Samsung Galaxy X Folder; iPhones Beef Up Hack-proofing; Waymo Ridership; Microsoft Eyes Automated Check Out

The mythic Samsung Galaxy X folding smartphone may yet be coming…the latest rumors say in 2019…pretty cool news for those excited about a phone with a large, folding screen. Ok…that’s the good news. The not-so-good news? According to Golden Bridge Investment, it will probably cost a bit under $1850…or almost double the cost of the present iPhone X. In addition to the two OLED screens with virtually no bezel between them that fold in, the handset will have a third panel for use when the phone is folded. Bgr.com reports that unfolded, the inner screens will combine for a phablet-sized  7.3 inch display! Samsung partners should get a preview at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Apple has confirmed a leak that says it is closing the tech loophole that has been letting law enforcement hack iPhones via USB based hardware like the GrayKey box. The GrayKey box is designed to plug into the Lightening port of an iPhone, and it then uses a data connection to brute force a passcode in as little as a few hours.  In an upcoming software update, the port will be disabled and require a password starting an hour after the phone is locked. The setting will be enabled by default. Macrumors.com says an exception is charging…which doesn’t require a data connection. Apple notes that they aren’t anti-law enforcement…in 2017 they responded to over 29,000 National Security Requests from the US government.

This Spring, Google’s Waymo kicked off an Early Rider program to let people in Arizona get their feet wet in experiencing self-driving cars. They have now let us in on a bit of a progress report. Waymo has gotten 20,000 applications to participate, and so far, riders have ranged in age from 9 to 69. Destinations pretty well mirror rides from Uber or Lyft…the most popular is getting to work…followed by restaurants, schools, and bars. According to 9to5google.com, the biggest request by riders: closer pickup and drop-off points. You’ll be glad to know that Waymo is working on how to gently wake napping riders upon arriving at their destination!

Amazon’s checkout-less stores…Amazon Go… have been covered here a number of times, but now there’s word of a heavyweight challenger in the push to eliminate the check out line at stores….Microsoft. Reuters.com says The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart  about a potential collaboration. While it isn’t clear how soon Microsoft could get their system to the market, it’s worth noting that they are the #2 provider of cloud services behind Amazon. According to analyst Gene Munster of Loop Ventures, the US market for automated checkout is worth some $50 billion dollars.

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iPhones May Get USB-C Ports; Microsoft Revamps Office; Tesla Laying Off 9%; Big Names Back Better Battery Quest

After going all-in on USB-C on the MacBook Pro line, it looks like Apple may be getting ready to retire the Lightening connectors on the upcoming iPhones in favor of the more universally used connection. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple may also include an 18 watt charger to take advantage of quick charging…which the current phones are already capable of, but only with 3rd party chargers. It’s worth noting that this rumor comes from Digitimes, which doesn’t have the stellar accurate leak record of the likes of KGI Securities. That said, Apple has run with the Lightening port since 2012, so a change is more likely than not.

Microsoft is porting over its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office, in an effort to simplify them for the some billion users of the productivity suite. According to theverge.com, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook will all get a new, simplified ribbon that is smaller and easier to use. There are new animations, icons that are more accessible, and more. The goal is to modernize Office, and make it more intuitive. The changes will hit the main desktop versions first, but also will be brought over to the web versions. They should appear on the apps for Windows next month, and on Macs by August. Microsoft also promises and increase in speed for the productivity suite.

As first indicated last month, Tesla has begun laying off salaried employees as they move to what Elon Musk calls ‘flattening the management structure’, and a ‘thorough reorganization’ of the company aimed at helping Tesla achieve profitability by the end of this year. Electrek.co notes that as many as 3,500 employees could be let go. No line workers will be involved in the layoffs, as Tesla continues to ramp up Model 3 production, and they will still be hiring ‘mission critical’ people. After the Solar City acquisition, Tesla laid off about 20% of that workforce, cutting duplicate positions and restructuring. They are also not continuing the residential sales agreement with Home Depot…although those employees will have the opportunity to move to Tesla retail locations.

Billion dollar startup Breakthrough Energy Ventures has dived into a couple startups aimed at power storage. Form Energy is working on novel chemistries for low-cost, long-term, high-density batteries, and Quidnet Energy is working on storing energy in highly compressed water. Geekwire.com says Breakthrough is backed by some really big players in tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Ma. The fund was started a couple years ago, but the two energy storage tech startups are two of the first investments revealed by Breakthrough. Cheap, efficient energy storage will allow power generated by renewable energy sources to be stored for use 24/7 on the energy grid.


Galaxy Note 9 Rumors; Snap Spectacles II on Amazon; Nintendo Switch Content Leak; Facebook Rebrands On This Day As Memories

More has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, widely expected to be a minor upgrade coming in August. Bgr.com says one tweak may make a noticeable difference over the Note 8…the back cams may go horizontal instead of vertical, with the fingerprint sensor moving directly below. This will not only make the print sensor much easier to find and use, but the horizontal layout of the cams will allow for a bigger battery…perhaps even exceeding the 35 mAh battery of the Galaxy S9+. There’s also an additional hardware button showing up…no clues on what it is, but it may be related to the cameras.

Snap’s original Spectacles were kind of cool, but you had to hunt for a pop up store to get a pair of them. Now, mashable.com reports that the 2nd generation will be much easier to find…you can buy them on Amazon. There’s a price bump of 20 bucks to $149.99, but now they can be at your doorstep in a couple days in the US, UK, and Canada….even tomorrow if you’re terribly impatient! Snap only sold 220,000 of the original Spectacles, and lost a bundle ($40 million), but it appears they are confident about the round pic-taking glasses being a hit in version 2.

Best Buy may have spilled the beans about upcoming Nintendo Switch content at E3. According to businessinsider.com, Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix compatibility may be coming to the Switch. The added capabilities popped up on Best Buy’s online store. Nintendo had been expected to make an announcement anyway, but the retailer inadvertently stole their thunder.

Facebook is rolling out a rebranded On This Day as ‘Memories.’ Techcrunch.com says they are adding friends you made on the date to the usual pictures and posts from the On This Day version, in addition to ‘Memories You May Have Missed’. It’s a great way to get people to engage more…not to mention it saves Facebook server space by recycling posts. Hmm.


Microsoft Works on New Xbox Consoles, Tesla Greenlights Full Self-Driving Features in August; Ads Bolt Facebook for Cheaper Traditional Media; Uber-Drunk Detecting Patent

The gaming console is far from dead, according to Microsoft. Geekwire.com reports that in the keynote at E3, Microsoft gaming chief Phil Spencer said there will be new generations of the Xbox console. Spencer says the team is ‘deep into architecting’ the next generation Xboxes. On Sunday, Microsoft also announced that they had picked up 4 gaming studios, and have created their own called The Initiative….and they plan more first-party titles. They will continue to work on AI and cloud resources as applied to gaming, too.

Elon Musk Tweeted over the weekend that Tesla is on track to begin enabling full self-driving features starting in August. That’s when Autopilot 9 will arrive for owners, according to engadget.com. Keep in mind that this won’t mean they will activate so much that you’ll be able to climb into the back seat and take a nap…the full features may only operate at low speed….like allowing you to let go of the wheel only in a parking lot…for now.

In a twist a lot of people didn’t see coming, direct marketers are cutting back on Facebook ads for….traditional media like Radio, TV, and even print! Digiday.com reports that they surveyed 10 good sized direct to consumer companies, and every one had cut back on Facebook and Instagram ads in favor of traditional media. Clutter of feeds was mentioned, but the primary motivator: Facebook ads have gotten too high for the audience segments they target. Apparently since January, CPMs on Facebook’s platform have rocketed up 122% over last year, while impression rate had dropped. This was confirmed by AdStage. Pricing on the other hand has eased on traditional media like Radio, TV, and print.

Uber has applied for a patent that detects drunk passengers. Techcrunch.com says it measures behavior via their phone against usual behavior…including data on location, data input accuracy and speed, speed of walking. The system would alert drivers, and indicates that riders in a particularly ‘unusual’ state might be matched with drivers with special expertise or not be allowed rides at all. WHAT? Won’t that put a serious dent in their business? Isn’t being tipsy at night one of the main reasons people even CALL an Uber? Stay tuned and we’ll see if they actually start using this system.


Fire TV Cube Gets Alexa; Lyft Redesigns App; Waymo Passes Big Milestone; Instagram Long Form Video

Amazon has announced the Fire TV Cube. It’s a set top box with all the usual suspects: Netflix, Hulu, PlayStation Vue, HBO Go, Sling, And Amazon Prime Video. It also features Alexa…which Engadget.com notes was already available in the Stick and Fire TV box…but the Cube has full-featured Alexa. You can access thousands of third party ‘skills’ on the Cube just like an Echo. The Cube had eight built-in microphones, and can turn on your TV, sound system, cable box. Amazon demoed it by saying ‘Alexa…I’m home,’ and it turned on the entire home theatre system, and brought up the lights in the room. It supports cable boxes from Comcast as well as Dish and DirecTV. There is an IR extension cable for the cable box so the Cube can turn it on and off when the gadgets aren’t line of sight. It ships June 21st for $119. ***UPDATE*** Prime members can preorder and save $30 for a limited time!

Lyft is updating its app for the 1st time in 3 years, and putting more emphasis on shared rides and public transit. Theverge.com reports that it should roll out to everyone by the end of the month. A few changes include Lift Line being rebranded ‘Shared Rides’ and giving that feature a more prominent place in the app. Lyft says it wants shared rides to be 50% of its business by 2020, and has promised to lower its carbon footprint. The updated app will be customized based on a riders’ preferred services and locations. The algorithm considers account fare price, trip time, and more to present the most efficient ride for users, whether a solo rider or shared ride. There is a tweak that encourages riders to get picked up on side streets…which has been piloted in San Francisco (on Valencia Street), and Lyft got 20,000 riders to divert to side street pickup.

Now, more than ever, there’s Google’s Waymo and everyone else when it comes to self-driving cars. According to arstechnica.com, Waymo hit 7 million self-driven miles this week. For reference, they just announced that they had passed up 6 million less than a month ago! Waymo plans to launch commercial driverless taxi service in the Phoenix area before the end of the year.

Instagram is adding support for video of up to an hour in length, with the long form video hub designed to compete with YouTube and Snapchat Discover. According to 9to5google.com, all the videos will be in vertical orientation and 4K resolution. The company has been reportedly meeting with social media stars and content publishers in prep for launching the feature, which is planned for June 20th. No details have gotten out on monetization, but Instagram apparently intends to let creators and publishers earn money from the longer form videos.


Moto Z3 Play; Intel Tech Points to 28 Hour Laptop Batteries; Udacity & Google Partner for Free Career Courses; Dave & Buster’s Gets Multiplayer VR Arcades; Tesla Near Model 3 Goal

Motorola has unveiled the Moto Z3 Play. It is mostly an incremental upgrade according to 9to5google.com. The handset does sport a bigger 6.01 inch display and smaller bezels all around, though. The fingerprint sensor has migrated from the front to a slightly thicker aluminum side rail. The Z3 Play runs a Snapdragon 636 processor, has 4 gigs of ram, and holds either 32 or 64 Gigs of storage. It does have a 3,000 mAh battery with fast charging. It’s $499 and available globally this month.

New tech from Intel may make laptop batteries regularly last up to 28 hours! The chipmaker made the announcement at Computex, and mashable.com says they have developed a low power display tech that can cut LCD power consumption in half. Keep in mind that they get that battery life at 150 nits of screen brightness…which is probably darker than you can really work for very long, so as the saying goes, ‘your mileage will vary.’ So far, the tech will only work with Intel chips, not Nvidia or AMD graphics.

Bringing resume and cover letter help to recent grads and ‘mid-career’ professionals, Udacity has partnered with Google for a number of free courses. According to techcrunch.com, they will not only offer free courses for basics like resumes and cover letters, but also optimizing your GitHub profile and beefing up your LinkedIn network. There are even courses in ‘Data Structures and Algorithms in Python’ as well as a course on Apple’s Swift platform. A total of 12 courses are available.

The Dave and Buster’s chain is in the process of installing multiplayer VR arcades, running HTC Vive hardware. Cnet.com reports that there will be 114 of them when complete, and a total of 500 VR headsets. According to HTC, the setups will be a ‘proprietary, multi participant motion platform’ built custom for Dave & Buster’s. Happy Holodecking, gamers!

Elon Musk says Tesla is going to be hitting their goal of 5,000 Model 3 cars a week by the end of June. As businessinsider.com notes, 5,000 is the ‘magic number’ Musk cites that will put Tesla into the black with the Model 3. Up to now, they have been burning cash like crazy. The company has had to shut down the production line twice to fix and upgrade their systems. Musk even took to sleeping at the factory in a conference room for a while until they got the bugs worked out.


iPad Pro May Get Face ID; Google Looking to Release 3 Pixel 3’s; Asus ZenBook Pro Replaces Touchpad with Touch Screen; Firefox Tests Side by Side Browsing

After yesterday’s preview of iOS 12 at Apple’s WWDC, some techies have noticed changes that indicate that the upcoming refresh of the iPad Pro will have Face ID and no home button. Macrumors.com reports that the higher line iPads will also get gestures that match the iPhone X, like swiping up from the dock to open the home screen, and a swipe from top right to open the Control Center. Since no hardware was shown at WWDC’s keynote, most analysts think freshened iPads and maybe MacBook Pros may come later in the fall, after the iPhone rollout in September.

It looks like Google will be following Apple in adding a 3rd phone to the Pixel line with the Pixel 3’s. According to bgr.com, there will be a Pixel 3 and larger Pixel 3 XL, as expected, but also a cheaper Pixel 3 version…probably coming in 2019, which will run a midrange Snapdragon 710 processor instead of the latest and greatest ones expected in the other Pixel 3’s. The cheaper model just went into development last month, but should be out the first half of next year.

First we got the MacBook Pro with the semi-useful ‘Touch Bar.’ now Asus has introduced the ZenBook Pro with a 5.5 inch touch screen in place of the touch pad. Although kind of gimmicky, the touch screen may be more useful overall than Apple’s Touch Bar. Theverge.com says it adds, rather than taking away features from the keyboard. The touch screen can be used as an app launcher, calculator, calendar, or numeric keypad. You can even play back YouTube videos via a Chrome extension. Asus has partnered with Microsoft, and you can get access to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint shortcuts and adjustments via the pad. It hits the market the middle of next month starting at $2299.

Firefox has released a pilot of some features. One is a Theme Editor that lets you choose colors and even textures and background….if you happen to be very OCD about your browser. The other feature reported by techcrunch.com is pretty cool if you’ve used a later model iPad. With the iPad, you can pull in another window and run a second app, switching between the two…I have found this handy with social media like Facebook and a slide over of my Twitter feed. Firefox is piloting Side View..you can use a widescreen monitor and display two tabs side-by-side inside the browser without having to open a second Firefox window. This can be very handy…here’s hoping they make it a standard feature.