Interface: 62. It Could Be Really Cool

CES 2018 was a all about hyping the future, but Razer’s Project Linda concept has Andrew skeptical about the practicality of phones as computers. Meanwhile, Ian explains the iPad, but different… which is still basically an iPad, and Chase starts 2018 by listening more.


MiniCast brings podcasts to Apple Watch

The Apple Watch is a great companion device for exercise, tracking your activity, and with watchOS 4, provides access to Apple Music. For people that prefer listening to podcasts while they work out, the Apple Watch is less ideal due to the lack of podcast app, either Apple’s own Podcast app or third-party apps. A new Apple Watch app called MiniCast is looking to fill that gap and bring podcasts to your wrist.

MiniCast, available for free in the App Store (with $3.99 In-App Purchase), is a simple iPhone extension and Apple Watch app that allows uses to send podcasts from Apple’s Podcasts app, Overcast, Castro, or PocketCast to their watch…. Read the rest of this post here

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fromIan Fuchs –

Sound Control lets you set per-app volume controls on your Mac

In this week’s episode of “Let’s Talk iOS,” Sebastien and Cody shared frustration over the lack of granular audio control on iOS and macOS. While iOS remains a point of frustration, a simple Mac utility called Sound Control gives users exactly what the name implies.

Sound Control enables application-specific volume sliders on the Mac. In addition to  Menu Bar controls, Sound Control can also be configured with user-defined keyboard shortcuts to adjust the level of a foreground app, or mute any background app…. Read the rest of this post here

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fromIan Fuchs –

FUNXIM Kickstarter takes on Apple’s AirPower Wireless Charging Pad

This past fall, Apple debuted their first ever smartphones to utilize wireless charging. During the keynote, they provided few detail about their own upcoming AirPower wireless charging mat, which will be capable of simultaneously charging an iPhone, Apple Watch, and AirPods (after purchase of a new, wireless charging case).

All in total, the entire package will likely run somewhere in the ballpark of $200 (assuming $69 for the AirPod case and $129 for the charging mat). That’s a hefty price tag for the ability to charge the trio of devices. That’s where the recently launched Kickstarter for the $29 FUNXIM Wireless Charging Pad comes in.

FUNXIM Wireless Charger

Designed to look very similar to Apple’s own AirPower mat, the FUNXIM mat is a white, pillowy looking charging mat. It is capable of charging an iPhone over Qi wireless technology (using the Qi fast charge open standard Apple uses in the iPhone 8/8 Plus/X), as well as an Apple Watch, thanks to some clever design and a little cable management.

Unlike the AirPower mat which has multiple charging zones, allowing for 3 distinct devices, the FUNXIM charger will only charge a phone and an Apple Watch together. To make the Apple Watch charging work, the base of the charging pad snaps off, and inside is a place to connect the Apple Watch magnetic charger and coil the cable around the edge. This provides an Apple certified way to recharge without dealing with Apple’s partial Qi support, which is limited to Series 3 Watches.

Having a convenient way to charge an iPhone and Apple Watch when traveling, on a bedside table, at work, or where ever you need it is a huge perk or wireless charging, and the FUNXIM is promising to offer that at a great price. Check out the official kickstarter project here, show your support, and save yourself some serious dough compared to Apple’s AirPower mat.

Have any other interesting bits to add? Let us know in the comments below.

from Ian Fuchs – MacTrast – Apple News, Mac, iPhone & iPad How To & Reviews

The Misguided Gift Guide

We’ve all seen it before… “10 best gifts for the (fill in the blank) in your life” or “Top Christmas gifts under (insert amount here)”.

They’re tempting to look at, especially if you’re struggling to find the right gift for someone special. The trouble is, many of these lists are motivated by a desire for profit – either to the publication or the author. These posts are full of affiliate links and monetized products, and don’t represent “the best” or true, high quality gifts. So much so, in fact, that some publications will even sell you on a truly terrible product just to make a quick buck.

The Backstory

In my “spare time,” I write for a pair of Apple news and review sites – and Most of the coverage and reporting on these sites is totally fine. Covering news in the Apple and larger tech space is a pretty safe game. Often times, these sites will feature reviews of products, apps, or services – several of which (especially for MacTrast), I have personally written.

For apps or services, reviewers are often given a promo code for a free copy of the app or a free license to use the service in full. In turn, we are able to write about the full experience, as if we were experiencing it like a paying customer. Products are very similar. We get a free product, and then use it like normal, and report back our findings.

Sometimes you get a product that great, and the review is very positive because of that great experience. Sometimes, a product gets a negative review because it sucks. But it is up to the journalist/writer/reviewer to have the integrity to call it like it is. If a very expensive product is bad, it doesn’t deserve a good rating because it was given to the reviewer for free. It deserves a bad rating because it is a bad product.

The harder part, for me at least, is writing about something conceptually. It sounds great on paper, but I’ve never used it. This is the type of coverage I offer for many Kickstarter products. My writing is based purely on the pitch, not the final product (unless, on a rare occasion, I get a pre-release version).

When it comes to gift guides, however, sometimes the desire to sell a product outweighs the actual quality of a product. Instead of testing a product or service, and giving it a qualitative review (★☆☆☆☆ bad, ★★★☆☆ good, ★★★★★ great), some sites will simply compile a list of products that benefit them and disregard the actual quality.

Misguided Recommendations

Recently, at iDropNews, I was offered the opportunity to write some of these aforementioned gift guides, under 1 condition: In a list of 10 products, 5 were to be from Amazon, and 5 were to be from the iDropNews Stack Social store. This was done explicitly to monetize the products being recommended. No other sources could be used.

This posed a problem as I was compiling the “10 Gifts for iPhone” list, and my clear choice for the number 1 gift was AirPods. Amazon doesn’t sell the AirPods… Neither does Stack Social. When I asked about including something available elsewhere, I was told “No – stick to items available on Amazon or the iDrop Store” and “If you’d like to add an eleventy item to the list that’s a non-Affiliate item, be my guest.”

Because the retailers that DO sell them couldn’t be monetized, I was supposed to ignore them as an excellent gift idea. I eventually opted to suggest the Beats X, based on their holiday price drop, the W1 chip, and the overall less controversial design – although I maintain that the AirPods are the superior holiday gift.

You won’t believe what happened next! (…or maybe you would)

Shortly after my iPhone gift guide was published, another post appeared on the site, recommending products at a range of prices. On that list was the Stack Social knockoff of AirPods – ones I had personally reviewed just weeks before.

Here’s a summary of my ★★☆☆☆ review:

There are a lot of great Bluetooth earbuds on the market, and the AirPods are certainly a pricy option, but if the HBQ i7S earbuds are the alternative, I’d get the real deal. If you can get past the sound quality, the overall size of the earbuds and the charging case may still be a major turn off.

Truly, nobody should buy these things – they’re bad.

Reading the “Best Tech Gifts for Every Budget” guide, however, the implication is that they are good – desirable, even. At the time of posting, the gift guide stated that they “…are pretty reminiscent of Apple AirPods – they’re just a little better (in our humble opinion).” 1 That lead me to the question – have they every tried these? Or are these “recommended” for another reason?

What isn’t disclosed in this post is that this particular gift guide is solely compiled of products in the Stack Social store, and the entire list is aimed at making money for the site.

I don’t hold it against the site for trying to make money. Everybody has to keep the lights on, and writers deserve to be paid for the time and effort they spend writing. It’s hard to keep things running when there’s no money to power the machine. 2

I appreciate the small bit I get paid for writing on iDropNews – but if I have a choice between being honest to consumers that come to the site looking for good recommendations and making an extra few bucks selling shitty Chinese knockoff products, I’m going to side with honesty and integrity every time.

Being diligent as a consumer

The internet is full of opinions. Some are good, some are bad, some are subjectively perfect, and some are blatantly wrong. Trusting others on the internet to provide their opinion – especially when considering what product to buy or where to put your hard earned money – is a tough game for consumers. The motivations of those opinions is hard to understand, and wading through bullshit makes the true intent less clear.

In my opinion as a consumer, any product recommendation that doesn’t show evidence of actual use should be taken as a sales pitch. It’s up to you (or I), as readers, to be critical thinkers and do our due diligence to make educated decisions. While it’s easy to get wrapped up in the holiday season and just grab whatever discount headphones (or whatever product) somebody is pitching on the internet, sometimes it’s good to remember that you get what you pay for.

As far as my journalistic endeavors go, I’m done with gift guides. I’ll stick to writing news, reviews, and opinions. I’m not in the business of lying to people, and I prefer to take time to formulate an opinion and back it up with personal preference and experience.

Oh, and let me fully disclose this here – if you see a link to Amazon or iTunes on this site, it’s probably an affiliate link. It doesn’t cost you anything extra, and it’s simply a way for me to keep the site up. But I will strive to always provide context – if a product, app, or service is good, the review will reflect that accordingly. If something sucks, I’ll call that out, too.