Google Shows New Smartphones, Tablet, & Drops New Chromecast

Google rolled out two top line smartphones at its big Nexus event in San Francisco Tuesday…first, the brand new Nexus 6P. It’s made by Huawei and sports a 5.7-inch AMOLED display, powered by an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor. The 6P has a unibody aluminum design. For comparison it weighs 178 grams… Apple’s new iPhone 6s Plus has a smaller 5.5-inch display and it weighs 199 grams.
It comes with 3GB of RAM, a 12.3-megapixel main camera, an 8-megapixel front-facing selfie camera, a massive 3,450 battery and either 32GB, 64GB or 128GB of storage. So how much? it starts at $499 off contract, and you can preorder at the Google Play store, with shipping sometime in October.

Google also showed a smaller handset…the Nexus 5X. This year, Google is taking a page out of Samsung and Apple’s playbook and offering two distinct flagship phones, one with a smaller screen and one that’s phablet sized. The Nexus 5X features a 5.2-inch LCD display with full HD resolution. A 2GHz 6-core Snapdragon 808, and 2GB of RAM. The phone will be available with either 16GB or 32GB of storage. It sports a 12.3-megapixel rear camera, a 5-megapixel front facing camera, and fingerprint scanner. The Nexus 5X will start at $379 with no contract, and like the 6P, it’s available for preorder now in the Google Play Store, and ships in October.

Google rolled out an actual tablet, too… the Pixel C. This tablet, unlike the Pixel devices that preceded it, will launch not with Chrome OS, but with Android — 6.0 Marshmallow to be exact. There’s an optional detachable keyboard you will probably want. This tablet is amazingly made by Google, and not just built for them.
The Pixel C features a 10.2-inch screen. It will ship sometime in November, starting at $499 for the tablet itself at 32 GB (and $599 for the 64 GB), and $149 for the attachable keyboard.

As you heard or read here last week, the 2nd generation Chromecast is out. Besides the lollypop shaped dongle, the device offers improved WiFi and connectivity features, a new home screen that features new “feeds” for displaying content on-screen while your device is in standby, and “Fast Play,” which allows your devices to connect to Chromecast faster and easier than ever before…the Chromecast Audio, including Spotify support is also out now. Chromecast 2.0 is $35. You’ll be able to grab one from the Google Store, Best Buy, and Walmart.


Laser Razor May Help Us to Ditch Blades and Save Water

It’s such a great thought, ditching razor blades and buzzy electrics for a sleek, laser razor. Such a great thought, that a Kickstarter project from Skarp Technologies blew past it’s goal of $160,000 in 2 days, and now is approaching a million in funding. Mashable.com says the Skarp Laser Razor should be out by spring. No throwing away blades, and no wasting water…although they say you can still shave in the shower if you want to. The laser melts the hair shaft right at the surface of the skin, so the roughness caused by traditional razors, which cut at an angle, are no longer a problem. What’s taken so long? One of the founders, Morgan Gustavsson, who invented Intense Pulsed Light still used for hair removal and dermatology, says getting just the right frequency…up to now, lasers could cut dark hair, but not light or gray hair. No retail pricing has been announced, but expect it in the next 6 months.

After a test run in Denver, Google is starting to equip its street view cars in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and California’s central valley with Aclima, it’s mapping technology for air quality. The googlegreenblog says this comes out of a project last year where Google partnered with the Environmental Defense fund to map methane. They will pass on what the street view cars sample to scientists and air quality experts, and hopefully eventually help Californians to enjoy cleaner air.


iPhone 6S First Weekend Sales Set New Record, & Feature to Turn off NOW

Apple’s new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus blew past last year’s first weekend sales records, putting 13 million phones in the grip of fanboys and fangirls. Last year, including presales delivered, the number was 10 million. So much for the ’S’ years being the off years! The Cupertino giant still has 40 countries to launch in starting October 9th. Bgr.com reports that it’s thought that having an extra week of presales in China compared to last year boosted the numbers.

Whether you have a shiny, slippery new iPhone 6S or and earlier model you upgraded to iOS 9 (and half of owners already have), you probably want to turn this feature off now! It’s a great idea called Wi-Fi Assist…and it switches your phone to cellular when a Wi-Fi signal gets weak. Nice, but may end up costing you a fortune. Go to Settings, Cellular, and scroll down to the bottom and you’ll see the Wi-Fi Assist button…it’s on by default…switch it off, unless you have a millionaire’s budget for your cell phone bill!


No Tesla Model X For You Until Mid-2016

The already delayed Tesla SUV, the Model X, with the gullwing rear doors, will be introduced September 29th, but don’t expect to get your hands on one until the 2nd half of 2016. Bgr.com reports that the middle of next year is when Tesla’s order page indicates newly reserved cars will be shipping. Both engineering challenges and the success of the Model S have contributed to delays for the unique electric SUV. We should know the price next week, though. Elon Musk already revealed the nosebleed price for the signature model. Tesla already has 31,000 preorders banked for the Model X…nearly triple what they had for the Model S back in 2012. This just in, from Businessinsider.com:

BI Tech ‏@SAI
Tesla Model S will have over 600 miles of range in 2 years, by @greencarreports http://read.bi/1QDK1Qx

If you’ve jumped into the virtual reality world with both eyeballs, here’s something that may interest you…CNN has announced that they will partner with Next VR and broadcast the Democratic Debate on October 13th in VR!. According to engadget.com, users of Samsung’s GearVR will be able to immerse themselves in the debate as if they were sitting right in the Las Vegas audience.


New HTC Phone Revealed that Mimics iPhone

A big leak has revealed the next big HTC smartphone…the Aero…and surprise! It looks a lot like an iPhone, right down to several of the colors it will be available in. HTC has a product unveiling September 29th, when the smartphone will be officially introduced to the world. It features at 5 inch AMOLED screen, 2 gigs of RAM and 16 gigs of storage, with a micro SD slot for more memory. The Aero has a fingerprint sensor, and a 13 megapixel camera. It will run Android 6.0 Marshmellow. Six color choices are available, including the three that mimic Apple’s. We should see pricing on the 29th.

IBM has announced that it’s opening a second headquarters in Sn Francisco next year for it’s AI system Watson. The New York Times reports the center will eventually employ several hundred people. Watson is also getting additional capabilities including speech, language understanding, image recognition, and sentiment analysis. IBM already has 350 companies partnering and using Watson to make products, with about 50 of those on the market. It could eventually become something of a super operating system…doing much more than winning at Jeopardy!


Facebook’s Plan to Make Money From Messenger (Hint: More of Your Data)

When Facebook rolled out their freestanding messenger app, one of the pitches was that people and businesses could message each other ad-free, but that’s then and this is now. Now, businessinsider.com reports that an ad exec at TechCrunch Disrupt revealed that Facebook is working on a new type of ad called ‘click to message.’ It revolves around businesses designing ads about their company or product, and Facebook putting a little ‘message’ button at the bottom. If you click the button and send a question or comment to the business, they pay for the click. Facebook already has call to action buttons on its pages, claiming people really don’t want to mess with websites, or make phone calls or email any more. Every click and like gives them more of your data, to serve more targeted ads. Install the Ghostery browser plug in, and you’ll minimize the ability of Facebook and other sites to do this.

Volvo has come up with a novel plan to eliminate a stinky job…using robots to collect garbage. The car maker is partnering with a couple universities and a waste management firm to design robots that would collect the refuse, while a human operator supervises from the more comfortable and less smelly cab of the garbage truck. First tests should start in 2016. So far, they aren’t looking at robots to take out the trash to the polycarts and bins, which would please wives and girlfriends a lot more.


Thoughts On The Coming Apple Electric Car

It was all over the tech news yesterday, and first reported by the Wall St. Journal, that Apple had put it’s Project Titan…their car project…on the front burner, and want an Apple car on the road by 2019. Google has spoken out couple times, underscoring that they are NOT planning to actually build a Google self-driving car, but will partner with car makers. Apple’s electric car project, by the way, will apparently not be self-driving. Apple will not be building their own car. As bgr.com snarked, who is going to build it…it won’t be Foxconn! I predict that Apple will have to partner with one or more actual car maker. Right now, it takes a car maker a minimum of 4 years to get a model out, and they have the actual plants and equipment to build cars at scale. Apple doesn’t, and can’t possibly be ready to produce them by 2019. Even an electric with no EPA emission requirements will still have to meet federal standards in various countries for safety. Which manufacturer or manufacturers will they partner with, and will it be sold from present dealerships or out of Apple branded car stores, like Tesla is doing? Stay tuned.

From Microsoft’s Office blog, comes something that’s NOT vaporware…Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac are available now to everyone. The Windows version is more tightly integrated with both Windows 10 and Office 365, and subscribers can get more frequent updates with new features and improvements. Microsoft says the Mac version had been out since July for 365 subscribers, but now is a one-time purchase option open to all with several new and enhanced Office 365 services. As is typical for Office and Microsoft products, the features and even pricing are beyond the time constraints we have here.


Samsung Working on Smartphone Installment Plan Like Apple’s

On the heels of Apple’s new installment program to acquire phones directly, without the deal going through the carriers, Samsung is cooking up a similar deal for Galaxy smartphones. Forbes.com says Samsung will offer a 1-2 year monthly installment plan in the next several months. Apple’s deal starts at $32 a month for an unlocked phone, and it’s expected that Samsung will roll out something competitive. Of course, you still have to pay the carrier you go with their monthly charges in addition.

Up to now, only 5 cases of malware have made it through Apple’s tough process and gotten into the App Store. Some clever black hat folks convinced a number of developers to download Apple’s Xcode from a server in China that contained malware, though, and now Apple has had to pull 344 malware infected apps, including WeChat, the largest standalone messaging app in China. According to geek.com, the malware had very limited functionality, but anti-malware advocates say this may have been a proof of concept, to try to penetrate Apple’s walled garden by way of developers, and it obviously worked.


New, 2nd Gen Chromecast On the Way

A 2nd generation Chromecast will drop before the end of the month. Expect it to feature improved WiFi, new feeds for the main screen and a feature dubbed ‘Fast Play.’ 9to5google.com says it will sport a new shape and various colors, too. The new feeds likely include social media feeds, and a new feature called ‘Fast Play,’ which helps Chromecast establish a connection faster and play content more seamlessly when touching the Cast button on a connected device. Google is also looking to launch ‘Chromecast Audio,’ which would allow the dongle to plug into any speaker via an auxiliary chord…Chromecast Audio will apparently have multi-room support, and the ability to mirror your Chrome or Android audio. In addition to Google Play Music, Netflix, Pandora, etc…Chromecast will add support for Spotify now. Expect the Chromecast rollout at Google’s September 29th event, when they plan to show two new Nexus gadgets as well.

You’ve probably heard stories of people in China being willing to give up a kidney for gadgets or cash. Here’s a new wrinkle…or lack of one…reported by geek.com. A sperm bank is offering an iPhone 6S in exchange for 17 milliliters of a guy’s ‘product. Since the average man’s ejaculation produces about 10 ml, a Chinese fellow jonesing for a shiny new iPhone may have to make a couple of deposits to the Renji Hospital sperm bank. The cash equivalent is about $940, by the way.


Google Hasn’t Entirely Killed Off Google Glass

Google had previously said they were killing off Google Glass, but apparently, there was a change of mind. Engadget.com reports that they’ve hired engineers and software developers from Amazon’s Lab126 for what they’re calling ‘Project Aura.’ They will work on other wearables besides Glass. Apparently Project Aura will stay under the Google ‘aura,’ instead of being a separate entity under the Alphabet umbrella. Ivy Ross will still head up the operation, but she’ll report to Nest CEO Tony Fadell now.

Speaking of Amazon, they’ve shown their answer to Apple TV…it’s a Fire TV box with Alexa and 4K video support. Theverge.com says that similar to Apple’s ‘Hey Siri,’ you will be able to command Alexa to go look for shows you want to watch. Amazon plans to add reordering through amazon.com later, like with the Echo speaker. Don’t expect to be able to set alarms or timers as you can on the Echo, though. The new Fire TV box is $99. Amazon has also upgraded the Fire TV stick with newer software, and a new remote in a $50 bundle. There’s also a gamer-specific edition of the Fire TV box for $140, that comes with a useable controller and two free game downloads. It’s all open for preorder now, and all three products ship in October.