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.


Not Quite a Facebook ‘Dislike’ Button

Marketingland.com says that while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has said the social network is working on something like a ‘Dislike’ button, it’s not exactly that. They are very close to shipping a test of the new feature, but Zuckerberg has reiterated his opinion that Facebook doesn’t want to create a situation where people are downvoting other people’s posts. He gave no specifics about what the button or buttons would be called but said the idea is to give people a way to express empathy. He says the real trick is to make something that fits this criteria, but still keep it simple enough for a button.

AT&T has kicked up it’s so-called ‘unlimited’ plan to a ceiling of 22 gigs of downloads a month before getting throttled. The old policy was 5 gigabytes. The move wasn’t due to their great altruism…it was the threat of a 100 million dollar FCC fine that did the trick. Throttling is actually prohibited under the new net neutrality rules, according to theverge.com, but the federal agency does allow for ‘reasonable network management.’


Next Year’s Android Smartphones Getting a Big Boost

Qualcomm has already said the next Snapdragon 820 chips will boost charging speeds…from dead to 80% charged in 90 minutes, to a lightening fast 30 minutes. Now, 9to5google.com reports that the 820 chip will increase maximum LTE download speeds by one third…from 450 megabytes per second to 600, and upload speeds will double to 150 megabytes per second. Look for the Snapdragon 820 in your next hero level Android smartphone. All US carriers are supposed to be in position to allow the upload and download speeds in 2016.

Researchers at a Japanese university, building on a concept from Stanford researchers, have built a nearly transparent lithium ion battery…something right out of Tony Stark’s Iron Man! According to bgr.com, besides being practically transparent, the battery can also charge via solar power. The battery was demoed at Innovation Japan early this month, and so far, no word on when it might be commercially available.


Google Looks Poised to Do Full Scale Launch of Self-Driving Car

9to5mac.com spotted a report last night from Automotive News that Google has hired the former CEO of Hyundai to run its self-driving car program. In an email, he mentions the cars being used by millions of people, and saving thousands of lives. Google is still saying it has no plans to manufacture cars itself, but will partner with a number of different companies. They still seem on track to have a self-driving car on the market by 2020.

Apple told Financial Times that strong weekend orders indicate the new iPhone 6S and 6S Plus will beat the 10 million sold the first weekend of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus last year. In the past, the off-year ’S’ models have lagged behind sales of the pure numbered models. Thenextweb.com reports that the 6S Plus models show sold out right now, and the 6S rose gold models have a wait time of 3-4 weeks before shipping. We’ll know more if this sales pace will be maintained when the phones show up in stores next weekend.


Google and Twitter Partnering For Instant News Articles

Google and Twitter are partnering on making their own version of instant news articles. Recode.net says they are teaming up with a small group of publishers, and should launch this fall…joining the likes of Facebook, Apple, and Snapchat. The plan is for either Twitter users or people using Google search who click on a link via their smartphones to see the full article pop up on screen nearly instantly, instead of having to wait several seconds. A big difference between the Google-Twitter partnership and the others is that this one is based on open source publishing tools. The articles are also cached from the publishers’ sites, not hosted by Google. An interesting twist is that it will operate without either Google or Twitter branding.

It’s both amazing and a little creepy…we are on the verge of becoming like Wolverine! After a Spanish man lost his sternum and part of his rib cage to cancer, surgeons at Salamanca University installed a 3D printed replacement out of titanium. Gizmodo.com reports the implant was made by Anatomics in Australia. This isn’t the 3D printer the geek next door has in the garage…titanium is tricky…it’s a $1.3 million electron beam Arcam 3D printer. The patient was out of the hospital after 12 days, and is recovering well…and part of him is pretty bulletproof, now!