Consumer Tech News = Consumer Tech Column

WWDC 2024

Well, it’s that time of year again. Apple’s worldwide developer conference just happened, so I’m immediately back fighting that part of my brain that says “YOU SHOULD GO ALL-IN”. That purist part of me that doesn’t actually exist, but really wants to. Person who actually uses their iCloud email address. The person with only homepods and Apple TVs. Who’s seen every show on Apple TV+ and uses a Fitness+ membership to workout while listening to Apple Music. Who uses routines to set scenes in their smart Home full of HomeKit-enabled products1. I genuinely think the only thing saving me from this is marriage to someone who’d have to live through the painful transition of throwing out tons of stuff that’s working great, just cause I have the itch to be a purist.

Anyway, here’s Aaron’s take on some stuff Apple talked about.

iOS 18

You can put your phone icons anywhere. The last visual difference between iPhone and Android is gone. Now iPhone is just a really nice variant of Android OS. The feature merger is complete and all phones are the same now.

I’m most pumped about the ability to see reminders from within the calendar. It is beyond me how this most basic feature is (or was) missing from Outlook, Google Calendar, and Apple’s apps. It should be possible to see tasks and events in your calendar. It’s crazy that this isn’t table stakes for any serious productivity suite.

New control center looks handy, although we’ve officially hit the level of customization that navigating somebody else’s phone will involve reorienting yourself to a new setup.

iPad OS 18

Has a calculator!

Watch OS 11

Watch OS is adding a “Vitals” app which functions seemingly identically to my Oura ring. This further confirms that if my Oura ring were to suddenly stop working 2 I would invest in a $1 silicone ring and an $800 Apple Watch Ultra.

MacOS Sequoia

Has finally adopted the standard windows management system that every non-Apple operating system has had since Windows 7 - you can easily arrange windows by dragging them to the edges or corners of the screen.

Continuity gaining the ability to see and interact with your entire iPhone from your Mac’s screen is cool. Goes one step towards never needing a phone again.

VisionOS 2

I don’t care about this one yet. Although outside of WWDC I’ve read rumors that Apple is haulting work on the Vision 2 and instead pushing their team to work on the cheaper alternative that supposedly maintains the visual fidelity. Sweet.

Apple Intelligence

Apple is embracing AI finally. Siri is getting much more robust and powerful. I’m antsy to see how this will be implemented specifically, and moreso to see how it’s embraced. People have been using AI for years and years now, even before OpenAI and the advent of LLMs - but this is potentially a new scale of interaction with AI for hundreds of millions of people.

Revisiting Subscription Service Coverage

Subscriptions are more popular now than they ever were before. Even in the most fervent heyday of magazine subscripts did the average American have more subscriptions than they do now. You can subscribe to all sorts of things. Music services, TV & Movie streamers, are just the tip of the iceberg at this point. There are always going to be weird one-off edge cases for things (e.g Oura Ring’s new subscription model), but I’m interested as always in the most efficient application of your subscription budget. This often comes by way of bundles of subscribed benefits.

I wrote about this exact topic and made a very similar table back in 2020 in Column #399.

Subscription Options Table

This feels like it should already exist. Some Google Sheet, maintained by volunteers. A brief Google searching for this hypothetical resource doesn’t exist.

  Monthly Music Movies/TV Games Storage Print Media Workout Classes Perks
Apple One (Individual) $20 Apple Music Apple TV+ Apple Arcade 50GB      
Apple One (Family) $26 Apple Music Apple TV+ Apple Arcade 200GB      
Apple One (Premier) $38 Apple Music Apple TV+ Apple Arcade 2TB News+ Fitness+  
iCloud+ $1       50GB      
iCloud+ $3       200GB      
iCloud+ $10       2TB      
Fitness+ $7 (annualized) or $10 (monthly)           Fitness+  
Apple Arcade $7     Apple Arcade        
Apple TV+ $10   Apple TV+          
Apple Music $11 Apple Music            
Apple News+ $13         News+    
Google One (Basic) $2       100GB      
Google One (Premium) $10       2TB     Advanced editing features in Google Photos
Google One (AI Premium) $20       2TB     Advanced editing features in Google Photos, Gemini AI access in your services
YouTube Premium $14 YouTube Music YouTube (Ad-Free) YouTube Playables       Added YouTube features (e.g. video downloads)
Amazon Prime $12 Amazon Music (~2 million songs) Prime Video Prime Gaming Unlimited photo storage Prime Reading   Free Prime Delivery
Spotify (Individual) $12 Spotify       Spotify Audiobooks    
Spotify (Duo) $17 Spotify       Spotify Audiobooks    
Spotify (Family) $20 Spotify       Spotify Audiobooks    
Audible           Tons of books    
BODi (formerly Beachbody) $15           All Beach Body Programs Recipes
Centr $8 (if yearly) or $30 (if monthly)           Centr workouts Chris Hemsworth.
Meal plans.                
Peloton $24           Peloton Workouts  
Netflix                
with Ads $7   Netflix with Ads          
Netflix (standard) $15.50   Netflix          
Disney+ with ads $8   Disney+ with Ads          
Disney+ $12 (annualized) or $14 (monthly)   Disney+          
Disney Duo with Ads $10   Disney+ with ads & Hulu with Ads          
Disney Duo $20   Disney+ & Hulu          
Paramount+ with Showtime $10   Paramount+ and Showtime          
Max with Ads $8 (annualized) or $10 (monthly)   HBO with ads          
Max $14 (annualized) or $17 (monthly)   HBO          
My local theater $19   Actual movies at the theater.         Tiny discounts on overpriced popcorn
Xbox Game Pass $11 (Xbox) or $10 (PC)     Lots of AAA games        
PlayStation Plus $12-ish     A bit fewer AAA games than Xbox        

Observations

  • Everything on this list is more expensive than it was in 2020.
  • Prime is the clear winner overall, here. I played Fallout: New Vegas for free with Prime Gaming.
  • Spotify Audiobooks are surprisingly good, many books I’ve had interest in have been on there.
  • YouTube Premium not being separatable from YouTube Music is super annoying. I don’t want your music subscription service, but I also don’t want ads. Great.
  • My typical approach of having Prime, Disney+, and ONE other rotating video service is more-or-less working well
  • Apple One is only a deal if you are actually going to subscribe to all of those things independently, otherwise a la carte is probably better

Subscriptions Suck

Here’s a popular opinion: subscriptions suck! Despite the fact that owning isn’t valuable, using is - it’s really irritating to pay $16 for Netflix cause your kids wanted to watch Mario, only to forget you have it the next day - later realizing you just paid $16 to effectively rent one movie3.

This going to get into hippy/hipster territory - you don’t need any subscriptions.

Really.

Top 5: Non-Subscription Alternatives

5. Ad-sponsored content (aka YouTube & Over-the-Air TV)

As a surprise to nobody, YouTube exists. You don’t have to pay to use it. Same goes for the radio waves carrying broadcast television in the air around you right now. There is 100% something on YouTube you’ve never seen that is worth your time. The trouble is just finding it. And if you’re the “like to have Netflix on in the background” type, I reckon linear programming (aka regular TV) could do the trick. It did the trick for 70 years before streaming took over as the primary means of watching.

4. Get a NAS (and Plex)

If storage is your main concern, you should probably already have a Network Attached Storage device. We’ve got 10TB downstairs that we can access from anywhere. Using Google Drive or iCloud is purely for convenience at this point. Bonus: if you have physical media that you can rip-to-digital, you can save them on your NAS and have Plex function like your own private Streaming service. It’s complicated to set up and a bit cumbersome, but still a really cool thing that’s subscription-free.

3. Have Better Hobbies

This is a cop out, but I wanted it in the list somewhere. If your subscriptions are funding a hobby, like scrolling through Netflix or whatever… just find something better to do. Take up exercising. Read books. Meet friends. Whatever.

2. Pay to Rent Movies

You can just rent a movie you want to see. If you’re not doing a movie every week, it’s probably going to be cheaper to just pay for the thing directly and remove Netflix from the equation.

1. The Local Library

Libraries are crazy to me. I think libraries rock and they are a massive good to the public, but also so different from the typical “American” mindset. If the library wasn’t already a thing, can you imagine the sales pitch for standing one up? It’s essentialy just a commune for books and movies. You never have to buy any media ever again. Some cooler libraries are even functioning as makerspaces, or let you check out tools. Your library is amazing and you should go there way more often. If you’re lucky, it also has a robust online presence and something like the Libby App. I have read 100s of books through Libby. It’s genuinely incredible. There are also video streaming services that some libraries offer, although they are typically more “arthouse” style movies - regardless it’s content and its there.

Quote:

Let’s talk about something less painful.  My 5 Year Old

  1.  During the writing of this section I was unable to get my phone to airplay my music to the HomePod on this desk. A problem I’ve had with Bluetooth speakers essentially ZERO times. So yeah. 

  2. Again. 

  3. …and write a ranting Column about it online a few days later