Starlink Has 1500 Satellites; Zoom Gets Real-Time Translation; T-Mobile Expands Test Drive with eSIMs; Twitter Dropping Chronological Feeds

Elon Musk said his satellite internet venture Starlink now has more than 1,500 active satellites in orbit above Earth. He also claimed that by next month, service will encompass virtually the entire globe. According to mashable.com, Musk shared the news during an interview at Mobile World Congress, touting Starlink’s ability to reach individuals who don’t have access to decent or affordable internet connections in remote areas. Starlink has plans to launch as many as 30,000 more satellites. 

Zoom has announced plans to acquire Karlsruhe Information Technology, also known as Kites, a German startup that specializes in machine learning-based real-time translation. Engadget.com reports that the acquisition should help the company keep pace with competitors like Cisco, which recently added a real-time translation feature to its Webex software. While Zoom experienced impressive growth throughout the pandemic, its rivals have tried to match and surpass its feature set as a way to grow at its expense. 

T-Mobile is offering a new, low-stakes way to try out its network for free for 30 days with no additional equipment required. According to theverge.com, T-Mobile’s existing Test Drive program now works over eSIM with compatible iPhones. All you need to do is download an app, follow the instructions to start the trial with eSIM, and you’re up and running — no billing information required. There’s no change to your current carrier plan or phone number, but you’ll be using T-Mobile data on your device. This is a new wrinkle on T-Mobile’ Test Drive program 1st introduced in 2014. 

Until recently, Twitter on the web allowed users to easily switch between an algorithmic feed and a chronological feed with a single click, but that option is now being removed completely for people who use Twitter in their browser. 9to5mac.com reports that Twitter has started to remove the ability to view Latest Tweets first from the Twitter.com web application. For many users, the toggle between “Latest Tweets” and “Home” has been completely removed. Users who are interested in breaking news are expressing outrage on Twitter and elsewhere.


Honda Finally Going EV; Record Year for Apps; Windows 11 in October; Amazon Flex Firing

Honda has announced its first all-electric vehicle, the Prologue. Slated to arrive by early 2024, the SUV will be equipped with General Motors’ Ultium battery platform, which will also be used in the upcoming GMC Hummer EV supertruck and SUV. Mashable notes that the Prologue helps Honda get closer to its goal of selling only zero-emission vehicles in North America by 2040. Acura, Honda’s luxury brand, will also release an electric SUV in 2024, its first EV ever. Honda has offered hybrids for years. 

App developers are having a good year according to new statistics from market data company App Annie, which found that users spent $34 billion on apps in Q2 of 2021. Android and iPhone users spent $7 billion more in Q2 compared to last year and $2 billion more in comparison to Q1 2021. Zdnet.com reports that  iOS App Store users spent $22 billion, a 30% jump from the figures seen in Q2 last year. Spending in the Google Play store grew by 20% to $12 billion.

Microsoft keeps hinting at an October release date for Windows 11. The software giant teased an October date several times during its Windows event last week, including one instance where a Microsoft Teams message says “excited to turn it up to 11… can’t wait for October!” According to theverge.com, Microsoft has only officially said “holiday” for Windows 11 availability, but the company’s official marketing material strongly hints at an October 20th date. Alongside Microsoft’s own hints, Walmart is also promising a “free Upgrade to Windows October 2021 when available.” 

Amazon’s contract Flex delivery driver fleet already has to deal with various indignities, and you can now add the fact that they can be hired — and fired — by algorithms, according to a Bloomberg report.  Amazon uses millions of subcontracted drivers for its Flex delivery program. Drivers sign up via a smartphone app via which they can choose shifts, coordinate deliveries and report problems. They’re also monitored for performance and fired by algorithms with little human intervention. Drivers must pay $200 to dispute any termination, and many have said it’s not worth the effort.


VW Puts Pedal Down on EVs; Robocall Deadline Looms; Venmo Small Sellers; Bigger iPad, Maybe

Volkswagen plans to stop selling combustion engines in Europe by 2035, a board member told German newspaper. According to theverge.com, Klaus Zellmer, Volkswagen’s board member for sales, said the company would “exit the business with internal combustion engine cars in Europe between 2033 and 2035.” But, he added, it would take longer to stop selling combustion engines in the US and China— that will come “somewhat later.” He wants to see electric vehicles to account for 70 percent of the company’s total sales in Europe by 2030. 

A big deadline in the fight to beat back those annoying robocalls is coming June 30. As of that date, every major voice provider in the US, including phone companies AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile and cable provider Comcast, will have to implement a technology called Stir/Shaken, according to cnet.com. That’s good news for everyone whose phone has been jangling with bogus phone calls involving health-related scams, expiring car warranties and fake banks offering nonexistent interest-rate discounts for credit cards. Robocalls are the No. 1 consumer complaint and a top priority at the Federal Communications Commission

Venmo is changing its policies to let you sell goods and services through your personal account as long as you’re willing to pay the same 1.9 percent plus 10 cents fee that applies to business users. Engadget says The change takes effect July 20th. There will be a toggle that lets you indicate whether money transfers are meant for business. Any payments marked with that toggle will qualify for Venmo’s purchase protection plan. Venmo had 70 million accounts as of February. 

Bloomberg’s Mark Gurman says that Apple is exploring future iPad designs with larger displays. The current iPad Pro maxes out at 12.9-inches diagonally…already the size of a small MacBook. Any new iPad screen size change is at least a ‘couple of years down the road’ and has not yet left the exploratory stages. Apple is currently developing a redesigned iPad chassis with a glass back for 2022, to support wireless charging—those will ship in the existing 11-inch and 12.9-inch screen sizes. 


Google Tests Unreliable Search Warning; Android Apps on Win 11; Apple Watch 7 Leak; Instagram Tests Desktop Posting

Google is testing a new feature to notify people when they search for a topic that may have unreliable results. The idea is  to give people more context about breaking information that’s popular online — like suspected UFO sightings or developing news stories — that are actively evolving. According to vox.com, the new prompt warns “If this topic is new, it can sometimes take time for results to be added by reliable sources.”  Google, Twitter, and Facebook have often struggled to handle the high volume of misinformation, conspiracy theories, and unverified news stories. 

In addition to all the new features announced yesterday, Microsoft is also bringing Android apps to Windows 11. The software giant revealed its surprise Windows 11 addition during its special Windows event yesterday. Theverge.com reports that Android apps will run natively on Windows 11 and will be downloadable from Amazon’s Appstore, via the new Windows store that’s included in the operating system. Apps will be listed in the new Windows store. 

A new rumor claims that Apple is preparing a significant change inside the new Watch that could be great news for Apple Watch fans unhappy with the one Apple feature that hasn’t improved over the years….battery life. Macrumors says Apple is working on a two-sided system on a chip, which will take less room…and leave more room for a bigger battery. The Watch has had 18 hours battery life for years…no fun when you are away from the proprietary charger. We may see the changes in the Apple Watch 7. 

After years of solely focusing on its mobile product, Instagram is at long last thinking about letting users post from their computers. techcrunch.com notes that a number of Twitter uses noticed that the test feature had gone live yesterday. Apparently over the course of the pandemic, the company saw a rise in people cruising Instagram from their computers rather than their phones. To see if the test is live for you, head to Instagram in your browser and look for a new “plus” icon in the icon tray on the top right. 


Prime Day ‘Halo Effect’; Cheaper ’22 Top iPhone; Uber Eats Cheaper Warning; Chrome iOS Secret Tabs

Amazon said that Prime Day, held this past Monday and Tuesday, was the biggest two-day sales period for third-party sellers in the company’s history. Amazon said sales from third-party merchants outpaced its own sales. CNN reports they took in over 5 billion. The ‘Halo Effect’ sales were even larger…Walmart, Target, Costco, Best Buy, Macy’s and others offered up deals of their own. Overall, online spending during the two-day event surpassed $11 billion, a 6.1% increase compared to last year’s Prime Day! 

Reliable Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will launch two low-end 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch flagships alongside two high-end 6.1-inch and 6.7-inch flagships in 2022. According to 9to5mac.com, they could feature support for under-display fingerprint technology and a wide-camera upgrade to 48MP. The analyst believes the iPhone 14 Max will be priced at under $900 USD. For comparison’s sake, the current iPhone lineup includes the 6.7-inch iPhone 12 Pro Max, which is priced at $1,099. 

Uber Eats users in Pennsylvania and Washington, DC will now see a notice on the checkout page saying that items they’re about to order may be more expensive than in restaurants. The app will display a disclosure that reads “Prices may be lower in store” after attorneys general asked for the change. Engadget.com notes that food delivery platforms like Uber Eats, DoorDash and Grubhub not only require users to pay service fees, but they charge restaurants a commission of up to 30 percent

When it comes to protecting our data and ensuring our privacy, the companies that make the software we use to browse the internet can never introduce too many safety features. Bgr.com says Google has added the ability to lock incognito tabs on Chrome for iOS behind Face ID (or Touch ID, for the iPhone and iPad users with older devices). With this feature, it’s possible to keep your incognito tabs private, even when you forget that they’re open.


Twitter Share to Instagram Feature; Brave Privacy Search; Boston Dynamics Now With Hyundai; Facebook Expands Shopping Tools

Twitter started testing a feature about 6 months ago that allowed you to use the iOS share sheet to add tweets to Instagram Stories. Now, engadget.com reports that the company is rolling out that tool to all iOS users. You can access it by tapping the share icon, which you can find underneath every tweet, and then tapping the Instagram Stories option at the bottom of the menu that appears. Keep in mind that tweets you share to Instagram end up as non-interactive elements in your Stories, and you can’t tap on one to see it in its original context on Twitter.

Pro-privacy browser Brave, which has been testing its own brand search engine for several months —has now launched the tool, Brave Search, in global beta. According to techcrunch.com, users interested in checking out Brave’s non-tracking search engine, which is built on top of an independent index and touted as a privacy-safe alternative to surveillance tech products like Google search, will find it via Brave’s desktop and mobile browsers. It can also be reached from other browsers via search.brave.com — so doesn’t require switching to Brave’s browser to use.

Hyundai Motor Group has officially completed its acquisition of robotics company Boston Dynamics. Arstechnica.com notes that the deal was announced in December and valued Boston Dynamics at $1.1 billion. The purchase sees Hyundai pick up an 80 percent controlling stake in the company, with the previous owner, Softbank, retaining 20 percent ownership. The deal will hopefully create a stable home for Boston Dynamics, which has continued to pump out the world’s most impressive robots despite continual ownership changes. 

Facebook has announced a series of new tools and features designed to expand commerce on its social media platforms, including the addition of Shops on WhatsApp and visual search on Instagram. According to zdnet.com, Facebook is bringing Shops to WhatsApp and Marketplace on Facebook. Facebook is also introducing Shop ads, which is essentially a personalized ads experience based on a person’s shopping preferences. The platform is also working on a visual search capability on Instagram. 


EU Digging into Google Over Anti-Trust; Samsung Smartwatch Update; TikTok Bows ‘Jump’; Amazon Options Stake in Truck AI Self-Driving System Plus

Recently, there were 5 bipartisan bills introduced in the US Congress dealing with paring back the power of big tech companies. Now, the EU has announced that they are investigating Google’s ad tech over antitrust worries. Techcrunch.com reports that Google has already been subject to three major EU antitrust enforcements in 5 years. This investigation will focus on assessing whether Google has violated EU competition rules by “favouring its own online display advertising technology services in the so called ‘ad tech’ supply chain, to the detriment of competing providers of advertising technology services, advertisers and online publishers”.

There’s already been a good deal of reporting of how Samsung and Google are mashing up their smartwatch hardware and software…effectively merging Wear OS and Tizen. Now, we may get a preview of how it will all work and look. According to theverge.com, that may happen at Samsung’s MWC 2021 June 28th from 1:15 to 2PM Eastern. It will be a virtual event again, available on stream. Besides ‘reimagining smartwatches,’ Samsung teases presentations on the ‘Galaxy ecosystem’ and ‘mobile security.’ The smartwatch merger is a biggie…neither Google nor Samsung have been able to make even a small crack in Apple’s hold on the smartwatch market.

TikTok has introduced Jump, a new way for creators to add interactivity to their videos using third-party integrations. Engadget.com gives the example of a cooking video featuring a list of ingredients from recipe-sharing app Whisk. The TikTok Jump feature has been in beta, and although now everyone can see and interact with it, only a ‘select’ group of creators can add it to their content for the time being. Whisk, Breathwrk ,and Quizlet, as well as Wikipedia, StatMuse and Tabelog are useable now. Others like BuzzFeed, Jumprope, IRL and WATCHA will launch in the coming weeks.

Amazon has ordered 1,000 self-driving systems from self-driving truck tech startup Plus, AND has taken an option to buy up to 20% of the business. Bloomberg reports that the Sequoia Capital China-backed company has a valuation of $3.3 billion right now. The tech they are developing is for autonomous operation of long haul trucks. Plus is based in Cupertino, and was started by a group of Stanford classmates. The company recently hired Dennis Mooney from Navistar International Corp. and Chuck Joseph from Amazon.com Inc. to help scale up production and promote the adoption of Plus technology.


Yes, It’s Prime Day; Facebook Launches Clubhouse Clone; iPhone 13-No Price Bump; Windows 11 Event Thursday

It ought to be named “Prime Days With Weeks of Hype and Early Deals,” but that doesn’t sound catchy. This year, coming off Amazon’s huge surge in use during the pandemic, I am most interested to see if Prime Day will equal past ones (presuming Amazon reports accurate numbers about that.) Even with a lot of big price cuts, it’s not clear that they will see a big business uptick, and with all the pandemic use, snagging new Prime memberships may be pretty tough. At any rate, shop ‘till you drop…or ‘till your clicking finger is rubbery or credit line maxed out!

Facebook has been rolling out its Clubhouse style audio rooms. If you haven’t seen anything about it yet (appearing above Stories and your news feed), or gotten an invite, it is only a mater of time. Engadget.com says conversations stream live over Facebook, and room hosts can invite others to chat in their room. Creators can buy ’stars’, in-app gifts that help influencers make money from their streams. Not surprisingly, Facebook will rely on its algorithms and user reports to enforce content rules. We all know how well that works on the rest of Facebook! Right now, only verified public figures or creators in the US with accounts in ‘good standing’ can create a room. In addition to the audio rooms, Facebook is starting to add podcasts. You can listen to them while you scroll around in Facebook…another way to make the platform more ‘sticky’ and keep you hooked a bit longer at a time.

It’s the first full day of Summer, which means September and the new iPhones are just around the corner. 9to5mac.com reports that Trendforce has some new info on the iPhone 13 series. Probably most notably, there isn’t supposed to be a price hike from the 12’s. Trendforce also predicts Apple will sell some 223 million units, which they say is partly due to increased vaccinations and easing of lockdowns in the USS and Europe. Not insignificant in boosting iPhone sales…Huawei’s abandonment of high end smart phones to focus on mid and lower line models. 5G is expected to be built into around 39% of the upcoming iPhone 13 models. The rumor of a 1TB storage option is apparently not valid, according to Trendforce. 

Thursday, Microsoft is unveiling its ‘next generation of Windows’ in a virtual event. We will finally get to see the full look and features of Windows 11 (or whatever they are going to call it.) Cnet.com notes that if the leaked pics are to be believed, Windows will have a new Start menu, home screen, and frankly…will look more Mac-like. 


Google Opens Retail Store; Facebook Tests Ads on Oculus; Spotify Launches Clubhouse Clone; Windows 11 Leak

Google is opening its first physical store, after a slew of pop-up experiments over the years. Theverge.com reports that it will be beneath Google’s New York City offices in the Chelsea neighborhood. The store will mainly feature Google’s own products like Pixel phones, Nest smart home devices, Fitbits, and more. There will also be third party accessories and Google branded swag…hats, tee shirts, and the like. The store opens tomorrow morning, June 17th, at 10AM…Eastern, of course.

Facebook will start testing ads in its Oculus VR headsets. According to CNBC, ads will first appear in the shooter game Blaston. Facebook claims it won’t be saving data (ha, ha, ha.) Ads should be no surprise, coming from a company that gets 97% of its total revenue from ads. Facebook is touting the ads as a way developers can get more revenue, in addition to Facebook getting more cash in the door, of course.

Spotify has dropped its live audio app and what the are calling Greenroom…their Clubhouse clone. Techcrunch.com says Greenroom will allow Spotify users to either host or join live audio rooms, which can optionally be made into podcasts. Greenroom is based on Locker Room’s existing code. Spotify picked up Locker Room in March. To join the new app, Spotify users will sign in with their existing Spotify credentials, and then will be walked through the onboarding process to get connected with their interests. If you have used Clubhouse, Twitter’s Spaces, or Facebook Live Audio Rooms, the format looks very similar. Note that re the podcast option that Spotify is recording all of the live audio sessions. Those can also be used by Spotify in the event of abuse by users. 

Windows 11 details are leaking out as if through a sieve. Engadget.com reports that there is a centralized Start menu with round corners. Many Microsoft watchers see a lot of resemblance to the now dead Windows 10X. Officially, Microsoft has a launch event set for June 24th. Most of the visual cues seem to be more tweaks to Windows 10 than revolutionary changes. New snap controls have been spotted, that let you more easily move a window into a particular place on your screen. What we don’t know yet is how well the new OS will work on tablets, ARM powered computers, and dual-screen PCs. Those details will hopefully become clear on the 24th.


Shopify Expands One-Click Checkout; Amazon Launches Cashierless System in Full Grocery Store; Twitter Looks at Letting You ‘Unmention’ Yourself; EVs Pass Up Diesels in the UK as Hottest Lease Cars

Shopify has announced they their Shop Pay one-click checkout service can now be used by any merchant that sells via Facebook or Google…whether or not they use Shopify’s software to power their online stores. Techcrunch.com reports that the pay system just expanded Shop Pay to Facebook and Instagram in February. Google announced last month that they would partner with Shopify as well…which now means nearly 2 million merchants will be able to use the one click setup via Google. (There is overlap between Facebook and Google, but neither has revealed that number.) Shopify claims a 70% faster checkout with their Shop Pay one-click system.

As we reported several weeks ago, Amazon was bringing their ‘Just Walk Out’ tech to a full sized grocery store. Now, the company has announced they will open a 25,000 square foot Amazon Fresh store in Bellevue, WA. According to geekwire.com, the store winn not offer the smart carts that automatically detect and log items on a digital display like at some of their stores. The store WILL have traditional check out lines for shoppers that don’t want to use Just Walk Out. They will feature the palm reading ID Amazon One that has recently showed up in Whole Foods stores. Amazon is looking to sell its tech to other grocers now. It remains to be seen whether the big chains like Safeway, Kroger, Walmart, and the like will show interest. 

Twitter is apparently experimenting with a new method to prevent unwanted attention that can frequently turn to harassment. It’s just in the concept stage right now, but the platform may allow users from mentioning them without using block or mute. Engadget.com says the feature would work something like untagging yourself on Facebook. Doing so would prevent that Twitter account from tagging you in future replies. Twitter is even looking at making a temporary version of this available…so you could choose to ‘unmention’ yourself for a period of time, not necessarily forever. 

In what might herald the future in developed countries, EVs have now passed up diesels as the most popular lease cars. Thenextweb.com reports that diesel registrations have dropped off and not amount to 18% market share of leases, while EVs have now hit 21.7%! This may be an indicator that ranges and charge times have improved enough that lessees are no longer having ‘range anxiety,’ and are ready to jump into the new tech.