Tuesday, May 9, 2017

CNET: Voice call functionality coming to Echo devices and Alexa app today

Hot on the heels of Amazon’s Echo Show announcement, CNET has confirmed Amazon will be introducing voice calling features for existing Alexa users today.

Existing Echo devices and the Alexa app will be updated to receive this functionality, which has the opportunity to truly change the dynamic in which these smart speakers are used.

This is truly an ‘Amazon’ way to do this, since their Fire Phone was a flop. I expect Apple’s ‘Siri Speaker’ to handle calls as well, but in a much different way. Either way, taking calls from the comfort of the couch without reaching for your phone will be nice.

Amazon introduces Echo Show smart speaker with touchscreen for $229 →

After multiple leaks this past Friday, May 5, and a Wall Street Journal report, Amazon introduced the Echo Show this morning. You can buy one for $229 or two for $358 (saving $100) for a June delivery. This is a very compelling move by Amazon and something Apple would never do (highlights the stark contrast between the two). I own an Echo Dot to mostly control our smart lights, and it is a pretty amazing little device. I’m curious what it would be like with a touchscreen. The Echo Show looks promising, as the features below highlight. I don’t care much for the design, though, with its sharp edges and blockiness in an age of sleek and soft corners.

Apple is also rumored to be working on a Siri-enabled smart speaker themselves, to be announced as early as June.

Pricing and Availability

$229 or two for $358 (save $100)
Colors: White, Black
Releases June 28, 2017

Features

  • Echo Show brings you everything you love about Alexa, and now she can show you things. Watch video flash briefings and YouTube, see music lyrics, security cameras, photos, weather forecasts, to-do and shopping lists, and more. All hands-free—just ask.
  • Introducing a new way to be together. Talk to family and friends who have an Echo or the Alexa App.
  • See lyrics on-screen with Amazon Music. Just ask to play a song, artist or genre, and stream over Wi-Fi. Also, stream music on Pandora, Spotify, TuneIn, iHeartRadio, and more.
  • Powerful room-filling speakers with Dolby processing for crisp vocals and extended bass response.
  • Ask Alexa to show you the front door or monitor the baby’s room with compatible cameras from Ring and Arlo. Turn on lights, control thermostats and more with WeMo, Philips Hue, ecobee, and other compatible smart home devices.
  • With eight microphones, beam-forming technology, and noise cancellation, Echo Show hears you from any direction—even while music is playing

Update 5/9 at 4:27pm: added intro video from Amazon.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Google is working on a new smartphone Operating System dubbed Fuchsia →

Ron Amadeo for ArsTechnica:

Google, never one to compete in a market with a single product, is apparently hard at work on a third operating system after Android and Chrome OS. This one is an open source, real-time OS called “Fuchsia.” The OS first popped up in August last year, but back then it was just a command line. Now the mysterious project has a crazy new UI we can look at, so let’s dive in.

Fuchsia

Source: Ars Technica

This work is obviously rough and early-on, but it’s always nice to see what might be coming next. Check out the Ars Technica article for more info and images.

Report: 'No Delay' for launch of iPhone 7s and 8 →

Steve Shen for DigiTimes this morning:

There will be no delay for the launch of the next generation iPhone devices, with the new devices to be unveiled in September, and Apple will begin selling the products in October, according to a Chinese-language Economic Daily News (EDN) report.

This report runs contrary to recent claims of this year’s iPhones being delayed by longtime analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. These rumors are very predictable with most Apple’s new product launches. Apple has yet to miss a predicted launch of a new iPhone (with exception to the white iPhone 4, which missed its debut by about a year), so this is par for the course.

However, given Apple’s recent extreme stock shortages with launching new products (Apple Watch, AirPods, iPhone 7), my money says you probably won’t be able to pick up an iPhone 7s/8 right away.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

iPhone 8 Rumors: screen, Touch ID, and Augmented Reality

It’s iPhone rumor season, and leaks have been coming out of the woodwork the past couple weeks. Apple is highly thought to be releasing two iPhone models this year–an iPhone 7S, with modest upgrades from the iPhone 7, and a special iPhone 8 to commemorate the iPhone’s 10th year anniversary.

Aside from an upgraded processor (A11), more memory, and better battery life, here’s a breakdown of a few more exciting features the current leaks are pointing to for the iPhone 8.

Read on

Friday, May 5, 2017

Amazon's touchscreen Echo device leaks

After a low resolution image was reported by tech news outlets earlier today, notorious device leaker Evan Blass has released a high resolution image of a purported Amazon Echo device with a touchscreen.

Amazon has been rumored to be working on such a device for a while. I’m not sure I see the entire benefit of having a touchscreen on a communal device, unless you’re already standing/walking, but it will be interesting to see what features Amazon brings forward.

Amazon Video app may finally arrive on Apple TV →

Peter Kafka and Jason Del Rey for Recode:

Amazon and Apple may have reached a truce. The tech giants, who are increasingly competing for customers’ time, eyeballs and money, are close to an agreement to bring an Amazon video app to Apple’s Apple TV set-top box, according to people familiar with the two companies. Amazon employees expect the app to show up on Apple’s hardware in the third quarter of the year.

It’s about time. I use my Apple TV daily, and while I shop a ton on Amazon, I have to say the lack of an Apple TV app has turned me off from watching Prime Video. Amazon can (and has done) whatever they want, but I don’t see why they shouldn’t be trying to reach their user base on whatever hardware they own.

Perhaps we will also see a return of the Apple TV hardware to Amazon as a result, since Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO) indicated the device was pulled due to a Prime Video app not existing for it.

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Apple Music needs a force-upload option (or equivalent)

Most people don’t have 40,000+ MP3s anymore, unless you’re my Dad. You see, my Dad is a music enthusiast, and ex-party DJ, so he has amassed quite the collection of music over the years. This collection includes rarities, alternate versions, region-specific masterings of albums, you name it. This presents some challenges when he uses Apple Music. To understand the issue here, let me first break down the three distinct services involved…

Read on

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

The Microsoft Surface Laptop *looks* nice

From the marketing to the actual laptop itself, everything about this screams “Apple”, except for the touchscreen, fabric keyboard, and USB 3 port. This is why competition is good. For those not ready to embrace a MacBook with USB-C, Surface Laptop might prove to be a good choice.

Although, a starting price of $999 with only 4GB of RAM and a 128GB drive is incredibly measly these days. Not to mention the host of concerns regarding Windows 10 S being discovered.