Apple Squeaks Out Good Quarter on Subscriptions; Samsung Takes Big Hit With Memory Sales Down; Verizon Rolls Out 5G to 4 More Cities; China May Beat Emissions PledgePosted: July 31, 2019
Apple put up a record profit for their 3rd quarter with $10 billion on $53.8 billion in revenue. According to macrumors.com, they barely beat last year’s quarter at $53.3 billion. iPhone sales were softer, but Apple saw a nice increase in its services revenue…up 16% for the quarter. For the first time in years, the iPhone amounted to less than half Apple’s revenue. Another bright spot was Mac sales, which were up. With a new Mac Pro that is configurable again, and new MacBook Pro and MacBook models, Apple expects to see that trend continue. Also, in the services area, the Apple credit card will be out in a couple weeks, and the company expects to see its streaming TV business to add to their services revenue. Apple is looking to hit revenue of between $61 and $64 billion in their 4th quarter.
Samsung profits in the second quarter took a huge 50% drop, primarily due to lesser memory demand, and slower sales of its flagship smartphones. Zdnet.com reports that Samsung said operating profit was 6.6 trillion won, a drop of 56% from a year ago. The memory business remained the biggest segment of their tech business. Their mobile business was also down at 1.56 trillion won…it was 2.67 trillion last year. Samsung said sales had dropped on their high end Galaxy models, and competition in the medium and cheap phone segments ate into profits. With new Galaxy models in the mix, they expect things to pick up through the holidays.
Verizon is full speed ahead on rolling out 5G. Engadget.com says the carrier has added service in Atlanta, Detroit, Indianapolis, and Washington, DC. As with earlier cities, the 5G service is only available in limited areas, typically around public spaces like stadiums, parks and college campuses. In the nation’s capitol, coverage areas include landmarks such as the White House, George Washington University, the National Mall and Ronald Reagan National Airport. Verizon already had 5G in select areas of Chicago, Minneapolis/Saint Paul, Denver, and Providence.
Like a little positive news, you say? With their huge population and rapid economic development the last 20 years, China has become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gasses (although on a per capita basis, theirs are half of those of the US). According to arstechnica.com, China pledged in the 2015 Paris agreement to have their emissions peak and stabilize before the end of the agreement’s window in 2030. Now, a study indicates that they will peak in the early 2020’s. Chinese researchers say that there is still more the country can do to beat the numbers even more. China has been building out solar installations at a multiple of what the US has been doing, for example, and has the capacity to increase its renewable energy output further.
200 Police Departments Partner with Ring; Nintendo Down Ahead of Switch Lite Launch; Capital One Hack; Zooming Contact LensesPosted: July 30, 2019
George Orwell is nodding and smiling wryly somewhere. Businessinsider.com reports that at least 200 police departments have partnered with Amazon’s Ring. A number have attended a seminar on how to use the ‘Law Enforcement Neighborhood Portal!’ The portal is a map of approximate locations of Ring cameras in a neighborhood. It allows police to reach out to homeowners with Ring cams and request access to their footage. This lets cops sidestep the normal requirement of a warrant needed to obtain security footage. To quote Ron Popiel, ‘but wait…there’s more!’ Police that sign with Ring also get free cameras (one got 15) and get a $10 credit for every app download the police are credited with encouraging towards buying more Ring cams. The deal requires police to ‘encourage’ residents to download the Ring app. Welcome to 1984…a bit late, but definitely here.
Nintendo has reported a 10% dive in quarterly profit, way short of expectations. According to reuters.com, they sold 2.1 million Switch consoles, getting the installed base up to 36.9 million. Part of the decline is attributed to the fact that Nintendo will roll out the Switch Lite in September for $199.99…a hundred bucks off the price of the regular Switch. The Lite version lacks the TV dock and detachable controllers. In addition to the Lite release, Nintendo is looking for a boost in sales in November due to release of the Swtich’s first full Pokemon games…Pokemon Sword and Pokemon Shield.
Sigh…another day, another giant data breach. Techcrunch.com says this one is at Capital One, and affects 100 million customers at least. The breach was found July 19th. It appears to expose people who applied for credit cards between 2005 and 2019, and includes “names, addresses, zip codes/postal codes, phone numbers, email addresses, dates of birth, and self-reported income” of those who’d applied, as well as information like “credit scores, credit limits, balances, payment history, contact information”. They also estimate the hacker grabbed 140,000 Social Security numbers and 80,000 linked bank account numbers. The good news is, the Department of Justice says a Seattle engineer named Paige Thompson was arrested in connection with the hack. The hope is, the data didn’t get out of her control…but….
Ever wanted Telescopic Vision like Superman has? You may get your chance. Engadget.com reports that scientists at UC San Diego have built a prototype contact lens that is controlled by eye movements. Wearers can make the lenses zoom in or out by just blinking twice! The lenses are made of stretchy polymer films that respond to electric signals generated by your eyes when they make a movement. Don’t plan on getting a pair soon…they just work in a special rig so far, with electrodes placed around the eyes of test subjects.
All iPhones Will be 5G in 2020; Netflix & YouTube in Your Tesla; Hot Features on Upcoming Pixel 4; Euro YouTubers Going UnionPosted: July 29, 2019
The three iPhones expected to launch in 2020 will feature support for 5G, according to the latest rumors. Previously, it had just been thought the two top line models would have 5G connectivity. Macrumors.com reports that Apple likely will offer 5G in all models to better compete with lower-cost Android smartphones that will support 5G. Since Apple’s acquisition last week of Intel’s smartphone modem chip business, Apple has more resources for developing the 5G iPhone. The carriers are expected to provide higher subsidies for phones that have 5G, so that makes offering it on the less expensive iPhone XR a no brainer for Apple. This year’s iPhones…due out in September…will still use Qualcomm modems, and won’t offer 5G.
Elon Musk has long touted the potential that the in-car displays found in Teslas have for drivers: they can not only provide information, but entertainment as well. To that end, he says that the cars will soon be able to stream video from Netflix and YouTube.
According to electrek.co, Tesla has already unveiled games that drivers can play on the displays.
The games only work while the car is parked, and players can use the steering wheel as a controller. The same is the case here, although Musk notes that when regulators approve self-driving, Tesla will allow passengers to stream video while the car is in motion. Musk didn’t unveil a timeline for the feature to roll out.
The Google Pixel 4 phones are picking up some cool new features when they roll out in October. Businessinsider.com notes that Google is touting ‘ambient computing.’ That’s a way of saying they are developing motion controls for the Pixel 4, powered by Google’s “Soli” motion-sensing radar. Soli has been in the works for 5 years now. They will bill the feature as ‘Motion Sense,’ and it will allow you to skip songs, snooze alarms, and silence calls just by waving your hand! The Motion Sense engine will also allegedly bring facial recognition that’s as secure and complex as Apple’s Face ID. Google says their version will be more efficient and seamless. Unlike with Apple, the Pixel 4 won’t have to be directly in front of your face and require a swipe up to start the process. They say the Pixel 4 will “proactively turns on the face unlock sensors, recognizing that you may want to unlock your phone. If the face unlock sensors and algorithms recognize you, the phone will open as you pick it up, all in one motion.” It sounds like some blockbuster features coming in October that should really ignite excitement around the Pixel 4 phones!
The disruptors may be getting some disruption themselves. Engadget.com says a group of YouTubers is teaming up with Europe’s largest trade union to lobby for greater transparency. Until recently, the YouTubers Union was a community group with little power of its own, but it has now teamed up with IG Metall, the German Metalworker’s union. IG Metall is one of the oldest unions in Germany.
The YouTube Union was formed last year amid tensions between YouTube and the content creators who post videos to the platform, but as a community group rather than a true union it had little power to back up its position. The new joint initiative, called FairTube, aims to pressure the platform to be more transparent about its rules and decisions, especially in regard to monetization or demonetization of videos.
75 Million New iPhones 2nd Half of 2019; Samsung Will Re-Launch Galaxy Fold in September; eBay Starting Delivery Service; Uber Testing All-in-One SubscriptionPosted: July 25, 2019
Apple’s suppliers are apparently gearing up to crank out 75 million new iPhones in the second half of this year. Macrumors.com reports that the number will match what was produced in the same time frame last year…showing that Apple thinks sales will stabilize after sales dips from the substantial increase in average prices that came with the X and XS models. Analysts have started checking more closely with suppliers since Apple stopped reporting numbers for iPhone sales as well as unit sales for their other devices. The latest, greatest iPhones should bow around the third week of September.
Samsung will try a do-over after the disastrous launch of the Galaxy Fold this Spring. According to 9to5google.com, Samsung says they have made the top protective layer of the screen much harder to remove, by extending it beyond the bezel so it looks like part of the structure, not like a peel off temporary protection. They say that the improved Fold also “features additional reinforcements to better protect the device from external particles.” It will be rolled out in ’select markets,’ which Samsung didn’t name, in September…and is STILL a whopping $1980!
eBay will launch its own fulfillment service called Managed delivery next year in the US. Theverge.com says it will provide end-to-end packaging and deliveries to its sellers. eBay claims its sellers send 1.5 million packages per day in the US and they expect that 40-50% of the items listed on the site will qualify for the new plan. They are shooting for tow to three day delivery. In a trial run, a seller said eBay charged $3.99 to send a package from California to New Jersey. He had spend $3.09 previously….not counting the cost of packing supplies. The man said that was reasonable since he didn’t have to spend any time packing boxes and readying them to send off.
Taking a page from Amazon Prime’s playbook, Uber is looking at a monthly subscription service that would roll up ride-hailing, Uber Eats delivery, and bike and scooter rentals. Theverge.com reports that they are testing different versions in San Francisco and Chicago, but could start rolling the subscription out to other markets soon. It will set you back $24.99 a month, and includes price protection or a fixed discount on every ride-hail trip, free delivery on Uber Eats, and free rides on Uber’s Jump bikes and scooters.
Latest on 3 New iPhone Models; Apple in Talks to Buy Intel Smartphone Modem Biz; Google Settles on Age Discrimination Suit; Tesla- New Architecture for Robots to Install Car WiringPosted: July 23, 2019
Late rumors about the 3 upcoming iPhone models…the updates to the XS, XS Max, and XR, have Apple staying with the Lightening port, instead of moving to the USB-C like the iPad Pro received last year, and the MacBook Pros before that. According to 9to5mac.com, the XR will NOT be getting an OLED display like the XS and XS Max successors, but will stay with the same screen and resolution as the present model. All 3 phones will be getting an updated Taptic Engine, but 3D Touch will be going away…if that was something you ever used. The Taptic Touch requires a slightly longer press to get an additional function than 3D Touch. The XS and XS Max successors will get 3 rear cameras as has been touted in pictures and mock ups. One will be a wide angle shooter. The wide angle lens will also enable a feature called Smart Frame, which captures the area around the framed area in pictures and videos, so the user can later adjust the framing or crop the pictures later. The front facing cam will get an upgrade, including support for slo-mo recording at 120fps. All 3 phones will probably be shown off at an Apple event around the third week of September, as has been the case for the last several years.
The Wall Street Journal reports that Apple is in advanced talks to acquire Intel’s smartphone modem business for a billion dollars. That bundle of cash would net Apple Intel’s patents and staff, and it could be sealed by the end of this week if all goes well. When Apple settled with Qualcomm, Intel had announced that it was getting out of the 5G smartphone modem business, and the company said they wanted to focus on its more profitable data infrastructure business. Apple has already been working on developing its own modem tech, but will rely on 5G modems from Samsung and Qualcomm in 2020.
Google has settled a lawsuit that accused them of discriminating against older job seekers. The tech giant will cough up $11 million dollars. CNET.com says they also agreed to train managers on age bias, and form a committee focused on age diversity, and to investigate age bias complaints. The suit had accused Google of a ‘systematic pattern or practice of age discrimination’ against job applicants who were 40 and over. Look for Google and other tech companies to now be more sneaky in the ways they find to discriminate against older workers.
A revolutionary new architecture for wiring harnesses that allows more robot automation in assembly and fewer materials has been revealed. According to Electrek.co, it will first be used in the Model Y compact SUV and the Tesla Pickup truck. Since the Model Y shares greatly with the Model 3, it will also find its way into that assembly line later. Elon Musk said the Model S has about 3 kilometers of wiring harnesses but they got it down to 1.5 for the Model 3. The new system will cut even that down to just 100 meters. In addition, it is built with a hub system and is more rigid, which allows robots to install it much more easily.
2020 iPhones May have 120Hz Displays; Huawei Apparently Helped North Korea with 3G; Equifax- Fined up to $700 Million by FTC; Etsy Picks up Music Marketplace ReverbPosted: July 22, 2019
About this time of the year…a couple months before the next iPhones drop, we always get rumors about the NEXT year’s models. Here’s a fresh one from macrumors.com…the 2020 iPhones may have a switchable refresh rate for the screen from 60 Hz to 120 Hz. The faster refresh rated gives a smoother on-screen experience. They have apparently been talking with screen makers LG and Samsung about the feature. The iPad Pros already have a variable refresh rate, but use LCD panels…the top line phones have OLED. The higher rate is particularly cool on video and games. It’s early…might not happen…so stay tuned!
The US has slapped strict sanctions on huge Chinese telecom Huawei, which has long been suspected of stealing US tech. Now, gizmodo.com has picked up a Washington Post story that Huawei helped build out a 3G wireless network for North Korea, violating the sanctions. Still unknown is how much the Chinese firm was involved. A company called Panda International did a lot of the work, but it appears it may be a cutout used by Huawei. Huawei denies the report. They are already under the microscope by the Department of Justice for fraud, obstruction of justice, and stealing trade secretes from T-Mobile.
Remember a couple of years ago when there was a big flap over hackers stealing credit data on 147 million Americans from credit bureau Equifax? The FTC does, and they just hammered out a settlement with the company that could mean up to $700 million in fines. Techcrunch.com says it would be the largest fine ever issued by the FTC by quite a bit…around 20% of Equifax’s 2018 revenue. The UK already fined them the equivalent of $624,000, the maximum under the regulation there at the time. Equifax will also have to endure third party security assessments every two years.
Etsy is buying Reverb, a marketplace for new and used musical instruments and electronic gear. The cash deal is worth $275 million according to venturebeat.com. Etsy is something of an eBay for instruments and gear. You may never have heard of it, but I bought a really great retro ‘recording’ sign for my home studio for a very nice price. Instead of expensive (and industrial looking) cast aluminum, it’s in a beautiful wood case. Much nicer for a home. Etsy says they plan to continue running Reverb as a standalone brand.
EU Fines Qualcomm $272 Million for Antitrust; 60 Companies Paid Zero Taxes With New Tax Law; Prime Day Record; Netflix Q2 Subscriber MissPosted: July 18, 2019
The world’s #1 chipmaker, Qualcomm, has been fined $272 million by the European Union for blocking a rival from the market about 10 years ago. Venturebeat.com reports that this is Qualcomm’s 2nd EU antitrust penalty. “Qualcomm’s strategic behavior prevented competition and innovation in the market,” Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement. Qualcomm has responded that it is ‘unsupported by the law, economic principles or market facts.’ The company will appeal. The Commission had already fined Qualcomm $1.1 billion last year for paying iPhone maker Apple to use its chips exclusively.
A new analysis by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy shows that 60 of Fortune 500 companies paid ZERO federal income taxes in 2018, thanks to the Trump Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. According to yahoo.com, their total average effective tax rate was -5%. Sixty companies is triple the number of companies that avoided paying corporate taxes on average from 2008 to 2015!
Amazon says it moved a record 175 million items over Prime Day (which was really days, since it lasted two.) Geekwire.com says that’s a 75% increase over the 100 million items sold last year. As usual, Amazon didn’t say how much Prime members spend, but did say that ‘independent small and medium-sized businesses’ sold more than $2 billion worth of items over the 48 hour period. Amazon has been able to turn it into a real event…Adobe Analytics notes that large retailers— ones with over a billion in annual sales— saw revenue increase 68% during Prime Day(s). Smaller retailers picked up a 28% bump.
Netflix stubbed its toe on subscriber increase for 2nd quarter, adding 2.7 million, and missing its own guidance and Wall Street Expectations by a mile. The Street thought the uptick would be closer to 5 million. Businessinsider.com reports that the stock dropped over 10% to $317.91 after the earnings report. Revenue was $4.92 billion, while Wall Street looked for $4.93…which was also Netflix’ forecast. Some of the blame may go to the imminent rollout of Disney Plus and Apple’s new TV offerings. The third quarter seems to be off to a big start, though….the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ was the biggest four day debut of any original show on the service. New seasons of ‘Orange is the New Black’ and ‘The Crown’ will be coming out, which should add to the numbers 3rd quarter.
Three separate Congressional hearings yesterday took aim at the power big tech companies have amassed, with politicians from both sides of the aisle calling for more government oversight of the tech giants’ reach and expansion plans. The Wall Street Journal reports that legislators were probing several areas, including Facebook’s upcoming Libra cryptocurrency, Google’s alleged censorship, and antitrust concerns about Facebook, Google, and Apple.
“In an effort to promote and continue this new economy, Congress and antitrust enforcers allowed these firms to regulate themselves with little oversight,” House Antitrust Subcommittee Chairman David Cicilline (D., R.I.) said at the outset of a hearing featuring executives from the four companies. “But as a result, the internet has become increasingly concentrated, less open and growingly hostile to innovation and entrepreneurship.”
In their testimony, the companies said that they still face competition in markets from advertising to apps, and that their online platforms have facilitated the growth of many other smaller companies.
The Department of Justice and the FTC have privately divvied up jurisdiction for potential antitrust probes of the four companies (Amazon being the fourth). Facebook has already been fined $5 billion by the FTC, which will barely whack a month’s worth of the social network’s revenue.
Not all Congressmen were hostile to the tech companies. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R., Wis.), the House Antitrust Subocmmittee’s top Republican, told colleagues: “Just because a business is big doesn’t mean it’s bad.”
That view wasn’t held by Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas), who accused Google of “playing Big Brother” by collecting swaths of data on Americans who use its search engines and controlling public discourse through its dominance of internet search.
Mr. Cruz said the tech giant’s frequent response—that its results are produced by algorithms—is inadequate. Algorithms are “written and maintained by people.”
FaceApp made the rounds a couple years ago, but the improved app is back with a vengeance…as anyone with a Facebook newsfeed can attest. There were concerns about what happens to your photos you modify then, as well as now…the app that makes you look younger or older via AI is from a team of Russian developers, and they have admitted that you have to upload the pic so their servers can modify it. According to techcrunch.com, the developers won’t say this, nor will they say if they keep a copy of the photos. Rumors that the app accesses all of your photos appears to be untrue, though…at least on iOS. Apple has a setting that prevents that. It only accesses the photo you explicitly tap. Since your profile photo on Facebook can be seen by anyone, what’s the big deal? While that’s true, in the case of FaceApp, the pic is in a system that has AI designed to modify your photo…young/old/ethnicity. Think about that!
On the heels of Prime Day, the European Union has launched an antitrust investigation into Amazon. Businessinsider.com says they are looking into whether Amazon’s data use from independent retailers using Amazon to sell through is a breach of EU competition rules. Amazon could be fined up to $23 billion of it is found in violation of EU laws. Amazon’s role as both a platform for merchants and a seller itself has been a big area of contention, and the EU commission will take a ‘close look’ at Amazon’s ‘dual role.’ This is not unlike the position of Apple with its App Store, which is also being looked at.
Echo Dot & Fire TV Stick Top Prime Day; Uber & Lyft-Paid Drivers To Pimp Gig Status; Twitter Web Refresh & Dark Mode Roll Out; Next Gen Tesla Roadster-Hidden Thrusters & MorePosted: July 16, 2019
Prime Day…which is really Prime 2-days now, has winners and still champs when it comes to devices. According to techcrunch.com, the top selling gear was again the Echo Dot entry level smart speaker (for the 3rd year in a row) and the Fire TV Stick (which won Prime Day overall in 2016.) As usual, Amazon hasn’t provided hard numbers, but claims ‘millions’ were sold. The Echo Dot was already on sale at a low of $24.99 before the sale started, but Amazon cut it to $22. The Fire TV Stick was slashed to $14.99 with Alexa Voice Remote. Loss leaders….it gets ‘em in the door (or in this case, into clicking mode!) If your finger is itching for a Dot, you can still get it for $22 today, but the Charcoal color is sold out…you will have to get it in Sandstone.
Uber and Lyft are still trying to quash workers’ attempts to gain employee status. Now, engadget.com reports that the companies basically bribed drivers to protest in favor of the company position. According to an email the LA Times got hold of, the companies promised drivers between $25 and $100 if they attended a rally outside the state Capitol last Tuesday, prior to a hearing on Assembly Bill 5. The rally was a demonstration in support of changing the bill to allow continuation of classifying drivers as independent contractors. The email went to drivers from the I’m Independent Coalition…a group funded by the California Chamber of Commerce…which assisted Uber and Lyft to organize the rally. The Coalition also paid drivers the cost of travel and expenses, and included a $15 in-app lunch voucher.
I have been using it for a while and like it, but now there’s no choice..Twitter is rolling out its new desktop design and dark mode options to everyone…with no option to revert back. 9to5mac.com says the process started yesterday. There are two dark modes to choose from…Dim and Lights out. I prefer the Dim, but your mileage may vary. The new look is nice and clean, with various choices on the left sidebar, a large center bar for your feed, and a right hand bar for trends and follow suggestions. Now, if only Facebook would add a dark mode….I’m nearly blinded when I switch from dark mode apps like Twitter back to the bright a**ed Facebook app!
‘To the Muskmobile, Robin!’ Elon Musk is revealing more about the next-gen Roadster. Bgr.com says the cold gas thrusters…which Musk claims will ‘dramatically improve acceleration, top speed, braking, and cornering,’ will be hidden behind the license plate. The car has already been touted as being capable of 250 mph, and a zero to 60 speed of 2.1 seconds (originally Musk said 1.9.) One huge selling point for the $200,000 Roadster: a 620 mile range before needing to hit a Tesla Supercharger for a recharge! Tesla plans to build about 10,000 of the high end sports coupes per year.
Prime Day-Strikes & Protests; Zillow Buying in Portland; Office 365 & iWork Banned in German Schools; Bosch’s Cloud BatteryPosted: July 15, 2019
Amazon workers in 5 countries are protesting working conditions in warehouses during Prime Day…calling for better pay in addition to improved working conditions. Businessinsider.com says workers in Minnesota are walking off the job for 6 hours today, as previously announced. In Germany, workers are striking for at least 2 days in 7 different warehouses. There are 2,000 German workers on strike so far today. Workers in the UK, Spain, and Poland are also holding protests, but not striking. For its part, Amazon has claimed that unions and protesters are ‘conjuring misinformation.’
Zillow is buying in Portland…literally. According to geekwire.com, the company has added Portland to Phoenix now for Zillow Offers, which is their service that lets customers request cash offers directly from Zillow on its website. Vancouver, BC also has gone live with the service. Zillow plans to add Austin, LA, Miami, Nashville, Sacramento, San Antonio, Diego, and Tampa by the end of 1st quarter 2020.
Privacy regulators in Germany have cracked down on cloud based office suites. Microsoft Office 365, Google Docs, and Apple’s iWork are banned from some German schools now due to privacy concerns with the way the cloud services work. 9to5mac.com says the authorities in the state of Hesse instituted the ban because the platforms’ standard configurations expose personal information about students and teachers to ‘potential access by US authorities.’ The collection of the personal data is banned under the GDPR haws that went into effect in the European Union last May. The authorities note that the kids can’t even give consent to releasing their personal data by law, as they are under age. The school districts can continue to use local versions of Microsoft Office that have been installed, instead of the cloud platform.
As batteries age, they can lose ability to hold charge…as we all know. Now, Bosch has come up with a new service that will help the battery management systems in cars to reduce cell aging. According to venturebeat.com, it can cut down on wear and tear by up to 20%. What is this magic sauce, you ask? Actually, it works by connecting electric vehicle batteries with the cloud. This has actually been done as far back as 2012, but the Bosch system transmits in real time—battery data (like current ambient temperature and charging habits) and machine learning algorithms then calculate a power pack’s service life and performance. The cloud data is than sent back to the car’s system, instructing it not to change to 100% if it’s too hot or too cold, and calculates the charging curve for fast or slow charging…to ensure that the packs are charged to ‘the optimum level’ using whatever power source is available.