The Current State of Digital Assistants

I spent this week reading one primary piece on HomePod and Echo as smart devices.

Subsequently, I was able to check out some follow ups to this piece from a few other writers I follow. I wanted to chime in a bit as I’ve outfitted my home in Alexa devices (as well as Google Homes at one point) to perform tasks around the house, and also consistently use Siri and Google Assistant on my iPhone X whenever possible.

While it’s true that, yes, being on the cutting edge of this stuff doesn’t really amount to much at this point in the grand scheme of things, that doesn’t mask the fact that Siri severely lacks in the current areas that are available.

I like playing with “smart home” stuff, and have lights, switches, thermostats, A/V components, and the like all connected to Alexa. Because of its openness to link everything together (without having to use something like Homekit), it’s easy to set up and a lot of fun to simply speak direction. Alexa is great at this – it doesn’t talk much (unlike Google), and the exact direction leads to exactly what you want. I use Homebridge to keep everything in sync with Siri, but I imagine that’s outside the scope of most people. With Alexa, it all just works and is cheap to configure. With Siri, it’s quite the opposite.

On the phone, however, Google reigns supreme. I do use Siri whenever I can, but I keep Google Assistant on my homescreen to make standard searches that much easier.

Case in point this week when I was out walking my dog and reading about the Pittsburgh Penguins trade deadline targets. The article didn’t note when the deadline was and I forgot that date. So, with my AirPods in use, I asked Siri.


Siri’s respone was to give me every game on the schedule that day, which was exactly what I did not want. I quickly then swiped up, 3D touched the Google Assistant icon and spoke the same question to Google. The response:



Its response – the exact, correct date of the deadline with no other nonsense. And, if I wanted, direct links to Google search that for more info, OR add it directly to my calendar (which was unexpected, but nice).

This is only one example, I get it. And yes, I would love to have the assistants at the point of what Joe explains where I could ask to purchase a flight for something and it would know all the info. But we’re not there yet, and Siri is far behind at the moment in most of this space. For what’s currently available, I want these assistants to help me and make my life just a tad easier in some scenarios. Alexa and Google Assitant are pretty decent at making that happen.

Hopefully the competitiveness leads to them all being even better eventually. As Joe wrote, “there’s no reason one winner needs to take all in this field, by the way.”


Opener for iOS

Sending along some extra pub for this app recommendation. Once you get into the habit of consistently using Opener for your preferred app, you’ll wonder how you lived without it.

My biggest use cases include Apollo for Reddit links, YouTube, Tweetbot, Wikipedia, and Overcast. Though, there are plenty more. That being said, I really wish Apple would start letting us designate third-party apps as defaults in some scenarios.

Hulu with Live TV now testing 60fps

Some good comments in the thread on this one.

Yeah, this is great. Nice announcement. However, Hulu is the most unreliable live TV over internet service I’ve tried. YouTube TV, Sling, and Vue have all performed better in my tests. If you’re in the market, I’d suggest giving those three a shot and using Hulu simply as an on-demand supplement.

An Apple News EIC

Source: Lauren Kern Named First Editor-in-Chief of Apple News

… This is great and all. I like the app, but only browse it every once in a while when my RSS/Podcast feeds are completed. I’d be happy to see the news delivery made better here.

The one thing I never see mentioned, though, is how sensitive the Apple News app is to touch compared to every other app on iOS. I can’t scroll without it triggering the text selection effect. That happens nowhere else for me.

A well-priced, quality travel backpack

I always read bag reviews that Brooks writes. They are fantastic, but I’m always left wanting a bag that ends up in the $200-300 range. I get paying for quality, but I don’t travel enough for that type of investment.

Looks like this one is for me.

The thing about the Faroe is the price. It’s a well above average bag, at a rock bottom price. For the price, features, quality, style, and capacity — I cannot think of a better bag to recommend. In fact, if you are new to traveling with a backpack only, I think this is the bag you start with.

Source: The Arcido Faroe

Google Spins Off Hangouts

For real, yikes:

For those following along at home, Google’s certainly done this to its chat clients before. Prior to the trio of Allo, Duo, and Hangouts, there was Google Talk, Google Voice, Buzz, G+ Messenger, and the regular old Android SMS app.

Now, the Google’s push seems simple: all Hangouts products are for enterprise. Allo and Duo are for consumers. Except when you’re on a desktop computer, in which case you’ll use Hangouts for messaging inside of Gmail. Or if you want to have a group video chat with more than one other person, because you’ll need to use Hangouts for that too.

This is going to be a bit insufferable for users as things get ironed out, but for the time being everything in the consumer version of Hangouts will remain the same.

I talk to my friends daily on Hangouts on the web. The fact Google can’t unify behind a single chat cleint is frustrating.