Lots of deep Apple stuff from last week, but that’s how Fall goes for me nowadays.
Here’s a quick shot of my desk after getting a new plant this afternoon.
I’ll be sharing my whole setup soon, including the industrial-sized power strip I bought, my custom monitor stand, and my variable system of lights and mounting gear.
HomePod is pretty cool when you use Siri Shortcuts
This week, iOS received another quick fix update that restored running shortcuts from HomePod, so I wrote an explainer of what it means on iMore and also linked 5 shortcuts you can run from HomePod.
But here’s the gist: Siri Shortcuts are now fully equipped to run using only your voice—including multiple steps back & forth with Siri responding in between—from the HomePod.
Now, when you say the name of your shortcut as the trigger phrase, it’ll run each step one-by-one, with Siri responding from the HomePod along the way.
iOS 13 brought Siri support for Scripting actions like Ask For Input, Choose From List, and Choose From Menu, so now all types of custom programs can be accessed entirely hands-free.
I find that with HomePod’s array of microphones that can easily hear you throughout the house, you can reliably activate Siri and use Shortcuts like your own programmable home assistant to the fullest.
As more and more apps adopt the new capabilities of Siri Shortcuts, they’ll instantly be available to use with HomePod too.
I’m not sure if people really realize how much Shortcuts extends the capabilities of HomePod yet – to be fair, it was just broken for the first two weeks of iOS 13 launching, so nobody talked about it.
I’m still figuring out how to integrate it into my life—it was broken after all—but it seems like an important step for Siri & Apple’s strategy for smart technology in people’s homes. I’ll be sharing lots more about Shortcuts and HomePod in time, but it’s certainly exciting to have all the control. I’m looking forward to exploring what’s possible.
One other thing: the HomePod did not actually receive an OS update and it’s still on version 12.4; the fix came in iOS 13.1.2 which fixes the phone’s connection.
This is confusing, but it happens this way because Siri on the HomePod just runs shortcut via the phone and provides the voice mechanism. So technically the HomePod itself didn’t get an update, but also in practice it just got the largest expansion of features since launch – in a bug fix update 😅
Apple Watch Series 5 – Nike edition
On Friday, my order for the Nike Apple Watch arrived. I pre-ordered it right after the iPhone keynote, having bought a Nike watch each time since it came out with the Series 2 watch.
My friend Drew asked me on Twitter why I bought the watch, and I gave a list of reasons that I’ll expand on here:
- More features, same price: the Nike watch has 4 more clock faces and a host of exclusive colors, but doesn’t cost any more than the normal Apple Watches. The bands are also cool and were exclusive in the past, but this year you can also buy any watch with any band.
- Spirit of running: I don’t actually run often, but with no extra cost I figured why not buy the watch that’s even more fitness-oriented; the Nike faces also have a quick-access button into the Nike Run Club app
- Brand loyalty: After my Dad worked for Nike for over 20 years, I got used to wearing Nike clothes all the time. I like their message that anybody can be an athlete, which I feel the Apple Watch helps encourage overall too.
- It shipped in October: it’s nice to avoid spending money on an iPhone and Apple Watch at the same time, but this year particularly I enjoyed not thinking one bit about the Apple Watch Series 5 for four weeks while I worked on other stuff.
By getting it later, I also seemed to have missed a whole battery debacle that seems to be fixed now too.
Some people’s watches were being drained way too fast and made it appear like the always-on display gives you less battery life, but I haven’t experienced that myself since getting it – right now it’s 10:30 pm on a Sunday night and my watch is at 33%, which was plenty for my day.
Note: Running shortcuts on the Apple Watch is also fixed in the latest developer beta and work entirely via voice from your wrist, but that’s not out to the general public just yet.
I did a stream on YouTube where I unboxed the watch and showed off the new watch faces, but the pairing process took too long so I stopped before I got a chance to go through the setup of any apps.
I’ll be doing another stream late Tuesday afternoon where I actually go through my experiences with it so far and which apps I use on the watch – I’ll say 4PM PST now, but check on Twitter for updates too.
But before that, you all will have a new podcast to listen to…
Smart Tech Today airs Mondays at 4pm
As I mentioned last week, I’m cohosting a brand new podcast called Smart Tech Today with Mikah Sargent and it launches tomorrow on the TWiT network.
We’ll be livestreaming the episodes on YouTube as they air and then the podcast episode will be released afterwards each evening.
Make sure to add the intro episode now and subscribe to the show to get the first real episode once it releases late Monday evening:
Right now, the show will be released as audio-only as well – it’s a podcast, not a video show, so while you can see our beautiful faces live, it will be focused on a listener experience and not about showing you things on camera.
Most shows on TWiT do normally have a strong video component, so it’s a bit unusual for the network’s typical audience – plus, we might actually add in video production if there is demand for it. So definitely let us know if you’d watch the stream on YouTube or as a video podcast later.
I’ll actually be in the network’s studio for episode 1 and recording next to Mikah to kick off the show—their Petaluma HQ is only about an hour from where I live in the East Bay—so typical proceedings won’t begin until next week, but I’m excited to add this into my routine.
I’m already playing around with my Alexa and Google Assistant more, I’ll be researching new products first-hand, and I’ll be working with a great cohost.
I have a feeling that Mikah and I will get into good conversations beyond the gadgets & gizmos aspect of the “IoT” and into the real ways we can live our lives differently with technology. That, and twerking Alexa bears.
It’s going to be fun, so thanks for joining us and listening to Smart Tech Today.
Pieces that I posted
Tweets that I twooted
Lots of Deep Fusion, Federico, and small Shortcuts details this week:
- Walt Mossberg was glowing about the live lyrics feature on Apple TV and how enjoyable it is to see them in such a big font on your TV – I agree, this is a fantastic new feature for Apple Music.
- Federico Viticci and MacStories have started the Shortcuts Corner as regular event on Fridays, which is excellent news for any Siri Shortcuts nerds – I look forward to the inspiration Ticci’s shortcuts always give me.
- Apple Watch workouts are working as Automation triggers, which means I can now log the UV index outside every time I go on a walk.
- Deep Fusion apparently only works between 10 and 600 lux (lux being the standard measure of brightness). There are a few very crummy apps out there that use the iPhone camera to measure this, so I put out a Twitter request for a new one.
- I highlighted a few tiny visual changes in the latest beta, plus pointed out the new Numbers, Keynote, and Pages actions that came in iOS 13.1.2 also (article coming).
- Viticci tweeted with details about using third-party messaging apps from Siri automatically, new in the developer beta too.
- The AirPods have a new tone for receiving messages – here it is on your own device as a Siri Shortcut.
- Speaking of AirPods, this shortcut will switch the input with your AirPods in a single tap.
- Tyler Stalman has been on top of the Deep Fusion coverage with example photos showing how it improves the detail in your shots, plus he had Viticci on his podcast to talk about it on an episode too.
- While taking my obligatory Deep Fusion sweater photo making fun of Apple’s over-focused marketing of cozy clothes, I snapped it from the Camera app on Apple Watch and reminded everyone it exists.
- Betas are also bringing the ability to split Home tiles for products with two functions, and have a set of improved icons to use instead of the previous limited handful.
- My friend Ben McCarthy’s business Obscura has started a newsletter.
- Federico Viticci of MacStories dug deep into iOS and curated the full list of deep links into each page in Settings, and turned them into Siri Shortcuts.
- Zachary Keith made a cool video demoing Siri Shortcuts that run AppleScripts on his Mac to open Google Chrome, dictate YouTube, and more.
Projects I’m progressing on
- Episode 1 of Smart Tech Today
- How to use Google Assistant to control Xbox
- A few how-to articles on my site about sharing Shortcuts
- My Automations for the Shortcuts app
- Wrapping-up my main “Shortcuts 3.0” video
- Writing about my desk setup
- Streaming Apple Arcade games and setting up my Apple Watch
Thanks again for reading – see you next week!
P.S. Does anyone use Alexa or Google Assistant regularly?
I’m looking for interesting skills to test out.