Tuesday, February 20, 2018

HomePod Review

My wife and I are casual musicians and both grew up with a love for music. Ever since we moved in together, we always have had a speaker in the kitchen — it’s the place we most commonly play music without headphones. The JBL OnBeat Venue LT speaker we’ve had in there has served us well, but has officially been usurped by HomePod. Here’s why.

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Thursday, October 12, 2017

Google will ‘permanently remove’ Home Mini feature that led to constant recording →

Jacob Kastrenakes for The Verge:

Google has decided to “permanently remove” the feature that led to a “small number” of Home Mini units accidentally recording thousands of times a day, instead of just when a user triggers it. In a statement released today, the company said that it made the decision because “we want people to have complete peace of mind while using Google Home Mini.”

Google had seemingly hoped to return the top button functionality to the Home Mini at a later date, but now the company seems to have given up on that — either because it couldn’t figure out a way to do it, or simply out of an abundance of caution. (I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s both; the potential for the Mini to turn into a constant surveillance device would be a huge liability.) Either way, it’s not the biggest loss, but it’s not great to see such a major issue come up right as a product is about to ship.

With the top button gone, the Home Mini now has to be activated entirely by voice, which isn’t really a huge limitation since it’s designed to be a voice assistant. The Mini’s left and right buttons will continue to work for adjusting the volume.

I’m guessing most people rarely use a similar button on the full-size Google Home or Echo devices, but the fact that this basic functionality had to be completely disabled is a monumental screw up. Google is learning the hard way that making your own hardware isn’t as easy as it seems.

As Jacob alludes to, the optics of this aren’t great either, as Google is a company that profits mainly off user data.

All in all, this really is an unfortunate misstep — the smart home market’s maturity will depend on increased competition as a result of successful products. I quite like the fabric top, too. To me, it’s more aesthetically pleasing than the all-business-looking Echo Dot.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Google Home Night Mode will lower volume and lights during specified times →

Corbin Davenport for Android Police:

Google created a preview program for the Google Home back in August, allowing users to test upcoming features. A new option has appeared for Homes on the preview – Night Mode. With this, you can set a time span (and even specific days) for the Home to reduce its volume automatically and dim the speaker’s lights. In addition, you can also enable a new Do Not Disturb mode, which blocks sounds from reminders and other broadcasted messages. Alarms and timers will still be heard when DnD is turned on, just like on Android.

This is great, and the volume lowering addresses one of the feature requests I wrote about in a terribly-titled article a few months ago. Hopefully similar options come to Alexa and especially Siri, since HomePod is launching this December.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Home Smart Home (Part I)

They say home is where the heart is. If that’s true, then a smart home is where the brain is. We are on the precipice of solving a truly first-world problem: never having to leave the couch. We’re at the beginning of an age when our homes will welcome us upon arrival and react when we depart.

My wife and I moved into a new house last year, and having a six month old gave us the perfect opportunity to dip our feet into the Smart Home pond in an effort to make our lives easier. When I say us, I really mean me. Bless my wife, though; she is amazingly supportive and immediately loved the house’s new smarts. Being able to turn out all the lights in the house while lying in bed taking care of a newborn is a mini-miracle for new parents. Seriously. If you know a new set of parents, buy them a smart switch to control their lights—they will love you forever.

This is Part I of ‘Home Smart Home’, a series on chasing the smart home dream.

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