Nintendo Scores big with the Switch; Lyft Donation Program Going Live; SiriusXM Buys Automatic

Nintendo has a serious hit in the Switch. The new gaming system sold 2.74 million in less than a month, and geekwire.com says that’s more than the Wii U sold in its first full year. The flagship game, “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” slightly outsold the console, too!

Lyft had announced it would be offering a ‘Round Up and Donate’ feature, allowing users to top off their fare to the nearest buck and give to a worthy cause. Now, tech crunch.com reports that the program will go live May 1st. It will bow on Android first, followed quickly by an iOS version. The first organization Lyft is supporting is the USO, the folks that provide support and entertainment to military members and veterans. There will be a number of other charity partners, with the user getting to choose which one they donate to.

SiriusXM has snapped up smart car accessory maker Automatic for a cool $100 million plus. Automatic makes a Bluetooth gadget that lets you track and read driving data from your iPhone.The Automatic Link plugs into the OBD….on board diagnostic port of your car, and transmits data to your phone. They also have a cheaper device called the Automatic Lite.

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Twitter Use Back on An Upswing; Instagram Use Balloons; Mattel ‘Alexa for Kids’ Coming

Twitter is still a rather shaky proposition to Wall St. types, but did add 9 million users last quarter, the most since early 2015. Recode.net says they also made 11 cents a share on $548 million in revenue, beating the expected penny a share on $512 million for the quarter. Importantly, daily active users went up 14% year over year. Twitter doesn’t release the number of active users, only the percentage, but 14% growth is a good sign. Twitter claims about 328 million users.

Meanwhile, at Instagram, they now boast 700 million users, and added 100 million the last 4 months. Engadget.com reports that the last time they put on that many new users it took 6 months. If they can keep adding at that pace, they will be the second social network to pass a billion users, like parent Facebook has.

Mattel is about to release Aristotle, a $349 voice-activated speaker launching in May that functions like Google Home or Amazon Echo devices, but for kids. Aristotle is built to live in a child’s room—and answer a child’s questions. Think a combination of: a nanny, friend, and tutor, equally able to soothe a newborn and aid a tween with foreign-language homework. It’s an AI to help raise your child. Mashable.com says they have particularly worked on making little voices understandable to it and making it as hack proof as possible…since it’s equipped with a camera that streams video to your phone.


Waymo Offers Free Rides in Self-Driving Vans; Galaxy S8 Grabs Big Preorders; Google Tweaks Search to Tamp Down Fake News

If you live in the Phoenix area, and intrigued by self-driving cars, has Waymo got a deal for you. According to theverge.com, you can sign up for a free ride in a Waymo minivan…in fact, you can sign up as often as you like on their website. They will select riders based on the types of trips they want to take and agreeableness to using the self-driving service as their primary mode of transportation. All the test cars will have a safety driver along to grab the controls if needed. Besides Phoenix, the service will be available in Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler. Waymo says the service area there is about twice the area of San Francisco, to give you an idea of the covered territory. They have 100 minivans there, and will add 500 more for this free project, which they are calling “Easy Rider.”

Despite the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 with the fires and recall, Samsung says the Galaxy S8 preorders are their best ever, with 30% year over year growth compared to the S7. Macrumors.com reports that this is despite launching without one of the signature features, the personal assistant Bixby in English language countries. Samsung says that should be available by the end of May…maybe they hooked up the software with a Berlitz course.

Google has announced that it has altered its search engine to ‘surface more high quality content from the web,’ or in English, tamp down fake news, offensive, or clearly misleading content. Cnet.com says Google is also allowing users to flag results that are offensive or unhelpful.


iPhone 8 Supply Will Be Gorgeous and in Short Supply This Fall; Larry Page’s Flying Car; Audi Adds Useful ‘Nanny’ Feature

The iPhone 8 will just have a slight curve and very thin stainless steel bezels, according to the latest leak. It will also be in tight supply….possibly through the end of the year because of production issues that are causing production to start late. According to bgr.com, it will have the all glass front and back design, and the stainless bezel will be black to make it look virtually seamless. Apple has apparently cracked the code to put the Touch ID under the OLED screen, and the front camera will also be nearly invisible under it as well. Benjamin Geskin posted several pics of a mockup, one of which is shown here. For more, hit bgr.com.

Larry Page’s Kitty Hawk startup will release their flying electric ‘car’ later this year. 9to5google.com notes that what’s been seen of it so far looks more like a platform on pontoons that a rider can fly over land or water…primarily water It HAS, however, gotten FAA approval as an ‘ultralight’ that can be flown over uncongested areas. Kitty Hawk says the first iteration will be mainly for recreation, and will be different from the prototype, but still features 8 rotors powered by electric motors. You can lear to fly it without a license in less than an hour.

In the cars you can actually buy now department, the Audi A4 Allroad talks to you. While this seems like it could be annoying, venturebeat.com reports in a truly useful ‘why didn’t they think of that before’ feature. As with many current cars, you can plug your phone into a USB port to charge it while you drive. When you get ready to get out of the car, it will sense that, and remind you to take your phone with you! Cars are truly becoming computers on wheels…or maybe Alexa on wheels!


Another Day, Another iPhone 8 Design; MasterCard Testing Fingerprint Secured Cards; Google May Bake Ad Blocker into Chrome

Yet another iPhone 8 design has showed up, and it’s getting lots of hate from the tech media community. Macrumors.com says this one has an aluminum back with the apple cutout and vertical double camera, but also has a round cutout about halfway down. Some reports are that Apple is having problems with its under screen Touch ID sensor (as we reported Samsung has), and they may use this plan B metal back to put the Touch ID on the back…as the Galaxy S8 has. Actually, at this point, Apple has always had multiple designs going, then chooses the final one, so it’s probably not time to freak out yet. When orders for the sensors are placed, we’ll know more which way Apple will go.

Speaking of fingerprint sensors, here’s an interesting idea….MasterCard is testing them on payment cards in South Africa. Engadget.com reports that if they pan out, MasterCard could start rolling them out worldwide by the end of the year. After that, it will be up to your bank to decide to use it. Like photos on cards, you would have to go into the bank to have your prints scanned to be stored on the card. It’s all card based, so merchants wouldn’t have to replace terminals to use the newer print-secured cards.

Google…which makes bags of money from ads…is apparently working on an ad blocker for Chrome. According to recode.net, it would either filter certain types of ads out, or entirely block ones from sites that carry ‘bad ads.’ Filtering would be based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads, which both Google and Facebook belong. Note: they also both help fund said coalition! Does anyone see Google filtering out IT’S OWN ads with the Chrome ad blocker? This seems like a real unfair competition issue!


Facebook’s F8 Launches; Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Will Have a Killer Dual Camera

Facebook had a lot to talk about yesterday as their F8 conference opened. Techcrunch.com notes the headline item: FB is working on an augmented reality developer platform. This is not exactly surprising since their acquisition of Oculus, so we can expect more and more selfie masks, overlays of info on real world objects the cam sees, and more…eventually, they expect a normal-ish pair of glasses or contacts to replace the screens we use…from desktop to smart devices! A number of adds to the Messenger app…you can order food through delivery.com, book a restaurant, and group pay for a meal, and there is a new game tab with new bots. Also, QR codes will get you info at concerts and sporting events.

Samsung held back a bit on the stunning Galaxy S8…the Note 8 will be out later this year, and will feature a dual cam setup like the iPhone 7 Plus. According to appleinsider.com, Apple analyst KGI Securities says the Note 8 cam setup will be ‘much better’ than the array on the iPhone 7 Plus, and may match the rumored performance of the one due out on the iPhone 8. KGI thinks Samsung will ship 50 to 55 million S8s this year and 13-15 million of the Note 8 after it rolls out.


Apple Issues With Touch ID for iPhone 8; Snapchat Launches ‘World Lenses’; Pornhub Rolls Out Snapchat for Nudes

Some reports are indicating that Apple’s plan to put the fingerprint scanner under the edge to edge display is not going well. If so, this could be more than a fly in the ointment for the 10th anniversary iPhone….more like a buzzard! Bgr.com reports that even with 3D facial recognition cams that the phone will apparently have, Apple still needs Touch ID to work well for signing into apps and services, and using Apple Pay. Apparently, Cupertino hasn’t placed firm orders for production of the sensors. They have also looked at The Synaptic optical fingerprint solution Samsung wanted to use on the Galaxy S8…as we know, that one didn’t make it, and Samsung had to put the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. Apple could delay the launch of the iPhone 8 or may have to drop the fingerprint sensor, which would cause an uproar.

Snapchat has rolled out what they call 3D World Lenses in an app update. According to 9to5google.com, World Lenses will work like the selfie Lenses feature, only add 3D elements to shots taken with the back camera, like adding shadows and depth, in addition to the whimsical overlays everyone loves from Snapchat.

In somewhat related news, Pornhub has released their own ‘Snapchat for nudes,’ giving people the option of covering their private areas with stickers and graphic animations. Thenextweb.com says the app is available from the App Store and Google Play for those who want to sext, but are a little shy about exposing the whole enchilada.