Amazing Amazon Echo

I bought the standard Amazon Echo (not plus), around 6 months ago. It is the newest edition, 2017 to be specific. Initially, I was just using it as a Bluetooth speaker. Really, that was my main use of the Echo. Reasons being, most of the things that Alexa could do in the U.S., she couldn’t do in India. This was 6 months ago. What has changed now?

physical controls
the echo at work

A lot of things actually. What I mostly use Alexa/Echo for are:

1. Setting music alarms – yes, you can do this now in India. You can set your favourite song as an alarm now. I personally do not recommend doing this as you might end up hating your favourite song. We use it actually to play devotional songs early in the morning. I know, now you can use routines to play songs too, which brings us to the next point

2. Routines – if you have a smart home with Alexa/echo controllable appliances, setting up routines to automate your smart home will feel heavenly. You can now use routines to play music at specific times too. Can be used to give you traffic info just before you leave home. Can be used to just wish you good morning!

3. Bluetooth speaker – it still is a very good speaker to play music from your phone. It is Dolby enabled too. I’ve read though that Apple pod sounds much better.

4. Misc – randomly asking Alexa for info on anything and anybody, to calculate stuff for me, setting reminders, timers, creating shopping lists, ordering stuff from Amazon, booking a cab from Ola or Uber

If you have contacts who have an Echo at home, you can make Echo to Echo calls. Echo supports texting too now.

top view

The echo has a few glitches

Songs added to play as part of a routine dont start at times for some reason.

Although much improved, Alexa, at times has trouble recognising the Indian accent.  So you end up repeating things. The frequency of this happening has definitely reduced.

The answer to some queries is still :I do not know that one

I’m not going to compare it with Google home as I haven’t used it yet.

Verdict

Even with a few shortcomings (which can definitely be solved by software updates), the Echo is an amazing device which is able to fuse hardware with a fabulous software with Alexa at its heart.

IOS 12 announced at WWDC 2018

Apple gave a preview of the upcoming version 12 of their iOS on June 4th at the WWDC 2018.  With a slew of new features, it looks much improved compared to the previous iteration iOS 11.

Of all the features announced, I find the following most useful:

  1. Grouped notifications – notifications from each app will be grouped together. So, it is going to be much easier to deal with them. I personally feel this is much better than the serial notifications which we receive right now. Clearing them takes up so much time if you haven’t been paying attention to the lock screen for a while.
  2. Screen time – iOS 12 gives detailed reports of screen time for apps and websites. This is very helpful to restrict your usage on certain apps if you feel you are spending too much time on them. The feature can also be used by parents to monitor and restrict  usage of apps by their children.
  3. For You tab on photos app – This is similar to the feature provided on Google photos app. It brings up nostalgic memories and I have discovered many forgotten photos from years past,while using the feature on Google photos.
  4. Group FaceTime – interesting feature. A cool thing is that the image of whoever is speaking enlarges a little on screen, so you know who is speaking!

The entire OS is supposed to be much faster than before, with apps opening faster, camera opening faster. Some fun features like memojis,shared AR experiences appear as well. All the new updates can be seen here.

The developer preview of iOS 12 is already available on developer.apple.com. Public beta will be announced later this month and the final version, as expected, will be available later this year – September perhaps.

Apple continues to support all iPhones from 5s onwards! That’s right, all devices which got the iOS 11 will get iOS 12 too! A great way to say thanks to their faithful customers.

 

Vivo X21

Features

Another phone with a 6.28 inch FHD+ display with an AMOLED screen, notch and chin. The most exciting feature of this phone is an in-display fingerprint reader, which is a first apparently for commercially available phones. It must be noted that an in-display finger print reader is slightly slower compared to the conventional readers.  It uses a Snapdragon 660 processor, hence priced much higher than the other SD 636 phones. The X21 has dual rear camera (12MP+5MP) and a 12MP selfie shooter. The second sim slot is a hybrid slot– sim or memory card. The 3200 mAh battery should last a day. There is still no clarity regarding the presence/absence of an NFC sensor.

Pricing

In India, it is available exclusively on Flipkart at a price of INR 35,990 right now. 128/6 GB version is the only one available. Considering the One Plus 6 64/6 GB (with SD 845) version priced lesser than the Vivo X21 right now, it appears as if we would be paying a premium largely for the in-display fingerprint reader.

Verdict

Although the phone it self looks gorgeous, performs well in real life conditions, allows for up-gradation of memory, it would have made more sense if it was priced around the 30k mark in India; at 36k, OP6 seems to be a better buy.

There’s a notch, after all!

I was eagerly awaiting the release of the much hyped mobile phone from Lenovo– the Z5.

Well, it was officially announced in China today at 2pm local time. I was sorely disappointed to see that it does in fact have a notch and a chin as well! Far from the bezel-less beauty all of us were promised and expecting. It also does not have 4TB of memory or 45 days battery backup.

It will be competing against the likes of Redmi note 5 pro and Nokia x6. All these phones come with the same Snapdragon 636 processor and 6 gigs of RAM.

If you get over the initial sore disappointments, it is a decent mid segment phone priced competitively (in China at least). Global availability was not announced.