Google Home Max Out; Big Apple Watch Series 3 Sales Uptick Coming; Deactivated Keylogger in Some HP Laptops

Google Home Max is rolling out to stores….it should be available in limited numbers today in Best Buy and Verizon stores, according to arstechnica.com. The $399 Home Has has dual 4.5 inch woofers and custom tweeters, and Google says it’s 20 times more powerful than the original Home. You can set it up either horizontally or vertically, and it has an aux input jack. Google’s ‘smart sound’ measures the room and it adjusts itself sonically to fit. With the delay of Apples HomePod, this gives Google a head start now in the premium home smart speaker market.

Number crunchers scouring supply lines are predicting that the Apple Watch Series 3, which was up in record territory for a wearable in November, will grow by 20% in 2018. 9to5mac.com reports that the Series 3 will hit 25 to 35 million units sold next year. The addition of health tracking, Gym Kit, Apple Pay Cash, and of course LTE connectivity seem to have been the magic combination that are propelling Watch sales now.

It’s bad enough that the FCC may be voting to allow paid fast lanes on the internet this week. Now, here’s a chilling nugget: Some HP laptops have a deactivated key logger on them. Techcrunch.com says the software has been found on over 460 HP laptop models. It’s deactivated by default, but could be turned on by any hacker getting physical access to the laptop. Upon raising the issue to HP, they have responded that it is a debug trace, that that there’s a software update out to remove it. Here’s a link to download the update: https://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c05827409

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LG May Supply OLED Screens for iPhone X; Instagram Tests Standalone Messaging App; PS4 Sales Pass Big Milestone

LG had already been rumored to be working on a deal to supply OLED screens to Apple for the iPhone X. Its been expected that something would work out for the next generation by September 2018, but now it could happen before that. 9to5mac.com reports that while Samsung has been the exclusive supplier to Apple for OLED screens, both LG and Chinese maker BOE have been trying to get in as suppliers. Apple earlier invested almost 14 billion in LG’s OLED production, with 2/3’s of it earmarked for iPhone screens.

Facebook is going full speed ahead in standalone messaging apps. Earlier this week, they announced Messenger Kids, and now it’s out that they are testing a standalone Instagram app for direct messaging. TechCrunch.com says right now the app is only available in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, and Israel. Besides sharing messages and stories (and of course pictures), there are exclusive filters. It may be out to everyone next year.

Sony has announced the Playstation 4 sales have crossed the 70 million mark, a notable milestone, because the PS3 sold just over 80 million over its lifespan, and the PS4 has gotten to this point in 4 years. According to theverge.com, best estimates for the Xbox One sales are 20 million. Another notable mark…Playstation VR, the virtual reality version has passed 2 million sold!


Every iPhone Gets ‘the Notch’ Next Year; Google Files Go! is Live; Tesla Behind Global Battery Shortage?

Latest word is that Apple will again have 3 iPhones next year. One will be a freshened iPhone X, another a super-sized iPhone X with OLED display, and a third phone…which will have an LCD display, but still sport ‘the notch’ at the top. Bgr.com reports that Apple may offer up to 512 gigs of storage, and the iPhone X Plus (or whatever it will be called) will have TWO SIM card slots. The updated X will still be a 5.8 inch screen, and the Plus 6.5”. The LCD screen model will run somewhere between $650 and $900, and will have the TrueDepth camera for 3D facial recognition, but it won’t have 3D Touch and will have a single lens camera on the back. Apparently, 3D sensing abilities on the rear camera won’t make it into next year’s iPhones.

Google Files Go! is out of beta and available if you are running Android 5.0 or higher, and also with Oreo 8.1 (Go Edition.) According to engadget.com, the Go Edition runs in a slimmed down version on less powerful Android phones. Files Go! gives direct access to downloads, files, apps, pix, video and audio, and will be handy for freeing up space. You can either offload to an SD card or to the cloud. Files Go! lets you backup to Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and other apps. Files Go! uses Bluetooth for device discovery, and it allows file sharing across devices over WiFi, which is super handy.

There’s apparently a worldwide shortage of cylindrical batteries caused by Tesla scooping them up for the Gigafactory in order to ramp up car production. Engadget.com says Panasonic has given most of its Japanese supply to Tesla to jump start production, leaving everyone else needing the power packs to scrap for whatever Samsung, LG, and Murata (previously Sony) can spare…which is not much. IT, electric vehicle, and home appliance companies may be scrambling to cover the shortages through the 1st half of 2018.


Apple Supplier Cuts Deal to Make Lenses for AR Glasses; Self-Driving Nissan Leaf Taxi Test; Amazon Handmade in Hand in 2 Hours

It’s an open secret that Apple has been working on AR smart glasses. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that Apple supplier Quanta has inked a deal to start making lenses for augmented reality smart glasses. This deal isn’t apparently specific to Apple, but it sure opens the door for Cupertino to bring such a wearable to market. Last year, Quanta poured $45 million into Lumus, which makes AR lenses, and they now have apparently struck a licensing agreement that will make AR glasses much more affordable. Quanta has indicated that full AR headsets could be priced at less than the cost of a high end cell phone, or under $1000. Quanta says an AR product may be out in 2019, but maybe not from Apple, which is shooting for 2020.

Nissan has fired up 2018 Leaf production in the US, with the promise of battery packs coming that will get drivers 150 miles between charges…and down the road 225 miles. Now, according to techcrunch.com, the company is working with Japanese software maker DeNA to test an autonomous ride-hailing service. They expect to start testing the self-driving cabs in Japan this March. The interesting wrinkle about Nissan’s project is not just getting from point A to point B…you can apparently put in a general written inquiry such as wanting a specific kind of food, and the car will find and take you to a restaurant that serves it!

Stepping things up a notch for people using Amazon Handmade so they can better compete with Etsy, Amazon will start offering Prime Now 2 hour delivery for handmade artisan products. According to geekwire.com, customers in select Prime Now cities will be able to buy handmade items between now and Christmas Eve for the 2 hour delivery. The cities include: Austin, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Portland, Raleigh, San Diego, San Francisco Bay Area and Seattle.


Apple Plans Cheaper 9.7 Inch iPad; Samsung Patents Palm-Reading Phone; Google Home Bug; Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ Launches

This Spring, Apple rolled out a $329 9.7 inch iPad, and got a nice bump in sales. Now, it looks like they are working on hitting a lower price point yet…around $260. 9to5mac.com says it’s not clear if it will replace the $329 tablet or be an additional model, and what, if any, downgrade to performance there might be. The low line model would be aimed at industrial enterprise users and ‘price-sensitive’ consumers, i.e. cheapskates.

Samsung has been working on a foldable smartphone for some time, and Apple has copied them for once, patenting such a phone. Both companies may have them out in a couple years. Now, engadget.com reports that Samsung has patented a phone that reads your palm. No, it’s not going to be called ‘the Medium’ as far as we know…and this kind of palm reader would be for biometric security! The function is primarily one that uses the lines in your hand and provides hints based on them for passwords…although it could be an additional biometric sign in should Samsung decide to go that route.

Last week was terrible for Apple security, with a couple major bugs…one of which they patched within a day, since it enabled someone with physical access to get root control of your computer. Google has had bug issues too, particularly with the new Pixel 2 series. Add to that a new bug in the Google Home Mini. According to bgr.com, a reviewer found one during testing that made the Home record virtually everything he said, and another that made the thing reboot when you turn the volume up too loud! It might be a great idea for these big firms to hit pause, and bulk up their quality control a bit, even if it means not getting software updates out quite so quickly!!

Facebook has dropped ‘Messenger Kids,’ and app available on iOS that lets kids under 13 chat with safety in mind. Techcrunch.com says parents can download the app onto the kid’s tablet or phone and create a profile for them, then approve friends and family they can text and video chat with using the app and the main Messenger App. Tweens don’t get a Facebook account and don’t have to provide a phone number. Facebook says it’s been working closely with the FTC on the app, and it has detection filters to block sharing nudity, sexual content, and violence. Paso, they have put in a dedicated support team for the youth app. The app has plenty of stickers and reality masks to keep them engaged. An Android version will be released soon, according to Facebook.