Posts tagged Top Posts
Overcast's New Clip-Sharing Feature is Exactly What Open Podcasting Needs

Marco Arment just released a banger of an update to Overcast. The headlining feature is called clip sharing, and it was inspired by this idea of Stephen Hackett’s on my show UNCO. I think clip sharing will quickly turn into an indispensable tool for both podcasters and listeners, but even more than that, I believe that updates like this are exactly what open podcasting needs to compete against the heavily-funded startups fighting to become the Facebook of podcasting.

Overcast Clips

What is clip sharing?

In his update today, Marco made it possible to quickly create and share either audio or video clips (although pretty much everyone is doing video) from any public podcast. I emphasize public because, reasonably, this won’t work on episodes from private podcast feeds. I verified this with the Do By Friday after show.

The UX for creating these clips is incredibly well done, as we’ve come to expect from Overcast.

The clip starts wherever you are in the episode, but you’re given the ability to go backward or forward to find the portion you really want. Each clip can be up to 1 minute in length.

Once you’ve selected the portion you’d like, there are simple options between audio only, portrait, landscape, or square video. The theming of the video clip copies the theme you have Overcast set to currently. (I wish you could change theming on the edit screen. I like using black mode in Overcast, but for UNCO clip sharing in particular, the white and orange theme is sharp.) You can also select between no app branding, the Overcast badge, or both an Overcast and an Apple Podcasts badge.

After you’ve made the selections you’d like, you can share your clip anywhere that’s available in the Apple share sheet.

What’s new with episode & show pages?

Marco also updated Overcast.com’s episode and show pages. Now when you click an Overcast link on any device and you’re not logged into Overcast, you’ll receive a page with links to the Overcast app, Apple Podcasts, Castro, Pocket Casts, and a generic RSS Feed link.

As a podcast creator with 80% of my traffic coming from Overcast and Apple Podcasts, this is a hugely welcome change. This doesn’t solve the link sharing problem entirely, especially for shows who have large Android listenerships, but it will reduce the need for me to tweet 3 different links of the same episode.

Why are these changes good for open podcasting?

Everything in today’s update made it easier for us to share our favorite podcasts with friends, family, and the world. Simple sharing is one of the toughest problems to solve in open podcasting, and this is a big step forward. I truly hope to see other great open podcast apps implementing these types of features in coming months. Marco said it well:

For podcasting to remain open and free, we must not leave major shortcomings for proprietary, locked-down services to exploit. Conversely, the more we strengthen the open podcast ecosystem with content, functionality, and ease of use, the larger the barrier becomes that any walled garden must overcome to be compelling.
— Marco

Some of my favorite examples of clip sharing

20 Incredible iPhone Apps

Here it is, a list of my favorite iPhone apps. I chose 20 of the most interesting apps on my phone, while excluding big name apps like Twitter, YouTube and WhatsApp. Take a look and let me know your thoughts @timothybucksf on Twitter.

If you're a Mac user, check out '20 Incredible Mac Apps from 2017'.

 

Newton Mail

Price: $49.99/year    Buy Newton Mail

Newton is by far my favorite email app for the iPhone. It has a ton of wonderful features—read receipts, snooze, send later, undo send, sender profiles, connected apps and more.

You might like my article: 'CloudMagic to Newton'.

01-NewtonMail.png

 

Newton Calendar

Price: $49.99/year    Buy Newton Calendar

Instead of forcing highly-requested Calendar functionality into the Newton Mail app, the creators decided to build a whole new app and include it for free as part of the same subscription. It's still in early stages and is missing a some features. But it keeps getting updates, and it's already good enough that I've switched to it from Fantastical.

02-NewtonCalendar.png

 

NeuBible

Price: $4.99     Buy NeuBible

Of the dozen or so Bible apps I've tried, NeuBible has been my favorite by far because of its functional simplicity.

You might like my full review: 'NeuBible: A Thoughtfully Designed Bible App for iOS'.

03-NeuBible.png

 

Overcast

Price: Free    Upgrade: Based on Donations     Download Overcast

Overcast is by far my favorite podcast app. I reviewed it years ago.

04-Overcast.png

 

Audible

Price: Free     Download Audible

Listening to audiobooks is a big part of my life, and I've been really happy with my Audible experience over the years. The app is quick, stable and gets regular updates.

You might like my article: 'Why & How I Listen to Audiobooks'

05-Audible.png

 

Halide

Price: $4.99     Buy Halide

If you're a photographer or just want to learn how to shoot with complete manual control, Halide is for you. It's really well designed, has an option to shoot in RAW and ingeniously takes advantage of the iPhone X notch.

06-Halide.png

 

Focus

Price: Free     Download Focus

Focus is a super cool app for taking and editing Portrait Mode photos. It shows you the different layers of data that Portrait Mode captures and allows you to add effects and edit specific layers. This is great for adding improved bokeh effects in the background and subtler blurs in the foreground.

07-Focus.png

 

Deliveries

Price: $4.99     Buy Deliveries

Deliveries is perfect for those of us who order a lot online. It's really quick to add new items, and you can view their shipping progress in the app or in a helpful widget.

You might like the Mac version: Deliveries for Mac

08-Deliveries.png

 

CARROT Weather

Price: $4.99     Upgrade: Premium or UltraPremium Memberships      Buy CARROT Weather

I've always been a Dark Sky user. But I recently installed CARROT Weather, and I simply like the information layout better.

09-Carrot.png

 

Workflow

Price: Free     Download Workflow

Workflow is one of my favorite iOS apps. It's a tool that I use every day to automate simple tasks on iOS like playing specific playlists with a tap or messaging my wife with exactly how long it will take to get home.

You might like my article: '5 of My Favorite Workflows'.

 

IFTTT

Price: Free     Download IFTTT

IFTTT stands for "If This Than That", and it does just that. You create simple rules that automatically take an action when a predefined thing occurs. For example, each time I post on Instagram, IFTTT automatically adds that image to my journaling app. It's really a great little free tool, and it has integrations with hundreds of services.

11-IFTTT.png

 

Really Bad Chess

Price: Free     Upgrade: $3.99     Download Really Bad Chess

Think chess, but for any skill level. It has all the same rules, but the pieces you are given depend on your skill level. If you're really bad, you may get 4 queens. If you're really good you may get 12 pawns and no queen.

12-ReallyBadChess.png

 

Square Cash

Price: Free     Download Square Cash

Square Cash is a simple, fast way to send cash from your phone. It's like Venmo, but not terrible. (Apple Cash is another great option, but that's limited to other Apple users.)

13-Cash.png

 

Instapaper

Price: Free     Download Instapaper

Instapaper has been a staple of the iOS App Store for many many years. It has share sheet and browser extensions that make it easy to save content for later, and it's wonderful for reading whatever you've saved

14-Instapaper.png

 

Things 3

Price: $9.99     Buy Things 3

Things 3 is the best to-do app for iOS. It's ridiculously slick, quite powerful and was clearly designed with the user experience in mind.

You might like: 'Switching from Omnifocus to Things 3'.

15-Things.png

 

Buffer

Price: Free     Upgrade: Awesome or Small Business     Download Buffer

Buffer is the best way to schedule posts for social media. The free tier is perfect for a casual user, and if you're doing it for your job or need more advanced features, you can upgrade to one of their subscription levels. (I've been using the free tier for years.)

 

Reeder 3

Price: $4.99     Buy Reeder 3

If you still use RSS, Reeder is a solid, dependable option. I've been happily using it for years across iPhone, iPad and Mac.

17-Reeder.png

 

PCalc

Price: $9.99     Buy PCalc

PCalc is a crazy powerful and ridiculously customizeable calculator app.

18-PCalc.png

 

1Password

Price: $2.99/month     Buy 1Password

1Password is the best password manager around. It has really good apps for iOS, Android, Mac and PC as well as extensions for Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Opera.

19-1Password.png

 

Rejoinders

Price: $0.99     Buy Rejoinders

This iMessage sticker pack is full of faces from Old Masters paintings. They're really fun!

20-Rejoinders.png

 

Photo by Aidan Hancock on Unsplash

20 Incredible Mac Apps

As the year comes to an end, I'm looking through my applications folder and making a list of the Mac apps that I am most happy to use. My list came to 20, and I ordered them from the cheapest to the most expensive.

Take a look! Are there any apps I'm missing? Let me know what you think @timothybucksf on Twitter.

 

Quitter

Price: Free     Download Quitter

Quitter is an awesome little free tool from Marco Arment that automatically quits or hides apps after they have been inactive for a set period of time.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 16.42.37.png

 

Sequel Pro

Price: Free    Download Sequel Pro     Accepts Donations

Sequel Pro is a full-featured app for managing databases. I use it for running SQL queries at work, and I’ve been quite happy with it. I have no idea why this is free.

Screenshot from  Sequel Pro

Screenshot from Sequel Pro

 

Firefox Quantum

Price: Free     Download Firefox Quantum

Firefox was a great browser. Then it wasn't anymore. In my opinion, Chrome has followed the same path. It used to be really good, but now it's a bloated RAM hog. Because of my frustrations with Chrome, I started looking for an alternative.

Firefox Quantum was completely rebuilt from scratch, and I'm really enjoying it.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 13.16.18.png

 

Rocket

Price: Free     Upgrade: $4.99 or Free     Download Rocket or Promote for a Free Upgrade

Rocket brings Slack-like emoji to every other app on your Mac. Type a colon, then search for the emoji you want. If you're a developer or have specific apps that you never want Rocket to work in, you can blacklist those apps in Rocket’s preferences.

rocket.png

 

iStat Mini

Price: $2.99     Buy iStat Mini

iStat Mini is for the nerds among us. It shows some of your computer's most important stats in the Notification Center. If you want a bit more detail in your stats, take a look at iStat Menus.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 16.47.09.png

 

Deliveries

Price: $2.99    Buy Deliveries

Deliveries is really helpful if you order a lot online. It's really quick to add new items, and you can view their shipping progress in the app, Notification Center or a menu bar drop down.

Deliveries also has an app for iOS that I use as well.

deliveries

 

Cinch

Price: $6.99     Buy Cinch

Cinch allows you to quickly resize windows to either half of your screen (by dragging the window to the left or right edge) or to your whole screen (by dragging the window to the top edge). There are a ton of other Mac apps that do this, but I've been a happy Cinch customer for years.

For more details, read my article 'Cinch Brings Windows Snap to Mac'

 

Sip

Price: $9.99     Buy Sip

Sip is a quick color-picking tool that can be used in any app. It's perfect for making color palettes, and its shortcuts work seamlessly with Sketch, Photoshop, Illustrator, Xcode, Sublime and more.

 

Reeder 3

Price: $9.99     Buy Reeder 3

Who uses RSS anymore? Well, most of you probably don't. But if you do and you're looking for a good RSS reader for Mac, Reeder 3 is a good option.

Screenshot from  Reeder

Screenshot from Reeder

 

Bartender 3

Price: $15     Buy Bartender 3 or Download 4 Week Free Trial

This is one of my favorite apps for the Mac. It's perfect for cleaning up a messy menu bar.

bartender.gif

 

iA Writer

Price: $19.99    Buy iA Writer

If you're looking for a solid markdown editor, iA Writer is a great choice. But fair warning, there has been a lot of competitions in the markdown editor space, so it might be worth looking around.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 15.33.39.png

 

Alfred 3

Price: Free     Upgrade: £19 (~$25)     Download Alfred 3

Alfred is a bit of everything. It’s like Spotlight with text expansion, workflow automation, clipboard management and more, all in one tool. It's incredibly powerful, super customize-able, and I've happily used it every day for years.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 20.03.03.png

 

Hazel

Price: $32    Buy Hazel     Free Trial

Hazel is a classic Mac app. It watches any folders you tell it to and automatically organizes files based on the rules you create.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 16.55.37.png

 

Fantastical 2

Price: $39.99    Buy Fantastical 2

Fantastical is the best Calendar I've found for the Mac. It's way better than the default calendar app. If you want more detail, I reviewed it way back in 2014.

 

Scrivener

Price: $45    Buy Scrivener     Download Free Trial

Scrivener is an incredible tool for long-form writing, outlining and researching. If you're writing a book, definitely try out the Scrivener free trial.

 

Things 3

Price: $49.99     Buy from the Mac App Store     Download Free Trial

Things 3 is my favorite to-do app for Mac. It's super slick, well designed and powerful. Check out my detailed article 'Switching from Omnifocus to Things 3' if you'd like more info.

Image from  Things 3 Press Kit

 

1Password

Price: $2.99/month    Download 1Password     Try Free Trial

1Password is the best password manager around. It has really good apps for Mac, PC, iOS and Android, as well as extensions for Chrome, Safari, Firefox and Opera.

Screenshot from 1Password Press Kit

Screenshot from 1Password Press Kit

 

Newton

Price: $49/year     Download Newton

Newton is by far my favorite email app for the Mac. It has a ton of wonderful features—read receipts, snooze, send later, undo send, sender profiles, connected apps and more.

If you'd like to read more about it, you can check out my article, 'CloudMagic to Newton'.

Screenshot from  Newton Press Kit

Screenshot from Newton Press Kit

 

OmniGraffle 7

Price: Free Download     Standard Upgrade: $99     Pro Upgrade: $199      Buy OmniGraffle 7

OmniGraffle is ridiculously powerful. I don't use the vast majority of what it can do, but it's perfect for throwing together quick wire frames and workflow diagrams.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 20.06.16.png

 

 

Sketch

Price: $99/year     Buy Sketch     Download Free Trial

Sketch is the best tool around for UI/UX design.

Screenshot 2017-12-26 20.07.36.png

 

Photo by Iswanto Arif on Unsplash

The Best Wallpapers for iPhone X

When I get a new phone, I'm always on the lookout for the best new wallpapers. The iPhone X took that to a new level for me, since it's the first iPhone with an OLED screen. OLED means blacker blacks, so darker backgrounds look incredible!

iOS 11.2 comes with some truly great wallpapers, but for those of you who want to branch out with me, I've compiled some of my favorite wallpapers for iPhone X from across the web. Let me know what you think.

 
iFixit-squashed.jpg

iFixit's Show Off the Inside Wallpapers

These two wallpapers are awesome. They show off what the iPhone X looks like if you remove the screen or capture it with an x-ray.

When setting it as the background, choose either “Still” or “Perspective”.

 
Fish-squashed.jpg

Clown Fish Wallpaper

This is an awesome hi-res version of the fish wallpaper that came with the original iPhone.

When setting it as the background, choose either “Still” or “Perspective”.

 
CorteX-squashed.jpg

Grafiksyndikat's CorteX Wallpapers

These 3 backgrounds box in the apps on your home screen, much like MKBHD's wallpaper for the Plus-sized phones. It's a really nice effect.

When setting it as the background, choose "Perspective".

 
LightBulb-squashed.jpg

Unsplash Collection

Unsplash is an awesome source of free images that you can use however you want. These are from a collection of images put together by Benjamin Blättler.

When setting it as the background, choose either “Still” or “Perspective”.

Mockups on black background from Anthony Boyd. Header image also from Anthony Boyd.

 

More Free Wallpapers

Switching from Omnifocus to Things 3

Cultured Code has done it again. They've created a modern, powerful and beautiful tool for personal organization.

Things 3 launched a few weeks ago, and it's impressive to say the least. As soon as I saw the improvements they'd made to Things, I started thinking about switching from Omnifocus, and after some serious deliberation, I took the plunge.


 

Why Switch from Omnifocus to Things 3

As I wrote in "How I Keep Track of My Life" (one of my most-read pieces), I follow the Getting Things Done methodology for staying organized and thoughtfully prioritizing. I've been using Omnifocus 2 for this purpose since it was released in 2014.

Deciding to move my life to another app was a big decision for me. So why did I make the switch? 

  1. Things 3 has a simpler, more sophisticated design. Things 3 in my opinion does a better job of quickly displaying the information I want to see and reduces the number of taps/clicks to complete a task. For an app I use every day, this is important. Also the animations are lovely.

  2. Omnifocus feels like too robust of a tool for my needs. Omnifocus Pro is still the most powerful personal organization tool out there, but possibly because of that additional power, it's more difficult to learn and use. (As an example of its power, you can automate tons of stuff with their URL Scheme support; but in my many years using Omnifocus, I've never taken advantage of that functionality.)

  3. Things 3 has multiselect on iOS, and Omnifocus does not.* This has been one of the most frustrating parts of Omnifocus for iOS. To make the same change to ten items is a huge, repetitive annoyance.

  4. I am quick to support people who create high-quality apps.

  5. I love trying out new productivity tools.

    *Note: Ken from Omnifocus told me multiselect will be coming to Omnifocus for iOS later in 2017.


How I Use Things 3 for iPhone, iPad, Mac and Watch

Things 3 is sold as three separate apps—iPhone, Mac and iPad. The iPhone app comes with Things 3 for Apple Watch at no extra cost.

Things 3 for iPhone

Price: $9.99     View in the iOS App Store.

The iPhone app is my primary tool for keeping organized. I use it all day long to create, organize and mark complete tasks and projects. 

I really love the Today, This Evening and Upcoming views. I've also started using the Headings feature to organize projects into sections instead of creating sub-project (like I did in Omnifocus).

Things 3 for Mac

Price: $49.99     View in the Mac App Store.     Download Free Trial.

Things for Mac is open all day at work, but I use it most when I'm setting up a new big project. 

Things 3 for iPad

Price: $19.99     View in the iOS App Store.

I don't have an iPad that I use personally, so I haven't purchased the iPad app. But according to Cultured Code, it does have all the same functionality as the iPhone app simply restructured to fit the larger display.

Things 3 for Apple Watch

Price: Free with the iPhone App     View alongside the iPhone app in the iOS App Store.

The Apple Watch app allows users to add and mark tasks complete, but I primarily use it via the watch face complication. It's simply a circular graph that displays what percentage of the tasks due that day have been completed.

Things 3 Apple Watch

How to Switch from Omnifocus Pro to Things 3

First, buy Things 3. Just like with Omnifocus, I find it really helpful to have both the Mac and the iOS apps. (If you want to do step 3, you'll need the Mac app.)

Second, complete the intro projects. For iPhone, iPad and Mac, Cultured Code has included intro projects that walk you through the apps' features, help you create an account and set up sync with Things Cloud. I highly recommend that you complete each of these. They only take a few minutes, and they're super informative.

Side Note: Things Cloud is incredible. 

Third, download and run the importer.

According to CultureCode, this tool "imports projects and to-dos with due dates and notes, converts top-level folders to areas, and contexts to tags. Once downloaded, you’ll need to right-click this app to run it. Please note that only the Pro version of OmniFocus provides AppleScript support, so it will only work if you have that version installed."


Common Questions

Will you ever switch back to Omnifocus? I have no idea. Maybe. The wonderful people at the Omni Group make killer tools. I can't wait to see their next big release of Omnifocus.

Why are these apps so expensive? Good software takes a lot of talent, time and effort to create. If you want a tool you use regularly to not have ads, to have  great support, to protect your data and to be around two years from now, you should probably give the creators some money to help that happen. When a company builds a tool that I use every single day to be productive for years at a  time, I'm happy to support them with my dollars. 

Can I import my to-dos from something other than Omnifocus? Yes, you can. Cultured Code has a support page that explains how to import your todos from the following sources:

 

Header image from Unsplash. Things 3 images from Press Kit
Video from the Cultured Code website. I turned it into a gif and sped it up 2x.

MKBHD's Awesome Folder of Free Wallpapers

I was googling around for wallpapers the other day, and I found a super old tweet from MKBHD sharing a Google Drive folder of free Wallpapers. There are some really great phone, desktop, 4k desktop, 5k desktop and even ultrawide desktop wallpapers.

To make them easier to browse through and download individually, I've organized them below. If you want to download the whole folder, you can find that here.

Phone Wallpapers

Desktop Desktop Wallpapers

4k & 5k Desktop Wallpapers

Ultrawide Desktop Wallpapers

Header image from Unsplash.

 

More Free Wallpapers

Augmented Reality Will Change Your Life

Augmented Reality (AR) has the potential to change our lives as dramatically as the smart phone, and because of this, every major consumer technology company is developing AR tech and vying for the AR crown. 

AR is often Misunderstood

There has been a great deal of confusion between Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR). 

  • Virtual Reality shuts out the physical world. It tricks your senses into believing you are somewhere else. VR received a lot of attention in 2016 with several major product releases. It is being used primarily for gaming and niche corporate needs.
  • Augmented Reality overlays digital information on top of the physical world, allowing you to seamlessly interact with what's around you. Because augmented reality doesn't shut out the world around you, it has the potential to be used all day, every day for work and play. 

The term "Augmented Reality" is used to describe two separate things that have widely different implications, and this leads to misunderstandings about its potential value.

  1. Phone-based augmented reality is already available. It's when an app leverages the phone camera and screen to display digital objects over what's physically in front of you. Pokémon Go is the most widely used example of this. It's interesting technology and useful in certain circumstances, but it's probably not going to be life changing.
  2. Glasses-based augmented reality on the other hand may launch a massive shift in personal computing. Benedict Evans put it this way, "AR-as-glasses is potentially the next multitouch."

How AR will Change Your Life

This is a lot like the early days of the smart phone. There are a handful of useful application of AR tech that can be easily imagined, but once AR wearables are being sold at scale, new tools will be created that aren't obvious now. 

Seamless Contextual Information

  • Never forget a name again. Once you've met a person, their contact info will be available right by their head. I'm sure this will tie into social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn as well as your personal contact list.
  • Is it cheaper on Amazon? I'll be incredibly surprised if Amazon doesn't apply visual search tech (that's already available in the Pinterest app) to AR glasses. As you walk through a store, Amazon (or Google or some other company) will be able to show you the same or similar items for sale elsewhere, making it a breeze to compare prices.
  • What you need to know, when you need to know it. As artificial intelligence tools like Google Now improve and are applied to AR glasses, relevant information will be displayed as you need it—when to leave for your next meeting, traffic and weather info as you get ready for the day, nearby restaurants at lunch time and more.

Real Time Translation

When visiting another country or just walking through Chinatown, AR glasses will be able to translate signs in real time. This is already available in the Google Translate app, but imagine how much more useful this would be if you don't have to pull out your phone and open an app. Constant realtime translation will seriously simplify international travel, and this will only get better with time.

Fun and Games

Games will come to AR in droves. A developer recently ported part of the popular game, Portal, to Microsoft's HoloLens. You'll notice the box follows the laws of physics. The HoloLens knows the stairs are there, so the box bounces down them as if it were in the real world.

Five Requirements for Successful Consumer AR Glasses

I believe there are five requirements for AR Glasses to be successfully sold at scale to everyday consumers (not just geeks).

  1. Clear Use Cases. Successful AR glasses will need to launch with clear, valuable use cases. Much like Steve Jobs did when announcing the first iPhone—"a widescreen iPod with touch controls; a revolutionary mobile phone; and a breakthrough Internet communications device."
  2. Smaller Size. The HoloLens is way too big to be worn by normal people. AR-glasses will need to shrink to the approximate size and weight of a pair of regular glasses before they gain mainstream appeal.
  3. Variety. For consumers to wear this type of tech on their faces, there will need to be great variety in available styles. I wouldn't be surprised if companies partner up with manufacturers of traditional glasses, like Luxottica, to make this possible. AR glasses will also need to account for corrective lenses needed by so many. This is another reason partnerships with traditional glasses companies are quite likely to take place.
  4. Developer Community. Apart from the handful of features that successful AR glasses ship with, they'll need a thriving developer community to create a wide variety of software and meet the needs of countless market segments.
  5. Cultural Acceptance. For AR glasses to truly take off, they'll need to be seen as cool. Geeks will wear them whether or not they're culturally accepted, but the vast majority of consumers will not buy a product and wear it on their face if it is not.
Image from  Unsplash

Image from Unsplash

Who will be Major Players in AR?

Our phones have already begun to be used for AR, but the real magic of AR seems to be its wedding with wearable tech. Glasses-based AR isn't available in any major consumer products at the moment, but we do have an idea of who the major players will probably be. 

Microsoft

Microsoft already has the HoloLens (a pair of AR goggles) for sale on their website, but the HoloLens is not a consumer product at this point. The device is branded as the "Development Edition" and starts at $3,000. Microsoft hopes that having the technology available for developers now will lead to a better software ecosystem when the consumer version becomes available.

Magic Leap

Magic Leap is by far the most-hyped AR startup. They've raised $1.39 billion in funding, and for a few years they were the darling of the tech press. But in recent months, with no product announcement in site, the company's supposedly bright prospects have come under much scrutiny.

Apple

Tim cook said of AR in a recent interview with The Independent:

"I regard it as a big idea, like the smartphone. The smartphone is for everyone, we don't have to think the iPhone is about a certain demographic, or country or vertical market: it’s for everyone. I think AR is that big, it’s huge. I get excited because of the things that could be done that could improve a lot of lives. And be entertaining."

With a quote like that, Apple must have some sort of AR product in the pipeline. It may not be this year or next, but something is on its way. 

Google

Google's Project Tango is a platform for developing AR software for Android phones, but AR-software built with Tango could be used by AR glasses as well. This is Google's attempt to do what Microsoft is doing with HoloLens Development Edition—nurture a development community to prepare for when devices are available.

Image from  Google Tango

Image from Google Tango

Facebook (Oculus)

Facebook owns one of the leading virtual reality companies, Oculus, but Mark Zuckerberg has made it clear that they hope to enter the AR-market as well.

In an interview with the Verge about the future of Facebook, Zuckerberg said, "[With] AR, there’s still more science questions that need to be worked out, and I’m optimistic that we’ll have the answers to that pretty soon."

Snap

Many believe Snap has the best chance of creating some sort of wearable AR device that millennials will be willing to wear. Snap has taken a step in that direction with Spectacles. Although Spectacles have no AR functionality, they show Snap's ability to think outside the box, excite millennials and produce a pair of "smart glasses" that consumers want to buy and wear.

Image from  Spectacles.com

Image from Spectacles.com

There is incredible potential in AR. I expect it to be part of my everyday life very soon, and I'm excited to see how quickly it will become commonplace for the average consumer.

Header image from Unsplash.

AirPods: Reviewed

I've been using AirPods daily for just over a week, and I believe they're the best new product Apple has released in years. They brilliantly solve the biggest problem with Bluetooth devices across the board (pairing) and have been a joy to use.

What I love about AirPods.

One: Setup and pairing is a breeze. Simply open the case, tap connect, and your AirPods will pair with your iPhone and every other device signed in with your Apple ID (except for Apple TV). Switching between devices is as simple as choosing the AirPods from the device you want to use. 

Pairing is slightly different with non-Apple devices. It requires holding a small button on the back of the AirPods' case. That said, they will work with your Android phone, Windows PC or any other Bluetooth-capable device.

Two: AirPods are smart. Place them in your ears, and they're ready to play music. Pull one out, and your music pauses. Put it back in, and it resumes. Pull both out, and your music stops completely. Put one in, and the audio plays in mono (perfect for a phone call or podcasts). Put the other one in while you're listening to that podcast, and it automatically switches to stereo sound. This is how Bluetooth headphones should work.

What I wish was better.

One: Double-tap one of the AirPods, and Siri activates. Surprisingly Siri is a lot better with AirPods. Siri never misunderstands what I'm saying. (I'm assuming that's because the mic is so much closer.)

This is a great improvement, but Siri is still Siri. She knows what I'm saying, but she can't always answer my questions and doesn't play well with Overcast, a 3rd-party podcasting app that I use. Asking Siri to "skip 30 seconds" works with the Apple podcast app but freezes up with Overcast. (My understanding is that the 3rd-party app developers have been given everything they need to fix that on their end.) 

Siri is an important part of AirPods, and it needs to be better. 

Two: Music controls aren't great. By default the only way to adjust volume or skip songs is with Siri. You can change the double-tap in setting to be play/pause instead of activating Siri, but I mostly play/pause by taking one out of my ear.

I find myself using music controls on my phone or watch. It's a slight inconvenience, but I haven't found it overly annoying.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of AirPods is better than I expected. To be fair, the quality is not as high as the QC 35s, and if you’re an audiophile (which I am not), I’m sure you’ll notice opportunities for improvement. But if you like the EarPods that came with your iPhone or other earbuds, you'll be happy with the AirPods sound quality.

Battery Life

I was a bit concerned with the 5 hour battery life, but the charging case makes that a non-issue for me. I wear mine for hours at a time and store them in the case when I'm not using them. Since just 15 minutes in the case gives them 3 more hours more battery life, I've never seen the AirPods under 50% charge. I charge the case every three days.

Fit

AirPods fit me perfectly. They don't slip at all and are quite comfortable. I even forgot they were in my ears one day at work.

I've talked to a handful of people with them, and for most this is true. Apple is playing a numbers game. They'll work really well for most ear types, but they won't for some.

They're pretty much the same shape as EarPods, but since they don't have a chord pulling on them, they're a bit less likely to fall out for everyone. If EarPods always fall out of your ears, I'd be cautious before ordering AirPods. 

Look and Feel

On their own, they're really nice looking. The industrial design and build of the case and AirPods is really high quality. They feel great, and are incredibly small for all the tech inside.

In ear, is a different story. They are futuristic-looking, to be generous.

IMG_6325.JPG

If they sell really well and celebrities start using them (which I think they will), the look will normalize. 

Cost & Competition

AirPods cost $159 from Apple. That's pricey for earbuds, but actually a bit low compared to their direct competition.

Other Truly Wireless Headphones

Bluetooth Earbuds Connected by a Wire

The Future of AirPods

AirPods are more than headphones to Apple. They're Apple's second wearable, and I'm excited to see how they evolve over the next five years.

What I Learned Reading 53 Books in a Year

Last year at this time, I set a goal to read or listen to one book a week in 2016. That’s 53 if you round up.

I’m surprised to say that I met that goal. 

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression. I’m not one of those people who always achieves his New Year’s resolutions—quite the opposite actually. 

Despite my dismal history with them, this year I did it, and I want to share three things I learned from my experience.

 

You won't Succeed without Persistence

At one point this summer I was 15 books behind. That meant I had to read two books a week for 15 weeks to catch up.

In past years, when I’ve fallen behind on a resolution, I’ve given up. But this year was different. I stopped and thought about the purpose of the goal.

There’s nothing special about reading 53 books. The point was to read more, learn more and enjoy books. So I set out to do just that, and as I did, I crept closer and closer to my goal.

I only succeeded because I was persistent in the face of failure.

 

You don't have to Finish Everything You Start

It's hard for me to stop reading a book I've started, even if I don't enjoy it. This was especially true this year because I wanted to reach my goal. I slogged through more than one book so I could check it off my list, but I shouldn't have. 

This may seem to contradict my last point, but it doesn't. The purpose of the reading goal wasn't just to read a lot of books. It was to learn from them and enjoy them along the way. Sometimes I just don't jive with a book, and that's OK.

I learned that putting down a book isn't failure. It might just be the wrong time for it.

A friend explained this very well the other day on Twitter.

The essential thing for me in giving up a book: don't blame the book. It might be my fault. The book might be great. I'm just not ready for it. When I return to it, I often find that future me loves it.—@chrisrshockley

 

You’ll Find Value in Variety

After reading the books I already owned, I began asking friends and family for advice about what to read next. They directed me to their favorite books, books that had helped them in the past and books they found fascinating. 

I didn't begin the year with a list of all 53 books segmented by type or subject matter, but I ended up reading 29 non-fiction books and 24 fiction books. I read biographies, histories, science books, full series of fiction, books of poetry, essays and more.

This variety kept me engaged. It made it possible for me to meet my goal, and I believe it added value to the process

If you're interested in my full reading list or my favorites from this year, you're in luck. You can find both here.

Header image from Unsplash.