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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

Google Assistant for iOS is a clunky mess

Karissa Bell for Mashable:

For starters, Assistant’s iOS app is a confusing, disjointed, mess. You’d think the Assistant would be able to easily link up with all your other Google services, but that wasn’t the case in my initial testing.

It isn’t often that I agree with an article on Mashable. However, in this case I very much agree.

Using Assistant for iOS for a bit yesterday I found myself scratching my head thinking “but, I thought I could do this, or that, or that?”. In reality, the Assistant on iOS as it stands is Google’s search with voice input on top of it. Just like Siri. Which is equally frustrating to use.

One quick note here: Google does not have the access to iOS APIs that Apple does. For this reason Assistant is neutered from the jump. However, Google does a bad job explaining that and so user expectation is pretty high when I first installed the app. Assistant on iOS will likely never be as good as the Android or Home Assistant and that should be clear.

One other quick note: I think the entire tech industry began using the term “AI” a decade too soon. “Bot” is ok. A bot can respond to a set of commands and only those commands. That feels much more accurate when describing Google’s Assistant. But calling features like Cortana, Siri, Assistant, Bixby (or whatever Samsung’s assistant is) is a huge, huge stretch of the term AI in their current states. And likely will be for a number of years to come.

Clips

Apple:

Introducing Clips. A new iOS app for making and sharing fun videos with text, effects, graphics, and more.

I’ve been looking for an app like this for a long time. The Verge describes how I think I’ll use this app.

My best guess is because the default camera app is still something that’s supposed to be super simplistic (and accessible from the lock screen). And I think in some ways, this is a precursor to a consumer AR app, but Apple declined to answer questions around that. Clips seems like it could be the perfect app to use when iMovie is too much and the default camera app is not enough. The question is whether it will be the necessary stop between your phone’s camera and your favorite social network.

I’ve tried to edit a personal “vlog” (that I do not publish publicly) for a long time. And I did it using iMovie. But iMovie is too much for this. What I really want is Instagram Stories or Snapchat Stories in their own app. It looks like I’ll kind of sort of get that with Clips.

I don’t know why they didn’t just release it. Apple doesn’t usually announce things before they’re ready (I’m not counting operating system releases which require so much public testing). But I’ll be happy to get my hands on this next month.

A tablet and a notebook in one

John Gruber:

To me, an iPad in notebook mode — connected to a keyboard cover — is so much less nice than a real notebook. And the difference is more stark when compared to a great notebook, like these MacBook Pros. There are advantages to the tablet form factor, but no tablet will ever be as nice as a notebook as these MacBook Pros. I also prefer MacOS over iOS for, well, “doing work”. I think I’m more productive on a Mac than I am on an iPad. I can’t prove it, but even if I’m wrong, the fact that I feel like it’s true matters. I always feel slightly hamstrung working on an iPad. I never do on a Mac (at least once I’ve got it configured with all the apps and little shortcuts, scripts, and utilities I use).

I totally agree with John. An iPad does not feel as nice as a MacBook. I’ve owned both devices and used them both daily for years. And I, like him, feel much less productive on an iPad than on a notebook computer like the MacBook. I used my iPad for reading, watching videos, and doing light work-related tasks like note taking at a client meeting. But for real work I grabbed my MacBook and, preferably, connected it to a display.

But what if you could have both? What if you could have both a tablet and a notebook in one? And what if all of the work that you do on the notebook could be possible on the tablet? I’ll be writing much more about my experiences with the new Surface Book with Performance Base in the coming weeks (I have only had mine three days and I want to get a little more comfortable with it prior to a proper review) but I can say this – without hesitation – the Surface Book is the marriage of the iPad and the MacBook and I’m loving it.

I read John’s post with the Clipboard portion (read: the display) of the Surface Book and was compelled to write this post. So I docked the display on the keyboard and began typing. Not because I couldn’t have used the on-screen keyboard, but more because I’m much quicker with a full computer. I have all of my shortcuts and customizations. The small little things that make more far more productive.

And, let’s not forget the actual reason John gave for feeling “hamstrung” while using the iPad – it is the software. The operating system. With my new Surface Book I’m running Windows 10 in desktop mode when docked to the Performance Base and in tablet mode when detached from it. But, in both situations I have my data, my customization, my small tweaks, my multitasking capabilities, etc. It truly is the best of both worlds.

I’ve long written on this blog that I believe Microsoft’s vision of one operating system for both contexts is better than Apple’s two-OS approach. John disagrees with me on this. And I don’t know that there is a right or wrong answer but there certainly is a preference. My preference is to keep my “power user” stuff at my fingertips for when I need them but to hide them when I don’t. The Surface Book does this.

I’m truly enjoying this device and I’m very much looking forward to sharing more about my switch back from the Mac to Windows 10. But for now I’m going to detach my display and get back to watching YouTube videos on my couch.

Loren Brichter on web apps

K. Q. Dreger interviewed Loren Brichter about his recent sale of Letterpress (my favorite iOS game). The interview is full of little behind-the-scenes tidbits on Letterpress and how it was made and where it is going.

However, when Dreger asks Brichter what he’s been up to and what he will be doing next, I thought his thoughts on web apps was worth noting:

My work for the last few years has been on the web, and honestly, it’s a breath of fresh air. Instant refreshing, surprisingly good debugging / perf tools, intrinsically multi-platform, and most importantly, open.

I find the entire concept of App Review morally questionable despite Apple’s good intentions. So I sleep better at night not being part of that anymore. Sure, the web is messy, and it’s delicate, but it’s important and good and getting better fast.

Wouldn’t be surprised if I never went back.

Strong words from someone who has made a big, big name for himself in iOS development. Welcome to the web Loren, you’ll love it here. I’ll be watching Atebits.

GoPro open sources Camera Toolkit

GoPro just updated their iOS app. In the release notes I noticed a link to their developer page wherein they’ve open sourced their Camera Toolkit for iOS and Android. Let’s hope a ton of bug fixes result so I can stop hacking mine.

Got Loop’d

It is always a pleasure to be linked to from The Loop. Yesterday, one of my posts about Photos for OS X and what I think can be done to improve it, was linked to (at my behest) by Dave Mark.

My link is in good company there. Be sure to check out the other links too.

This, in turn, spurred a few other links flowing into that post. This morning I saw this link from Benny Ling on AppleTalk from Australia. I love the internet.

E6: Verizon, iPhone SE, Yeti

The iPhone SE is for me and Yeti is changing my life.

 

Download MP3

Trying iOS, Android, and Windows

Fred Wilson:

I plan to go back to iOS when the next iPhone ships, and then back to Android six months after that. In this way, I can stay current on both operating systems and ecosystems which I think is useful in my business.

I wish I could do this again. For a time I was when we had a number of testing devices laying around. I’d pick one up and using it for a weekend here and there. During that time my eyes were opened to what was available on all platforms.

At that time Windows Phone stuck out to me as the winner over Android but iOS was still in the lead. I wrote:

Windows Phone is a much better competitor to iOS than Android currently is. It is clean, simple to use, vastly different than iOS (which is good since Android and iOS just bite off each other with each release), and really fun to play with. The problem? Official apps.

And official apps are still a problem on Windows. Windows Phone was great the way Mac OS was great for years. Microsoft just didn’t stick with it. They got beat. And now it seems like they are moving on.

It was expensive to have multiple new and up-to-date devices in service at the same time. I think our monthly bill was roughly $700 or so. Not cheap for a small business. I like Wilson’s approach a bit more. Switch between devices completely once a year or so. Perhaps I’ll find a way to do that too.

 

I’d love to see Windows Phone become the third horse in the smartphone OS race

Fred Wilson, on Android and iOS:

But I find myself rooting hard for Apple now. I sense the danger they are in and I don’t want either smartphone OS to be so dominant that we lose the level playing field we have now. It’s very important for startups, innovation, and an open mobile ecosystem for all.

It is true. Apple has been dominant for too long and in some ways Android is really beginning to creep on their turf. There are many layers to the smartphone market onion but I look at three things when I try to determine who is winning: market share, profit, number of official apps.

Each of these three categories are important and any single company can focus on any combination of the three and still be “winning” or at least competing. I think Apple has focused on design quality and number of official apps as their primary ways to maintain profitshare. And they earn the lion’s share of the money being earned in the smartphone market. I think Android has focused on low cost, “open” offerings to capture market share. And they’re obviously doing a great job at growing.

By capturing market share, as Wilson mentioned in his post, Android will now end up capturing the official applications it was missing out on before because Android is where the people are. Or, at least as many people or more than on iOS. Wilson posits that iOS and Android are near parity. I think he’s right. And I think we’re about to see a shift in perception in Android as more and more official apps are made either first or at the same time as they are for iOS. See: Dropbox, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. Imagine if Instagram was made today and made only for Android. Something like that could happen any day.

Because of my work I have an iPhone 5, a Samsung Galaxy S4, a Motorola Razr, and a Nokia Lumia 920 running Windows Phone on my desk. The iPhone 5 has been my daily use phone since June 29, 2007. The Samsung Galaxy S4 is an amazing technical achievement – with the eye watching and all – but overall I am not in love with Android. Certainly not as much as my friend Paul. It is just too busy, too much going on, there always seems to be so much running. Android is far from simple. Not to mention that the manufacturers and telcos end up adding so much junk to the phone it can seem hard to navigate through. The S4 came with three browsers and four ways to buy music pre-installed! I realize this isn’t Android’s “fault” but as a consumer it is certainly confusing.

Regarding Windows Phone

Windows Phone OS

Windows Phone is probably not going to take off if they haven’t found a way to do it already. But can I just say this? Windows Phone is a much better competitor to iOS than Android currently is. It is clean, simple to use, vastly different than iOS (which is good since Android and iOS just bite off each other with each release), and really fun to play with. The problem? Official apps.

Most of the applications on Windows Phone are absolutely abysmal if they aren’t the official apps. The Instagram apps end up getting their photos deleted from Instagram because they use Private APIs. Not to mention that when compared to Instagram they’re terrible. The Dropbox apps, which aren’t official, are simply unusable. All of the official apps, however, such as Twitter, Spotify, and others are superior to their iOS counterparts in a number of ways. I love the Spotify app on Windows Phone.

As the smartphone market matures from people buying their first smartphone to people buying their second, third, and fourth smartphones people are going to come to expect the quality they find on iOS and now on Android. The official applications are, in general, amazingly well-made and work great. If someone gets a Windows Phone as their second or third smartphone they are simply going to think that the applications on it are poor.

I think Windows Phone “the OS” is great. But I think Windows Phone “the business” doesn’t have a focus. They aren’t focused on market share by offering amazingly cheap hardware. They aren’t focused on having the best official apps. And they aren’t focused on profit. I don’t know what Windows Phone stands for besides Microsoft simply having an OS in the mobile space. And I certainly don’t see enough ads for Windows Phone.

I wish Windows Phone had a better shot. I love the Lumia. If it had a few more official applications on it I’d switch to it from my iPhone 5 in a heartbeat. I haven’t tried the Lumia 1020 but if it is even better than the 920 I could see myself switching in spite of the application debacle. But I don’t know if Windows Phone has a chance. I don’t know what they should focus on to get to parity with Android and iOS and I don’t even know if there is room in the market – large as it may be – for a third horse.

I agree with Wilson that Android and iOS are near parity but I’d love to see Windows Phone become the third horse in the smartphone OS race.