by Lance Somoza
Siri Smart Speaker reportedly enters manufacturing

Siri Waveform

Hot on the heels of the recently-announced Amazon Echo Show and Essential Home, Bloomberg is reporting the rumored Apple “Siri-Speaker” has entered production. This comes ahead of Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) next week, where the device is expected to be announced.

I can’t wait to see what Apple does in this arena, because they’ll include features nobody else has thought of yet. They did it with other newer markets, such as Apple Watch and AirPods. Also, because I’m looking forward to the native HomeKit integration with my smart devices. Right now, I’m using an Echo Dot and love it, so next week should be exciting.

Here are my previous thoughts on how Apple can differentiate its Smart Speaker from the rest.

On a related note, I’m also working on a detailed write-up of my Smart Home configuration, so look for that coming soon.


More info on Essential Phone and Home

Andy Rubin took the stage last night at Walt Mossberg’s Code Conference to talk more about the Essential Phone and Home devices announced yesterday. Here’s the latest.

Essential Phone

Essential Home

Andy wants customers to be able to run whatever virtual assistant they want on the Home (i.e. Siri, Alexa, or Google Assistant).

He goes on to say:

All of these [companies] have ecosystem envy and want to create their own ecosystem. But consumers don’t want just Samsung stuff in their house. They want diversity.

This is a novel idea on the Smart Speaker concept, allowing for maximum compatibility with consumer devices. That said, I seriously doubt Google and Apple would go for it. Google makes its money on search and user data, and I don’t think they can afford to not have full control over that experience. Apple is renowned for being secretive, isolated, and integrated with their software and hardware. Don’t hold your breath for Siri on anything without an Apple logo. Amazon has already licensed out the Alexa voice service, so it seems like less of an issue there.

He also mentions that the new Ambient OS run by the Home will follow a similar development and deployment process as Android. This has led to fragmentation as new versions of Android become available, it is up to the phone manufacturers to implement them, which they have historically been slow to do. Andy says they have a plan to prevent this with Ambient.


Thoughts on new Essential Phone and Home products

Essential Phone

As hinted at last week, Andy Rubin’s new startup (Essential) has announced Essential Phone and Essential Home (Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor).

Essential Phone: In a Nutshell

  • Runs Android
  • Body is made of titanium, with a ceramic back.
  • Colors: Black Moon, Stellar Grey, Pure White, and Ocean Depths
  • 128GB of Storage, 4GB of RAM
  • Full Display (takes up most of the front of the phone).
  • Cameras
    • Rear: 13 megapixels, True monochrome mode, 4K video
    • Front: 8 megapixels, 4K video
  • USB-C port for charging and audio (phone comes with a USB-C to headphone jack adapter).
  • No headphone jack.
  • Accessories snap on to the rear corner of the phone via magnetic pogo pins.
    • The first of these accessories is a 360 degree camera ($50 with the phone or $199 by itself).
    • Another accessory announced is a docking station the phone simply rests on to charge.
  • Price: $699 (US only)

The Essential Phone looks pretty, and definitely has a gorgeous display, which is on par with what we’ll see with the upcoming iPhone 8 (latest mock up based on leaks below). The use of titanium and ceramic is really cool, given how strong these materials are. It has been rumored that Apple is testing out ceramic for the iPhone, and they released their first product with ceramic last year (Apple Watch Edition).

Latest mockup of iPhone 8 based on leaks.

128GB of storage should be good for most people, but 4GB of RAM in an Android phone is a little measly.

I’m wondering how well accessories will hold to the magnetic back, or how easily they can be knocked off the phone. Essential’s website says this about it:

Don’t you hate it when you have to buy new dongles, chargers, and accessories every time your phone is upgraded? We do too. So we decided to make this a thing of the past. The magnetic connector with wireless data transfer keeps your phone cord-free, future-proof, and always up-to-date.

I have a couple issues with this. First, Essential provides a USB-C to headphone jack dongle in the box. Sure, you don’t have to buy it separately, but they should own their design choice for not including a headphone jack in the phone instead of being hypocritical for embracing a natural progression of the market (see iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8).

Second, the thought of the magnetic connector keeping your phone future-proof and up-to-date is just BS. It echoes back to the reign of PCs, when eMachine computers would come with those horrid stickers proclaiming “This computer is never obsolete”. You will still have to replace your phone every 1-2 years to get the latest and greatest, not simply snap on accessories for the foreseeable future.

eMachines’s laughable “never obsolete” sticker.

That said, any competition is good for the industry and consumers. Fresh ideas are always welcome and it is clear Andy Rubin has a vision for Essential.

You can reserve an Essential Phone today, but there’s currently no delivery date specified.

Essential Home

Essential Home: In a Nutshell

  • Runs a new OS named Ambient
  • Round touchscreen
  • Covers the basics like: playin music, setting timers, answering questions, and home automation control
  • Proactively alerts you for calendar meetings or events

I’m loving the competition that is heating up in this market. Amazon is the leader by far, but Apple is rumored to be announcing a Siri Smart Speaker at WWDC next week, and Google Home is going to be receiving major updates soon.

Essential Home looks pretty cool. It has a touchscreen like the newly announced Amazon Echo Show. Unlike the Show, however, Essential Home does not appear to have a built-in camera for video calling. I like the first looks we’ve seen of the interface, but more information is needed to really get an idea of how Essential will position itself in this market. They can definitely make a larger impact here than with the Phone.


Walt Mossberg's last column: The Disappearing Computer ➔

Walt Mossberg, legendary tech columnist, has written his last article. Walt is The Godfather of personal technology columns, since his first in the Wall Street Journal in October of 1991. This last column describes what he sees coming in the next 10-20 years, and how amazing it’s going to be.

Walt will definitely be missed, but I’m sure we’ll still see him around now and then.


Gaddgict JSON Feed (Updated 5.27)

Many know what an RSS feed is, or have at least seen the icon before on a website. It offers a way for you to subscribe to a site’s posts via a third-party reader application. Gaddgict’s RSS feed can be found at https://gaddgict.com/feed/rss. RSS and Atom feeds have been the longtime-standard when it comes to aggregating posts.

Last week, I learned of a new feed spec called JSON Feed, thanks to John Gruber over at Daring Fireball. After checking it out, I couldn’t help myself and knew I was in for a fun little project. JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) itself is a simple way to organize data that can be easily read by applications. It’s lightweight, easy to read, understand, and put together. Popular feed readers have already started adopting JSON Feed (like NewsBlur), even though it’s in its infancy. Maxime Vaillancourt put together the first JSON Feed Viewer at https://json-feed-viewer.herokuapp.com, with a steadily-growing list of showcased feeds (you’ll find Gaddgict’s on there).

The direct link to Gaddgict’s JSON feed is https://gaddgict.com/feed/json. Now, for all the technical details behind how I implemented it…


'Something big' coming May 30th from startup founded by Android co-founder Andy Rubin

Andy Rubin is one of the co-founders of the Android Operating System, which was purchased by Google in 2005. Back in October 2014, Andy left Google to pursue a new startup we have come to know as Essential.

This past March, Andy tweeted out the following teaser.

Today, the @essential account tweeted this.

Followed by…

The above image has been enhanced by others in an attempt to identify the top device sticking out the phone. Here’s one representation.

Augmented Reality and enhanced cameras are something the industry is pushing towards very rapidly, and the device sticking out of the phone definitely looks like it has something to do with a camera.

Not too much else is known about Essential or this new phone they are teasing, other than Eric Schmidt (Executive Chairman, Alphabet) essentially1 confirming it will run Android (see below). We also know it will have a rounded screen and small bezels, based on the first tweet above. This is definitely on par with the latest design trend (Samsung Galaxy S8 and the rumored iPhone 8).

It will be interesting to see if Essential will be able to differentiate themselves beyond the rounded-rectangle, glass, and aluminum standard that is the smartphone world.

One thing’s for sure, though. I fully support the ‘war on bezels’, and 2017 is shaping up to be the year we make substantial progress.


  1. Pun totally intended. ↩︎


Apple updates firmware for AirPods

Apple AirPods

Apple silently updated the AirPods firmware1 this morning to version 3.7.2. This is only the second time Apple has updated the AirPods since their release last December. This new version most likely brings small bug fixes, as there were no official update notes provided by Apple.

AirPods will automatically receive the update when connected to your phone, but you can force an update the following way:

  1. Connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi.
  2. Go to Settings > About.
  3. Plug the AirPods case in to charge and open the lid near your phone.
  4. If you don’t see “AirPods” appear near the bottom of your Settings > About menu, make sure your AirPods are connecting to your iPhone by selecting them in Control Center’s audio output.
  5. If you do see the “AirPods” menu, wait 30 seconds, then close the case lid.
  6. Wait another 30 seconds, then open the case lid and double check the version number in Settings > About > AirPods. You should see the new version reflected as it is in the screenshot below. If you don’t see it, may have to try these steps again.

AirPods Firmware Update

New version showing in Settings > About > AirPods.

For more info on the AirPods themselves, seem my in-depth review.


  1. Software that runs the AirPods. Firmware itself is embedded in a device and unchangeable by an outside source. ↩︎


The iPhone 8's 'home button'

iPhone Home Button

There could be major changes coming to the iPhone this year, and one of them centers around the home button and Touch ID fingerprint sensor.

The latest rumors and leaks indicate that the Touch ID sensor will either be under the screen or on the back of the iPhone 8. Apple may be having trouble perfecting the Touch ID under the screen technology, which would be the reason we are hearing of the two possibilities. Either way, I haven’t seen too much discussion on the actual implications this brings to the home button’s functionality. Think about it–Touch ID has been married to the home button ever since its introduction with the iPhone 5s. With talk of the sensor relocating due to the borderless screen, what happens to the home button?

Android solves the home button problem with a soft button taking up a small amount of screen real estate. I just don’t see Apple going down that route. Multiple Android-based phones also have the fingerprint sensor on the back, which is a bad experience if you use your phone while it’s resting on a desk. I think Apple would only do this if they absolutely could not get the Touch ID sensor to function perfectly under the screen.

Apple shows a little bit of their hand at a time. They showed their affinity for high pixel density screens with the Retina screen on the iPhone 4. Gradually, the Retina screen made it to all their products. You can see this same pattern with things like Touch ID going from iPhone to iPad to MacBook Pro. Force Touch began on Apple Watch and a similar technology made its way to iPhone (in the form of 3D Touch). I think 3D Touch is the real ace up their sleeves when it comes to the home button.

Here’s how I think the Touch ID and the new “home button” could work…


In the market for a MacBook or iPad? Wait a couple weeks.

If you’re in the market for a MacBook, MacBook Pro, or iPad, you may want to wait a couple weeks.

On June 5, Apple will be holding its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Historically, this event is largely to showcase the latest updates for application developers, but Apple has been known to make a product announcement at this event every once and a while.

The rumor mill is pointing to Apple introducing:

  • Updated MacBook with a faster processor
  • Updated MacBook Pro with a faster processor (namely, Intel’s latest version dubbed ‘Kaby Lake’)
  • 10.5 inch iPad model

The MacBook updates are minor specification bumps. The 10.5” iPad has been heavily speculated, as it positions itself right between the 9.7” iPad Pro and the larger 12.9”. It is rumored to have tiny borders around the entire screen (bezels), as opposed to just the left and right sides seen in current iPads. It is unclear exactly what other features it will bring to the table. Apple recently introduced a new 9.7” iPad which is a great device if you just need an Apple tablet for doing simple stuff like browsing the web, playing games, and don’t need an Apple Pencil or Smart Keyboard. Either way, it might be worth waiting a couple weeks to see what happens.

Apple is also expected to announce its newest operating systems: iOS 11, watchOS 4, macOS 10.13, and tvOS 11. We’ve also been hearing rumblings of a Siri Smart Speaker that could see an introduction. MacRumors has a great write-up on the full expectations: https://www.macrumors.com/roundup/wwdc/


Despite public concerns, the FCC will begin repealing Net Neutrality regulations

Save the Internet

Credit: Joseph Gruber License

Yesterday, the FCC voted to begin rolling back Net Neutrality regulations that classified Internet Service Providers as common carriers (utilities) under Title II of the Telecommunications Act back in 2015.

This simply cannot stand for the good of all Americans, and it comes after thousand of comments were left on the FCC’s website against repealing the rules. In case you missed it, my Net Neutrality post goes into more details about the concept as a whole.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai (a former Verizon lawyer, by the way) has frequently said “The Internet was not broken in 2015,” but he is completely missing the point. Net Neutrality exists to protect the internet, not fix anything that’s wrong with it. Read on to find out what’s next.


Apple AirPods Review

AirPods

The AirPods have been a sleeper hit for Apple, reminiscent of their magical and whimsical nature. They also have been out since December 2016, and are still largely in short supply. I’ve had them since day one, and everyone who sees me wearing them always asks me how I like them, so I figured a proper, in-depth review was in order. Read on if you want to know everything about the AirPods and how much I like them.


The Verge: The 6 big updates coming to Google Home ➔

Google Home

The Verge put together a great summary of the big updates for Google Home announced today at Google’s I/O developer conference. Google Home was introduced last May, and has been met with decent reviews, but this round of updates sounds pretty great.

Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge:

Sometimes you actually want to see what’s going on, so Google’s making a TV interface for the Google Home. You’ll soon be able to ask the Home to send information to your TV, from basics like the weather and your calendar, to information it’s looking up like nearby restaurants or YouTube videos you might want to watch.

I’ve thought Siri should be able to do this exact thing, but from any Apple device to the Apple TV. It would be really nice to say “Hey Siri, play some Rush on my Apple TV”, or “play this on my Apple TV”, and have it play whatever you’re watching. Competition for the home is heating up, with Amazon’s Echo Show announcement and rumors of a Siri Speaker announcement next month. This is when the real fun begins for us consumers.


Google Assistant app arrives on iPhone to challenge Siri

Google Assistant announced at 2017 I/O conference

Google brought their Assistant app to the iPhone today, announced at their Google I/O conference for developers. The Assistant is similar to Siri, Alexa, Cortana1 and others, but you are also able to ask it things via textual chat as opposed to just voice. It also can control some smart home devices and talk to other third-party applications.

In my opinion, any third-party digital assistant is dead on arrival on the iPhone, due to the fact that they are locked into applications, and you can’t replace Siri from being the default. After you’ve unlocked your phone and found the app, you might as well have used Siri anyway. Still, it’s fun to play around with, and this is surely a big moment as we move towards more voice-based interactions with our technology.

Google Assistant is now available on the App Store.


  1. Microsoft’s digital assistant. ↩︎


Apple Today launches with in-store classes ➔

Apple Today launches.

Apple Today has launched, spearheaded by Angela Ahrendts, SVP Retail. It’s Apple’s new initiative to bring you into their stores. Classes include photo walks, drawing with iPad Pro, making movies, coding, and more. Apple has always hosted classes at its store, but this program is more encompassing. Visit the link above to find classes happening at an Apple store near you.


Apple updates Operating Systems for multiple devices

Apple has released the following operating system updates today. With exception to the Mac, these are minor fixes. Apple is expected to announce iOS 11 and macOS 10.13 next month at WWDC (Worldwide Developers Conference). These typically are the big updates that drop in the September/October timeframe.

I always update right away to make sure I’m running the latest and greatest versions, but you’ll be okay waiting on updating to these new versions until you have some extra time.

  • iPhone/iPad: iOS 10.3.2
    • Minor fixes.
  • Mac: macOS Sierra 10.12.5
    • Fixes an issue where audio may stutter when played through USB headphones
    • Enhances compatibility of the Mac App Store with future software updates
    • Adds support for media-free installation of Windows 10 Creators Update using Boot Camp
  • Apple Watch: watchOS 3.2.2
    • Minor fixes.
  • Apple TV (latest): tvOS 10.2.1
    • Minor fixes.


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