The idea that Google would release the first developer preview of its next-generation mobile operating system on Pi Day (March 14 — or 3/14) was a nice one. After all, rumors suggest that Android P could end up launching as “Android Pie,” so serving up the first developer build on Pi Day would’ve been a very Googly thing to do — whether the move was a hint at the new version’s release name or just some fun trolling. Instead, Google decided to surprise everyone with an unexpected Android P release on Wednesday, and Android fans spent the rest of the day checking out all of the new features baked into Google’s newest OS.
While there will likely be several additional new features added to Android P before it’s released to the public this fall, it seems clear that Android P will not be a massive update. As a matter of fact, many of the new features Google is highlighting in Android P are, dare we say, a bit boring. 2018 may turn out to be a year of refinement for both of the world’s top mobile platforms though, because Apple is also rumored to be shifting focus in iOS 12 away from exciting new features so that it can work on improving stability and performance.
Even still, there are definitely some great new additions in Android P, and one of them can be yours right now.
Even if you have a Pixel or Pixel 2 smartphone that’s able to run Google’s first Android P Developer Preview, we strongly suggest that you fight temptation. It’s natural for Android enthusiasts to want to check out Google’s latest and greatest Android features as soon as possible, but the first build of Android P is nowhere near being ready for public consumption. It’s best suited to developer devices, not the phone you carry with you all the time.
Even if you fight the urge to update your Pixel phone — or if you have some other Android phone that isn’t even compatible with the Android P Developer Preview — there’s still a way that you can get a taste of Android P.
Everyone seems to love the new look of Android P’s home screens, which have gotten a terrific refresh in Android P. The top of the screen is largely unchanged, but the dock is completely different. The new look is great, but far more important is the fact that it puts the Google search bar right at the bottom of the screen where users can easily access it. Here’s a screenshot from Android news blog Droid Life:
We love it, but not quite enough to install an incomplete, potentially buggy version of Android P. Luckily we don’t have to. Droid Life has managed to get its hands on the official Android P launcher, which is an updated version of the Pixel Launcher found in Android Oreo. Want to check out the awesome new launcher on your own Android phone? You can download it right here
The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+. Photo credit: AP Photo/Manu Fernandez
The launch of Samsung’s new flagship Galaxy S9 means it’s time to ask the only question that matters – is it worth your money?
Or, more specifically, is it worth your money instead of the iPhone X? Don’t forget to check out my breakdowns and comparisons for most recent flagship smartphones.
Who knew something as simple as the headphone jack would become such a contentious battleground for smartphone makers? With the other major Android phone – Google’s Pixel 2 – following Apple’s lead by removing the headphone jack, Samsung has smartly kept the 3.5mm connection.
Of the three big smartphone makers – Apple, Google and Samsung, only the latter has kept this technology, which is good marketing for the Korean company. Also, as someone who has tested various devices and lived with no headphone jack for the last year – this is a good consumer move.
Forget arguments about audio quality and design principles, having the headphone jack is better than not having it in purely practical terms – especially if you don’t want to venture into the murky world of wireless headphones yet.
Another feature that has disappeared – or is at least disappearing – from the Apple line of smartphones. Whilst Apple paves a new biometric path, Samsung revisits familiar ground by keeping its fingerprint scanner with a small location improvement.
Perhaps “location improvement” is a bit unfair, the much-maligned slightly-off-center reader was always an odd choice. It almost perfectly reflected the Galaxy’s image as a left-of-center choice of smartphone against the ever-popular iPhone.
But with a lower, central position, it’s easier to reach for small hands, more intuitive and gives users a familiar option to log-in to their device or authorize mobile payments. And, whilst Samsung is pushing its own biometric security tech “Intelligent Scan”, the Galaxy maker is smart enough not to force it upon its users as the only unlocking option….yet.
Super, super slow motion
Samsung’s new snapper has some impressive specs and features, more on that below – but one feature that stands out is the 960 fps slow motion. Check out my colleague Ian Morris’ hands-on below to see how good it is in action.
This isn’t exactly breaking new ground, Sony had similar slow-motion tech at a higher resolution (1080p) in the XZ Premium, but it’s still excellent on the S9 and obviously, it’s better than the iPhone X’s 240fps slow motion.
Always listening, desperate to be liked
This is less of a phone specific reason and more of a reason to buy Samsung devices over Apple devices in general. Simply, Samsung listens. Let’s take the S9 for example, Samsung took the criticism of the fingerprint sensor and moved it, it also kept the headphone jack – which is a debate that’s yet to be settled.
Samsung has form here, too. It kept the removable battery in the Galaxy S5 when others were heading over to a locked design, it also brought back expandable storage after removing it in the Galaxy S6. Where Apple forges ahead with new concepts – that may or may not work – and forces it upon iPhone fans, Samsung is so eager to please its entire strategy and roadmap is completely malleable. For consumers, that’s a good trait.
Both the S9 and S9+ are cheaper than the cheapest iPhone X ($719 and $839 Vs. $999). That’s a big saving for an arguably on-par device.
Jay McGregor , CONTRIBUTOROpinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
Jay McGregor is the editor-in-chief of a new documentary publication called Point. He also reports for The Guardian, TechRadar, BBC Radio and others. Follow on YouTube: youtube.com/pointreport
Someone on Reddit described how he was the victim of a very sophisticated social engineering attack. Wow, this is crafty. This is the story:
“I have different passwords for every website I log into, 2-factor authentication when possible; I thought I knew all the scams and could spot them a mile away. This one still got me.
I was meeting a friend at a bar. Two drinks in I got a call from someone identified by my phone as Wells Fargo. I’m fully aware this could be spoofed, but it did not raise alarm bells yet. I was at a bar I did not frequent and have gotten calls from my bank before on suspicious charges that were legit, so I answered expecting this to be the case.
The person I spoke with said they were with Wells Fargo and they’ve identified fraudulent charges on my account but they need to verify my identity before they can discuss details. They said they sent me a text message (via the cell number they just called, which is my first clue this is phishing). They asked me to read back to them the 6-digit number just texted me to verify my ID.
Being two drinks in, slightly expecting what this was about, I had zero alarm bells going off. My bad, this was stupid of me. I read the number to them. They suggested it timed out and I needed to read another number they texted to me. Minimal time had passed, a mild spidy sense was tingling, but I still was not concerned enough to ask questions and read them a second 6-digit code.
This person then read off 5 recent charges on my account, 4 of which I recognized as legit and a 5th that was a $1000 charge to a credit card I did not own. I immediately identified this as a fraudulent charge and they said: “no prob dude, we’ll freeze your card and send you a new one”. They even gave me the last 4 on the card it was coming from. I was appeased enough to continue (sadly).
Finally, they said they sent me one final 6-digit code to confirm that they were crediting my account back with the $1000 fraudulent charge. I just needed to read off the final code they texted to me. At this point, things seem weird to me but they got me at a good time. I was 2 drinks in, was interrupted from hanging with a close friend I hadn’t seen in months and was outside trying desperately to avoid the loud noise inside the bar but still dealing with traffic noise outside. I just wanted to be done with this. I read them the final code and they thanked me and hung up.
At this point, I see why my phone had been vibrating constantly through this call. I had 4 emails from Wells Fargo. 1) Your username has been reset, 2) your password has been reset, 3) Welcome to Zelle! an awesome $$$ forwarding service, 4) You’ve just forwarded $1000!!!!!
I called Wells Fargo via the number on the back of my card. After being on hold for 45 min trying to get the fraud department, I start to tell my story only to have the call drop (I’m pretty sure they hung up on me). I called back and was on hold for 1 hour 20 min (my account has been compromised >2 hours by this time) to get a second person. He told me this was a scam they’ve been dealing with for 3 months and I needed to go into a branch with 2 forms of ID to deal with it. There was nothing he could do tonight.
TL;DR: Dude spoofed Wells Fargo when calling me on my cell, requested a reset of my username, password, and approval for $1000 transfer. I stupidly read off the confirmation numbers I received via text to him, he entered them into Wells Fargo website to approve all these requests. Wells Fargo has known their customers have been getting scammed for 3 months and didn’t bother to warn anyone. I now have to go into a branch, hang my head and tell my shameful story to a person and beg for access to my account because someone else has control of it all night tonight.”
Good lesson to be learned: Never, ever give any kind of confidential data to someone WHO CALLS YOU. Always call back to the number on the back of your card.
Samsung will announce the Galaxy S9 in just a few days. Here’s everything we currently know about the upcoming smartphone.
In a few days, Samsung will announce its latest smartphone. It will be the first announcement from the company in 2018 and since Apple unveiled the iPhone X.
In previous years, Samsung has opted to announce its flagship smartphone during Mobile World Congress, or it would host a separate event shortly after. This year, it looks like we will get at least a glimpse of Samsung’s new phone in February, with the potential to have the phone in our hands a few weeks later.
Right now, most of what we know about the upcoming smartphones is from leaks, rumors, and speculation. However, the sources of the various leaks have shown to paint a general picture of what we should expect when Samsung announces a new device.
Here’s everything we currently know about Samsung’s latest smartphone, which will be updated as we continue to learn more — and eventually see — the announced product.
WHEN WILL GALAXY S9 BE ANNOUNCED?
At a special Unpacked event in Barcelona, Spain, Samsung will announce the Galaxy S9. The event will be held on Feb. 25 (the day before Mobile World Congress 2018 is set to start) and will be live-streamed on Samsung.com starting at 12pm EST.
It will look a lot like last year’s Galaxy S8 lineup. The Infinity display is still around, with small bezels, and it appears there are a few more sensors hidden just above the display alongside the front-facing camera.
The back looks to be the most dramatic change to the overall design, according to images posted by Evan Blass on Twitter (more on that in a minute)
One of the loudest complaints about the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8 was the placement of the fingerprint reader. In order to make room for the bigger display Samsung now uses, the sensor was moved to the back of the phone. Only, instead of putting the sensor in the middle of the phone, as most of its competitors do, the sensor was placed up high, next to the camera.
With Galaxy S9, however, it appears Samsung is moving the sensor closer to the middle of the back — just underneath the camera.
We first saw a glimpse of the new fingerprint sensor location when the company announced the Galaxy A8 (2018), which was later seemingly confirmed in render leaks from Evan Blass on Twitter.
Samsung has featured both facial recognition and iris-scanning technology in its phones for a while now, but the technology has been nowhere near as complex as Apple’s Face ID feature on the iPhone X.
With Galaxy S9, rumors suggest the phone will combine facial recognition with iris scanning to improve the feature and add an extra layer of security to the phone.
In early January, a photo leaked of what’s reportedly the Galaxy S9’s box on Reddit. SamMobilesaw the photo and was the first to report on it. On the box, of course, are the phone’s specifications.
According to the leak and the report, Galaxy S9 will boast a super slow-mo mode and a super-speed, dual-pixel, 12-megapixel camera with apertures of f1.5 and f2.4.
Currently, there’s some confusion about which model will feature a dual camera, or if both models will have the same exact lens setup. One thing all rumors currently agree on is that the Galaxy S9 Plus will have two rear-facing cameras.
That same photo posted on Reddit, as well as a more recent report from ETNews, have each claimed both Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus will finally gain stereo speakers.
Apple’s iPhone line has had stereo speakers for a few years now, and the additional output makes a huge difference when listening to music or talking over speakerphone.
According to The Inquirer, the spec sheet of the Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus appears to add up to one impressive phone.
Display: 5.8-inch or 6.2-inch QHD+ Super AMOLED
Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 in the US
Processor: Samsung Exynos 9810 everywhere else
Memory: 4GB RAM, 6GB RAM
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB (likely region specific)
Connectivity: Cat 18 LTE support (1.2Gbps download speeds), wireless charging, FM radio
Fingerprint: Rear-mounted fingerprint scanner
S9 Rear Camera: 12-megapixel dual pixel camera with OIS (f/1.5, f/2.4)
S9 Plus Rear Camera: Vertical dual rear-facing camera
Front Camera: 8-megapixel front-facing camera
AI: Bixby assistant with a dedicated button
Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack
Sound: Stereo speakers
Waterproof: IP68 rating
Last year’s crop of flagship smartphones from Samsung worked with DeX, a dock that turns the phone into a full-fledged computer. This year, rumor has it the company will release a revamped dock, called DeX Pad, that uses the phone’s display as a trackpad.
A more recent report from ETNews claims that Samsung will copy the iPhone X’s Animoji feature and offer “3D Emoji” with the Galaxy S9 duo.
Apple’s Animoji feature uses the front-facing cameras on the iPhone X to animate various emoji characters, such as a dog and a cat.
Also included in the report is the release of Bixby 2.0 on a mobile phone, which jives with what Samsung had previously announced in regards to Bixby 2.0 at CES in January 2018.
On Wednesday, PhoneArena spotted a few teaser videos posted on Samsung Mobile Korea’s YouTube channel. The brief videos seem to confirm a super slow-mo camera, an improved low-light camera, and, yes, 3D emoji are indeed ready for the Galaxy S9.
It’s been in the works for nearly a year and Google’s great ad-pocalypse is now upon us. On Thursday, the Chrome browser will begin to automatically filter out ads that don’t meet certain quality standards. Your browsing experience is about to change a little bit. Here’s what you need to know.
In April of last year, the news first broke that Google planned to integrate some form of ad-blocking into its browser that would be on by default. Since then we’ve seen a gradualrollout of the feature, beginning with the ability to mute autoplay videos with sound on the sites of your choosing. Now, Google going all-in with a set of criteria for what ads will be kosher in Chrome.
Along with its fellow ad giant Facebook, Google is a member of the Coalition for Better Ads, an industry group that has performed research on what forms of web advertising annoys people the most. It’s created a list of the 12 types of web experiences that should ideally be avoided by advertisers. Now Google is going to enforce that list with Chrome, which is used by over half of all people accessing the web with a browser.
On Wednesday, the company published a blog post detailing how the system will work. Initially, Google will take a sample of various pages on a specific domain and analyze whether that page is serving any of the offending ad categories. It’ll be given a score of “Passing, Warning, or Failing.” Sites that don’t manage to get a passing grade will be notified by Google and they can review an ad experience report for details on what needs to change. If a site ignores multiple warnings, its ads will be blocked by default after 30 days.
If a user visits a site that’s being filtered by Chrome, they’ll see a message in the address bar that gives them the option to still allow ads—on mobile, users will see a pop-up at the bottom of the screen that will give them the same option. Yes, pop-up ads are blocked, and Google will be informing you with a pop-up notification.
There’s plenty of reason to celebrate this change. The internet is getting harder to navigate, and more annoying with advertisers demanding more obtrusive experiences every day. Google claims that since it kicked off this initiative, “42% of sites which were failing the Better Ads Standards have resolved their issues and are now passing.” So it seems that a lot of site owners got the message before it could even become a problem.
There’s also cause to be skeptical of Google’s altruistic goals. Sure, it’s telling advertisers not to be evil, but it’s also hoping that a better experience will mean fewer people feel the urge to download a third-party ad blocker. That’s good for the internet, which is largely funded by ads. But it’s particularly good for Google, which controls around 42 percent of the US digital ad market and 75.8 percent of the search ad market, according to research from eMarketer. It wouldn’t be so great if Google, with all its power, decided to follow in the footsteps of services like Adblock Plus, which offers companies the opportunity to pay their way onto an acceptable ads list. Representatives for Google have assured us on multiple occasions that the company isn’t offering any kind of paid whitelisting now, and isn’t planning to do so. But things could change.
For now, enjoy the better web before Google fully consumes it all and does whatever it wants.
This often means you – the designer or developer – might receive questions like the above. Clients want to know why their site isn’t performing as well as it should.
After all, that’s what they’re paying you for, right?
But what happens when the website is finished to the client’s specs, but it’s still not performing well?
Sometimes the fault for an underperforming website falls back on you, even if it’s not directly included in your scope. That’s why it’s important to be able to identify potential reasons why a website might underperform, and know how to respond in those situations.
Here are a few things that might be hurting your client’s website performance.
“Your Domain Authority Is Too Low”
Appearing on the first page of Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) is a common concern for many clients, and it might be one of the reasons they came to you to build their site in the first place.
But according to RankBrain, the most search traffic goes to the first result, with click-through rates (CTR) decreasing significantly after the second position.
Google also reports that 34% of search results – yes, even those on the first page – get no clicks at all, and that 12% of all clicks go to the top 100 search-traffic-receiving domains.
So not only is it important for sites to rank high, but they really need to be number one to see significant traffic from their SEO efforts.
But one of the reasons they most likely won’t see the first page SERPs is due to low page authority. As mentioned, unless you’re in the top 100 domains, you may not rank on Google.
It doesn’t matter if your site is the best designed, most beautifully crafted website in the world. If you don’t have high site (domain) authority – a predictive score dictated by Moz and used by Google to rank results – you won’t rank.
This is doubly true for new websites. New sites usually start with a score of 0-1. For reference, well-established sites, like Facebook and Wikipedia, are close to 100.
If you’re developing or designing a brand new site for a client, and they complain about not showing up in Google, tell them that they need to focus their energy on driving traffic in other ways.
Paid ads, more posted content (on a blog, typically), or social media traffic can all help to improve domain authority.
“You Need More High-Quality Backlinks”
Another reason why a site may not be showing up as high on Google’s SERPs is due to low or poor quality backlinks – links that point back to your website.
According to Andrey Lipattsev, Search Quality Senior Strategist at Google, high-quality content and link building are the two most important signals used by Google to rank your website for search.
In fact, the top ranked pages on Google have an average volume of 100,000+ high-quality backlinks.
High-quality backlinks can be notoriously difficult to get, especially for new sites, because they require other more popular sites (think top 100 domains for best results) to link to your landing pages or content.
The good news is that quality does make up for the lack of volume. A link from a relevant website in your niche, for example, might be worth 100 links from a lower quality source.
So how do you earn high-quality backlinks?
Over time you may naturally gain some links from other websites, especially as your organic traffic grows from regular content production or social traffic. But in order to gain the quality and volume needed to rank, you need to make some effort.
The first step is to focus on providing valuable and high-quality content on your website. This should ideally come from a blog that can be frequently updated, and not just landing pages.
Google looks for fresh content when considering rankings. Former Google Fellow Amit Singhal once explained that, “Different searches have different freshness needs.”
In other words, fresh content is needed for all your desired keywords.
You then need to find ways of sharing your content on other sites in order to create those backlinks.
Try posting content as guest blogs on larger editorial sites, or by linking to it on sites like Quora. You can also syndicate traffic from sites like Facebook and LinkedIn, both of which have domain authority ranks close to 100.
If clients don’t know why their site isn’t performing, you might recommend they try some link-building strategies, like guest blogging on popular editorial sites or asking customers to link to you on their landing pages.
“You Need to Optimize Your Content”
Because content plays a big role in how Google ranks sites – from the freshness of the content to the links it contains and more – it’s important that sites are creating content that can be shared.
In other words, a pretty website is not enough. It has to have more content.
And that content needs to be optimized so Google knows what to do with it. CTR for content on Google’s first page SERPs increases by 667% for posts that appear as Featured Snippets.
Featured Snippets are selected search results that appear on top of Google’s first page in a special box.
If you’re not sure how to get a Snippet, or you don’t yet have the domain authority to get a Snippet, there are other ways you can optimize your content to rank higher.
Posting content that is engaging – keeps people on the page and has a higher number of conversions into another action, like an email subscription (etc.) – can also improve your relationship with Google.
Their algorithm can track how long someone stays on a page, and what other actions they take and whether or not they click on other content from your site.
You can also help your odds by focusing on long tail keywords in your content in order to gain more organic search traffic and improve your odds of appearing in either a Featured Snippet or on the first page SERPs.
If clients want methods for improving their Google search rankings, tell them to produce more high-quality, optimized content.
It’s important to explain to your clients that creating a beautiful website won’t guarantee them a high ranking on Google SERPs.
Even if it’s fully responsive and includes SEO optimization, if it’s a new website, it needs more to be truly successful.
The top strategies they can focus on include an improved domain, adding backlinks and creating optimized content.
You should also remind them that it takes time to build a reputable and high ranking site, and they shouldn’t give up if they don’t see results right away. With a little effort, it will happen for them.
If you have a responsive site that’s relatively new, we can facilitate your site to help you, or us, create rich snippets, send your blog posts to multiple social media outlets and more. Drop us a note and we’ll help you make it happen.
How does your reputation online affect your business offline?
We live in a day and age where consumers openly air their complaints online for all to see. Ask any business owner to think back to a negative review left online, and they’ll sigh, wishing they could have resolved their customer’s concern privately before public and permanent damage to their reputation was done. Studies show that businesses risk losing 22% of business when potential customers find one negative article on the first page of their search engine results. Two negative reviews on the first page? 44% lost. Four or more? You could lose up to 70% of potential customers.
Many business owners worry that automating their email marketing makes their business seem impersonal. In reality, when done right, email automation demonstrates to your customers just how well you know them. When you send your entire customer database the same email – the information may not be relevant to every customer. This runs the risk of customers disengaging with your emails, deleting them from their inbox, or even flagging the messages as spam. Instead, use automated email marketing to target key groups of customers with messages relevant to them.
Do you ever get an email and think “what was the point of sending me this?” It wasn’t informative. It didn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. It wasn’t actionable. So what exactly were you supposed to do with it?
If you run a bar, it’s never too early to start thinking about football season. We all want to make sure our spot is the go-to place to watch every game. So how do you get fans in the door? And how do you keep them coming back for more?
How to Get The Most Out of Your Restaurant Email Newsletter
A compelling email newsletter can be a very powerful tool for restaurants. They can inform customers about latest dishes and events and promote a restaurant’s unique personality to differentiate from other restaurants. But how can you ensure that you are creating an effective newsletter?
Look for our next blog post about creating compelling content. Meanwhile, learn more about Spearhead Multimedia and Zenreach and how we create an automated, hands-off system to build your customer list, manage your reputation and keep your current customers informed. Learn more…
Special offer: Sign up between now and March 31, 2018, to receive a free first month and we’ll waive the cost of the access point (a $199 value). Sign up now.
Heads-up. I am sorry to have to bring up a very distasteful topic, but in the very near future your users will get emails with something close to the ultimate click-bait, luring them to see an AI-generated porn video starring… themselves.
Forget about fake news. Its been all over Reddit the last month, we are now in the age of fake porn.
If you’ve noticed any unexpected reboots or PC instability as a result of the recent Spectre patches, there’s a solution: Microsoft has issued an emergency Windows patch that rolls back the recent Spectre mitigations.
Microsoft’s latest patch (KB4078130) allows people with affected systems to download the patch via the Microsoft Update Catalog, which disables the mitigations for the “Spectre variant 2.”
Note that the patch notes specifically state that you should run this patch “if you are running an impacted device” (emphasis ours). In other words, if your system is working normally, don’t bother downloading this patch. This is what Microsoft calls an “out of band” patch, and it doesn’t appear that it will be made available via Windows Update, either.
Why should you consider it? Intel has warned previously that the faulty patch can sometimes cause data loss and corruption, and Microsoft is saying the same: “Our own experience is that system instability can in some circumstances cause data loss or corruption,” the patch notes state.
There’s another wrinkle, though. As part of the patch, Microsoft is allowing users to edit the Windows registry to toggle the mitigations on or off. (Instructions are here.) It’s possible to toggle Microsoft’s patch off, and then, when Intel solves its own patching problem, re-enable it. That scenario is actually what Microsoft recommends—again, only if you’ve noticed system instability and want to take action against it.
Toggling the mitigations on and off is also a feature of the latest InSpectre utility.
As Bleeping Computer noted, system makers such as Dell and HP also advise rolling back their own BIOS patches to an earlier version, which they’re redeployed. It’s all horrendously confusing for consumers and IT organizations alike. Fortunately, at least, there haven’t been any public cases of these vulnerabilities being exploited, Microsoft says.
What should you do? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. But we can tell you what we’re doing: if a PC is working as expected, we’re leaving it patched and in place. If you’re backing up your data (to Remote Backup Services or an external drive) chances are your most crucial data will be saved in case your system goes down unexpectedly. Obviously, install Microsoft’s emergency Windows patch if you’re running into system issues. There’s no perfect solution—if you’re more paranoid than we are, feel free to deploy the patch even if your PC hasn’t hiccuped.
Amazon has created a new computing platform that will future-proof your home
By Steve Kovach
Amazon is in a better position than any other company to dominate ambient computing, the concept that everything in your life is computerized and intelligent. Amazon’s Alexa platform continues to get better while remaining open to third parties, unlike Apple’s Siri. Buying into Alexa now will future-proof your home.
Almost four years ago, New York Times tech columnist Farhad Manjoo wrote out a strategy to keep all your technology future-proof in a rapidly evolving environment.
His advice still holds up.
Use Apple hardware for your smartphone and PC. Use Google services for things like email, calendar, and maps. Buy all your digital music, movies, and TV shows from Amazon.
Of course, there are caveats to all of these suggestions, but you’ll future-proof yourself nicely by following them. Amazon’s media can (usually) play on all your devices, no matter what company makes them. Google is not only the best at digital services, it’s also platform agnostic. You don’t have to be an Android user to get the most out of Google. And Apple still makes the best phones, tablets, and PCs you can buy.
But I think it’s time to add one more category to the list: ambient computing, or the concept that there can be a layer of intelligence powering everything in your home from your lights to your thermostat. Many see this as a new phase of computing where our technology works for us automatically. We’re in the early days of ambient computing, but there’s already a clear front-runner powering its future: Amazon Alexa.
Right now, Alexa is great at answering basic questions or playing music from streaming services like Spotify. It’s also laying the foundation for an Alexa-powered smart home as more and more accessories make themselves compatible with Amazon’s platform. Even better, Alexa lets you control all your smart home accessories with your voice, which is a lot more convenient than poking around your iPhone to turn your lights on.
I gave it a try a few weeks ago, starting small by connecting most of my lighting. I bought a bunch of Wemo smart plugs for all the lamps in my apartment. (My apartment doesn’t have a lot of built-in lighting, so I have lamps all over the place instead.) After setting each plug up, I fired up the Alexa app and added the Wemo skill. A few seconds later, I was able to control all my lights with my voice.
Now I’m obsessed with the idea of Amazonifying the rest of my home. I have an Apple TV, but I plan to make the change to the new Amazon Fire TV 4K instead since I can control it with Alexa. (“Alexa, play ‘The Good Place’ on Netflix.”) Instead of a Nest camera, I’m going to buy Amazon’s new security camera, which will let me beam the feed to my phone, Fire TV, or Echo Show. (“Alexa, show me what’s happening in the living room.”)
You get the idea.
No other platform is better poised to dominant ambient computing. It’s not going to happen tomorrow, or even next year, but Amazon has done an incredible job of laying the foundation for something much more profound beyond just playing your favorite Pandora station with an Alexa command.
So what is that foundation? Here are the four key advantages that will propel Amazon to dominate ambient computing.
Alexa is everywhere During CES this year, I was shocked at how many companies decided to integrate Alexa into their products. Toyota and Ford cars. Kholer bathtubs. Whirlpool ovens and dishwashers. And a bunch of third-party speakers.
Ambient computing needs a voice assistant to be ubiquitous in order to be successful. If you call for “Alexa” and it’s not there to do what you want, it has failed. Amazon’s head start getting Alexa into everything, everywhere will help it maintain its lead.
Alexa is open Part of the reason why Alexa is showing up everywhere is because Amazon turned it into an open platform that anyone can build into. But it’s not just physical appliances. Services and apps can build into Alexa, making it easy to add a layer of voice controls to their stuff.
It’s the opposite approach rivals like Apple take, which is why devices like the HomePod feel like a wasted opportunity to take on Amazon’s dominance. Siri is limited to Apple’s own services and a few other third-party categories like messaging and to-do list apps. It’s unlikely Apple will want to go against its DNA and completely open up Siri.
Amazon dominates the smart speaker market Amazon already owns two-thirds of the smart speaker market, with Google playing catch up. It’s likely going to be a two-horse race between the two companies, with Amazon consistently in the lead. The large install base of Echo and Alexa-powered smart speakers provides greater incentive for people to build into Alexa first as opposed to rivals.
Alexa keeps getting better When the Echo first launched back in 2014, it couldn’t do much more than play streaming music from Amazon and help you buy stuff from the company’s online store.
You know what’s coming next.
Over the years, the Echo has become immensely more powerful and capable. It can stream music from a variety of music services. You can use it to call an Uber or order a pizza from Domino’s. It can even make phone calls. Amazon has done a spectacular job at improving the Echo over time. These are speakers you’re likely to keep in your home for several years before replacing or upgrading them.
Buying one now guarantees you’ll be ready to go for whatever Alexa learns to do next. And, more importantly, it’ll make sure your technology remains future-proof.