Installer newsletter: Threads for web, AI bookmarks, and new car tech

Hi, friends! Welcome to Installer No. 3, your guide to the best and Verge-iest stuff in the world. Thanks to everyone who sent stuff in this week — we’re starting to get the hang of how this all works, and I really hope it’s fun and useful! I know I’ve already downloaded a terrifying number of new apps thanks to y’all.

Only one housekeeping thing today: Installer now has an RSS feed! You can add this link to any RSS reader, and it should work (let me know if you run into issues). Also, Installer’s new homepage has every edition ever — all two of them so far. We’re still working on some cool new ways you can subscribe and contribute to Installer, but hopefully, we’ve got all the basics covered now.

This week, I’ve been watching season 3 of Only Murders in the Building, poring over those huge New Yorker profiles of David Zaslav and Elon Musk, testing the new Google NotebookLM note-taking app, horrifying myself by training a Voicify.AI model with my singing voice, redesigning all my homescreens with these Ruffsnap icons, and rediscovering The Earliest Show on YouTube for about the 868th time. 

Oh, and before I forget: I just got five invites to the all-in-one messaging app Beeper, which I love, so the first five people to click the link can have at it. This week, I also have a new organizing app to tell you about, an infuriating but fascinating new doc you should watch, a better way to plan parties, and the new desk of your battlestation dreams. Let’s go.

(As always, the best part of Installer is your ideas and tips. What do you want to know more about? What awesome tricks do you know that everyone else should? What app should everyone be using? Tell me everything: insta[email protected]. And if you know someone else who might enjoy Installer, forward it to them and tell them to subscribe here.)

The Drop

  • Fabric. I’ve been keeping an eye on this AI bookmarking / highlighting / stuff-saving app for a while, and this week was its big public debut. (The website says there’s still a waitlist, but I was able to log right in.) I’m digging taking notes on a webpage — right on the page — and having them all indexed and easily retrievable later. 
  • Telemarketers. It’s not exactly shocking that a sketchy call center might have some sketchy stuff going on, but this Max miniseries is still pretty eye-opening about how it all works. Plus, there’s a good story in here about why Congress can’t figure out what to do about these scams. The third and final episode of the series is on Sunday night, so you’ve got time to catch up.
  • Threads for web. It took a few days, but I think the Threads web app is actually available for everybody, finally. I only had to try it like 150 times. The app’s not exactly full-featured, but at least you can post from a computer now!
  • “New Car Technology We Really Love,” with Doug DeMuro and Alanis King. If you ever listen to The Vergecast, you know we have… feelings about car infotainment systems. This is a really fun, really helpful breeze through those and a lot of other in-car tech, from cool Lexus mirrors to Kia’s truly genius blind spot camera. Still hate most of the UIs, though. 
  • Ahsoka. I confess I am deeply tired of mediocre Star Wars stuff, to the point where I didn’t even bother with Obi-Wan Kenobi or The Book of Boba Fett. Ahsoka doesn’t seem to break the formula entirely, but by all accounts is mysterious and exciting and fun. I’m gonna give it a shot this weekend. 
  • 404 Media. A bunch of former Motherboard reporters started their own thing, and it’s an instant subscribe if you like wild stories about hackers, surveillance, AI, and what it means to be a person online in 2023.
  • Partiful for iOS. It remains a mystery to me how Partiful turned “a page for planning a party” into, like, a super-rad lifestyle product, but here we are! Now, the app’s out on iOS, and honestly, I’m in favor of anything that means fewer plans via email and Facebook pages.
  • The Corsair Platform:6 desk. This desk is like if you took the entirety of r/battlestations, fed it into an image-generating AI, and then asked it to design you the most gamer-y, streamer-y desk on the planet. And I kind of mean that as a compliment! No idea what this thing is going to cost, but I do love a good pegboard.
  • Backflip. This is a weird, mesmerizing mini-documentary about a man teaching his avatar to do the backflip he’s too nervous to do in real life. It’s funny, and I learned a lot! I also really like the idea that “machine learning” is just “practice.” There’s no magic to the process — just a lot of failing and tweaking and trying again.

Pro tips

Way back when, Clear was my favorite to-do list app for the iPhone. Maybe my favorite app, period. It had such a fun design, used gestures in really clever ways, and made making and checking off lists fun. Clear eventually sort of petered out, but now, it’s making a comeback — the app is in beta testing for iOS users now, and I’ve been using it and digging it for a while. And it’s actually about way more than to-do lists this time.

If you want in the beta, by the way, here’s a Clear TestFlight link. Tell ’em I sent ya.

Anyway, I asked Phill Ryu, one of the brains behind Clear (and other apps like Heads Up!), to give us some tips both on how to use Clear and how to make better lists in general. Here’s what he sent back:

  • Get out of your head and into lists. Would you believe me if I promised listing can be meaningfully life-changing, especially when you have a cozy daily listing ritual? Once you get things organized and into lists, your mind is free to let them go for now and focus on what matters. Once you experience this, you might start listing a lot more. And for me at least, once I made a daily listing habit, it’s like life’s difficulty was taken down a half notch.
  • Plan the next day’s list the night before. If you’re keeping a daily to-do list, I recommend making a “Tomorrow” list. (And a “Next Day,” if you’re ambitious.) I find it really satisfying and almost therapeutic to plan my next day ahead of time. Plus, it’s an effective way to quiet those loose threads in your head before bed.
  • Keep an “Inspired” list instead of a “Soon” list. Throw stuff in there that you think you’ll feel inspired to do later on. And if things stick around there too long, swipe left to delete! (True story, the original Clear introduced iPhones to the modern “swipe left to delete” interaction before iOS itself, inspired by Tweetie’s pull to refresh.)
  • Archive ruthlessly. One issue with prolific listing is the way plans can accumulate, become stale, and eventually become a kind of nightmare closet you don’t want to open over time. Maybe that’s not the best analogy because I guess Clear’s new archive feature is, in a way, a kind of virtual closet. But it’s out of sight and out of mind and always there when you need an older list again. So it’s a great way to keep your current lists very focused on what matters to you now.
  • Treat yourself. There’s a crucial part of the loop of making a list of plans and checking them off that Clear pays special attention to: the dopamine you’ve earned when you get something done — that surge of satisfaction as you check off a tougher task with an extra flourish because you earned it. So we reward our listers with very satisfying sounds, haptics and animations, and even a chance to unlock some fun cosmetic or theme for the app by checking something off or achievements to unlock along the way.

Screen share

Mishaal Rahman is one of my absolute favorite people to follow around the internet. Nobody does a better job of unearthing cool new features of Android, explaining how the platform works, and turning even teeny-tiny point updates into actual information that helps you use your phone better.

I figured there can’t be many people who have thought about their phone setup more than Mishaal, so I hit him up and asked him to share his homescreen with us. He’s the first person in Installer history to have a two-screenshot homescreen! Big day. Here it is, folded and then unfolded, plus some info on which apps he uses and why:

The phone: Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 5

The widget(s): When unfolded, I have four widgets placed in a widget stack at the top of the homescreen. I swipe left or right to change widgets. (Samsung’s launcher also contextually changes the widget shown here, though you can only see one of the four widgets in this screenshot anyway.) The widgets are: Weather, Battery (of the phone and connected accessories), App Timers (gotta limit my Reddit / Twitter [X] usage!), and YouTube Music. And of course, at the bottom is a Google Search widget with shortcuts for Assistant / Lens. 

When folded, my homescreen doesn’t show any apps but, rather, a widget stack up top with two instead of four widgets (this time, only Weather and Alarms), a Direct Dial widget to quickly call my family members, and a dedicated Google Maps widget. The reason being that the Z Fold 5’s cover screen is so narrow that I prefer to use it only for quick actions or glanceable information.

The apps: (When unfolded) I organize nearly every app I install into pertinent folders. It’s a pain to set up, but it helps me keep track of what apps I actually use and also find them more quickly.

The apps I find most useful on mobile include Elisi (a digital bullet journal), Feedly, and Rview (a Gerrit client app to view / track contributions to the Android Open Source Project and Chromium Gerrits). I’m also terminally online, so of course, I also use Reddit and Twitter / X a bunch as well as… Lemmy, Hacker News (via the Materialistic app), Mastodon, Threads. I also swap between a bunch of different messaging apps like Google Chat (mainly family), Discord, Element (for Matrix), Signal, Slack, Telegram, WeChat, and WhatsApp. Please send help.

The wallpaper: It’s the default live wallpaper on the Z Fold 5. I stuck with it because it reacts to me folding / unfolding the device. I’m personally hoping Google’s AI wallpaper (whenever that’s out) generator can save me from my boring wallpaper choices.

As always, I also asked Mishaal to share a few things he’s into right now. Here’s what he picked:

  • Season 1 and 2 of Vinland Saga, an anime that dramatizes the life of Thorfinn Karlsefni. I found its treatment of violence / pacifism, the tragedy of war / slavery, and religion to be very compelling and am looking forward to continuing the story through its original manga!
  • Speaking of manga, I’ve been really, really enjoying Dungeon Meshi and am sad that it’s about to be finished! The premise sounds (and is) very silly: a group of dungeon explorers sustain themselves by eating the monsters they find as they go deeper. It might seem at first glance that the entire series is centered around this gag and it’s used only for jokes, but the series takes a more serious turn while still (somehow) remaining true to its premise. Plus, the characters are very fun!
  • I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and play through a full game since I beat The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, but when I’m scrolling through Reddit and YouTube out of boredom, I’ll often watch TOTK-related content because of how varied and interesting it is! I’m a big fan of /r/HyruleEngineering, which showcases the insane feats of (in-game) engineering that the game engine allows for. I’ve seen no-hit runs, runeless runs, lockout bingo races, and of course, speedruns of the game. I guess I just really love this game!


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] with your recommendations for anything and everything, and we’ll feature some of our favorites here every week. 

“I think I’m kind of a weather app guy, so I wanted to suggest my favorite weather app, Flux. 1) It looks gorgeous, and the animations are nice. 2) There are a lot of useful settings. For example, you can add, remove, and reorder all the info cards, and it lets you choose from about 10 weather data sources. 3) The widgets are extremely customizable: you can change the icons, colors, text size, and even what to do when you click the widget!” – FaviFake

“One of my favorite installs lately has been Petey, a ChatGPT companion for Apple Watch. It’s thoughtfully designed, easy to use, and surprisingly useful — being able to submit a query that pops into your head without having to go grab your phone or open a laptop is awesome.” – Nick

Memorigi: the best to-do list app I’ve ever used. The interface is both beautiful and highly functional, it leans on gestures which make it quick and easy to move through the app. The free version is really full-featured, but I paid for the upgrade simply to support the developers because it’s become a crucial part of my daily workflow. – Jacob

“The best iOS (and other Apple devices) app anyone can download for the kitchen is Crouton. It’s an app from a single dev team (support small developers). You can organize recipes into folders and tag groups, add recipe ingredients to a connected Groceries list in Reminders, scale your recipe servings up or down (and it saves that recipe’s scaling even if the app is closed), set multiple native timers (we truly live in an age of wonders), and share your recipes in a household or once as a PDF / text / Crouton recipe.” – JB

“I’d like to recommend Raindrop. I use multiple browsers on both my phone and laptop, I use Raindrop to manage bookmarks across these devices. It has folders and tags for organization. It’s also cross-platform.” – Chethan

“You mentioned that Keen knife, and while it does look appealing, I can’t imagine ever parting with my $10 Screwpop keychain utility knife. Magnetic, no-tool blade swap, bottle opener, and it’s keychain-able. These days, my keychain has two house keys, a mustache comb, and the Screwpop knife. You also forgot to mention one of my favorite selling points for “utility knife as a pocket knife,” which is cheap, disposable blades. Security checkpoint > dispose of blade > keep spares in the car.” – Andrew

“I’ve been using this awesome little web app (this is the future!) developed by this one dude Prijan, and I love it. It’s called Kinopio (pronounced like Pinocchio but with a k). I love using this web app to take notes, make mood boards, or jot stuff down. Using it is just fun and playful and exploratory. I can’t believe people like Milanote better than this bad boy.” – Garrett

“My recommendation: TidyCal. Been loving using this. It’s like a simpler, more affordable Calendly. Pay $29 one time and get access forever. No more monthly fees. Really enjoying it.” – Dave

Signing off

A few days ago, for no particular reason, my TikTok feed became overrun by the TV show Taskmaster. It’s totally possible that I’m the last person on earth to know about Taskmaster — in which a very funny host gives a bunch of very funny people a series of very funny tasks to accomplish, and it’s all very funny — but I’ve been watching it nonstop all week. There are full seasons of the show on YouTube, but I especially love the Taskmaster TikTok page that is just an endless stream of the show’s funniest moments. I’ve never subscribed or followed so fast.

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz