Monday, 24 October 2016
Lauren Goode, writing for The Verge a few weeks ago, “iMessage Is the Glue That Keeps Me Stuck to the iPhone”:
As someone who vacillates between iOS and Android fairly often,
but who considers a lightly cracked iPhone 6S her daily driver,
I’m also considering whether the Pixel phone is the next phone to
buy. All of the software I use now is available on Android: all of
my top email, calendar, music, fitness, photography, task-based,
work collaboration, and social networking apps are there.
But one app is not, and that’s iMessage.
There is a lot of truth here, especially for people who are largely in the Google ecosystem for email, calendaring, photos, etc. A lot of them use iPhones with Google apps, not Android phones. I know several people who think iPhones are better client devices for Google’s ecosystem than Android devices running Google’s own operating system. In particular, I think this is very common in Silicon Valley. I notice it frequently when I see the homescreens on iPhones used by members of the press who cover the wider industry (as opposed to those who focus more on Apple). That’s who I think Google’s Pixel phones are aimed at: not the mass market, per se, but the technical elite who are currently using a lot of Google services on iPhones. Another way to put it: if the Pixels don’t get Google employees who use iPhones to switch, nothing will.
See, for example, this year-old BuzzFeed column by Charlie Warzel, “Apple’s Junk Drawer Problem”:
There’s a folder on the homescreen of my iPhone affectionately
labeled “Apple Crap.” Inside, a colony of flattened, painstakingly
designed app icons gather dust. With the exception of the Health
and Podcast apps, I’ve become accustomed to relegating Apple’s
(undeletable) native apps to the junk drawer. The containment
strategy started back in 2012, when Apple Maps suggested I head to
a work meeting in the middle of the Hudson River, and I’ve never
looked back. An informal office poll also concluded that I’m not
alone. We’ll wait hours in line in the cold/heat/rain/snow for a
shiny new piece of Apple hardware — but once we get it, the first
thing we do is fill it with third-party services, leaving Apple’s
proprietary apps tucked away in lonely folders on third or fourth
That doesn’t sound like a typical iPhone user, who is likely to use all or most of Apple’s built-in apps. Apple Maps, for example, is far more popular on iOS than Google Maps. But Warzel’s description sounds exactly like the sort of iPhone users who might be tempted by the Pixel. There’s a split between iPhone users who are primarily part of the Apple ecosystem (iCloud, Safari, Apple Mail, …) and those who are part of the Google ecosystem (Google Drive, Google Calendar, Chrome, Gmail, …).
iMessage is an exception. With iMessage you get to connect both with iPhone users in the Google ecosystem and iPhone users in the Apple ecosystem. For a lot of us here in the U.S., that’s just about everyone we know. It’s no coincidence that two of Google’s major Android initiatives this year are Allo and Duo, their answers to iMessage and FaceTime. I don’t think it’s going to work. iPhone users on the Google ecosystem might install Duo and Allo, and those who switch to Pixel phones will have them installed by default. But I don’t see why iPhone users on the Apple ecosystem will install either Duo or Allo in large enough numbers to make a difference. Anyone who switches to a Pixel phone from an iPhone is still going to miss iMessage and FaceTime.
iMessage and FaceTime are tied to the same Apple ID system, but there’s a subtle difference between their rises in popularity. iMessage gained traction by replacing SMS — you just did what you used to do before iMessage existed and the messages went over iMessage instead of SMS if both people were signed into iCloud. The way Apple usurped SMS for their own users and let SMS remain as a fallback for texting with everyone else was simply genius.
FaceTime, on the other hand, introduced something new: low-latency, high-quality video chat. FaceTime wasn’t the first video chat to exist, but it was the first one to matter in the mass market. I’ve lost track of the TV shows and movies where I’ve seen characters using FaceTime, often mentioning it by name. FaceTime is a meaningful part of the lives of millions of families.
Back to Goode:
Back in June, when Apple showed off a bunch of new iMessage
features and said it would be opening up iMessage to third-party
app developers, some people wondered whether the company would go
even a step further and bring iMessage to Android phones. It
was a valid question in the “who-really-knows-what-Apple-will-do”
sense, but still, the idea made little sense to me. Of
course Apple wasn’t going to allow iMessage to function on
Android: iMessage is the glue that keeps people stuck to their
iPhones and Macs.
The iMessage-for-Android rumor was started by MacDailyNews, and while I wouldn’t have bet on it, I wasn’t entirely dismissive. I still think it might happen sooner or later. Here’s what I wrote in June:
It’s a little surprising if true, but remember that Apple is now
boasting about its prowess as a services company. Messaging is a
service. And it makes even more sense if, as rumored, there’s a
payments component coming to iMessage.
I’ve heard from little birdies that mockups of iMessage for Android have circulated within the company, with varying UI styles ranging from looking like the iOS Messages app to pure Material Design.1 iMessage for Android may never see the light of day, but the existence of detailed mockups strongly suggests that there’s no “of course not” to it.
As an iOS/MacOS exclusive, iMessage is a glue that “keeps people stuck to their iPhones and Macs”, not the glue. iMessage for Android would surely lead some number of iPhone users to switch to Android, but I think that number is small enough to be a rounding error for Apple. Apple wins by creating devices and experiences that people want to use, not that they have to use. Apple creates desire, not obligation. If the iPhone isn’t thriving simply by being the best, then Apple is already in deep trouble. I would argue that in some ways Apple might be better off releasing iMessage for Android, simply to remove a crutch.2
But for a company that has failed at most attempts to create
social networks, Apple has inadvertently built one with all of
those little blue bubbles.
There’s nothing inadvertent about iMessage’s success. ★
Messaging Systems That Support Both E2E Encryption and Multiple Devices ★
On Twitter, Robin Malhotra made an observation that I’d never really considered, nor recall anyone else observing, but which seems to me a very big deal: that iMessage is the only major messaging service that supports both end-to-end encryption and multiple devices. Even Google’s brand-new Allo does not support multiple devices (and only uses encryption for “incognito” chats).
Multi-device support is essential to my use of iMessage.
Update: Wire is another chat service that supports multiple devices and uses end-to-end encryption everywhere.
Brian Moore on iPhone 7 Plus Portrait Mode ★
Portrait Mode is definitely not perfect! Straight lines and crisp
edges in the foreground are Portrait Mode’s greatest difficulty.
But, on the flip side, the effect is applied quickly, and seems to
focus on exactly the plane I want it at. Plus, its “stepping”
between objects in the foreground and background is really
impressive. People have asked me what camera I used to take these
photos, which is I’d call a good sign. I like how they look, and
this is a camera I can keep in my pocket all day as I walk all
over a beautiful country. That’s a win for me.
Some terrific examples — both good and bad. When it works well, it’s the colors as much as the depth effect that make these look like they were shot on film.
The next iPhone will be, I am told, a clear piece of glass (er,
Gorilla Glass sandwich with other polycarbonates for being pretty
shatter resistant if dropped) with a next-generation OLED screen
(I have several sources confirming this). You pop it into a
headset which has eye sensors on it, which enables the next iPhone
to have a higher apparent frame rate and polygon count than a PC
with a Nvidia 1080 card in it. […]
The clear iPhone will put holograms on top of the real world like
Microsoft HoloLens does.
Take a look at iFixit’s teardown of an iPhone 7. Just look at the battery alone. The only way I can see that a 2017 iPhone could be transparent would be if Apple invents a time machine that allows them to borrow technology from 2035 or so.
IBM: Macs Are Less Expensive Than PCs ★
Jeni Asaba, writing for Jamf:
In 2015, IBM let their employees decide — Windows or Mac. “The
goal was to deliver a great employee choice program and strive
to achieve the best Mac program,” Previn said. An emerging
favorite meant the deployment of 30,000 Macs over the course of
the year. But that number has grown. With more employees
choosing Mac than ever before, the company now has 90,000
deployed (with only five admins supporting them), making it the
largest Mac deployment on earth.
But isn’t it expensive, and doesn’t it overload IT? No. IBM found
that not only do PCs drive twice the amount of support calls,
they’re also three times more expensive. That’s right, depending
on the model, IBM is saving anywhere from $273 - $543 per Mac
compared to a PC, over a four-year lifespan. “And this reflects
the best pricing we’ve ever gotten from Microsoft,” Previn said.
Multiply that number by the 100,000+ Macs IBM expects to have
deployed by the end of the year, and we’re talking some serious
IBM as the world’s largest Mac installation is such a great story.
Qualcomm vs. Intel iPhone 7 Cellular Modems ★
In all tests, the iPhone 7 Plus with the Qualcomm modem had a
significant performance edge over the iPhone 7 Plus with the Intel
modem. We are not sure what was the main reason behind Apple’s
decision to source two different modem suppliers for the newest
iPhone. Considering that the iPhone with the Qualcomm modem is
being sold in China, Japan and in the United States only, we can
not imagine that modem performance was a deciding factor. When all
said and done, the iPhone 7 Plus is a beautifully designed
smartphone, with arguably the best-in-class camera and system
performance. It’s also the best iPhone ever. We hope that next
year’s iPhone delivers best-in-class LTE performance.
In the U.S., you get the Qualcomm modem if you order an iPhone for use on Verizon or Sprint, and the Intel modem for AT&T and T-Mobile. That’s because Intel’s modem doesn’t support CDMA, which Verizon and Sprint still use.
Update: Color me a little skeptical that this disparity is evident in real-world use. Shouldn’t we be hearing more complaints about LTE performance on these iPhones?
The 20 CDs Curated by Steve Jobs and the Original iPod Team ★
Nobuyuki “Nobi” Hayashi, recalling the introduction of the original iPod 15 years ago this week:
Steve Jobs insisted that Apple has no intention of stealing away
the sales of the music industry; remember this was way before
iTunes Music Store. What Apple did to keep its word is buying same
number of 20 CDs sets and gave it along with the iPod prototypes
to the journalists.
It has been 15 years since then, and I thought I have lost them.
But recently, as I was moving to a new house, I have found that
set (shrink wrapped).
Below you will find the list of those 20 CDs which was carefully
selected by Steve Jobs and the original iPod team (lead by Stan
That was a year before I started writing Daring Fireball.
Google Assistant vs. Siri Head-to-Head ★
Marques Brownlee pits Google Assistant (on a new Pixel) against Siri (on a new iPhone 7). Siri does quite well.
Seth Godin on the State of Apple’s Software ★
Over the last five years, Apple has lost the thread and chosen to
become a hardware company again. Despite their huge profits and
large staff, we’re confronted with (a partial list):
- Automator, a buggy piece of software with no support, and
because it’s free, no competitors.
- Keynote, a presentation program that hasn’t been improved in
- iOS 10, which replaces useful with pretty.
- iTunes, which is now years behind useful tools like Roon.
- No significant steps forward in word processing, spreadsheets,
video editing, file sharing, internet tools, conferencing, etc.
Apple contributed mightily to a software revolution a decade
ago, but they’ve stopped. Think about how many leaps forward
Slack, Dropbox, Zapier and others have made in popular software
over the last few decades. But it requires a significant
commitment to keep it moving forward. It means upending the
status quo and creating something new.
This doesn’t resonate for me. I think it’s the same basic gut feeling that drove Marco Arment’s widely-read “Apple Has Lost the Functional High Ground” essay two years ago. Marco’s piece was more about bugs and quality, and Seth’s is more about creativity, but underlying it all, I think, is the vague sense that all software is shitty.
And it is! Here’s Dave Winer from all the way back in 1995:
An old software slogan at Living Videotext: “We Make Shitty
Software… With Bugs!” It makes me laugh! We never ran this
slogan in an ad. People wouldn’t understand. But it’s the truth.
We make shitty software. And so do you!
Software is a process, it’s never finished, it’s always evolving.
That’s its nature. We know our software sucks. But it’s shipping!
Next time we’ll do better, but even then it will be shitty. The
only software that’s perfect is one you’re dreaming about. Real
software crashes, loses data, is hard to learn and hard to use.
But it’s a process. We’ll make it less shitty. Just watch!
Software, in general, is much better than it used to be. Unlike 1995, we don’t lose data due to bugs very often. (For me personally, I can’t even remember the last time I lost data.) But our hardware is so much better than our software, the contrast is jarring. An iPhone is a nearly perfect object. Sleek, attractive, simple. The hardware is completely knowable — there are only five buttons, each of them easily understood. iOS, however, is effectively infinite. The deeper our software gets, the less we know and understand it. It’s unsettling.
I do think Apple could be doing better with software, but I don’t think the problem has anything to do with the company being institutionally focused on hardware. And I think it’s easy to discount the great new software Apple has created in the last five years: iMessage and FaceTime, to name two that fit squarely in Godin’s list of areas where Apple has made “no significant steps forward”.
Om Malik: ‘Good Design — Inside and Out’ ★
Om Malik, writing last week for The New Yorker:
When I asked John Maeda, the former president of the Rhode Island
School of Design, why, then, people have turned on the design of
the iPhone 7, he pointed out that perhaps these critics “seem to
believe that there’s some as yet unimaginable transcendence that
can happen in a small, palm-shaped, rectangular device.” Maeda
said that he spent time with designers at Sony and felt their
frustration designing a television set “because all you can really
do is design the rectangle that the TV sits within.…
Everything else around that screen really doesn’t matter.” The
same problem holds for the iPhone. All that matters is the screen
— its size, brightness, and resolution. “Now that we have all
those dimensions sated, it’s basically the challenge of designing
a TV set all over again,” he added.
The New York Times Is Buying the Wirecutter for More Than $30 Million ★
Peter Kafka, reporting for Recode:
The New York Times is buying The Wirecutter, a five-year-old
online consumer guide. The Times will pay more than $30 million,
including retention bonuses and other payouts, for the startup,
according to people familiar with the transaction.
Brian Lam, a former editor at Gawker Media’s Gizmodo, founded
The Wirecutter in 2011, and has self-funded the company’s
Both sites make their money via affiliate links, which generate
revenue when consumers click on them and make purchases via
e-commerce sites like Amazon.
Sounds like a good deal for everyone involved. Lam’s success is well-deserved.
Thursday, 20 October 2016
After my link today to Greg Koenig’s excellent explanation for why the new ceramic Apple Watch Edition does not presage the use of a similar material in next year’s iPhone (in short: Apple needs to produce up to one million iPhones per day, and the ceramic process Apple is using for the watch would take way too long to meet that demand), several readers asked if Apple might go the Apple Watch Edition route: make a special ceramic iPhone Edition that sells at a much higher price.
Apple certainly could do this. But I don’t think they would. I’ve often said that the iPhone reminds me of Andy Warhol’s great quote about Coca-Cola and America:
What’s great about this country is that America started the
tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same
things as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola,
and you know that the President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks
Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke, too. A Coke is a Coke
and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the
bum on the corner is drinking. All the Cokes are the same and all
the Cokes are good. Liz Taylor knows it, the President knows it,
the bum knows it, and you know it.
A significantly more expensive limited edition ceramic iPhone would break from this, and in my opinion it would take away from the iPhone’s brand. iPhones aren’t cheap, but they are affordable for many, and everyone who gets one knows they’re getting the best phone in the world. An expensive limited edition iPhone would mean most iPhone buyers would know they’re only getting second best.
Apple has done this with the watch — in spades last year, with the $10–20,000 gold models — but watches are different animals. Watches, in general, have never been like Coke. There have always been low-cost watches and luxury watches.
Enough With the 10-Year Anniversary Stuff
Let me add here a note about something that’s been bothering me for months: the notion that Apple is going to do something “special” next year to commemorate the iPhone’s 10th anniversary. I would wager heavily that they won’t. Apple under Tim Cook is a little bit more prone to retrospection than it was under Steve Jobs, who was almost obsessively forward-thinking, but only slightly. They made a 40-years-in-40-seconds video to commemorate the company’s 40th anniversary this year, for example, but it was only 40 seconds long. Blink and you missed it.
Apple is not going to make a special edition of any product — let alone the iPhone, their most important product — just to mark an anniversary. Don’t tell me about the 20th Anniversary Macintosh — that was a product from the old Apple that was heading toward bankruptcy, and a perfect example of why they shouldn’t do something special to mark something as arbitrary as an anniversary.
A lot of this 10th anniversary of the iPhone speculation is regarding the rumors that next year’s new iPhones might sport a new industrial design, with edge-to-edge displays that eliminate both the top and bottom bezels from the front face. If such a design does appear next year, the timing will be purely coincidental.
What’s the logic otherwise? That Apple could have debuted that design this year, but didn’t, simply because they wanted to hold off until the iPhone’s oh-so-precious 10th anniversary? That is not how a technology company operates. To maintain its position as the leading phone-maker in the world, Apple must push forward as fast as they can. They only know one way to play the game: as hard as they can.
Nothing gets held back from any Apple product just to make the next one more special. If there is going to be a new edge-to-edge iPhone design, it will appear as soon as it is ready — no sooner, and no later. It would make no sense to hold back a more visually impressive and practically superior1 design just to be able to call it the “10th anniversary iPhone” a year from now. That would mean selling fewer iPhones this year while sticking with the familiar 6/6S form factor, and not selling any additional iPhones next year. No one — no one — is going to buy any new iPhone just because it’s the 10th anniversary edition.
Every year, Apple releases the best iPhone it is able to make. That’s it. It makes no more sense for a tech company to hold back a new design for an entire year just to mark an anniversary than it would for a, say, 99-year-old sports team to bench its star player for a year to make their 100-year-anniversary team even more special. I do believe that Apple leads the industry, but they don’t lead by such a margin that they can afford to pull their punches just for an “anniversary” marketing gimmick.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple never even mentions next year that 2017 is the 10th anniversary of the original iPhone. And if they do mention it, I think it will be a brief passing reference on stage, not a part of any advertising or marketing campaign.2 New iPhones — new Apple products, period — are marketed as new. Anniversaries are about getting old. ★
Darrell Etherington’s Google Pixel Camera Review ★
Darrell Etherington, testing the Pixel camera side-by-side with the iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S7:
Outdoors, you can see that while all three are very capable
cameras, there are some differences that might sway personal
opinion regarding which is “best.” The iPhone 7 Plus delivers more
vibrant colors, with brighter defaults for light areas in both HDR
and standard modes (it produces both in your gallery by default
depending on the scene, so that’s how I shot and presented them
Indoors, the differences between the three cameras are more
pronounced, especially in very low light. Here, the Galaxy S7
appears to have the edge when it comes to color balance, as well
as noise and even possibly detail. The iPhone 7 Plus does appear
to be more accurate in terms of its color capture, but it’s still
tough to pick an outright favorite. The Pixel XL, to its credit,
does very well in the portrait under adequate, but not bright,
Ultimately, numbered ratings from third-party analyst sites aside,
this is a race so close that it’s impossible to call, except by
personal preference. Each of these smartphone cameras excels in
some regard, but the best end result is in the eye of the beholder
since none exhibits any serious flaws.
I agree with his assessment based on his examples. The Pixel’s electronic image stabilization for video is very well done, but it’s clearly not as good as optical image stabilization.
Brian X. Chen’s Google Pixel Review ★
Brian X. Chen, writing for the NYT:
The absence of a major competing Android device works out
especially well for Google because the Pixel is, relatively
speaking, mediocre. It is slower than Apple’s iPhone 7 and the
Galaxy S7, Samsung’s smaller flagship phone. Photos shot with
Pixel’s camera don’t look as good as the iPhone’s. And Google’s
built-in artificially intelligent virtual assistant, called
Assistant, is still fairly dumb.
Chen’s Pixel review is the least enthusiastic I’ve seen. His comments on the camera — he labels it “mediocre” — are out of line with most reviews. I’m not saying he’s wrong, just that his take is quite different.
CNet Compares Google Pixel and iPhone 7 Plus Cameras ★
Vanessa Hand Orellana:
If you tend to shoot portraits and that’s what matters to you
most, the iPhone 7 Plus is an obvious choice. Portrait mode is
dSLR-esque, and we only expect it to improve by the time it gets a
But if brighter colors, sharper detail throughout the backgrounds
of photos and capable low-light photography is more important,
it’s the Pixel. I have to admit, I initially thought Google
over-promised on its new flagship — especially after those
disappointing Nexus cameras — but I was wrong. It’s a new chapter
for Google phones and this one earned its name.
I agree with her assessment based on most of the examples shown. I was especially impressed with the Pixel’s image from the low-light environment in the wine cellar. However, they shot both on tripods. I would’ve liked to see examples from the same environment while handheld — the iPhone 7 Plus’s optical image stabilization should make a big difference while handheld, but no difference at all on a tripod.
Why don’t any of these Pixel-vs.-iPhone camera comparisons mention wide color capture?
Bloomberg: ‘Disney Dropped Twitter Pursuit Partly Over Image’ ★
Alex Sherman, Chris Palmeri, and Sarah Frier, reporting for Bloomberg:
Walt Disney Co. decided not to pursue a bid for Twitter Inc.
partly out of concern that bullying and other uncivil forms of
communication on the social media site might soil the company’s
wholesome family image, according to people familiar with
Because I love Twitter as a service, I want to see the company thrive, but there’s no denying that there’s some justice to the fact that their longstanding inability and/or refusal to deal with trolls and harassment is sinking the company.
Salesforce.com Inc. also decided against a Twitter bid, as did
Alphabet Inc.’s Google.
No one wants Twitter at this price.
Michael Nunez’s Google Pixel Review ★
Michael Nunez, writing for Gizmodo:
As a lifelong Android user, I couldn’t wait to try the Pixel. It’s
different than other Android phones, because it’s the first
handset centered around the company’s artificial intelligence —
the same omnipotent intelligence that’s vacuuming up information
about you every time you use a service like Gmail, Google Maps, or
Google Calendar. The “Google brain” learns your habits over time,
and can help you find important information faster. The problem is
that Google’s AI is too stupid to be meaningfully helpful at this
I was particularly disappointed with Google Assistant because it’s
such a promising concept. Google is moving attention away from the
search bar more than ever. Instead, the company wants you to
“Google” by using the messaging app Allo or voice search in Google
Assistant. Ultimately, the Pixel and Pixel XL are gateways for
feeding the Google brain more information about yourself. As
Google’s AI gets smarter, the Assistant will become more helpful.
While some people might find this creepy, I think the idea is
exciting, and it’s a letdown that the tech isn’t there yet. In
fairness nobody has it, and Google’s is better than what’s offered
by competitors like Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. The
point is that as a whole, smartphone assistants aren’t smart
enough to be defining features. They’re gimmicks, and Google
unwisely decided to build a phone around one.
Recode: Apple Plans to Launch New Macs at an October 27 Event ★
Ina Fried, reporting for Recode:
Apple is planning to introduce new Macs at an Oct. 27 event,
sources confirmed to Recode. […] The Mac event is expected to
take place at or near Apple’s Cupertino campus rather than in San
Francisco, where the company held many recent events, including
the iPhone 7 announcement.
One last hurrah for Infinite Loop’s Town Hall, I bet.
Dieter Bohn’s Google Pixel Review ★
Even though there’s ostensibly One Google Brain behind all of it,
the different lobes don’t always seem to be talking to each other.
That confusion extends to the various ways that Google exists on
the Pixel itself. You can only speak to the Assistant, for
example, not type at it. Except that you can type at it in Allo,
Google’s chat app. You can also tap the Google search button on
the home screen to type queries, but that’s not technically the
Assistant. Oh, and Google Now, the predictive information stream,
still sits to the left of your main home screen.
That’s four different ways to talk to Google on this phone, not
counting apps like Maps and Gmail. And each one has a slightly
different interface and provides slightly different results. For
example, the Assistant can’t recognize songs yet, but asking the
exact same question with the Google search button works fine.
To be very clear: the Google Assistant is absolutely the smartest
of the assistant bunch, but it’s not yet in a class of its own.
Bohn calls the Pixels a “home run”, and also has very good words regarding the camera. I quoted the above passage, though, because it suggests some rough edges regarding what is supposed to be the Pixel’s standout feature.
Walt Mossberg’s Google Pixel Review ★
After testing the historic phone since last week, I can say that
the Pixel is very, very good. In its first try, Google has landed
itself in the same class as Apple’s iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy
S7 (that company’s non-exploding model). Like those formidable
competitors, it’s comfortable and practical; fast and fluid; takes
very good pictures; and is connected to a strong ecosystem.
The Pixel is easily the best Android phone I’ve ever tested, and
seems to hail from a different planet than the chunky, clumsy and
pokey 2008 G1 which introduced Android to the world.
Another positive Pixel review, another wisecrack about Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7.
Joanna Stern’s Google Pixel Review ★
Android people, please step forward. Good news! Your next
phone-buying decision just got a heck of a lot easier. The Google
Pixel is now the best Android smartphone you can buy. The other
leading contender was disqualified due to spontaneous combustion.
iPhone people, it’s your turn. Ask yourself: Why do I have an
iPhone? Is it because of its software, services and privacy
policies? Or is it because it’s a very good phone for things like
Google Maps, Gmail, Spotify and Facebook Messenger? If you’ve
answered yes to the latter, the Pixel may be for you, too.
On the cameras:
The best camera is the one you have with you. In most situations,
I’d rather have the Pixel camera. […]
The iPhone 7 Plus with its second lens does beat the Pixel camera.
Not only does the iPhone 7 Plus optically magnify shots 2X, but it
uses the dual-lens setup to gauge depth for a lens blur effect.
The Pixel has a similar effect, but it looks pretty fake.
Her comparison shots are pretty compelling. The Pixel camera definitely seems pretty good.
NYT Chief Counsel David McCraw on the Response to His Letter to Trump’s Lawyers ★
I heard from students I had taught 30 years ago when I was a
college professor, former colleagues, law school classmates I
hadn’t seen in two decades, my brother’s high school girlfriend, a
person who says we met at a wedding 10 years ago, my ex-wife. (Mr.
Trump’s attorneys, as is often the way with lawyer letters, have
not written back yet.)
One person took issue with my comma usage. Somebody suggested I
be disbarred. I was made aware of a raging online debate set off
by the letter over whether there should be two spaces or one
after a period. […]
But my favorite email was the one that ended: “As my sister put
it, ‘I’ve never wanted to hang a paragraph from a lawyer on my
fridge before.’ ”
Samsung Is Setting Up Airport Kiosks to Replace Galaxy Note 7 Phones ★
Sergio Quintana, reporting for ABC 7 in San Francisco:
Samsung representatives are standing by at SFO in case people
bring their potentially dangerous Galaxy Note7’s to the airport.
SFO says Samsung reps are now located in front of security
checkpoints. Customers can go there to swap out their recalled
phones or get a refund.
Seems like Samsung is finally getting on top of this fiasco, putting customers first, not their own PR.
Bill Belichick: ‘I’m Done With the Tablets’ ★
New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on why he’s giving up on the NFL’s Microsoft Surface tablets and going back to paper. “Long answer to a short question, sorry.”
Apple’s deal to put iPads in MLB dugouts seems to be going better than Microsoft’s deal to put Surfaces on NFL sidelines. (One major difference: MLB’s dugout iPads are offline-only — teams can load them up with whatever information they want before the game starts, but during the games, they’re completely offline.)
‘Never Happened’ ★
Eight-minute short film by Mark Slutsky. Don’t even read the description, just set aside eight minutes in a dark room with a big screen. Trust me.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
So why does Siri seem so dumb? Why are its talents so limited? Why
does it stumble so often? When was the last time Siri delighted
you with a satisfying and surprising answer or action?
I have an answer for this: when I discovered during the NBA playoffs that Siri can tell you the Vegas betting odds for sporting events.
In recent weeks, on multiple Apple devices, Siri has been unable
to tell me the names of the major-party candidates for president
and vice president of the United States. Or when they were
debating. Or when the Emmy awards show was due to be on. Or the
date of the World Series. […]
Google Now, on the same Apple devices, using the same voice input,
answered every one of these questions clearly and correctly. And
that isn’t even Google’s latest digital helper, the new Google
If you try most of these broken examples right now, they’ll work
properly, because Apple fixed them after I tweeted screenshots of
most of them in exasperation, and asked the company about them.
Indeed, Siri now knows the date and time of the next U.S. presidential debate, but where Siri fundamentally falls apart is its inability to maintain context and chain together multiple commands. Here was my interaction trying this just now, transcribed exactly as Siri heard me:
Me: When is the next presidential debate?1
Siri: The third 2016 presidential debate will take place from 9:00pm to 10:30pm ET on Wednesday, October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Me: OK add it to my calendar.
Siri: OK, tell me the date and time of your event.
Me: Add the next presidential debate to my calendar.
Siri: I didn’t find any appointments about ‘presidential debate’ in the next three months.
Me: When is the next presidential debate?
Siri: The third 2016 presidential debate will take place from 9:00pm to 10:30pm ET on Wednesday, October 19 at the University of Nevada in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Me: Remind me about it one hour before it starts.
Siri: OK, I’ll remind you to ‘It starts’. When would you like to be reminded?
Five years in, this seems like a reasonable (and useful) thing to expect Siri to be able to do.2
For instance, when I asked Siri on my Mac how long it would take
me to get to work, it said it didn’t have my work address —
even though the “me” contact card contains a work address and
the same synced contact card on my iPhone allowed Siri to give
me an answer.
Similarly, on my iPad, when I asked what my next appointment was,
it said “Sorry, Walt, something’s wrong” — repeatedly, with
slightly different wording, in multiple places on multiple days.
But, using the same Apple calendar and data, Siri answered
correctly on the iPhone.
These sort of glaring inconsistencies are almost as bad as universal failures. The big problem Apple faces with Siri is that when people encounter these problems, they stop trying. It feels like you’re wasting your time, and makes you feel silly or even foolish for having tried. I worry that even if Apple improves Siri significantly, people will never know it because they won’t bother trying because they were burned so many times before. In addition to the engineering hurdles to actually make Siri much better, Apple also has to overcome a “boy who cried wolf” credibility problem.
I think “assistant” is the exact right term for this class of software. But I can’t imagine how stupid an actual human assistant would have to be not to understand a request like “Find out when the next debate is and put it on my calendar.” ★