Apple Is Working on a Dedicated Chip to Power AI on Devices ➝

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple is working on a processor devoted specifically to AI-related tasks, according to a person familiar with the matter. The chip, known internally as the Apple Neural Engine, would improve the way the company’s devices handle tasks that would otherwise require human intelligence — such as facial recognition and speech recognition, said the person, who requested anonymity discussing a product that hasn’t been made public.

Looks like we might be seeing N-series chips in the not-too-distant future.

Thinking About Shared iCloud Photo Libraries ➝

Stephen Hackett:

This solution is what I would prefer. In it, my wife and I would continue to have our own libraries, tied to our own iCloud accounts, just like we do today.

However, we would be able to add each other as viewers to our libraries. Once access has been granted, her library would show up in the top-level of Photos.app as do things like People, Places, Videos, etc. I could tap her library to see all of her content, including albums, collections, etc. If I were to see something I wanted to add to my library, I could select it and tap “Add to My Library.” Doing so would prompt iCloud to add a full-resolution copy of that file to my personal library.

The one thing keeping my wife and I from using iCloud Photo Libraries is the lack of a feature like this. Right now, we use Google Photos with a shared Google account on both of our iPhones. This gives us a single, unified library to browse and offsite backups for our photos. If Apple shipped a library sharing feature, though, we’d switch in a heartbeat.

‘The Thinnest Tightrope They Can Walk Between What Is and Is Not Considered Creepy’ ➝

Nick Heer, on Google and Facbook’s ability to associate offline purchases with online advertising views:

For this to be effective, there has to be some association made between a purchaser, whether they have seen an ad, and how that campaign was delivered — through social media, a general website, and so forth. Therefore, there must be enough information to correlate the three factors, which is enough information for specific purchases to be tracked back to an individual. If there isn’t that level of granularity, the service is pointless, isn’t it? […]

When Apple launched Apple Pay, they made a point of stating that they don’t track transactions over time. I don’t think Apple’s privacy protections necessarily prevent Google and Facebook from associating purchases with ad views, but it can’t hurt to consider using services from companies that build privacy protections into their products and services, instead of those that try to find the thinnest tightrope they can walk between what is and is not considered creepy.

Joe Rosensteel’s tvOS Wishlist ➝

Joe Rosensteel is far more negative on the Apple TV than I am, but I agree with a lot of the points in his piece. One thing I’d like to add to his list is the ability to sync the installed applications and home screen layout between multiple boxes.

We have an Apple TV in the living room and another in the bedroom, it’s irritating that I have to organize the home screen on both devices manually. If I install a new app or change the order of the icons, those changes should be reflected on both devices by making use of some sort of iCloud service.

Judging Apple’s WWDC 2016 Announcements One Year Later ➝

Matt Birchler takes a look back at the most important announcements from last year’s WWDC keynote.

IFTTT’s Free ‘maker’ Tier Lets Anyone Create and Share Applets ➝

Mat Smith, writing for Engadget:

IFTTT is opening up its recipe/ applet creating platform to everyone, with a free ‘maker’ tier that offers deeper (read: harder) programming options beyond the simple “if this then that” UI most IFTTT aficionados use. You could already do this, making private applets for your own use, but this announcement means part-time developers can share any awesome applets with the greater IFTTT community, including lazy ingrates like myself.

If I’m not mistaken, this was a feature available to all IFTTT users until the service took it away sometime last year. I’m glad to see it’s back.

And just to see what the process was like for creating these shareable applets, I went ahead and built a couple. One that automatically saves new Initial Charge feature articles to Instapaper and another that does the same for Pocket. The process was quite simple — I was able to put these two together in less than five minutes.

Apple Dot Com Slash Switch ➝

A new section on Apple’s website encouraging Android users to switch to iPhone. It launches alongside a handful of ads with similar messaging and design aesthetic.

Ikea Announces Smart Lighting Compatibility ➝

Ben Lovejoy, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

iPhone-ticker reports that Ikea is updating its TRÅDFRI smart lights to be compatible with HomeKit, Amazon Echo and Google Home. The site says that the company will ‘retrofit’ the functionality, suggesting that compatibility will apply to existing products.

The existing product line is limited to white bulbs, but once you’ve bought the gateway for $79.99 (which includes two bulbs), you can add smart bulbs at prices ranging from $11.99 for a 1000-lumen E28 bulb, through $14.99 for a 400-lumen E12, $17.99 for a 980-lumen E27 to a $19.99 G10 spotlight. Dimmers and motion sensors are also available at similarly affordable pricing.

I’ve been waiting for the price of smart home products to drop before jumping wallet-first into the category. I’m not thrilled about having to spend $80 on the gateway, but $12 for each subsequent bulb seems like a pretty killer deal.

Fever to Feedbin

RSS isn’t as hip as it was during the days of Google Reader, but I still launch a feed reader every single day. It helps me keep up with the latest technology news and ensures that I have a steady stream of independent content to read from my favorite weblogs. Twitter can function in many of the same ways, but I prefer to keep my social network as a platform for communication rather than a news gathering service.

Up until last month, I had been using Fever as the backend for my RSS, syncing with Reeder as my primary client. Fever was a tremendous product by Shaun Inman that I first started using shortly after it launched in 2009. It was a self-hosted RSS reader with an API for developers; a beautiful user interface; and a neat “Hot” feature which listed all of the webpages your feeds have linked to, over a given time period, sorted by frequency.

Fever’s Hot List

Fever’s Hot feature was, by far, the most innovative part of the software. And to this day, I’m not aware of any other RSS service that provides this sort of functionality. It let you step away from your feeds for a few days and quickly catch up with the most important news items without having to sift through everything — Fever did all the heavy lifting for you.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. Shaun Inman announced late last year that he would be discontinuing sales and support for Fever as well as his web analytics software Mint. Here’s what I wrote at the time of the announcement:

I’ve been a huge fan of Shaun Inman’s software for years — I reviewed Mint and Fever around the time I first installed them and they’ve been my favorite web analytics and RSS syncing services ever since. But the writing’s been on the wall for both of them for quite some time — development has drastically slowed over the past two years. I expect I’ll continue using them for a while, but eventually I’ll have to migrate to something else.

I still use Mint for Initial Charge’s web stats, but last month I transitioned to Feedbin for all of my RSS syncing needs. The process for choosing Feedbin over all of the alternatives wasn’t exactly comprehensive. The only services I considered were the ones that Reeder had support for and I only actually tried one them. There may be other, better services available, but I’ve been more than happy with the decision I made.

Looking through Reeder’s “Add Account” view, my options were Feedbin, Feedly, Feed Wrangler, FeedHQ, NewsBlur, The Old Reader, Inoreader, Minimal Reader, and BazQux Reader. I immediately ruled out all of the services with ugly logos or poorly designed websites. It may seem shallow, but you can usually learn a lot about whether or not a service is going to click for you based on those two factors. And, honestly, life’s too short for bad design. That left me with Feedbin, Feedly, FeedHQ, and Minimal Reader as the front-runners.

I started browsing each of the service’s websites for pricing information or unique features that would pull me toward one of them. After some investigating, I remembered a piece I wrote from last year about a nifty feature added to Feedbin — email newsletter support. That’s all it took. I signed up for the free trial and became a paying customer just a few days later.

Feedbin Mobile View

There has been a big resurgence of email newsletters as of late, especially from the independent technology weblogs that I frequently read. I’m interested in reading this supplemental content, but my inbox isn’t exactly the place where I want to be reading this stuff. I don’t want anything emailed to me that I can’t act upon quickly. And long-form prose often sits for weeks before I have a chance to read it. I want this sort of content in my RSS reader, where I can either read it immediately or save it for later, depending on my available time.

For me, email newsletter support is the killer feature for an RSS service. But there were a couple other niceties worth highlighting that I discovered during my time using Feedbin:

  • A feed list with bulk actions and sorting: After importing my OPML file, I was able to sort all of my feeds by most recently updated. This surfaced all of the, what I believe to be, abandoned feeds and I was able to unsubscribe with just a few taps. And to further thin the herd, I sorted my feeds by volume and unsubscribed from some of the more frequently updated sites that I’ve lost my enthusiasm for.
  • Actions: This allows you to automatically mark as read or star any feed item that matches a chosen search term. If you’re trying to cut down on the amount of political talk you encounter on a daily basis, this will work perfectly for you.

One of the best aspects of Feebin, though, is its honest business model. You pay a monthly or yearly fee — I signed up for the $30 per year plan — in exchange for the use of Feedbin’s web app and syncing service. Some of the other services weren’t exactly up-front with their pricing — either omitting it from their homepage or making it almost impossible to find without the help of a search engine. Feedly was the worst offender of this, which is surprising because of how well-known they are.

From Feedly’s homepage, I couldn’t find any information about what they charged for their services. I had to search DuckDuckGo in order to find this page that explains all of the pricing tiers. I guess this information is only surfaced for registered users with free accounts. That seems a little dishonest to me. There’s no indication of premium accounts on the homepage and there are even two “Get Started for Free” buttons that could mislead new users into thinking that all of the features listed on the homepage are free for everyone, which is not the case. Many of the features listed on the homepage require a premium account.

Compare that to Feedbin. They have the monthly pricing information in the header, right above a “Try it Free” button. They aren’t trying to trick you into signing up with a false sense that you can just use all of the features without paying. Feedbin is honest and up-front with their potential customers, letting them know exactly what they’re getting into before signing up. That’s the kind of company I want to give my money to. And of course, it helps that they have a well-designed service with great features and competitive prices. I expect I’ll be using Feedbin for many years to come.

Rogue Amoeba Brings Native Apple TV Compatibility Back to Airfoil ➝

Paul Kafasis, writing on the Rogue Amoeba weblog:

We’ve got a great update for Airfoil for Mac today which enables it to once again send audio directly to all versions of the Apple TV. Airfoil for Mac 5.6 is a free update, available immediately by selecting “Check for Update” from the Airfoil menu.

I’m impressed with how quickly the folks at Rogue Amoeba were able to release this update. It’s only been a month since they were forced to release Airfoil Speakers for Apple TV as a workaround to tvOS 10.2’s new AirPlay requirements.

Biz Stone Returns to Twitter ➝

Biz Stone, writing on Medium:

Twitter decided to relaunch the Friday afternoon tradition of Tea Time for employees in SF. Jack invited me to join him as “special guest” at this restart of an old tradition. When I stood next to Jack addressing the crowd of employees, I felt the energy, and I was overcome with emotion. I realized in that moment that Twitter was the most important work of my life.

While we were on stage, Jack asked me to come back to work at Twitter. People cheered. But I wasn’t really sure if he meant it. After Tea Time, we spoke privately and Jack told me that he really did — he wanted me to come back and work at Twitter. The company I co-founded, the service I co-invented. I was stunned, but I knew the answer.

I don’t know if his guidance of the company culture will have a substantial impact on the service from a user standpoint, but I’m kind of excited about this.

(Via Drew Coffman.)

Putting Your Home Network on an Uninterruptible Power Supply ➝

A great home networking tip from Ben Brooks:

Put your entire network on battery backup. It’s rare that the power goes out these days, but there have been a handful of interruptions to my area of late — lasting about two hours each time. My network, and thus my internet, stays up and online the entire time. Which means I can still work without burning through a data plan.

I love this idea. I have 10GB of tethering data available from AT&T each month now, but I wouldn’t mind having faster speeds during the rare instances when the power’s out.

BGR: Apple to Discontinue iPad Mini ➝

Jonathan Geller, reporting for BGR:

First introduced in 2012, Apple’s iPad mini was a welcome alternative to the much larger, thicker, and heavier 9.7-inch iPad. There was no 5.5-inch iPhone Plus, so the iPad mini made a great choice for light reading and effortless web browsing, email, and gaming. The market doesn’t stand still, however, and we’re now looking at a redesigned iPad Pro to be launched this summer that should offer everything the current 9.7-inch iPad features, but in a smaller footprint with a larger 10.5-inch display.

On the other side, there’s the 5.5-inch iPhone 7 Plus, which is large enough to negate the need for a tablet for many users. The device you take everywhere, that’s always with you, that has the best camera, and that has everything else you need. The device that you already own. Therein lies the problem, and that’s why we have heard from a source close to Apple that the iPad mini is being phased out.

In hindsight, I should have realized that Apple was phasing out the iPad Mini when the new 9.7-inch model was released a couple of months ago. The new iPad costs $70 less than the Mini and features a larger screen and faster A-series chip.

But setting aside it’s pitiful internals, the iPad Mini is getting squeezed at both ends by smartphones with ever increasing screen sizes and lower cost tablets with larger displays. There isn’t a good reason for the Mini to exist anymore. But, I didn’t expect Apple to discontinue it.

My initial thought was that Apple would fix the iPad lineup’s pricing by releasing an aggressively costed Mini — maybe $199 or $249. That would give them an absurdly low price point to market knowing that many customers would opt for a more expensive model. It would also tidy-up the lineup from a logical standpoint — two consumer iPads at 7.9- and 9.7-inches alongside two pro models at 10.5- and 12.9-inches. But, alas, that doesn’t seem to be in the cards.

(Via Nick Heer.)

Cultured Code Releases Things 3 for Mac, iOS, and Apple Watch ➝

Préshit Deorukhkar:

Today marks the launch of Things 3 — a completely rebuilt suite of apps from the privately funded company based out of Stuttgart, Germany. I’ve been using and testing Things 3 for Mac and Things 3 for iPhone & Apple Watch for over a month now and this is, by far, the most refreshing and polished change I’ve seen an app update launch with.

I’ve used Clear as my primary task manager for a few years now, but it hasn’t been updated since 2015 and their iCloud syncing functionality has been broken for quite a while. Syncing between iOS devices works fine, but as soon as you throw a Mac into the mix, all of you devices refuse to sync.

The only way to fix the issue is to stop using the Mac app entirely and open up a hidden menu in the iOS app that allows you to reset the iCloud sync data. It’s an irritating bug that, because I rarely use macOS, I’ve been lucky enough to mostly avoid. But to me, this bug is representative of a bigger problem, the app is essentially abandoned. It’s been over a year since the last update and I don’t expect to see one anytime soon. It’s time to move on.

The release of Things 3 is the perfect opportunity for me to jump ship on Clear and transition to something that’s under active development. So far, I’m very impressed. The onboarding experience was top notch, the interface is gorgeous, and I love how it organizes all of my tasks in a way that keeps me from feeling overwhelmed.

I’m not thrilled that the iPhone, iPad, and Mac apps all have to be purchased separately, but the folks at Cultured Code are offering each of them at 20% off the regular price until May 25. If you’re at all interested in Things, it’s a good idea to make your purchasing decision before the price goes back up next week.

Apple Awards Corning Advanced Manufacturing Fund Investment ➝

From Apple’s press release:

Apple today announced Corning Incorporated will receive $200 million from Apple’s new Advanced Manufacturing Fund as part of the company’s commitment to foster innovation among American manufacturers. The investment will support Corning’s R&D, capital equipment needs and state-of-the-art glass processing. Corning’s 65-year-old Harrodsburg facility has been integral to the 10-year collaboration between these two innovative companies and will be the focus of Apple’s investment.

I’m probably biased because I live about thirty minutes away from Corning’s corporate headquarters, but I think this is a very smart investment. All of Apple’s most important products feature glass that was developed by Corning and there’s no other company in the world that can match their offerings.

Apple AirPods

I first attempted to order AirPods from AT&T’s online store after I discovered that they were listed as in stock and ready to ship. Unfortunately, America’s second largest cellular carrier isn’t capable of keeping their own website’s inventory levels up to date. I received an email the following day informing me that the AirPods I had ordered were no longer available. What a joke.

At the time, Apple was claiming a six week wait time for AirPods — which they still are. But I was hoping to catch a break and get them sooner by ordering from someone else. After the failed attempt at purchasing them from AT&T and a few days scouring the internet for leads, I gave up and purchased them from the source. Trying to get them early was proving to be a time consuming affair, filled with dead ends and empty promises. Without spending every waking hour monitoring inventory websites, it just wasn’t going to happen.

AirPods

I placed my order on March 2 and waited two days shy of the six week mark for my AirPods to arrive. I hadn’t been this excited about a new gadget since I purchased my Apple Watch in fall 2015. But could the AirPods possibly live up to the hype? My friends who had already purchased a pair were over the moon about them and I had seen discussions on Twitter about them being “the best Apple product since the iPad”. That’s hefty praise for a pair of wireless headphones.

When I came home from work on delivery day, I had a brown cardboard package waiting for me on the dining room table. I cut open the tape and found a small white box with a beautiful image of AirPods embossed on the front. Unwrapping a new gadget is always an enjoyable experience, but I find myself especially excited when there’s an Apple logo on the box. I couldn’t wait to rip off the outer plastic, slip off the lid, and see if the AirPods were really as great as everyone was saying they were.

Design and Comfort

When I first saw the AirPods in Apple’s product shots, I thought they looked a little odd. I mean, they’re just hanging out of the side of your head — like you got interrupted while cleaning your ears and forgot to finish the job. But I suppose, truthfully, people look a little weird wearing wired earbuds too, we’ve just grown accustomed to it. I think we’ll reach that point with wireless headphones, it’s just going to take some time.

There’s not too much to say about the earbuds themselves, from a design perspective. They look just like Apple’s EarPods with the cables cut off. The stem is a smidge thicker, but its barely noticeable unless you have them right next to one another. Coming from someone who’s spent the past thirteen years using whatever headphones Apple included in the box — iPhone or iPod — I find the AirPods to be very comfortable in my ears. They never feel like they’re going to fall out and I haven’t found them to be irritating during long listening sessions.

But of course, you’re mileage may vary. Whether or not you find them comfortable is entirely dependent on how they fit in your uniquely-shaped ears. My impression is that they’ll be fine for most, but if you don’t like how EarPods feel, AirPods might not be for you.

AirPods in Their Case

The real design genius is in the case. A small, white plastic charging pod that houses your AirPods when they’re not in use. It has a Lightning port on the bottom, for charging, and a hinged lid at the top. I often find myself mindlessly opening and closing the lid just to hear the satisfying snap of the magnets pulling the case shut.

The rear of the case has a small circular button for manually pairing the AirPods. In regular use, this will be infrequently needed. At least for me. The vast majority of the time, I’m connecting my AirPods to devices associated with my iCloud account. I have used them with my Apple TV for testing and they worked great. But I don’t expect it will become a regular occurrence.

Under the lid, the case features an AirPod shaped hole for each of your earbuds and an LED that indicates the current battery charge. If your AirPods are in the case, the light shows the charge status of your AirPods. If not, the light shows the charge status of the case. This is a great, intuitive little detail that just feels brilliant.

My only real complaint about the AirPods’ design is the size of the case. I wish it was a little bit smaller. I wouldn’t mind sacrificing a portion of the case’s battery life if they fit more comfortably in my pocket. This is a minor annoyance — something I can absolutely live with and won’t impact my willingness to recommend them to others. But if Apple could shrink the case, even by only a few millimeters, I’d be ecstatic.

Pairing

Apple’s control over the operating system gives them an incredible advantage when it comes to pairing their own brand of wireless headphones with iOS. The AirPods’ pairing process is the fastest and easiest I’ve ever seen. Just pop open the case’s lid with your iPhone unlocked and you’ll be greeted with a beautiful pairing prompt. Once you’ve tapped “connect” you’re done.

AirPods Pairing Process

After the initial setup, AirPods aren’t just connected to your iPhone — every device that’s associated with your iCloud account is able to choose your AirPods as their sound output. This switching feature is significantly better than anything else on the market, but it still isn’t quite as seamless as I was expecting. Perhaps I was confused by Apple’s messaging, but I thought AirPods would automatically pair with whatever device was playing audio. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.

Whenever you want to switch to another device, you have to select your AirPods in Control Center or the audio drop down menu in macOS. That’s much nicer than having to hold down the pairing button on the headphones, jump into Bluetooth settings, and choose them from the list. But I wish Apple could have come up with some way for AirPods to automatically switch inputs based on what device is playing audio. Or, at the very least, have them auto-pair with whatever device you’re currently using rather than the device they were last connected to.

Ever since receiving the AirPods, I’ve used them to listen to podcasts on my lunch break. When I get home, I usually sit on the couch or at the dining room table with my iPad, browsing Twitter, reading the news, or doing a bit of writing. If I open the AirPods case and place the earbuds in my ears, why do they connect to my iPhone? A device that, at that moment, is either in my pocket or face down on the table. It just seems nonsensical.

Maybe we’re still a few years away from this capability. But with how elegant the AirPods are at pairing and switching, it would be nice if Apple could eliminate the need to explicitly tell my iPad to output its audio through my AirPods. It doesn’t matter what they were last connected to, these products should be able to communicate with one another over Continuity and make an informed decision about which device the AirPods should play audio from. Hopefully the folks at Apple have this planned for the future.

Sound Quality

I have two simple words that accurately describe my opinion of the AirPods’ sound quality: perfectly acceptable. It’s not fair to compare them to other headphones in the same price range because they aren’t competing on the same axis. AirPods are designed around ease of use-first rather than sound-quality-first — it’s all about pairing, switching between devices, and the intuitive gestures.

That doesn’t mean that they sound terrible. In fact, quite the contrary, I think they sound downright good. But if you’re enthusiastic about audio fidelity, you probably already own a nice pair of headphones that you purchased with that in mind.

Does that mean you should skip the AirPods? Possibly. But, it depends on how much money you have to burn and whether or not you feel there’s room in your life for another set of headphones.

iPhone Sound Output Controls

In an imaginary scenario in which I care much more deeply about sound quality than I currently do, I expect I’d own two sets of headphones. An expensive, wired set that’s designed to isolate my hearing from noisy surroundings and, of course, AirPods. This combination would give me the best sound quality possible while I’m at home and incredible portability and convenience when I’m out of the house. It’s an expensive setup, but if I’ve learned anything from audiophiles, it’s that they aren’t afraid to spend a little too much on gear.

But again, I’m not an audiophile. As I mentioned earlier, the only headphones I’ve used in the past thirteen years are the ones that were included in the box alongside my iPhone or iPod. EarPods sound just fine to me and AirPods are no different.

Siri and Gestures

I’ve had my AirPods for about a month, but I haven’t actually spent much time using Siri with them. I’m not someone who uses his voice to interact with his gadgets very often. There’s an occasional “hey Siri, what’s the weather outside” while I’m getting ready for work, but more often than not, I have a device close enough that using the touch screen is just faster.

At first, I made a concerted effort to use voice controls on my AirPods as often as I could. Double tapping the earbud with my finger has worked with near-perfect accuracy, but its a little bit slower than I’d like. That short, two or three second pause doesn’t sound like much, but in practice, it gets irritating quickly.

I’m sure I would find more utility in Siri through my AirPods if I was in a setting where taking out my phone could be hazardous — near water, out for a run, etc. But I’ve slowly settled into only using Siri on my AirPods when I’ve left my iPhone in another room. And even then, I’d rather use my Watch to perform the function, if I’m wearing it.

AirPods Settings and Battery Widget

The biggest downside with AirPods is their lack of physical controls. Apple is offering the two-tap Siri gesture to try and mitigate the complaint, but we all know how the voice-only interface worked out with the third-generation iPod Shuffle. Unless Siri gets a lot faster, I think Apple will eventually have to add more controls to AirPods. I suppose they could add a three-tap gesture, but I’m not sure if that’s the path Apple wants to take. Interactions could get awfully confusing if they take tap gestures any further than they already have.

Aside from the double-tap, Apple only offers one other “gesture” on the AirPods — physically removing an AirPod from your ear. By default, this pauses media playback that automatically resumes when the AirPod is returned. This is an intuitive and natural way to handle this problem — even when I used wired headphones, I would often remove a single earbud when someone was trying to get my attention. The audio wouldn’t stop in this case, but it gave me a free ear for listening.

Apple’s implementation of this works very well and I only have one minor complaint about it. Sometimes you hold the removed AirPod in such a way that the earbud thinks it has returned to your ear and resumes playback. Over time this has occurred less often, as I’ve learned what triggers it, but it’s something to keep in mind for the first few weeks of ownership.

Battery Life

I was a bit concerned about battery life when Apple first announced the AirPods. At the time, my day job required me to work one late-night shift each week. The upside being that I could wear headphones and listen to music or podcasts for most of my shift — about five hours, exactly the claimed battery life for the AirPods themselves.

I was worried that, once the battery had gone through a few dozen recharge cycles, it wouldn’t last me the full five hours. Luckily, those shifts ended for me at the beginning of the year and I no longer have such large spans of uninterrupted time for audio listening.

In my four weeks with the AirPods, I’ve only had one low battery situation. It was my first full day off after their delivery and I wore them from the time I woke up until the battery started getting low in the early afternoon. This usage isn’t anything I’d consider to be normal, though. I was excited about a new gadget — in that mode where you take every opportunity to use it, even just to fiddle with the case’s lid and see the pairing pop-up on your iPhone.

Now that my usage has settled down a bit, my longest continuous listening sessions are only a few hours. Battery life isn’t an issue at all. Especially with the AirPods’ brilliant charging case, which contains a battery that adds about 24 hours of listening time.

AirPods Outside

In practice, if the AirPods aren’t in my ears, they’re in the case. And because of this natural habit, I don’t even pay attention to the AirPods’ battery anymore. I just plug the case into a Lightning cable every few days and they always have an adequate charge.

I did discover a neat trick during that low battery incident that can help you continue listening well beyond the five hours with minimal interruption. Perhaps most AirPod owners have already realized this, but I think it’s an important point to make for anyone thinking about buying a pair. When your AirPods’ batteries are low, put one AirPod in the case to charge and continue playback with the other. After about fifteen minutes, swap them. After another fifteen minutes, continue playback as normal.

Fifteen minutes inside the case gets you another three hours of playback. Doing this “swapping dance” will allow you to extend the AirPods’ battery life until the case’s reserves have been depleted with just a half-hour of less-than-optimal listening every three hours — listening with just a single earbud instead of both. I don’t expect I’ll use this trick often, but when I do, it’ll be a life saver.

Overall

The hype was indeed warranted with the AirPods. Apple made a big bet on wireless with the launch of the iPhone 7 and these incredibly intuitive Bluetooth headphones were the payoff. I can’t imagine going back to wired EarPods now. Catching the wire on various objects throughout the house and dealing with a tangled mess every time I want to use them — I’m glad to have those days behind me.

iPad Sound Output Settings

As for the AirPods being the best new Apple product since the iPad? I think they are. The only product that comes close is the Apple Watch. And although I wear mine every day, it doesn’t have the same fit and finish of the AirPods. The Watch’s relatively complicated functionality doesn’t help the equation much, but I find the AirPods to be much better at their primary function than the Watch. When I want to listen to audio, the AirPods work, every single time. Even two years after launch, the Watch still has the occasional hiccup when I raise my wrist to see the time.

The AirPods also do a better job at delivering on the promise of wireless headphones than the Watch does at delivering a smartwatch experience. The AirPods have very few annoyances and none of them hurt the experience in a major way. Whereas the Apple Watch is filled with oddities — unreliable complication refreshes, unexpectedly slow app launch times, and instances where my Watch just doesn’t tap me for a notification.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my Watch. I wouldn’t wear it everyday if that wasn’t the case. But the AirPods remind me of why I started using Apple products in the first place — everything feels intuitive and there’s so many little details that contribute to an unparalleled user experience. It’s the kind of product that has you immediately forgetting about the infuriating six week wait time.

AirPods are the closest thing to a perfect product that we’ve seen from Apple in many years. And this is only their first attempt at wireless headphones. It’s almost unbelievable that they were able to build such a polished offering out of the gate like this. If the AirPods are representative of Apple’s idea for a wireless future, I think we’ll be seeing great things ahead.

Amazon Announces $229 Box With Screen ➝

Nick Heer, on the Amazon Echo Show:

This sounds promising, right? Kind of like having an iPad Mini that’s always on and features a way better version of Siri. Only one small problem: it’s hideous. Nostalgia may be a powerful force, but I don’t imagine many people are nostalgic for a mid-1980s appliance. It weighs a kilo, so it’s meant to sit in one place all the time, and that place is probably going to be somewhere in the open because of the kind of device this is. People will see it.

I don’t think the Echo Show’s design matters as much as Nick thinks it does. There are plenty of people that have a small TV on their kitchen counter because they just want something that they can listen to and glance at while cooking or doing dishes. And the vast majority of these TVs are hideous.

But, the type of people that would buy an Echo Show are more likely to care about the design of the product. Can Amazon convince enough of these people that it looks good enough? Maybe. But I’m not convinced that this iteration is compelling enough to tip the scales.

The other possibility is that Amazon will convince enough kitchen TV buyers to spend a little extra on the Echo Show. The biggest hurdle for that market, though: it’s not a TV. Sure, it has some video functionality, but for many of these buyers, anything beyond plugging in a coaxial cable is a little too complicated.

Reports of Workflow’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated ➝

Federico Viticci:

In the first update following Apple’s acquisition in late March – and despite rumors that claimed the app would no longer be supported – Workflow has today restored some of the features that were removed in version 1.7.3 of the app (which was released when Apple confirmed the acquisition) and has brought a variety of changes and improvements, including new Apple Music actions.

I don’t know if this update is a sign of things to come, but it’s nice to know that Workflow hasn’t been completely ignored by its developers since the acquisition. And the inclusion of new actions in this update gives me renewed hope for the future of the most important tool in my iOS arsenal.

Big Name Developers Discontinue Bad Watch Apps ➝

Matt Birchler, commenting on The Verge’s recent piece about Google and Amazon killing their Apple Watch apps:

Google removed their Maps app and no one noticed. Well no shit, the Google Maps app on the Apple Watch is way worse than the Apple Maps one. Apple Maps on the Watch has more access to do things third party apps can’t. It can launch itself automatically when you start navigation on the iPhone, and it’s the only way to navigate when using Siri directly on the Apple Watch itself.

No one noticed Google or Amazon killing their Watch apps because no one was using their watch apps. This revelation by The Verge shouldn’t be taken as a sign of failure for the Watch, but as a sign of failure for bad Watch apps.

Amazon’s Video App May Finally Be Coming to Apple TV ➝

Peter Kafka and Jason Del Rey, reporting for Recode:

Amazon and Apple may have reached a truce.

The tech giants, who are increasingly competing for customers’ time, eyeballs and money, are close to an agreement to bring an Amazon video app to Apple’s Apple TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the two companies.

Amazon employees expect the app to show up on Apple’s hardware in the third quarter of the year.

I have avoided using Amazon’s video services because of the company’s decision to neglect the Apple TV. The Apple TV is a lot more important to me than a streaming video library that I’ve only briefly browsed. But I wouldn’t mind expanding my options for video content without having to rely on AirPlay for playback.