee shops and what happened to Twitch, testing out the Funnel iOS app for quick-capturing everything, marveling over Federico Viticci’s truly wild iPad setup, setting up my Flipboard all over again now that Artifact is dead, filling my cabinets thanks to this list of great new snacks, adding all the Emmy winners to my Sofa queue, and watching every behind-the-scenes Jon Bellion video that exists on the internet.
I also have for you a huge new Samsung phone, a couple of nifty calendar apps, a new riff on an old game, some more cool AI tools, and much more. Even a new late-night show! In 2024!
And I have a question: what’s your go-to news app? I mean “news” in the broadest way possible — when you’re like, “What’s new and interesting and happening,” do you turn to a social platform? A specific publisher’s app? Reddit? Flipboard? SmartNews? A bunch of browser bookmarks you cycle through? Something else I’ve never heard of? I know a lot of us were hoping Artifact might be the future of Finding The Good Links, but alas, it won’t. So I want to know all your favorite places to go!
Alright, lots to do this week. Let’s go.
(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What apps are you into right now? What are you watching, reading, listening to, crocheting, cooking, or learning about this week? Tell me everything: [email protected]. And if you want to get Installer in your inbox a day before it appears here, you can subscribe here.)
- The Samsung Galaxy S24. It’s a safe bet that this will be the best Android phone of the year. Samsung keeps pushing on camera specs, integrated AI (it has more Google AI than the Pixels!), and overall how enormous and expensive a phone can actually be. The Ultra is a powerhouse, but the S24 Plus looks like the one to beat.
- Notion Calendar. Cron was one of the best-looking calendar apps on the market, and when Notion acquired it in 2022, it was only a matter of time until the two platforms integrated more. Now, Cron is Notion Calendar, with deep database and notes integration. Probably for Notion users only, but there are lots of us out there.
- TidyCal 3.0. One more calendar thing: I’ve done a total 180 over the years, and I now prefer a Calendly-style “just put time on my calendar” email rather than a bunch of back and forth. TidyCal is a cheap and easy tool for just that, and it just got a nice redesign, too.
- Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown. Two weeks into 2024, and already a strong Game of the Year contender! The praise for this side-scroller has been pretty much universal. It’s a good mix of difficult and doable, old structures and new ways of doing stuff. And lots and lots of fighting.
- Ayaneo’s Mini PC AM02. I have Ayaneo’s Macintosh-looking AM01 sitting on my desk right now, and it’s delightful. The AM02 looks like an old-school Nintendo console, and I think I like it even more. These are cheap, simple PCs for light gaming or simple tasks, and the aesthetics are just on point.
- The DJI Mic 2. I think microphones might be the best thing DJI makes? The drones are great, yeah yeah, but these are some surprisingly high-end mobile mics that any creator or podcaster might want to add to their kit.
- After Midnight. I was nervous about the “the whole thing is a game show” shtick for Taylor Tomlinson’s new late-night show, but the first episode totally works — Tomlinson is super funny and a good host, the whole show is bonkers in a fun way, and outside of the first-episode weirdness you always get, I’m bullish on this show being a hit.
- The Bose Ultra Open Earbuds. I’ve been increasingly replacing my AirPods with the Ray-Ban Meta glasses because I listen to too many podcasts, and shoving anything into my ear canals hurts after a while. These are a clever — if expensive, at $300 — workaround: high-end earbuds that clip to your ears instead of resting in them. Very curious to test these out.
- Superhuman AI. I’m convinced that “write my boring, repetitive business-speak emails for me” is the best current use for AI. And Superhuman’s doing it really nicely — you just sort of sketch out your idea for an email, and boom, it writes it for you. Is it great prose? No. But it’s email! Who cares!
- Plants vs. Zombies 3. I honestly forgot about this game, one of the silliest and most fun early mobile games. And now it’s back! I’m not wild about it embracing microtransactions, and it’s not available everywhere yet, but I’m confident I’ll lose a lot of hours in PvZ3 before too long.
Vjeran Pavic is always taking pictures. Pictures for The Verge, where he’s our supervising producer for video and also a gadget-photo wizard. Pictures for Instagram. Pictures of his dog, his sick ski tricks, his cat, his travels, everything. Pictures, pictures, pictures. He’s always testing new cameras, too, from drones to GoPros to DSLRs.
I asked Vjeran to share his homescreen thinking he might have a hundred camera apps for a hundred different things. Turns out, not really! It’s just good old-fashioned Camera in there. But he makes really clever use of his photos on his phone, which I’ll let him explain.
Here’s Vjeran’s homescreen, plus five of his many lock screen options, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:
The phone: iPhone 13 Pro Max (with probably better battery health than all y’all’s 15 Pros).
The wallpaper: I like to keep it fresh, so I set up a few different ones that change each time I look at my phone. I picked about 10 different ones, and I swap them out every few months. All of the photos are taken by me and / or of things or people (animals) that are close or meaningful to me — or are simply photos that I think would look good as wallpaper. You’ll see photos of San Francisco and my home country, but the ones that make me the happiest are of my pets.
Once the phone is unlocked, I prefer a very clean look, so my wallpaper is just one very blurred, colorful background. It’s easier on the eyes and has better separation between the apps, text, and the background.
The apps: Messages, Threads (the app with both the most unpredictable and predictable algo out there), Apple Podcasts, Artifact (recently made it onto my first screen but looks like it won’t be there for too long), Apple News, Airmail, Safari, Camera (gotta have that quick access to the camera app, but I still prefer double-clicking the power button to access it like most Android phones do).
I’m not sure if people are utilizing iOS / iPad Focus modes, but I made a few different ones based on time of day, location, or activity. That means my homescreen changes based on a mode, but let’s look at this one, which is part of my most-used Focus mode.
It mostly consists of widgets, which I don’t need to interact with; rather, they give me some info at a quick glance. Things like my fitness rings, weather, battery info. The only one I might swap out soon is the activity one since I also have an Apple Watch. Most of my Focus modes also have just one page of apps / widgets. I used to put everything in folders across multiple pages, but 99 percent of my input comes from just using Spotlight or App Library.
I also asked Vjeran to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he said:
- I recently drove by a pretty amazing comic book store near Chico, California. I ended up buying some new and old comic books, including Before Watchmen and Something Is Killing the Children, which I also found out has been picked up by Netflix. I haven’t started reading any of it yet because it feels like I’ve just been recovering from CES all of this week.
- I’ve been a ski racer for most of my life, and I love to spend my free time up in the mountains, when possible. But last year, I also picked up snowboarding, and it has been a joy to learn a new sport. (If any of our readers have a cabin in Tahoe, please befriend me. I’ll make you breakfast burritos.) Usually, on my drive up there, I’m pondering why GoPro hasn’t released a new 360 camera since 2019 and if I should jump ship and spend $500 on an Insta360 Ace instead.
- I love revisiting older TV shows. And there’s one show that I revisit more often than others — The X-Files. So for the past few months, I’ve been rewatching it in its entirety, reminiscing about times when conspiracy theories were more fun[ny] and almost part of modern folklore. It has some high highs and low lows, and the current season I’m on is one of those lows, so it’s becoming more of a background show while I’m editing or organizing photos.
Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email [email protected] or message +1 203-570-8663 with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week.