Top Pixels Not Selling; Samsung Wrap Around Phone Display; Foxconn MicroLED Screens for iPhones; Amazon In Car Delivery Adds Ford-Lincoln Cars

A big reason Google seems to be working on its mid-priced Pixel phones…the top line models aren’t really moving…even with deep discounts. Cnet.com reports that the Pixel 3 at $799 has been trimmed to $599, and the 3XL at $899 backed off to $699, but they are still soft sellers. The sluggish sales are through Verizon, Google’s Fi, and even include unlocked versions. Earlier in April, Google even offered a 50% discount on the Pixel 3 if bought on Google Fi. The cheaper line of Pixel 3a phones will run a slower Snapdragon processor, start at 32GB of storage instead of 64, and be plastic instead of glass. Google is hoping the less pricey handsets coming out as a mid-range line will jump start Pixel business.

The Galaxy Fold is on hold with screen problems, but that hasn’t slowed Samsung down. According to bgr.com, a patent just granted to the company indicates they may be working on a ‘wrap around’ display for a smartphone. The front side would have the main screen, the back one (nearly as large) would be the secondary, and on the edge would be a small screen for notifications. A big benefit of the secondary screen would be allowing removal of the front selfie camera, and increasing the size of the front screen. To shoot a selfie, you would just flip the phone to the other side with the camera, frame yourself and shoot! Apparently, a couple of Chinese phone makers have already done this. Another interesting feature: you could activate a screen by hovering your hand over it…or hovering a stylus. No word on when the 3 screen phone might become reality.

It’s been reported for years…even before Apple caved and put OLED screens into iPhones….that the company eventually wanted to go to MicroLED. Now, macrumors.com says Foxconn is aggressively investing in that tech. MicroLED has many of the advantages OLED has over LCD displays, including improved color accuracy, contrast ratio, faster response times, true blacks, and self-lit pixels. The MicroLED panels are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than OLED, though. They also have a longer life span than the OLED panels, and should be resistant to burn-in issues. Apple has been interested in MicroLED since 2014, now it looks like they could be moving to them in the next year or two. Taiwan Semiconductor has also been working on the tech for Apple.

Amazon is adding Ford and Lincoln cars to those that will allow customers to have packages delivered to their trunks…joining General Motors and Volvo. Theverge.com reports that initially, the service is limited to 50 US cities, and to vehicles that connect to Ford’s connected cloud service. It will only be offered to Prime customers, and the package size is limited to under 50 lbs, no bigger than 26×21/16, and can’t require a signature. Also, the item or items can’t be valued at over $1300 or come from a third party seller. If you are game, you need both Amazon Key and a FordPass, and will have to add your car to the Amazon Key app. If you are one of those who never remotely considered Amazon in-home delivery (or anyone else’s in-home delivery), you will probably want to take a pass on this service.


iPhone 11 Max Update; Preorders for Powerbeats Pro Open Friday; Spotify Hits 100 Million Users 1st Quarter; United Covers Un-ordered Seatback Webcams

Any number of renderings and leaks have shown the new top-line iPhone 11 and 11 Max with a large, square bump for the 3 cams, etc. Now, bgr.com reports there’s a new leak that makes it appear much more elegant. This leak is courtesy of OnLeaks, and shows a one piece, frosted glass back, with the bump sticking up much less…and in fact integrated into the back, as opposed to something that protrudes through a hole cut in the glass. As previously leaked, this source also says the phones will be a bit thicker and have a bigger battery. I can’t think any Apple users will knock a little thicker phone if it comes with a bigger, longer lasting battery!

In other Apple news, Powerbeats Pro earbuds will go on preorder this Friday. According to macrumors.com, the in-store availability will follow on May 10th. The Powerbeats Pro models are pretty much AirPods, albeit with a sportier look, and will come with the H1 chip for Hands free Siri. Apple claims up to 9 hours listening per charge, and 24 hours total after trips to the charging case for a top off. The Fast Fuel feature gets you 1.5 hours of play time with a 5 minute charge. They’ll set you back $249.95…compared to $159 and $199 for the 2nd gen AirPods and $199.95 for the Powerbeats 3 Wireless.

Spotify continues to burn through cash, still not making money, but did hit 100 million users in the 1st Quarter. Techcrunch.com says that’s up 32% from a year ago. Spotify did rake in $1.68 billion in revenue, beating estimates of $1.64 billion…but still lost money….although the loss is less than before.

United Airlines has taken action concerning the webcams in their seat back entertainment screens. The in-flight entertainment screens United got from the aviation equipment division of Panasonic were basically an enterprise grade tablet…and came with a built-in web cam. Theverge.com reports that the tablets had the cams by default…they aren’t in use, but Panasonic claimed they could be used in the future for seat to seat video calling and multiplayer gaming. Passengers had noticed the cams, including a security researcher, and complained that they cams were not disclosed, and that passengers had no idea if they were on or not., Now, united has covered the cams with physical pieces of plastic and stickers. Apparently, American and Delta have done the same. Fly Big Brother Air…he’ll keep an eye on things….and YOU!


Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on Pre-Order; NSA Says Phone Surveillance Unworkable; Facebook’s $3-5 Billion Fine; Microsoft Beats Street-Thanks, Cloud

With the terrible issues with their model F folding screen phablet, Samsung needed some good news. The Galaxy S10 5G is now open for pre-orders at Verizon. According to engadget.com, the 256 Gig base model starts at a whopping $1300, and it’s $1400 for 512 Gigs. Kind of makes the $999 iPhone sound like a quaint bargain. You can opt for $54.16 or $58.33 a month for 24 months on Verizon Device Payment plans to ease the pain. Also, if you act quickly, you can pick up a free set of Galaxy Buds and a Samsung Wireless Charging Battery Pack. Verizon now has 5G AREAS in Chicago and Minneapolis, and will add 20 more cities this year.

The NSA has reportedly told the White House that their phone surveillance program is no longer worth the effort. 9to5mac.com reports that legislation is needed to continue the program, and the NSA has instead recommended dropping it…saying the logistical and legal burdens outweigh the intelligence benefits. The secret spy agency has been doing it since at lest 2006, and it became known in 2013 when Ed Snowden leaked classified documents.

Facebook announced total 1st quarter revenue of $!5.1 billion, but warned that it could face between $3-5 billion in fines but the FTC over its data sharing practices. Engadget.com says the revenue was up 26%, and that such a fine won’t put too much of a dent in their revenue…although it drops the overall net profit by 51% year to year. The fines flow from the Cambridge Analytica deal in the runup to the 2016 election.

Microsoft beat the Street’s expectations, but it wasn’t on the back of Windows 10, Office, or Xbox. Redmond reported $30.6 billion in revenue, mainly on growth of their cloud computing operations. Geekwire.com also notes that the Surface division was also up nicely, 21% first quarter, after a strong holiday season.


Amazon Reviewers Got Access to Alexa Location Data; Ford Pumps $500 Million into Rivian EVs; San Francisco May Be First City to Ban Facial Recognition; Apple Repairs MacBook Keyboards in Stores Now

More and more people keep buying smart speakers, and at the same time, more keeps coming out about how little protection is available for our personal data collected by them. Now, 9to5google.com reports that Amazon reviewers had access to Alexa location data and even audio clips! The reviewers are an internal team which are working on improving the Alexa product. Although Amazon claims that the geolocation data can’t really identify users, plugging it into Google Maps spits out the exact location in seconds. Yep, more evidence that your private data isn’t yours at all. You’re not going to give up your Alexa device over it either, are you?

Ford has dropped a cool half-billion dollars into Rivian, and intends to build a vehicle on Rivian’s EV platform. According to techcrunch.com, this comes a couple months after a $700 million investment led by Amazon. The most likely vehicles Ford is considering are and SUV and a 5 passenger pickup, as those mirror what Rivian announced last year for its EV platform. Ford already has several EVs in production and coming, including an electric model of its top selling F-150 pickup.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a ban on facial recognition tech. Engadget.com says the ordinance would impose strict limits on what forms of biometric data can be collected by various departments, how and when it’s used, and more. Oakland and Santa Clara already have such laws, but the SF one would flat-out ban the use of facial recognition tech by local government….in fact, it would also nix cell tower spoofers like the Stingray, automated license plate readers (although CalTrans uses these on the Bay Bridge, as does the Golden Gate), Shotspotter, surveillance cameras, RFID, scanners, and more, Stay tuned…

Apple has had issues with its so-called ‘butterfly’ keyboards for some time now. The third generation of the keyboards, which came out in the 2018 MacBook and MacBook Pro models seems to be doing ok, and they are not included in the repair program. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple has started an in-store repair program with one day turnaround. This will be much quicker, and presumably less hassle than shipping them to repair centers.
Cupertino says they have already trained up staff and shipped parts to Apple stores.


Google Drone-FAA Clearance; Tesla Unveils ‘Robotaxi’; Apple May Add USB Mouse to iPad Pro for Accessibility; Kohl’s Will Accept Amazon Returns in All Stores

Alphabet’s Google X Project Wing delivery drones have gotten FAA approval as an airline. Bloomberg.com reports that this gives them the legal authority to start dropping products to actual customers. Google plans to begin routine deliveries of small consumer items in a couple of rural communities in Virginia in the next few months. The Wing unit is just qualified as a small airline, should would have to get further certification if they ever want to operate over longer ranges…which seems unlikely at this point for battery powered drones. The Wing aircraft is a hybrid between a helicopter and a plane, so it can vertically take off and land, but flies horizontally at a higher speed…and it can lower items into people’s yards via tether while hovering.

Elon Musk claims there will be a million ‘Robotaxi’ Teslas on the roads as soon as next year. According to electrek.co, the CEO also claims they have developed the ‘best chip in the world’ to power the autonomous fleet. Those chips started going into Model 3s days ago, and have been installed in Model S and Model X Teslas for a couple months now. Although Google claims vastly more miles in their autonomous fleet, Musk points out that Tesla has the data from every Tesla on the road, which trumps that. Musk claims that Tesla owners will be able to make their cars available for Uber-type use, but with no driver…and will be able to make around $200,000 with their Tesla over the life of a, say, $50,000 car.

Apple could be looking at adding USB mouse support as an accessibility feature. Macrumors.com says since it has a USB-C port, this could open up use of the tablet to people with physical impairments like motor impairments. Apple has had their Assistive Touch feature which works with joysticks or trackballs, but the mouse would eliminate the need for specialized hardware or adapters to use the iOS tablet. The earliest the feature might make it into the wild will be iOS 13, which will be rolled out in June at WWDC…but it could be delayed.

It may seem like strange bedfellows, but Kohl’s will begin taking Amazon returns in all of its 1150 stores starting in July. According to geekwire.com, the retailers started a pilot program with 10 stores in 2017, and jumped that to 100 last year. Kohl’s should get more traffic to its brick and mortar locations in the deal, and Amazon picks up the easier return option without having to fork out cash for more real estate. You can return using Amazon lockers, of course, but the Kohl’s angle may particularly appeal to women shoppers…and Kohl’s has no doubt considered seeing its impulse purchases go up via the deal.


Galaxy Fold Event Delayed; Tesla Starts Selling Model 3 From Inventory; SiriusxM ‘Essential’ Plan for Smart Speakers; Apple- $30 Million a Month with AWS

Samsung has postponed their Galaxy Fold media events in China, after a number of units provided to the media for review have failed or become broken in days. According to reuters.com, Samsung says there are ‘a few’ reports of damage to displays on the folding, nearly $2000 phablet. There are worries about another fiasco like the Galaxy Note 7 of a few years ago which had problems with battery fires and had to be pulled from the market. So far, Samsung has not said anything about changing the US release date.

Tesla is going after more impulse buyers for its Model 3. After a slowdown in deliveries on the heels of a record quarter, they have begun selling over the website from inventory. Engadget.com reports that buyers can pick a car from inventory and get delivery in hours or days instead of weeks or months. Some of the inventory Model 3s come from floor models or test drive models, so are, in effect, demonstrators.

SiriusXM has announced a new plan called SiriusXM Essential that is aimed at listening at home through smart speakers and on mobile devices, and not cars. Techcrunch.com says the plan is $8 a month, compared to the $15.99 and up prices they list for in-car services. The service can work over Alexa powered devices, as well as Apple TV, Roku, Sonos, Xbox, the Sony PlayStation and phones, tablets, and desktops too. An introductory plan is available right now at $1 for the 1st 3 months, before going to the regular $8 fee.

Apple is dropping a princely $30 million a month with Amazon Web Services to support the likes of iCloud. CNBC.com notes that of late, Apple has been trying to put more and more emphasis on services, to take pressure off selling more iPhones all the time. Some of the AWS space supports the iOS App Store, Apple Pay, and as mentioned above, iCloud, in addition to the new subscription services for news, magazines, and video. Apple is planning on dropping $10 billion on it’s own data centers in the US the next 5 years. Right now, in addition to AWS, they also use Google, and have relied on Microsoft cloud services in the past.


Apple & Qualcomm Settle; Apple Looking at Tile-Type Locator; Ubisoft Donates Cash & Data for Notre Dame; Netflix Grows Again

There’s an old legal expression about settling a case on the courthouse steps, but yesterday, Apple and Qualcomm settled suddenly after the jury was seated and Apple had delivered its opening argument in the dispute. 9to5mac.com says they also agreed to a 6 year deal for chops with a possible 2 year extension, and Apple and its suppliers have paid the some $7 billion they had withheld in royalty payments…and likely more. Apple had complained that Qualcomm was ‘double-dipping,’ charging them $16.1 billion for chips from 2010 to 2016, while also hitting them for $7.23 billion in licensing fees. While we don’t really know what caused the quick settlement after trial had started, a good guess offered by a number of analysts is that after Apple ‘lost confidence’ in Intel’s ability to furnish 5G modems in time for the 2020 iPhones, Apple decided to go ahead and make nice with Qualcomm to ensure that their phones were ready for 5G next year.

In a bit less nerdy Apple news (well, maybe not!), Apple is apparently working on something like the Tile…that you could attach too items to track the location. In addition, engadget.com reports that they are planning to merge Find My Friends with Find My iPhone. A feature may be that you could geofence items, and it they got too far away, it would alert you to the location…this might be handy for any number of things, from AirPods to your wallet or keys! The merged ‘Find’ app apparently would have a feature called Find Network, which will let you track your devices even if not connected to WiFi or a mobile network.

At last check, French billionaires and businesses had given some $600 million towards the rebuilding of Notre Dame. Now, comes video game maker Ubisoft, which based a lot of Assassin’s Creed Unity in that structure. According to businessinsider.com, Ubisoft will not only donate 500,000 Euros to the effort, but will offer their detailed data about the cathedral amassed over 2 years for use in the game.

Even with the specter of Disney’s upcoming streaming service at a lower rate, Netflix continued to grow in 1st quarter of 2019. Techcrunch.com says they tacked on 9.6 million subscribers and raked in revenue of $4.5 billion. The growth is 16% year over year, and was significantly more than analysts had predicted. Netflix now claims 148.9 million paid streaming customers. It will be interesting to see if the price hikes in the US slow growth or cause cancellations next quarter.