Apple AR Headset-Production This Year; ‘Cheap’ iPad Keeps Phone Jack & Touch ID; Google Smart Game Controller; Tesla-Raising Prices & Keeping Stores Open; Facial Recognition at Airports

Apple AR may be nearly upon us. 9to5mac.com reports that the company may be putting their AR headset into production later this year. Ming-Chi Kuo, the noted analyst, says it will be in mass production by 4th quarter this year or 2nd quarter of 2020 at the latest. It’s expected to be much lighter and more comfortable than most of those out, but would be dependent on an iPhone much the way the Apple Watch is.

Also, a report has the $329 iPad keeping Touch ID and the venerable headphone jack. The screen size will increase to 10 inches from 9.7 by reducing the bezel size. The internals will be beefed up with the newer processor.

A recent filing has revealed a smart controller that Google patented for gaming in 2014. According to 9to5google.com, the device would allow seamless activation of games on a host device by the controller. The controller could even let users select using a tablet, PC, or smart TV. It could connect over USB, Bluetooth, or Wi-Fi, and would have a small screen. The handheld gadget would have onboard memory for the user’s account info, brightness and volume preferences, and other settings…and it would use a specific key combination to act as the password. In the past months, Google demoed Stream on a Mac, Windows, and Linux over a chrome browser. The controller might be used for gaming on a smart TV.

Tesla has done a quick about-face, and will keep more of its stores open. In order to do this, theverge.com says they will raise prices on all vehicles except the $35,000 model 3 on March 18th. The increase will be 3%. Tesla will still not reopen about 10% of the stores, as they had planned to close those anyway. Ordering will still take place 100% online, with salespeople at the stores showing customers how to order the cars on their phones. They will also have a small pool of cars available for customers who want to buy one immediately.

Buzzfeednews.com has seen documents that indicate that the government plans to use Facial Recognition on ALL international passengers at the top 20 US airports by 2021! The biometric scanning system would be applied to passengers on some 16,300 flights per week. This is in spite of the fact that the ACLU reported last summer that Amazon’s facial recognition tech falsely matched 28 members of Congress with arrest mug shots. The false matches were disproportionately people of color. Buckle up!

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Galaxy S10 Sales Estimate Raised; Facebook Lost US Users; Tesla-Faster Superchargers Coming; Amazon Closes Pop-Up Stores

Ming-Chi Kuo, well-known analyst with a stellar track record for being accurate, has upped his forecast of Samsung Galaxy S10 shipments by 10% due to better than expected pre-order demand. According to macrumors.com, Kuo thinks the market had been a bit overly bearish about high end smart phone growth, and he also sees the Samsung products benefiting from the spec differentiation from iPhone models….with features like the in-screen ultrasonic fingerprint display, triple lens rear camera, and bilateral wireless charging. The analyst also noted there is better than expected demand in China. Apple is widely expected to expand to 3 cameras on the back of the upcoming iPhones, but for now, Samsung will have a significant leg up in sales. Pre-orders have continued for the S10 models, and the launch is later this week.

Bad news for Facebook…US users are down 15 million…better news…most switched over to Facebook-owned Instagram. (Between 9-16%.) 9to5mac.com reports that the drop occurred between 2017 and 2019. The numbers were crunched by Edison Research. They also determined that nearly 80% of the US population uses social media. Edison found that only a trace have left social media entirely…most have just switched platforms.

Tesla has announced that they have developed a new, faster Supercharger. Right now the chargers top out at 120Kw. Arstchnica.com says there are almost 13,000 of them. Since Tesla started their network, there have been others with 350Kw and 500Kw fast chargers. Tesla will be rolling out the V3 Superchager by the end of the year. They say it will support 250Kw per car, and top out at 1Mw. Tesla says the new units will charge a Model 3 Long Range (operating at peak efficiency) to 75 miles of charge in 5 minutes, and charge at rates of up to 1,000 miles per hour. Tesla is going to update software to prewarm batteries as they approach a Supercharger, which will reduce average charging time by 25%. This is similar to what they do with vehicles that have Ludicrous mode. Model 3’s are already able to juice up with the faster Superchargers. Model S and X owners will get software updates later this year that will let them benefit from the upgrade.

Amazon has decided to close all 87 of its pop-up stores. According to businessinsider.com, the company will instead focus on expanding Amazon Books and Amazon 4-Star, it’s other brick and mortar offerings…which they say ‘have a more comprehensive customer experience and broader selection.’ The pop-up stores, which have been in place about 5 years, focused primarily on gadgets like the Echo and fire TV. Amazon says they will find opportunities for the employees of the pop-ups to transfer within Amazon.


More Folders from Samsung Soon; iPhone Cuts Prices in China; Target’s Digital Sales Explode; Chinese Hackers Hit Colleges for Mil Tech

Now that Samsung has introduced the Galaxy Fold, and Huawei has put out the Mate X, you probably thought everyone else would just follow suit and copy, right? Well now, Samsung is working on TWO additional folding phones! One folds vertically like a clamshell…top to bottom. The other folds away like the Mate X. According to engadget.com, Samsung is also thinking of offering free screen replacements to account for a visible crease that appears on the Fold after it has been folder some 10,000 times. Durability will be an issue for a gadget people have to drop over $1900 for! The wave of folding phones is thought by some to be a way to keep up excitement and sales as smartphones level off in sales.

Apple continues to suffer from weak sales in China. It caused their first guidance miss in 16 years. Although they say market conditions are improving, 9to5mac.com reports that major Apple Chinese resellers have cut the price on iPhone XR and XS Max, and are running promotional deals on the XS. The promo cuts the price on the XS by around $150, and the discount on the Max is nearly $300. XR sales in China have been rising at a reasonable pace, but the XS and XS Max sales have been flat. Apple had previously said they were adjusting prices to account for currency fluctuations.

Target’s digital sales grew ten times faster than in-store sales in 2018. Target has been focusing on fending off Amazon, and posted the biggest rise in comparable sales in 13 years, according to geekwire.com. The company has turned some of its biggest stores into mini-warehouses for shipping and pickup of online orders, and has also opened smaller neighborhood stores. Even with the dramatic online growth, Target’s online sales still only account for 7% of total sales…but that’s up from 5.5% in 2017. In the 4th quarter of 2018, they passed 10% online for the first time.

Chinese hackers have apparently been working overtime to break into US universities in search of info they can steal for military use. Zdnet.com says that University of Hawaii, MIT, and University of Washington have been targets, and that the Chinese have been trying to crack some 27 universities worldwide. The main thrust is maritime tech for military purposes. The Chinese have mainly used phishing attacks to gain entry, and are emanating from servers known as Mudcarp, Leviathan, APT40, and Temp.Periscope. The hacks are believed to be aimed at supporting China’s naval modernization effort.


Instant Pot Merges with Pyrex Maker; Apple Waiting on Folding Glass for Folder Phone; Mercedes Bows Electric Van; Uber Rewards Now Live Across US

It’s kind of like plain or peanut….everyone either has an instant pot or air fryer. On the instant pot front, Corelle Brands, which has Corning Ware and Pyrex, is planning to merge with Instant Brands, the maker of Instant Pot. Engadget.com reports that this could expand the product development pipeline. If the deal goes through, Instant Brands will continue to work out of its home in Ottawa, Canada. Corelle’s CEO will run the overall company. They look for the deal to be wrapped up by 2nd quarter.

We just reported that Samsung Display has sent folding screen samples to Apple. Apple has had folder patents for several years, but may still be a holdout. According to macrumors.com, Samsung protects the folding OLED screen with plastic, which can scratch, crease, and crinkle more easily. Apple is apparently holding out for Corning to make a folding glass panel. Corning says the trick is to not only make the panel bendable, but to also be able to withstand drops. Corning already was Willow Glass, which can be rolled like a sheet of paper…BUT…to make it, the panel has to be dipped in a molten salt solution, which tends to corrode transistors that live in a smartphone display. Still, they think they will have a screen cover ready in the next couple years. Apple has kicked in $200 million out of its billion dollar Advanced Manufacturing Fund towards making it happen.

Mercedes has revealed an EQV electric van at the Geneva auto show. Arstechnica.com says the van will haul between 6 and 8 people, and has a range of 249 miles. It will be able to be configured as a daily driver for a family or a people mover that can serve as a shuttle van. It is expected to go into volume production sometime in 2020.

Uber Rewards, the loyalty program the ride share company launched in 9 cities last Fall has now gone live across the country. 9to5mac.com reports that it gives credit for every dollar spent on Uber and Uber Eats…with more points offered for Uber Black. The points tally up to between 1% and 3% of what you spend. They are credited to your cash balance. Gold membership, at 500 points, gives you flexible cancellations. At 2500 points, you’re Platinum, and gain price protection on regular rides. For 7500 points, it’s Diamond, and you get ‘the best drivers and complimentary surprise upgrades.’ The company is retroactively crediting users for what they have spent the last 6 months.


Tesla Model Y Bows the 14th; Samsung Offers Foldable Displays to Apple & Google; Facebook Opt-Out Number…Doesn’t; Password Free Web

The long-promised smaller Tesla SUV…the Model Y…will be shown to the world on March 14th. Elon Musk announced the date in a series of Tweets yesterday. Theverge.com reports that the Model Y will share about 75% of its parts with the Model 3. It will be produced at the Gigafactory in Reno. The SUV is expected to go into volume production by 2020. Tesla also plans to make the model at the new Gigafactory in China. Musk noted that it will cost a bit more than the Model 3, and have less range…due to the higher, less slippery profile and more weight.

Apple has been known to be working on a foldable display for several years…there is a trail of patents to prove it. Now that Samsung is putting out a foldable phone, we’ve wondered what Apple would do…their top phones all use Samsung OLED displays. According to macrumors.com, Samsung Display isn’t letting the fact that the phone division is coming out with the Galaxy F stop them from servicing a big customer. They have already sent foldable display samples to both Apple and Google! Although Apple has been testing their own and now has the Samsung samples, don’t expect an Apple folder before 2020.

Facebook for some time has urged users to use a phone number to secure their account with 2 factor authentication. It turns out that the number has also been associated with your user profile…which anyone can look up. Techcrunch.com notes that you can hide your number from view…and most people do, but that doesn’t help with the look up in some cases…the number is still visible if someone has uploaded your contact info from their mobile phone, for example. Researchers say using the phone number for two factor has caused people to be served ads within 2 weeks!

It isn’t imminent yet, but a password-free online experience may be coming into view. Theverge.com says the World Wide Web Consortium has approved WebAuthn, a new authentication standard to secure your online accounts. It is already supported by Chrome, Firefox, Edge, and Safari. WebAuthn is an API that lets websites communicate with a security device to let a user log in. It might be a FIDO security key you plug into the USB port, or a biometric device. Either are considered vastly more secure than the lousy passwords most people pick for various websites they use. Dropbox and Microsoft already accept WebAuthn in addition to the browsers mentioned. As more sites allow for it, we could see the venerable password fade away.


Brits May Fine Facebook & Google Billions; Apple Watch Owns Smartwatch Market; Motorola Folder Coming; Amazon Pick Day Delivery

The British government is apparently ready to fine Facebook and Google billions if they don’t rid their platforms of harmful content. Businessinsider.com reports that the fines could amount to 4% of global revenue. The UK digital minister Margot James says a new independent tech regulator will be given the power to punish the companies if they don’t properly protect their users. Full details are expected to be released in a policy paper on net safety that should be out next month. 4% of revenue is a bundle…up to $2.2 billion on revenue of $55.8 billion last year for Facebook, and as much as $5.4 billion against Alphabet’s total 2018 revenue of $135.8 billion.

The Apple Watch continues to be the 800 lb. gorilla of the smartwatch world, and even grew 4th quarter. According to macrumors.com, Apple shipped 9.2 Watches in the final quarter of 2018, up 18%. Overall, smartwatch sales were up 56% worldwide to 18 million. Apple slipped from 67% of the market to 51%, but still remains the top dog. Samsung skipped up to 2nd place, passing Fitbit and Garmin.

The Razr may rise again. Motorola is working on a folding phone (much like every other smartphone maker.) Engadget.com says the company claims to have been working on a folding product for some time and has gone through multiple iterations. All indicators point to a folding Motorola offering by summer. Considering that the Samsung Galaxy Fold will be out next month, and the Huawei Mate X will drop mid-year, the venerable cell phone name will be right in the thick of things. The Motorola offering will feature styling cues from the original Razr. Motorola has said they won’t offer an outside screen, citing the lack of durability of OLED screens with plastic film overlays. Interestingly, Motorola has worked up a dual hinge model that folds twice..leaving only a third of the display exposed when closed. The company says that double fold model may be out at some point, but likely won’t be the first folder they release.

A new wrinkle from Amazon for Prime members…the company has announced the launch of ‘Amazon Day.’ According to tech crunch.com, the new feature will allow members to pick the day of the week to take delivery of their orders. The orders will arrive on the selected Amazon Day in fewer boxes, and should make deliveries more predictable. Obviously, the service benefits Amazon, by reducing the number of deliveries a driver has to make to the same address, but it could also be a boon to users. You can pick a day that you are scheduled to work from home, for example…or you day off. It also goes to Amazon’s promise to become more green friendly. Most items can be ordered for Amazon Day delivery up to two days before the chosen day arrives. The service is live today.


Facebook ‘Clear History’ Tool Could Finally Debut; Fedex Shows Autonomous Delivery Robot; Apple AR Glasses-Maybe 2 Years Away; T-Mobile 5G Data Won’t Cost More Than Current Plans

At long last, Facebook’s promised ‘Clear History’ tool may come out later this year. Theverge.com reports it was promised last May, but has been delayed. The tool would work similarly to a clear cookies function, but would clear your browsing history on Facebook…what you’v clicked on, what websites you visited, etc. Facebook plans to begin testing the tool this spring. It will no doubt impact Facebook’s ad revenue…that is, unless FB or other users of the data find a way around it!

FedEx has announced that it is testing robots for short range deliveries….basically, last mile deliveries. According to theverge.com, the FedEx SameDay Bot is battery powered, and would have a top speed of 10 miles per hour. It would be capable of avoiding pedestrians and traffic using a combination of LIDAR and cameras like a self-driving car. Initial tests will be run between FedEx offices in Memphis.

There have been rumors for several years that Apple is developing AR glasses that could overlay points of interest and information. Macrumors.com says the patent granted yesterday only states that it is for a ‘head-mounted display.’ It would have a cam that would locate, identify, and annotate points of interest or other objects or locations. The gadget could be released in 2020 or 2021.

T-Mobile has announced it plans to start rolling out their 5G network in the first half of the year…and critically, the CTO Neville Ray says unlimited 5G data won’t cost more than current plans…at least at first. According to engadget.com, the unlimited 5G plan could cost as little as $70 a line…the bae rate for the company’s present 4G service.