Apple is set to unveil the new Apple Watch Series 6 this week. It is also rumored that they will make a new, cheaper version of the Apple Watch instead of just dropping the price of an older model. It is rumored that the new series 6 will add other health features such as oxygen monitoring in the blood, while watchOS 7 will provide sleep tracking and even more training options.
The Apple Watch is without a doubt a health device first. I’m curious to see how Apple navigates and announces a function such as oxygen monitoring of blood – something that has been on everyone̵
Apple has done a very good job of being clear on what the Apple Watch is and is not. It is a nice health monitoring device that can function as an alert system under certain conditions. It is not a medical device and should not be used as the only health device if you are in danger of things Apple Watch is looking for. Apple has never (and I think never will) spread the difference – but right now it’s more important than ever that consumers understand that difference.
Anyway, I’m glad the Apple Watch finally found its place. The first couple of years there, it was not entirely clear what it was for, and it was even less clear that Apple had a good answer. Instead, it had several answers. And as this year’s update of the Apple Watch approaches, I’ve thought of one of the answers that has not happened: ambient computing.
My friend Walt Mossberg’s last column for The Verge was called “The Disappearing Computer” and it was about that idea, ambient computing. Back in 2017, we did not have a clear definition for it (and true, it is difficult to attach one now), but Walt had a good working model for some of the signs that it has arrived:
Technology, the computer inside all of these things, will fade into the background. In some cases, it may disappear completely and wait to be activated by a voice command, a person entering the room, a change in blood chemistry, a change in temperature, a movement. Maybe even just a thought.
We leave the thoughts to Elon Musk for now. As for the rest, it’s not that far from what the Apple Watch can do today. The Apple Watch is explicitly a computer designed to be on your body at all times, to blend into the background and become invisible, and to receive voice commands.
The Apple Watch, not the HomePod, should be Apple’s primary device for ambient computing. It is better suited for that task than the devices any other company is selling right now. Smart speakers from Amazon and Google are sitting in your home, but they have not found a surrounding computing outside your home. Sure, you can have Google Assistant on your phone or in your headphones, but it’s still too phone-centric.
Now you have already guessed the fly in this ointment: Siri. Apple’s digital assistant can simply not be the platform needed to unlock computing. Alexa and Google Assistant are also not quite ready, to be fair, but they are both far longer than Siri is.
The person who probably has the task of closing this gap is John Giannandrea, who led Google’s search and artificial intelligence until Apple intercepted him in 2018. Giannandrea spoke recently Ars Technica and revealed that he created the team that used machine learning for the iPad’s Apple Pencil detection algorithms, so that it could have lower latency and better handwriting recognition – something Google already did with Chrome OS, and Samsung just started doing with the Galaxy Note.
On the iPad it works: both latency and handwriting recognition are much better than I have seen before. “Scratch mode” in iPadOS 14 is not quite up to the task of replacing a keyboard completely, but it’s great for short chunks of text.
I take it up not to draw a line from this application of ML to generalized ambient computing, but to point out that there is a lot that can be done with the ML and AI tools already in everyone’s technical workbench. They just need to be used in new and smart ways. Using ML to improve handwriting and latency on the iPad is not a sea change, but instead it is a step in the right direction.
Going in the right direction is what Siri needs right now. Even on the new beta version of watchOS 7, I still can not ask Siri to do something basic like setting more timers. It’s actually ridiculous! If you insert a second timer, the first one is invisibly canceled without any indication that it is gone. That’s the thing that keeps the echo dot in my kitchen.
Harping on multiple timers in Siri – and harping on Siri in general – can be seen as making too many small complaints. But on the flip side, Apple is aware of this complaint and has been so for some time but has not resolved it.
It is frankly worrying. Apple can – and does – add great new features to Siri on a regular basis. But no one will ever discover these abilities if Siri explains the basics on a regular basis. And it still does.
The first Apple Watch was like the first beta of Siri: a mess. Apple Watch never had a moment where it was “fixed”, but instead was slowly fixed over time via relentless iteration and improvement. In theory, the same should apply to Siri, but it has not happened at the same pace.
Although Siri is not where it should be, the Apple Watch is still the market’s best smartwatch by a large margin. But if Siri could do more, the Apple Watch could be something more. The era of computing is still coming. Will Siri be ready?
Towards the end of his interview with Ars, Giannandrea talked about hiring new talent for his team. “I guess the biggest problem I have is that many of our most ambitious products are the ones we can not talk about, so it’s a bit of a sales challenge to say to someone, ‘Come and work with the most ambitious ever, but I’m can not tell you what it is. ‘”
It sounds good, but my advice is to start talking sooner rather than later. And the “conversation” I want to see is actually action: new features for Siri that come via the same relentless improvement of the things people are trying to use Siri for today.. And hey, maybe start with timers.
A rare Monday newsletter today, partly because I was thinking about the Apple Watch and partly because last night was a wild night of technical news! Nvidia announced that it will buy Arm, and Oracle reportedly does not buy TikTok, but becomes a “reliable technology partner.”
┏ What to expect from Apple’s Time Flies’ event: Apple Watch Series 6, a redesigned iPad Air and more. Jay Peters rounds out the most likely suspects. High probability: new Apple watches and new iPad Air. Medium: Apple’s new service pack. Low: everything else.
┏ Apple Music for Android includes reviews of the rumored ‘Apple One’ service pack.
┏ Apple’s new App Store policies create loopholes for xCloud, Stadia and other apps that Apple had blocked. These are not as many loopholes as they are narrow tunnels filled with spikes and poisonous tentacles. I see these more as clarifications of what Apple’s existing policy is than any meaningful change.
┏ Microsoft stumbles Apple’s olive branch into cloud games: ‘a bad experience for customers’.
┏ Nvidia buys Arm for $ 40 billion. Kim Lyons on a successful deal:
Arm will operate as a division of Nvidia and will remain headquartered in the UK, and will “continue to operate its open licensing model whilst maintaining its global customer neutrality,” the company said. But the agreement will probably still be subject to intense regulatory control.
┏ Oracle allegedly wins agreement for TikTok’s US companies as ‘reliable technology partner’. Hopefully when you read this, we have more details, but there was way too much noise and rage that led to this, and it seems like a much smaller deal than everyone expected.
the company is chosen as a “reliable technology partner” instead. This is different from direct sales, and seems to suggest that Oracle will help run TikTok’s US operations with its own cloud technologies.
┏ Microsoft says it will not acquire TikTok after ByteDance rejects the offer. Microsoft’s statement here is very brief, to the point where it’s hard not to believe that some kind of shenanigans happened that led up to it.
┏ Samsung announces September 23 event, probably for Galaxy S20 ‘Fan Edition’. Chris Welch:
Most recently, the unannounced phone was found on Verizon’s website by Android Police. Leaks and rumors have suggested that it will retain some standard S20 hardware specifications – such as a 120Hz monitor and Snapdragon 865 processor – but will make downgrades elsewhere (such as a 1080p resolution) to help reduce the price under the flagship. When it comes to exactly what the price will be, we are not sure.
┏ Facebook reinvents Facebook with the launch of Campus for students. Ashley Carman:
Campus can be a way Facebook tries to keep students and younger people on the original Facebook app and engaged longer. At the same time, it builds up behavior Facebook says has already been seen on the platform.
┏ Bose announces $ 279 QuietComfort earplugs and $ 179 sports earplugs. Here they are. Chris Welch has the details, the most interesting of which is that Bose stuffs in 11 levels of noise reduction in these small earplugs. I had been happy with on or off.
┏ Bose introduces three new pairs of Frames sound sunglasses for $ 249. You know I have to admit I’m surprised Bose keeps making these – they have to sell pretty well!
┏ Sony announces PS5 event on Wednesday 16 September. We should finally get an award.
┏ Your move, PS5. Sean Hollister:
But there is no reason for Sony to hold back now that Microsoft has revealed its hand. The question is how low Sony should go, how low it can afford to go, for as strong as the PS4 has been and as weak as the Xbox once seemed, $ 299 is an incredible starting price that seems impossible to meet or beat.
┏ A closer look at Nvidia’s new RTX 3080.
┏ A first look at Microsoft’s new Xbox Series X console. Microsoft sent Tom Warren a pair of dummy devices of the upcoming Xbox consoles. Yep, it’s pretty big.
┏ Microsoft’s new Xbox Series S is surprisingly small in size and price. Of the two boxes, the Series S is more fascinating because it is actually quite small. I expected not to get a Series X, but now I’m torn.
┏ Welcome to the next generation of games. Xbox and Playstation are exciting, but even if you are not interested in PC games, you should keep an eye out for the upcoming reviews of Nvidia’s new powerful graphics card. If it lives up to Nvidia’s claims, it could be the driver of a whole new generation of other PC components – starting with monitors.
┏ Microsoft Surface Duo review: double issues. My review of Surface Duo, along with a video I’m very proud of. Microsoft does not have a good start here, I must be honest. But even though it has triggered software errors and camera problems, it is running in the right direction.
┏ Asus ROG Zephyrus Duo 15 review: a gaming laptop that does not need two monitors. It turns out that making a dual-screen gaming PC is as difficult as making a dual-screen phone. Monica Chin reviews:
For example, if you run Grave robber in full screen mode and try clicking on a Discord chat below, it minimizes the game. You can solve this problem by using window mode, but tinkering with ScreenPad still drains you.
More from The Verge
┏ Subscribe to Antivirus: a weekly newsletter on COVID-19 research. This new newsletter from scientific editor Mary Beth Griggs is a must-have subscription:
This month we are officially launching a newsletter version of Antivirus, a column that we have quietly rolled out on the site every Saturday morning. It’s about the involuntary efforts of scientists to understand coronavirus – and find out how to stop it.
┏ Why ‘Cancel Netflix’ is popular. Julia Alexander with the definitive story that explains what the heck is going on with this terrible mess of conspiracy theory and social media.