Apple-Goldman Sachs Credit Card Coming; HTC Bows Vive Focus Plus; Facebook-FTC Complaint Over Tracking Kids; Privacy Group Demands Google Divest of Nest

There are many reports noting that Apple seems to be trying to veer away from relying on the iPhone so much, turning to services to pickup the slack. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that Apple and Goldman Sachs are preparing to release a joint credit card. The card will (of course) integrate with the Apple Wallet, but is expected to offer special features like the ability to set spending goals and track purchase rewards, as well as offer rewards like 2% cash back…perhaps more when buying Apple products. Apple is apparently going to begin testing the card in the next month with employees, and the companies look to launch it later this year. The card will rely on the Mastercard payment network.

HTC previewed new controllers last fall for the Vive Focus headset. According to engadget.com, HTC may be getting close to releasing the updated Vive Focus plus with the controllers…which use ultrasound. The advantage to them is you don’t have to regularly recalibrate the devices. They have pressure sensitive buttons, too, which allows for more types of interaction. The headset itself features a more comfortable headrest design and improved visual quality thanks to a ‘next gen’ lens. NO pricing so far…but the original is $599. HTC says the headset and controllers will be available in the second quarter of the year in 25 global markets. HTC is hoping to compete better with Oculus’ new $399 quest (out this Spring) by offering the Viveport Infinity subscription service. The service starts April 2nd ‘for just one low monthly price.’

Children’s advocates are urging the FTC to investigate whether Facebook broke federal law by allegedly duping kids into spending their parent’s money on online games. CNET.com says the complaint flows from an investigation done by Reveal (a website run by the Center for Investigative Reporting), citing info from a 2012 class action lawsuit that Facebook facilitated what was called ‘friendly fraud’…encouraging game developers to get kids to spend their parents’ money without consent. The suit settled in 2016. Neither the Federal Trade Commission nor Facebook has commented on the investigation request so far.

In the wake of the reveal that the Google Nest security hub had a secret microphone, the Electronic Privacy Information Center is calling for the Federal Trade Commission to force Google to divest the Nest division. Businessinsider.com reports that EPIC sent a letter pointing out the potential consumer risk to the FTC, and calling for a quick action against Google. EPIC also points out that not only could Google have been listening in, but also a remote hacker or other third party.

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Samsung Galaxy Fold & New S10’s; Apple Will Combine iOS & Mac Apps by 2020; Google Says Nest Microphone Wasn’t Supposed to be Secret

Samsung has finally revealed the fabled folding phone, which had been dubbed the Galaxy F. Now, theverge.com reports it is officially the Galaxy Fold. It features a 7.3 inch Infinity Flex Display, that allows it to have a tablet sized screen that can be folded to fit a pocket. It will be available in both LTE and 5G versions. When folded, there’ a 4.6 inch display that can be used. It will have 512 Gigs of flash storage, and 128 Gigs of RAM. The Fold has two batteries (which are separated by the fold.) Speaking of the fold, it has a hinge system that has multiple interlocking gears. There are 3 cameras on the back, and they can be used in both tablet and phone mode. Android has been optimized so you can run 3 apps at once on the Galaxy Fold when opened to tablet mode. It will be available April 26th, and will cost an eye-watering $1980!!

What about the Galaxy S10 phones? We already knew quite a bit about them, but now have even more on the S10, S10 Plus, the (less pricey) S10E, and S10 5G. Samsung is tricking them out…the base S10 ($900) has a 6.1 inch screen, 3 rear cams, a front selfie cam with dual aperture for better low light shots, and up to 512Gigs of storage and 8 Gigs of RAM. It sports a 3400mAh battery, has fast wireless charging, and WiFi 6, and in-screen fingerprint reader.

the S10 Plus has a 6.4 inch screen, 4100mAh battery, the 3 rear cams, but adds a second selfie lens to the front shooter. It can be had with an insane 1TB storage capacity and 12 Gigs of RAM. The S10E is $750, and has only 2 rear cams, 5.8 inch (non curved) screen, NO in screen fingerprint reader…but has one in the power button on the right side.

The S10 5G…this baby has a 6.7 inch screen, two cams on the front, and FOUR on the back. It has a 3D depth sensing cam on the back, along with the other 3. That 4th lens is only for fancy photo tricks and AR, though…not face-scanning like Apple’s Face ID. It has a monster 4500mAh battery, 256 Gigs of storage, and 8 Gigs or RAM. It is the only one of the S10’s that doesn’t have a microSD slot. No price was released for the 5G phone, but it is coming first to Verizon in April…then to the other carriers by the end of June.

Apple will be allowing developers to build apps that will run on either iOS or the MacOS by 2020. According to arstechnica.com, the details may be revealed this June at their Worldwide Developers Conference. For now, the workings are called Project Marzipan.

Earlier this month, Google announced that Google Assistant would now work with its home security and alarm system Nest Secure. People wondered how that could be, and it’s been revealed that there has been a microphone in the device all along. Businessinsider.com says Google has apologized, and said that it never intended for the mic’s presence to be a secret….but somehow, it was left out of all product materials. Google calls this ‘an error,’ but a fair amount of criticism has erupted over having such a feature lurking in the Secure. Google claims it couldn’t be activated at the time, but is needed for things like a glass breakage sensor to be available in the future. SOUNDS like b.s. to me!


Walmart e-commerce Way Up; Qualcomm 5G Chip-Better Battery Life; Google Gaming Press Event; Samsung Exits Blu-Ray

It was primarily fueled by their growing online grocery business, but Walmart’s e-commerce sales were up a whopping 43% in the 4th quarter of last year. Techcrunch.com reports that the retail giant brought in $138.8 billion, just exceeding the forecast of $138.76 billion. Walmart offers grocery pickup at over 2100 locations and delivery at nearly 800 around the country.

Qualcomm has revealed their latest modem chip, the Snapdragon X55. According to cnet.com, it will run on anything from 2G to 5G networks. At 5G, it can run between 10 and 100 times faster, AND it will give you more range and will be more power efficient…giving users better battery life! Qualcomm expects to ship the first 5G modems to partners later this year.

Twitch, which has been owned by Amazon for several years now, has been getting into Google’s drawers, syphoning off talent and users from YouTube. Now, theverge.com says Google is planning to hold a mysterious gaming-related event at the Game Developers Conference next month. They allude to a big reveal on March 19th at 10am Pacific. It’s already been widely reported that Google has been working on their Project Stream service the last 6 months…that allows gamers to stream games in their Chrome browser. With this announcement tease, it appears that Google may be getting set to roll out a full game streaming service.

It’s a small blow to Blu-ray, but not nearly a death blow. Samsung is exiting the business. Arstechnica.com reports that they really haven’t had a new player since 2017, and now will exit the business. Part of the reason may be that they are getting trounced by the competition…Samsung has stuck with HDR-10, while Sony and Panasonic have offered Dolby Vision HDR support. At the esoteric level, home theatre enthusiasts adore Dolby Vision, because it allows a more finely tuned, beautiful picture. Sony and Panasonic plan to keep building Blu-rays, which are still selling fine (and they have had the lion’s share of the market, leaving Samsung with the scraps.) Of course, Playstation 4 and Xbox One consoles also play Blu-ray, so don’t expect the format to disappear overnight, despite the popularity of streaming.


New MacBook Pro, iPads, Bilateral Charging Phones Coming; Amazon Shoots for Half Carbon Neutral Shipments by 2030; UK Claims Huawei Manageable Risk to 5G

A number of predictions are out for Ming-Chi Kuo, one of the most reliable Apple analysts. 9to5mac.com says Kuo is predicting not only new iPads this year, but also a new 16 inch MacBook Pro, a 31 inch 6K monitor, and iPhones with Bilateral Charging. The iPhones will stay with the current screen sizes…and as previously predicted, will keep the Lightening connector. They will sport ultra-wide band connectivity for indoor positioning and navigation, frosted glass casing, and bilateral charging for charging other devices (like AirPods.) Face ID will have a higher power flood illuminator, they will all have slightly larger batteries, and a triple camera design on the top phone.

Two iPad Pro models will drop, with faster processors. The 9.7 inch screen grows to 10.2 inches…but stays about the same size by doing it with a reduced bezel. There will be an iPad Mini refresh, as predicted earlier.

An all-new MacBook Pro design will be revealed, with a 16 to 16.5 inch screen. The 13 inch MacBook Pro ‘may’ get a 32 GB RAM option. Apple gets back into the display biz, too. The monster 31.6 inch 6k monitor will have a mini-LED type backlight design for great picture quality. You’d better have a great sized desk for that beast, too!

At LONG last, a Mac Pro re-do, with ‘easy to upgrade components’ will be out sometime this year.

Amazon has announced that as of 2030, half of all their shipments will be net zero carbon. Techcrunch.com reports that the company was recently dinged by Greenpeace for not having the greatest environmental record. Data centers in Virginia run on only 12% renewables, compared to Facebook’s 37% and Microsoft’s 34%. Amazon said today they intend to get to 100% renewable for their global infrastructure, but didn’t give a timeline.

In opposition to the US position, the British government has concluded that it can mitigate the risk from using Huawei equipment in 5G networks. According to financialtimes.com, the UK National Cyber Security Centre has determined that they are capable of limiting risks to China using the Huawei equipment to conduct cyber espionage. Germany also does not believe the US ban on Huawei 5G equipment is necessary. New Zealand and Australia, however, concur with the US, and won’t allow 5G equipment from Huawei.


Apple Event-Both News AND Video Subscriptions; Waymo Disengagement Drops in Half; Amazon Lockers at Coachella; Walmart Grocery Delivery Hiccup

We had reported that Apple was planning to roll out its news subscription service air an event March 25th…now, word is out that they will also bow their video subscription service as well. Bloomberg.com reports that major stars have been invited to the Steve Jobs Theater on Apple’s spaceship campus for the event…including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, and director JJ Aprams. The video subscription is expected to be much like amazon Prime or Netflix. Sources indicate that Netflix will NOT be part of the offering. As iPhone and other smartphone sales have plateaued or even dropped, Apple is looking to subscription services to pick up the slack. There will be some free content, as well as paid access to shows from other providers.

Disengagement by self-driving cars refers to cutting the computers and having the human driver take over. The stats vary, as there is no standardized way of reporting them yet, but Waymo’s reported disengagement rate dropped in half in California in 2018 while the miles driven increased three fold. 9to5google.com says some disengagement is just due to errors in the system, but others are the more serious ones, as the driver takes over to avoid an accident the car’s system isn’t going to respond to quickly enough. Waymo went from 352,000 miles driver in 2017 to 1.26 million in 2018!

Because we apparently can’t go anywhere and do anything without ordering stuff from Amazon…the company will have lockers at the Coachella Music Festival in Indio, CA! According to geekwire.com, the yellow lockers…now seen at Whole Foods, Safeway, 7-11, and Chase Bank, will on scene at the music festival. In 2017, 250,000 fans attended, so you know many will be needing to order that crucial item with same day or next day delivery! Amazon will also rock a custom Coachella storefront that will feature products tailored to the festival.

Walmart’s same-day grocery delivery service has hit a speed bump. Engadget.com reports that the retailer had partnered with Google-backed logistics company Deliv to get orders to customers homes, but now Deliv has sent Walmart a termination notice. They had been running pilot programs in San Jose and Miami. Apparently, the company was unhappy that drivers often had to wait over 40 minutes to pick up and order at Walmart stores. Walmart has also trialed delivery with Postmates and DoorDash, as well as Uber and Lyft. They even experimented with having their own employees deliver on their way to and from store shifts, but that plan also tanked.


Samsung Galaxy S10 Huge Leak; Apple ‘Subscription Event’; Google Testing AR Maps; Smart Watches Finally Gain Traction; Congress ‘Retires’ the Fax Machine

Samsung’s Galaxy S10 phones roll out next week. Virtually all the details have now leaked, of course! According to mashable.com,
the S10e, the entry-level phone in the lineup, will have a 5.8-inch display, and will come in four colors: prism white, prism black, prism green, and canary yellow. What about the other screen sizes: The S10 will sport a 6.1 incher, and the S10+ will rock a 6.4 inch display. On the S10+, if you opt for 8GB of RAM your choices are the same prism black, prism white, and prism green as the regular S10. If you upgrade to 12GB of RAM you get a “luxurious ceramic” finish in either black or white.

Cameras are always important, and the S10e will have a 10MP selfie camera and dual rear cameras: a 12MP wide-angle shooter with optical image stabilization (OIS), and a 16MP “ultra wide angle” with a 123-degree field of view. The S10 will have the same 10MP front-facing camera, as well as three rear cameras: a 12MP telephoto with OIS, a 12MP wide-angle shooter with a 77-degree field of view and OIS, and a 16MP “ultra wide angle” lens with a 123-degree field of view.

The S10+ will have a total of five cameras. On the front, a 10MP “main” camera, as well as an 8MP “live focus” camera for shooting portrait-style selfies. On the back are the same trio cameras as the S10: two 12MP cameras for telephoto and wide shots, and a 16MP “ultra wide angle” lens.

All three phone will support AR emoji, stickers, and 4K selfie videos. When it comes to batteries, the entry level phone gets a
3,100 mAh battery, which is very close to Apple’s iPhone XS Max.
The S10’s battery gets a little bigger one, at 3,400 mAh, and the S10+ will have a relatively massive 4100 mAh. All…or what’s left anyway…will be revealed next week!

Apple will hold a ‘subscription event’ on March 25th at Steve Jobs Theater at Apple Park in Cupertino. Appleinsider.com reports that they plan to roll out a paid news subscription. Details are still coming together, as some publications are balking at getting only half the subscription revenue, and Apple not sharing data with them. Apple plans to charge $10 a month for a menu of publications you can read…and perhaps an ‘Apple Prime’ version that will include video, Magazines, and Apple Music.

At I/O last year, Google teased AR Google Maps. Now, arstechnica.com says they are doing some private testing of them. Using the phone and software, the system can look at buildings, etc, and determine within inches just where you are, and guide you with augmented reality overlays on top of the view the camera sees….kind of like that green line in the financial services ad from a few years ago that people followed down the sidewalk! Note that it’s very early, and the private testing is still being tweaked, but it’s now obvious that the feature actually has a strong possibility of showing up on your phone eventually.

For a couple years, we’ve heard that smart watches aren’t really happening, and probably won’t really catch on. Well, apparently they have. According to engadget.com, one out of 6 US adults now has one of the handy little wrist computers! Sales jumped 61% in the 12 months ending last November. Most of the buyers are 34 or under. What seems to have moved the needle…and especially so much? NPD Group says it looks like having available LTE connect ability. People wanted to be able to get and receive messages or even call quickly without dragging along their smartphone! It also helps that you can get one for $200, like the Fitbit Versa…although the more pricey Apple Watch is still a market leader.

News flash! Congress did something! You can finally send in authorizations for federal consent forms electronically…instead of by snail mail or fax! The House unanimously passed a bipartisan bill that does away with the need for constituents to use a freaking fax machine, or physical mail, to issue “federal consent forms.” These are documents that authorize congress to contact federal agencies on behalf of their constituents. Gee, the fax machine has only been around since what? The 1930’s. Nice going, Congress!


Pixel Is Fastest Growing Smartphone; WWDC 2019 & Apple’s Head of AR Marketing; Amazon Buys Eero Mesh Router Maker; Mag Safe Kickstarter for USB-C MacBook Pros

While smartphone sales have softened, even for market leaders Apple and Samsung, one brand is showing big growth in the US. 9to5google.com reports that the Google Pixel grew by an astounding 43% year over year, from 4th quarter of 2017 to 4th quarter of 2018! Overall, the US smartphone market was down by 23%, which makes the growth all the more impressive. The Pixel phones have great cameras, which many tests have shown out shoot iPhone and Samsung Galaxy cams. Deals and discounts have also aided the Google phone, but the bottom line is…they’re a great phone.

Rumors are flying that Apple’s WWDC will be June 3-7 in San Jose. Although registration hasn’t opened yet for Apple’s annual developer conference, it’s expected they will show a Dark Mode for iOS 13, as well as new details on macOS 10.15. According to appleinsider.com, Apple has appointed veteran Frank Casanova to the new position of head of AR marketing. Technically, he will have the total of Seiion Director, Worldwide Product Marketing, but Casanova will be “responsible for all aspects of Product Marketing for Apple’s Augmented Reality initiative.” This just adds to the belief that AR will be hugely important to the Future of Apple. Tim Cook has even said it’s a ‘big idea’ on the level of the smartphone.

Amazon is acquiring Eero, a maker of mesh home routers. Theverge.com says Amazon feels that Eero and its technology will help Amazon move the ball forward on making the smart home (to say nothing of Alexa) ubiquitous. The mesh router is a design that helps eliminate the dead spots you can get in a home from normal routers.

USB-C has speed and data advantages, but a lot of people have lamented Apple’s dropping of their great MagSafe tech on the latest MacBook Pros. The MagSafe connector would ‘break away’ if you or someone tripped over the cord, saving the laptop from being pulled onto the floor and breaking a screen or other parts. Now, there’s a Kickstarter campaign to give this capability back to the MacBooks. According to 9to5mac.com, ThunderMag is running a campaign to produce a connector that goes between your USB-C cable and the port with the magnetic break away type design Apple had on their MagSafe. The difference with the ThunderMag is that it allows the connection to carry high speed data…with the MagSafe, the port was strictly for charging. It will support 100w fast charging, 4/5k video and audio, and up to 40G/bps data transfer. The Kickstarter campaign brought in more than 6 times the goal, so expect the ThunderMag to be out in April. It will retail for $79 to the public (or less, depending on store or online discounts.)