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Friday, June 21, 2024

Apple Wants You to Subscribe to the iPhone

I hope you’re ready for the Netflixification of all your stuff, because yet another device company is reportedly hatching plans to make that happen.

According to Bloomberg reporter and Apple soothsayer Mark Gurman, Apple is developing a service where customers would be able to rent iPhones (and possibly iPads) by paying a subscription fee. For Apple, it's perhaps a natural move. The company has a robust slate of subscription plans already, it has offered trade-in plans for its phones for years, and its carrier partners have previously adopted this tactic by doling out new phones to some customers on an annual basis.

The iPhone-by-subscription idea aligns with Apple's ongoing push to merge its every device and service into a unified Apple ecosystem. And it's not the only company testing such a service; Peloton is also trying out hardware subscriptions for its bikes. Plans like these might be appealing if you scoff at the idea of paying $1,000 for a device that will have a newer, shiner replacement within a year. Of course, it also gives the manufacturer more control over its devices. If you're just renting a gadget, you're probably not going to want to tinker with it or repair it on your own.

Here’s some more gear news.

The GIF’s Creator Dies

If you’ve spent more than four seconds on the internet, you know what a GIF is. The ubiquitous file format has shaped how people communicate online since the dialup days. Stephen Wilhite, the man who created the GIF, died this week. He was 74.

Wilhite first developed the GIF in 1987 while working at the US online service company CompuServe. While he intended the GIF to be a simple static image format, its ability to contain animated loops within a small file size allowed the GIF to quickly become a de facto means of communication of its own.

And yeah, you're probably pronouncing it wrong.

John Deere Cedes Ground in the Right-to-Repair Battle

On Monday, farm equipment company John Deere said it would soon start making some parts and software tools available to customers and third-party repair shops. It’s a surprising move for a company that has been notoriously averse to repairability in the past. Deere even went so far as to file an anti-piracy claim with the US government in 2015 to block farmers from altering the software on its machinery. Still, this week's move is unlikely to appease right-to-repair advocates, who have called for the tractor maker to be much more open about allowing farmers to work directly on the machines they own.

John Deere says it plans to loosen more repair restrictions, but it didn't give a specific timeframe.

LG’s Newest OLEDs Are Coming

We tend to like LG’s OLED televisions here at WIRED. The company’s OLED tech is an industry standard for picture quality, and we called the last edition of LG’s OLED the best TV for gamers in our Best Televisions buying guide.

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This week, LG announced that its latest assortment of OLED panels are on the way. Some of them are even reasonably affordable. The least expensive of them is a 42-inch 4K OLED for $1,399. The largest, a 97-inch 4K behemoth, doesn't have a price tag yet.

LG says the new lineup will come with new features, like better backlighting and contrast settings, the ability to set up multiple user profiles, and a setting that will let you beam the image from one TV to another in the household.

Behold the Unholy Beasts of Zoom

It's been two years since the people lucky enough to have jobs they could do remotely flocked to the video chat juggernaut Zoom. The company of the same name has updated its platform plenty since then, adding useful features like end-to-end encryption and live transcription. Zoom still isn’t exactly perfect, but you’d think after all this time it would have settled into a predictable groove by now.

Sadly, the Zoom gods are not content with a mere mostly-functional video service. Now they have crunched the numbers, tested the science, and willfully defied all of society’s moral and aesthetic values to bring you Zoom’s latest update: animal avatars.

When you’re on a Zoom call, you can go into video settings and select the Avatars tab. There, a number of options let you map a vaguely anthropomorphic cartoon animal over your face. The avatar matches your movements and expressions as best it can. The result looks like a furry Memoji got sucked into a Teletubby's fever dream. It’s incredible. After briefly testing the feature, my only note is that the avatars don’t do a great job at translating looks of pure existential terror.

Please, click the link. They’re even worse than you’re expecting.

This Is How We DAO It

This week on the Gadget Lab podcast, we chat with WIRED senior writer Gilad Edelman about what it takes to set up your own decentralized autonomous organization on the blockchain.

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