The Initial Charge Linked List

The Initial Charge Linked List is a frequently updated list of interesting links and commentary. You can subscribe to the Linked List with its dedicated RSS feed or you can follow along on the main feed, which includes both Linked List items and the feature articles from this site.

iPad Pro Stylus, Force Touch on iPhone, and Apple’s Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

I added an update to last week’s predictions piece with a summary of my response to Matt Hauger regarding the iPad Pro stylus, Force Touch on the iPhone, and an additional note on Apple’s new wireless keyboard and mouse.

‘All of that is what Apple means to me. That’s why I write about it.’

G. Keenan Schneider shares a few stories to explain why Apple means so much to him. I suggest reading every word of it — each story is heartfelt and well-written. This piece serves as a wonderful reminder of why so many have an affinity for the products and the company. Apple’s comprised of people who are incredibly talented and care deeply about the work they do. We don’t have to love every product they release or choice that they make, but more than any other company, I believe they make decisions with all the best intentions — not just for the bottom line, but for the employees and customers alike. If you read one thought piece about Apple today, make it this one.

New Apple TV Will Feature Universal Search, Start At $149

John Paczkowski, reporting for BuzzFeed News:

Sources familiar with Apple’s plans say that a cornerstone of the the company’s new set-top box is a universal search feature that will enable searches across multiple streaming video services as well as Apple’s iTunes Store. Instead of searching the catalogs of multiple video services one at a time for a particular movie, you’ll now be able to search all — or most of them — at once and then choose the service on which you’d like to watch it. […]

One last thing: The new Apple TV will start at $149, the lower of the two price points 9to5Mac first reported.

Myself, last week, predicting the new Apple TV’s major features:

The Apple TV will gain a refreshed user interface and hardware design, an updated remote control, iOS 9-dependent features like universal search, a developer SDK, and App Store.

As for the price point, it’s a bit higher than I’d like. But considering the devices’ powerful internals and impressive features, I can’t say I’m surprised. I’m also not too keen on the possibility of Apple offering two Apple TV models differentiated by internal storage, but Mark Gurman claims that Apple’s at least considered it. Let’s hope Apple settled on a single 16GB model for simplicity’s sake.

And count me in with John Gruber about the curious case of the current Apple TV. It would make sense for Apple to replace the current model with this new one, but more than doubling the price from $69 to $149 is quite the jump. I could see Apple keeping the old model around to retain its low entry price, but without App Store support it’d feel like the non-retina MacBook Pro — something that by all accounts, almost no one should buy.

iPad Pro Might be Announced at September 9 Event

It’s worth pointing out that Mark Gurman references his sources as “whispers within Apple” and qualifies the rumor by noting that “it is possible that Apple could still hold back the larger iPad for an early October event.” John Paczkowski, in a piece from early August, seemed similarly hesitant about an iPad Pro announcement at next week’s event refering to it as a “wildcard.” I think it’s safe to say we will be getting an iPad Pro, it’s just a matter of when.

I predicted that Apple would be announcing the iPad Pro at an event in October when I wrote, what I affectionately refer to as, my “If I get any of this right, I’ll be just as surprised as you” predictions article. I obviously would prefer they wait until October — who doesn’t want to be right? — but whether Apple plans on announcing the iPad next week or not, this event is shaping up to be an exciting one.

Amazon Allows Prime Members to Download Video to Their iOS and Android Devices for Offline Viewing

From Amazon’s press release:

Amazon today announced that Prime members in the U.S., U.K., Germany and Austria will now be able to download movies and TV episodes, including award-winning Amazon Original Series, to iPhones, iPads and Android phones and tablets for offline viewing, at no additional charge. Amazon Video is the only online subscription streaming video service that enables downloads of titles, meaning unlike other subscription streaming services such as Netflix, Prime members can enjoy movies and TV shows as part of their membership even when they don’t have an internet connection available.

Amazon Prime just keeps getting better. This will be perfect for traveling when internet connections could be unreliable.

Android Wear Smartwatches Come to the iPhone

Now for the bad news:

Apple also doesn’t allow competing app stores on the iPhone, nor is it likely that third-party app makers will be able to easily bake in more advanced support for Android Wear. That means that Google doesn’t (at least for now) offer third-party watch apps for iPhone users. It also means that the selection of third-party watch faces you can get are “curated” by Google and probably won’t offer the same advanced features you can get when you use Android Wear with an Android phone.

You can use an Android Wear watch with the iPhone, but you aren’t going to get the same experience as you would pairing it with an Android phone. Even though support exists, I still think iPhone owners should stick to the Apple Watch and Android users should stick with Android Wear.

Mark Gurman Offers More Details on Upcoming Apple TV

Gaming, Siri, third-party controller support, and more.

Recently, Your Camera Roll Photos in a Monthly Magazine

This is the kind of magazine that guests can’t help but look through when they notice it on your coffee table. And for just $9, it seems like a really good deal. Although, I’m not sure once a month would be right for me — maybe four times a year would be better.

I can also imagine Recently as a mechanism for sharing photos with tech-adverse family members.

ArsTechnica Reviews the Google OnHub

Ron Amadeo, regarding the OnHub’s smartphone app:

If you’re going to leave a comment with the question “Can it do x?” the answer is probably “no.” You can pick the name, password, static IPs, enable UPnP, do port forwarding, and really nothing else. You won’t be installing DD-WRT or doing anything advanced anytime soon—it’s a simple router.

And, as for the OnHub’s Wi-Fi speed when compared to a similarly priced router from Asus:

We also tried a speed test on a Nexus 6 in the yard about 100ft away from the router. Again, the OnHub lost. The Asus router handily beat the OnHub no matter where we were testing, with both increased range and better throughput (and that’s with being bridged to the OnHub, which probably gave the OnHub a small advantage). If you’re looking to spend $200 on just a router, there are better deals out there.

So, it doesn’t pack many features and isn’t even faster than other routers on the market. Why would anyone buy this? Because it’s likely a trojan horse for Google’s smart home initiative.

Personally, I wouldn’t suggest anyone buy the OnHub today. The idea of a smart home is too far off for the majority of people. And I think most would be better off spending the next few years with a great, feature-packed router than spend $200 on one that’s designed for what your home might eventually become.

Ron’s concludes with similar sentiments:

Right now, the router doesn’t seem like anything special. It’s perfectly functional but not much else. No one should buy the OnHub as purely a Wi-Fi router. What will make or break this device is the upcoming smart home functionality, and right now we just don’t know what that entails.

If you’re currently in the market for a router, I’d suggest the TP-Link Archer C7 or Apple’s Time Capsule.

Jailbreak Attack Reportedly Stole More Than 225,000 Apple Logins

This is a great example of why you should think twice before jailbreaking your iOS device.

Latest Apple Music Ads Debut Featuring The Weeknd

I have no idea what’s going on — why is there a car on fire and why is John Travolta driving a limo?

If that’s not weird enough, here’s part two.

Gurman: New Apple TV Ships in October for Under $200

Mark Gurman, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

According to sources, the fourth-generation Apple TV will be priced below $200, and is on track to become available in October. Apple executives are apparently still finalizing the price of the revamped living room device, but the latest options call for a starting price point of either $149 or $199 […]

According to our sources, the software update that enables Apple’s cable-replacement service is currently planned to also become available for the third-generation Apple TV. However, the current model will not receive support for the upcoming App Store, nor will it be directly controllable by Siri.

I had a feeling the new Apple TV wasn’t going to be cheap. But it’s nice to know that Apple plans to keep the current, lower-priced Apple TV around for the foreseeable future. It’s a great way to get users in the door and allows for an easy upgrade path — demoting the current Apple TV to a bedroom when you purchase the new Apple TV for your living room.

Apple Did Not Stop Tidal From Streaming Drake’s Set At Katrina Benefit

Tidal isn’t going anywhere if they think stunts like this are a good idea.

iCloud Music Library Data Loss

Joe Rosensteel:

Apple has provided no way for users to revert changes that are being made in iOS, and no mechanism to recover deleted data. That really bothers me because if an automated system is going to make changes to optimize my data then it’s never going to be 100 percent accurate. Dropbox is really close to perfect these days for maintaining the integrity of my data, but they still have mechanisms to recover files and revert versions.

I’m more than a little worried about transitioning away from Apple Music once my subscription runs out at the end of September. And its sad that I feel like I should have 2-3 backups in place just to make sure I don’t lose any data.

I hope Apple does what it needs to in order to repair their reputation for me — a year or so of solid software releases would help tremendously.

Apple Is About to Lay down Its TV Cards

Matthew Panzerino, writing for TechCrunch:

If Apple did indeed ‘delay’ the Apple TV from being released at WWDC, then it probably had a reason. And, if my sources are correct, that reason could well be polish, polish, polish. The experience of using it is said to blow away the types of junky smart TV interfaces we’ve had to deal with so far. This is the first real Apple TV product.

I’m really excited to get my hands on the new Apple TV hardware, I just hope it lives up to the hype. I’ve mentioned it before, but my main concern is with the remote. I’m probably the only person who’s more than happy with the Apple TV’s current input method and doesn’t want it to go away.

Matthew Panzerino describes the remote as “slightly bigger and thicker, with physical buttons on the bottom half, a Touchpad area at the top and a Siri microphone.” There’s too many nitpicky details that are still unknown with the remote — will it also function as a game controller, will there be hardware directional buttons, will the Apple TV have an IR sensor. I guess this is the one aspect that I’m just going to have to wait and see with.

‘How I Produce My Podcast’

Matt Birchler, producer and host of Bite Size Tech, shares his podcast recording, editing, and publishing setup.

Ski Safari 2 Reviewed

Nathan Ansel, writing on Hash Bang Star:

The new Ski Safari is a great combination of cute, funny, and fun. I was a big fan of the original Ski Safari, and I had no idea this sequel was in the works. It was a pleasant surprise to wake up to a new game available! I’ve been playing this game for the past few days and I heartily suggest buying it, it is definitely worth the $2.

I haven’t had the opportunity to try out Ski Safari 2 — I’ve been pretty busy with my day job, writing for the site, and trying to enjoy as much time as I can with my family during these last few days of summer. There’s a lot of competition for my gaming time, though. Just in the past few weeks Pac-Man 256, Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, and the Grand Tournament expansion in Hearthstone have all been released. But I absolutely loved the original Ski Safari and expect I’ll be able to fit the sequel into my rotation once things settle down this fall.

Apple Said to Be Targeting $40 a Month for TV Streaming Service

I wonder if this is akin to the pricing rumors that appeared during the lead up to the iPad announcement. Maybe Apple is leaking false information to set the stage for positive reactions when they announce pricing at or near $19.99 a month. WIthout rumors like this the press would only have Netflix, Hulu, and other competitors’ pricing to compare to which might result in Apple’s service being bashed for costing $10-15 more than others.

Chrome Will Begin Pausing Flash Ads by Default

Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:

According to a new post on Google+, the company says that, starting on September 1st, Chrome will begin to pause many Flash ads by default in order to improve performance for its users. This change was first announced in June, and initially rolled out to the beta version of the Chrome desktop web browser.

Ad blocking features, just like pop-up blockers, will eventually become ubiquitous in web browsers. There’s no point in fighting it, it’s time to find other ways to monetize.

Dispatch 3.0 Brings iPad App, Improvements to Actions and Snippets

My favorite email client for iOS just got a lot better. It’s now optimized for iPad and features a slew of improvements that I believe Federicco Viticci does a wonderful job detailing. If you’re looking for an email app that will help you process you inbox quickly, Dispatch is the best app for the job.

It Must Be Mark Gurman’s Favorite Time of Year

Shortly after Apple announced their September 9 event, the incredibly informed Mark Gurman published four pieces detailing some of what we can expect from the upcoming iPhone and Apple TV event. He revealed that the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus may feature animated wallpapers, a 12MP camera, come in rose gold, and that we might not see the iPhone 6c at the event. If you aren’t already paying attention to Mark Gurman’s work on 9 to 5 Mac, there’s no better time of year to do so than now.

Facebook M, a Personal Assistant for Messenger

Natt Garun, writing for The Next Web:

Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products David Marcus today announced a new service called M. M is designed to be your personal assistant, which you can use to ask for recommendations such as gift ideas or restaurants to visit when you’re traveling. […]

The service is similar to what smartphones offer with Siri and Cortana, though offering the service via Messenger means anyone can use it as long as the app is available on their platform.

M looks like an impressive service, but I don’t think it’s a very good competitor to Siri. The barrier to entry for using it is just too high. With Siri, users are a simple long-press on their home button away from setting timers, reminders, asking questions, and more. But with M users have to launch Facebook’s Messenger app and enter a conversation to start making use of its personal assistant features.

Some users are bound to love M and it being tied to Facebook gives it some level of awareness that may be unique compared to Siri or Google Now. And, given the size of Facebook’s user base, I’m certain there’s plenty of users who practically live in Facebook Messenger. However, its inherent cross platform “benefits” could ultimately be its death knell — the user experience of having M tucked away inside of an application pales in comparison to activating Siri with a hardware button without even needing to unlock your device.

IDC: Apple Shipped an Estimated 3.6 Million Apple Watches Last Quarter

Apple’s already nipping at the heels of the current market leader, Fitbit. And with their current plans of expanding into other retail stores by the holidays, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple took the top spot within a year.

Apple Announces iPhone and Apple TV Event for September 9

It will be held at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium which holds around 7,000. That’s a huge room for an Apple event and I’m surprised the rumor panned out. I was even drafting a piece last night conveying my doubts and ending with a quip about John Gruber forgetting to announce a Daring Fireball conference — you know, because of the “exterior wall mounted star graphic sign.” The joke was good, I had to mention it.

If you’re curious about what I expect Apple to announce at the event, I published my predictions yesterday. Although, the bit about the iPhone 6c doesn’t look promising.

Skipping Credits on Netflix

Matt Hauger:

But there’s still one vestige of broadcast TV that invites you to stop watching: interminable opening credits sequences. Star Trek’s theme song is retro-catchy the first ten times. After that, it’s tedious and irritating. Or consider House of Cards, whose melancholy opening sequence lasts nearly two full minutes(!). There’s only so many times I can watch those DC time lapses.

So why can’t Netflix automatically skip these opening titles for me?

DVDs typically have chapter markers inserted at the end of the opening credits — which is handy when you’re viewing an archived copy on the Apple TV. But why don’t streaming services offer the same feature? My guess is it’s just cheaper and easier to omit it.


Best Buy Accelerating Apple Watch Rollout

Phil Wahba, reporting for Fortune:

The retailer expects to be selling the [Apple Watch], which hit the market in June, at all of its 1,050 big-box stores by the end of September, he added. Initially, Best Buy had planned to have watches in 300 stores by the holiday season. […]

It is currently updating its Apple shop-in-shops at 740 stores, including new fixtures and more display tables for phones, computers, and tablets. The work is already complete at 350 stores, and will be finished at another 170 in time for the key holiday season. He also said that Best Buy will begin selling AppleCare product service and support this quarter, and will start testing out being an authorized service provider at 50 stores.

You’ve got to skate to where the puck is going if you want to have any growth, especially in retail consumer electronics. Ironically, I look forward to the day when I can pop into my local Best Buy to purchase whatever Apple product I need. I would obviously rather go to an Apple Store, but since the closest location is two hours away, I’ll take what I can get.

Last Call for Initial Charge Shirts


Today is the last day to order the Initial Charge t-shirt — the Teespring campaign will be ending at approximately 11PM eastern. Thanks to everyone who placed an order, your shirt should be arriving in early September.

For those who haven’t ordered yet, they come in men’s athletic gray for $22 and women’s athletic blue for $21. But you better act quick, you don’t want to be left shirtless.

Update: The Teespring campaign has ended. One last thanks to everyone who ordered, I really appreciate it.

Swift as an Introductory Programming Language

Computer science professor, Aaron Block:

Every language has its pros can cons and rather than giving you a giant spreadsheet of how each language stacks against Swift, I want to give you a few examples of where Swift really shines in an intro class.

I’ve always been interested in computer programming, but there’s always been something in my way preventing me from learning. I taught myself how to build rudimentary text-based games on my TI-83+ in high school — mostly as a means of telling jokes — but that was a brief period before I fell in love with writing about computers.

My interest in programming hasn’t subsided, but the amount of free time available to me has diminished over the years. Aaron makes a great case for Swift as a first language and if I ever find myself with enough time to learn I’ll certainly look at Swift first.

(Via Guy English.)

Galaxy Note 5 Design Flaw: A Backwards S-Pen Can Permanently Damage the Device

Who wants a stylus when it can apparently damage your device if you make the honest, and I’d guess common, mistake of putting it away backwards?

Samsung has also issued a response, as reported by The Verge:

We highly recommend our Galaxy Note5 users follow the instructions in the user guide to ensure they do not experience such an unexpected scenario caused by reinserting the S pen in the other way around.

Translation: we admit no guilt and if your device ends up broken, it’s your fault.

On Twitter’s Decision to Ban Archiving of Politicians’ Deleted Tweets

T.C. Sottek, writing for The Verge:

This is a terrible precedent, even if it’s not surprising. Twitter, like all profit-driven social platforms, has to make money — which means at some point it starts serving certain audiences (like celebrities and politicians) more than its ideals of free expression and transparency. The company sells itself as a democratizing tool the world over, but its actual commitment is more complicated. Twitter does care about preserving tweets — for brands.

It’s unfortunate that Twitter’s attempting to shut this sort of activity down through the API, but what’s stopping users at large from taking screenshots and sharing tweets that are found before deletion? Nothing. And I imagine plenty of foolish tweets will continue to be found, they’ll just be published by different sources.

What Mobile Ad Blocking Looks Like in the Real World

Riffing off of Dean Murphy’s recent piece, Owen Williams tested various web pages with and without Crystal — an iOS 9 ad blocking extension — and published side-by-side video comparisons of the results. It’s one thing to see the drastic difference in page load times depicted on a graph, it’s another to see it in a real world context. The iMore example is particularly outrageous, but most of these publishers should just be embarrassed.

Google OnHub is All About the Smart Home

At first, Google’s OnHub announcement felt a little out of place to me. But I quickly realized that it’s all about the internet of things — by the way, can someone please come up with a better term. Google needs hardware inside of your network to act as a relay which helps you control devices remotely. And it looks like their newly announced $199 wireless router will do just that.

Chris Burns, writing for SlashGear:

Google OnHub was revealed today by Google as the first doorway to a full smart home ecosystem. This service will be tied together with software protocols revealed in part earlier this year as Google Brillo and Google Weave. […]

Google OnHub will be the first Google Brillo device.

As for the router, it’s an attractive piece of hardware with impressive features and an easy-to-configure interface. It’s a little expensive compared to other routers on the market. But if you’re interested in buying it, you probably want it specifically for its unique features.

Personally, I wouldn’t even consider the OnHub for my home network. I have a couple of computers that I prefer to connect to my router with Ethernet and I rely on my Time Capsule’s hard drive for local Time Machine backups — both of which aren’t possible with the OnHub.

Apple to Simplify Retail Stores, Demoting iPods to Shelves, Dropping iPad Smart Signs

Mark Gurman, Reporting for 9 to 5 Mac:

Apple is preparing to make significant changes to its stores to simplify the experience by relocating iPod stock to accessory shelves and removing iPad-based Smart Signs, according to several Apple Retail managers briefed today on the plans. Apple will begin rolling out these notable changes overnight on [September 26] to stores in the United States so that customers who begin coming in on [September 27] see the refreshed look.

iPods are an ever-shrinking part of Apple’s business and it makes sense that they would be moved to free up space for more intriguing products. But the removal of iPad-based Smart Signs strikes me as odd. I could see them being confusing to some customers who don’t realize that they aren’t intended to be fully-functional demo units, but moving that information to the devices themselves feels a little dull.

I suppose it’s all in the implementation. Maybe Apple came up with a clever way of displaying this information without it feeling like the kind of demo screen savers you’d see in early 2000s consumer electronics retail stores. And I imagine we’ll start seeing videos crop-up showcasing the new system shortly after the transition.

Project Sunroof

A neat new Google project that estimates the potential solar energy of buildings.

The Colors of an App Icon

Stuart Hall takes a look at common icon colors of some of the most popular iOS applications. There’s a a lot of blue, red, and green with very little pink and purple.

Benchmarking the Web with an iOS 9 Ad Blocker

Dean Murphy:

2 months ago I wrote about what I accomplished in an hour with Safari Content Blocker. What started off as a one page experiment has since evolved into a full product I’ve worked non-stop on over the past 60 days. I thought it would be a good idea to revisit my original post with Crystal, to show how different the mobile web will be with content blockers.

Using his ad blocker, Crystal, the tested web pages loaded 74% faster and used 53% less bandwidth. That’s an incredible improvement. I hope online publishers are ready because ad blockers are about to get a lot more popular.


‘79% of People Who Signed up for a Trial Are Still Using the Service’

Apple responds to a recent survey that claimed nearly half of Apple Music users have stopped using the service.

The Humor of Digital Assistants

Nick Bilton discusses the importance of Siri, Cortana, Alexa, and Google Now’s sense of humor.

‘Plucky Young Startup Blackberry’ is Shaking Up The Phone Market

G. Keenan Schneider, writing on NoOctothorpe:

Sometimes it just takes a fresh pair of eyes to solve a problem no one knew they had. I can only imagine BlackBerry will hold onto this for… Oh, I don’t know, maybe ten years or something while the rest of the phone market shoots off in a completely different direction, leaving this new Canadian company to bask in its own sort of twisted reality where it dominates the mobile landscape.

A vertical slide-out keyboard on a smartphone is the very definition of forward-thinking innovation. Apple, you better hold on to yer butts.

Apple TV Could Be Fourth in Streaming Set-Top-Box Sales

Parks Associates:

A new Parks Associates report on streaming media devices reports four brands – Amazon, Apple, Google, and Roku – accounted for 86% of all units sold to U.S. broadband households in 2014. […]

“Roku continues to lead streaming media device sales in the U.S. with 34% of units sold in 2014. Google is second with 23%, and new entrant Amazon overtook Apple for third place,” said Barbara Kraus, Director of Research, Parks Associates.

It’s not clear how they sourced their data, since Apple and Amazon don’t report sales numbers for their set-top-boxes. But I wouldn’t be surprised if they were fairly close to the mark. Roku seems to have built incredible brand recognition and every Android owner I know has asked me about the Chromecast. A few of my friends have Apple TVs, but it’s not the dominate device amongst my circle.

The Apple TV has been the centerpiece of my living room setup for nearly eight years, so I have an attachment to it. But there’s been a tremendous amount of competition in this space over the past several years from dedicated streaming boxes and game consoles alike. If Apple wants to start gaining market share again, they need to hit this upcoming hardware announcement out of the park.

Not having their television streaming service ready at launch is a bit of a disappointment, but it’s not like they can wait forever to release new hardware — eventually they have to ship. However, the existence of third-party software will certainly help bolster the announcement. Games and streaming apps could be intriguing enough to win-over users who had previously written-off the Apple TV, especially if developers are able to easily port their existing applications. That would allow for a large software library at launch that could quickly outpace the number of Apple Watch-compatible apps.

Therese Poletti: ‘Don’t Expect iPhone 6s to Save Apple’

Done. Let’s face it, Apple’s future is bleak. And despite being one of the most profitable companies in the world, they should probably just close up shop. Thanks for the astute advice, Therese.

But seriously, the title’s accurate — you can’t expect a product to save a company that doesn’t need saving. That would be preposterous.

Senior Tesla Engineer Joins Apple

With news of engineers and executive hires taking place practically every week, the evidence is mounting. Apple is more than just looking into building a car.

Spotify CEO Comments on Privacy Policy Concerns

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek, writing on the company weblog:

In our new privacy policy, we indicated that we may ask your permission to access new types of information, including photos, mobile device location, voice controls, and your contacts. Let me be crystal clear here: If you don’t want to share this kind of information, you don’t have to. We will ask for your express permission before accessing any of this data – and we will only use it for specific purposes that will allow you to customize your Spotify experience.

The biggest problem with this privacy policy kerfuffle (which Kirk McElhearn wrote a great piece on) is that Spotify didn’t do a great job explaining how this information was actually going to be used. All of the uses of personal information that Daniel Ek details seem perfectly reasonable, but why wasn’t this clearly stated in the privacy policy to begin with?

Luckily, Spotify has learned the error of their ways and will be making the necessary changes:

Again, we have heard your concerns loud and clear. We are also going to update the new Privacy Policy in the coming weeks to better reflect what we have explained above.

For Spotify’s sake, I hope this hasn’t hurt their reputation too much. And although Apple Music will likely have the bulk share of this market within a year or two, I’d prefer there to be as much competition as possible — which is always better for consumers. I hope this is simply an extremely uncommon oversight that Spotify will be more cognizant of preventing in the future.

Google Photos to Help Users Surface Photos From the Past

Google Photos, announcing the new feature on Google+:

Photos help us reminisce about the things we’ve done, bringing back events from one, two, or even ten years ago. Today, Google Photos is introducing a new opt-in feature where you can choose to privately rediscover your memories from the past. If you snapped photos on a hiking trip this time last year, chances are that Google Photos will let you know. And with a lifetime’s worth of photos and videos in one place, you’ll have lots of memories to look back on.

I’m still a little uncomfortable having all of my photos backed up on Google’s servers, but features like this make me happy that I decided to use the service.

Final Fantasy VII for iOS

I hate to admit that I’ve never played a Final Fantasy game in my life. I’ve heard nothing but good things about them, but it’s one of those franchises that passed me by. The consensus seems to be, though, that Final Fantasy VII is the best in the series — maybe I’ll take this as an opportunity to finally give it a try.

iPod Touch, The Best Secure Communicator

Joseph Cox, writing for Wired:

If you want to communicate really securely, you may assume you need some government level spy training, a high tech encrypted phone, or at least a custom operating system. Nope. Not at all. It turns out the most secure communications device available to anyone, anywhere, right now is the humble iPod Touch.

I had never thought of the hyper-security-conscious when it comes to who the iPod Touch appeals to, but it makes perfect sense. It has all the conveniences of a smartphone without the inherently insecure cellular radio that’s constantly broadcasting your location to the nearest cell towers. I’ll keep this in mind if I ever become a secret agent.

Engadget: ‘Project Ara Delayed Because Its Phones Keep Falling Apart’

Isn’t this the joke everyone made when they first heard about Project Ara? But seriously, I actually laughed out loud when I saw this headline.

(Via NoOctothorpe.)

Update: Turns out, this was just a joke. Although with the frequency in which I see battery covers fly across the floor when their corresponding Android phone is dropped, I’d say some phone makers’ drop test standards aren’t as high as they should be. Don’t be surprised if videos crop up showing how components fall out of the Ara phone on impact.

Display Only Uppercase Letters on iOS 9 Keyboards

I only have iOS 9 installed on my iPad Air 2, but I can’t say I’m in love with the new keyboard — I find the constant switching back and forth between uppercase and lowercase to be distracting. I’ll definitely be flipping this switch to see how it feels for a few weeks. But I bet I won’t be look back.

Regarding Physical Keyboards

Lukas Mathis, regarding the Spike Keyboard:

I originally backed this physical iPhone keyboard on Kickstarter because typing Swiss German on an auto-correcting German virtual keyboard is difficult. If I turn off auto-correction, typing English and German becomes difficult. There’s no built-in auto-correction for Swiss German.

On Android, Kännsch helps a lot. It’s a dedicated keyboard for Swiss German.

Still, at least for me, typing on a physical keyboard always worked better. It helps me type correctly without relying on auto-correction.

I had never considered any possible difficulty in typing non-English languages on virtual keyboards. I still think Samsung’s keyboard accessory is an odd product, but I suppose there’s plenty of smartphone users who have practical reasons for wanting a physical keyboard — beyond the BlackBerry die-hards that I typically think of when the discussion is brought up.

Lukas goes on to mention another segment of the market who could benefit from physical keyboards:

I do have a friend who is legally blind, and recently asked me if I knew of a way of attaching something physical to an iPhone to get a tactile feel for where the keys are, so I’m going to give it to him and see whether he likes it.

Smartphones with physical keyboards are a dying breed and for some that’s a sad notion.

Diagnostics & Usage Joins 5by5

Joe Caiati, announcing the move on dot info:

Since finding 5by5, podcasts have been a huge part of my life. So much so, that after listening to hundreds of hours of 5by5 shows, I decided to start a podcast with my good friend, Cody Coats, and the result of that has been Diagnostics & Usage.

We are now thirty episodes in and have some amazing news that I thought I’d never dream of announcing. Diagnostics & Usage will soon be joining the 5by5 family! We are thrilled to be a part of such an amazing group of creators and are so proud to be donning the 5by5 banner.

I’ve been listening to Diagnostics & Usage since the single digit episodes and am a proud supporter of their Patreon. I couldn’t be happier to hear about the move and can’t wait to see what the future brings for the show.