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How to Preorder the iPhone 13—and Which One You Should Get

How to Preorder the iPhone 13—and Which One You Should Get

If you’ve been daydreaming about the iPhone 13 over the past few days, then you’ll be happy to know that you can order one very soon. Preorders for each of the four new iPhones start at 8 am EDT (6 am PDT) on September 17. If you’re struggling to find the best deal, you don’t know which model to choose, or you’re wondering if you even need to upgrade, we’ve got you covered.

Below, we break down the differences between the iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, and iPhone 13 Pro Max, and have included details on how to preorder one of these shiny new slabs of glass (or multiple, we don’t judge).

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Is the Upgrade Necessary?

All four iPhone 13 models come with incremental changes over last year’s devices. Slightly longer battery life here, more internal storage there. That’s why we don’t think it’s a sound investment to upgrade if you currently own an iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, or iPhone 12 Pro Max.

That mostly rings true for anyone with an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro. Unless you’re really into the boxier frame of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13, have cash to spare, and want to future-proof your device with 5G connectivity, then you’re good with what you have. If you’re dealing with poor battery life, the first step is to try a battery replacement, which can go a long way in extending the life of your device for a nominal fee.  

Got an older iPhone? Then have at it! Snag that iPhone 13 with no regrets.

iphone 13
Photograph: Apple

Choose Your iPhone

The iPhone 13 offers some noteworthy improvements over the 2020 range. Each model includes the A15 Bionic chip for slightly better performance, plus longer battery life, more internal storage, improved camera sensors, and new colors. The 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are the first iPhones with ProMotion, a 120-Hz refresh rate, which you can read more about here.

Just like last year, there’s 5G support, but it shouldn’t be the sole reason to get a new iPhone, since 5G availability is still rather sparse in the US and not that different from 4G LTE in day-to-day use. To see more differences between each model, Apple’s comparison tool can help. 

Ways to Stay Sane and Relaxed During a Pandemic

Ways to Stay Sane and Relaxed During a Pandemic

Journaling can be as simple as tapping in your Notes app. But I recommend pen and paper. A simple paper planner can double as a journal, as well as help you keep track of your tasks. Here are our favorites. I also like Miquelrius notebooks, because the paper is so delightfully soft. 

The Blue Sky Thoughtful Journal ($35) is good for figuring out what to write. It offers prompts, including intentions and aspirations; weekly highs and lows; places to describe a perfect day or favorite attribute about yourself; as well as plain pages for free writing. 

Gabriela Herstik’s Embody Your Magick: A Guided Journal for the Modern Witch ($15) is a great option for the witches among us, to guide you through your spiritual practice and get to know yourself a little better. 

Read, Read, Read

I used to go through multiple books a month, until my phone, and then college and work, started taking up more of my time. But there’s nothing like cracking open a new book and settling into an alternate world. Plus, filling up bookshelves is an easy way to decorate and make your sanctuary a little warmer.

I prefer real books, but I’ve recently come to appreciate the Kindle. Many ebooks are cheaper than the hard copy, and if you have a library card (and if you don’t, what are you waiting for?) you can check out ebooks for free.

Mind, Body, and Soul

woman doing yoga
Photograph: Getty Images

It’s important to focus on your mental health during this time, but attending to your physical health can give you a mood boost as well. 

Work Out

Some people work out to relieve stress and feel calm. I am not one of those people, but I do take their word for it. WIRED reviews editor Adrienne So put together a guide on how to work out from home that will help even the laziest and most out-of-shape (me) to get moving.

If working out sounds more stress-inducing than stress-relieving, but you still want to stay somewhat active, try yoga. We have some tips on how to make the perfect yoga space at home, from where to buy an inexpensive yoga mat to how to decorate your corner. Yoga melts away my stress and helps build muscle.

Whether your muscles get sore from working out or from slouching over your computer for the 100th day in a row, a muscle massager (also known as a percussive device) might help fix you right up. We love the expensive Theragun, but there are more affordable options, like the SKG F5 ($129), which adds heat, and the nonpercussive Sharper Image Powerboost ($130).

Clear Your Mind

Meditation is an extremely beneficial tool to feel calm. We are constantly plugged in to what’s happening in the world, and right now especially, it’s weighing on us. Setting aside time to meditate, with your phone on silent, will give you at least a few minutes of peace.

All you need to meditate is yourself and a quiet place. But it can be hard to turn off your thoughts and focus on the task at hand. We have some tips for how to get the most out of a simple meditation app. A few that we like include the Headspace app (iOS and Android), which has an easy-to-follow beginner’s course, a decent free library of guided meditations, and Andy Puddicombe’s soothing British voice. Unplug (iOS and Android) has a seven-day free trial. Both have super-short courses, which are perfect for when you’re in desperate need of a mental break. 

Social Media Algorithms Are Controlling How I Grieve

Social Media Algorithms Are Controlling How I Grieve

The email from my dead mom casually arrives in my inbox one mid-pandemic afternoon, barely announcing itself. “Beverly Blum just commented on a link you shared,” the subject line reads.

For a single glorious millisecond I allow myself to live in a fantasy world where my mother is using social media from some perch in the great beyond.

And then I open the email: “Great piece — Dad.”

Oh, right. My 82-year-old father never wanted to suffer the indignity of creating his own Facebook account, so he lurks under my mom’s name. “Thanks Beverly Dad,” I reply.

When I stand up to make tea, I notice something else: the digital photo frame in my kitchen is displaying a photo of my mom on a subway in DC when she visited my freshman year. She looks like she’s never been happier; we’re on our way to the zoo.

I feel lightheaded, so I sit on the couch until the dog senses something pheremenolly wrong and transforms himself into a warm lump next to my thigh. Then I remember the other jarring images that Google Photos will inevitably show: my mom at my apartment or in the hospital, singing Ray Charles or connected to a mess of tubes.

I’ve been letting algorithms dictate the way I grieve for more than a year. Whoever created the code that leafs through my photo albums and finds the most important people in my life, then displays said photos in random order, has drastically shaped the emotional contours of my day.

I realize there’s an easy fix to this. I can hide my mom’s photos or block her zombie Facebook account. But I’ve become accustomed to grieving this way. Technology has dictated what I remember and when, because I’ve let it.

Katie Gach, a digital ethnographer at the University of Colorado Boulder, has spent years at Facebook trying to understand users like me. She’s talked to more than 80 research participants, sometimes for hours, about how they interact with profiles of the deceased.

“What we’re finding is that there are a bunch of really steep misalignments in what people need from this system and how it’s actually working,” she says regarding Facebook.

Part of the problem is that Americans are bad at planning for their demise. Though Gach says the official tally is not available to the public, “very few” people have taken advantage of Facebook’s memorialization features, which allow them to name “legacy contacts” that can help manage their profile after their death—and thus avoid the unnecessary triggering of loved ones.

“We can give [people] all the options that they want, but if they’re not communicating ‘Hey, you’re going to be in charge of this, and this is how it works,’ it doesn’t actually help the surviving loved ones that much,” she says.

Memorialized accounts are essentially frozen in digital amber: They can’t be tagged and aren’t included in birthday reminders, but are allowed to exist on the platform for as long as the company’s servers are whirring. (A legacy contact can change the profile photo and post tributes, but can’t make new friend requests or read messages.)

Memorializing an account requires legwork, including providing documentation of someone’s death. But Facebook has other tricks to prevent the deceased from popping up where they shouldn’t be seen: If you take, say, a six-month, off-the-grid trip to Nepal, the platform’s machine learning software will assume you may be dead and proactively remove your name from birthday notifications and invite suggestions, Gach says. But that’s it.

“There’s this sense of divine omniscience with Facebook,” says Gach. “But when has a system ever known somebody died? Telemarketers don’t stop calling. We just don’t think of Facebook as an entity that needs telling about anything because it’s automated itself in so many other areas of our lives.”

How to Use Running Apps to Hit the Road

How to Use Running Apps to Hit the Road

I love running for the sole reason you can do it anywhere. I’ve run in foreign cities, using the time to explore back alleys and lesser-known monuments. In total, I’ve completed 13 marathons, including Boston, New York, and Chicago. I even ran the Beijing marathon in China.

I felt alive pounding the pavement day after day, running with like-minded friends. But two cross-country moves and a couple of children later, I was running solo and not enjoying myself. I gave up and joined the local gym.

When the pandemic hit, we bought a Peloton. I’d never taken a spin class, but I wanted a way to exercise from home that wasn’t mind-numbingly boring. Membership to the Peloton universe came with an app. One I ignored for at least six months.

After a few days visiting my parents at Christmas, I needed to blow off steam. So I grabbed my sneakers and headed out the door. I opened the Peloton app and found a 20-minute outdoor run. What the heck, I thought. Why not give it a try?

A voice spoke in my ear while an up-tempo song played. She took me through a few stretches and gradually increased the pace, calling for 20-second sprints and minute-long recoveries. Before I knew it, the class ended, and I’d run harder than I had in a long time.

The combination of pop music and guidance from the cheery Brit left me exhilarated. Sweat poured down my face, my heart pounded, and I couldn’t wait to do it again. Connecting with the right app provides a low-tech solution to the most common exercise problems — knowing what to do and when to do it, and having the motivation to get out the door.

There are several guided running apps like Peloton’s, from freemium to subscription-based, including Apple Fitness+, Nike+Run Club, Garmin Connect, Strava, and Aaptiv (to name a few). There’s even an app called Zombies, Run! where zombies chase you, and you have to outrun them. Each app provides a variety of challenges while tracking your mileage and pace for a monthly fee. In addition, some offer coaching and training programs.

“I started running with an app called Couch to 5K,” says Jeff Barton, editor of Runner’s Life. “It was the catalyst that ignited my passion for running because it provided step-by-step instructions and took the guesswork out of building a training plan.” Virtual coaches helped him stick with it, leading him to win an age group award in his first race.

After Couch to 5K, Barton moved on to Nike’s app because he liked keeping up with his daily stats and no longer needed the training plan. I tried Strava, which offers a vibrant social networking component. You can upload pictures and share your workouts with friends. I liked many of the features, and the free version is fine for most, but as an introvert I didn’t use the social component.

The Power of the Playlist

A new study, published in the Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, backs up what I experienced. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh found runners who listened to a motivational playlist after completing a series of mentally demanding tasks ran at the same pace and perceived effort level as when they weren’t mentally exhausted.

The researchers speculate running to a motivational playlist is an excellent strategy for getting the most of your workout when you’re mentally exhausted. I agree. The right music can turn a drudgery of a workout into a far more pleasant experience.

Are Virtual Surround Gaming Headsets Worth It?

Are Virtual Surround Gaming Headsets Worth It?

This can also vary from game to game. Just look at the painstakingly crafted sound design of Overwatch, where every footstep and vocal cue conveys crucial information to the player. Or how Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice uses binaural audio recording techniques to reproduce the effects of psychosis, with the voices in Senua’s head feeling like they’re whispering just above you. Adding filters that adjust the game’s sound mix—at least, without the influence of the game’s developers—could very well harm the intention of the game’s design.

That’s why, after years of testing headsets and experimenting with different games, I generally don’t recommend the virtual surround feature built into gaming headsets. But if you’re still interested in the tech, here’s some buying advice as you filter through the noise.

First, remember that virtual surround is an enhancement, not a make-or-break feature—so prioritize it accordingly. There are a lot of other things that go into a good gaming headset, like comfort, reliable wireless connectivity, and the general sound quality (for standard stereo signals). All of these are crucial to a good experience, and there’s no sense in compromising on those for a “nice to have” extra like virtual surround.

Next, consider software solutions that aren’t tied to specific headsets. Some games, like Overwatch and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, have their own free surround features in their respective settings, which are often better than what comes with gaming headsets. And even if a game doesn’t have an option for “virtual surround,” it may allow you to choose between speakers and headphones, which can make a difference in how the audio is presented.

In addition, Xbox and PC users can try the built-in Windows Sonic surround feature, which is free and works with any game. You can also download the Dolby Access app to try out Dolby Atmos for Headphones and DTS Sound Unbound for DTS Headphone:X, two other virtual surround algorithms that work with Windows’ system-wide spatial audio. They work with any game, but some games come with baked-in support for positional data that will provide more accurate results. In my testing, both Dolby and DTS sound much better than your typical “7.1” gaming headset. DTS even has some configuration options to tune their algorithm to your preferences and the specific set of headphones you’re using—whether it’s a gaming headset or a pair of traditional over-ear cans. Dolby and DTS cost $15 and $20 respectively, but you can give their free trial a shot before you buy.

If you’re gaming on the PS5, you can’t use Dolby or DTS, but Sony has its own 3D audio system that you can configure in the Sound settings.

None of this is to say you need to avoid headsets with virtual surround built in. The feature tends to come standard on mid-range and high-end headsets, and many of those are still worth the money on their other merits. I myself love the HyperX Cloud Flight S for its comfort, ease of use, and wireless charging—I just leave the surround feature off most of the time (though I do play with Dolby Atmos occasionally). And at my PC, I often play with wired audiophile headphones since I don’t need wireless connectivity—and they provide better sound quality than just about any gaming headset out there.

Of course, your ears are different from mine, which are different from your favorite hardware reviewer’s, so no one can tell you what sounds best to you. It depends heavily on how well your ear matches that specific HRTF algorithm, and how a given game’s sound interacts with it. I would merely caution against paying extra for a headset’s USB surround add-on, or paying extra for a headset just because it has the feature. Instead, grab whatever headphones fit your needs best. If they contain a virtual surround feature, feel free to try it out—but compare it with the software-based options out there too, along with the standard two-channel mix. That way, when you finally decide what to use, you’ll be confident it’s actually an improvement—and not an echoey mess propped up by marketing.

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