The Still-Far-Behind Edition Thursday, December 30, 2021

As Omicron Washes Over America, Much Of The Country Still Isn’t Using Exposure Notification Apps, by Gerrit De Vynck and Cat Zakrzewski, Washington Post

The tech giants managed to build and launch the “exposure notification” framework in months, a previously unheard-of level of collaboration for the rivals.


But nearly two years later, as the omicron variant sweeps across the United States, adoption of the system is still far behind what its creators and proponents envisioned. More than 20 states don’t use it at all, including large states like Florida and Texas that have reported millions of cases and tens of thousands of deaths. Even in states where millions have activated the notifications, only a fraction of people who test positive for the virus report it to the Apple and Google system. California’s system, for example, has been activated on more than 15 million devices, but only about 3 percent of the nearly 3.9 million cases reported since launch were logged in the system.

Not Too Picky

Apple Music Voice Plan: Cheap, But You'll Have To Put Up With Siri, by Stan Schroeder, Mashable

Apple Music Voice will cater well to a particular type of music listener: Someone who likes music but isn't too picky about particulars. It also saves five bucks per month compared to the regular Apple Music plan – money that could go toward a HomePod mini purchase, for example. In fact, it's the cheapest ad-free music streaming plan around, if you don't count student plans.

If You Need Your Music Everywhere, Apple Music’s “Voice Plan” Isn’t For You, by Chris Velazco, Washington Post

While that makes sense for some people — say, anyone who just got a HomePod mini for Christmas — the voice plan is too limited to serve as someone’s sole, all-around music plan. In fact, outside of the home or car, it functions awkwardly enough to make the $9.99 a month for full Apple Music service look awfully palatable, which might have been the plan all along.

Lining Up to Sell

Everybody Into The Metaverse! Virtual Reality Beckons Big Tech., by Cade Metz, New York Times

Fifteen years is a long time for the industry to wait for a new tech trend to come along. Ideas that many hoped would take central stage by now, like advanced artificial intelligence and quantum computing, are taking longer than some had anticipated. And the technology behind cryptocurrencies and newer ideas like decentralized computing appears promising — but its mainstream appeal is still unclear.

So tech companies are lining up to sell the devices that let consumers into this virtual world and control their experiences once they are inside it. Suddenly, building new things for the metaverse is offering the kind of fresh appeal that comes along only every so often in any industry.

The Metaverse’s Dark Side: Here Come Harassment And Assaults, by Kellen Browning, New York Times

Yet even as tech giants bet big on the concept, questions about the metaverse’s safety have surfaced. Harassment, assaults, bullying and hate speech already run rampant in virtual reality games, which are part of the metaverse, and there are few mechanisms to easily report the misbehavior, researchers said. In one popular virtual reality game, VRChat, a violating incident occurs about once every seven minutes, according to the nonprofit Center for Countering Digital Hate.


Why My New Apple Watch Is The Key To A Better 2022 (And Not Just For Fitness), by Josephine Watson, TechRadar

So, here’s all the things I’m hoping to do with my new Apple Watch to level up my 2022.

10 Apple Arcade Games For Your New 2021 iPhone Or iPad, by Jay Peters, The Verge

We’ve compiled a mix of new and classic games you might want to check out if you’re a new subscriber.

Remind Me Faster 4.0, by Federico Viticci, MacStories

Remind Me Faster continues to be a fantastic addition to Apple’s Reminders app when it comes to quick entry. I highly recommend checking it out if you use Reminders as a task management system but have always wished typing new tasks with dates, locations, priorities, and lists was quicker.

Apps For Travelers Dreaming Of Their Next Trip, by Stephanie Rosenbloom, New York Times

While travel is fraught amid the rise of the Omicron variant, people are still dreaming of their next getaway. There are even new apps to make trips easier to plan and enjoy. A number of them were introduced (and some old favorites were updated) back when travel was at a standstill. Wondering which to try? Here is a selection with thoughtful solutions — how to turn award points into a hotel suite, join a ranger for a national park hike, hear the history of the place you’re driving through, see the latest Covid-19 travel protocols — to help you tap and swipe your way to what will hopefully be a new year of adventures.


Apple Can’t Just Throw Money At Its Talent Retention Problem, by Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz

Meta’s best bet to lure talent has been offering insanely high salaries. As Facebook and Instagram become notorious for spreading misinformation and worsening mental health, these payouts are being touted by some as a “brand tax” meant to encourage workers to join a widely criticized company.

Apple is applying the same formula but money alone won’t be enough to counter the gamut of reasons why employees keep quitting.

Bottom of the Page

My current configuration for the Today's View on my iPhone is to stuff it with widgets that can do something without the need to unlock the phone.

So far, I can now play podcasts, Apple Music, and BBC Radio using shortcuts, all of which run fine while the phone is locked. Unfortunately, I cannot find a way to do the same for my audiobooks in Audible.

Let's see how this arrangement will fare when I return office with my mask next week.


The Stack (of widgets) is so buggy! It constantly forgets my widget settings when I move things around.


Thanks for reading.