Google Home can now handle two commands at once →

Taylor Martin for CNET:

While Routines are still nowhere to be found, you can issue up to two commands to Google Home at once. You can say something like, “OK, Google, turn on the TV and what’s the weather?” Your TV with Chromecast ($35.00 at B&H Photo-Video) will power on and Google Home will tell you the weather for your location.

This worked with almost all the commands we tested. Traffic, however, only seemed to work sometimes. Other times Google Home just ignored the traffic request and responded to the second command. This feature is also limited to a string of two commands. Three or more commands will not work.

This is exactly what I asked for of smart speakers/assistants as a whole in this poorly-worded post.

Among the other examples given, for me, this would be extremely helpful to control two lights at once that aren’t exclusively part of a scene.

Previously, Google addressed my other request for adaptive volume with its Night Mode feature that lowers volume during preset times.

Too bad I don’t have a Google Home. Amazon needs to add this to their Echo line and Apple should take note for Siri/HomePod.

WWDC 2017 Expectations

Next week, Apple is holding its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC 2017) in San Jose, CA and we don’t know much, as the usual rumor mill has been fairly quiet. John Gruber put it best yesterday when he wrote about the lack of scoops and Tim Cook’s famous “doubling-down on secrecy” comment.

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).

Read on

Siri Smart Speaker reportedly enters manufacturing

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.

Thoughts on new Essential Phone and Home products

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.

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:

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.

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


  • 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.

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.