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The Engadget Podcast Ep 7: Firestarter

Transcript of this episode:


Devindra:
Hello internet, and welcome to the Engadget Podcast. I'm Senior Editor Devindra Hardawar, our normal host Managing Editor Terrence O'Brien is lost and afar this week, just many, many bars, but I have a good roundup of editors here, so why don't we go around the table? Let's introduce ourselves.
 
Nathan:
Hi, Nathan Ingraham, Senior Editor at Engadget, and I'm really missing Uncle Terry today, not gonna lie.
 
Devindra:
Poor Uncle Terry.
 
Nathan:
Yeah.
 
Cherlynn:
I'm Cherlynn Low, Reviews Editor, and I'm super stoked that Terrence isn't here. Super happy.
 
Devindra:
So mean!
 
Cherlynn:
Not at all, I'm just kind.
 
Dana:
Everyone out there knows me. I am Dana Wollman, Managing Editor, and I am delighted to be doing both my work and Uncle Terry's work.
 
Devindra:
Dana is writing a post as we're recording, so...super multi-tasker.
 
Dana:
I'm actually finishing a review, coming soon to Engadget.
 
Devindra:
Keep your eyes peeled.
 
Dana:
Screw you Terry.
 
Devindra:
So many reviews. Okay, let's go to our first segments, Flame Wars, which is our...sort of like, debate section. Just two people taking positions on some of this week's news. The first one: Google's Allo messaging app. Do we need another messaging app? What the heck is going on here? Could your break it down for us?
 
Nathan:
Yeah, so it's gonna be me and Cherlynn today, so...look out.
 
Cherlynn:
I already gave up on this segment, so I know I'm going to lose.
 
Nathan:
Well, that's a good attitude. Anyway, I'm pro-Allo. I got to use it for about a week, and I really thought that the Google Assistant brought in stuff that no other messaging app has. It's not fully baked yet, like a lot of Google things may launch, but it's got potential. It'll be a killer feature that other apps don't have.
 
Devindra:
All right, good timing. Also, after twenty seconds, I will just hit this buzzer sound.
 
Cherlynn:
I'm not gonna let you use that.
 
Devindra:
It's our best sound effect in our high-budget setup podcast [crosstalk 00:01:48]
 
Dana:
It's not even the best, we-
 
Devindra:
It's so great, it's pretty good. Okay, I hear you Nate. What do you say about this, Cherlynn?
 
Cherlynn:
I used Allo for a week as well with Nate, and none of my friends were there except Nate and I. It was awful, it was terrible. That's the thing, you need people to use the app for it to take off, and I don't think that Allo really will because there's so many messaging apps out there right now.
 
Devindra:
You guys [crosstalk 00:02:13]
 
Cherlynn:
Yeah!
 
Nathan:
That's a super fair point, but I'll respond to that, saying that Google is actually doing something interesting to sort of decrease the friction to getting started with Allo. Devindra actually tested this out earlier, so, if you're on iOS at least, you just pull up your Contact list, and you can hit Contacts, same as sending a message, and it actually delivers that message via SMS, so not just like sending [something] like "Oh, please install this app to try it out" thing. It actually says like, here's what I said, and you can reply on your phone and I'll get it, so you can actually go from Allo to SMS and back. Then at a certain point, Devindra can install it if he wants to, but he's not gonna miss the conversation if for some reason I-
 
Cherlynn:
Right.
 
Devindra:
I've found it funny. I signed up for the app. The conversation I was having with Nate didn't show up in Allo, and if it was gonna be really smart, I feel like that should carry over too, right?
 
Cherlynn:
The thing is, that sounds like talking to an Android user and iMessage, right? It's like "You'll still the message, it's a green bubble instead of a blue one, and you won't get all of the features, you won't have the stickers, it won't be as fun" so what's the point then?
 
Nathan:
The point is to get started on getting people over to the app. It's better than nothing, I would say.
 
Cherlynn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
 
Dana:
Nate, I want you to back up on one thing, which is that when you were writing the story, and I was editing it...I first saw the phrase 'the Google Assistant,' with the use of the word 'the.' You sounded a bit fuddy-duddy, you sounded a little bit like...some sort of low-tech person. That's actually the real name, right?
 
Nathan:
Yeah. So they call it-
 
Dana:
You have to call it 'the Google Assistant.'
 
Nathan:
This was introduced to Google, it's called 'the Google Assistant.' It doesn't have another name, it doesn't have like a Siri or Cortana or proper name, it's called Google Assistant, or 'the' Google Assistant. It does sound a little fuddy-duddy, doesn't it? Now that I'm saying it out loud.
 
Cherlynn:
That also speaks to how fuddy-duddy the Google Assistant was during our testing of it, like it wouldn't take a joke, you would feedback on its comments.
 
Nathan:
I thought it was pretty good.
 
Cherlynn:
It was good, but it didn't have the sass as Siri has, it wasn't like-
 
Nathan:
That's maybe fair. [crosstalk 00:04:06]
 
Cherlynn:
No one can have [inaudible 00:04:09]
 
Nathan:
We decided this week while we were testing it that Cherlynn's favorite phrase is just 'ugh,' because that's what the auto-reply would suggest for her constantly, just like 'ugh,' and I think that might be a reflection of how we were feeling about the app perhaps.
 
Devindra:
There may also be, I think it's just reading your texting history too, probably, right? That's how Cherlynn responds to everything.
 
Nathan:
It learns from-
 
Cherlynn:
You don't know me so well, guys.
 
Nathan:
It learns from the messages you send to suggest replies, not just...it tries to learn your voice, like what you might say.
 
Cherlynn:
Okay, so that's one of the cooler features, that it suggests responses within texts for you, but during our test thing, it didn't seem to be really that useful. All it did was give one-word responses like 'haha,' 'ugh,' 'wow.' I could type that myself, it's three letters. If one of your big selling points is not all that useful, I don't see why people are gonna adopt it. I don't see how you're gonna draw people to it.
 
Devindra:
Dana, where would you weigh in on all this?
 
Nathan:
Yeah.
 
Devindra:
Because you have to decide who wins this debate.
 
Dana:
I'm willing to revisit. I think for now, I need to side with Cherlynn, just because it would seem that the Google Assistant is less smart in practice-
 
Cherlynn:
Yeah!
 
Dana:
-than Google would claim, but I'm willing to revisit if over time, the Assistant becomes smarter.
 
Cherlynn:
Right, and that's a fair point, but whatever, I win! Also, Dana today told me, before we started this recording, that she's sitting on the side of her favorite child.
 
Dana:
Well...
 
Devindra:
Is that me?
 
Cherlynn:
No, on Nate's side of the table.
 
Devindra:
You dissed the child.
 
Cherlynn:
My top two favorites of three.
 
Nathan:
Your whole flock of children?
 
Cherlynn:
She's flanked by her top two favorite of the three people that are here on this podcast.
 
Nathan:
So you're on the out. [crosstalk 00:05:46]
 
Cherlynn:
Basically, she hates me.
 
Dana:
I just didn't want to say that [crosstalk 00:05:49]
 
Nathan:
But she just awarded you a point, so...yeah, there you go.
 
Dana:
I gave you a point.
 
Nathan:
Yeah.
 
Cherlynn:
That means you're not gonna award me any more points.
 
Devindra:
Is there anything else? You want to bring up something around this, Dana?
 
Dana:
No, actually.
 
Devindra:
Okay, all right. Let's move on to macOS Sierra. That's coming, is that this week? [crosstalk 00:06:05]
 
Dana:
It came out this week, it came out on Tuesday and I reviewed it, so I have thoughts but I'll let you guys duke this out.
 
Devindra:
Is it a good upgrade? Is it a minor upgrade? Let's hear the pro side first, Nathan?
 
Nathan:
Yeah, so I think, as with all macOS updates, they're all pretty good. Like Dana said in her review, there's no reason not to upgrade, but I think that a lot of things people might consider minor actually make a big difference today. That's kind of the story with macOS updates in my opinion. I think that the Photos improvements are really good. Apple Music is way better now. iCloud backing up your entire desktop, and Documents folder I think will probably save a lot of people from losing data.
 
Devindra:
Sorry, Nate!
 
Nathan:
Wow, I got the buzz.
 
Devindra:
I got to hit it!
 
Nathan:
Well, those were my main points, so...
 
Devindra:
All right, all right!
 
Nathan:
Over to Cherlynn.
 
Devindra:
Go Cherlynn.
 
Cherlynn:
First of all, iCloud's backing up your entire desktop would force more people to pay more money for iCloud's storage, right? I don't like that. Second of all, a lot of the features still don't really work well. Dana mentioned that Siri is not that smart yet, even though I kinda like her. Also, it's an incremental update, rather than anything revolutionary! Bye. I'm out.
 
Nathan:
You really didn't want to get buzzed, didn't you?
 
Devindra:
Cherlynn saw my hand inching towards the buzzer button, and then she stopped. Nate, you should probably follow that too, if you don't want to get buzzed in the future. [crosstalk 00:07:19] to the buzzer hand.
 
Nathan:
I don't mind getting buzzed.
 
Cherlynn:
All right.
 
Nathan:
It's fine with me.
 
Devindra:
Dana, you actually reviewed Sierra. Any thoughts to add?
 
Dana:
I would say...I didn't find Siri that smart. Siri can respond to...single questions in relatively natural language. She has her repertoire. 'It' has its repertoire, I don't want to feminize it. Siri wasn't always that smart or that helpful. For instance, I could search for movie times, but couldn't narrow down the search to theaters in my neighborhood, which I would have liked to do.
 
 
Now, I really like auto-unlock, allowing me to unlock a Mac with my Watch, but it took me a long time to set up, and between you and me, I chatted with some other reviewers who were reviewing it at the same time, and they also had problems, so it wasn't just me.
 
Devindra:
Yeah, I read a bunch of reviews and that was a common issue.
 
Dana:
I had to reset my whole iCloud password to get it to work, which-
 
Devindra:
Okay, that's not good.
 
Dana:
-is not that user-friendly. Then Apple Pay on the web is actually pretty cool, but just be warned it is really conducive to-
 
Devindra:
It's dangerous.
 
Dana:
-impulse buys, because they're just far fewer confirmation screens when you're purchasing to click through. It's like pay with Apply Pay, boom. Here's all your payment information, do you want to confirm this purchase?
 
Devindra:
Like your late-night drunk orders will get a lot worse.
 
Dana:
Do you want this hundred-dollar pair of Lululemon yoga leggings?
 
Cherlynn:
I do!
 
Nathan:
Let's be clear, that sounds like it's a win, because I get so tired of buying things online, having to put in all my info over and over again. If you're gonna buy something online, you might as well [crosstalk 00:08:55]
 
Dana:
You probably don't have a shopping problem though.
 
Cherlynn:
As someone with a shopping problem, I'd like to chime in. I also...I already find it easy enough to shop online with Chrome, because [in] the store, my password's in. I know you're not really supposed to do that, but it already feels [crosstalk 00:09:10]
 
Devindra:
They store credit card information now too [inaudible 00:09:13]
 
Cherlynn:
Right, and billing information.
 
Dana:
It's convenient. I wouldn't argue that what Apple is doing is any more convenient than paying with PayPal, or Amazon Payments. It's a similar deal.
 
Devindra:
You're signing in with your fingerprint, rather than a password, right? So that's nice. Aren't you?
 
Cherlynn:
On the desktop?
 
Devindra:
On the desktop, does it-
 
Nathan:
To confirm, you hit the touch on your phone, right?
 
Dana:
Right, you can confirm either on your phone or your Apple Watch. It just has to be an iOS device that was already Apple Pay-enabled.
 
Cherlynn:
Okay. I still have to admit, I'm a PC user, and these new features, like Universal Clipboard and the optimized storage, seem really interesting but they're not enough to win me over, I don't think.
 
Dana:
Let's talk about the storage a little bit, just because my favorite feature in the new upgrade is actually one of the least sexy. It's just that now, [and] you have to opt into this, but you can have your desktop and Documents folder automatically all back up to iCloud, essentially having your Mac work more like Dropbox.
 
Devindra:
Right.
 
Cherlynn:
Mm-hmm (affirmative)
 
Dana:
As you say, you kinda have to then go all in for the extra iCloud storage, but if you do that it's convenient. Personally, I'm paying ninety-nine cents a month for my iCloud storage so it doesn't feel like a big hit.
 
Devindra:
How much is that? How much does that get you? Ten gigs?
 
Nathan:
I think that's fifty.
 
Devindra:
Fifty?
 
Dana:
Yeah, whatever it is, it's-
 
Nathan:
Four bucks gets you two hundred, which is probably enough for most people to back up their desktop.
 
Devindra:
Well, you want your iPhone space there too. Ideally, iPhone space, plus...yeah. Desktop stuff.
 
Nathan:
Adds up quick.
 
Cherlynn:
I refuse...I pay for Google Drive storage, but I refuse to do iCloud, I don't know why.
 
Dana:
That makes sense that you don't want to pay for two platforms at once. I think a lot of people would agree.
 
Nathan:
I pay for all the platforms at once, it's horrible. I have like three music services, three Dropboxes-
 
Dana:
Okay, so you do have a shopping problem.
 
Nathan:
Just for internet services apparently.
 
Dana:
Yeah.
 
Devindra:
Dana, who wins in this battle?
 
Dana:
This is really unfair, because the whole thesis of my review that I wrote was that it's a minor upgrade, so Cherlynn just happened to agree with me, but-
 
Cherlynn:
You picked them today too! Nate!
 
Devindra:
This is not your week, Nate!
 
Nathan:
It's totally not my week.
 
Cherlynn:
You picked a standpoint today, I never got-
 
Nathan:
I'm just gonna say that if you're somebody who uses a lot of Apple's products, then every macOS update is pretty good, if you ask me. It adds a lot [crosstalk 00:11:23]
 
Dana:
This has been a lively , smart discussion, I think. I think Nate made good points.
 
Devindra:
Cherlynn is literally dancing on her chair, she gets this point so...it doesn't happen so-
 
Cherlynn:
I always let the other person I'm arguing with pick the standpoint first, the side they want to be on first.
 
Nathan:
I think I did this last time too, so in the future I'm not gonna prep at all for this, because it's not working out for me. My record is steadily dropping.
 
Devindra:
All right, all right. Final topic: Google's Pixel phones. We know there's a Google event coming, when? In two weeks?
 
Nathan:
October 4th.
 
Cherlynn:
October 4th.
 
Dana:
October 4th.
 
Devindra:
Gotcha. That's more news for us to prepare for. We've also seen some leaks of these things.
 
Nathan:
Quite a few.
 
Devindra:
They look pretty dull and silly, just pretty vanilla at this point. What do you guys think? Does Google have any chance at making a high-end phone work once again, and kind of-
 
Nathan:
I think before we kick up the [inaudible 00:12:14], the rumor that we're discussing now specifically is that they're gonna be more expensive than the Nexus phones around the past, starting at six-[hundred] fifty which is-
 
Devindra:
It's a new brand thing, yeah.
 
Nathan:
-what the iPhone 7 starts at.
 
Devindra:
Pixel has been there...Nate, you're rocking the Pixel C for some reason. Pixel has been their brand for a really expensive hardware that doesn't quite make sense. Maybe they should come up with a better name. Who's pro?
 
Cherlynn:
I'm pro on this, because I let Nate pick 'con.'
 
Devindra:
Okay. Go for it.
 
Cherlynn:
Google has always done really well with the Nexus phones by providing a really pure stock Android experience that people love, and people don't go to the Nexus line just because it's cheap. They want that really good interface that works well with the hardware. For higher-end hardware to come in, we would have better builds and better cameras. That would mean a really good thing for people who are pure Android fans. Woo-hoo!
 
Nathan:
Just under the buzzer.
 
Cherlynn:
Holla!
 
Nathan:
On my end, I will say that the Nexus phones have always been one of those 'bangs-for-the-buck' out there in the smartphone world. Not having that lower-cost option I think is really gonna kind of hurt Google in this case. It'd be a bummer if there was no way to get the really pure stock Android experience for three [hundred]-fifty or four hundred bucks. A higher price could mean that even less people try these phones and already are, so I think they might be kind of shooting themselves in the foot a little.
 
Cherlynn:
Two things. I think that this doesn't mean that they're getting rid of the Nexus line, so you might still have the three hundred and fifty, or four hundred dollar experience with Android. It just means that they're offering something new and different with the Pixel line. The other thing is that it's nice to have different options to hopefully enjoy Project Fi on.
 
Nathan:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).
 
Cherlynn:
Because I want more Project Fi phones, that's all I want.
 
Nathan:
That's a good argument.
 
Cherlynn:
Ha-ha!
 
Devindra:
Ha-ha!
 
Nathan:
I think that as nice as a lot of the recent Nexus phones have been, it seems like there's always some sort of fatal flaw in one way or another, although I gotta say the 5X and the 6P feel like they finally got-
 
Devindra:
They're good. They're good.
 
Cherlynn:
The 6P...yeah.
 
Nathan:
The pricing accurately reflects what you get for the device and the 6P, and I think it starts at five-hundred bucks. That's still a lot of good phone for that money.
 
Devindra:
They're fast, they have good displays, the build quality's good. Their camera's still not that great.
 
Cherlynn:
The Nexus 6P didn't have a terrible camera. It had really big pixel-size [crosstalk 00:14:20]
 
Devindra:
That's okay, especially when you compare it though to what Samsung is doing now, and what Apple is doing with the iPhones.
 
Cherlynn:
That doesn't mean that people who want that pure Android should be stuck with a phone that looks bland and isn't altogether the most sexy. I hate using the word 'sexy' now, for phones, but-
 
Devindra:
It's fine. It's 2016, can phones surprise us anymore? I don't know. We're a little bored with iPhone at this point. That's the bigger question. Anyway, Dana, where do our contenders stand?
 
Dana:
I mostly agree with Nate on this one I think, that it would be a real shame if there were no spiritual successors to the Nexus phones. Affordable, pretty high-quality phones that didn't cost that much. The only thing I would say is that there are spiritual successors in other brands, like OnePlus. It's interesting now to think about who Google, with these phones, is really competing with. There are plenty of beautiful, high-end options from Samsung, HTC...there are lower-cost options from OnePlus. Who am I leaving out?
 
Nathan:
The [inaudible 00:15:21] are relatively portable.
 
Dana:
[inaudible 00:15:23], ZTE-
 
Cherlynn:
Hauwei...
 
Dana:
-right. I think there's a bigger-
 
Nathan:
We don't need the Nexus One anymore.
 
Dana:
There's a bigger question. Does Google still need to be doing this? Is its work here done?
 
Nathan:
I would say they do but-
 
Devindra:
They've already been doing vanilla software with some other brands too.
 
Nathan:
A few other companies...I think [inaudible 00:15:43] is pretty clean, but for the most part, if you want to get fast software updates, Nexus is the only way to go.
 
Cherlynn:
It's all about the software updates. They're going to be the first to get Android. Well, the LG V20 has it, but...
 
Nathan:
That's an exception to the rule.
 
Cherlynn:
That will be pure.
 
Dana:
Right. I think for the stock experience alone, Google knows its own software, and people prefer the stock experience.
 
Nathan:
Sure. When does this gesturing suggest [inaudible 00:16:07] Dana, right now, trying to get that [inaudible 00:16:09]
 
Devindra:
So many gestures. Cherlynn's also making a knife motion across her throat, pointing at Nate.
 
Cherlynn:
Stop misleading the podcast listeners.
 
Devindra:
I don't know what that means.
 
Cherlynn:
For the real deal, you should watch-
 
Dana:
I'm gonna say point Nate, but another close call.
 
Devindra:
Okay.
 
Cherlynn:
All right.
 
Devindra:
All right.
 
Cherlynn:
Its okay. I'm one for one.
 
Devindra:
All right, let's wrap the debates, guys.

 
 
Devindra:
Time for the Open Source section which is, this is just where we talk about some stories we've reported on, kind of give us the background of it. Nate you have a really good one because you had to go to Pittsburgh for some reason.
 
Nate:
I did. I did have to go to Pittsburgh. Last week I was in Pittsburgh to see the unveiling and launch of Uber's Self-Driving Cars. There's a lot of companies that have been working on self-driving cars obviously, but Uber's ... you could go to Pittsburgh right now and hail an UberX and you might end up getting a self-driving car.
 
 
Which is pretty crazy I think, that they're actually out on the road and paying customers can use them. Although, actually, if you get a self-driving car you'll ride will be free because they're not making people pay for those yet.
 
Cherlynn:
Oh, sweet.
 
Nate:
I got to go down there, get an overview of the technology, see the cars and go for ... I was in the car for about an hour riding around Pittsburgh. It was pretty crazy. What was crazy about it was how boring it was.
 
Devindra:
Well, describe the setup. It's you in the passenger's seat and-
 
Nate:
It's like a Ford Sedan, pretty basic car. I'm sitting in the backseat, there's an iPad in the back, which shows a bunch of information on your drive. You can see sort of the radar view that the car has. It's got a sensor on top and all over the car that maps out the world around and you can see what it's seeing. You can see the position of the steering wheel. You can see when the breaks are being applied, how fast you're going, what the speed limit is, how far you've driven in autonomous mode.
 
 
Upfront there's two people: one in the drivers seat who's your safety driver, he's got his hands on the wheel and his feet over the pedals the whole time. In the passenger seat is another one of Uber's engineers who's got a laptop with more comprehensive data of what's going on.
 
Devindra:
Okay.
 
Nate:
These cars can't dive all over Pittsburgh. There's specific routes, even specific lanes that they can be in autonomous mode in. If you pick a route that it can do autonomously, then it just drives you there.
 
Dana:
Regular customers are also going to have a human in the front seat?
 
Nate:
Yes.
 
Devindra:
There job is only to hold their hands above the steering wheel?
 
Dana:
How would you explain the purpose of that?
 
Nate:
Of the person or what they're doing in general?
 
Devindra:
Right. What's the purpose of a self-driving car if it needs to be chaperoned by a human still?
 
Nate:
I think that we're just far too early in the process to let them off the leash.
 
Devindra:
I'd be surprised if they just let those things loose.
 
Nate:
Yeah, there needs to be a lot more testing and regulations before that can happen.
 
Dana:
This is to ease people in to it then for public testing?
 
Nate:
It's to ease people in to it and so the cars can continue to gather more data so Uber can get feedback on how people feel about these drives and so on and so forth.
 
 
What's interesting to me in the experience I had was that when the driver had to take over it wasn't because the situation was unsafe, it was because the car didn't properly process what was in front of it. Let me give an example: we were driving down a one lane road, pretty narrow and there was a large trucker-trailer truck pulled over. The car thought it was a car that was just stopped, like it was obeying a traffic light or something. It doesn't know to go around it. It doesn't know that this car is pulled over, unloading, double parking, etc. The driver had to take over and guide the car around this pulled over trucker-trailer truck.
 
Dana:
Every time a human takes the wheel that incident is somehow logged and analyzed?
 
Nate:
Yeah.
 
Dana:
Okay.
 
Nate:
It knows, obviously one, the driver takes over and is recording everything around it so it can kind of process and learn from those experiences.
 
 
Another time we were at a 4-way stop sign and because the car has utmost safety in mind, it is expecting the other cars in the intersection to come to a complete stop before it will proceed. As we all now, nobody actually comes to a complete stop in this world. Cars keep on rolling through the stop signs and the self-driving car just kind of sits there and waits so eventually the driver had to step up and take his turn there.
 
Dana:
Yeah.
 
Nate:
It was really interesting. It was far less weird than I expected it to be. Which is good. You want it to be boring.
 
Dana:
Where do these human chaperons come from?
 
Nate:
I believe that they are all Uber engineers, I want to say.
 
Dana:
Okay, so they're not just part of the sharing economy, the way normal drivers are?
 
Nate:
No.
 
Dana:
Okay.
 
Nate:
This is a totally independent separate program. There's not too many cars out there in the road. If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably under 30.
 
Devindra:
Did they tell you why Pittsburgh? Why did they start this there?
 
Nate:
They opened there, I think they call it their Advanced Technologies Lab, opened in Pittsburgh 18 months ago.
 
Devindra:
Is Carnegie Mellon nearby? That's why.
 
Nate:
That's essentially why they picked it. There's a lot of startup and advanced technology in Pittsburgh right now, I think. I went a lot to the universities and so forth. They got in there, they've been working on it and I guess the city itself was very friendly to the thought of them getting these cars on the road.
 
Devindra:
Interesting.
 
Nate:
The self-driving cars have been out there for a good, I think at least 6 months now but just know they're starting to take passengers.
 
Devindra:
I know the government is talking more about its policies around self-driving cars too now right?
 
Nate:
That's right. Yeah, this week. I think-
 
Devindra:
We're seeing a lot happening all at once.
 
Nate:
Yeah. Well, I'm sure that they timing of the announcement there from the government is coinciding with what's happening. I think President Obama wrote an oped in a Pittsburgh paper about this specifically, just saying that yes we're going to try and regulate this at a government level so each state doesn't have to fight for its own regulations. They're going to try and make it more streamlined so it can roll out across the country.
 
 
One of the questions I had was where does this program go for here? I think if the government can actually make this a thing that's implemented nationwide, it will be easier for Uber to take it to another city.
 
Devindra:
Did Uber give you a timeline for when they expect any of this to happen?
 
Nate:
No, they're really not. I mean, they're really not talking much about that right now. There's still a lot of the city that isn't mapped. There's a lot to do.
 
Cherlynn:
I'm concerned about with the government stepping in with this federal regulations because it seems like people really believe this will take off and eventually become a very common thing. What will happen to people who are cab drivers right now? Will they be displaced? You think that's something they'll rally against?
 
Nate:
Uber's already caused a lot of that consternation, right. I just don't know. I think nobody really knows yet. I think it's going to be hard to argue, if these cars can be proven that they're safer than human drivers then that's going to make all the difference I think.
 
Cherlynn:
Right, so that means that once all the safety requirements are met that they could actually replace human drivers and not have safety drivers now. I mean, first of all, that sounds wonderful to me because I hate talking to strangers and I don't want to talk to my driver, except for like, "Go here. Go there." I'm really rude.
 
 
I don't know. I feel bad for people who might lose their job because of this.
 
Devindra:
Yeah. I guess with every industrial shift like this, there's always a wave of people who may lose work or may have to [crosstalk 00:06:30].
 
Cherlynn:
Right.
 
Nate:
Robots in factories, that sort of thing.
 
Cherlynn:
The agricultural revolution also [crosstalk 00:06:33]
 
Devindra:
I personally cannot wait for my self-driving car. I spent the last couple days in Georgia and you just have to drive everywhere there. Thankfully my younger brother, he lives there,-
 
Nate:
Chaperoned you around.
 
Devindra:
Yeah, he could just take us everywhere.
 
Cherlynn:
Wait, some people like to drive. I'd like to drive my [crosstalk 00:06:47]
 
Devindra:
Some people like to drive. The thing is, drivers are terrible and I can't trust them and they're responsible for hundreds of thousands, I think even millions of deaths every year thanks to accidents. Bring on the robot cars. I think they'll make life a lot better.
 
Nate:
I think Uber did say their ultimate goal is to be able to have cars picking up people without a safety driver.
 
Cherlynn:
I'm not sure how close we are to that, like we were just discussing there. It really sounds like ... I don't know that I trust a computer to make decisions in emergency situations right.
 
Devindra:
You trust the computer more than a New York taxi driver?
 
Cherlynn:
No, no, no, I trust-
 
Devindra:
They're terrifying.
 
Cherlynn:
I know they are but I love, I mean, whatever.
 
Devindra:
You love them?
 
Cherlynn:
I love it when my driver takes risks and is like-
 
Devindra:
What?
 
Cherlynn:
I know but like ... when I'm rushing through something and I'm running late. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, why are we in this slow lane. You have to overtake this guy ..."
 
Dana:
I think it could even be a generational difference. I don't know if we will ever be fully comfortable being driven by robots but our kids and grandkids might be.
 
Nate:
I was just going to say, the friction that I see is going to be when there's a mix of self-driving cars and non-self-driving cars in the road. The hard thing is going to be accounting for unpredictability of a human driver.
 
Devindra:
We're seeing manual cars right no take in some sort of automated technologies. There is crash awareness. There is lane adjust and stuff like that.
 
 
Let's move on. One more thing I want to talk about: Dana you've been testing the AppleWatch series 2. How's that going?
 
Dana:
Yeah, I have the big hunking 42mm.
 
Cherlynn:
It's actually not that big in my opinion, but ...
 
Dana:
I prefer the 38 but-
 
Cherlynn:
Yeah, it looks daintier.
 
Dana:
... reviewers can't be choosers. Yeah, so my review is probably going up today. You'll notice that I've been taking my time on this. Normally in gadget may have posted a review earlier. I've been really using it to workout because it's been positioned as a sports watch and that's kind of what I do. I'm a marathoner.
 
 
I've been taking it on runs and trying to really put it through it's paces there. What's been interesting to me is that on paper the difference in ... Backing up, it has built in GPS tracking. It supposed to track your distance a lot more accurately than the previous model. I've been using it along side my Garmin Forerunner 225, which I've had 2 years and which-
 
Devindra:
That thing is huge.
 
Dana:
Yeah, more importantly pretty accurate. I've been using them together and the actual on paper difference in distance is often pretty small. In one run I did almost 4 miles they were off by 9 hundredths of a mile, which doesn't seem like that much. If I just saw the distance differential on paper I'd say, oh they're pretty close. The problem is that pace calculation for runners and anyone else interested in speed for whatever sport, is contingent on the distances measured. Even for that run where I was 9 hundredths off, Apple's watch said I was 17 seconds faster than the Garmin watch did.
 
 
That has been troubling to me. I don't really care about small, seemingly arbitrary differences in distance, but when you tell me I'm 17 seconds faster than I know I am, that's a little frustrating for me.
 
 
I mean 17 seconds over a full marathon would probably be an 8 minute difference, which is not nothing.
 
Devindra:
Yeah.
 
Nate:
Yeah.
 
Cherlynn:
Yeah.
 
Devindra:
Definitely. Has Apple said anything about this? Will it get more accurate over time or anything or is this just how it is?
 
Dana:
I think it's how it is. Whereas the first watch, it didn't have GPS built in and what you had to do was take your iPhone ... because it was connected to your iPhone it would then make use of your iPhone's sensors. I found it wasn't really a suitable solution. The results were still pretty far off. At the time Apple said that you could eventually calibrate the watch so that you wouldn't even need to bring your phone. I disagreed with that. I found it was never accurate enough to just leave my phone at home.
 
 
Here there's not supposed to be a calibration process. My understanding is that the performance out of the box is what you get for most sports. I went on the treadmill the other day and I got a popup message that said, please do 20 minutes of outdoor running before you do an indoor run. By that point I had done more than 20 so I figured-
 
Cherlynn :
It didn't understand [crosstalk 00:11:09]
 
Nate:
Do you think the new watch is better than the old one though in terms of tracking distance accurately? You've had a lot of experience with both of them at this point.
 
Dana:
It's marginally better but ... Here's where I am with the review, it took me a while to think through this. I know that other reviewers agree with me. It's a really good smartwatch in terms of all the smartwatchy things it does: the selection of apps; the watch OS3, and I know that you agree with me on this, is a big improvement. The layout is just more intuitive. The new watch is faster. It requires less swiping and tapping a lot of the time. It works great as a fitness tracker.
 
 
As far as distance, if I were just a casual walker and wanted to know how many miles I walked each day and I wasn't concerned about how fast I was going, those 9 hundredths of a mile wouldn't bother me. I think it's really only an issue for people who are training for events where speed matters.
 
 
For those people, I still don't think the Apple Watch cuts it. I think you would still want to dedicated sports watch from something like Garmin or TimeX but it's really what you want as a smartwatch that can double as a pretty good fitness tracker this is good.
 
Devindra:
Has the heart rate tracking gotten any better?
 
Nate:
I've never had an issue with that personally.
 
Dana:
I've never had an issue with it.
 
Devindra:
I guess in terms of accuracy. I used to compare it to one of the other Garmin's or some stuff from FitBit and the numbers would always be slightly different.
 
Nate:
At one point I was wearing both. I was wearing multiple watches just to test them and they seemed to be close enough.
 
Dana:
For both generations of watches, both this year and last year, the funny thing is that even if I could be ... have some troubling differences in pace, the estimated calorie burn was always in roughly the same neighborhood with the Apple Watch versus whatever I was comparing it to. That's interesting to me.
 
Nate:
Okay. Very cool.
 
Devindra:
Thanks Dana. We're going to look for your full review later today?
 
Dana:
Hopefully today.
 
Devindra:
Okay. Did you want to add anything Nate?
 
Nate:
I was going to say that I'm not as hard core of a runner as Dana but I have been running more lately so I'm curious to see how it works. I'll say though, I think for a lot of people who aren't at your level doing marathons but are still wanting to be more active, they are not going to have something to compare it to so as long as it's in that neighborhood it's probably going to be good enough for a lot of people.
 
Dana:
Right. I'm still finessing my review but that's one point I want to make, that if you're just going for a casual jog and you're running just to-
 
Devindra:
And you want something to control your music too, maybe if you like that sort of thing.
 
Dana:
-be active just to make yourself feel good that's good but if you're training and ... The problem is that I feel like in Apple's marketing materials and its promo videos it does feature some people like me who look like they're really taking their sport seriously.
 
Devindra:
Does the Nike version do anything different? What is different about that?
 
Dana:
It just has special bands that are both sportier looking and slightly lighter weight and more breathable. They have a couple exclusive Nike watch faces with complications that go back to Nike's app but you can always install Nike's app yourself as a third party app on the regular series too. Other than those things ... Also the Nike app on the Nike watch responds to Siri commands, which is unusual for a third party app on the Apple Watch.
 
Devindra:
You probably see more of that.
 
Dana:
Yeah. Otherwise it's basically a regular series 2 watch with sporty bands and some Nike stuff thrown in.
 
 

 
Devindra:
All right let's move on to the group chats. This is just a general discussion about an ongoing news story. Guys, I have to ask you, I guess I would title this discussion, is that an exploding Galaxy Note 7 in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?
 
Cherlynn:
That was really lame.
 
Devindra:
Yeah.
 
Nate:
No I thought that was good.
 
Cherlynn:
Really?
 
Male:
Dad jokes, hashtag Dad jokes.
 
Devindra:
On fire, totally on fire, but year the Galaxy Note 7 has been kind of a disaster for Samsung at this point.
 
Cherlynn:
So unfortunate.
 
Dana:
Samsung lost something like 20 how many millions of market value?
 
Nate:
Billions.
 
Devindra:
26 billion something.
 
Dana:
Billions of market value.
 
Devindra:
When stock figures shift that is a massive amount of money shifting, so it's kind of imaginary but it's also real value. That's how investors look at these companies.
 
Dana:
It's going to lose a lot of money having to replace all these devices.
 
Devindra:
Replace all these, potentially people moving, I've seen  a lot of people just saying "I'm going to give up on this phone, maybe go to another android phone or maybe even go over to an Iphone altogether." It's just really weird sitting in the airport this week and hearing warnings about specific models of phones. This has never happened before.
 
Cherlynn:
Even on New York City subways.
 
Devindra:
Even on New York City subways.
 
Devindra:
We haven't seen a product recall at this scale before.
 
Nate:
In the tech industry.
 
Devindra:
I know the Honda airbag thing was kind of a big thing, the car industry has had a couple issues and those things also potentially endanger lives. People have been injured by these, who know what happens if this explodes on a plane or something. What is going on here, guys? We heard about this end of August, first reports appeared?
 
Nate:
Quick timeline, end of August there were first time reports that Samsung was delaying some shipments to do additional testing, a couple days later they officially stopped selling it, issued a voluntary recall and since then we've seen things like the FAA offering its advisory to New York saying don't bring on the subway. They're working with the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
 
Devindra :
For an official United States recall.
 
Nate:
Right and that's happening actually as of the 21st they are now officially replacing them so if you have one that you bought earlier you can get it replaced.
 
Devindra:
I saw there was a software update going out too. They're limiting the battery life so it only charges to certain points because the issue is that I guess the newer and bigger batteries in the Note 7, they can overheat if it gets charged to quickly. I don't even know if they know the exact reason at this point.
 
Cherlynn:
Overcharged.
 
Devindra:
Overcharge, yeah. Also the software update says if it knows you don't have the replaced phone, it will say don't charge this phone, be careful with it, get [crosstalk 00:02:29] for replacement.
 
Nate:
The new phones they have a colored battery indicator that's green that shows you-
 
Cherlynn:
It's okay.
 
Devindra:
We haven't seen a company go to this level to deal with a recall, but do we have a sense of why this happened was it just because it was rushed?
 
Nate :
I feel like someone, Bloomberg or one of those sites, publications published a story recently saying that they heard that the Iphone 7 was not going to be that big of a change and they wanted to capitalize, press the advantage there so they rushed things or went a little further with the capabilities of the Note 7. I think specifically, when we're talking about the battery, it's got a 3500 millionth hour battery.
 
Dana:
We were really psyched about the battery before we knew it was explosive.
 
Nate:
It was much larger than the previous year, I think by 500 million power.
 
Devindra:
The Notes are known for having very large batteries in general.
 
Nate:
I think that they just from an engineering perspective were trying to do more than they could safely with this battery. I don't know about the replacements. I wonder if they're going to cut capacity they haven't talked about it.
 
Devindra:
Safe thing to do. It will be interesting to see what the fallout of this is. Will Samsung just blame their battery manufacturer or is it something to do with the fast charge technology? That's something Qualcom's been pushing for years and I think Samsung and a handful of other android makers have been the ones actually taking advantage of it. There's danger to that too because you're pushing more voltage in. Anything related to power is dangerous, I guess. It shows that you have to be a little more careful.
 
Cherlynn:
First of all, Samsung should never have let this happen. They should have been more careful with their checks and everything, looking at how they handled the recall, looking at the time line, looks like they stopped selling the Note 7 two days after the first reports show up. I don't know how long ago before the first reports showed up that they already known about this was happening, so I don't know if that's a quick turnaround time, but publicly it seems they could have done it day off, I feel like, but two days isn't bad.
 
Devindra:
It seems like they did it fast.
 
Cherlynn:
It was pretty fast for what it was.
 
Dana:
I'm still unclear on why the CPSC took so long, and I don't think that makes Samsung look good, even thought I don't think that's necessarily their fault. I was still unclear as why there was such a big gap. That official recall in the US didn't happen until September 15.
 
Devindra:
Samsung announced their recall. Maybe there was some paperwork, I don't know, maybe they didn't know they had to go through [crosstalk 00:04:48].
 
Nate:
It's the government, they always slow things down, right?
 
Cherlynn:
But I almost feel also like they were trying to figure out if it was isolated incidences or line white defect, right? That again, is still a long delay for that to be-
 
Devindra:
What are you guys thinking in terms of, have you talked to readers or other people who have been considering the Note 7 and are moving away or anything and where do you think Samsung is going to go from here? People will remember this. This is going to be an ongoing joke for years.
 
Cherlynn:
For real, the next Galaxy S phone that comes out the opening weekend sales just aren't going to be as good as they have been in the past. It's really sad because Samsung was finally gaining some momentum against Apple this year.
 
Devindra:
That's true.
 
Cherlynn:
I talked about this earlier last week too.
 
Devindra:
The S 7s are good phones.
 
Cherlynn:
So good. The cameras still perhaps better or [crosstalk 00:05:36]
 
Male:
Better than the 6S for sure.
 
Cherlynn:
Than the 6S maybe even the 7, we'll have to see but I think this unfortunately just means Samsung really has to step it up next year and they have to be very open about their battery tech in the next announcement event.
 
Devindra:
Hasn't Samsung always, I feel like they've generally been criticized for build quality as well, so maybe this is a better sign.
 
Nate:
I think this is different than build quality though. This is like technology underpinnings for sure. It's different than plastic-y phones.
 
Devindra:
It all comes down to how you're manufacturing things and the care and the quality they're putting into that.
 
Cherlynn:
To your point they did have another small little kerfuffle or embarrassment this year with the S7 Active not really meeting Consumer Reports readings for waterproof-ness. Their second thing this year in a year where they're supposed to be gaining steam so I mean as a person who's rooting for the Galaxy line, I'm very disappointed
 
Dana:
As someone who if not writes reviews, edits all these reviews I cringe anytime I see these because our job is to review these phones. The Note 7 I have to say, was one of the highest scored products. We've since pulled the score and we have a disclaimer on our own review. On the one hand we're testing these devices and if they don't explode we're not going to write about it. If we're testing them and nothing explodes we're not going to write about an explosion. Again, we've since updated the review but, I wonder are we going have to be a little cautious and a little more muted when we test future flagships?
 
Nate:
Test things longer?
 
Cherlynn:
Try to explode things? Try to push them to their limits?
 
Devindra:
You can only do so much.
 
Cherlynn:
We're like the second level of testing for these phones before they really reach consumers.
 
Dana:
Right, we're not the primary layer of testing.
 
Cherlynn:
The onus isn't fully on us, there's not much that we can do beyond trying to be a real user to test these phones out. You're right, that in future ... Thank our lucky star thank our lucky stars that [Velasco 00:07:33] didn't get an exploding Note 7.
 
Nate:
Would have made a great story.
 
Devindra:
I know Cherlynn just really wants to erase Velazco
 
Dana:
You know what that guy needs in his life? Third degree burns. He does.
 
Devindra:
Getting dark guys.
 
Cherlynn:
You shouldn't listen to me.
 
Nate:
I was just going to say that this underscores battery tech in general and problems that we're having trying to make it better. The battery life on my year old phone is just terrible right now and it's super frustrating but then you hear about things like exploding batteries and it's like man this is a difficult challenge this company have painted for themselves.
 
Devindra:
The solution right now is to cram in more density and that introduces power issues and heat issues.
 
Nate:
We're talking about density, we're talking about [crosstalk 00:08:16].
 
Nate:
Charging all these things are making an unstable thing more potentially unstable, right?
 
Devindra:
Anything else you want to add about the Note 7?
 
Dana:
Maybe that should be my last point, maybe that should be the next frontier, not thinner phones, better battery life, better and safer battery life. I do wonder if there have been some misplaced priorities.
 
Nate:
I feel like we say this every year, right, we don't need the Iphone to be 2 millimeters thinner, I feel like the size of the 5 S was totally fine.
 
Devindra:
The 7 isn't thinner.
 
Nate:
Right. True.
 
Cherlynn:
Really quick, because we were talking about whether we've seen anything like this before. Exploding batteries have always been a thing with laptops as well in the past it's just people don't carry them in their pockets.
 
Devindra:
Dell had a whole thing, I remember years ago.
 
Cherlynn:
This is a much huger deal just because people are carrying them around all the time.
 
Devindra:
We will be following this issue for sure, for the foreseeable future too. This is one of the more dramatic things to happen in the tech world for a long time, but let's close it out. Thank you for joining me guys, I'm sorry I'm not Uncle Terry, but he'll be back next week.
 
Nate:
Uncle Dev is just fine.
 
Cherlynn:
Not really. Uncle Dev is not my favorite, I'm sorry.
 
Nate:
Doesn't have the same ring to it.
 
Devindra:
Where can we find you guys on the Internet? People want to follow you and your snark and your opinions.
 
Cherlynn:
Check out all my sub tweets on @cherlynno
 
Dana:
I am at danawallman on Twitter that's my full name, no space, be nice.
 
Nate:
I'm @nateingram on Twitter. Be as mean as you want.
 
Devindra:
You also have the safety filter turned on.
 
Nate:
I do yes, because I wrote about battlefield.
 
Devindra:
I am @devindra on Twitter and follow me there also for lots of talk about movies and stuff. Send any questions, complaints, suggestions about this podcast to podcastengadget.com. Don't forget to read us on Itunes and check out Engadget next week as we're updating our massive election guide following the debates that's happening this week as well. Before we go, our comment of the week. How much for the Mohawk add on? A very important question.
 
Dana:
How much indeed.
 
Nate:
Makes you think.
 
Cherlynn:
Apple'll paid for it.


 

Posted 09.23.16

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