Six Months with the iPhone XS: It’s Absolutely Worth the Extra $250

Last year, Apple announced two new iPhone models; the iPhone XS and the iPhone XR. While the XS costs $250 more, it’s entirely worth spending that extra cash to get the XS instead of the XR. Here’s why.

RELATED: iPhone XR Review: One Awesome Month With An Unapologetic Android User

Despite the price difference and the resulting connotation that the iPhone XS is the luxury model over the iPhone XR, the XR is only the more practical iPhone for most users in the financial sense, not the functional sense—although, to be sure, we found the XR to be a really solid value.

I don’t consider myself a luxury-focused user at all and even I bought the XS without hesitation for a number of reasons. Mainly, the telephoto camera is actually really useful, the size is perfect for my tiny hands, and the OLED screen is really awesome.

The Telephoto Camera Is Actually Really Useful

I’ve heard so many people talk about the comparisons between the iPhone XS and the XR, and how the XR is a fine phone for the price, especially since the display still looks awesome and it has better battery life. But the one thing that gets left out in these arguments is the camera. Specifically, the second telephoto camera on the XS tends to go unmentioned.

If you’re unfamiliar with the telephoto camera, it’s a second camera on certain iPhone models that lets you zoom in up to 2x without distorting the image quality. It’s a natural zoom (“optical zoom” is the technical terminology) rather than a fake, digital zoom created by the camera’s software.

The telephoto camera was first introduced on the iPhone 7 Plus and continued to be a feature on all Plus models of the iPhone. It’s now been a default feature on all new iPhones since the iPhone X.

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I Paid $42 for Apple to Install a Screen Protector and I Ain’t Even Mad

iPhone X screen protector

Installing a screen protector yourself is one of the worst things ever, possibly worse than stubbing a toe. It’s so bad that I went to an Apple Store and paid them $42.75 to do it for me. I regret nothing.

Anyone who has ever tried to install a screen protector knows exactly what I’m talking about—you can never truly get it aligned correctly, and specs of dust always seem to make their way underneath the screen protector right as you go to lay it down.

RELATED: Does Your Smartphone Really Need a Screen Protector?

I eventually threw in the towel and went to an Apple Store, where I knew they had special little doohickies that can install a screen protector perfectly every time on your fancy new iPhone. The results are always fantastic.

A Closer Look At Those Special Little Doohickies

The screen protector applicators that you see at Apple Stores are actually of Belkin’s design, called the ScreenCare+ Application System.

It’s as easy as setting the iPhone and the screen protector into the slots (which line everything up for you), closing the shell, and then yanking off the protective films. A trained seal could probably do it.

The ScreenCare+ system is proprietary to Apple Stores, although T-Mobile stores have something similar from Belkin as well. Unfortunately, the public can’t buy these devices for themselves, so us peasants are stuck doing it the old-fashioned way.

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If You Plan on Installing a Ton of Smarthome Devices, Skip Wi-Fi

Lutron Caseta dimmer switch

A lot of smarthome devices connect via Wi-Fi, which is fine if you only have a handful of them installed. However, if you plan on decking out every room in your home with smarthome gear, be wary of Wi-Fi.

There’s nothing wrong with Wi-Fi-based smarthome devices, but the more you install in your home, the more congested your Wi-Fi network can get. If you’re just starting and are still slowly building up your smarthome, you don’t have anything to worry about yet. However, if you ever plan to add smarts to every switch, outlet, light bulb, and every other device in your house, you may want to use something other than Wi-Fi, and here’s why.

Wi-Fi Has Its Limits

Wi-Fi sure seems like a magical technology with limitless possibilities, but it’s not invincible. It has limitations you should consider.

Linksys router

A Wi-Fi router can theoretically support up to 255 connected client devices. But, even though it’s possible to connect 255 devices to your router, it’s not even close to practical. Not only would all of those devices be competing for bandwidth on your single internet connection, but all of your Wi-Fi devices would be interfering with each other to the point that nothing would get a good wireless connection.

Granted, you’ll probably never get to the point where you have that many devices connected to your home network. But, if you convert every switch, outlet, and light bulb to a Wi-Fi-enabled smart version, you might end up getting very close to hitting that 255 number, depending on the size of your house. And that’s not even counting your phones, laptops, streaming boxes, and more.

Wi-Fi 6 could fix the congestion issue once hardware supporting this new standard appears later in 2019, but you’ll still deal with the device quantity limitation. The fewer devices you have, the better.

Stick to Z-Wave or ZigBee for Lights, Switches, and Outlets

Philips Hue and Wink hubs

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The Best Power Strips for All Your Stupid Power Bricks

Power strip with a whole bunch of power bricks
Josh Hendrickson

Power bricks are often so big they partially cover adjoining outlets and make it difficult to plug all your gear onto a single power strip. Here are our favorite solutions for dealing with chunky plugs.

It almost seems like every company is a part of a secret competition to see who can make the biggest power brick, which leads to consumers trying to find creative ways to plug all of them in like you’re trying to put together a jigsaw puzzle. The jigsaw metaphor feels particularly appropriate when different plugs have different plug-prong orientations that result in long narrow plugs covering multiple outlets on the strip. Overall it’s a pretty frustrating experience just about anyone can relate to.

A Word of Caution

Before we dive deep into some awesome solutions for your power bricks, a word of caution is in order before you go plugging everything you own into your new power strip.

Just because you can plug a whole bunch of stuff into a single outlet, doesn’t mean that you should. An electrical circuit can only handle so much current, and if you end up plugging a bunch of power-hogging devices into the same outlet, there’s a good chance you’ll overload the circuit and trip the breaker. Or even worse, start a fire.

So before you go crazy parking everything on one power strip, take stock on what devices you have and whether any of them use a lot of electricity (what you care about here is the watts used by each device on the strip. Stuff like a space heater or a gaming PC use a lot of energy. Stuff like a cellphone charger (even a whole power strip worth of them) uses very little energy. The real benefit to using these strips isn’t the ability to run 20 high-watt items simultaneously, but to plug all your gear in at once so you’re not crawling under your desk to unplug your printer so you can use your paper shredder.

Now, let’s get into our top picks for the best power strips to handle all those dumb power bricks.

Bestten 24-Outlet Heavy Duty Metal Power Strip ($48)

Bestten power strip
Bestten

If you want a power strip with the most outlets, this Bestten 24-outlet power strip is your best bet.

It has an aluminum body, so it’s great for a garage or workshop where it’ll be exposed to some rough conditions, but it’s also perfect for casual usage in a home office where you need to plug in a bunch of stuff.

The outlets aren’t spaced apart to leave room for power bricks, but the nice thing is that there’s still plenty of space to plug in plenty of devices. So even if a power brick covers up adjacent outlets, you still have plenty of other outlets at your disposal.

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Can Smart Thermostats Ruin Your Furnace?

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It may sound preposterous, but some people are afraid smart thermostats are bad for heating and air conditioning systems. Here’s the good news: You don’t have much to worry about, but there are some important things to keep in mind.

A relatively recent post on Reddit recounted an HVAC technician’s warning about smart thermostats:

“He said he never recommends them and that their company is REGULARLY replacing systems that have failed or prematurely broken down due to the Nest overworking the computing systems/motherboards built in to most HVAC units—even brand new models.”

The technician isn’t completely full of it. If your smart thermostat isn’t wired up correctly, then it can cause problems for your HVAC system. However, his explanation is mostly filled with a lot of FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt.)

It’s All About the C Wire, Baby

Every thermostat has a handful of wires connected to it (either four or five) that lead back to the electrical control board of your HVAC system. Each wire is usually responsible for something specific, like one wire is for cooling, and another wire is for heating. Many systems have a “C wire” (or “common wire”), which is dedicated to providing electricity to the thermostat to power the screen and other electronic functions.

IMG_2435_stomped

Older systems usually don’t have a C wire, though, because back then thermostats didn’t require electricity thanks to the fully mechanical operation of mercury-switched thermostats. But today, most modern thermostats have more bells and whistles, which require electricity to run. Thus, the purpose of the C wire.

A C wire isn’t necessarily required for smart thermostats, but it’s highly recommended. And if your thermostat’s wiring includes a C wire, you should connect it to your smart thermostat—most problems that arise due to the smart thermostat happen because there’s no C wire connected to it.

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