Last week, we celebrated Independence Day here in the U.S. of A., which typically means an increase in outdoor activities and a reduction in the amount of time spent nerding out over tech news in front of computer screens. Here’s a rundown of everything you missed while you were out enjoying a Slip ’n’ Slide for roughly 30 minutes, then injuring yourself, then letting the plastic sheet sit on your lawn just long enough to kill a big stripe of grass.
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This week, the LWIT crew sat down to discuss California’s controversial internet privacy law, the current crop of iPhone rumors, and answer some technology questions from friends and readers. Do you need an HDR TV? What digital assistant is right for you? Which kind of DiscMan is best for listening to Pearl Jam’s seminal grunge rock album, Ten? We answer at least two of the three.
VW’s electric race car broke the record in the Pike’s Peak climb
The road that climbs Pike’s Peak in Colorado is a 12.42-mile track that contains 156 turns and ascends a total of 4,720 feet. Manufacturers use it as a torture test for high-performance vehicles, and now there’s a new king of the twisty mountain. VW’s I.D. R Pike’s Peak racer completed the course in 7:57, which makes it not only the fastest electric car, but the fastest car full-stop. The video is amazing, if only for the sound of the car as it makes the climb
Polar exposed info about soldiers and intelligence agents with fitness data
Remember a few months ago when workout-tracking app Strava exposed the location of secret military bases with exercise logging data? Well, that story now has a sequel, and it stars fitness-tracker company Polar. Researchers analyzed workout logs via Polar’s social platform, Flow, and found that it’s possible to extract sensitive information from the data. Polar immediately suspended the activity on its platform and is working on a permanent solution—but if you’re planning on running to your secret lair at any point, maybe leave your fitness tracker at home.
Netflix is testing a pricier subscription for high-end streaming
Every time Netflix raises its prices, the internet backlash is loud and immediate. Recently, the service has been testing out a new “Ultra” tier that would include four simultaneous UHD streams and cost a few dollars more (there’s no hard number just yet) then the top-tier Premium plan, which currently costs $13.99 per month. In a statement to CNet, Netflix said it’s “testing slightly different price points and features to better understand how consumers value Netflix.”
In other Netflix news, the service recently got rid of its user reviews feature, so if you want to tell the world how mad you are at the recent Star Wars movies for some reason, you’ll have to choose one of the other seemingly infinite online-venting options.
Belkin made a portable power pack that charges with your iPhone or iPad cable
iPhones and iPads use Lightning cables for power and data transfers, but most portable chargers require a USB-3 or USB-C cable to juice up. Belkin, however, just introduced the Boost Charge Power Bank 10K, which is the first Apple-certified battery pack to charge via Lightning. Its 10,000 mAh battery is enough to power up an iPhone between three and four times. The brick’ll set you back $60 for the convenience.
Samsung’s new smartphone factory in India is the world’s largest
The latest Samsung factory to open its doors resides in the Indian city of Noida, outside the capital, Delhi. By 2020, the plant is slated to churn out more than 120 million smartphones across the Samsung lineup per year . If it hits those numbers, the facility will be the world’s most-prolific manufacturing location for mobile phones.
Beyerdynamic made a new microphone for streamers and podcasters
If you’re feeling inspired by this week’s episode of Last Week in Tech and want to make your own podcast, the latest mic from Beyerdynamics has a lot of potential for aspiring content creators. The $179, USB-powered Fox mic is aimed at a growing market of streamers who want to shout angry expletives at their Fortnite opponents with the highest possible fidelity.
Instagram now tells you when it’s time to stop scrolling
Apps are designed to keep your attention, but the latest backlash against our phone dependency has companies scrambling to save us from ourselves. Instagram’s latest feature will show you a message that says you’re “all caught up” once you’ve seen all the posts from the past two days. Of course it will let you scroll back beyond that, but it’s a small push to let users know when it’s time to open and mindlessly scroll through a different smartphone app. Or, go outside, maybe. Probably not.