Apple Acquires Workflow ➝

Matthew Panzarino, reporting for TechCrunch:

Apple has finalized a deal to acquire Workflow today — a tool that lets you hook together apps and functions within apps in strings of commands to automate tasks. We’ve been tracking this one for a while but were able to confirm just now that the ink on the deal is drying as we speak. […]

Workflow the app is being acquired, along with the team of Weinstein, Conrad Kramer, Ayaka Nonaka and Nick Frey. In a somewhat uncommon move for Apple, the app will continue to be made available on the App Store and will be made free later today.

I couldn’t be happier for the Workflow team. They’ve built one of the most innovative applications for iOS and grown it into an absolutely essential piece of any iOS power user’s arsenal.

I would typically be concerned about the app’s future in situations like this. But Workflow will continue to be made available in the App Store, for free, and this has me hopeful. I expect subsequent versions of the app to have access to much more powerful actions with APIs that aren’t available to third-party developers.

Apple Online Store Going Down for ‘Maintenance’ Tomorrow ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Apple has updated its System Status page to indicate that its online store will be “updated and unavailable” due to “maintenance” tomorrow, Tuesday, March 21, between midnight and 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time (or the equivalent in other time zones, such as between 3:00 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time).

The timing of the downtime will naturally stir speculation given that Apple is rumored to launch new products as early as this week. Moreover, Apple commonly issues press releases at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time, which is exactly when the so-called “maintenance” update is scheduled to be completed.

This maintenance could be nothing of interesting. But, if Apple was releasing new products in a press release tomorrow, I think minor iPad and iMac updates are the most likely announcements.

Building a Hackintosh Pro ➝

Dan Counsell, on the Hacintosh he built to replace his gaming PC and desktop Mac:

I’ve been running this machine for a couple of weeks now and I couldn’t be happier. It’s super fast and I can easily switch between Mac and Windows. I’ve switched off auto-updates in Sierra. While system updates should work just fine, I prefer to hold off until the community over at tonymacx86 have confirmed there are no issues. This is probably one of the major drawbacks to running a Hackintosh.

If you’re into tech and enjoy tinkering and understanding how things work then you’ll find building a Hackintosh is hugely rewarding.

The performance this machine was able to achieve, at the price he paid, is staggering. On single-core tasks, it’s faster than any Mac Apple currently sells and, if you forgo all the bells and whistles, it can be built for about $1,800.

But of course, the downside to building a Hacintosh is the possibility that software updates could break your macOS install or cause unexpected bugs. And that’s exactly why I’ve steered clear of building one for myself. As much as I like the idea of putting together a PC and installing a fresh copy of macOS on it, I just don’t have the time (or patience) to deal with the potential headaches down the road.

Netflix Is Testing a Button for Skipping the Opening Credits ➝

Casey Newton, writing for The Verge:

Netflix is testing a button that lets you skip the opening credits on some television shows, the company said. This week some Twitter users spotted a “skip intro” button that appears when you hover over the title sequence for shows including Netflix originals House of Cards and Iron Fist, and Mad Men and The Office (third-party shows). The button works both with shows that begin with the title sequence and those that include one after a cold open. […]

Skipping the opening credits is a long-standing request of many Netflix users, who are prone to binge-watching shows and would rather not watch the House of Cards smooth jazz time lapse eight times in a single day. And if episodes are auto-playing for you, in many cases the opening sequence will be skipped automatically.

This is an incredible feature that I expect to become table stakes amongst streaming video services. In the age of on-demand video playback, show intros are irrelevant past the first episode. But I’d like to see Netflix take this a step further by letting you skip the previews and recaps that were originally designed to bookend commercial breaks. They’re irritating and unnecessary.

Google Reduces JPEG File Size By 35% ➝

Sebastian Anthony, writing for Ars Technica:

Google has developed and open-sourced a new JPEG algorithm that reduces file size by about 35 percent—or alternatively, image quality can be significantly improved while keeping file size constant. Importantly, and unlike some of its other efforts in image compression (WebP, WebM), Google’s new JPEGs are completely compatible with existing browsers, devices, photo editing apps, and the JPEG standard.

This is exciting news, especially since existing applications are already capable of viewing images compressed with this new system. I hope web developers quickly adopt this new algorithm to help shrink page sizes. And I wouldn’t mind the folks at Workflow adopting the algorithm for their image compression action, which is what I use when publishing images on the site.

Lightning Everything

It’s safe to say that I was a bit concerned when the Wall Street Journal published a piece that indicated Apple would be removing the Lightning connector from future iPhones and replacing it with a USB-C port. Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of an open standard for charging — having a single cable that will work on Android phones, iPhones, MacBooks and potentially iPads would take a huge step towards simplifying the charging process for everyone.

My concerns were primarily selfish in nature, though. Just a few weeks ago I started the process of transitioning everything in my travel bag to replacements that charge over Lightning. The primary goal was to reduce the amount of cables I needed to bring with me and eliminate the frustration associated with finding the right cable for each device when I’m riffling through my bag.

Imagine my surprise when I read that Ming-Chi Kuo had clarified the rumor, saying that future iPhones would retain the Lightning connector, but that it would gain USB-C capabilities — much like the 12.9-inch iPad Pro, which supports USB 3.0 transfer speeds and faster charging when used with a Lightning to USB-C cable. This was great news. I could continue transitioning to Lightning everything without the worry of reverting my bag to a mess of cables when I purchase the next iPhone this fall.

You may be wondering what I could possibly have in my bag that allows me to go all-in on Lightning. There certainly must be something that requires, at least, a micro-USB cable. Well, no, everything in my bag has a Lightning connector.

My bag contains my entire everyday computing setup. I’ve been able to pare it back considerably since I’ve switched to iOS, but I’m still able to get everything done on these devices without ever needing to interact with a non-Lightning power cable. I specify “power” because I still have to carry an HDMI cable with me for the times when I want to watch video content on our hotel room’s television.

The first, and most obvious item in my bag is the iPad Air 2. It’s my primary computing device and where I do the vast majority of my work. It’s powered over Lightning, like the iPhone in my pocket, and every other iOS device Apple makes. And will make for the foreseeable future, thankfully.

Next, we have the Magic Keyboard and the Aukey 3600mAh Portable Power Bank. The Magic Keyboard isn’t anything particularly special. I’ve only had it for a few weeks and I’ve been lukewarm on it so far. The slim design and Lightning charging port are fantastic, but I still find myself getting a little lost in areas of the keyboard — especially the arrow keys. I haven’t found the shallow key travel to be as irritating as I was worried it would be. The pleasant clicking sound of the butterfly mechanism more than makes up for their lack of travel.

The Aukey Power Bank is a unique product, though. It’s the only external battery I’m aware of that charges over Lightning. It doesn’t appear to feature MFi certification, so my impression is that Aukey made it without Apple’s blessing. That would explain why no one else is making portable batteries with Lightning ports. But this is a tremendous product. It isn’t going to give you multiple-days-worth of charge for your iPhone or iPad, but its small enough to fit in your bag without adding much weight and the convenience of the Lightning port is unparalleled.

For trips when I expect to have a fair amount of downtime (which is rare) I have the SteelSeries Nimbus. It is, what I’d consider to be, the absolute best MFi controller available. I can prop up my iPad in the Twelve South Compass or plug it into whatever television is available, with the Lightning to HDMI adapter, and play some of the best games that iOS has to offer. And when I’m finished gaming, I can recharge the controller using the same cable I used with my iPhone.

The Future

There are two more Lightning-powered items that I’d like to add to my kit — AirPods and the Beats Pill+ (or a similar, Lightning-powered Bluetooth speaker). I’ve already ordered the AirPods, but Apple’s having serious supply issues and the estimated ship date isn’t for another five weeks. I’m hoping, by some miracle, that Apple will get them to me sooner than that. I’m growing tired of fighting with wires and I’d like to take them with me on a weekend trip in early April.

Everything I’ve read about AirPods have been positive overall and I imagine my experience with them will be no different. I’m ready for this courageous, new wireless world and a pair of Bluetooth headphones that charge over Lightning and are built on the W1 chip seem like the absolute best way to go.

I wish Apple offered a similar solution in the Bluetooth speaker market. The closest device available is the Beats Pill+, which charges over Lightning but isn’t built on the W1 chip. It’s a nice speaker, by most accounts, but I would hate to spend over $200 on a speaker that could be replaced by something significantly better sometime this year.

Luckily, I don’t find myself wanting a Bluetooth speaker too often. I think I’ll be able to hold out until later this fall to find out if Apple releases one with the W1 chip. If not, I’ll probably end up with the Beats Pill+, if only because its powered over Lightning.

To recap, here are the Lightning-powered devices that I currently have at my disposal, or plan to have in the near future:

As I said, that’s my entire, everyday carry computing setup. I do have a Mac mini at home that I occasionally use for tasks that require a Mac, but those are few and far between. And of course, I always interact with the Mac mini over VNC using Screens on the iPad — I almost never need direct access to the machine, I can do it all remotely, wherever I am.

I couldn’t have been happier to hear that Apple isn’t going to leave Lightning behind anytime soon. With everything in my bag being powered by the same cables, I can reduce clutter and limit the total number of cables required to power all of my devices. For the foreseeable future, I don’t expect to need more than two Lightning cables and a single, two-port charger when I travel. And that is something to get excited about.

Ming-Chi Kuo: All 2017 iPhones Will Have Lightning Connectors ➝

Joe Rossignol, writing for MacRumors:

Kuo expects Apple to retain the Lightning port given it has a slightly slimmer design compared to a USB-C port, to sustain MFi Program licensing income from Lightning accessories, and because he believes USB-C’s high-speed data transmission is “still a niche application” for iPhone.

The 12.9-inch iPad Pro already supports USB 3.0 speeds and fast charging with a Lightning to USB-C cable, while iPhones and other devices with a Lightning connector still transfer at USB 2.0 speeds.

This should allow for backwards compatibility with existing cables and accessories while improving charging time and data transfers when using a Lightning to USB-C cable.

I think Nick Heer had the best take on this:

One of the great things about the Lightning connector is how it’s able to abstract all of this under-the-hood stuff and make it really consumer-friendly. […] Lightning is just Lightning, even when it isn’t; the only thing consumers will notice about the new iPhones will be how much faster they charge.

Bare Bones Is Discontinuing Support for TextWrangler ➝

From an email to TextWrangler users:

What you may not know is that last July, we released BBEdit 11.6. You can use this version unlicensed, forever, for free. Without a license, BBEdit now includes all of the features that TextWrangler offers, plus quite a few others. That’s right. You no longer have to pick between them.

If this sounds like TextWrangler will eventually be sunsetted, you’re right; it will. While the next version of macOS hasn’t even been announced yet, when it ships, TextWrangler won’t be updated for it—but BBEdit will.

If you’ve been using TextWrangler, like I have, it’s time to transition to BBEdit.

(Via TidBits.)

Apple May Replace Lightning Connector With USB-C in iPhone 8 ➝

Benjamin Mayo, writing for 9 to 5 Mac:

The Wall Street Journal has outlined their current thinking on the next new iPhone from Apple, colloquially dubbed the iPhone 8. They believe that Apple will replace the Lightning connector on the bottom of the phone with a USB-C port, ditching its own propriety connector with an industry standard.

I hope this rumor is inaccurate. In an effort to simplify my travel setup, I recently started transitioning all of my portable accessories — external battery, wireless keyboard, and headphones — to models that charge over Lightning. Only needing to pack one type of cable is a big deal and I’d like to keep it that way for more than six months.

At the very least, I’d prefer Apple move to USB-C in only the rumored iPhone Pro and iPhone 7s Plus models, rather than the entire line. This would give me an additional two years with a single type of cable in my bag.

I’m all for moving to a more open standard, but I think it would be a mistake transitioning so soon after they doubled down on Lightning as the only connector on the iPhone 7.

Mozilla Acquires Pocket ➝

Dan Frommer, reporting for Recode:

Mozilla, the company behind the Firefox web browser, is buying Pocket, the read-it-later service, for an undisclosed amount. Pocket, which is described by Mozilla as its first strategic acquisition, will continue to operate as a Mozilla subsidiary. Founder Nate Weiner will continue to run Pocket, along with his team of about 25 people.

When companies like this are acquired, there’s always promises that nothing will change for the worse, but we all know it rarely ends well. I hope Pocket is able to buck that trend and continue as a standalone service for the long haul rather than turn into just a feature built into Firefox.

Top Shelf

tvOS Top Shelf View

A few weeks ago, I decided to reorganize my Apple TV’s home screen. This is a task that I perform far more frequently than any normal human being should. It’s an addiction. At least once a month I take stock of the applications I have installed, uninstall any apps that I no longer use, and organize them into the folder structure that I’ve devised.

This isn’t something that’s exclusive to the Apple TV, I also go through this little ritual on my iPhone and iPad with a similar frequency. But this latest instance on the Apple TV was particularly revelatory for me — it has changed the way I interact with tvOS. I had previously discovered a neat little trick with folders in the top row. As it turns out, if you create a folder on your Apple TV and place it among the top row of apps, you can scroll through its contents from the Top Shelf.

I hadn’t made use of this feature until this most recent reorganization, though. And it brought me to a conclusion that, perhaps, many others have already come to — the Top Shelf is the most powerful user interface element on tvOS. It turns the Apple TV’s boring grid of icons into an immensely practical display of content from within your favorite apps, that you can play straight from your home screen.

When organizing my home screen icons, I should be doing so in a way that makes the best use of the Top Shelf. It’s just too transformative of a feature to not use.

To discover how developers have implemented their Top Shelf extensions, I started placing each of my applications in the top row. There was a surprisingly wide range of usability between the best and the worst. The standouts were those that surfaced relevant content for me. That seems obvious in hindsight, but it wasn’t until I saw a few different real-world examples that I reached this conclusion.

My favorite Top Shelf extension is from Plex. It displays the next episodes of my actively watched shows, recently added movies, music, and TV shows. This is the kind of functionality that other developers should be mimicking — it gives me access to the majority of the content I’m interested in without ever having to launch the app.

On the other end of the spectrum we have apps like Crackle and YouTube, which don’t display any content at all. These applications simply display a large banner image. This is fine for games because they don’t lend themselves well to the Top Shelf format. But for video apps, this is just lazy.

What’s almost more offensive is the developers who build a bad Top Shelf extension. Hulu is probably the most glaring example of this. Instead of displaying content from your watchlist, which would be a logical choice, it simply displays popular shows. That would be a fair default for instances when no one is logged-in or for brand new users, but this is what appears for everyone, regardless of how full your watchlist is.

Luckily, Hulu users can use the TV app to manage their watchlist and hide the Hulu app inside of a folder near the bottom of the home screen. The TV app features a tremendous Top Shelf extension that displays your Up Next queue, which also contains recently aired and actively watched shows. This also happens to be my preferred way of interacting with the TV app. At this point, I only launch the app when I want to browse for new items to add to my Up Next queue.

The Netflix app is another example of an aggressively mediocre Top Shelf extension — displaying a generic collection of popular content, trending content, and new releases rather than presenting a selection of videos that are tailored to each user. But unlike Hulu, you can’t replace the Netflix app in your top row with an app like TV that offers deep links to video content — you’re stuck using what Netflix offers.

tvOS Folder Carousel

This is where the aforementioned folder trick comes in handy. Apps like Netflix, Crackle, and YouTube can be placed inside a folder and launched from the Top Shelf. This turns your top row into a sort-of tab bar for your Top Shelf content and allows you to interact with or launch your favorite apps in the same manner, regardless of whether they have a well-implemented Top Shelf extension or not.

Now I’m by no means advocating that you place all of your Apple TV apps in top row folders. At a certain point, there’s diminishing returns. I found folders with anything more than nine apps to be a bit too unwieldy — you’ll end up scrolling forever to find the app you’re looking for. It’s also worth noting that the app carousel infinitely scrolls, so the first, second, and last apps in the folder are the easiest to access.

Organizing your Apple TV’s home screen around Top Shelf extensions forces you to make some interesting decisions about what apps you want in your top row. And I’d encourage you to try it for yourself to see what changes you’d make. After going through this process, my top row now includes TV, Pandora, Plex, YogaGlo, and a folder with YouTube, Provenance, and WWE in the first, second, and last positions respectively.

I never would have considered placing Pandora or YogaGlo in my top row before this mindset. But their Top Shelf extensions are top notch and accessing content in this manner is an order of magnitude easier than having to actually launch the apps themselves. By contrast, YouTube had previously been a staple of my top row, which I now realize has been a foolish decision.

Every previous iteration of my home screen has featured apps without Top Shelf extensions in the top row. But this is a waste of a slot and limits my ability to access the content I’m interested in as quickly as possible. Because of this, I have no interest in placing an application in my top row unless it includes a Top Shelf extension. Developers should take note, if a user thinks so highly of your application that they’re willing to place it in their top row, at least put in the effort to make good use of the Top Shelf area.

Third-Party iPhone Screen Repairs No Longer Void Warranty ➝

Joe Rossignol, reporting for MacRumors:

iPhones that have undergone any third-party screen repair now qualify for warranty coverage, as long as the issue being fixed does not relate to the display itself, according to an internal memo distributed by Apple today. MacRumors confirmed the memo’s authenticity with multiple sources.

This is surprising news. I never would have expected Apple to change a policy like this. But I suppose it does make logical sense. If the third-party display isn’t causing the newly found problem, it shouldn’t affect whether Apple is willing to perform the repair.

For a Bigger iPad to Work, iOS Needs Some Interface Improvements ➝

Jason Snell, writing for Macworld:

I believe that iOS’s future is big–and I mean that literally. The 12.9-inch iPad Pro I’m using to write this article is currently the largest iOS device in existence, but it seems inevitable that Apple will want to size up iOS even more, whether it’s in a 15- or 17-inch mega-tablet, or an even larger desktop iOS device similar to the style of Microsoft’s Surface Studio.

I absolutely agree. If iOS is the future of computing, devices with larger screens are inevitable. And I think Snell offers some great suggestions on how to improve the experience on these larger screens. Although, I think he missed an obvious one — external trackpad support.

Apple’s New Campus Opens to Employees in April ➝

The new campus will be called Apple Park — a possible reference to Xerox PARC, the company that originally developed the modern graphical user interface that inspired the original Macintosh. It’s a great name, far better than any of the alternative suggestions I’ve seen in my Twitter timeline this morning.

And regarding the theater, that has been built alongside this new campus, from Apple’s press release:

Steve would have turned 62 this Friday, February 24. To honor his memory and his enduring influence on Apple and the world, the theater at Apple Park will be named the Steve Jobs Theater. Opening later this year, the entrance to the 1,000-seat auditorium is a 20-foot-tall glass cylinder, 165 feet in diameter, supporting a metallic carbon-fiber roof. The Steve Jobs Theater is situated atop a hill — one of the highest points within Apple Park — overlooking meadows and the main building.

Apple Park will also include a visitor center with an Apple Store and cafe that will be open to the public.

Apple’s New iPad Pro Advertisements ➝

I don’t typically link to Apple commercials anymore, but this new campaign is just delightful. It’s like a cross between their Get a Mac ads and Celebrities Read Mean Tweets.

TwIM ➝

A great new chat app from Project Dent that’s built on top of Twitter’s direct messaging system. It has support for embedded URL previews, 3D Touch shortcuts, and Siri. There’s even a sharing extension that can be used for sending URLs, text, photos, and maps from other applications.

TwIM’s feature-set is incredibly solid for a 1.0 release, but there are still two major features that I’d like to see added in the future — iPad support and a more robust URL scheme that will allow for automation with apps like Workflow.

I have several friends that I’ve met through Twitter and when we chat privately, we do so almost exclusively through Direct Messages. By breaking out Twitter DMs into their own application, TwIM puts those conversations on the same level as iMessages. I wouldn’t be surprised if this app ends up on my first Home Screen within just a few weeks of use.

Google Makes It Slightly Easier to See Real URLs From AMP Pages ➝

John Gruber:

This is what you call a begrudging UI. Google wants you to pass around the google.com-hosted AMP URL, not the publisher’s original URL. If they wanted to make it easier to share the original URL, the anchor button would be a direct link to the original URL. No need for a JavaScript popover. You could then just press the anchor button to go to the original, and press and hold for Safari’s contextual menu. And they could just use the word “Link” or “URL” instead of a cryptic icon.

A quick thought: wasn’t the whole point of AMP to shrink page sizes and increase the speed of browsing? If that’s the case, why does Google have to pre-cache these pages at all? Shouldn’t they be fast enough on their own without the help of Google’s servers? Maybe they’re more interested in wrapping webpages in an iframe, inserting a Dickbar, and keeping users in an ecosystem that they have complete control over.

Apple Hires Amazon’s Fire TV Head to Run Apple TV Business ➝

Mark Gurman, reporting for Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. has hired Timothy D. Twerdahl, the former head of Amazon.com Inc.’s Fire TV unit, as a vice president in charge of Apple TV product marketing and shifted the executive who previously held the job to a spot negotiating media content deals. […]

Twerdahl comes to Apple with significant experience in internet-connected TV devices. Prior to his tenure at Amazon, he was an executive at Netflix Inc. and later a vice president in charge of consumer devices at Roku, a streaming video box developer.

The Future of Computing

Álvaro Serrano, in a well-written and reasoned take on the iPad sales situation:

I don’t think there’s anyone left out there complaining that their iPads are not fast enough these days, or that battery life isn’t good enough. Similarly, screens are gorgeous, storage is ample, and wireless connectivity is better than ever. By all accounts, the iPad is a mature product line hardware-wise, and yet it is still very much in its infancy when it comes to software.

Álvaro is a little less enthusiastic about the iPad than I am, but it’s the best piece I’ve read on the topic so far.

If you’re unaware, iPad sales haven’t been so hot lately. They seem to have peaked at the end of 2013 and have been down year-over-year ever since. Many have speculated about why this could be, with theories ranging from Apple’s lack of commitment to the possibility that Apple was wrong about iOS — it might not be the future of computing. I’ve already shared my thoughts on the situation on twitter, but I thought I’d reiterate them here — it might be something I’ll want to point to in the future.

iPad owners don’t buy new iPads because the one they have is just as fast as the day they bought it. By comparison, the Windows PCs that many of these users buy are at their fastest when they’re first setup. I reference Windows users because they represent the vast majority of mainstream computer users and I believe them to be the primary reason for the massive success of the iPad in its early days.

These Windows PCs remain as their owners’ primary machine until they’re practically unusable — simply from years of built-up cruft in the OS. One solution would be to reinstall the operating system to regain that performance, but most people don’t know how to do that. It’s much easier for them to buy a new computer.

This scenario is practically non-existent with iOS. iPads almost always feel just as fast as the day they were purchased. This is also true with iPhones, but they have an entirely different, built-in mechanism that encourages owners to upgrade. Unlike PCs and iPads, many users buy a new iPhone because, as portable devices, they are prone to being dropped and broken — cracked screens, water damage, and the like.

iPad sales are down year-over-year because there’s no inherit mechanism that encourages users to upgrade. The OS and third-party software system is designed to prevent unnecessary cruft — PCs fight a losing battle against a growing list of login items and background tasks — and they’re less likely to be physically damaged because they’re not taken everywhere like an iPhone is.

Perhaps Apple should spend more time building iPad-specific features in an effort to increase sales. I certainly wouldn’t complain about this strategy. I’m strongly in favor of anything that improves the software on my primary machine, but I’m not entirely convinced that it will make much of a difference.

In the tech-centric circles that many of us frequent, new hardware and software features matter, a lot. But I don’t think the mainstream user is convinced to spend hundreds of dollars on a new device just because it connects to a new kind of wireless keyboard or works with a $100 drawing accessory that you have to buy separately.

Mainstream users think of their computers as appliances — they’re purchased for their utility. They are essential, but they aren’t anything to get excited about. And just like appliances, they’re replaced on an as-needed basis. When was the last time someone you know bought a dishwasher before their old one bit the dust? Probably never.

The iPad upgrade cycle might be longer than any other computing device in history. This might look terrible for Apple’s financial department, but it’s a testament to how well-crafted these devices are from both a software and hardware standpoint. The lengthy upgrade cycle lends itself to high customer satisfaction ratings and repeat customers. That’s something Apple should be proud of — a computing device that doesn’t have to be replaced every few years.

The iPad may never be a 15-20 million units per quarter kind of device, like it was in its early days, but that’s okay. As long as Apple continues to invest time and resources into improving the platform, and they’re able to sell enough to support that investment, the iPad could still end up becoming “the future of computing.” Even if unit sales aren’t as tremendously impressive as everyone wants them to be.

Amazon’s Echo Is a Glorified Clock Radio ➝

Alexander Acimen, writing for Quartz:

I can’t imagine that the designers at Amazon would have been thrilled with the minor achievement of having assembled the world’s foremost clock radio when they built the Amazon Echo, a smart home hub that came out in 2015. But what else could they possibly have expected after packing this little device with a prodigious number of useless easter eggs and yet somehow overlooking a glaring, Death Star-level flaw: the Echo uses Bing instead of Google. […]

This reality doesn’t bode well for Alexa, because her response to 95% of basic search queries is “I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” It is a phrase that Alexa owners are all too familiar with. It is a phrase you hear again, and again, and again, and soon you will feel that time has stopped, and you will never want to look up anything on the internet ever again. There is a reason that the phrase “to google” has universally come to mean looking up on the internet. It is because Google is the most reliable search engine. At best, and Bing looks like an ad pages site posing as a search engine.

There are some kind words about the Echo in the last two paragraphs, but overall, this is a pretty scathing review of the product. Perhaps Siri isn’t the worst voice assistant on the market.

(Via Matt Birchler.)