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What's Tech?

Updated 4 days ago

Technology
News
Tech News
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Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.

Read more

Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.

iTunes Ratings

417 Ratings
Average Ratings
380
23
5
1
8

Same

By Poopenflaggen - Sep 22 2016
Read more
Listening to this at half is exactly how I picture these two drunk.

Marvelously Human explorations of modern tech

By SpencerAlger - Jun 16 2016
Read more
Love Chris's style, and his guests are always charming. Big recommend. Will buy again!

iTunes Ratings

417 Ratings
Average Ratings
380
23
5
1
8

Same

By Poopenflaggen - Sep 22 2016
Read more
Listening to this at half is exactly how I picture these two drunk.

Marvelously Human explorations of modern tech

By SpencerAlger - Jun 16 2016
Read more
Love Chris's style, and his guests are always charming. Big recommend. Will buy again!

Listen to:

Cover image of What's Tech?

What's Tech?

Updated 4 days ago

Read more

Enjoy the archives of this retired, award-winning series from Christopher Thomas Plante and The Verge that explained technology bit by bit. The series finale aired December 6th, 2016, shortly before Chris re-joined Polygon as its executive editor. For more on what’s happening now (and next) in technology and gadgets, listen and subscribe to The Vergecast.

Why bots are the new big thing, and what that means for ordering pizza

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2016 is shaping up to be the year of the bot. Late last month, Microsoft made a big bet on tools that will help developers create artificial intelligence software meant to improve the lives of humans by completing small tasks, and last week Facebook launched an entire bot platform for its communication tool, Messenger.
I invited my buddy and colleague Casey Newton — who wrote one of my favorite features on bots — to explain the technology. Newton has some predictions for the applications of bots that I think you'll find interesting. But in the meantime, the most useful bots may be the ones that just order a pizza. The episode pairs well with our recent episode on artificial intelligence, so be sure to give that a listen, too!
Subscribe to What's Tech? on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech? stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Apr 19 2016

32mins

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What is ASMR?

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I have ASMR. Or maybe the correct phrasing is that I'm susceptible to ASMR. It's tough to talk about the phenomenon, because ASMR lacks the mandatory scientific evidence that proves, well, its existence. And if it does exist, what the hell is it anyway?
A group of people have taken to the internet to discuss, examine, and enjoy a shared pleasurable sensory experience triggered by specific sounds. Not every person has the same stimulants. Some people get a tingle on their neck when they hear a soft whisper, others feel a tickle on their brain when the sound of scissors clipping hair gets close to their ear.
Much of the evidence of ASMR is anecdotal, so consider this episode one of the least scientifically sound of the bunch. But the more people learn about ASMR, the more people might discover they share this unusual attribute. That's why I invited my pal, The Verge Senior Editor Ross Miller, to explain the rise in awareness of autonomous sensory meridian response.

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Sep 29 2015

19mins

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What is Star Wars?

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The transformation of the fan-made greeting "May the 4th be with you" into the foundation of an annual Star Wars publicity storm had the sharp smell of cynicism. But this week it seems quaint. Force Friday, a new, wholly corporate creation, will close this work week on September 3rd. The day is an announcement and celebration of the toys and merchandise fans will see by this holiday.
I'm thrilled to see The Force Awakens, but I'm already exhausted by the Star Wars hype that could continue indefinitely.
To get some healthy perspective on Star Wars as films, not the centers of promotional vortexes, I invited longtime fan Bryan Bishop onto the show. We chat about how technology has allowed the actual films to be changed over the decades, both by director George Lucas and a collection of dedicated fans.

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Sep 01 2015

33mins

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What is Destiny?

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Destiny became so popular, so quickly that it’s success seems almost like, well, it’s destiny. But that wasn’t the case. Developer Bungie’s road to making the massive first-person shooter is strange and storied. This week, nearly a year after its release, the game will receive a substantial update, making the experience more accessible for even more players. And next week, the largest expansion to the game, The Taken King, will be released. Now is the perfect time to learn what this game is and how it instantaneously rivaled the top competitors in one of gaming’s most crowded genres.
I invited Polygon’s Samit Sarkar, who handles reviews for the game’s expansion, to the show. Sarkar isn’t just a Destiny expert; he’s also a fantastic karaoke sing. Unfortunately, that will have to be discussed on another episode.

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Sep 08 2015

29mins

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What are selfies?

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The selfie gets a bad wrap. Labeled shallow and self-centered by its critics, self-portraiture has a rich history, dating back to humanity’s earliest works of art. What changed between artists painting themselves last century, and people snapping photos of themselves today?
I invited The Wall Street Journal’s Joanna Stern to explain the selfie. Stern and I bonded at CES over our mutual love of the selfie stick — something we discuss late in the episode. Sadly, right after recording the episode, Disney announced a blow to the future of the greatest photo-snapping accessory. This one’s for you, selfie stick. You will be missed.

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Jun 30 2015

17mins

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What Is The Patriot Act

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A little over a month after the events of September 11th, 2001, an Act of Congress called the USA Patriot Act was signed into law by then President George W. Bush. Despite its controversial expansion of government power pertaining to domestic surveillance, law enforcement, and border security, President Obama signed an extension of what were key provisions in 2001. That extension expired this past summer, but parts of the extension were renewed for another four years under a new name, the USA Freedom Act.
Arguments for the continuation of the Patriot Act typically pivot on the belief that citizens who aren't committing crimes have nothing to fear, but the role and impact of national government surveillance is more complex. With the USA Freedom Act in its first year, I invited The Verge's Colin Lecher to explain the original law, how it has evolved, and in what ways it could effect the average person, like you and me.

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Oct 20 2015

23mins

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Everything you need to know about the Hyperloop, a potential transportation game-changer

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In 2013, billionaire eccentric inventor Elon Musk announced an idea called the Hyperloop: a super-fast, low-friction transportation system that looked like the prom photo for a subway tunnel and a bullet-train. Musk made the Hyperloop an open-sourced project, inviting thinkers, scientists, and fellow inventors — no matter their age — to help make the potentially revolutionary concept into a reality.
This year, we're seeing some of the early steps from the theoretical sketch room to a real world groundbreaking ceremony. In January, students participated in a design contest for the pods that would travel inside the Hyperloop's tube, and later this year, a piece of test track will be constructed by global construction firm Aecom. For many folks, though, the specifics behind the Hyperloop remain vague. So naturally, I've invited my friend and colleague Andy Hawkins to explain.

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Mar 15 2016

22mins

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What is biohacking?

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We have a few cyborgs on staff. Ben Popper is arguably the reporter best known for peeling back his skin to insert a piece of technology, which he chronicled in his feature, Cyborg America. But others have gone under the knife. I wanted to know why. You know, because I have crippling FOMO.
This week I invited my friend and co-worker Adi Robertson, a biohacker herself, to explain what biohacking is and how it works. With a little time and money, you can be ever so slightly more advanced than the human race. Just try not to get infection please.

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Aug 11 2015

24mins

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What is space colonization?

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After a light night spent skimming the Interstellar Wikipedia page, I began to wonder about some of the bigger questions of humankind: Will we live on Mars? Will we inhabit the moon? Will we just build our own giant space home away from home? Will Matthew McConaughey ever have another year like 2014?
Rather than phone Christopher Nolan, I invited The Verge's Loren Grush to tell us about space colonization. While the episode doesn't have any mind bending twists, I promise it has more scope than even the grandest summer blockbuster.

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Aug 04 2015

26mins

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What is E3?

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In two weeks, I will fulfill one of my childhood dreams for the sixth time over by attending E3. The Electronic Entertainment Expo, held every June in Los Angeles, is no longer the biggest video game convention on the planet, but it’s the most important. I should say importance, in this case, is a measurement of money and sweat.
At E3, the biggest video game publishers announce and promote their newest games, often produced with more developers at a greater expense than their predecessors. The gathering is a chance at national exposure for games that, despite their million dollar budgets, struggle to appear in national newspapers or mainstream magazines.
Whether or not E3 is culturally relevant is less clear. Pop culture-wise, the latest Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed are presented like annual reports on the industry’s latest trends. You like multiplayer now? Or Horde modes? Or asynchronous co-op? They’ll have it, just tell them how to please you! But the tip of the creative spear, the games that establish what’s new and interesting and daring, they don’t have a reputation for appearing at the bombastic event.
In the past, those games, made on small budgets by small teams, couldn’t afford to show up. This year may be the first E3 in which indie and PC games make a big splash. It’ll be nice to see some newcomers mingling with the familiar faces, Farming Simulators in the same room as Mario and Forza.
I realize all of this may sound like nonsense to you. That’s why I invited Polygon’s Griffin McElroy to explain E3. McElroy has attended the show more times than I have, and remains enthusiastic about the spectacle.

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Jun 02 2015

29mins

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What is high-tech coffee?

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Every day I practice the same routine: I hop out of bed, take a shower, get dressed, and drink a cup of coffee. The process is so repetitive, it's become this uninspired dance I do with my eyes half closed. I never stop and consider how I could make these moments I repeat every day even a little better.
That needs to change. So, I've invited The Verge's William Savona to tell me about how he improved his morning (and afternoon, and possibly evening) cup of coffee. Brewing coffee can be quite technological. Savona explains the origins of crafting the perfect cup, and what futuristic tech allows for him to fill his mug every day.

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May 12 2015

23mins

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Encryption: what is it exactly, and who is right about it?

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Normally we publish What's Tech on Tuesday morning, but we couldn't hold next week's episode until then. A federal court has requested Apple help the FBI gain access to the contents of an iPhone that belonged to one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple has refused.
For some, the issue appears, at first glance, quite cut and dry: Apple should do everything in its power to help the FBI. But the case is more complex than a company collaborating with the government, and plays into a larger and ongoing debate about encryption and privacy.
I recorded this episode with The Verge's Russell Brandom last week, so we don't address Apple specifically, but the episode does provide the crucial context for conversations you're likely to have at the office coffee machine or family dinner table.

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Feb 18 2016

35mins

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Bonus: What is Verge ESP?

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We're taking this week off because Chris is deep in the throes of E3. We'll be back with a brand new episode next Tuesday/ But today, we have a special bonus!
Verge ESP is a brand new podcast from the Verge where Emily Yoshida and Elizabeth Lopatto find the place where entertainment and science meet. Every two weeks, they discuss the news and interview important people from the worlds of science and entertainment.
If you want to hear more of Verge ESP, be sure to subscribe.
iTunes: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/verge-esp/id999108706
SoundCloud: http://www.soundcloud.com/vergeesp
RSS: http://feeds.podtrac.com/0v0iJdmvtGTS

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Jun 17 2015

58mins

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What you should know about torrenting

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I was a teenager in the days of Napster and LimeWire, when illegal files flowed through the internet like free hamburgers through a freshman dormitory orientation session. I didn't understand the legality of file sharing, let alone the technical explanation of how it worked. Peer-to-peer file distribution has changed over the years. Though I feel more savvy to the legal issues, I am no less dumbfounded by how it all works.
That’s why I invited my colleague Ashley Carman onto this week’s show. She provides a brief history of file sharing, then explains how torrenting works in the present. Is it legal? Who does it hurt? Why do people use it? We have answers to all that and more.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jun 14 2016

16mins

Play

What are graphics cards, and why do you want one?

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Graphics cards! So hot right now. Whether it's the slow realization that jumping on board with the 2016 VR revolution requires a tricked-out gaming rig you'd never previously have dreamed of stashing under your desk, or the blitz of hype surrounding Nvidia's latest 1000-series GPUs, there's more reason to get excited about PC gaming hardware than there has been in years. But what is a graphics card? Do you really need one, and which one do you need?

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May 24 2016

28mins

Play

What is Twitter?

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While traveling from New York City to my new home in Austin, I downloaded Twitter onto my phone. I have a sordid history with the social media platform, particularly when its stream of opinions is accessible all day, every day. But I wanted something to distract me on the long road trips, and help pass the time in an unfurnished house. Twitter is nothing if not a competent distraction.
At first, the app did its job, keeping me updated on current events and interesting stories. Eventually, though, it once again tapped into an inner depression. For me, this happens every time I let the app become an addiction. I deleted Twitter again. It wasn't the first time, certainly won't be the last.
How Twitter came to be is almost as interesting to me as the platform itself. To learn more about my frienemy, I invited The Verge's Silicon Valley Editor Casey Newton to explain the platform's origin and speculate on its future. Newton understands social media better than anyone I know — his Snapchat game is strong — and his analysis of Twitter is illuminating as it is accessible.

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May 19 2015

24mins

Play

Why smartphone batteries explode, and why they may get worse

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Samsung has officially recalled the Galaxy Note 7 worldwide, after more than 90 of the large smartphones in the US overheated due to defective batteries. Overheating is, in this case, an understatement, as some owners have claimed their smartphones outright exploded. Exploding lithium-ion batteries actually aren’t so uncommon. As my colleagues Angela Chen and Lauren Goode noted earlier this month, there are many ways for a lithium-ion battery to become dangerous, and they aren’t limited to any one smartphone or electronic device.

“An exploding phone seems like a freak accident,” write Chen and Goode, “but the same chemical properties that make batteries work also make them likely to catch fire.”

To learn more about the lithium-ion batteries, I invited The Verge’s science reporter Angela Chen to the show. We talk about how manufacturers are pushing the battery to its limit, and what alternatives we may see in the future.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Sep 20 2016

16mins

Play

What is alien life?

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More recently, discussions of extraterrestrial life have become mainstream. Brilliant minds like Stephen Hawking and Neil deGrasse Tyson have made headlines with their thoughts on how humans should or shouldn't make contact. This week, I invited my friend and colleague Loren Grush to explain how science thinks about alien life. It's a bit spooky, like a Halloween-ish episode, airing just a few days late for the horror holiday.

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Nov 04 2015

24mins

Play

Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal: which service is right for you?

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I've used Spotify for a few years, but I'm curious if I should make a switch to one of the dozen and change alternate music streaming services. Apple Music has free concerts, I'm told, and Tidal has better audio quality. But every time I consider shifting my subscription, I feel overwhelmed by the details.
I invited The Verge's Micah Singleton onto today's episode to share the history of music streaming services, and direct me on where to spend my money. I also want to hear his story about interviewing Jay Z. Okay, I mostly just want to hear that story.

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Jan 26 2016

19mins

Play

Why movie theaters should and shouldn't be afraid of VOD

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A couple weeks ago, my friend and colleague Bryan Bishop visited Las Vegas for a flashy conference called CinemaCon, where movie studios and theater owners discuss the future of the film industry — a future that isn't as predictable as it used to be.
Many theater owners worry that in the age of streaming, the cineplex will become less relevant. The message from studios, however, was clear: theater owners have nothing to fear, because studios still believe big, communal screens are the true home of movies. Of course, that's not entirely true.
Over the past decade, more and more movies have been released directly to VOD, or video-on-demand. VOD is a large umbrella of a format, covering everything from online streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon, to the On Demand section on your cable box. The format has grown dramatically, over the years, in terms of users, but also in terms of reach and power. Movies transition from theaters to home viewing formats faster than ever. And Sean Parker, known for his involvement in Napster and Facebook, is pitching a service called the Screening Room that would allow people with a $150 set-top box to stream movies that are currently in theaters for a $50 flat fee.
So, James Cameron may have been sincere when took the stage at this event to allay concerns about threats to the relevancy of the traditional movie theater. But studios are not so quietly trying to glean their best options from a murky future. To provide us some context and prediction, I invited Bryan onto this week's episode of What's Tech.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories on the The Verge Dot Com.

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May 10 2016

28mins

Play

The What’s Tech series finale

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When I started at The Verge in 2014, I needed an excuse to learn about technology. My background was in covering video games, television, and pop culture, and I lacked the basic cognitive functions to hold a phone above my head without dropping it on my face. So I launched a podcast called What’s Tech.
For two years, the show was an opportunity to learn the fundamentals about the technology that supports everyday life. Free to ask silly, obvious, and embarrassing questions, I learned a ton. I hope you did, too. After all, my favorite takeaway from the podcast was that I wasn’t alone. We often take tech for granted, like a magical apparatus that does everything we need, not a massive collection of moving parts designed and programmed by women and men with their own dreams, ambitions, and motives. Technology is immensely confusing, but understanding how it functions and who creates it is a worthwhile and rewarding pursuit.
I sincerely hope that through this show, tech became more accessible and less mysterious, without losing its fun and that special power to fascinate us.
Recently, I took on more responsibilities with our Culture team. I’d love for you to check out our work. Right now, I want to give the section and its writers the time and support they deserve. But to focus on Culture, I need to let What’s Tech go on indefinite hiatus. I won’t go so far as to say the show’s done forever. We’ll leave the RSS feed open, and hopefully we’ll have something new to take the show’s place in the coming months. Which is to say, I’d encourage you to stay subscribed.
Now for the final episode. For my guest, I invited my buddy Ross Miller, with whom I co-launched The Verge’s TLDR section. We talk about life on the internet. And also, breakfast. I hope you enjoy. Thanks for listening.

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Dec 06 2016

22mins

Play

What are Snapchat Spectacles, and do I have to be a teen to wear them?

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Snapchat Spectacles, the mysterious and incredibly hyped hardware from Snap, Inc., have arrived. Vending machines for the video camera sunglasses are springing up around the country, first in California and Oklahoma, and who knows where else next.

Verge senior reporter Bryan Bishop joined me this week to talk about his experience hunting down Spectacles and whether we’re all going to feel like olds wearing them. Also, what’s the deal with this circular video format?

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Nov 16 2016

19mins

Play

How smartphone cameras took over the world

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In the early 2000s, the digital photography revolution made it possible for miniaturized camera hardware and image sensors to be packed into cell phones without adding a significant amount of weight. Then the iPhone was announced. As the smartphone war began, the camera became an important part of the ongoing spec race. Competitors tried to beat Apple in making an excellent camera (and app) that was easy to use — and it took until this year for that to start happening.

Now, two-thirds of adults in the US own a smartphone. The average smartphone user takes at least 150 photos per month. Instagram has half a billion monthly users. Even if it’s just selfies or pictures of lunch — nothing has familiarized people with photography like smartphone cameras. It’s now a part of our everyday lives.

I joined Chris on this week’s What’s Tech to talk about my first camera phones, why the newest smartphones have such equally excellent shooters, and where it all goes from here.

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Oct 25 2016

23mins

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How HTTPS is slowly but surely making the internet safer

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Over the past couple years web security has become a staple of the nightly news. The stories usually hinge on government leaks, foreign hackers, or web encryption. There’s menacing subtext that practically everything put online is vulnerable to “cyber attacks.” Though one might wonder what steps are being taken to protect not just the government and giant corporations, but you, the individual. What keeps you safe when you stumble your way into a Wikipedia hole or click a strange link sent from a friend?

To find out, I invited my colleague Russell Brandom to talk about web security, and particularly HTTPS. As Russell explains, while your information isn’t necessarily less vulnerable, websites themselves are becoming safer. This is a dense topic, but fortunately Russell brought a helpful metaphor. It involves pie.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Oct 19 2016

29mins

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Why is everyone making GIFs of themselves?

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Our most sacred and special task as human beings is to document our own existence with a single-minded dedication. That's why we have massive iCloud photo libraries, 15GB of video of that really cool Springsteen concert on our phones, Instagram accounts for ourselves, our pets, and our alter egos, and dusty yearbooks stacked up in our closets. The latest in this personal digital archive: personal GIFs. Apps like Boomerang, Motion Stills, Giphy, DSCO, and more help us make GIFs and other short, looping videos of life's most precious moments. And of course, of life's most 'grammable sammies.
The Verge tech reporter and gadget blog queen Ashley Carman joined me (Kaitlyn Tiffany, your friendly Chris Plante stand-in) in the single-stall What's Tech recording booth this week to compare sweat mustaches and GIF-creation techniques. We had a nice conversation about art, technology, ourselves, and the utility of acronyms. If you tune in, you'll also learn a little something about the future of keepsakes! It's a good, emotional time.

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Oct 13 2016

14mins

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How immersive haunted houses and participatory plays are making Halloween scarier

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Here at The Verge, we love Halloween and everything about it. Horror movies, non-horror seasonal movies, seasonal beverages, seasonal bots, this Pumpkin Guy, horrifying makeup tutorials, poop-shaped candy — bring it on. In particular, we love to be scared. It gives us a sweet little adrenaline burst to get us across the daunting dark tundra of November to April.

This Hallo-season, senior entertainment reporter Bryan Bishop has embarked on a journey to find the most immersive, creative, and high-tech scares in all of Los Angeles. In a new series called "The Future of Fear," he's taking us all where we're too East Coast or too chicken to go. These aren't your grandma's haunted houses (although Bryan and I will both stan for the original Haunted Mansion at Disney World, may it live forever).

I love Halloween so much I, Kaitlyn Tiffany took over the seat usually warmed by your friendly neighborhood What's Tech host Chris Plante. You can't tell from the audio, but I wore a blazer to the recording because I take Halloween very seriously! Bryan told me about all the terrible things he's subjected himself to this fall, and it was delightful even while it shook me to my core. Basically, it's a haunted house of a podcast and don't listen to it before bed.

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Oct 06 2016

24mins

Play

Why smartphone batteries explode, and why they may get worse

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Samsung has officially recalled the Galaxy Note 7 worldwide, after more than 90 of the large smartphones in the US overheated due to defective batteries. Overheating is, in this case, an understatement, as some owners have claimed their smartphones outright exploded. Exploding lithium-ion batteries actually aren’t so uncommon. As my colleagues Angela Chen and Lauren Goode noted earlier this month, there are many ways for a lithium-ion battery to become dangerous, and they aren’t limited to any one smartphone or electronic device.

“An exploding phone seems like a freak accident,” write Chen and Goode, “but the same chemical properties that make batteries work also make them likely to catch fire.”

To learn more about the lithium-ion batteries, I invited The Verge’s science reporter Angela Chen to the show. We talk about how manufacturers are pushing the battery to its limit, and what alternatives we may see in the future.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

Sep 20 2016

16mins

Play

How Snapchat’s goofy faces made everyone comfortable with selfies

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I didn’t take many selfies until I downloaded Snapchat. But like so many people I’ve fallen in love with lenses, the optional tools that make my face look like a dog or an emoji or an advertisement for junk food. Now, a day doesn’t go by that I don’t mug into my front-facing camera.

The magic of lenses is how they erase the perception of the selfie as an act of narcissism — an insipid criticism that comes from a certain clump of people who feel the need to bash people for showing a fleck of confidence. Why didn’t I take selfies? I was too embarrassed. Anyway! I digress!

I’m clearly fascinated by the popularity and power of lenses, so I invited my friend and colleague Ashley Carman to the show. We talk about the potential of the lens, and the possible future of a would-be gimmick that has birthed a broader pop culture trend.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Sep 13 2016

13mins

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The good and bad news of the Earth-sized planet Proxima Centauri b

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Late last month, news broke of the exoplanet Proxima Centauri b. Orbiting the closest star to our Solar System, there’s a lot to love about Proxima b since it shares a few key traits with our own home planet.

But before we start making intergalactic vacation plans, let’s pump the space-brakes: half the planet is locked in darkness, it’s pelted by radiation from close proximity to its sun, and the rock is 25 trillion miles away. Our current best option for sending a probe there involves a laser-propelled space-sail, which would reduce travel time from tens of thousands of years to 20. Which is to say, while potentially astonishing, even the best case scenario seems like a long-shot for our lifetime.

To explain Proxima Centauri b, I invited my friend and colleague Loren Grush onto the show. This is, I think, the first episode in which we don’t talk about the Nic Cage film Knowing, so just keep that in mind.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Sep 08 2016

20mins

Play

A few simple tech tips for living in a dorm or a New York apartment

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Aug 30 2016

22mins

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A simple explanation of No Man’s Sky and its internet-fueled controversy

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The first trailer for No Man’s Sky, published in December 2013, promised a universe with enough planets, creatures, and vegetation that it could not be fully explored by one player in a lifetime. The hype was immediate, and it only continued to build with each month between the game’s announcement and its release this summer. This, some fans speculate, could be a game that lasts forever.

My buddy Austin Walker concisely dismantled that logic at Vice before the game’s release, but No Man’s Sky has nonetheless attracted a good deal of controversy. To explain the game, and the community’s reaction, I invited my colleague Andrew Webster to the show. Andrew wrote a great series on his time in the game that I encourage you to enjoy along with the podcast.

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Aug 25 2016

16mins

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Hate going to the grocery store? Maybe it's time to try food-delivery services

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Imagine if grocery shopping was just another online subscription service, like Netflix or Spotify. You complete a survey, sharing your likes and dislikes, and the platform sends, week after week, precisely measured portions of proteins, veggies, fruits, oils, and spices required to make dinner and the necessary recipes to alchemize these ingredients into Food Network-level dinners.

My friend and colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany lived this modern spin on the home cook life this past spring, after she volunteered to review the many "fresh box" food delivery programs currently available.

Plated, PeachDish, Blue Apron, Purple Carrot, Hello Fresh: a neighbor has probably tried to convince you to adopt one of the platforms, claiming the over-packaged nourishment saves precious hours each week. But are the services all they cracked out to be? Or is the future life in our home pleasure prisons, never leaving, always waiting for deliveries?

Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Aug 17 2016

17mins

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Why Sony and Microsoft are already announcing and releasing new consoles

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A new round of video game consoles has began last week with the release of Microsoft’s One S. The slim, white hardware is a minor upgrade to the original Xbox One, and the predecessor to next year’s flashier upgrade, codenamed Project Scorpio. Next month, Sony is expected to announce its own update for the PlayStation 4, codenamed Neo. If it feels a little early in a generation of consoles to be talking about dropping cash on the next great thing, you’re right.

But these consoles don’t follow the traditional cycle of new video game hardware, which last around seven years. They’re more iterative. Microsoft’s hardware is built around backwards compatibility with Xbox One, and its expected that PlayStation Neo will play PlayStation 4 games. The new era of game consoles is closer to smartphones: a variety of annually updated hardware with a variety of features that shares same large, ongoing collection of apps.

To talk about the ways these new game consoles are similar and different from the hardware of the past, I invited my friend and colleague Megan Farokhamnesh to the show. Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listenon Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Aug 10 2016

16mins

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Is your neighborhood the next great social media app?

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I had never heard of Nextdoor when I lived in New York City. Social media services catering to individual neighborhoods weren’t useful in an apartment building where most tenants lasted a year, and longtime residents kept to themselves. In my first year in Texas, however, I’ve regularly relied on Nextdoor, along with my neighborhood’s private Facebook group and the handful of sites that provide hyper-local support.

I’m not the first to say local online forums are the bulletin boards and community papers of our times. They allow neighbors to promote garage sales, find babysitters, or request help to find a lost dog. They’re far from perfect, but in my experience they have helped lower the barrier between me and my community.

To talk about online neighborhood groups, I invited my colleague Ben Popper to the show. Popper is our business editor and has covered Nextdoor a few times, but he’s also a member of his own share of local online communities. Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, orsubscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Aug 02 2016

19mins

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A podcast explains the power of podcasts

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For 72 episodes, What’s Tech has invited guests to explain technology and its cultural periphery — from drones and fan fiction to ASMR and biohacking. We were bound to make a podcast about podcasts eventually. This was inevitable.
For this momentous occasion, our guest is Alex Goldman, co-host of one of my favorite podcasts, Reply All. After you listen, visit Reply All’s publisher Gimlet Media, which is responsible for a number of the best examples of the podcasting form.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jul 26 2016

16mins

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Why Pokémon Go is a hit, how it helped Nintendo, and when its moment could fizz out

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Pokémon Go had a week unlike any video game I’ve covered in my career. Here’s a collection of the posts we penned last week, ranging from players finding dead bodies to Craigslist entrepreneurs selling pre-played accounts.
My friend and former boss Chris Grant wrote about the staggering demand for coverage at our sister-site Polygon. In "Some thoughts on Nintendo’s big week," Grant contextualized the game within Nintendo’s unusual year. And he noted how Pokémon Go inspired the most popular posts not simply on the video game outlet, but across Vox Media, from The Verge to Racked to Vox.com.
But why? And how? And when will this moment pass, or has it already? I invited our Games Editor and Pokémon expert Andrew Webster onto the show to provide background on the phenomenon, and speculate as to what its future might look like.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jul 19 2016

20mins

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The agony and the ecstasy of life as a webcomic artist

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As a teenager, my only interaction with the world of webcomics was Achewood. Launched in 2001 and published sporadically ever since, Achewood is like Seinfeld crossed with Adult Swim. It felt for me in the early 2000s like this lone, weird thing.
A few years later, around when I got my first writing gig, I realized how much bigger webcomics were than the stories of Téodor and Cornelius. I inevitably came across Penny Arcade and the rush of video game-inspired webcomics its inspired. And after that, I found people on Twitter and Tumblr and other platforms, all of whom created beautiful, weird, powerful art. It took me awhile to get into webcomics, but the gradual epiphany is one of the internet’s great pleasure. You look at one star in the sky, and as your eyes adapt to the darkness, you discover this dot is part of a crowded constellation.
This week, I invited my friend, colleague, and webcomic artist Dami Lee to talk about the format. Webcomics literally changed the direction of her life.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jul 13 2016

13mins

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How The Bachelor became social media’s favorite sporting event

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"Is The Bachelor tech?" You might ask this question while listening to this week’s episode of What’s Tech, a podcast that provides introductory explainers into the many pockets of technology and the culture around them. I believe the answer is yes.
The Bachelor series has aired for over 14 years and spun-off numerous programs, totaling over 35 seasons, but its most recent surge of critical significance stems from the rise of social media. Who watches The Bachelor and how they watch it have changed dramatically since the first episode has aired. Credit belongs to an expanding ecosystem of critics, fans, and former participants that meet any given Monday.
To explain, I invited my colleague Kaitlyn Tiffany to the show.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jun 28 2016

25mins

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What you need to know about doxxing, the average internet user’s nightmare

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My entire body clenches when I hear the word doxxing. Each time I write something that, for whatever reason, upsets a corner of the internet, I wonder if my personal information — phone numbers, address, social security number, credit card information — will be made public, or doxxed. And if it is made public, then how will it be used?
Even though our identities on the internet are more public than ever, we are still individually afforded a certain amount of privacy. Our passwords, our forum names, our Google habits: these are, for most of us, secret. And because they are secret, people on the internet can threaten their reveal as a form of harassment. That’s the sticky core of doxxing; the erasure of one’s sense of privacy, and with it, safety.
This method of publishing personal information has become more mainstream, alongside the ubiquity of the internet. So, to spread awareness, I invited my colleague and security expert Russell Brandom to discuss the origins of doxxing, how it has evolved, and why people use doxxing today.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jun 21 2016

30mins

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What you should know about torrenting

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I was a teenager in the days of Napster and LimeWire, when illegal files flowed through the internet like free hamburgers through a freshman dormitory orientation session. I didn't understand the legality of file sharing, let alone the technical explanation of how it worked. Peer-to-peer file distribution has changed over the years. Though I feel more savvy to the legal issues, I am no less dumbfounded by how it all works.
That’s why I invited my colleague Ashley Carman onto this week’s show. She provides a brief history of file sharing, then explains how torrenting works in the present. Is it legal? Who does it hurt? Why do people use it? We have answers to all that and more.
Subscribe to What's Tech on iTunes, listen on SoundCloud or Spotify, or subscribe via RSS. And be sure to follow us on Twitter. You can also find the entire collection of What's Tech stories right here on the The Verge Dot Com.

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Jun 14 2016

16mins

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