Apple May Let Chrome & Gmail Be Defaults on iOS; Microsoft Defender Coming to Android & iOS; CBS All Access Getting Tons of New Content; Hyundai Takes Automatic Shift to New Levels

Apple is thinking about letting users use third party apps as the default on iPhones and iPads. Theverge.com reports that this includes Chrome as a default browser and Gmail as your default mail app. As Ron Popeil of infomercial fame used to say, ‘But wait…there’s more!’ Apple is even reportedly working on allowing third party music services like Spotify run directly on the HomePod smart speaker. Another possibility is that they will allow Siri to send messages over third party messaging apps. The changes could come as soon as later this year with the release of iOS 14. Part of the sudden magnanimous attitude by Apple may be driven by the EU’s antitrust investigation into how Apple manages its platforms.

Microsoft has announced that they will make available their Defender software to Android and iOS devices later this year. According to CNBC, they expect it to help you protect your devices from malware and phishing attacks. Redmond had already announced a more robust Office package for mobile devices, essentially compressing Word, Excel, and Powerpoint into one Swiss Army knife type app. Defender was originally introduced on Windows PCs back in 2006, and Microsoft says security has become an $80 billion market.

CBS All Access, the streaming service owned by ViacomCBS post merger, is expanding and picking up content. Techcrunch.com says they will be offering a broad pay service, in addition to their existing free streaming service and premium Showtime stream. In addition to more movies and shows, they will have more content from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, Smithsonian, and Paramount. CBS says they will be adding 30,000 TV episodes and up to 1,000 movies to the service.

Hyundai is really taking automatic shift to a new level. Automatic transmissions have always had the task of shifting through the gears with a goal of either better performance or better mileage than most drivers can get shifting manually. Cnet.com reports that Hyundai has developed a predictive Information and Communication Technology Connected Shift System. What it does is utilize info from 3D navigation maps, cameras, and radar to further optimize shifting via software. A fuel saving example: you’re stuck in a long stretch of beep and creep traffic. The system will keep the car in neutral as much as possible, only shifting back into gear when you press the pedal and need to move. According to Hyundai (which will also use the system in their Kia line), the automation dropped the number of shifts on winding roads by 43%, and drivers used their brakes 11% less. The system can tell when a driver is merging onto a freeway, and automatically goes into sport mode for quicker shifts. Once at speed, it will return to economy mode. Hyundai says the system will be out soon. A later version using LTE (or better…5G) will be able to predict shift patterns as you approach stoplights.


Look For Samsung’s ‘Ultra Thin’ Glass on Other Phones; Facebook Trials Tabbed Newsfeed; Face Scanning Software Checks Live Skin; Twitter Scoops Up Chroma Labs; Kickstarter Unionizes

After the easily scratched plastic screens on the Galaxy Fold, Samsung rolled out ‘Ultra-Thin Glass’ for the new Z Flip. Now, according to 9to5google.com, we find that Samsung itself is making the glass, and will produce enough in the future to make it available to other handset makers. The ultra thinness makes the glass foldable (although how many times without causing a permanent crease or breaking is still being debated.) In addition to their own Z Flip, the Ultra Thin Glass could soon show up on phones from Motorola and TCL if Samsung has their way.

Facebook is apparently experimenting with a prototype tabbed newsfeed. This could let more users break away from their newsfeed ranking algorithm (which I already do, but have to use and add on called FB Purity to force the feed to show the latest stories.) Techcrunch.com says the different tabs would be the default Most Relevant feed, the present Most Recent feed in reverse chronological order, and an Already Seen feed of posts that so far has just been available on the desktop via the obscure URL facebook.com/seen. One would assume that if Facebook goes ahead and releases the tabbed feed, they have developed a new algorithm to further catalog your data as it observes your preferences! It’s always good to keep in mind that YOU are the product…or at least your data is!

Software and hardware being developed by German company Trinamix will make it impossible for zombies to use Face ID in the coming apocalypse. Cnet.com reports that they are working at bringing live skin sensing tech to phones…a way to 3D scan faces to unlock devices that will ensure the user is actually alive. The company is already working with Qualcomm on future 3D face-scanning phone tech. Without getting too gross, apparently dead skin provides a different ‘backscatter’ to the cams and sensors, and they can therefore detect live skin. Creepy? Maybe, but it will ensure that no one can off you, then hack your phone and drain all your accounts.

Twitter has picked up photo and video editor maker Chroma Labs. Engadget.com says the company makes software specifically for editing Instagram and Facebook Stories, in addition to Snapchat. This may or may not point to Twitter launching a temporary posts feature. The employees from Chroma will be jointing Twitter’s product, design, and engineering teams, ‘to give people more creative ways to express themselves on Twitter.’ AS for the Chroma Stories app, it will no longer be updated unless an iOS update breaks it, and it won’t be adding any new features.

A first fr Kickstarter….workers there voted to unionize yesterday. arstechnica.com notes that it’s also the first time white collar workers at a well-known high tech company have formally chosen to be repped by a union. Time will tell if the movement will spread to the likes of Google or Amazon…where there has been a degree of unrest. Many think unions are going to have to change their approach and offerings in order to really break into the tech economy.


Apple Impacted by Coronavirus; Apple Event March 31st; TCL Slide Out Turns Phone to Tablet; Twitter Filter Deletes Unsolicited Nudes Sent to Private Messages

Apple says it won’t hit the financial guidance for its March quarter, due to impact from the coronavirus in China. According to macrumors.com, they are seeing a slower ramp up after the February 10th Chinese New Year holiday than normal due to the spread of the virus, affecting production, and also less demand from consumers in China. They had originally projected revenue of $63-$67 million in the March quarter.

Despite the likely miss on revenue from the virus, Apple appears to be proceeding with an event on or around March 31st. This will center around the release of the iPhone SE2, or 9, or whatever they end up calling it. It will have the form factor of the iPhone 8 anyway, and Touch ID instead of Face ID. 9to5mac.com reports that it it’s expected to have a base price of $399. In addition to the handset, Apple may show new, premium over ear Bluetooth headphones, the Tile rip-off dubbed AirTags, and possibly a new iPad Pro and (finally) a wireless charging pad.

All the excitement about new smartphone form factors has been from folding models thus far, with the Samsung Galaxy Fold, and the new Z Flip leading the way, as well as the new iteration of Motorola Razr. Now, cnet.com says TCL is working on one with a ‘slide out’ screen. All that has leaked so far is a render, but it shows the screen sliding out to double the useable screen size. It would stand to reason that there is something of a step down you would notice between the part of the device where the screen is exposed already, and the portion which slides out. As it is still in the rumor stage, and with the numerous shut downs in China due to the coronavirus, no idea on if this will come out as part of the brand’s 10 series smartphones, or be delayed…or released at all.

If unsolicited nude pictures via Twitter private messages have been an issue for you, a developer has come up with a new plugin that does the trick on the dick pic. According to businessinsider.com, ‘Safe DM’ launched in the last few days. The plug in is designed to block and delete unsolicited nude images sent to people’s private Twitter messages. Developer Kelsey Bressler built the AI powered app after putting out a call for nude images of male members. She received over 4,000! He then programmed the plug in to recognize, block, and delete that type of pic. She hopes to port the plug in to other social media platforms. She is already in talks with one other platform about adapting her plug in there. Bressler says she has achieved a 99% success rate in blocking dic pics (although an independent test shows there is a two to three minute lag before the pic is deleted.) A 2018 YouGov survey found that 46% of millennial women have received an unsolicited dick pic.


Samsung v.2 Galaxy Fold Rumors; Zuck Argues for Compromise Regulation; Ring Videos = Little Evidence; Apple Joins FIDO Password Replacement Alliance

Samsung may be preparing to roll out the next iteration of the Galaxy Fold, the $2000 folding phone with the disastrous launch last year. 9to5google.com reports that they are shooting for July, and the next gen handset may have an under display camera (no hole punch) and an S Pen, among other features. It will allegedly sport a huge 7.7 inch display when open. The outer display will be bigger, with a corner triangular notch for cam and flash. The new Fold or ‘Fold 2’ (which is code named Champ) will have a stainless steel frame and ceramics. It looks like Samsung will go to the ‘Ultra Thin Glass’ as used on the Z Flip in place of the more delicate plastic. Samsung is expected to show the Note 20 at about the same time.

At the Munich Security Conference in Germany, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg pitched for (the inevitable) regulation to be somewhere between a telco and a newspaper. According to reuters.com, he claimed the company had improved its work in countering online election interference. He seems to be moving from insisting on being treated purely like a telco, where the company has no responsibility for the information that flows through it, and the more in-depth regulation that papers and other media fall under. Zuck claims Facebook now employs 35,000 people to review online content and implement security measures. He further stated that the budget for this is bigger than the revenue for the entire company when they went public back in 2012. It remains to be seen if the European Union will buy into this ‘middle ground’ type of regulation, however.

Amazon has touted its Ring cameras and their partnerships with law enforcement around the country as helping to reduce crime. There are over 800 law enforcement agencies partnering with them now. NBC News says that despite this, and Amazon’s claim that the doorbell cam reduces burglaries by over 50%, that reduction has failed to materialize. NBC News Investigations interviewed 40 law enforcement agencies in eight states, and found that there is little or no evidence to support Amazon’s claim. They did say that officers spent more time now going over video footage involving disputes by neighbors!

Thirteen of the 40 jurisdictions said they had made no arrests due to Ring footage. Another 13 said they actually could confirm arrests, and two others offered estimates. The NBC team said that large cities like Phoenix, Miami, and Kansas City, MO couldn’t tell them if or how many arrests had been made with the help of the Ring cameras. Amazon itself has said it doesn’t know how many cams have been involved in arrests, or even in helping track package thefts. In late December 2019, Ben Stickle, a professor of criminal justice at Middle Tennessee State University, published one of the first academic studies of porch camera video footage, analyzing 67 videos he and his research team found on YouTube. He found that most of the so-called “porch pirates” were unfazed by the presence of cameras.

Apple has joined nearly every other major tech and e-commerce company now in the FIDO Alliance, the effort to replace password only logins with a secure and fast login experience for websites and apps, using the emerging standard WebAuthn. According to zdnet.com, the Apple browser team added ‘experimental support’ for the standard back in 2018, then last December, added native support for FIDO-compliant security keys like the YubiKey over NFC, USB, or lightening (in iOS 13.3.0) Besides the hardware security key like the Yubi, other compliant secure logins can be made with a biometric ID derived from your PC or smartphones fingerprint sensor, or over a device based authentication program. Let’s all hope this late move by Apple will get the world ready to drive a stake through the heart of the ancient and creaky password logins that annoy us and are relatively easy pickings for hackers.


Android $ May Pass iOS This Year; Lyft Touts Self-Driving Cars; Tesla Boosts Solar Tile Installs; Chrome Will Block Insecure Downloads

Mobile app maker Liftoff claims that Android may generate more app revenue this year than iOS. Venturebeat.com reports that even though 74% of global mobile is on Android, ad dollars have always poured into iOS at a greater rate. Although engagement is about the same for apps on each platform, iOS ad costs are 2-7 times that of Android…and for a reason…iOS users tend to spend more. Liftoff sees mobile gaming as being the area that will drive Android app dollars past iOS. They see the lower costs on Android, combined with higher install-to-register rates as being what pushes them into the lead. Stay tuned…we’ll know later this year if Android does bubble to the top. Certainly Samsung’s just announced partnerships with Google and Microsoft Xbox will help Android to finally depose iOS as the king of mobile ad revenue.

The chief strategy officer for Lyft, Raj Kapoor, gave the keynote yesterday at the MOVE 2020 conference in London. According to Automotive News, a key point he made was that autonomous cars will prove critical to the future of cities. He also warned that ride share services and other for-hire car users should start moving to electric vehicles now, before cities force them to do so. He did note that driverless cars bring some issues that may not be obvious at first. For example, a driverless car won’t see a potential rider trying to ‘wave them down’ on the sidewalk, nor can you tell the car to ‘just drop you off here.’ Another point: in the US particularly, most people identify themselves with driver’s licenses, and indicate organ donation in the event of death. How will those be handled as more and more people give up cars and licenses to be permanent riders in driverless vehicles for hire or mass transit? Of course, there’s also the insurance issue and ‘fault.’ If there’s no driver, is it the owner of the vehicle or the maker who created the software and hardware to replace the driver? All issues we will have to deal with in the coming years.

Although a lot of the buzz around Tesla is from its vehicles…the Model Y about to hit roads soon, or the ‘unusual’ looking (ok…ugly) electric pickup, the company has been busy with its other arm, too. Techcrunch.com says Tesla is ramping up installs of its solar tile roofs in the San Francisco Bay Area, and will soon roll them out in Europe and China. In the Bay Area, there is a noticeable increase in ads for solar installations of the tiles and PowerWall storage units (the latter with some nice rebates or sale prices.) The tiles are made in Tesla’s Buffalo, NY factory. Elon Musk announced in a Tweet that he will host a ‘company talk’ in April there, with media and customer tours of the plant. Several months ago, Tesla said they would be ramping up to installing as many as 1,000 solar roofs per week shortly.

Google has announced plans to begin initially warning Chrome users about ‘insecure’ downloads, and will then move to block them outright eventually. Theverge.com reports that Google will gradually ensure that HTTPS (secure) pages only will be able to download files via Chrome. The warnings will start with Chrome v. 82, which is due out in April, then when v. 83 rolls out, executable downloads will be blocked from insecure sites, with warnings applied to archive sites. With v. 84, .PDFs and .doc files will get the warning, and then in v. 85, they will add audio, images, text, and video files. All will be blocked from insecure sites by the time they issue v. 86 of Chrome.


Samsung Unpacked Recap

Unpacked opened with a Zoomy, flashy multi-screen video of the Z Flip, the predicted clamshell phone. They are calling this building on the Galaxy Fold. Head of UK Mobile product marketing, Rebecca Hearst is calling it the ‘Zed Flip.’ They are positioning it as for trend setters and a premium device. 6.7 inch screen. Outside screen is a tiny two line thing, as predicted. Time, text, alarm, or calls displayed in it. The inside screen does look great. you can shoot from the outside cam without opening the phone, using the tiny outside display as a view finder. There is a hole punch cam in the inside screen.

Colors are: Mirror Purple, Mirror Black, and Mirror Gold (in limited countries).

Access to YouTube Premium will come with the Z Flip. There is a 3 stop hinge, so you can use it flat, or in flex mode, use the two parts of the screen separately! Watch a video on top part, and comment on bottom. Scroll through photos on the bottom, and see them bigger on the top part.

The hinge has a fiber shield that protects the elements of the hinge. They are using ultra thin glass, and claim 200,000 folds without problem.

The Galaxy Z Flip will be out February 14th, for $1380.

A video rolled with Thom Brown on fashion versions of Samsung gear. They seem to all feature a red, white, and blue racing stripe down the middle of the phone, and on watchbands, etc. Limited Edition will be explored more tomorrow during New York fashion week.

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Dr. T.M. Roh has taken the stage. He is doing a recap of the Galaxy phones. Now, touting the transformative power of 5G. He cites 5G, IOT, and AI as a convergence that will revolutionize how people and companies interact.

Finally, the reveal of the Galaxy S20. Rolling a video staring with an old 1800’s cam, to a Polaroid, then to slick video of the new handset. They are showing 3 models on screen. They are actually capturing and streaming the live stream over Galaxy S20’s!

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Drew Blackard, head of US Mobile Product Management is up. He is pointing out that the cam is probably the most important aspect of smartphones. They have rebuilt the entire cam section for the S20 series. They will feature a 64 megapixel cam, so you can zoom in on an area in a shot, and the edit will be clear. With ’space zoom,’ you can get 30x closer and still get a clear shot. Single Take mode will utilize each of the cams, roll 10 seconds of video, and the AI will give you the ability to pick the best shot from whichever one you think is best.

Moving on to video, the S20 will have 8K video available. Now rolling a demo with a video producer. You can capture video in 8K, upload to YouTube, then cast it to a TV and watch it in 8K right on the big screen!

You can crop any frame in video, and get a clean shot from it….with a zoom and one click.

With a micro SD card, up to a massive 1-1/2TB of storage should get you by!

Note that all the features noted above are available on all 3 of the Galaxy S20 models.

The Galaxy S20 Ultra though, gets something extra. It will have a 108MP camera! The detail is stunning. You can zoom in anywhere in the shot and it’s gorgeous. The Ultra also has the ability to catch 3x the light in every image. They use a folded lens with a 10X physical zoom and 10X of electronic zoom. You can get 100x zoom total. It’s relatively clean for such extreme zoom.

They are announcing Netflix as their mobile use partner, with bonus content exclusively available on Samsung channels (drawn from Netflix Originals). They have integrated Bixby to search your Netflix for viewing on the phones.

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David Park onstage, Head of Mobile Channel Marketing. He is touting partnership with Google. Google Duo is being integrated into the S20 and Z Flip. HD video chatting will be available.

Mobile gaming over 5G…they have 120Hz response rates on the S20s. They claim less lag between touches and the game responding. They are also partnering with Microsoft and getting 4 Xbox games. You can preorder now. More will be out later this year.

Next product reveal: Galaxy Buds Plus. They have a woofer and tweeter in each ear bud! A partnership with Spotify lets a long press gives you new songs based on your history there. There are 2 exterior mics on each bud, and ambient sound for walking around the city without getting run over (hopefully.) Buds Plus also work with iOS using a Samsung app. They are wirelessly charged, and can last up to 11 hours. Charging case adds another 11 hours! They are $149 starting on February 14th!

So how much for the phones and when?

they will drop March 6th. The base Galaxy S20 is $999, the S20+ is $1199, and Ultra is $1399. ALL are 5G! They also announced price cuts for the S10s….S10e $599, S10 $749, and S10+ $849.


MWC-Restrictions Due to Coronavirus; Samsung Unpacked Virus Precautions; Impact on iPhone Production; Tesla Patents Touchscreen Steering Wheel; Facebook Grabs Computer Vision Startup

Some major exhibitors have pulled out of the big Mobile World Congress in Barcelona due to coronavirus worries. Techcrunch.com notes that ZTE, LG, Nvidia, and Ericsson have bailed out. MWC has banned visitors from Hubei province, where the virus is thought to have started. Travelers from China will have to prove they have ben out of the country for over 14 days with a passport stamp or health certificate. MWC will utilize temperature screening as well.

Samsung Unpacked is continuing as planned, but with some modifications due to the coronavirus. 9to5google.com says there will be hand sanitizer stations throughout the venue, and thermal imaging cams will be at all entrances to detect fever. Samsung will also have face masks available. They also have medical workers standing by.

A lot of analysts are trying to determine the impact of the Coronavirus on production coming from China. According to most, authorities there aren’t going to let Foxconn open its Shenzhen facility today. Earlier reports from reliable analyst Ming-Chi Kuo and others have said that could start having a serious impact on Apple’s iPhone production. It may mean shortages of the so-called SE2 or iPhone 9. One bright spot….a second source besides Kuo has now confirmed a $399 base price for the entry level iPhone. That one comes from Fast Company. Foxconn has said most of the workers have returned, and that the plants have been inspected, but there are differing reports on their getting permission to restart. Right now, production has been delayed by ‘at least several days.’ Another Apple supplier in Shanghai, Pegatron, has already resumed work, but Pegatron has not been able to restart their Kushan plant yet…they haven’t received government permission either.

Patents are issued all the time, and a number never see the light of day. Here’s an interesting one from Tesla. Electrek.co says the have patented a steering wheel with small touchscreens and haptic feedback. One screen, on the bottom leg of the wheel, would replace the gearshift stalk…you would just touch the appropriate spot. Other screens on the left and right legs of the wheel would have a menu of controls. Tesla indicates that this would likely not be implemented until the cars are fully self-driving. The patent even includes gestures as well as touching with the haptics. It would sense the user’s digit approaching a control before it was touched!

Facebook has acquired Scape Technologies, a London based computer vision startup. According to techcrunch.com, the company has been working on ‘location accuracy beyond GPS.’ The tech was initially aimed at augmented reality apps, but also could be used in mobility, logistics, and robotics. The company claims they intend to enable any machine equipped with a camera to ‘understand its surroundings.’