Uninstalling apps

Once or twice a year, I get this irresistible urge to uninstall apps from my devices. Apps that I don’t use very often, apps that can be replaced by websites easily, apps that I don’t need all the time, and so on.

Yesterday, I did just that on my iPhone and I now only have four third-party apps installed from the App Store.

On my Mac, the cleanup happened a few weeks ago, and I only have five apps outside of the default Mac apps.1

The result of this minimal approach to using apps is not only a certain peace of mind, but a much more focused use of my devices. Blogging apps? Only on the Mac. Messaging app? Only on the phone. News apps? Websites are good enough. That cool photo editing app that I bought a few months ago but never use? I’ll reinstall it the day I really need it.2

In total, I only use seven different apps across all my devices (I only use the default apps on my Apple Watch):3

  1. 1Password (Mac & iPhone): I can’t get rid of it. Not only it is a fantastic app, but it would be a pain to move all my passwords to iCloud Keychain. Besides, even if I managed to uninstall this app, I’d still need another app like Authy to replace it, just for the one-time passwords required for 2FA.
  2. Wipr (Mac & iPhone): My new go-to content blocker for Safari. I am not a big fan of the principle of ad blocking, but browsing the web is just not bearable without one. I remember a time when it used to be easier, but it seems that this is not the case anymore. I also tried Ka-block and Magic Lasso, but they both seemed to make my phone run very hot from time to time, so I recently switched to Wipr. So far so good.4
  3. StopTheMadness (Mac): Another must-have tool to improve the web browsing experience, or rather to make it like it’s supposed to be.
  4. Drafts (Mac): My go-to writing app, perfectly tuned for my publishing-with-Blot workflow.
  5. Dropbox (Mac): needed for publishing blog post. For Drafts and Dropbox, I don’t really need the iPhone apps: almost never write on my phone, and the occasional typo can wait until I come back to my desk.
  6. Banxo, my bank app (iPhone): this app is very bad and very slow, but logging on the website every time I need to check my bank account is such a pain that I prefer to keep the app around. For now.5
  7. WhatsApp (iPhone): Almost all my friends and family use WhatsApp and there is basically no way around it, unless I want to become the annoying — but right — anti-Facebook guy forcing people to use SMS and be excluded from all the group chats.

Bear in mind that in a few days or weeks from now I may or may not reinstall twenty more apps and make this article completely irrelevant, but this is the beauty of the game.

  1. More recently, I uninstalled the excellent NetNewsWire RSS reader app and use Feeder on the web, which really is enough for my needs.↩︎

  2. By the way, do we know if App Clips are a thing or not yet?↩︎

  3. Not counting my work PC on Windows 10 obviously.↩︎

  4. I also used DuckDuckGo’s great content-blocker on the Mac, but for some reason on the iPhone it becomes a full on browser, not a content-blocker like it is on the Mac. I find this rather unnecessary since you can already have DuckDuckGo as the default search engine on Safari, and the tracker blocking feature could work as just a content-blocker add-on.↩︎

  5. This app is so bad, that I consider getting another bank just for that reason.↩︎

A ranking of all 118 sweaters seen on Twin Peaks

This article by Maggie Lange — published almost six years ago on The Cut — is exactly what the title says: a ranking of all 118 sweaters seen on the show Twin Peaks.

Twin Peaks may open with a nude body wrapped in cellophane, but everyone knows that the show’s real stars are the sweaters. The series is an absolute cavalcade of cozy knitwear, each piece more comfy and creepy looking than the last.

Sometimes the internet is just delightful. My fave must be number 16: I would love to have one like this for the winter.

Looking back at my short list of Apple wishes from April

Yours truly about the classic Apple charging cable material, back in April, while listing what I wanted the company to adopt:

I don’t know who likes this white rubbery material, but I find it outdated, not durable, and it seems to pick up way too much dust. Apple certainly can do better in this department, they proved it by including a very nice braided cable in the Mac Pro box.

In this article I wished for three things: better cable material, a subscription bundle, and two-factor authentification.1

Tim Hardwick, writing last week at MacRumors:

Rumors suggest Apple’s upcoming iPhone 12 models will ship with a new Lightning to USB-C cable that includes a braided fabric design.

About damn time.

If the cable rumours turn out to be true, then the first two items on my April list would be old news before the end of the year. Indeed, Apple just announced new Apple One subscription plans.

The third item on the list however, two-factor authentification, should not have been mentioned, because I was mistaken: It turns out Sign in with Apple already includes 2FA, just not in the format I am used to.2 On Apple website:

Security is built in to Sign in with Apple with two-factor authentication. If you use an Apple device, you can sign in and re-authenticate with Face ID or Touch ID anytime.

This means that all my wishes could be fully granted after only six months of waiting. That’s a pretty good outcome isn’t it?

  1. Like I said in the article, my wish list of course doesn’t end here,” but these were the three main things.↩︎

  2. I am used to pasting the one-time passwords — or OTP — in a separate field after logging in. What Apple does is just asking you to authenticate using FaceID or TouchID, which feels much more natural, especially on the iPhone where FaceID is completely effortless (if you don’t wear a mask that is): you just keep looking at your screen, which you’re already doing anyway, and you’re good to go.↩︎

Nobody seems to give a crap about Google’s monopoly on search, not even Google

Quick summary of the situation, from the Choice Screen webpage on the Android website:

On August 2, 2019, following the European Commission’s July 2018 Android decision, Google announced that it would implement a choice screen for general search providers on all new Android phones and tablets shipped into the European Economic Area (EEA) where the Google Search app is pre-installed. This updated Help Center article describes a modified choice screen design that was developed in consultation with the European Commission.

The choice screen will appear during initial device setup and will feature multiple search providers, including Google. An illustrative version of the choice screen follows. Providers may vary by country. […]

Eligible search providers will need to fill out an application form and can bid for inclusion based on an auction. The auction process is explained in greater detail below.

Considering how much this farce has been covered already, I will not repeat what everybody knows. Instead I will just point out how Google announced the result of the auctions on the Android website: four sentences, two footnotes, a table listing the winners” per country, a title that reads do-not-give-a-shit, and that’s it.

Also, I don’t think I have ever heard of — check notes — PrivacyWall and info.com. What are they?’, you may ask: they are search engines apparently, and they are the only two search engine options offered to Android users in France that are not Google or Bing. And yes, in case you’re wondering, Bing is still around. Ecosia, DuckDuckGo, barely appear on the list.

If anything, this whole thing will reinforce Google’s monopoly on search. Users will see this choice screen’ and think: OK, so two shady things I don’t know, Bing (laughs), and yep, Google. Why would they even ask me to choose?”

It’s like asking kids who have only ever watched the movie Ratatouille if they want to watch Ratatouille again, or another movie from this list: Pixels (even the kids would know it sucks), The Hunchback of Notre Dame II: The Secret of the Bell (you’re lucky if the kids even know about the first one), and The Beastmaster.

Samsung commits to deliver three years of Android updates for its phones

Michael Simon, writing for PCWorld:

When Samsung launched the Galaxy Note 20 earlier this month, the biggest surprise wasn’t the faster screen, smoother S Pen, or more powerful processor. It was the promise of three generations” of Android updates, a first for the company.

Now Samsung is expanding that guarantee to even more phones. While the company originally said the guarantee would only apply to its highest-end S, N, and Z series devices starting with the S10,” Samsung has added its latest A-series phones to that list, so the Galaxy A51 and A71 will be sure to get Android 13 when it arrives in 2022.

This is very good news for owners of recent Samsung smartphones, and for future customers. When it comes to Android updates, Samsung now has the same promise than Google with its Pixel phones: 3 years of updates. Outside of the cameras, this guarantee is one of Google’s most important selling points when it comes to Pixel phones1, so this announcement from Samsung will definitely matter, especially for the very successful A-series.

From a distance, it seems that Samsung is embracing its commitment to Android — on phones as least — as well as its relationship with Microsoft. Outside of the obvious technical perks of working closely with the two giant American companies, you may wonder: Why now? Why not last year?”

I believe this commitment to Google Android is a new marketing tool in the Android smartphone world, dominated by Chinese manufacturers, where Huawei, after its breakup” with Google, is now struggling to convince buyers outside of China that buying a Huawei phones is OK when it comes to future software updates, and availability of apps without access to the Play Store.

Samsung, after seeing its marketshare slowly getting eaten by Chinese companies like Huawei, BBK2, Xiaomi, and others, now has the advantage of being able to tell its customers: with us, you don’t have to worry,” and I believe this is a tremendous advantage for Samsung outside of China, where Samsung is barely existing anyway.

  1. On the Pixel 4a webpage, it appear as one of the four main key selling points.↩︎

  2. Oppo, OnePlus, Vivo, Realme.↩︎

“The canary in the coal mine about the corrupting power of the App Store”

Brilliant analysis on the App Store situation, in the light of the Epic’s lawsuit, from Ben Thompson:

This lawsuit is also a reminder that Apple has a lot to lose. While the most likely outcome is an Apple victory […] every decision the company makes that favors only itself, and not society generally, is an invitation to examine just how important the iPhone is to, well, everything.

Indeed, this is the most frustrating aspect of this debate: Apple consistently acts like a company peeved it is not getting its fair share, somehow ignoring the fact it is worth nearly $2 trillion precisely because the iPhone matters more than anything.

This whole lawsuit and App Store situation is much more complicated than it seems on the surface, yet Thompson once again manages to explain the situation very well, while making his observations crystal clear and well documented; subscribing to Stratechery was hands down one of the best decisions I’ve made in 2020.1

I don’t know how this whole thing will end, but I’m pretty sure none of it would have happened if Apple — anticipating how the ways people consume digital goods would change2 — had lowered its percentage of commission from 30% to, say 5% for in-app purchases, 8% for subscriptions (0% for the first payment, and 3% after the 1st year), and something south of 15% for regular app purchases.

  1. Especially now that there is an additional podcast to go with it.↩︎

  2. short version: from buying individual apps/songs/movies, to subscribing monthly to all kind of services (Netflix, Apple Music, Microsoft Office, etc.)↩︎

Point of entry, browser tech, and advertising: Google pretty much owns the web

Alan Gibson, in a short but astute blog post about how Google more or less owns the web as its own platform:

Chrome’s ability to dictate web standards will only get stronger over time. Safari and Firefox have been able to apply some shame to Chrome on things like disabling third-party cookies, but soon it’ll just be Apple left with a voice.

But Google doesn’t even need Chrome to dictate standards since it controls the Web’s front door. AMP, a technology no one asked for, is now on over 70% of all marketing websites for no other reason than Google said so.

I think on the contrary a lot of publishers asked for something like AMP. They had terrible and slow websites, no time or ressource to work on a new one, and Google gave them a simple solution on a gold platter: use our technology and it will help you get more traffic from mobile devices,” an offer they couldn’t refuse really. This dependance on Google, both for traffic, technology, and money, cannot be good for media but here we are.

This blog post also reminded me of the existence of this excellent tweet.

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