Google Assistant

John Gruber:

Google is clearly the best at this voice-driven assistant stuff. Pichai claimed that in their own competitive analysis, Google Assistant is “an order of magnitude” ahead of competing assistants (read: Siri and Alexa). That sounds about right. This might be like Steve Jobs’s 2007 claim that the iPhone was “5 years” ahead of anyone else.

Manton Reece:

Only Google has the expertise in web services and the massive amount of data to keep going beyond basic questions. I expect both Siri and Alexa will hit brick walls that Google will get past, especially in conversational queries that let the user drill down below the most popular, superficial facts.

Caitlin McGarry:

It’s a problem that could be solved with a Siri API for app developers, but according to a recent Reuters report, Apple’s Siri shortcomings can be attributed to the company’s stance on privacy.

The company has a trio of so-called “privacy czars” who vet every decision, even inspecting lines of code that might violate laws or company standards. When Apple bought Siri five years ago, it was decided that data on what you ask Siri would be stored separately from personal data, so Siri lacks a lot of the knowledge about you that it would need to be a truly useful assistant.

Ben Thompson:

The net result is that Google has no choice but to put its founding proposition to the ultimate test: is it enough to be the best? Can the best artificial intelligence overcome the friction that will be involved in using Google assistant on an iPhone? Can the best artificial intelligence actually shift human networks? Can the best artificial intelligence win the home in the face of a big head start?

[…]

Google’s competitors, by virtue of owning the customer, need only be good enough, and they will get better. Google has a far higher bar to clear — it is asking users and in some cases their networks to not only change their behavior but willingly introduce more friction into their lives — and its technology will have to be special indeed to replicate the company’s original success as a business.

Netflix launches new Internet speed test tool

Today we are launching fast.com, a simple-to-use website to help you see how fast your Internet connection is, whether on mobile or broadband, anywhere in the world. And like the Netflix service, it’s ad free with a streamlined design that is quick and easy to understand.

I/O: Building the next evolution of Google

This morning in our Mountain View, CA backyard, we kicked off Google I/O, our annual developer conference. Much has changed since our first developer event 10 years ago, and even more since Google started 17 years ago.

Back then, there were 300 million people online, connecting through desktop machines; today that number is over 3 billion, with the majority using mobile devices as their primary way to get information, organize their day, get from point A to point B, and stay in touch.

In a world in which the mobile phone has become the remote control for our daily lives, Google’s mission “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful” is truer and more important than ever before.

A run through by Google of all of today’s announcements at day one of I/O.

The iOS 9 keyboard shortcuts window

David Chartier:

When using a hardware keyboard with iOS 9, you can hold the Command key to view a cheat sheet of an app’s shortcuts (assuming its developer has updated to add some). But I noticed this morning that those shortcuts can be contextual, based on the task at hand or which panel or tab you are currently viewing.

The contextual menu is interesting, and handy.

The AnandTech iPhone SE Review

Brandon Chester, writing for AnandTech:

It’s really not difficult to come to a conclusion on the iPhone SE. It’s clearly the best 4-inch smartphone on the market, and you can ignore all of the specs when making that assessment because it achieves that by virtue of being the only offering at this size. For the sake of comparison, you can take a look at some Android devices that are larger than the SE, but smaller than your average Android smartphone.

[…]

Even when you consider the smallest high-end devices from the Android manufacturers, it’s not hard to see that the iPhone SE comes out on top. Apple’s A9 SoC is still one of the fastest chips you’ll find in a smartphone, and it goes without saying that the Snapdragon 810 SoC in a smartphone like the Xperia Z5 Compact really isn’t comparable in the slightest. Based on my experience, the camera is also unmatched at this size and price.

Reimagining the iPad’s Smart Connector

Dan Moren:

As the happy user of an iPad Air 2, I honestly can’t find much of a reason to take the leap to the iPad Pro. Yes, there’s the bigger screen size, and I admit that I’ve been tempted by the Apple Pencil support, but overall it’s not such a big improvement that I’m salivating at the prospect.

I also find myself a bit puzzled by the Smart Connector. This new connector, which can transfer both data and power, gets used by the Apple Smart Keyboard—and similar third-party keyboards—and a couple other accessories, like the Logitech Base charging station.

And that’s about it.

Frankly, that doesn’t seem like much to warrant the addition of an entirely new port, especially given Apple’s tendencies towards reducing connectors. So that has me wondering what else Apple might have up its sleeve for the Smart Connector?

As an equally happy iPad Air 2 user, I have to agree with Dan on this.

That connector just doesn’t seem like it entirely worth the addition, unless there are more features coming for it, it’s very non-Apple-like.

Apple confirms reports of potential bug in iTunes; safeguard patch expected next week

Official statement from Apple on the “iTunes deleting your music” bug:

In an extremely small number of cases users have reported that music files saved on their computer were removed without their permission. We’re taking these reports seriously as we know how important music is to our customers and our teams are focused on identifying the cause.

We have not been able to reproduce this issue, however, we’re releasing an update to iTunes early next week which includes additional safeguards. If a user experiences this issue they should contact AppleCare.

Huh? They can’t reproduce the bug but they can safeguard against it?

Apple’s actual role in podcasting

Marco Arment:

Podcasts are just MP3s. Podcast players are just MP3 players, not platforms to execute arbitrary code from publishers. Publishers can see which IP addresses are downloading the MP3s, which can give them a rough idea of audience size, their approximate locations, and which apps they use. That’s about it.

They can’t know exactly who you are, whether you searched for a new refrigerator yesterday, whether you listened to the ads in their podcasts, or even whether you listened to it at all after downloading it.

Big publishers think this is barbaric. I think it’s beautiful.

Big publishers think this is holding back the medium. I think it protects the medium.

6 ways Apple can improve Apple Music

Apple Music has attracted more than 13 million users in less than one year, but it’s been drawing criticism since its release for being confusing and complex.

Rumors suggest that Apple will update Apple Music soon, in order to address some of these issues. Here are six ways Apple can improve Apple Music.

Some nice suggestions from Kirk McElhearn for MacWorld. It would be nice if Apple actually reads posts like this, and really considers some of the pain points.

Spotify growing faster since introduction of Apple Music

Spotify, which was created in Stockholm 10 years ago, now boasts of having close to 100 million users in more than 59 markets, despite increasing competition and, so far, a lack of profits.

Spotify claims it has 30 million paid users compared to Apple’s 13 million. Both Apple and Spotify say they are growing, so the users are coming from other services, or they are new to streaming.