Amazon Will Deliver Your ‘Junk’ to Your Trunk; Updated Gmail Bows; iPhone Unlocker GrayKey Hacked; Twitter Revenues Up..& Profit!

Amazon has launched a new service that gives its couriers access to a person’s vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. The service is in partnership with two major automakers — General Motors and Volvo — and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the US starting today. Theverge.com reports that initially, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers. who are also owners of 2015 or later GM and Volvo vehicles, with active OnStar and Volvo on Call accounts. Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery. To access the new delivery service, add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon’s couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, Note that the courier will just send code to the Amazon Cloud, which contacts the OnStar or Volvo Cloud, and that service pops the trunk…Amazon doesn’t get access directly to unlock your car.

The freshened Gmail, with come new features, is live now. According to techcrunch.com, some highlights include an ever present sidebar with built in Google Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, and both snoozing and disappearing email (which Google calls Confidential Mode.) The confidential email can’t be forwarded, copied and pasted, or downloaded and printed…and goes ‘poof’ after a selectable amount of time. Another key feature is offline mode…you can save up to 90 days of email even when you aren’t connected to the web.

GrayKey, the unlocking system in a box that can crack an iPhone in 3 days…has been hacked. 9to5mac.com says part of their code leaked onto the internet, and the leaker has demanded $15,000 from the company…which happens to be the price of an entry level GrayKey device. Turnabout is fair play, it would appear!

Here’s a headline we haven’t seen in a while…well, actually ever! Twitter’s revenue was up 21% year over year first quarter, and the company made a profit! 9to5google.com reports that Twitter beat Wall Street expectations, with a net income of $61 million, and daily active users increased by 10%. Twitter also Tweeted out their updated privacy policy yesterday, and emailed about it early this morning. Video now accounts for more than half Twitter’s ad revenue.

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Next Samsung Phone Further into Phablet Range; Alphabet Coins Money in Q1 & Adds Employees; iPhone X Users Love Everything-But One; 27 Pages of Facebook No-Nos

It looks like Samsung’s successor to the Galaxy S9 will be going big…bigger than the LCD third iPhone Apple plans for this fall. According to the dailymail.com, it will sport a bigger 6.3 inch super AMOLED screen (the bigger Apple phone is slated to be 6.1 inch, and LED…while the iPhone X successor will be 5.8 inch.) The present Galaxy S9 has a 6.2 inch screen. Also expect a 12 MP camera which will move to the left of the handset’s back like iPhone, faster processor, and that 6.3 inch screen should go edge to edge…but WON’T be curved, according to rumors!

Google parent Alphabet blew past expectations, with first quarter revenues of over 31 billion…that’s up a whopping 26% from first quarter last year. 9to5google.com says the company also hired on another 5,000 employees, and now exceeds 85,000. This is in great part a one time event, as Google brought on board about 2000 engineers in Taiwan from smartphone maker HTC. Google has been hiring 2-3000 employees per quarter since 2017, though.

Early adapters of the iPhone X in the US adore their phones…Creative Strategies found that it has a 97% satisfaction rate. There’s only one thing they don’t like, according to macrumors.com…Siri. The miserably executed voice assistant just had a 20% satisfaction rate! Maybe the AI wizard Apple wooed from Google can fix the mess that is Siri. Just yesterday, a friend was texting me…she dictates to Siri. Most of the garbled things, I was able to figure out from the context, but one paragraph was absolute gibberish! The friend immediately clarified…laboriously with the virtual keyboard. Come on, Apple…fix this mess!

It’s always been kind of like black magic, trying to figure out what facebook won’t allow to be posted…but now it’s clearer. Bgr.com reports that the social network has published 27…count ‘em…pages of Community Standards that have been used in their internal moderation policies. Want to be edgy, or wonder why your hate speech or bullying wouldn’t post…check out the document. Facebook has also unveiled an appeals process. Facebook claims the appeal reviews are done by an actual person, and usually within 24 hours.


Amazon Working On 1st Home Robot; iPhone Price Rumor; Streaming Music Growth Exploding; Google And (Lots of) Your Data

It was bound to happen, and of course Amazon is involved. Theverge.com reports that Amazon is working on a robot for homes…code named ‘Vesta.’ The development is happening in Lab126, the Amazon ‘Skunk Works’ that cranked out the Kindle, Fire Phone, and Echo. Apparently, the device is something of a ‘mobile Alexa,’ that would follow you around the house, awaiting your commands. It could be out for the public…at least in beta…by next year!

There’s been talk for months about Apple bringing out 3 phones this fall….successors to the iPhone X and X Plus with OLED screens (and a budget-busting price), and a less expensive 6.1 inch LED screen phone. According to businessinsider.com, KGI Securities…probably the most reliable leaker about things Apple on the planet…says it could be priced starting at $550! But wait….there’s more! This more reasonably priced iPhone could also have a $650 version with TWO sim cards for 2 different numbers! This is not only a plus for travelers or for having both a home and business number, but it’s a really big deal inAsia, where people like to be able to easily switch between carriers and data plans. If these rumors pan out, KGI says the phone could account for 65-75% of iPhone sales next year.

The death of the recorded music business has apparently been ‘highly exaggerated!’ After dropping for the last 10 years, the music biz is being buoyed by…of all things…streaming music. 9to5mac.com says streaming music now makes up some 43% of total revenues, but it grew a full 39% last year! On top of that, the combined revenue of indie artists was nearly as big as that for Universal Music, the biggest label. Apple Music now boasts 40 million subscribers, and some analysts think it may grow another 40% a year for the next 3 years!

Facebook has been getting pounded for the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the data of millions. Meanwhile…amazingly under the radar….Google rolls merrily along, Hoovering up even more of your data! Bgr.com is reporting that Google is able to track you even better than Facebook can, and has vast information on people…especially people who use Google services like gmail. A report finds that Google collects enough data on some users to fill a stack of pages 8 feet high every two weeks! The European Union is cracking down on such data grabs, and Google is working to change their policies to comply…but be aware that even if you don’t use their services and opt out of ad targeting, Google still has plenty of info on you! They know what you want and where you go, and even what you read. Again…even if you don’t use anything but the web, and no services but Google search, they have piles of info about you!


iPhone X Made Bank in 4th Quarter; New iPhone SE Soon; Facebook’s EU Privacy Compliance; Company Using Facebook for Massive Facial Recognition Database

There has been so much coverage about what a big flop the iPhone X is…now, comes word that the flagship handset brought in 35% of total worldwide iPhone profits in the 4th quarter….and really only 2 months of that quarter! Macrumors.com reports that Counterpoint Research crunched the numbers, and also found that the handset generated five times the profit of over 600 Android OEMs that quarter! For comparison at Apple, the iPhone 8 brought in 19.1% of the profits, and the iPhone 8 Plus 15.2%.

The diminutive (by today’s standards) and dated iPhone SE only amounted to .9% of Apple’s iPhone profits in the 4th quarter last year, and now it looks like it will be getting a long-overdue refresh. According to bgr.com, Apple has registered a number of new model numbers for iPhones that will run iOS 11 with the EU and with Russia, which require them in advance. The smaller and less pricey iPhone may be out in May, or around WWDC in June. It will have greatly improved internals, but one rumor has it staying the same on the outside, with another indicating a brand new design. At any rate, we will know in a matter of weeks.

The EU’s new privacy regs go into place next month, and Facebook has released some details about how they will comply. 9to5google.com says the US will get a watered down version, as had been previously rumored. The GDPR….General Data Protection Regulation compliance makes Facebook ask users specifically to agree to a number of things, and is not allowed to present pre-selected defaults. Three key things they must ask are to chose whether or not you want them to use data from partners to show you ads, if you want Facebook to continue to let them use info you’ve shared about political, religious, or relationship info (hint: they will still have the data!), and lastly if you will allow them to use face recognition tech (like for tagging in photos.) These are such mild requirements, don’t expect much change in the ‘watered down’ US version!

If you thought the Cambridge Analytica scandal was creepy, you’ll love this…a surveillance company founded by former Israeli intelligence officers called Terrogence has been using social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube to build a giant facial-recognition database. Mashable.com reports they’ve been at this for five years! The database is part of their facial recognition service called Face-Int. Terrogence, and its parent company Verint supply intelligence tech to the US government including the NSA and the Navy. They would not disclose whether or not the US government utilizes their face database.


SpaceX Will Build BFR in L.A.; Netflix Adds Yet More Subscribers; Big Walmart Web Makeover; If Facebook Went Subscription

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti let the cat out of the bag during a speech yesterday…and it’s a BIG cat! SpaceX will build their BFR- Big Falcon Rocket at the Port of L.A. According to arstechnica.com, SpaceX has leased an 18 acre site at Berth 240 at the port. SpaceX is apparently already moving hardware to temporary facilities, but will build a state of the art facility. The waterside site allows for easy shipping to test sites and launch pads. Preliminary tests could start in 2019. SpaceX has said the BFR might be used for colonizing Mars.

Netflix added over 7 million subscribers in the 1st quarter, and projects picking up another 6.35 million this quarter. Recode.net reports that Netflix is now up to 1245 million subscribers globally. This puts Netflix at the fastest growth rate since they went into streaming.

Walmart has done a major makeover to its website, in hopes that a cleaner, more modern walmart.com will better compete with Amazon. Reuters.com says the company has been investing heavily in its e-commerce business, including trying to leverage its 4700 brick and mortar stores to help fuel the web growth. Walmart has been letting pick up and return online orders in stores, and last month, announced that it was adding grocery delivery that would reach more than 40% of American households. Look for the big website update to be fully in place in a couple weeks. The company announced that its online sales had increased 23% last quarter, doing a bit over 11 billion. That’s just a trickle of sales compared to the nearly 319 billion the company does overall, though.

Although Mark Zuckerberg again insisted during recent Congressional hearings that Facebook would always remain free to everyone, so those who can’t afford a fee could use it, they have been considering an ad-free subscription. Techcrunch.com reports that based on ad earnings in the US and Canada, they would have to charge $7 per month. Of course, ads aren’t the only way they make money. Some users are more well heeled, and might buy nicer products and services, so they are worth more to advertisers. They also might spend more time on the platform….but would they pony up as much as $11 to $14 a month, like a higher end subscription to Netflix or Hulu? If so, would they be able to opt out of not only ads, but having their data sold off to third parties? Nothing is rumored as happening yet, but we could be seeing both a free tier and paid tier Facebook, and even multiple subscription prices at some point. Will that help ‘save’ Facebook from the Cambridge Analytica fallout? Stay tuned.


Android Apps Track Kids; Making Facebook Friends Portable; Amazon’s Choice Secrets; Mini Sega Genesis Coming

In the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica flap, more people are becoming re-sensitized to their privacy…or lack of it. Bgr.com is pointing out that Google does a much better job of protecting privacy, but…and there’s always a but…with their third party apps, not so much. Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute have discovered thousands of Android apps that track young kids. In fact, the majority of 5855 of the most popular children’s apps were guilty of tracking in some manner. 19% of them collect personally identifiable information, while 66% transmit non-resettable persistent identifiers that negate the privacy preserving properties of the advertising ID. So…those thousands of apps are free, except for the data they steal to serve targeted ads to your kids. What a deal! ‘OK, Google! Fix this!’

Some people are leaving Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica mess…I count 31 that have bailed or deactivated on my friends list. For me, the horse got out of the barn a long time ago, so it seems a bit late to leave when you’re privacy has been violated continuously for 8 or 10 years. TechCrunch.com notes that you can download your facebook info, including your friends list…but it’s just a text list…you can’t easily take it to a competing platform. It’s just not going to work having to type them all in, or letting another platform use your email list and keep sending out pestering email to your friends. If people want the government to regulate Facebook as a utility, being able to export your friends list in a useable form to port them to another platform would be a great start. Meanwhile, we’ve speculated that somewhere, some brilliant geeks are working on programming to do it whether Facebook likes it or not. Whatever platform gets that kind of feature first will have a hell of a leg up in giving Facebook some real competition.

What kind of magic formula does Amazon use to give a product the Amazon’s Choice designation? No one has had a clue…until now. Geekwire.com reports that the online giant has started placing a ‘why we like this product’ link next to the Amazon’s Choice logo. If you click it, it will give you 3 specific reasons Amazon has awarded the Choice designator to that particular product. Some of the criteria seem heavily skewed towards highly rated, but also seen have been low return rate and popularity in Amazon search results. At least it’s a peek behind the curtain. So far, all the factors seem to be ones that lend themselves to a high degree of automation..hey, it IS Amazon!

Having purchased probably every system Sega ever made for a certain family member (which paid off in a way…he now works for a game company), I was interested to see that Sega is probably going to bring out a Sega MegaDrive Mini later this year. Cnet.com says the little box has just rolled out in Japan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the system (MegaDrive was the original name for the system.) Now, a number of reports are surfacing saying the diminutive Genesis will e hitting the US later this year. It appears that Sega is presently asking users to let them know what classic games they want pre-loaded onto the system. Apparently the system will feature both Japanese and English voiceovers, and choice of classic or modern controls.


Facebook ‘Shadow Profiles’; Snapchat Tries V. 2.0 Spectacles; Gmail Web Redesign

Of all the deliberately boring and evasive answers Mark Zuckerberg gave at the congressional hearings this week, one of the most interesting was to a question by New Mexico Representative Ben Lujan, who asked about ‘shadow profiles.’ The term refers to data Facebook collects about non users, and other info the company has but doesn’t admit to to users. TechCrunch.com reports that Zuckerberg said the company collects info on people who haven’t signed up for security purposes to try to prevent data scraping and the like, but balked at calling them shadow profiles. He also played dumb about how many data points FB has on each user. Zuck did admit that non users can’t really opt out of data collection the company does to prevent scraping info of others…and the Congressman pointed out that those are folks who have never signed any sort of consent or privacy agreement. Privacy? They’ve got your stinkin’ privacy!

Snapchat’s first swing at Spectacles was a 40 million dollar whiff. Now, the company is teeing up for another shot at the concept. According to 9to5mac.com, they have filed with the FCC for second generation ones. In the filing, they are identified as a
‘wearable video camera,’ and model ‘002.’ No drawings were included, but they will come with 802.11ac WiFi and will work over both the 2.4 and 5 gig bands. They do apparently have Made for iPhone branding and mention support for iPhone X as well as other earlier devices. There may be a higher end version running around $300 and built of nicer materials like aluminum. So far, nothing as far as when we might actually see version 2.0 of Spectacles.

It’s been a year since Google noted that a revamp was coming to Gmail. It looks like the redo is coming in the form of an early access program in the next few weeks. We received an email blast that came out to G Suite administrators yesterday, with the promise of a new design for the Gmail web interface, and some new features including Calendar within Gmail and Smart Reply. There will also be a snooze feature which will hide emails for a selected amount of time. Perhaps the coolest upcoming feature is offline support. Google says we can expect native offline support by July. (This will replace the Gmail Offline Chrome app.) Many popular Chrome extensions will continue to work on the new Gmail experience, however.