15 mins read

Likewise is a better tool for movie and show recommendations


Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 30, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. (If you’re new here, welcome. So psyched you found us, and also you can read all the old editions at the Installer homepage.) 

This week, I’ve been playing the fun puzzler Close Cities, scrounging up money to buy TikTok, reading the latest in my favorite spy-thriller series, debating becoming a mansion squatter, testing Today for simple tasks, taking notes on this great video about the editing in Oppenheimer, and yelling “SPACE!” while watching the most recent SpaceX launch.

I also have for you a new AI productivity tool, a great way to find stuff to watch, some new shows about old events, and a deep dive into the collapse of the Apple Car. Let’s do it.

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What app are you obsessed with right now? What show can you not stop talking about? What game is burning all your controller batteries this week? Tell me everything: [email protected]. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, forward it to them and tell them to subscribe here.)

The Drop

  • Likewise. I’ve been a fan of Likewise as a show and movie and podcast recommender for a while, and the app just got a redesign I really like. It’s extremely just TikTok, but it kind of works — you just scroll from title to title and trailer to trailer until you find something you like. 
  • The Apple Car – A $10 Billion Failure. There’s been a lot of great reporting about what happened to Apple’s car project, and this is a great summary. It also makes a pretty good case that, actually, the things that make Apple Apple are exactly the reasons it was never going to win in the car biz.
  • Turning Point: The Bomb and the Cold War. We all rewatched Oppenheimer this week after its big Oscar win, right? If not, go do that, it’s on Peacock. But if you’re looking for some more, this Netflix series is it: a deep dive into how the Cold War started, and whether it ever actually ended.
  • Proton Mail for desktop. I’m pretty ready to call Proton the best non-Gmail email service on the internet. (Gmail’s not even that great, it’s just… it’s Gmail.) The new Mac and Windows apps include both mail and calendar, and it’s silly they don’t work offline yet, but that’s apparently coming soon.
  • The Dyson 360 Vis Nav. A $1,200 robot vacuum seems silly, in the way that Dyson’s prices always seem silly, but they do seem to be worth it a lot. Early looks at this one seem sort of split on whether it’s worth the price, but its mega power and apparent skill with corners is pretty enticing.
  • Evernote. I never, ever thought I’d mention Evernote here — the app seemed to be on a slow road to nothingness. But under new ownership, it’s kind of on a tear? It got Outlook calendar integration this week, plus some handy new formatting stuff (I love collapsible headers in long notes), and suddenly I’m tempted back to an app I once left for dead.
  • Manhunt. A seven-part miniseries about the epic hunt for Abraham Lincoln’s killer? (Which, fun fact, apparently took place in part in the neighborhood where my wife grew up, but that’s not the point?) I’m here for it. I need to read the book it’s based on, too, which I’m told is terrific. 
  • Dola. I have long extolled the virtues of text messaging as a productivity tool. This is a really clever (and surprisingly powerful) version of that: an AI assistant that communicates through text messages, that can set reminders, make calendar events, and more. I’ve been using it for one-off reminders all week, and it works great. 
  • Ozone on Bluesky. This is the fediverse stuff that gets me excited: the Bluesky team is open-sourcing its moderation tool, so that anyone can build their own moderation systems and users can use whichever one they want. And it all gets integrated right into Bluesky.

Screen share

Michael Fisher goes by many names. Michael Fisher is one of them. But he’s also MrMobile, and Captain2Phones, and — this is my personal nickname for him — The World’s Only Remaining Fan of The Palm Pre. He’s also, as of recently, the co-founder of a nifty new keyboard case for iPhone called Clicks.  

Michael and I recently had a long, fun chat about keyboards, which is coming to a Vergecast feed near you very soon. But I also asked him to share his homescreen, because, I mean, there aren’t many people on Earth who have had as many homescreens as he has. I secretly hoped he’d send me 12 screenshots and just say, like, “Sorry, these are all my daily drivers.”

Alas, all I got was one. But it’s a fun one. Here’s Michael’s homescreen, plus some info on the apps he uses and why:

The phone: Google Pixel Fold. Thirteen years of reviewing smartphones has cursed me with an unquenchable thirst for novelty, so I switch devices constantly even when I don’t need to — but I find the Pixel Fold never gets far from my daily rotation. Turns out a digital Moleskine is quite a comforting thing to carry, at least for tech nerds of a certain age.

The wallpaper: I’ll be honest: when Google briefed me on its emoji wallpaper last year, I rolled my eyes. But having a bunch of icons representing your interests splayed out in a pleasing pattern on the screen you see the most? Turns out it’s pretty cool! (Also, I like how it “breathes” when I tap it.)

The apps: Phone, Google Voice, NYC Ferry, Instagram, Gmail, Reddit, Todoist, Slack, Food Bazaar.

One of the things I adore about large-format foldables is all the space they afford me to just… spread out. So my choice of layout is more notable than my list of apps, which I’ve clustered into five folders for two-tap access whether the phone is open or closed. Alongside those, an anchor row of apps that used to be critical core features… but as I write this, I realize how little I actually use the dialer or Google Voice (my SMS solution since it was called GrandCentral before Google scooped it up). Habit is a helluva drug.

Another thing I’ve spent too long doing: letting phones try to guess which apps I might want to use at any given time. That’s the bottom row there, and Google’s done a pretty good job of suggesting, on this Monday midafternoon, a mix of productivity and messaging apps. I generally save my Reddit sessions until after bedtime, and I’ve never used my local grocery store app before sundown, so those are oddballs… but I still appreciate the suggestions that do make sense.

I will shout out one app: NYC Ferry, which lets me navigate my fair city by sea instead of subway. If you live in New York City and you don’t use the ferry, I genuinely don’t know what you’re doing. (Bonus: they let local elementary schoolers name all the boats, so you’re whisked to and fro by vessels bearing legends like “Tooth Ferry” and “Lunchbox.” It’s the best.)

Finally: I’m big on glanceable info, so I use a trio of widgets to make sure I’m getting useful data the second I open my phone. All three are from Google: Calendar for my schedule, Weather for whether I need an umbrella, and At A Glance to give me reminders about stuff I might have missed on the other two. 

I also asked Michael to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he said:

  • In preparing for a recent episode of the Living In The Future podcast, I watched the classic science-fiction film Outland. A 1981 Sean Connery playing a federal SPACE MARSHAL! Sent to tame a rough-and-tumble mining colony on one of Jupiter’s moons! Yes, it’s High Noon in space, but that’s the best kind of compliment — and what really puts it over the top is the production design, whose blend of Alien and Star Trek II is the purest form of cassette futurism.
  • Speaking of old stuff: I’ve recently fallen back in love with text adventures, the interactive fiction stories that first opened my eyes to computer gaming. Alter Ego was originally written for the Commodore 64, Apple II, and their contemporaries back in 1986 — and these days it’s playable as an app or in a browser. It allows you to live an entire human life, from birth to death, making choices to dictate your path along the way. Playing through a whole lifetime on my phone was surprisingly fulfilling and even at times profound (even if I died in the dumbest way possible, catching a pitch in a softball game). 
  • Finally, out in the real world: I had my first experience at a cat cafe this weekend. If you’re not familiar: this is a cafe you can visit that — yes — is festooned with felines. It was a deeply necessary opportunity for me to get away from the digital world and reconnect with the natural one, and if you have a cat cafe near you, it’s the perfect activity for a rainy Saturday. You just need to be prepared for the overwhelming urge to adopt one — or two! — and by the time you read this, I may well have two fluffy new roommates as a result of my own visit! Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Crowdsourced

Here’s what the Installer community is into this week. I want to know what you’re into right now as well! Email [email protected] or message +1 (203) 570-8663 with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. 

“I’m a week late, but I wanted to get a single point on the board for Pandora. The new music page highlights artists that match my tastes, and they still have a stupendous radio feature — hardly surprising considering they popularized it. Also, Pandora has a slight edge by keeping podcasts (a feature I do not use) tucked away out of sight, while Spotify loses points, like some people I know, for never shutting up about Joe Rogan, who clearly peaked in the 90’s on News Radio.” — Will

“New Pokémon TCG set coming next week, so prepping for that, as well as playing Pokémon Go, because well… I’m always playing Pokémon Go… always.” — Bobby

“One small stuff that completely changed the way I use my lockscreen on iOS… Random photos. When I realized that I can hand pick the photos super easily, apply cool filters and make them change randomly when I touch the screen, it became the best way to revive weekends, holidays or last night’s parties by featuring the five-to-ten best pictures on my lock screen. It’s so much more practical and fun than having to open the Photos app.” — Benoit

“​​More and more of my friends have been signing on to BeReal — wonder if any other friend groups are seeing this growth. Also, the app keeps trying to get you to view public profiles and I would like them to stop that.” — Wisdom

“The amazing Empty Fasting app that launched this week. One-time fee for a beautifully designed fasting app.” — Esteban

“I thought I’d throw in a great ‘audio products’ reviewer, Darko Audio. He has some good info and thoughts at the high end and some nerdy written content on streaming protocols. Personally, I’m a Spotify user since, as you say, it’s everywhere. I do feel pushed ever further away from Spotify with each software update that seems to chip away at what was a near perfect interface.” — David

“Bought a used, but excellent condition Pixel 7 Pro. After trade-in, $201. Wife recently got the same-condition iPhone 13. Makes you think about upgrade cycles. Also Zack from JerryRigEverything has left an impression on me regarding recycling tech and parts and whatnot.” – Omar

“It’s owl breeding season, and I’m back to watching live streams of nesting European eagle owls. In addition to being cute, the camera quality for bird cams is so much better than it was just a couple years ago. Tristan and Isolde on Cam 3 have a clutch of 4 eggs this year!” — Daniel

“Watching Mr. & Mrs. Smith and organizing my notes using the PARA method in Microsoft Loop and Capacities.” — Carter

Signing off

Over the last two weeks, my 15-month-old son has become a Train Kid. He wants to look at trains, make train noises, yell at the trains outside, walk by the train car outside the library whenever we go past. After months of just, like, watching Wiggles videos on repeat, trains are a terrific new trend. 

And y’all: if you’re not already into TrainTube, you are missing out. Hours upon hours of beautifully shot videos of awesome-looking trains in beautiful locations. It’s peaceful, it’s surprisingly good background noise for working to, and there is nothing funnier to me than the fact that an hourlong video of trains has 107 million views — and according to the comments, most of them are toddlers. I love the internet.





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