Internet Recovery for iOS; Tesla Roadrunner Battery Project; Samsung Already Fixing Galaxy S20 Cams; Clearview Face Match Startup’s Customer List Stolen

Recently, we reported on Apple’s CarKey API, that will enable iPhones with proper credentialing from your car maker’s app to open and start your car. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that more has been discovered in the beta of iOS 13.4, including the ability to restore an iPhone or iPad over the air…Internet Recovery for iOS! Apple has had this for their Macs for some time, but it would be especially helpful for iOS devices…and even more for the Watch or HomePod than for phones or iPads, since the Watch and HomePod don’t have external connectors. A new feature has been spotted in iOS 13.4 called OS Recovery. Except for the name and a graphic, not much else appears, so stay tuned…this could be a real boon to Apple mobile device users, saving a trip to the Apple Store or sending the device in to Apple if the system quits working.

Tesla has been running a super secret project to make improved batteries called Roadrunner. Apparently, they are using the dry electrode tech of Maxwell, a company they acquired, and have built on it with their own team based in Canada at a Tesla research lab. According to electrek.co, they will move away fro wire bonding on the cells and use a laser welded tech instead. Tesla plans to build their own batterie packs, and is making the equipment to build the assembly line, too. If all is true, they have found the holy grail of batteries…cheaper to make, and higher energy density..enabling them to use less batteries and still get longer range than ever. The packs apparently can hit the almost mythical $100 perf kWh price point that allows electric vehicles to hit price parity with gas cars with no subsidies. The tech will also enable the Tesla pickup and the big rig to have monster range between charges. Elon Musk plans to have one of the new battery packs installed in a Model S or Model X for the ‘Battery Investor Day’ in April! Tesla will produce the cells themselves in the US, Europe, and China.

It seems like we just went through this with Samsung last year…remember when the Galaxy Fold screens were breaking on review units before the phone ever came out to the public? Now, engadget.com says reviewers are having trouble with the new (unreleased) Galaxy S20’s super duper cameras. Samsung says they are working on a fix coming in a future update to ‘improve the camera experience.’ Neither the reviewers…including PC Mag…nor Samsung will say what the problems are. The issues seem to be with the autofocus on the S20 Ultra (the one with the 108 MP cam), and are causing out of focus pics, as well as wobbles in the image. Also, reviewers say the image processing is too aggressive, causing excessive smoothing in skin tones. The S20 and S20+ have a different camera setup, and don’t seem to be as affected. It’s unclear if Samsung will have the fix in place before the phone gets into the hands of the public, which could be dicey.

We’ve written about Clearview, which has been scraping the net for pictures of billions of faces and putting them in their massive, secret database. The company has deals with some 600 law enforcement agencies to use their software. Now, arstechnica.com reports that someone hacked their system and stole their entire customer list! Clearview’s response seems to be a shrug. “Unfortunately, data breaches are part of life in the 21st century,” Tor Ekeland, an attorney for Clearview, told The Daily Beast. “Our servers were never accessed. We patched the flaw and continue to work to strengthen our security.” Clearview did post a couple of notes on their blog, making it clear that they don’t make their software available to the public, and that its not a consumer application. Whether it was industrial espionage, government spies for a nation, or a hacker group…they don’t know at this point. It’s becoming a new normal…if information gets into a database and especially if it flies across the internet, good luck on anything being kept private!


Facebook Bans Coronavirus ‘Cure’ Ads; iPhone XR Topped All Smartphones Year; Apple Team Delayed in Checking New iPhones in China; Surface Duo ‘Peek’ Feature; Peanut Butter Wades into Jif vs Gif

Facebook is banning ads that promise to cure coronavirus, and some that ‘create a sense of urgency around it.’ According to businessinsider.com, there has been a raft of posts and ads full of misinformation and false claims. The social net has deployed its fact-checkers and adjusted algorithms to fight the lies about the virus. They aren’t the only tech platform having to take action— Amazon has cracked down on price-gouging by third party sellers trying to cash in on the rush by people to buy masks. Some were jacking up the prices to many times the normal selling price.

The final numbers are tabulated, and Apple’s iPhone XR was the most popular smartphone worldwide in 2019. 9to5mac.com reports that the data was crunched by Omdia. The XR sold 9 million more units than the #2 seller, which was the iPhone 11. Samsung rounded out the top 5 smartphones, with the Galaxy A10, A150, and A20. The iPhone 11 Pro Max was #6, and the iPhone 8 bagged the #7 spot. Redmi’s Note 7 snuck in at 8, and the iPhone 11 Pro was 9th, and Galaxy 12 Core was 10th.

Virtually all smartphone sales will probably be impacted by the coronavirus this year. Normally by now, Apple engineers and execs would be in China, examining the next crop of iPhones. Foxconn workers would have built a small number of devices and they would be poring over the new models. Macrumors.com says due to concerns over coronavirus, the later opening of plants, and lack of flights to China…especially by United, which Apple tends to use…it may back up Apple’s finalization of the new phones and their finalization of chip and component orders with suppliers. Some work can be done by video chat, but there may be a delay in the new iPhones this fall or very limited supply for a while.

A leaked video from a Twitter user calling himself WalkingCat has showed of a ‘peek’ feature on Microsoft’s new Android tablet the Surface Duo. theverge.com says you can lift the egg and peek at a row of notifications on the edge of the right hand display without fully opening the device…then dismiss them if you like. The thought is that this would sub for no third screen on the outside such as on folding phones like the Galaxy Fold and Z Flip phones. The Surface Duo is set to launch later this year.

For years, a debate has raged about how to pronounce the graphic .gif….is it GIFF, or JIFF…hard G or soft J sound? Now, the Jif Peanut Butter people have waded into the middle of things…a rather brilliant marketing ploy by the folks at Smucker’s, who own the brand. Arstechnica.com reports that the ads tout the hard G sound…saying that the soft J…as in Jif, has been around for decades in the form of their peanut butter! They have even labeled jars with Jif on one side as usual, and a question mark G on the other! Of course, it won’t settle the ongoing argument, but is a hell of a clever marketing campaign. If you are allergic to peanuts…just send jpegs!


Amazon Opens 1st Full Amazon Go Grocery in Seattle; Cruise Gets License in CA for Transport Without Safety Drivers; Netflix Adds Top 10 Feature; Intuit Buys Credit Karma

Amazon has rolled out its first ‘Amazon Go Grocery’ store in Seattle. Geekwire.com reports that the space is only 7700 square feet, not as large as a lot of supermarkets, but larger than the smaller Amazon Go stores they have opened so far…those have run between 450 and 2700 feet. The new store has a much larger selection of items, as you might expect. The format is the same, no checkers or check out lanes, and the store bristles with cameras and sensors. The produce is out in the open, like at Amazon-owned Whole Foods, so you can pick and choose the apples, oranges, or lettuce that you prefer. The organic produce is sourced from the same farms aw Whole foods, and will be marked with the 365 label. There is no meat or seafood counter and no food preparation on the premises. Fish, chicken and beef products are brought in several times a week, individually wrapped. There is also an artisan cheese area, but again all self serve. Amazon looks to be opening more of these stores, but the size and item count probably hasn’t been set in stone as yet.

Cruise took another step in the direction of a robo-taxi service this week. According to venture beat.com, the California Public Utilities Commission has issued a permit allowing Cruise to offer passenger service in autonomous Chevy Bolts without drivers behind the wheel. The company has been running an employees only ride-hailing program in San Francisco called Cruise Anywhere. VentureBeat also noted that Cruise will be looking to do service demos with partners, members of the media, and other ‘key people.’

Netflix has added a feature to help you wade through the massive library of shows to stream. Now, you should see a Top 10 row when you fire up Netflix. Cnet.com says the lists update daily, to show what’s popular in your country. There are three ‘buckets;” Netflix overall, shows, and films. Shows and films that make the lists will sport a ‘Top 10’ badge on the Netflix site. They have trialed the feature for the last 6 months in the UK and Mexico.

Intuit has confirmed that it is acquiring Credit Karma for some $7.1 billion in cash and stock. Techcrunch.com reports that it plans to keep Credit Karma as a standalone operation…it has been hauling in over a billion in revenue a year. Intuit will be able to tap into Credit Karma’s customer base and range of services….the company has partnered with some 100 financial service providers. Intuit also hopes to upsell some of the Credit Karma users on its own services.


More NexGen Xbox Specs; Facebook Download Info-Some, Anyway; AirTags-Waterproof; Tesla Model 3 Outsells All EVs; Twitch Will Top 40 Million

Microsoft unveiled more specs for its next generation Xboxes. The biggie is that the new Series X will include 12 teraflops of GPU power, double what the Xbox One X has and eight times that of the original Xbox. According to theverge.com, it should produce graphics far beyond most mid-range graphics cards from Nvidia and AMD. That will be true for both this next generation Xbox and the Sony PlayStation 5. the new Xbox Series will also support 8K gaming and frame rates of up to 120 fps in games. One welcome feature that had already been announced…a so-called ‘quick resume feature.’ This is an expansion of the Xbox One’s resume feature, but apparently you will be able to resume multiple games from a suspended state. Microsoft will be revealing more at the Game Developers Conference next month and E3 in June.

Remember a couple years ago after the Cambridge Analytica scandal, when Facebook rolled out ‘Download Your Information?’ Facebook said it would allow users to download all the information that the company has on them since the creation of the account. Yeah…about that. Privacyinternational.org notes that the list of advertisers is incomplete initially and changes over time. What do advertisers get? Usually just an email address, a phone number, an Advertising ID or a users’ Facebook UID, but it can go way beyond that. In the template provided by Facebook, advertisers can also include all sorts of information they might have, such as name, gender, country, street, zip code, age or even date of birth. The advertiser facing tool is vastly more comprehensive than the one provided to users. Since this actually violates the EU’s GDPR, it will be interesting to see what action the European Union takes against Facebook to make them comply.

There have been a number of rumors about Apple’s AirTags…their answer to the Tile, that helps you track items and devices. Now, macrumors.com reports that the AirTags will be completely waterproof, and will use magnetic wireless charging like is used on the Apple Watch. It’s thought that the AirTags were to have been introduced this Spring with the iPhone 9 or whatever they will ultimately call the new smaller, cheaper iPhone….but now, it looks like it will happen in the Fall with the 3 other iPhone models. The AirTag connected devices will show up on the iOS ‘Find My’ app. With the production disruption in China, it’s unlikely we will see Air Tags in any kind of numbers before next Fall.

A story came out over the weekend that Tesla now has over a half million pre-orders for its electric pickup. That’s a big deal, but a bigger one that has flown under the radar is the success of the Model 3. Electrek.co says that in 2019, Tesla sold more Model 3’s in California than all the other EVs combined. They got that figure from the California New Car Dealers Association, too! An even more amazing number? When you remove other Tesla models from the mix, the Model 3 still sold more than twice as many cars as all other manufacturers’ EVs combined! It is the 3rd best selling car overall in California after the Honda Civic and Toyota Camry.

Twitch is on track to exceed 40 million monthly active viewers by next year. Techcrunch.com reports that an eMarketer forecast shows the Amazon owned streaming service hitting 47 million by 2023. Actually, their reach is pretty significant right now, at 37.5 million. Twitch claims they have over 3 million active monthly creators and over 15 million average DAILY streamers. The company is focusing on minutes watched and concurrent viewers, as YouTube, Microsoft Mixer, and Facebook Gaming are eating into their user base. So far, this has just slowed Twitch growth…they remain number one, and eMarketer says they will manage to have 14.3% growth this year.


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.