Samsung Unpacked August 11th; New MacBook Pro Coming; Dropbox-Free Auto Pix Upload; HBO Max-Free Shared Streaming of Shows Within Snapchat

As rumored, Samsung has officially announced its next Unpacked event for August 11th. Theverge.com notes the stream will run starting at 10 AM EST. Expected updates will include freshened Galaxy Z Fold 3 and Z Flip 3 handsets. Also, as previously leaked, new Watches, which will now run on Watch OS, as Samsung gives in on Tizen. The Google ecosystem just has so many more apps. As for the phones, the Z Fold 3 will gain support for the S Pen (which is also getting a refresh.) The Z Flip 3 gains a bigger screen. Much more to come no doubt, during the event on the 11th. 

Apple’s MacBook Pros running their own silicon will start production 3rd quarter, rocking whatever Apple calls the chip…M2 or M1x have both been rumored. According to 9to5mac.com, the Pros…which had been expected out earlier…were delayed by complications with the new mini-LED display. The screen uses 10,000 mini-LEDs, which provide much greater control of localized backlighting, allowing higher brightness and deeper blacks. The combination boosts the contrast ratio, as well as using less power. There are conflicting rumors about the new Pros having either a max of 32 or 64 Gigs of RAM…sorry, power users, we’ll have to wait for more leaks or the actual rollout to find out which!

With Google dropping unlimited uploads to its photo service, Dropbox has swooped in to try and steal users. Engadget.com reports that Box has allowed the functionality starting now for all Basic (i.e. free) users. A cool feature for a freebie…you can specify folders to back up of your photos, keeping them better organized in the cloud backup, too. (iOS only right now, but Android coming.) Password manager can also now store debit and credit card info, though heaven knows why anyone wants to upload that or banking passwords to the cloud! 

Streaming services have seen a drop-off since more people are returning to commuting and office spaces. Netflix did barely beat its numbers for the quarter, but is concerned about not adding new users. Now, HBO Max has bowed a new scheme to lock in users…shared streams on Snapchat. Techcrunch.com says HBO Max is partnering with Snap to bring free episodes from its original programing to Snapchat users in the U.S. The episodes will stream via a Snap Mini — the company’s bite-sized third-party apps that live within Snapchat. The experience will offer users a way to watch top titles, including both new releases like the rebooted “Gossip Girl” as well as fan favorites like “Game of Thrones,” among others, while chatting with friends.


41% say Next Car Will Be EV; DuckDuckGo Email Protection; Apple Pushes Back Return to Office; NSO Spyware-No Prob for You- Android Apps-Well, Yes

A full 41% of auto consumers in 13 countries say their next car will be electric. Arstechnica.com reports that the survey was run by EY, and covered 9,000 people in Australia, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Sweden, the UK, and the US just last month. Their previous survey was last September, and only showed 30% ready to switch to EV. The US is lagging in this group…only 28% of Americans want an EV at this point…America’s love affair with the over 100 year old internal combustion engine is taking some time to break.

DuckDuckGo has made its name on browsing tech that doesn’t track you everywhere. Now, according to theverge.com, they are offering up an email privacy service that will help shield your email inbox from prying companies. The new email protection feature gives you a free ‘@duck.com’ email address which will forward email to your regular inbox after analyzing the content for trackers and stripping them away. In addition, they are offering disposable forwarding addresses that can be generated from their mobile browser or via desktop browser extensions. DuckDuckGo envisions you giving your personal email to your contacts and friends, while the disposable ones can be used for newsletters, free trials, or any other situation where you think the source might sell your information. The anti-tracking features are similar to Apple’s in iOS 14 and 15, but Duck’s can be integrated into iOS, Android, and all major web browsers. 

With the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, Apple has now backed off on their plan to bring everyone back to the office in September. Engadgetr.com says that right now, Apple is pushing things back to October at the soonest. Google has already gone to a hybrid home/office plan, but expects 20% of the workforce to stick with WFH full time. Facebook says it expects about half the workforce to work from home in the next 5 to 10 years. Apple had taken a harder line on returning to the office, or implementing their hybrid plan. 

We haven’t covered the NSO Group spy software scandal out of Israel, since it has been well covered in mainstream news. While it’s terrible that governments and others have been hacking phones and spying, it’s all focused on government officials, reporters, and activists. HERE is something that should give you pause. ZDnet.com says that over 60% of Android apps have security vulnerabilities…with the average number of bugs at a stunning 39 vulnerabilities! These figures are based on data presented by Atlas VPN, and data based on a report by CyRC, which analyzed the security of open-source software components of 3,335 free and paid mobile applications on the Google Play store as of Q1 2021. This includes banking and payment apps! As you might think, the most contaminated apps are free games….96% have vulnerabilities. Almost all the bugs are fixable…let’s home shedding some light on them will prod at least the banks and payment apps to clean things up!


Zoom Buys Cloud Call Center; iPhone 13 May Have Always-On Display; WhatsApp Tests Secure Cloud Backups; Steam Deck Deliveries Now into Mid-2022

Zoom is flexing its muscle, having a nice fat stock price and healthier coffers due to all the meetings during the pandemic months. Now,, they have snapped up Five9, a cloud call center biz, for $14.7 billion. According to techcrunch.com, the 20 year old call center firm will become an operating unit of Zoom. Five9 has some 2,000 customers, including Under Armour and Citrix. They are able to process more than 7 billion minutes of calls a year. Zoom expects to get ‘significant’ cross-selling opportunities from the deal, and plans to bring Zoom ‘ease of use’ to the call center service. 

One of the more useful features Apple brought to the Apple Watch last fall is the always on display. While such a display has been around for quite a while on other phones, it may finally be coming to the iPhone in the 13 series due out in September. 9to5mac.com reports that the phone may also finally get a 120 Hz refresh rate, and a bump in video recording abilities. Besides a rumored smaller notch at the top of the screen and a faster chip, expect this to be an ’S’ year for iPhone, without any huge ‘WOW’ feature. 

WhatsApp chats have end-to-end encryption, but up to now, your online backups have not. Engadget.com says they are now testing secure online backups at least for Android. You will have to create a separate password, however…AND if you forget the password and lose your phone you will be out of luck. There is an option for a 64-digit encryption key, but the same goes for that…lose it and lose access to your backups. As this is just being tested out right now, there’s no word so far when the service might be available to all. WhatsApp is also testing multi-device syncing that isn’t dependent on a phone connection. 

Valve opened reservations for its new hand held game machine the Steam Deck (think Nintendo Switch) the end of last week, and their site promptly crashed. According to theverge.com, as of yesterday both the entry level $399 Deck and the $529 version have delivery dates pushed into Q2 of 2022…and the top box that comes with 512Gigs for $649 is now a Q3 delivery! Valve got more than 110,000 reservations for the cheapest and mid-price model in the first 90 minutes they were open last week! 


Apple Pay Later Feature; Seattle Tops ‘Brain Gain’; Google Meet Free Gets Hour Limit; Electrify America to Double EV Charging Stations

Apple is working on a new pay later service that will let customers pay for Apple Pay purchases in installments over time, according to Bloomberg. Installment payment options will be available for all ‌Apple Pay‌ purchases, and not limited to Apple products. As on the Apple Card, Apple is planning to partner with Goldman Sachs on the ‌Apple Pay‌ installments plan. Goldman will be the lender for the loans needed for the monthly installment plans.  Users will be able to choose any credit card to make their payments over time with the ‌Apple Pay‌ Later plan, and it is not yet clear what interest rates will be. As with the ‌Apple Card‌, ‌Apple Pay‌ Later users will need to be approved through an application submitted through the Wallet app on the iPhone, which is also where payments will be managed.

The Seattle region added more than 48,000 tech jobs from 2016 to 2020, an increase of more than 35% — growing at a faster rate than any other large U.S. tech market, according to a new analysis by the CBRE real estate firm. Geekwire.com reports that the analysis confirms the meteoric growth of the region’s tech industry in the latter half of the past decade. The trend has been driven by the expansion of Silicon Valley engineering outposts in the Seattle area, the extraordinary growth of Amazon, the revival of Microsoft, and the emergence of heavily funded, homegrown startups, particularly in cloud computing and enterprise technology. Overall, Seattle moved past Washington, D.C., to claim the No. 2 spot behind the San Francisco Bay Area in CBRE’s overall scorecard. Top tech talent isn’t cheap. The report also puts Seattle second, behind the San Francisco Bay Area, in average wages; and third, behind the Bay Area and New York, in total cost of running a technology business.

Google Meet was quickly rolled out to meet the video-conferencing needs of the COVID-19 pandemic, and was quite a deal for free users: a video call limit of 24 hours for group calls. Google’s pandemic promotion is apparently over, as Google Meet now limits free users to 1-hour group video calls. 9to5google.com notes that Google Meet’s free tier is slightly more generous than Zoom’s free tier, which caps 100 participants at 40-minute meetings, just enough to not fill a standard 60-minute calendar block. Microsoft Teams also settled on a 100-person, 60-minute limit for free users. For those who have to attend, 60 minutes is more than long enough…if the meeting goes over that, your bosses are either windbags that love their own voices, or they never prepare for meetings!

Electrify America’s EV charger network still pales in comparison to Tesla’s Supercharger grid, but that gap might narrow over the next few years. Engadget.com reports that the Volkswagen-owned company has unveiled a Boost Plan that aims to “more than double” Electrify America’s charging infrastructure in the US and Canada by the end of 2025. When the plan is complete, there should be over 1,800 fast charging stations and 10,000 individual chargers — many of them 150kW or 350kW chargers to support newer EVs like the Porsche Taycan and Hyundai Ioniq 5. The expansion could put pressure on Tesla for the first time in a while. The company had 1,101 Superchargers in North America as of February 2021. 


Galaxy S22- 200 MP Cam; Ring Getting End-to-End Encryption; Gmail Logo Authentication; Refreshed iPad Mini This Fall

Samsung will apparently bow a whopping 200MP main cam on the upcoming Galaxy S22, and is partnering with Olympus. According to 9to5google.com, the monster cam will be part of a 5-cam array on the back of the phone. Samsung has already had a 108MP main shooter, but this is a huge jump. No details about the partnership with Olympus have leaked yet, but this won’t be the first smartphone partnership with a major DSLR camera maker. The S22 is expected to drop in January.

Ring is starting to roll out end-to-end encryption to US users and globally. Theverge.com reports that it’s an opt-in feature, and a welcome one, which will make it so your video streams can only be viewed by you on an ‘enrolled’ iOS or Android device. Ring (and therefore Amazon) allegedly can’t access the footage. The encryption works on 13 different Ring cams, and info on how to set it up is available at their website. If you are running a battery powered Ring, though…the website says you are out of luck.

The marketing departments of big companies are rejoicing…Gmail has announced support for email logo authentication. ZDnet.com says an agreement was struck between Google and the AuthIndicators Working Group, which developed the Brand Indicators for Message Identification, or BIMI. Why should you care? On top of offering companies a “secure, global framework in which inboxes display sender-designated logos for authenticated messages,” the effort is also meant to stop people from “spoofing” the logos of different enterprises. It is hoped that the authenticated logos will reduce the use of logos of banks and the like by people doing phishing attacks. Time will tell on that!

An earlier rumor had new iPads coming out this fall. Now, it looks like only a refreshed iPad Mini with no home button and slimmer bezels will be the extent of it. According to Bloomberg, Apple is still working on updated iPads with Apple’s new M series silicon inside. Still, if you like the smaller footprint, this is supposed to be the biggest redesign in the Mini’s 9 years. It apparently won’t balloon in size to 8.5 to 9 inches as had been predicted earlier.


PC Shipments Level, But May Drop Off; Verizon Filter App Blocks Spoofed Area Codes; Google Fighting EU Antitrust Fine; LiDAR Will Stay Exclusive on iPhone 13 Pros

According to IDC’s tracker, global PC shipments have remained steady in the 2nd quarter. ZDnet.com says worldwide PC shipments hit 83.6 million units in Q2 of 2021, a 13% increase from Q2 of 2020. The data points to things tapering off, however. As some people head back to offices, the home component…pushed by needs for newer and more powerful laptops as people worked from home…will drop. The top 5 maker remained Lenovo (25.2% market share), with HP second, Dell at #3, and Apple and Acer coming in at #4 and #5. 

In a plus for people who hate spam calls from spoofed cell numbers (that’s ALL of us!), Verizon has updated its free Call Filter app with a so-called ‘Neighborhood Filter’ that blocks calls from numbers that share your area code and prefix. According to engadget.com, when scammers try to use the spoof now, it goes directly to voicemail. You can specify other neighborhood numbers if you know scam artists use them, but doing that will run you an extra $3 per month for Call Filter Plus. Obviously, you can make exceptions. The software automatically does that with numbers in your contact list. You can also teach it to let through future calls from a number you want to hear from. the app is out now on both Android and iOS.

Alphabet’s Google division will go to court to try and overturn a 4.34 billion Euro ($5.15 billion) antitrust fine imposed by the EU. Reuters.com reports that the fine came in an EU Commission decision in 2018 that held that Google had used its popular Android mobile operating system to thwart rivals, an anti-competitive practice dating from 2011. Android runs on some 80% of the world’s smartphones. The hearing is set for September 27th in Luxembourg.

A leak picked up by 9to5mac.com says the iPhone 13s coming out in September will not see the LiDAR trickle down to the lower line models. It will stay an exclusive feature on the Pro and Pro Max. Earlier this year, leakers had picked up on Apple wanting to offer it across the entire iPhone 13 Line, but apparently not this year. Late rumors (and dummy models) indicate that the Pro models will pick up a better ultra-wide lens. Again, a rumor persists that there will be a smaller notch at the top of the screen….but we’ve heard that for the last 4 years…don’t hold your breath!


Amazon Home COVID Kit Under $40; Creepy New Facial Recognition; FTC Drafting Right to Repair Rules; Samsung-Big Profit Surge Next Quarter

Amazon has launched an at-home COVID-19 test kit for U.S. customers. Geekwire.com reports that customers get the nasal-swab kit by Amazon Prime delivery, at no extra cost, and send it— pre-paid next-day delivery to Amazon’s diagnostic laboratory in Kentucky, with results expected within 24 hours.The test is based on PCR, the same approach used by the city of Seattle and other public health efforts nationwide that detects viral nucleic acids. The test is distinct from an antibody-based test, which detects viral proteins and picks up fewer early-stage infections.

Kids in China…and maybe elsewhere…are gonna hate this! Tech giant Tencent has launched a time-sensitive facial recognition system that prevents minors from binging on video games after dark. According to thenextweb.com, the platform, called “Midnight Patrol,” arrives amid a moral panic over gaming addiction among children in China. Under-18s are now banned from gaming between 10PM and 8AM, and must register for games using their real names and government ID numbers. Big Brother really IS Watching! Tencent‘s system uses a facial verification system connected to a public identity database to detect minors posing as adults during the curfew. “Anyone who refuses or fails the face verification will be treated as a minor, and as outlined in the anti-addiction supervision of Tencent’s game health system, and kicked offline.” Tencent is automating the enforcement of China‘s strict gaming rules. Some have speculated the kids there will just turn to sex, drugs, and rock and roll to pass those late hours!

Are you listening, Apple? President Biden plans to direct the Federal Trade Commission to draft new rules aimed at bolstering consumers’ ability to repair their own devices. Bloomberg says the presidential directive is expected to mention smartphones like the iPhone. Currently, state-level right to repair bills are being considered by nearly half the states and House lawmakers introduced a piece of repair legislation that could implement national rules guaranteeing the right for consumers and third-party shops to repair electronic devices.

Samsung expects its operating profit to surge in the second-quarter, likely fueled by higher chip prices and continued consumer demand for electronics during the pandemic. Cnet.com reports that the company also said it benefited from a one-time gain. Samung projects its operating profit for the three-month period ended June 30 would come in around 12.5 trillion won ($11 billion), an increase of 53% compared with the year-ago period. It also said it expects its revenue to increase by nearly 19% to 63 trillion won ($55.4 billion).


New Switch in October; New Galaxy Fold & Watch Next Month; Starlink-Global Coverage by September; Audacity Data Collection

The freshened Nintendo Switch with a larger 7 inch, 720p OLED display will be out on October 8th! According to theverge.com, it will be priced at $350. Besides the upgraded screen, there will be an adjustable stand for tabletop playing, and the storage doubles from 32 gigs to 64. There’s a new dock with a wired ethernet port, and Nintendo claims improved audio. It should have 9 hours of playing time on a full charge, the same as the current Switch. It is slightly longer and a bit heavier than the original model. So far, Nintendo has sold almost 85 million Switches since it came out in 2017.

We have a date for the next gen Samsung Galaxy Fold and the newly Google-blessed smartwatch. Thenextweb.com reports that they should be rolled out at an Unpacked event on August 11th at 10 AM Eastern. In addition to a Galaxy Fold 3 and Flip 3, and two versions of the Watch, there will be a freshened version of Galaxy Buds. The new Watches will be the first to dump Samsung’s less-than-stellar Tizen OS, and will rock Google’s Wear OS instead. Right now, the event is slated to stream on YouTube…no word on a live event at this point. 

Recently, we covered Elon Musk saying that the SpaceX Starlink satellite system had 1500 plus satellites in orbit, and they should be able to cover the world except the poles by the end of the year. Now, bignewsnetwork.com says they have over 1800 satellites up, and according to president Gwynne Shotwell, will be able to provide global internet coverage by September. The sticky part….they have to get approved in every country to provide telecom services. That will take some time. Right now, beta service is being offered in 11 countries. Eventually, Starlink plans 12,000 satellites in orbit. The company already has 500,000 preorders. Hot on their trail with small satellite networks of their own coming: Amazon.com’s Kuiper, Britain’s OneWeb, venture capital-backed Planet and Raytheon’s Blue Canyon Technologies.

Widely used freeware recording software Audacity is getting some blowback over their new data collection policy. According to engadget.com, the company updated it policy as of July 2nd, and now the open source software is collecting user data for ‘app analytics’ and ‘improving our app,’ as well as ‘for legal enforcement.’ Audacity was acquired by Muse Group in April. What has caused the outrage is this: Users’ personal data is stored on servers in the European Economic Area (EEA). However, Muse Group is “occasionally required to share your personal data with our main office in Russia and our external counsel in the USA.” A word to the wise…or at least to those who want to limit their data being mined further…BUY a real recording program, ya cheapskates! On a Mac, you can get one with up to 3 machines for something like $60! You don’t have to blow hundreds on ProTools or the like.

[UPDATE: After the outcry, Muse Group says it will only collect “very limited” data (operating system version, processor type, IP address and opt-in error reports) from Audacity users. Users’ IP addresses are stored in a readable format for 24 hours before they become “pseudonymized and irretrievable.”]


Amazon Renewables; Spotify & Ticketed Events; Android Messages on AT&T; iPhone 12 Sales

As Amazon’s sales skyrocketed during the pandemic, its carbon emissions rose — by 19%, according to its 2020 sustainability report. Geekwire.com notes that’s up from a 15% year-over-year increase in 2019. But at the same time, the company last year lowered its carbon intensity, increasing its use of renewable energy from 42% across its operations in 2019 to 65% last year, making it the world’s largest buyer of renewable energy. 

Spotify is reportedly “considering” expanding into ticketed events, according to The Information. The company could sell tickets for both virtual and live concerts as it moves to diversify its business.Apparently making money off of ticketed events isn’t necessarily Spotify’s short-term goal. Its more immediate plan is to use them as a way to improve its relationship with artists. Selling tickets to concerts might make a lot of sense for a music streaming platform, but it would still represent a massive business shift for Spotify. For 

AT&T and Google have announced that all Android phones on the network will use Google’s Android Messages app for SMS and RCS services. T-Mobile made the exact same partnership deal with Google in March, which leaves Verizon as the only US carrier who hasn’t committed to switching its customers to Android Messages by default. Theverge.com reports that this means real interoperability with RCS on other networks. Besides needing Verizon, the iPhone does not support RCS and Apple is silent about whether it will. 

Exactly 14 years ago, Apple disrupted the smartphone market as the first iPhone went on sale. According to counterpointresearch.com, it is not only the largest smartphone OEM by revenue but has also set up numerous benchmarks in the smartphone industry. The iPhone 12 series’ cumulative global sales crossed the 100 million units mark in April 2021. The series was able to achieve this feat in the seventh month after its launch, which is two months earlier than the iPhone 11.