Smart home news: the Ember Mug 2, LIFX’s new candelabra bulb, Cortana reads emails now, the Tile tracker works with the Google Assistant and Alexa, and Samsung’s SmartThing’s platform gets offline automation support and a new Rules API.
Google news: Google (Alphabet) has officially acquired FitBit, the Google Home app gets a visual overhaul, and the Google Assistant gets Sirius XM support.
Security & privacy: Researchers used lasers to “speak” to Amazon Echo and Google Home devices from a distance.
Hearables: Matthew and Mikah review Amazon’s new Echo Buds and Apple’s new AirPods Pro.
Multi-voice recognition: Developers can now leverage Alexa Voice Profiles when developing Skills for Alexa-enabled devices. Matthew troubleshoots and explains HomePod’s new Handoff, Ambient Noise, and automation features.
Projects: Matthew dives deep into Shortcuts on HomePod and AirPods 2; Mikah waxes ecstatic about using motion sensors as part of his smart home setup.
Matthew’s pick: Mr. Christmas 7′ Alexa Compatible RGB LED Christmas Tree
Mikah’s pick: Beddr SleepTuner Sleep Monitor
Plus, here’s a set of Siri Shortcuts I created last week for subscribing and listening to the show:
Mikah reveals he’s now dual-wielding mobile operating systems. Along with his iPhone 11 Pro Max, he’s carrying a OnePlus 7 Pro to better understand and make use of the Google Assistant and Android in general.
The two discuss recent discounts on mesh WiFi systems and how mesh WiFi systems can lead to a better smart tech user experience.
Matthew explains how Siri and Spotify are working together to provide Spotify users with Siri voice control and the two hosts reveal why they subscribe to both Spotify and Apple Music.
Mikah waxes ecstatic over the ultra-wideband chip in the new iPhone 11 and the two dream up a future where UWB controls both the smart home and mobile connected tech.
Mikah details how he’s been using Alexa Routines to start his day and Matthew compares this functionality to Siri Shortcuts.
Matthew gives us a look at his Google Assistant- and Alexa-controlled Xbox.
Mikah details how he’s trying to use the Google Assistant and Siri to be a little more voice-first with his devices.
Matthew complains about the lack of Google Assistant support for G Suite accounts and Mikah shares how much he enjoys the ETA feature in Apple Maps on iOS 13. The two hosts also try the same feature using Google Maps.
Plus, here’s a set of Siri Shortcuts I created last week for subscribing and listening to the show:
Today, as first noticed by 9to5Mac, developer Marcel Schmitz launched a brand new app called DuetCam for $2.99 that takes advantage of iOS 13’s ability to record video with both the front-facing camera and one of the back cameras at the same time.
The day after iOS 13 launched, I was a guest on the iMore show to talk all about the updates to Siri Shortcuts (and a bit about the new iPhone):
Shortcuts expert Matthew Cassinelli is here with a wealth of information for making life better with iOS 13! He guides Lory Gil and Georgia Dow through the basics of shortcut creation and shares some of his own creations from matthewcassinelli.com.
I had a really great time talking to Lory Gil and Georgia Dow – Lory is the editor at iMore and corrects the mistakes in my freelance articles, and Georgia does a wonderful job as Senior Editor there too.
We also recorded this as a livestream, so here’s the video if you want to follow along – I even turned on my main camera with a top-down shot for part of it:
I gave them step-by-step instructions on how to make a GIF with Shortcuts, explained how the redesign makes things a lot easier to learn, and covered cool new Automations that are now available too.
We all got more and more excited as the episode went on, which was truly awesome – I could tell that the new changes made a lot of things click for them, which was fun to experience in real time.
Today, I’m happy to announce a new podcast I’m hosting with Mikah Sargent on the TWiT network – it’s called Smart Tech Today and you should subscribe to episode 0 now!
A couple of weeks ago, Mikah reached out to me and asked if I’d like to host a podcast with him about smart technology on the “This Week in Tech” podcast network, commonly known as TWiT.
We’d be covering all aspects of the “Internet of Things”, automation as it stands in 2019 and beyond, and how to think about using & integrating smart tech into your daily life – naturally, I said yes.
Airing each Monday evening (with a livestream at 4pm if you want to tune in), we want the show to be informative, practical, and fun.
Mikah does incredible work, previously for iMore where I met him through my freelance work, but also for the Clockwise podcast on Relay FM and now also full-time for TWiT.
I am super glad to be cohosting with Mikah, because I think:
We’re both well-suited to finding the right news for you
We can contextualize it all in a way that’s practical but still critical, and skeptical but not cynical
We’ll provide a considered look at what it really means to integrate these products into modern life
I’m also looking forward to staying on top of smart tech outside the Apple ecosystem, because we’ll be talking about all types of brands and products on Smart Tech Today.
There will surely be plenty of Siri Shortcuts talk, but I’ll be experimenting and learning about all of it, and intend to cover everything with the same intentionality I do in all my work.
In iOS 13.1, the Shortcuts app added Automations, a feature that lets you use contextual triggers to show notifications for shortcuts you want to run or, for a subset of the option, run a shortcut entirely in the background. I’ll be covering those updates in the future, but I wanted to share links to NFC tags that I’ve bought and tested.
See, one of the Automation triggers lets you use “Near-Field Communication” tags that look like little wires printed onto stickers or stashed in cards like your credit cards, transit cards, or even in the Apple Watch or payment terminals for things like Apple Pay.
Thankfully, the new NFC tag automation trigger is one of the Automations that lets shortcut run “without asking” – they can fire off immediately when the trigger is detected, performing its operations in the background instead of requiring you to confirm via a notification first.
In iOS 13.1, this lets you run almost any shortcut just by tapping your iPhone to a small tag you’ve set up with Shortcuts, bringing the power of your apps and smartphone into the physical world with simple, cheap NFC tags.
So naturally, I bought a bunch, stuck them all over my house, and started testing them:
On Friday I set up way too many NFC tags around my house, but didn’t write down the locations.
Now I’m scouting my house, feeling under tabletops everywhere and constantly finding stickers I’d forgotten I put there 😂 pic.twitter.com/YsOd8yLr2O
If you’re a person with an iPhone, it’s probably a good idea to buy some NFC tags. I’ll have a bunch of examples coming in another post, but for now, one-day shipping with Amazon Prime should have you ready for iOS 13.1 tomorrow with a few of these options.
I suggest buying140 pieces for ~$15 to get started or 80 pieces for ~$29 to go all-in, for a per-tag price of ~$0.38 either way. If you’re not sure you’ll use them or you’re limited by budget, 10 pieces for ~$7 is still a lot of coverage and it won’t break the bank.
Plus, if you want to put any tags on your fridge, desk cabinets, or any other metallic/magnetic surface (like an iMac or TV), a pack of metal tags might be good to have on hand for only ~$7 too.
The keychain option is also good to keep with your house or car keys as an option, but I don’t recommend setting up your Automation with “Ask When Run” turned off or else you might end up running it unintentionally if you put your phone in your pocket or purse next to them. I also saw more uniform colors from similar brands, but I wanted the visual distinction of a variety pack.
The NFC card deck is another fun choice, which I’m primarily using for testing and trying to develop unique ideas. I’ve placed some cards in places around my home where an NFC tag can’t fit underneath a convenient surface, but I still want to automate a process without speaking to Siri or finding the right shortcut to run.
My imagination has gone to entire catalog-like deck sets of NFC cards2 that play my different podcasts or start the same albums in my collection of vinyl records (sorry if that makes your head explode) but there’s some cool potential there.3
Regardless, selling an NFC option for podcast or app stickers is a killer idea I hope everyone adopts – I will cherish the limited set of Shortcuts NFC stickers I have as long as possible.
There’s a tag for that
This physical interaction with your Siri Shortcuts is going to open a whole new world of possibilities for iPhone users, and I’m excited to share more when iOS 13.1 drops tomorrow.
I’ll be sure to cover which Automations work in the background, how to set up NFC tags for you and others in your life, and ways to optimize your Automations/the shortcuts they run.
For now, I’ll keep playing around and just keep teasing it all:
This post contains affiliate links, which means if you purchase any products after clicking on my links, I’ll receive a small commission for sending the traffic to the buyer. Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on Amazon.com at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product. ↩↩
I could see designers coming up with cool print-outs that people could apply to their NFC cards, or fully custom-printed decks becoming a thing. ↩
Max Temkin, if you’re reading this, these are the ones for you. ↩
After a bug in the macOS Catalina beta last week prevented Final Cut Pro from staying open at all, the work on my in-progress video was frozen1. I couldn’t re-do it in time while I was also publishing over 150 shortcuts for people to use.
So I did it live:
While it did take a little over an hour, I had been researching the information all summer and plowed through almost every detail of what’s new in the Shortcuts app and running shortcuts from Siri in iOS 13 and iPadOS.
I’m adding timestamp links in the description for each section, so you can watch along when you have time or skip to just the parts you’re interested in – I’ll update this post when I’m finished, but I still want to share the whole stream for now.
I had a lot of fun2, so I thank you for your time if you watch along and I hope you learn something useful. These updates are very cool and it’s exciting that everyone on iOS has Shortcuts installed by default, because there’s lots of potential to take advantage of.
Now that Apple has officially released iOS 13 to the public, I am excited to share my personal library of 150+ custom Siri Shortcuts for everyone to add and use.
I’ve worked countless hours this summer building up a database of my shortcuts, giving each shortcut a description and explanation of how I use it. These are saved inside each shortcut in Comment actions as well, so you can still reference the intended use after adding it to your Shortcuts app.
Since my time working at Workflow, I’ve lamented losing the ability to curate the in-app Gallery. My last collection was added in March of 2017 before we were acquired by Apple, and since then I’ve wanted to build, curate, and collect as many shortcuts as possible.
My original goal in joining Workflow was to help everyday users take advantage of the power of scripting on mobile devices. I could tell it was very cool, but also very complicated – the learning curve was high, but passable. After I left Apple as the acquisition completed in full, and then the next summer saw it turn into Shortcuts, I restarted my mission to fulfill the same goal.
My mission as an independent creator is to share my personal experiences of using Shortcuts in my daily life and to get my work done, explained in such a way that anyone can follow along and apply it to their life too.
While Apple and the team that I worked with have been and will continue to take Shortcuts to new heights, I want to be there along the way showing you how a “normal person” can use this tool too.
Before this app, I never had engineering training and I didn’t know how to code – I am just a guy who likes taking advantage of the technology available to him.
For me, what was Workflow—and is now much-improved as Shortcuts—stuck out as a unique experience. The blend of drag-and-drop building blocks along with deep scripting capabilities and the access to the world of iOS apps on hardware like the iPhone and iPad was so unique – clearly Apple noticed this too – but it made me feel like I could truly take advantage of these mobile computers as real pieces of useful technology and not just the latest gadget.
Instead of relying on someone else to build me apps, or my smart assistant to “learn” my specific needs, I could use my favorite devices to put together my own little programs.
Why use Siri Shortcuts now?
This update for Siri Shortcuts feels like the moment that the rocket ship is truly taking off.
With iOS 13, Shortcuts is installed by default on every device – hundreds of millions of people will inevitably use this app now. The actions in Shortcuts have also been redesigned to read in plain language, clarifying the connections between actions and showing how they work together as each one is added – what was previously somewhat obtuse is now very clear.
When iOS 13.1 drops, Siri Shortcuts work on iPhone, iPad, AirPods, Apple Watch, HomePod, and CarPlay. That release also adds support for Automations, triggering notifications for your shortcuts from a variety of contexts. Now almost everything you do with your phone can be run on a schedule, in reaction to changes from your device, and even respond the real world – NFC tags can be used to fire off Siri Shortcuts automatically.
And as developers adopt the new Siri Shortcuts APIs, any functionality that can be built into an app can be extended out via Shortcuts as an action. All of these app shortcuts will work entirely from Siri, they can accept and receive batches of information at once, and they can all hook into each other to created a chained workflow of operations for every need you can think of.
I firmly believe this is the most ambitious update to iOS since perhaps the redesign of iOS 7. However, while that was an overhaul of how iPhone and iPad worked visually, iOS 13 overhauls the entire way users can interact with their devices. Just a few years ago, apps were operating in silos and couldn’t talk to each other; now, every function of every app can be abstracted out from the interface, brought it all into a brand-new programming language that involves absolutely zero actual coding, and—oh yeah—it works across almost every Apple device using only your voice.
Plus, Siri Shortcuts gives you the ability to make your technology even more valuable. If you’ve ever felt concerned about making real use of your smartphone or felt unsettled when paying $1000+ for something that’s largely for socializing, you can intentionally put existing devices to better use, or generate enough utility from integrating your device as a core part of getting things done in daily life that it might be worth the upgrade.
Siri Shortcuts pushes iPad forward as the next generation of computers, transfers that same power to your iPhone that you can carry with you anywhere, makes Siri actually useful on devices like AirPods, Apple Watch, CarPlay, and HomePod, and taps into the capabilities of the App Store ecosystem that has been growing for over 10 years.
Let’s learn together
I have no idea why Apple hasn’t talked about Siri Shortcuts on stage more, but this is supremely cool stuff and will rethink how you use all of your technology.
I look forward to sharing what I know about Shortcuts and discovering more with everyone along the way, because there’s an endless amount of material to cover.
My Shortcuts Library below is just a start. Please browse through it and come back later as needed, but I will be covering all this material and much, much more. These are the first batch of Siri Shortcuts I’m sharing, and this collection will receive regular updates.
If you want to take advantage Siri Shortcuts, follow me on all these channels and we’ll have fun learning it together:
YouTube: Subscribe to my channel, where I am producing videos on Siri Shortcuts as well as other technology topics. This is where I’ll be putting my primary focus this next year.
Blog: Add my blog to your feed reader to get each post as it comes out. I have a series of “Offsite” posts that I write for all of my videos and iMore articles, so subscribing from a service like Feedly will let you keep up with all my work.
Streaming: Follow me on Twitch, where I’ll be doing long-form sessions where I build Siri Shortcuts live alongside streams for topics like product unboxings or Apple Arcade games. I’ll be streaming on YouTube too.
Disclosure: David was kind enough to make me an affiliate for his courses last year, which means I receive a small portion of each sale made after clicking on my affiliate links above. That being said, I’ve been reading MacSparky Field Guides for years and would absolutely recommend this course even if he wasn’t so generous to include me in the affiliate program. ↩