First Google Assistant, Now Android 7.1.1

OnePlus announced late last week on Twitter and their forum they are Globally beginning to roll out to the 3 and 3T Android 7.1.1, the latest version of Android which was released back in the beginning of December.

I got the OnePlus 3T because I heard it was nearly stock Android, like former Nexus and current Pixel phones, which I assumed would keeping things easy for OnePlus to release updates to the Operating System and add features.

So far, my assumption has been correct with this update to 7.1.1 and the addition of Google Assistant, even if Google was the company to push the Assistant to phones.

What comes with this update?

Most of the changes are small things like adding new emojis and the ability to send GIFs directly from the keyboard (to compatible devices, of course).

However, a feature from Pixel I hope will be included in this update is revealing shortcuts by long-pressing an app icon. That means I’ll see “Trending”, “Subscriptions”, and “Search” when I long-press the YouTube app on my home screen.

OnePlus 3T colette Edition – Only 250 to be sold

OnePlus announced on Twitter yesterday they will be releasing a limited edition of their 3T smartphone, the colette edition. Only 250 of these smartphones will be sold, and they are being sold only from the colette store in Paris on March 21 starting at 11am.

So, anyone want to go to Paris for me? Oh, you don’t, that’s okay.

A few hours ago, OnePlus announced a drawing which gives the winner a free trip to Paris so they can get this phone. Maybe I’ll be able to go for myself!

This OnePlus 3T colette edition will be a 128 GB version of their 3T phone in a matte black color with the “colette” name on the back. It’s expected to sell for 479 EUR, or roughly $513.

Google Assistant is Here

I woke up Saturday morning to find a special notification on my phone.

screenshot_20170311-100918.png

Google Assistant is here for OnePlus 3T users! Or at least some of us, but definitely for my phone.

My post about Google announcing the Assistant was on its way to Android phones running 6.0 Marshmallow and 7.0 Nougat mentioned the Google Assistant is activated in a couple ways. One way is by saying “Ok Google” like I would activate Google Now.

The other, and less battery draining method, is doing a long-press on the home button. This action already had a function on the OnePlus 3T so I wasn’t sure if Google Assistant would be activated this way.

Well, long-pressing the home button activates Google Assistant. Initially, Google Assistant simply listens for me to say something like “How old are you?” to which it will either respond to my question or open an app.

Before Assistant was available on my phone, long-pressing did a search of whatever was on my screen, and this function is still available with Assistant, you just have to scroll up after activating Assistant.

Google announced the official start of rolling out the Google Assistant on March 2 and my phone didn’t get the Assistant until March 10. If your phone is running Android 6.0 or 7.0 but doesn’t have the Assistant yet, don’t fret, it will be available on your phone soon enough.

Even if you have a UI or OS from the phone company (like ZenUI on ZenFones) you will still get the update because this is an update to Google Play Services instead of an update to the Android OS.

Complimentary VIP at Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon San Francisco

United Airlines emailed me yesterday morning to invite me to register for complimentary VIP benefits of I was registered for the Rock ‘n’ Roll (RNR) San Francisco race.

Good news! I am registered to run RNR San Francisco so I signed up for the pre- and post-race VIP benefits.

Now, if you are also registered for this race but did not buy either of the VIP packages, RNR probably sent you a few emails telling you to buy the VIP benefit packages for $59 or $89. Because I know I was.

From United:

  • One invitation to the MileagePlus pre-race hospitality at the Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant on Sunday, March 26, 2017 from 4:30 a.m. to 6:15 a.m. Invitation is available to recipient (runner only) and is non-transferable
    • Light breakfast and hot beverages
    • Private baggage drop-off
    • Private restrooms
    • Private shuttle to start corrals
  • Up to two invitations (runner and a guest) to the post-race hospitality at the VIP tent inside the finish line festival on Sunday, March 26, 2017 beginning post-race to 11:00 a.m. The recipient (runner) and a guest must have individual invitations for each entry. Invitations are non-transferable.
    • Accessible location near the finish line
    • Brunch and beverage service
    • Runner amenities including private baggage pickup and more
    • Private shuttle back to parking at Beach Chalet Brewery & Restaurant

Buying the VIP packages from RNR you’ll get:

  • PRE-RACE ONLY VIP PACKAGE
    • Continental Breakfast
      • Pre-race coffee service and breakfast bag to include fruit and breakfast bread.
    • Private Restrooms
      • available only to VIP participants at the start.
    • Private Gear Check
      • Avoid the crowds with private VIP gear check located at the VIP area at the start.
    • Reserved Parking
      • Reserved VIP parking at the finish line with a VIP shuttle to the start line pre-race.
      • *You will receive a parking pass in your VIP packet with detailed directions to the reserved VIP parking area.
    • VIP Shuttle
      • *VIP Shuttles available pre-race from the finish line parking area will have one departure time at 5:00 am to the start line VIP area. You may catch later shuttles located at Civic Center Plaza with non-VIP participants.
      • *After the start of the race, VIP shuttles from the start to the finish line VIP Area will depart at 7:15 am. You will meet in the VIP area and directed to this shuttle.
      • *There will be no post-race shuttles returning to the start line area.
  • Full VIP Package AMENITIES
    • The same as the Pre-Race Only package plus the following
    • Catered Buffet
      • Post-race catered brunch buffet
    • Post-Race Massage
      • Massages will be available post-race and will be provided by Psoas Massage + Bodywork.
      • Massages are limited to 10 minutes max per person and are offered on a first come, first served basis. Due to high demand, there may be a wait list during peak times.
    • Yoga Stretching
      • Post-race stretching area available.
    • Private Restrooms
      • Post race private portable restrooms.
    • Post-Race Changing Tents
      • Changing tents will be available post-race in the VIP area.
    • VIP Bar
      • Post-race hosted VIP Bar offering Michelob Ultra, Gatorade, and mimosas.

To sum this all up, United offered up to 180 people the chance to register for the full VIP benefits that would cost $89 through Rock ‘n’ Roll.

The email, which can be found below, gives locations and times for the benefits with what is offered. Whereas the RNR website lists each VIP benefit individually with an extra sentence or two to make the VIP packages more enticing.

Overall, I thought it was great United offered these VIP packages to their Frequent Flyer members for free instead of restricting this offer to people with status or United MileagePlus credit card holders.

Google Assistant For More Android Phones

Early this morning (for California), Google announced on their blog the Google Assistant found on the Google Pixel, Home, Allo, and Android Wear will begins to roll out to phones currently running Android 6.0 and 7.0. The easiest way to begin using the Google Assistant on the Pixel is long pressing the home button.

I recently got the OnePlus 3T which runs Android 6.0 out of the box with an immediate update to 7.0, but with a OnePlus launcher on top of the stock Android. With this OnePlus launcher, a long-press of the home button runs a “search” of whatever is displayed on the screen.

This might be a lite-version of Google Assistant, but regardless of that, I’m not sure what this official roll out of Google Assistant will change about my OnePlus 3T. I like the long-press doing a Google search, but I don’t really use it right now.

As with the other options currently sporting the Google Assistant, such as Google Home and Android Wear, you can also activate the Google Assistant with “Ok, Google” from any screen or the Google app like you can currently do with Google Now.

Google also announced, at the bottom of the blog post, the Assistant will be coming to TVs and cars. This means people will be able to get directions or search for information about their destination whenever they’re driving without looking at their phones.

Edit for clarity: Some phones are already running Andriod 7.0 like my new OnePlus 3T. The thing I’m wondering is will some features be overwritten, specifically will my current long-press home button action remain the same? Or will OnePlus allow the “Long press action” for the home button change from “Search assistant” to “Google assistant”?

wp-1488257356624.png

Shop by Voice Command With Google Home

Google released a blog post earlier today on their site explaining they’ve added a new feature to Google Home, shopping.

You can set it up and start shopping by voice with the phrase “Ok Google, how do I shop?” or going through the Google Home app on your smartphone or tablet. The app is also where you would add payment information and a delivery address.

Because this is Google, and not Amazon, the shopping feature is of course through Google Express. This means you can shop from this list of supported Google Express retailers for now. Google says everyone gets a 3 month free trial their first time around, so we “don’t have to worry about additional service or membership fees.”

I’ve never tried or used Google Express before, but I think I would have tried it earlier this year if I could shop from multiple retailers in one order when I needed a printer from Staples and toothpaste from Walgreens and my new boots from Kohls. Again, that’s if I could combine different retailers in one order. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make much sense to get an entire order for one things from 3 stores.

As this feature is developed more, I hope orders can be placed through more than just Google Express, because then it won’t be limited to cities with Google Express. But I see that coming in the next couple years, not the next couple months.

13 inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar

Apple revealed their new MacBook Pro for 2016. They released 2 variations, 1 with a normal keyboard and another with the option of replacing the Function keys at the top of the keyboard with a Touch Bar.

I wanted to try out this new Touch Bar with Touch ID so I went online and ordered one. Here’s my take on the new MacBook Pro with Touch Bar.

What’s New?

So what’s new on this 2016 MacBook Pro? Like I said, there are two variants, one with a normal keyboard and the other with a Touch Bar. But that’s not the only thing new.

Apple switched all of the ports on the MacBook Pro to USB Type C ports. The MacBook Pro without a Touch Bar has only 2 ports, one on each side. The Touch Bar laptops have 4 ports, two on each side. Ironically, they kept the headphone jack on this version of the MacBook Pro.

What is USB-C?

USB Type C is exactly what it says, a USB port but a new type (Type C to be exact). But the cool thing about USB-C is the ability to do more than send files between your laptop and a flash drive. USB-C allows for external storage (hard drives, flash drives, etc.) to be connected, and it replaces the HDMI or VGA ports.

The final function USB-C serves on this MacBook Pro is charging (fast I might add, too). No longer do MacBook Pros come with a mag-safe charger. They come with a 1m (~6.5 ft) cord that has a USB-C connector on each end.

Beyond USB-C

Jpeg

The Touch Bar, the biggest purpose of this, is definitely something different that I look forward to watching the progression of. As I said above, the Touch Bar replaces the Function keys on the standard keyboard.

On the far right side of the Touch Bar is a square section separate from the rest which acts as the power button and is a Touch ID sensor. This makes unlocking your laptop as simple as touching your finger to the sensor, and allows you to pay for things with your fingertip.

Next to the Touch ID and power button, certain buttons show all the time (4 customizable keys and the [esc] button) and if you open a Safari window or a support app/website you’ll see different things on the Touch Bar.

Current functionality is pretty minimal for the Touch Bar beyond simple “oh, that’s cool” things. I use Evernote to take notes in classes and the Touch Bar shows various formatting buttons, but they’re not the most convenient to use.

screenshot-2017-01-30-22-02-15

I already know the keyboard shortcuts for bolding, italicizing, and underlining (Alt/Cmnd + b, i, u,) so I don’t need those options on the Touch Bar. However, if those functions weren’t up there I would certainly be disappointed.

Making a bulleted or numbered list requires tapping on the list menu then tapping the list type which takes about as long as it would if I used the touch pad to click on the format option.

screenshot-2017-01-31-00-56-29

Safari actually shows little previews of my open tabs so I can actually see which tab I need instead of switching through all of them if I have too many open. It also shows my favorite websites if I open a new window or tab, and allows playing/pausing and scrubbing through YouTube videos.

screenshot-2017-01-31-01-00-34
Safari tab preview
screenshot-2017-01-31-00-52-19
Safari favorites on touch bar
screenshot-2017-01-31-00-54-07
Safari video scrubbing on touch bar

I’ll type up a separate post to go over the different functionalities of the Touch Bar in-depth.

My Impression

Overall, I like the 2016 MacBook Pro. I like the adoption of USB-C ports, the touch bar is interesting, the large touch pad is a little inconvenient, but the keyboard is mostly not bad.

USB-C is definitely the future of USB and connecting to computers/laptops so it’s good seeing 4 USB-C ports on the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar (2 on the plain MacBook Pro), Having one regular USB on the laptop, or one on each side, would have made sense and eased the migration instead of requiring people to buy all the adapters but Apple likes selling things so more adapters means more sales (and money).

I think the Touch Bar is a nice novelty piece for now. Allowing full customization of what shows all the time, beyond only 4 keys, would be nice. Adoption in other apps (like Google Chrome) or more websites (like Google Drive apps) would be nice and make the Touch Bar more practical.

Keyboard, Touch pad, and Typing

The keys on the keyboard are what’s called butterfly keys. This means the keys move downward very little when pressed so typing is very smooth, but also noisy. Which I think is weird.

One thing I dislike about the keyboard is the up/down arrows are smooshed to take up the same height as the full-sized left/right keys making navigating via arrow keys a little tricky. Another downside to the keyboard is the lack of physical keys due to the Touch Bar meaning I press the far right or esc buttons unintentionally.

This could be due to my large hands, which also leads to my palms taking up the entire space to the left and right of the touch pad, and often times spilling over onto the touch pad making it not move my cursor correctly.

Aside from the keyboard area, the screen is still not touch sensitive which I wish it was from time to time, but it’s not expected to come any time soon. However, the resolution is much better than my current lenovo (so watching 4K videos on YouTube is finally possible, and they’re nice) but the screen isn’t necessarily any better than the 2015 MacBook Pro.

Battery Related Info

Battery life is interesting. It charges quickly (via USB-C) and using the MacBook Pro for typing this blog in Google Docs and Photos reduced the battery from roughly 90% to 60% in 2 hours. But when I was watching videos back-to-back drained the battery pretty fast.

Skype and Facetime will certainly drain the battery quickly, but I usually talk for over an hour and it drops ~50% in those 60-90 minutes.

Minimal battery life is likely due to the drastically reduced size of the battery from last year. The 2015 MacBook Pro has a 74.9-watt-hour battery, whereas the new 2016 MacBook Pro with Touch Bar has a 49.2-watt-hour battery. To help you understand just how drastic this is, here’s how a watt-hour is calculated:

If you use 25 watts for 1 hour, you’ve used 25 watt-hours. That means, a 74.9 watt-hour battery can last almost 1.5x as long as a 49.2 watt-hour battery with the same power usage.

Final Thoughts

Do I like this 13-inch MacBook Pro with Touch Bar? Sure, it’s a fun little alternative to my 15.6” lenovo laptops and my parent’s 21-inch iMac.

Would I buy this if I wasn’t making a blog to give my impression? Maybe, but probably not. Why? Because even with an education discount (a whopping $100 savings), it still costs $1700 for the bare minimum, bottom end 13-inch with a Touch Bar.

The 2015 13-inch MacBook Pro costs only $1200 and has all the ports that don’t require a dozen adapters.

Would I keep this laptop? Probably not in its current state. More websites and apps need to be able to use the Touch Bar (or use it better) for me to really consider keeping a laptop that cost this much that also requires a dozen adapters. Also, the battery is way too small when you consider the touch bar is constantly on which is going to drain the much smaller battery.

This is a nice start to moving laptops towards USB-C and introducing the Touch Bar.

I think the Touch Bar is going to need some serious innovating to make it worth the cost. But once it has been innovated, it will be to the Function Keys that the cellphone touchscreen did to the T-9 and QWERTY keyboards on phones.