Published 10:51 AM EDT Jun 8, 2019
Faster, safer, less annoying.
Three things happened this week that could affect your digital lives.
Let’s break them down.
Safer: YouTube, the no. 2 most visited website and app said it would get serious about cleaning up its platform of bigoted videos, something critics have been asking for years, meaning that parents could potentially get a little more comfortable about having their kids watching YouTube. (There’s still a lot to worry about on YouTube. More on that in a minute.)
Faster: Amazon wants to get products to your home not in two days, not in one day, but instantly. Or within 30 minutes. The e-tailer introduced its latest drone, which can fly vertically, and is being targeted to ship out small items like toothpaste and other household goods within the next year. Whether the Federal Aviation Administration will open up the skies to Jeff Bezos and company, however, is an open question.
Less annoying: Apple unveiled its latest operating system upgrade, bringing 200 new tweaks to how you’ll be using the iPhone. And if you had to sum up the highlights, the key ones are about making our experience with the device less, well, bothersome.
The ones we really like:
—Send robocalls directly to voicemail. A new setting in iOS 13, which will be available to the public in September, will allow only phone numbers that are recognized (via your Contacts, Mail, and Messages) to ring the phone. All other calls will be sent to voicemail, and you’ll only know about it if the caller has left a voicemail, which, as robocall haters know, rarely, if ever happens.
—Share on AirPods. Painpoint: you’re on an airplane with your significant other, and loving the movie on your laptop, which you’re listening to via the AirPod bluetooth earbud. Solution: a new “share” tab which will allow you to share the media with others.
—Find photos. We take zillions of photos every year, and most of us have a really hard time locating the ones from anything that happened several months ago. Where are they? In Favorites? In an album? What’s the name of that album anyway? So it seems likely that iPhone shutterbugs will appreciate the new layout of the Photos app, which mixes videos in with photos, for a more pleasing look. You’ll be able to sort them by day, month and year. Additionally, Apple says it will use machine learning to weed out the duplicates, photos of receipts and parking lot signs, to make for a more pleasing display.
Finally, this one really doesn’t affect many of us for more than nostalgia reasons, but Apple is finally looking to make that iTunes desktop software more manageable.
The “death of iTunes” got lots of attention, since Apple announced that it was splitting up the program into three areas, Music, Podcasts and TV/Movies.
The reality is, yes, iTunes had become really annoying, slow and overly bloated by trying to do too many things. But it’s desktop software in a mobile world, and most of us don’t plug our phones into the computer anymore to sync content, we don’t throw CDs into the CD tray to rip them, because there are few CD trays on computers anymore. We don’t check our downloaded music libraries, because most of you prefer to stream and get access to either pre-arranged radio like Pandora, or pay for unlimited music listening from the likes of Spotify, Amazon and Apple Music.
And this is huge. For the first time, we have a way better reason to plug the iPhone. In iOS13, it will show up as a storage device, like a USB flash drive, so we’ll be able to move files back and forth from the computer to phone, without the pain-point of having to e-mail files back and forth. (I’m dreaming of videos shot on my camera and edited on my laptop that can finally go to Instagram, without all the hassles of year past.)
Thank you Apple!
As for YouTube, the network receives over 500 hours of new content every minute and while it tries to keep a lid on things parents wouldn’t want their kids watching, all those submitted videos are frankly more than machine learning, artificial intelligence and some human oversight can handle.
This week, YouTube said it would be more diligent about getting them down, with a new stated policy prohibiting videos “alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age, gender, race, caste, religion, sexual orientation or veteran status.”
The expected fallout happened quickly, as videos that looked to expose hate speech by organizations like the Southern Law Poverty Center and One People’s Project had their videos taken down. YouTube said they could appeal the decisions.
YouTube still has lots of problems. A video called “Who owns the Media,” is ripe with anti-Jewish slurs in the comments, a video by Joyner Lucas features the rapper spouting the “N” word repeatedly, and any search for students and school uniforms attracts the types of videos and racy comments that wouldn’t be welcome in a family newspaper.
So, a great move by YouTube, but parents, don’t let your young kids near it without active supervision.
And finally, Amazon. At it’s re:MARS conference in Las Vegas this week, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also happens to be the world’s richest man, was asked for tips on how to start a successful business.
“The most important thing is to be customer obsessed,” he said. “Figure out how to absolutely delight them.”
A drone delivering toothpaste at noon, after receiving an order at 11:30? That sounds rather delightful. But will it get old after we try it a few times?
This week’s Talking Tech podcasts
Facebook’s Birthday Nag
The best new features of iOS13
Meet Apple’s youngest app developer, 10-year-old Ayush
Using the iPhone as a TV remote
Road trip tech lessons
If you’ve been watching our installments from our recent travels to Spain and Portugal, here’s the final video entry for the series, from Porto, the seaside town that helped give birth to the Harry Potter books. I invite you to take a look.
That’s a wrap for this week’s Talking Tech newsletter. Subscribe: http://technewsletter.usatoday.com, listen to the daily Talking Tech podcast wherever you listen to online audio and follow me (@jeffersongraham) on Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.