WWDC is a developer event at heart, but Apple has been known to make consumer-facing announcements there as well, since media coverage will be high. Apple is set to give the opening keynote at 10AM Pacific on June 5, and you can watch it here.
Typically, hardware-specific announcements are kept to a minimum, but we may be in for a a few surprises this year. Either way, here’s what I think we can expect (and not expect).
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.
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.
As hinted at last week, Andy Rubin’s new startup (Essential) has announced [Essential Phone](https://www.essential.com/# introduction) and [Essential Home](https://www.essential.com/home# introduction) (Amazon Echo/Google Home competitor).
Essential Phone: In a Nutshell
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).
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).
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
Connect your iPhone to Wi-Fi.
Go to Settings > About.
Plug the AirPods case in to charge and open the lid near your phone.
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.
If you do see the “AirPods” menu, wait 30 seconds, then close the case lid.
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.
New version showing in Settings > About > AirPods.
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…