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Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition: As close to Apple AirPower as you’ll get Review

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When Apple canceled its AirPower wireless charging pad, the dream of a single wireless charging pad for all of your compatible Apple devices seemed to die with it. I’ve tested several charging pads that have multiple charging coils, but each one of them feels like two individual charging pads that are built next to each other, instead of one cohesive device.

Then I found the $140 Nomad Base Station Apple Watch Edition, and the single leather pad along with a dedicated charging stand for the Apple Watch looked like something that could almost pull off what AirPower promised (lacking fancy software tricks, of course).

For the past few weeks, I’ve been using the Nomad’s AirPower alternative to charge an iPhone XS Max, AirPods, and Apple Watch Series 4 with cellular and I don’t see myself ever changing.

Design


Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

The Nomad Base Station has a minimal design, with a single power port on the rear, a thin metal base, and a leather pad that sits above the three Qi-compatible charging coils inside the stand. An Apple Watch charger in the back-left corner places your watch upright, so you can tap on your desk or nightstand to use the Apple Watch’s Nightstand mode to check the time and current charge level of your watch.

On the front of the base are three indicator lights; one for each coil. An amber light indicates that a device is charging on that coil, while a white light means charging is complete.

Inside the box is the stand, a power adapter, and international connectors for various plug styles. There’s also a diagram inside the box that shows you where the charging coils are found, and the two different approaches you can take to charge your devices. If I had to nitpick anything about the design, it’s that the power adapter is fairly big. But when you take the fact that three coils and an Apple Watch charger are powered by a single supply, it makes sense.

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There are two main orientations for charging a phone on the base station. You can either put your phone across the coil on the right side of the pad or lay your phone across the entirety of the pad, charging from the middle coil. The first orientation comes in handy if you are also charging your AirPods in the wireless charging case. Otherwise, it’s easier to just lay your phone across the entire pad.

The first night I used the Nomad Base Station I thought I had aligned my phone with the pad on the right, only to wake to a phone in the morning that was almost dead. I think I bumped into my dresser and caused it to move out of alignment. However, the next night I placed my iPhone in the same orientation and awoke to a fully charged iPhone.

Performance

nomad-base-station-apple-watch-edition-back.jpg

Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Each one of the coils inside the stand is 7.5W, which is the maximum speed at which current generation iPhones can wirelessly charge. Unlike similar products that reduce charging speed when multiple devices are charging at the same time, both coils remain at 7.5W in the Nomad Base Station Apple Watch.

Outside of my own negligence, I have yet to experience any issues with my iPhone vibrating itself off the charging pad or even slightly misaligning itself to stop charging.

Initially, I had to double check myself when placing the AirPods case on the pad, however, ensuring that it’s lined up with a coil. Now that I’ve learned the general area, I put very little thought into placing all of my devices on the base station. The addition of the indicator lights in the bottom stand itself, which almost instantly light up when a device is detected, is a nice reassurance that everything is lined up, though.

On the back of the stand, next to the power port, is an ambient light sensor that detects when the indicator lights need to be bright or dim. It’s a subtle feature, but one that keeps the light low enough that it won’t light up your room at night while you try to sleep. I barely noticed the indicator lights from across the room at night, and that’s just the way it should be.

AirPower replacement?

More like an AirPower alternative. AirPower’s promise was the ability to place a device on the pad and not have to worry about coils and lining things up. No matter where you placed it, and no matter where it ended up even after a bump, as long as it’s on the pad, it would charge.

Apple wasn’t able to deliver on that promise, so we’re left with having to worry about coils. And the majority of the time, that’s a non-issue with the Nomad Base Station. I learned where to line up my iPhone and a repeatable area on the pad for the AirPods case after a couple of days.

If you don’t have an Apple Watch or wireless charging AirPods, Nomad does make different configurations of the base station. Prices range from $99 for an Apple Watch-less station that will charge your phone and AirPods, to $59 for a wireless charging stand big enough for only a phone.

The biggest drawback is that Nomad can’t seem to make enough of these right now. When I first reached out to Nomad about a potential review, they were out of stock. As soon as that stock came in, it was gone. As of this review, the company expects to have more in stock on June 20. If you’re keen to get one, I’d order one now on back order and wait for more stock to arrive.

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Yahoo has built a new calendar app called Day, and it’s recruited the co-founder of Sunrise to design it – TechCrunch

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When it comes to online calendars and calendar apps, services like Google Calendar and Outlook from Microsoft rule the roost with hundreds of millions of users globally. Now another company is hoping to ruffle some feathers with its own move into the space. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Yahoo is working on called Day, a new standalone calendar app. Sources tell us the company has recruited Jeremy Le Van — who had co-founded another calendaring app, Sunrise, and eventually sold it to Microsoft for over $100 million to make it the backbone of Microsoft’s own very popular calendar platform in Outlook — to help design it.

Many lamented the sunset of Sunrise; now it looks like they might now have a shot at getting Sunrise 2.0, so to speak.

(Disclaimer: Yahoo happens to be owned by the same company as TechCrunch.)

“We are exploring different ways to better serve consumers and that includes new ideas around mobile-first time management, calendar and events,” a Yahoo spokesperson said in response to our question.

The service is currently in an invite-only closed alpha as it gears up for a bigger launch (you can also sign up on the site).

Calendars serve as the backbone for how many of us organize our days, whether it’s for work or leisure. And arguably, the more our activities, and the planning of them, move to digital platforms, the more powerful calendars can become, too.

This means that for platforms, having a calendar feature or app as part of a bigger service is a good way of keeping users engaged on the wider platform, and it’s a way for the platform to glean more knowledge about user behavior. Google’s Calendar, for example, is very tightly, and often automatically, integrated with its wider suite of productivity and information services, giving the company one more spoke in its wheel to keep users sticking around.

And it’s not only Yahoo that might be interested in doing more here. Facebook acquired Redkix in 2018 allegedly to bring more calendar and other productivity tools to Workplace. In the end, Workplace integrates with existing offerings from third parties, and so it doesn’t have its own standalone calendar app. Facebook also doesn’t have a standalone calendar feature in the main consumer app, either. But with people planning so much else on Facebook’s properties (not just through Events on Facebook, but across Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger), it seems that it’s an area it could feasibly still expand into at some point.

Yahoo itself, in fact, already has a pared-down calendar widget that you can access through Yahoo Mail. It’s not clear how popular it is, especially since it’s very easy these days to integrate one’s email to most other calendar apps.

The question, then, will be how Day might hope to differentiate itself, and how it will hope to compete.

From what we understand, in contrast to how Google, Microsoft or even Yahoo itself currently integrate calendar features into their wider productivity suites, this isn’t the approach that Yahoo is taking with Day.

The app is being built by people in its Mail team, but it’s being treated “like a startup” in the operation, we’ve heard, and has been given license to develop it independently: it has no special Yahoo branding, nor with any Yahoo integrations whatsoever. The plan is to keep it separate, not unlike the many calendar apps — like Sunrise once was — that exist in app stores, and make it something that can integrate with whatever other email or other tools that a person users. Over time there also may be efforts to use Mail — which still has around 200 million users — to help market Day.

The move underscores how Yahoo — which has effectively lost out to Google in areas like search, email, video and advertising — believes that with the right approach, there is still room for more innovation in this crowded market, even as it has a number of misses in its history of trying to do just that in other areas, like messaging.

But as we noted in a recent story about Calendly — a $3 billion startup that’s proven to be a big hit with people who need to schedule meetings — calendar apps can be challenging for another reason. They are well-used, yes, but also somewhat under the radar: calendars are never the destination for a person, just a place to mark when, how, and with whom you will get there. Can there be more ways of enhancing that basic functionality?

Yahoo seems to believe there are, and that people will want to use an app that does so.

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Twitter accelerates again with Bitcoin tips, NFTs, recorded Spaces, creator fund and more – TechCrunch

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Twitter’s slate of new product announcements is not slowing down. The company today introduced a number of new initiatives aimed at better serving the conversations and community using its platform, including support for tipping with crypto, NFT authentication, and plans for other experiments designed to provide more context about a conversation to those just joining in. The company also said it’s preparing to launch its own creator fund in a few weeks to provide audio creators with access to financial, technical, and marketing support.

While Twitter was not yet ready to details specifics like the fund size or expected reach, in terms of creator participants, it’s a clear shot across the bow of a top competitor in social audio, Clubhouse, whose own creator “accelerator” offered to connect its participants with brand deals or $5,000 per month during their participation in its program.

Similarly, Twitter views its creator fund as one not aimed at rewarding creators for the content they produce — like some rival funds running across Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and elsewhere — but rather at helping creators get started with audio productions on Twitter Spaces.

“The goal of it really is to provide that technical and marketing expertise,” noted Twitter Product Lead for Creator Monetization, Esther Crawford. “We think of it as kind of a stopgap solution. We want to onboard these folks into other long-term monetization features. But we want to give them an initial boost,” she said.

Spaces hosts will also be able to record and replay their programs — a move likely meant to counteract the threat of competitive platforms which tout recording as a key differentiator. This will launch in a “few months,” the company said.

Twitter also today announced a few new products and expansions to recently launched features.

One of these is a new feature that would allow its app to better serve creators working with NFTs, or non-fungible tokens — a way to certify digital assets, stored on the blockchain. Artists are now creating NFTs of their work which are sold across NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, Foundation, SuperRare, and others.

Twitter says it’s planning to “soon” explore support for NFT authentication. This would allow NFT creators to connect their crypto wallets to Twitter, in order to track and showcase their NFTs on the platform. This particular plan is still in the early stages as Twitter couldn’t yet articulate how this would work. The company said it was testing different ideas for making creators with authenticated collections stand out more visually somehow — perhaps with something like a profile badge or differently-shaped avatar.

When pressed for further details on its broader NFT roadmap, Twitter declined to comment.

Another new feature in the crypto space is support for Bitcoin tipping. Twitter first introduced its “Tip Jar” feature in May as a beta product, allowing users to send and receive one-time payments via third-party services like PayPal, Venmo, Patreon, Cash App, Bandcamp, and others. Now the feature will expand to global audiences on iOS with Android coming soon, and will add support for tipping with Bitcoin.

There will be a couple of ways Bitcoin tips can work. Users will be able to add a Bitcoin Lightning wallet or their Bitcoin address in order to start receiving Bitcoin tips. Lightning wallets are popular among users in the crypto community due to their lower transaction fees, the company said. Twitter’s implementation of this uses Strike, a payments application built on the Bitcoin Lightning Network that allows people to send and receive Bitcoin free and instantly, it said.

In fact, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this summer tweeted that it was “only a matter of time” before Twitter built in support for the Lightning Network, a layer atop the Bitcoin blockchain, into its platform. At the time, there was some speculation that users would first see this sort of support in a micropayments product, which has now been proven correct.

The Tip Jar will also add a few other services as well, including GoFundMe.

Another new experiment called “Heads Up,” is the first that will help to give users a sense of a conversation’s vibe before they wade in.

One of Twitter’s thorniest issues is its inability to help people feel safe sharing their thoughts and opinions on its network, which has served as a breeding ground for cancel culture, and where armies of trolls can descend on marginalized voices or others they disagree with at any time — like activists, women in tech (as was made famous with the Gamergate scandal), or female journalists.

In this area, Twitter has worked to create new features like those that enable users to limit who can reply to their tweets, which it says has contributed to a decline in abuse reports over the past four weeks.

It’s also launched Safety Mode into beta, which offers a sort of automated level of protection against harassment during a time of heightened abuse. It created a way for people to quietly remove followers as an alternative blocking. And today, Twitter says it will soon launch a new feature that will allow users to remove themselves from a conversation they’re mentioned in and is experimenting with a new feature called “word filters” that would let users stop abusive tweets that don’t cross the line into being against Twitter policy.

Twitter didn’t fully explain how it will measure a conversation’s vibe in the coming “Heads Up” feature, in order to warn newcomers about the nature of the discussion. But said it was considering leveraging data from its emoji reactions (which are only now in testing) and reply prompts, which warn users when they’re about to post something potentially offensive.

The company has been launching new products at an incredibly fast clip in recent months, with additions that have included a rapidly improved Twitter Spaces audio chat platform, the launch of interest-based “Communities,” creator platform Super Follows, newsletters via its acquisition of Revue, tipping, a premium subscription service called Twitter Blue, crowdsourced fact-checking with Birdwatch, new e-commerce features, new profiles and labels, a reopened account verification system, conversation controls, Direct Message improvements, and more.

Today, it offered a few updates on a handful of these products.

It said it’s working on more Spaces discovery tools that would make it easier to find Spaces at the top of the timeline, and elsewhere in the app — a likely reference to the dedicated Spaces tab on mobile. It’s also expanding access to Ticketed Spaces, improving the discovery of newsletters, launching a new creator earnings dashboard, and working on more account labels — like those brands and those that would help memorialize the accounts of the deceased — among other things.

 

More broadly, Twitter attempted to explain its strategy, which is increasingly looking like “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.” In fact, it admitted — to some extent —  it may be doing just that.

“You’ll keep seeing us push towards this vision through experimentation and iteration,” explained Twitter Head of Consumer Product, Kayvon Beykpour. “You’ll see us share our progress publicly along the way, as we have over the last few years. And you won’t see us stay tied to the things that aren’t working. We’ve done that with Fleets and you’ll continue to see that with other explorations we test out. We believe that if we’re not winding things down every once in a while, then we’re not taking big enough bets,” he said.

Image credits: Twitter 

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Facebook stock drops after company warns Apple’s privacy changes to have bigger Q3 impact – TechCrunch

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Facebook today provided an update on how Apple’s privacy changes have impacted its ad business. The company had already warned investors during its second quarter earnings that it expected to feel an even more significant impact in its ad targeting business by Q3. This morning, it reiterated that point, but also noted that it had been underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%, which had led advertisers to believe the impact was even worse than they had expected.

According to Facebook’s announcement published to its business blog, this exact percentage could vary broadly among individual advertisers. But it said the real-world conversions, including things like sales and app installs, are likely higher than what advertisers are seeing when using Facebook’s analytics.

Facebook’s stock has dropped by nearly 4% on this news, as of the time of writing.

This is not the first time Facebook has shared misleading metrics. In the past, however, it had inflated its video ad metrics and didn’t quickly act to correct the problem, leading to a class-action lawsuit. In this case, however, the issue with the metrics isn’t making Facebook look better than it is, but worse. The company noted it’s been hearing from its advertising community that they are seeing a larger-than-planned impact to their ad investments on the network, raising concerns.

Facebook offered advertisers a few tips to help them better understand a campaign’s impact and performance in this new era. It suggested waiting a minimum of 72 hours or the full length of the optimization window before evaluating performance rather than making assessments on a daily basis, as before. It also said advertisers should analyze reporting at the campaign level, when possible, as some estimated conversations are reported with a delay. And it suggested advertisers choose web events (like a purchase or sign-up) that are most aligned with their core business, among other things.

To address the issues with improving its measurements, Facebook said it’s working to improve its conversion modeling, accelerating its investments to address reporting gaps, launching new capabilities to track web conversions, and extending its ability to measure in-app conversions in apps that have already been installed. The company said it would work quickly to fix bugs, including one that recently had led to underreporting of approximately 10%, which was previously shared with advertisers.

The company in August explained how it’s been working to adapt its personalized ads business in light of both Apple and Google’s privacy changes and the new regulatory landscape, but those efforts will take time, it said.

Outside of the ad tech updates themselves, Facebook has also been working on new products that would allow advertisers to better position themselves in front of consumers browsing Facebook’s apps. Just last week, for instance, it revamped its business tool lineup with the introduction of new features and expansions of smaller tests that would offer businesses more ways to be discovered. One such test in the U.S. would direct consumers to other businesses and topics directly underneath news feed posts. It also now allows businesses to add WhatsApp buttons to their Instagram profiles and create ads that send Instagram users to WhatsApp business chats.

Facebook has been warning advertisers for some time that Apple’s new privacy features, which allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps, would cause issues for the way its ad targeting business typically operated. And it repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. When the changes went into effect, Facebook’s concerns were validated as studies found very few consumers are opting into tracking on iOS.

 

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