Samsung Has ‘Walk Mode’; Amazon Prime Day; iPhone’s Birthday

While Apple appears ready to bake in an option to iOS 11 that blocks texting and the like while you are driving, Samsung is out with another needed feature, and you can download it as an app from the Play Store right now. 9to5google.com says Walk Mode will sense when there’s danger in front of you, and tell you to look up from your screen! With all the ‘smartphone zombies’ walking around cities, Samsung says it runs in the background, and pops up an overlay to warn you of walls, tripping hazards, or…oh yeah, OTHER HUMANS you might walk into! The initial version is a bit buggy….seeing phantom things, and sometimes blocking the phone from being used while moving. Let’s see if version 2.0 addresses these.

Ok, power shoppers, it’s official. Amazon has announced Prime Day 2017. It’s July 11th, and according to bgr.com, it will last 30 hours…because Amazon knows we can’t possibly buy enough bargains in 24! As usual, it’s for Prime members only, and Amazon always gets a lot of sign ups…even just for the 30 day free trial. Besides the 30 hours of fevered keyboarding to buy lots of stuff, Amazon will again feature promotions leading up to the 11th. July 5th, it’s Alexa voice shopping, the 6th is for Amazon Music, on the 7th, Amazon Video, the 8th is for Everyday Essentials, and the 9th, Amazon Reading. The 10th is when they will actually start Prime day at 6pm Pacific time.

Finally, Happy Birthday iPhone, and actually all smartphones. Macrumors.com reminds us that it was 10 years ago today that Steve Jobs revealed the iconic iPhone that has literally changed the world, putting a touch screen computer in pockets and purses everywhere. Having been one of those early adapters, I can remember that the original one really didn’t do much compared to modern models. Here’s a couple of numbers though…by October 2008, Apple had sold 10 million iPhones. As of now, they have sold over a billion…it’s like McDonald’s hamburgers, only way more expensive and fragile! Happy Birthday, iPhone!


Patent Reveals Striking Future Google Pixel Feature; Survey Shows Way More Switching PC to Mac Than Vice Versa; Best Buy’s Interactive Alexa and Google Home Displays

Google will continue the unusual glass/metal back with the Pixel 2, and now we may know where they’re going with it. Bgr.com reports on a Discovery by Patently Mobile -a patent that highlights a touch sensitive surface on the back that would let the user control the device without touching with any elements on the screen-instead, touching the back of the handset. This allows commands and selection without obstructing anything you would be viewing on the screen.

A survey of US computer owners indicates that 21% of Windows laptop users will switch to Mac next time, but only 2% of Mac owners will change to Windows. The number switching Windows to Mac is even higher for Windows desktop users. According to 9to5mac.com, the survey is from Verto Analytics. The biggest no shock in the survey— most of the PC to Mac flippers are in higher income brackets, reflecting Apple’s pricey offerings!

Best Buy is rolling out Amazon Alexa and Google Home products in 700 stores, to be highlighted in separate, free standing display areas. Geekwire.com says the setup will allow customers to use Alexa devices and Google Home devices to interact with nearby products like Nest thermostats, Philips Hue lighting, and Insignia Smart Plugs…a way to try before you buy. 80 million smart home devices were delivered worldwide last year according to IHS Markit, up 64% from 2015. They expect 130 million to be sold this year.


Apple Working With Hertz; Apple Buys Eye Tracking Company; An Infarm in Every Grocery Store; Oscar Meyer Weiner Drone

Apple has tapped car rental firm Hertz to assist with testing of its autonomous vehicles. Macrumors.com reports that Cupertino is leasing vehicles from Donlen, the Hertz fleet management unit. The info showed up in information filed with the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Meanwhile, Apple seems to be ramping up further towards an AR future. A story from appleinsider.com indicates they are buying a German company called SensoMotoric Instruments. They make hardware and software for eye tracking sensors, something key to augmented reality. The present tech tracks a wearer’s gaze in real time 120 times per second, which reduces input lag…that cuts down motion sickness when viewing. This tech probably won’t get into the iPhone 8, but could be important for the smart glasses Apple is reportedly working on.

What if fresh produce wasn’t trucked in and put in bags in your store, but was grown right there? A German startup called Infarm is working on indoor vertical farming that could grow herbs, lettuce, veggies, and fruit. According to techcrunch.com, this builds on something the Japanese have been doing, but brings it right into the supermarket, and on a modular scale. It could also find its way into restaurants. Infarm is partnering with EDEKA, Germany’s largest supermarket chain, to further develop the idea.

Everyone knows, and most people love, the Oscar Mayer Weinermobile. Now, besides the iconic hot dog cars and motor scooter with sidecar, Oscar Mayer has launched a WeinerDrone. Gizmodo.com says it has enough lifting power to transport a single wrapped hot dog about a mile. No word on if it can hold a fully loaded dog with all the trimmings some people like, or on how it delivers it to you….I’m not wanting to pick up a cold dog that hits the ground, even if it IS wrapped!


More Google Pixel 2 Rumors; Lensless Camera Could Allow Truly Flat Phones; Amazon Working on Website Translation Service

Rumors are now flying about Google’s Pixel 2 phones. 9to5google.com reports that they will be made by LG, ad previously thought, and will lose the headphone jack. There will be 2 models, and the smaller one will be nearly identical to the present model. The bigger one will have smaller bezels around the screen than the current one, and will have a 5.99 inch OLED display. It will also feature a two tone metal and glass back. Apparently, no dual camera on the Pixels, just a single lens with dual flash.

One of the major items that hasn’t enabled really flat smartphones is the lens assembly for the cameras. According to engadget.com, that may be changing. Researchers at Caltech have figured out an ‘optical phased array’ chip that uses math as a substitute for a lens. Using minute time delays to light from different locations, it can change focus without a lens! They claim it can switch from a fisheye to a telephoto lens instantly. The tech is in the initial stages, but they have already demoed a proof of concept, so in a few years, you may have a much thinner smartphone.

This is a little back end and geeky, but Amazon is working on tech that would let developers making apps and websites translate content to multiple languages. Techcrunch.com says it is technology based on what Amazon uses on its own products. Amazon acquired machine translation startup Safaba around two years ago, and they are building on their machine learning model.


Echo Show Will Connect to Security Cams; Vivo-1st Smartphone To Screen-Embed Fingerprint Sensor; Facebook Tests Securing Profile Pics

Amazon says the new Echo Show will connect to Nest, Ring, and other security cams via Alexa. According to geekwire.com, the $230 smart speaker with screen, which ships next week, will also talk to cams from August, Amcrest, EZViz, IC Realtime, Vivint, and Arlo….with just a simple command to Alexa like ‘show me the front door .’

Vivo may beat both Apple and Samsung to the punch, showing the 1st smartphone with a fingerprint sensor embedded in the screen at Mobile World Congress next week in Shanghai. Macrumors.com reports that a video leaked shows the Chinese maker’s phone being unlocked with a fingerprint. Samsung had to put a sensor on the back of the Galaxy S8, but the new Note may have an embedded sensor when it launches in August, and the iPhone 8 reportedly has the feature.

Facebook is testing out a feature aimed at protecting profile pictures from scammers. Techcrunch.com says it is being piloted in India right now. The so-called ‘photo guard’ will prevent other users fro downloading a profile pic or sharing it with others, prevent others from tagging using a profile pic, and prevent others from taking screenshots of another person’s profile pic…although that appears to be an Android only feature. If activated by the user, the optional guard will show a blue border and shield around your profile pic. If it tests out, look for Facebook to roll it out to other countries soon.


Galaxy Note 8 Launch in August; Virgin Mobile Goes iPhone Only; Classic Sega Genesis Games FREE on Mobile

Hot off the press…or web, anyway, Samsung will unveil its Galaxy Note 8 in August. According to cnet.com and Reuters, it will have a curved screen that will be slightly larger than the Galaxy 8’s 6.2 incher, and have 2 rear cameras. Despite the flameout…in a number of cases literally…of the Note 7, there is a substantial hard-core fan base that will snap up the Note 8 models as soon as they hit the market!

Galaxy Note 8 fans, Samsung fans, or any other Android users will have to look elsewhere for a carrier if they were considering Virgin Mobile…they have announced that after June 27th, they will sell nothing but Apple iPhones. Bgr.com reports that Virgin will be kicking off a new wireless plan to go along with the change. A new promotion for the $50 per month Inner Circle plan is out too…buy a new iPhone through Virgin, and get the 1st full year of unlimited service for just a dollar. After that, the monthly fee pops back up to $50. (Check the fine print…like with everyone else’s ‘unlimited’ plan, there are limits!)

The venerable Sega Genesis managed to attract substantial hard core, dedicated fans to its games. If you were one or know one, you’ll be happy to find out that Sega has launched the 1st wave of its Sega Forever collection on mobile…for free! Engadget.com says there are ads, but for $2, you can play ad free. The initial launch includes the 1991 version of Sonic the Hedgehog, Phantasy Star II, Comix Zone, Kid Chameleon, and Altered Beast. All are available today on iTunes and Google Play. For iPhone or iPad, you also get some iMessage sticker packs. Sega will be adding new titles about every two weeks.


iPhone 8 Launch Timing-Supplier Leak; Google’s New AI Powered Jobs Engine; VR & AR Headsets May Hit 100 Million By 2021

There had already been rumors that the iPhone 8 would be actually in peoples’ hands in October, now a supplier may have confirmed that. Bgr.com reports that Finisar, which supplies the high-tech lasers built into iPhone 8 for AR depth mapping and image recognition, will be supplying tens of millions of the lasers to one company later this year. Analysts have put things together, and look for a rollout in September as usual, but the phones actually shipping in October.

Google has launched a jobs search feature right in its search results pages that lets you search for jobs across virtually all major online jobs boards. According to techcrunch.com, that includes LinkedIn, Monster, WayUp, DirectEmployers, CareerBuilder, Facebook, and more. This may save job seekers a lot of hassle, as it eliminates duplicate postings and a lot of irrelevant jobs for you. Just key in something like ‘jobs near me’ or ‘writing jobs,’ and the job search widget will pop up. It’s on both Google’s desktop and mobile versions. You can also see Glassdoor and Indeed ratings.

It may not quite be here yet, but VR and AR really are The Next Big Thing, and a report by IDC picked up by cnet.com says sales of VR and AR headsets will reach about 100 million by 2021. Last year, less than 10 million of the headsets shipped. Right now, ones powered by smartphones, the so-called ‘screenless viewers’ are most popular. IDC thinks AR will fundamentally change industrial jobs in the next 5 years, and that at first, 80 percent of AR headsets will be for commercial use.