Lyft Files for IPO; Amazon Crowdsourcing Alexa Answers to Tougher Questions; Apple Watch ECG App is in Latest SoftwarePosted: December 6, 2018
Lyft has turned a corner, going for and IPO in a confidential SEC filing this morning. According to geekwire.com, the number of shares and price range are to be determined…they weren’t listed in the filing. Uber has been expected to do an IPO in 2019, so Lyft is beating them to the punch here. Still, Lyft…even with the latest investment round where they pulled in another $600 million last June, is valued at a little over $15 billion, while Uber commands a $62 billion valuation. Both companies have expanded from ride hailing into bike sharing recently. While there’s no timing stated in the filing, Lyft is expected to do its IPO in the 1st half of 2019.
Amazon’s Alexa is at a bit of a disadvantage when it comes to sticky questions…they don’t have Google’s deep Knowledge Graph. Now, in an effort to up Alexa’s game, Amazon is launching an invite-only program that asks customers to submit answers to Alexa’s more difficult questions. Techcrunch.com reports that Amazon has been testing Alexa Answers internally, and has added 100,000 responses in the last 30 days. With the crowdsourced answers, you will get a disclaimer that the answer is ‘from an Amazon customer.’
A feature that Apple announced earlier is now available on the latest model of Apple Watch….Series 4 With the latest, greatest Watch, and a download of WatchOS 5.1.2, you can now use the ECG app to take and ECG, and get an alert if it detects an irregular heartbeat. Businessinsider.com says the feature is easy to use…fire up the app, hold your finger on the watch crown for 30 seconds, and it displays a heart rhythm reading. It saves the data in a .pdf file you can send to your doctor, too. The app also detects irregular heartbeat- atrial fibrillation (AFib). That feature actually works on earlier models of Apple Watch. Both heart features are ‘cleared’ by the FDA in the US.
Ultrasound Powered Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensor; Snapdragon 855; Google & Amazon Making AirPod Alternatives; Apple Adding Health Sensors to AirPodsPosted: December 5, 2018
Adding an extra layer to fingerprint sensor security, Qualcomm is baking in ultrasound to beef up its in-display fingerprint sensor. Engadget.com reports that the ultrasound will allow creation of a 3D mold of your finger, which will be much harder to copy. It will pick up on the ridges and even pores. As a bonus, the sensor should be able to tell it’s you, even though you still have a little of today’s lunch on your finger (wash up, you slob!) They didn’t allow testing at the demo, so we’ll have to wait to see how fast the new tech is.
Speaking of fast, Qualcomm also showed off its Snapdragon 855 at its event in Hawaii. According to 9to5google.com, the chip will power the 2019 flagship phones, including from Samsung. It will support multi-gigabit 5G, which also rolls out next year in a number of markets. Qualcomm says the chip has 3x the AI performance of last year’s chip.
It’s not that there aren’t already cheaper alternatives to Apple’s AirPods on the market, but a couple are coming from some heavyweights…Google and Amazon appear to be preparing to launch competitor products.
9to5mac.com says Apple isn’t exactly waiting around for the increased competition…they are working on more water resistance, support for Hey Siri, and interchangeability…so you could put one in an ear without checking to see if it’s Left or Right, and the AirPod would orient itself and the audio automatically. Apple is also expected to integrate health sensors into the next gen AirPods, and integrate the data with Apple Watch as well as the health app on iPhones. Well known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says to look for Cupertino to sell 26-28 million sets this year, 50-55 million in 2019, and over 100 million in 2021.
Google Personalizes Search Even if Logged Out; Tesla Denies Leaked Model Y Schedule; Bose ‘Audio AR’ Sunglasses; Apple 10% Veteran & Military DiscountPosted: December 4, 2018
So…you’re searching incognito or logged out…think it keeps you anonymous, huh? Right. 9to5google.com is reporting that a study (disclosure: done by DuckDuckGo) shows that you can’t get around the so-called ‘filter bubble’ that Google applies to search just by logging out of your account or browsing incognito….in fact, not even by doing BOTH. The likely explanation is that by now, Google has so much data on you, that it can recognize you from a 3 key word search, and personalize the result to you! In the big picture of things, it may not really matter, but basically, you are never getting a 100% ‘neutral’ search result. Google said in a statement that search results can change ‘by the minute and sometimes even by the second,’ but had no comment about the personalization aspect.
Late yesterday, a story came out that Tesla would be building Model Y small SUVs at the Gigafactory in Nevada, and be producing 7,000 a month of them there by the end of 2020. Now, according to engadget.com, Tesla has denied this timeline, saying that the leaked information is outdated. The Model Y will probably be built there, and so will an additional Model 3 production line…that information is based on filings with the Chinese government included when Tesla filed to build a 2nd Gigafactory in Shanghai.
Bose is looking to make ‘AR audio’ sunglasses. No, not AR…audio only! Techcrunch.com says the shades would be intended to provide a more immersive audio experience…no head up display, or any display at all besides that which your eyeballs take in of the real world. The glasses will have a 9 axis head motion sensor and use the GPS of a tethered Android or iOS device, and will adjust the audio you hear based on those inputs. They do use small speaker grilles, not earbuds or bone conduction. Sound won’t be as immersive with the ambient noise around you, but it will be a lot safer crossing streets and such. The glasses/headset will be out in January at $199, with two styles available. Battery life is given at 3.5 hours on a charge with 12 hours standby.
Apple has just rolled out an online store that gives a 10% discount on ‘select products’ for active duty military and vets, along with members of their households. Macrumors.com reports that, for example, the iPhone XS is available at $899 ($100 bucks off), while the XR is priced at $674 (normally $749) at the regular Apple online store. Apple has had discount programs for years for educators, students, and government employees, but these discounts for active duty military and veterans exceeds those via the online educational store.
Samsung Will Have 5G Phone in 2019; Apple-All New AirPods, But No 5G Phone Until 2020; Amazon Testing King Sized Amazon Go StorePosted: December 3, 2018
Samsung is partnering with Verizon to bring a 5G smartphone to the US in the middle of 2019! Cnet.com reports that they will show off a concept handset this week at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii. 5G is expected to significantly boost the speed, coverage, and responsiveness of wireless networks. Phones will upload and download data at anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than the 4G network we have today! Samsung has not said if the phone will be exclusive to Verizon, and did note that they will continue to work with other wireless partners.
Over at Apple, the word is that it will be at least 2020 before a 5G iPhone will be in peoples’ hands. According to macrumors.com, Apple will hold off a bit instead of being on the leading edge…which they have done before when new generations of wireless capability rolled out. Bloomberg points out that there has often been poor coverage when a new layer of connectivity rolls out, with phones often having to drop back to the old tech, or jumping back and forth between the two systems. Besides Samsung, Huawei and Oppo will also put out 5G smartphones next year…although neither of those two are really factors in the US market like Samsung is. Part of the delay for Apple may be the ongoing litigation with Qualcomm. Apple is partnering with Intel on 5G chips, and those won’t be out in time to get phones to market in 2019.
There will be all-new AirPods in 2020, but prior to that, Apple will release wireless charging AirPods early next year. 9to5mac.com picked up a report from well known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that says the wireless model will also include yet to be disclosed upgrades, but that the total revamp will be set for a 2020 release.
Amazon is reported to be testing out a large-sized Amazon-Go type store, sans cashiers, in Seattle. Geekwire.com says it is set up to look more like a traditional grocery store. Now what grocery store could it be designed like…oh, yeah…Whole Foods, which Amazon owns! They are particularly working on seeing if the system that tracks what shoppers grab off the shelves works well with the higher ceilings and bigger spaces with vastly more products. It remains to be seen when or if the tech will reach Whole Foods or other stores. Amazon has said in the past they have no plans to add the tech to Whole Foods stores…but such claims are often made, then things change. We do know Amazon is planning opening up to 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.
Facebook Warned About Russia in 2014; Shopping on Phones Explodes, Top 5 Amazon Items; 10% iPhone Tariff ThreatPosted: November 27, 2018
Things just keep looking worse for Facebook when it comes to protecting user data. Businessinsider.com says a Facebook engineer warned the company in 2014 about a potential giant data issue involving Russia. This info is coming out after the British Parliament got hold of a cache of sealed Facebook documents. UK politician Damian Collins, who reviewed the documents, made the disclosure today at a hearing in front of the International Grand Committee. Mark Zuckerberg refused to show for the hearing, sending policy chief Richard Allen. Allen if this information had been given to an external body (like an agency of the US government) at the time. Allen refused to answer. The documents are sealed under court order in California, but they were published in the United Kingdom under UK parliamentary privilege.
A couple months back, a panicked friend told me ‘My phone is my life,’ as it was temporarily missing. That is more true that ever now. Cnet.com reports that total sales on smartphones through Cyber Monday was $2.2 billion, up from $1.4 billion last year! On Cyber Monday, phones accounted for 47% of traffic to online stores and 36% of actual sales. Overall Cyber Monday sales were $7.9 million, so the mobile component was substantial. Since the 1st of November $50.6 billion has been spent online, up 20% from last year!
Amazon has announced its 5 best sellers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Topping the list, according to bgr.com, the Amazon Echo Dot at $29.99 instead of $50 In the #2 spot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity (still on sale at $59 btw). The third place seller was the adored Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Programmable Pressure Cooker…still at $30 bucks off. Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones bagged the 4th place spot…and those are now sold out. #5 was Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming, which is still available at a $20 discount.
Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to slap a 10% tariff on iPhones and MacBooks imported from China, and the stock acted accordingly. Today, Tim Cook is visiting an Idaho school district with Ivanka Trump to talk tech. Coincidence? I doubt it. So far, Cook has gotten Trump to lay off Apple products. Macrumors.com says in 2016 Apple donated an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to each classroom via its ConnectED initiative. Will a ‘charm trip’ with Ivanka keep tariffs off Apple products again? Stay tuned.