High dynamic range (HDR) is one of the biggest innovations for TV and smartphone displays in years. The technology improves luminance, color, highlights, and shadows, giving TV shows and movies a more natural, realistic look. It also enjoys wide availability across TVs, mobile devices, and streaming content. But bafflingly, in 2023, Netflix is the only streaming service that gate keeps HDR behind their highest tier subscription. It’s an underhanded, dated, and consumer unfriendly practice.
Critically, Netflix’s tiered strategy around streaming quality leaves the overwhelming majority of its massive audience in the dark (literally) on HDR’s full potential. Netflix is ubiquitous, virtually a utility at this point, and locking HDR away hampers the technology’s long term awareness and adoption. Fewer eyeballs, more shrugs about HDR’s effectiveness, and potentially more filmmakers questioning how essential HDR capture is in the first place.
Of course, Netflix is far from the only streamer that offers HDR TV shows and movies. For example, on HBO Max, you can watch popular series like The Last of Us and House of the Dragon in 4K HDR. For Disney Plus, all recent Marvel and Star Wars features are streamable in 4K HDR.
We are in peak shopping season for dedicated streaming devices from Apple, Roku, Google, and Amazon. There are seasonal sales, they make for a relatively affordable gift, and streaming services tend to get many new subscribers, spurning streaming hardware buys.
My advice: if you’re buying a dedicated streaming box, most should buy an Apple TV. Alternatively, if you are happy with your streaming life but have a few quibbles (like a missing service app on your setup), spend the bare minimum necessary to make your streaming experience tolerable. That latter scenario may mean spending nothing, bypassing existing hurdles by watching select content on a different device or casting from a phone (via Airplay or Chromecast) to your TV.
All other streaming options from Amazon, Google, and Roku are generally a substandard compromise. Yes, you’ll save a solid $80 to $100 in the short run. But you’re also shortchanging the longevity of the device, app availability and quality, and a host of other benefits unique primarily to Apple’s streaming box:
I’m a fan of my new Apple Watch Series 8, but it packs too much computer on the wrist. Thanks to WatchOS’s increasingly busy UI and burgeoning case size, it’s becoming a harder sell as a fashion accessory.
There was a time when Apple felt like they were making a genuine fashion play with the Watch; worn accessories project someone’s sense of style in a way a phone or tablet never could. The venerable tech company tried to market high-end “edition” watches from pricey materials, and the strategy flopped.
Since then, it feels like stereotypical Silicon Valley executives have overtaken Apple Watch’s design sensibility. These are decision makers drunk with the power of having everything a tap away and losing sight of what makes a watch distinctive and fashionable. They’ve copied the strategy for iPhone and iPad as they blew up in size: more icons, more widgets, more glanceable information. Complications overload the Apple Watch’s default watch face configurations. Symbols and text are everywhere, manifesting in more distraction than an aid.
After almost two decades of avoiding Microsoft-based web products whenever possible, I’ve come full circle: the new Microsoft Edge is my browser of choice. It has excellent privacy options, a large extension community, and developer support that makes it a reliable option on macOS over Chrome, Firefox, and Safari.
Admittedly, when I first started using the new Chromium-based Edge a few months ago, I was skeptical about its potential. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer left a bad taste in my mouth, thanks to the struggles I had developing against IE6 and IE7 in the early 2000s. But the more time I spent with this fresh iteration of Edge, the more I was left impressed.
As I write this, NYC is a hotspot amid a global pandemic. I spend my days jumping between work, family, and too much coronavirus-related social media, almost exclusively within the confines of a one bedroom apartment in downtown Manhattan. I’m aware this level of stability is, in many ways, a privilege, but it’s nevertheless a stressful time.
I find solace in podcasts covering subject matter removed from chaotic world events: film, gaming, and technology. COVID-19 is a big enough story that some virus talk per episode is inevitable. Still, hearing it from familiar voices, especially when they share the same feelings of anxiousness and isolation I have, is comforting. Podcasts are also easy to squeeze into my day, be it going on a late-night stroll outside, taking care of chores, or unwinding before bed.
What follows are a few of my favorites, grouped by subject. I purposely prioritized podcasts with smaller followings, though I note several more popular options at the end. Subscribe in your podcast app of choice or through the links I provide below.
Tot, a scratchpad app for macOS and iOS, has graduated from a side experiment to an essential part of my workflow in a matter of weeks. I highly recommend giving the app a try on Mac (it’s free), and if the design works for you, buy it on iOS.
Admittedly, when I first saw Tot pop up on social media and sites like MacStories, I was skeptical. There are already hundreds of note taking apps available on the App Store. Given several options like Bear and iA Writer nail the basics so thoroughly, with strong aesthetic design and years of iteration, it’s hard to see how any new competitor can stand out. But I’ve always had longstanding respect for The Iconfactory in terms of their attention to visual design. $20 later (more on that price in a bit), equipped with Tot’s iOS and Mac apps, I dove in to give it a try.
I’m skeptical of how well Apple’s upcoming streaming video service will perform. A Netflix clone with Apple-produced programming could become the HomePod of the streaming video market; Apple’s install base and marketing clout keep the service limping along but otherwise struggles for mainstream adoption.
I’m bearish on Apple’s video plans because they don’t align with the company’s strengths. Apple’s excellence in design won’t keep a streaming video service afloat. Consider the UI that powers existing services. Even with rapidly growing user bases, their interfaces are at best pedestrian (Amazon Prime), at worst an unintuitive mess (Netflix, Hulu). Frankly, most viewers don’t care; 95% of the time in-app is focused on watching, not browsing.
Two of the Macbook Pro’s most hyped improvements – the Touch Bar and more compact profile – have little benefit to many professionals. I’m worried Apple is increasingly hawking consumer level tech that’s missing the high end market.
At least half of the developers and designers I know work primarily with a Macbook Pro hooked to an external display and paired with an external keyboard and mouse. Ergonomics improve with both displays at similar height and distance. It’s more efficient to scan and drag content given the screens’ proximity. And by driving the setup through a laptop, you still get the flexibility of a portable device for meetings or work on the go.
Therein lies the rub with the Macbook Pro’s Touch Bar. With the aforementioned setup, the Macbook’s distance makes the Bar out of reach and hard to see. Ironically, a setup for serious work nullifies the Bar’s purported productivity benefits. And based on Apple’s pricing segmentation, we’re paying a premium for it as well.
The more I listen to podcasts, the more I find a good podcast app enhances my listening experience. I can save time by eliminating silences during playback. Fast search and discovery tools help me find more to listen to. And a reliable sync system smoothes transitions between clients. I like to experiment; I’ve dabbled in almost every major podcast app on the App Store. As of today, I’d recommend two: Overcast and Pocket Casts. Both have standout feature sets and are well maintained by their developers.
The right choice depends on your podcast listening habits. If you listen on platforms other than iOS (desktop, the web, Android), go with Pocket Casts. Likewise, if you have a more advanced listening workflow filled with custom playlists, filters, and subscriptions, Pocket Casts’ user interface is exceptional. In all other circumstances, stick with Overcast.
During runs and lighter coding sessions, I love listening to podcasts. Deep, geeky chats on tech, film and gaming are fun and instructive. The best podcasts are addictive; with memorable hosts and segments, it’s like checking in with old friends. Yet as my days get busier, I’ve had to pare down to just a few strong choices.
Balance separates great from merely good podcasts. They cover a diverse set of opinions, either from a revolving set of guests or hosts from different backgrounds. Yet it can’t be too diverse or the chemistry breaks down.