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OneZero
The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

Gadgets

In OneZero. More on Medium.

Many of us on the OneZero editorial team have at previous jobs spent months fending off PR agencies pitching gadgets of questionable use and longevity in order to produce an annual Holiday Gadget Gift Guide that may or may not have been littered with affiliate codes.

This is not that.

This year Dave Gershgorn convinced the members of our team to tell him about the service or gadget that helped them endure this year. Yes, you might see AirPods, iPads, and Nintendo Switches on this list, but you’ll also see color-changing lightbulbs, deck-building video games (I had to look that…


Letter From the Editor

Debugger and Future Human serve readers thoughtful stories on the forces shaping our future

Dear Readers,

The OneZero family is expanding. Today, we’re launching two new publications, Debugger and Future Human, to serve readers new perspectives on consumer technology and science.

Debugger explores how we use gadgets, apps, and services. Future Human is all about the science that will shape our survival as a species. And OneZero will continue to explore what we call the undercurrents of the future; technology topics like surveillance, automation, and platform moderation.

A publication can’t be all things to all people. Yet many try. Boxed in by the business imperatives of online advertising — how many pageviews, how many…


Apple’s new features bring a new generation of kids into its ecosystem

Image: Apple

Apple doesn’t want to just sell you one product.

The company’s entire gambit is that its phone works better when paired with its watch, and each additional computer, tablet, or streaming device adds more to the experience. Any one of these products can stand on their own, but they all work better in concert together. It’s an effective sales strategy: A 2017 CNBC survey that found the average American owned more than two Apple devices.

The first gadget, whether that be a phone, a laptop, or a tablet, is the cornerstone to the whole enterprise. …


Letter From the Editor

A great device can still be a pain to repair

A teardown of Microsoft’s Surface Duo foldable phone. Photo: iFixit

Earlier this month, movers dropped and shattered my television. It was less than a year old and, it turns out, completely unsalvageable.

The original manufacturer, LG, shrugged: Accidental damage understandably isn’t covered under warranty. The company’s customer service agent connected me to a number of local repair shops, none of which were able to fix the screen. Displays are by far the most expensive part of a television, and I soon learned that a replacement for my particular LG would cost about $1,117, not including any shipping or labor costs. I had bought the TV brand new for $1,300.

So…


Folding smartphones like the upcoming Galaxy Z Fold2 from Samsung (awful name!) might seem gimmicky, but there’s reason to believe they’ll have a meaningful impact on how users interact with…


Pavlok in a pandemic

Image: Pavlok

Instagram has a delightful ability to surprise me with ads for pointless objects I absolutely can’t live without. A little box that sanitizes my keys with a blast of UV light? Yes! A subscription plan for growing micro-broccoli? Why wasn’t I informed sooner?? A meal delivery service whose products appear to consist exclusively of colorful liquids in fancy glass bottles? Sign me up!

Recently, though, I was scrolling through Instagram and saw an ad for a product that I almost couldn’t believe: the Pavlok.

The ad features a GIF of a person wearing a Fitbit-style wristband, with the text “Eliminate…


Repairing devices is a key part of reducing their long-term environmental impact, but many consumers don’t know when to do it

A man repairing an open smartphone
A man repairing an open smartphone
Photo: Armin Weigel/picture alliance/Getty Images

While consumers generally expect to be notified of regular maintenance on their car — any time the “check engine” light comes on, they know it’s time to take it to the shop — many remain unaware of a host of common repair needs for their gadgets or don’t know when to get their devices serviced.

It doesn’t have to be this way. After Apple was caught throttling iPhones with older batteries, the company added a Battery Health feature that does a decent job of letting users know when it’s time to seek a replacement. …


Debugger

Why pay more than $1,000 for a phone and earbuds?

A promotional photo of a OnePlus Nord phone against a wall with cream-colored ceramics.
A promotional photo of a OnePlus Nord phone against a wall with cream-colored ceramics.
OnePlus Nord. Photos courtesy of OnePlus.

Over the last few years, Apple has built a formidable, deeply integrated ecosystem around its products with services like iMessage and hardware like the Apple Watch and AirPods, allowing the company to sell these devices to iPhone owners at a premium relative to competitors. So far, few other manufacturers have nailed a similar experience.

Shenzhen-based OnePlus is trying, though, to build an alternative ecosystem — for half of the price. You can now buy both the company’s latest high-end phone, the OnePlus Nord, and its AirPods-style OnePlus Buds for under $600. …


Why I miss Crazy Frog

Photo: mariusFM77/Getty Images

Before the iPhone, Venmo, or Spotify, there were ringtones. You might remember them fondly as those lo-fidelity sounds we used to communicate our highly refined music tastes every time someone called our cell. But ringtones were so much more than that. A billion-dollar industry silenced seemingly overnight, ringtones laid the foundations of modern mobile consumer technology and set the stage for the app store and mobile commerce as we know it today. And they are proof that even silly-seeming products can have an impact long after their memory fades away.

The rise of the ringtone

The first mobile phone call was not made by a…


Debugger

Thinner isn’t always better for computers

Photo: T3 Magazine/Getty Images

Webcams have been around for more than three decades, but as the cameras in our phones have become near-perfect, the ones in our laptops seem stuck in time: They’re mostly terrible and don’t seem to be getting any better.

Granted, I never paid much attention to the camera in my work-issued 2019 MacBook Pro until the pandemic forced me into hours of video calls, staring at a mirror image of my face in grainy, dark, potato quality all day long. After the first few weeks, the terrible quality started driving me crazy.

Like many tech workers on Twitter, I scrambled…

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