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.)
Installer / A weekly newsletter by David Pierce designed to tell you everything you need to download, watch, read, listen to, and explore that fits in The Verge’s universe.
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.Screen share
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. Crowdsourced
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.
“If you’re into romcoms, musicals, cringe, and honest portrayals of mental health issues, you probably want to see Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. The only show where I’ve screamed “Nooooooo!” “That’s not trueeee!” or “Don’t do itttt!” multiple times in each episode.” – Xyan
“Mr Bates vs The Post Office! A fantastic show that has brought attention to a great injustice that was done to postal workers in the UK in the early 2000s!” – Jason
“PlayPilot is pretty much my go-to site for finding out where movies are streaming (or not). We save the stuff we want to see in there and then roll through the services over the year. I just wish they were integrated with LG TVs…” – Robert
“I’ve been digging into The Pale Beyond on Steam, and it’s a really evocative, desperate little narrative resource management game.” – Jordan
“Disclosure: Vox Media is a parent company of The Verge. That said, Unexplainable is such a great podcast. Huge variety of topics. Each episode is short enough to keep me from losing interest yet still manages to pack in a ton of info and be interesting. I learn so much!” – Kelly (Disclosure: I didn’t add this disclosure, I left it in because it’s hilarious.)
“I tried adding Structured to my productivity stack for the new semester, and even though it didn’t stick for me (I’ve got too much structured time that lives in GCal, it turns out), it’s very pretty and fairly full-featured. I liked that it is a lot more forgiving of to-dos that take a nonstandard amount of time, and it builds in space to breathe between blocks without leaving white space begging to be filled.” – Ainslee
“I’m always looking out for iOS games I can play while listening to podcasts. They should be ‘mindless’ and preferably playable in bits while stuck in traffic. The game Holedown always filled that hole for me (no pun intended). But now I learned about the game Finity on Apple Arcade, and I can’t get enough of it.” – Mustapha
“Clear is back, and it looks stunning. And for those at home, there are collectibles: themes, icons, sounds, etc.” – Austin (Austin also sent their referral link, which gets everybody free stuff. Yay, free stuff!)
“Blue Eye Samurai on Netflix is a great show. It’s about an outcast in feudal Japan after they closed themselves off from the rest of the world. Four white men remain in Japan in secret, and the outcast vows to kill them in revenge because being mixed race is a problem in their society. Extra twist: she’s a girl hiding her gender. Commentary on being a woman in that society ensues. Great show, story, characters, setting, and commentary. Comparisons to Mulan be damned.” – Joseph
There are two genres of video I will always watch no matter the subject: videos about people who are really good at something explaining how they do it, and videos about super-niche competitions that people care deeply about. My latest discovery in the latter category: the World Jigsaw Puzzle Championship, in which a bunch of puzzlers pull a puzzle out of a bag and try to put it together as quickly as they can. Here’s a great video from a competitor, and the full five-hour livestream of the event. I love learning about the different solving strategies (start with the sky!), I love the drama, and I also want to puzzle competitively now. But I definitely couldn’t hang. I don’t puzzle like these folks puzzle.
See you next week!