SiriusXM Buying Pandora; Walmart Using Oculus Go For Employee Training; A Stake in Airbnb for Hosts; Apple Adding Depth Control During Photo Shooting

SiriusXM is to buy Pandora via an all stock deal, with the value set at $3.5 billion. According to cnbc.com, the deal includes a provision where Pandora can potentially enter into a better deal if they can find it. Pandora claims about 6 million premium subscribers. It’s possible another deal could come in for more, but Apple and Spotify have looked at the streamer already, and didn’t bite. Barring an angel stepping in, the deal with SiriusXM will close the first quarter of 2019.

Walmart is putting Oculus Go VR headsets in all its stores nationwide, to be used in employee training programs. Zdnet.com reports that there should be around 17,000 of the virtual reality headsets deployed in Walmarts around the country by the end of the year. Walmart plans to train on new technology, compliance, and ’soft skills’ like empathy and customer service.

Airbnb has reportedly sent a letter to the SEC asking the government agency to allow offering equity in the company to hosts. Engadget.com says basically this would allow shares to go to gig economy workers, not just investors and staff. Uber has asked for this kind of deal more than once, but in Airbnb’s case, they are asking for a rule change to allow it, not just an exception. So far, the SEC has not responded.

The new iPhone Xs and Xs Max have a cool feature for the bokeh portrait effect. When the phones rolled out, Apple announced that users could adjust the depth of field on an image after shooting it. Now, according to 9to5mac.com, Apple may add to this in an upcoming software update. Apparently, they are testing letting users adjust the depth of field while shooting a picture. The feature may come later this year in iOS 12.1 or 12.2, according to reports.

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Go Pro Hero 7 Bows; Tesla Model 3-Five Star Safety Rating; 3,000 Amazon Go Stores by 2021; Amazon Hardware Event

After a leak, GoPro went ahead and officially announced the Hero 7 line of cams. They are in White, Silver, and Black versions. According to theverge.com, the new cams will be on sale September 27th, and range from $199 to $399. The pricey Black has 4K video at up to 60 fps, super slow motion, and features including live-streaming, a lapse mode, and ‘dramatically improved digital image stabilization.’ They are all the same form factor as previous models, so all your accessories should work with them.

Tesla’s Model 3 has been awarded a 5 star safety rating by the NHTSA in standard car tests. Reuters.com reports that the crash testing includes rollover safety as well as head on and side crashes. Previously, both the Model S and Model X had gotten 5 star ratings. The news bumped Tesla stock back up to $304 a share in early Thursday trading.

Amazon is ratcheting up its Amazon Go cashier-free stores from concept to more markets. Engadget.com says they are planning to have 3,000 of the grab and go stores open by 2021. There should be 10 by the end of this year, including New York and San Francisco, then 50 locations by 2019. Amazon looks to be focusing on dense metro areas for at least the first round of the stores that spare you standing in check out lines.

*Amazon will hold a surprise event at 11a Eastern today in Seattle to announce new hardware. Last year, they rolled out the smaller Echo Spot and Echo Plus. One strong rumor is an Echo subwoofer and a plug that allows you to add Alexa to any appliance you own.


Samsung Leak-4 Versions of Galaxy S10; iPhone Xs & Xs Max Ram & Battery Info; Fitbit Care Service; Woof! Sony’s Aibo Robot Dog

The Samsung Galaxy S9 hasn’t set any records so far…in fact, it’s the slowest selling Galaxy S phone series since 2012. That may be changing, though. Bgr.com says a new leak points to as any as 4 Galaxy S10 models! All will be powered by 7 nanometer chips like the new iPhones. It appears all will also be ‘full screen’ designs, again like Apple’s phones. On top of that, besting Apple at least this time around, there will be at least one with a triple-lens camera…AND a dual lens front selfie cam, too! The phones should rock an ultrasonic fingerprint sensor…it will live behind the display, so no fooling around to find the sensor on the back. There will be a new Chapter model, with slightly less dramatic specs, plus the main phone…with a 5.8 inch super AMOLED display, a bigger one with a 6.44 inch screen, and the 5 cameras, finally…a 5G model! We may see all of these, plus the long-rumored folding Samsung shoe at CES in Las Vegas this coming January.

Thanks to China’s Ministry of Industry, we now know the memory size of the new iPhones and their battery size. Macrumors.com reports that both the new iPhone Xs and Xs Max have 4 Gigs of RAM…the upcoming XR has 3 Gigs. The Xs Max sports the biggest battery ever in an Apple handset…3174 mAh, while the XR will have 2942 mAh. The Xs loses battery capacity compared to the X, going from 2716 down to 2658 mAh, a drop of 2.2%. Apple touts 90 more minutes of use time from the Xs Max over the old X, but several early testers say they are doing noticeably better than that.

Apple is far from alone when it comes to wearables getting into the health market…Fitbit has launched Fitbit Care, a service that will coat on staying well…whether it comes to slogging through your fitness plan or managing diseases. According to theverge.com, the service is a premium product designed for health care customers or employers and health systems that use Fitbit to keep tabs on employee health (and keep costs down.) There’s a new app (of course) called Fitbit Plus. It processes data from your Fitbit and other medical devices like blood pressure monitors. The app also features a social platform. First users are those with health insurance from Humana, which already provides customers with Fitbits. We will probably see a number of other companies dive in now that both Apple’s Watch and Fitbit devices have embraced health whole hog…or maybe that’s half-hog….or vegan, artificial hog.

Grab your credit card, and swallow hard…Sony’s revamped Aibo robot dog is up for pre-order in the US. Engadget.com says the adorable pup for early adapters, robot fans, and dog lovers that are allergic to actual pets ships mid-December. You’ll get Aibo, an ‘aibone,’ a pink ball, paw pads, and 3 years of AI cloud service…all for the small fee of (gulp) $2900! That’s more than a couple vet visits and a year’s supply of dog food for most! If you have the nearly 3 grand to throw down, hurry…it’s a limited edition!


Twitter-Giving Back Chron Timeline; 8 New Alexa Devices from Amazon; Galaxy Note 9 Blows Up; Mercedes Delivers e-Truck

Twitter is going to start testing a way to switch between what they think are the ‘best’ Tweets for you to pure chronological like they used to have. Engadget.com reports that the testing should start within the next few weeks. Eventually, they will have something similar to Facebook’s news feed switch between ‘Top Stories’ and ‘Most Recent.’ It can’t happen too soon!

Amazon will be dropping at least 8 new Alexa powered devices by the end of the year, according to CNBC. Look for a Microwave oven, an amplifier, a receiver, subwoofer, some sort of in-car gadget, and more. Alexa will be baked in to all. Expect Amazon to unveil at least some of the new gear at an event later this month.

Not a good sign for the Samsung Galaxy Note 9….a woman from New York says one ‘spontaneously combusted’ in her purse, echoing the old Galaxy Note 7. The story picked up by appleinsider.com came from the New York Post. Apparently, a Long Island real estate agent said her phone got ‘extremely hot’ and she dropped it into her bag. The bag smoked, caught fire, and burned up the stuff in her bag. This seems to be the only instance involving a Note 9 so far…stay tuned….

Mercedes has started delivery of the eActros electric trucks. Electrek.co says it ws to Hermes, Germany’s biggest logistics company. They are buying about 1500 all electric vans from Mercedes. The delivery vans have dual electric motors and two battery packs at 240 kWh. Even at that, it is only good for 125 miles of range with a full payload. The trucks can recharge in 3-11 hours depending on charge rate, which can run from as low as 20 kW up to 80 kW. Mercedes says Hermes is one of 20 ‘test customers’ as they work the kinks out of their all electric truck fleet.


Amazon Employees Deleting Bad Reviews; Microsoft May Field Black Surface 2; Fire at Tesla Gigafactory; US Leading in 5G

Amazon is investigating claims that some employees are deleting bad reviews for cash…from $80 up to $2000. According to arstechnica.com, it’s happening in the US but is ‘rampant’ in China.
Employees are allegedly also selling out info involving keywords used in searches for products and buyer habits. Most of the activity is facilitated by middlemen via WeChat. No comment from Amazon beyond that they are investigating.

Microsoft may have decided that black is the new black. Theverge.com reports that there may be a Black Surface Laptop 2 unveiled at the Surface event October 2nd. The original Surface RT came in a black magnesium alloy, but Redmond rapidly switched to a silver color for the Surface 2. Besides the Surface Laptop 2, Microsoft is expected to show ra refresh of the Surface Pro at their upcoming event in New York City.

There was apparently a fire at the Tesla Gigafactory in Nevada late Saturday. Engadget.com sys it was in the cooling tube coating oven area. The factory was evacuated and shut down, but the fire was quickly dispatched. Production resumed early Sunday. It appears that the factory was only down a brief time, and that it shouldn’t seriously impact vehicle production at the plant in Fremont.

For years, the US has lagged in internet speeds while paying more. Now, the US may be leading Europe and Asia in one area of tech infrastructure…we may be getting 5G coverage faster. According to Ericsson’s VP of 5G Commercialization Thomas Noren, via ZDnet.com, the US has been able to iron out tech challenges and is ahead of the pack. South Korea is also further along than most other countries. You still shouldn’t expect 5G coverage to be very widespread much before 2020 in the US.


iPhone XR Could Be Half New iPhone Sales; Zuck Says FB Needs Help On Election Prep; Mapillary Partners With Amazon- Parking Spot Tech

DigiTimes is prediction that Apple’s new lineup of iPhones should end up with sales of over 85 million units the second half of this year. Macrumors.com reports that DigiTimes also predicts that the new, less expensive iPhone XR could account for over half of new iPhone sales. The estimates are based on supply chain information and Apple’s previous year sales. The XR goes on preorder next month, while the two more expensive models, Xs and Xs Max can be preordered tomorrow.

With less than 60 days to the US midterm elections, Mark Zuckerberg is warning that Facebook can’t fight election interference alone. According to businessinsider.com, Zuck dropped a 3,000 word essay titled “Preparing for Elections.” He says Facebook has started proactively cooperating with state officials to solve the problem of election interference. Although not apologizing for Facebook’s role in the last elections re fake news, Zuckerberg has admitted he should have taken the problem more seriously, and the essay crystalizes his (and Facebook’s) thinking on how they can do better moving forward…but that they need the help of governments, other tech companies, and journalists.

Mapillary has partnered with Amazon Rekognition for visual data analysis to try to make it easier for people to find parking in congested urban areas. Venturebeat.com says the Swedish startup is developing a street level imagery platform that used computer vision tech to enhance digital maps. They will use Amazon’s text-in-image feature to scan parking sign data on a massive scale. The startup already has 350 million images, but will need the Amazon system to read the text on signs that tell how many spaces are available, etc. In initial tests of 40,000 signs, they are correct 95% of the time. Any app that makes it less of a hassle to find parking will be welcomed everywhere.


Apple Recapple

Apple is about to ship their 2 billionth iOS device…2 billion iOS devices, first billion dollar company. Suppose there’s a connection here?

Watch

It will be called Watch Series 4, despite rumors to the contrary.
The display is bigger, and curves over the corners. Screens are 35% and 32% larger, but the watch is thinner, and has thinner bezels to get more screen space. New faces display multiple time zones or more health and fitness complications. There are faces that display sports scores, some spacey ones with moving graphics.

The digital crown now includes haptic feedback….it’s more precise. The new speaker is 50% louder, and the mic has been moved to the opposite side from the speaker so you won’t get feedback.

New back is now ceramic and sapphire. Radio signals can pass through both the front and back, giving better coverage for calls.

New faster processor, dual core 64 bit with 2X faster performance.

New accelerometer and gyroscope can detect hard falls. It will pop up a screen that says the fall is detected, do you want to call for help. If you don’t in a minute, it will call 911 for you.

The heart rate sensor has been upgraded. It will now notify of a low heart rate, it can screen heart rhythm and will notify you if it detects AFib. The optical sensor does this. There is a new electrical sensor that will allow you to take an electrocardiogram! This ECG sensor is a first in consumer devices. Open the app, put your finger on the digital crown. It takes only 30 seconds. If things are normal, it will tell you sinus rhythm. If you have atrial fibrillation, it will also tell you. It will save as a chart printout like you get when you have an ECG in a clinic so your doctors can read it. It saves those as a pdf.

The monitor has received clearance from the FDA! It should be available later this year. The health data is encrypted on the device and in the cloud.

Battery life is the same 18 hours as Series 3.

Colors are: Silver, Gold, & Space Grey. Order on Friday the 14th, available on the 21st. Watch OS 5 drops on September 17th.

Series 4 starts at $399, Cellular at $499. The older Series 3 will be $279.

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iPhone

It will be the Xs (small s…the only thing we didn’t know for sure about the name.) They say Ten s…most people will call it the Xs….excess, and excess Max, LOL!

Surgical grade stainless steel bezel. New gold finish. So gold, silver, and space grey. It will stand 2 meters in the water for 30 minutes.

The Xs Super Retina OLED display is 5.8” . The display has a 60% better display than the X. The 6.5” version Max is Apple’s biggest display ever. It’s the same size handset as the 8 Plus, but with bigger display. You can see split views on the larger phone.

They have widened the stereo field for the speakers over previous models.

Face ID.

It has faster algorithms and a faster secure enclave chip, so will recognize your face and unlock the phone faster.

The new chip is called the A12 Bionic. It’s a 7 nanometer chip…the first ever. 6.9 billion transistors. 6 Core CPU, 4 Core GPU, and Neural engine. The new neural engine is 8 cores, up from 2 in last year’s iPhone X. 5 trillion operations per second.

Apps will launch 30% faster.

You can get the new Xs and Xs Max with 512 Gigs of storage.

Apple says the new phone can do real time machine learning, which is important for photography and Animoji.

Siri shortcuts will allow you to combine tasks…kind of like using computer macros to run multiple tasks.

Game developer Bethesda Game Studios showed off capability of the new system with their Elder Scrolls Blades.

Nexteam showed a new app called Homecourt that uses the camera and processors to check 6 metrics for every basketball shot taken…you can analyze your form, release time, and other insight into improving your game.

Directive Games demoed use of AR to emulate playing an arcade game with friends. They will have a game out later this year.

CAMERA

Apple is staying with 2 lenses…12MP wide and 12MP telephoto lenses… f1.8 lens with a bigger sensor. The sensors are twice as fast as before. It does record in true stereo sound for video.

Now, the Image signal processor uses the Neural engine. Should give better red eye fix, and better result on hair and things like glasses. They are introducing Smart HDR. It will detect motion, and not only shoot instantly when you hit the button, but it will shoot multiple shots and use the engine to merge the best of each for a single great shot.

They have improved the portrait mode and stage lighting mode. Bokeh has been improved for better background blur in portraits.
There’s a depth slider in portrait mode you you can adjust the depth of field AFTER taking the pic!

The new Xs and Max have Dual Sim card tech one physical and an e-SIM …this enables you to set up two different phone numbers, use two different plans, or use one number for travel and another at home. The phone will show you if it is…for example…the home line or business line. (China will get two actual physical SIM cards.)

iPhone XR….The new, cheaper model. It’s aluminum, with the LCD screen, and white, black, blue, coral, and yellow colors. [Also (Product)Red.]

It only has one camera lens, but the screen goes edge to edge, and the phone has Face ID. Its 6.1” display is dubbed “Liquid Retina.”

No 3D Touch but it has Haptic Touch like the MacBook Pro. It also runs the A12 Bionic chip.

12MP wide angle camera with the bigger sensor, but only has the one lens…no ‘telephoto.’ You still have support for the Tru-Depth camera in the front.

This will have an hour and a half more battery life than iPhone 8 Plus.

$749 for base iPhone XR— Order October 19, ships October 26th.
$999 for base iPhone Xs
$1099 for base iPhone Xs Max
Preorders for both this Friday, ship next Friday.

Prices for the older phones now will be: iPhone 7 from $449 and 8 from $599.

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Also covered: updates to HomePod software and Apple TV OS. Both those updates drop next Monday.

Mac OS Mojave will be out September 24th.