Netflix Bumping Up Prices; NBCUniversal to Stream; Tesla Portable EV Charger; FAA to Allow Drones at Night and Over Crowds

Brace for the howls of anger and anguish…Netflix is raising fees. According to marketwatch.com, even the entry level plan, which Netflix held at $8 a month last time around, will get a bump of a buck to $9. The most popular plan…that gives you high def streams on up to two internet connected devices simultaneously, will jump from $11 to $13 per month. The premium ultra high def plan will increase from $14 to $16 a month. Last time Netflix raised fees, they lost 600,000 subscribers. It’s worth noting that they now have 58 million subscribers in the US and another 79 million outside the US, so they probably figure they can afford to lose a half million or million disgruntled customers. Grrr. (Yeah, I’ll grouse and pay the difference.)

NBC Universal will launch a streaming service in 2020. Unlike a lot of streamers, variety.com reports that this one will be primarily ad supported…although they plan to offer it for a fee to non-subscribers. It will be free to NBCU pay-cable subscribers in the US, like Comcast. It will also be available to Sky subscribers in the EU…together that’s about 52 million subscribers. It’s expected to feature original content and of course their own programming, as well as that of outside partners. NBCU has said it’s pulling its offerings from Netflix in 2021…this is a big reason why. NBCU feels that by offering it as a free add on to their cable and sat customers, it will give them a fighting chance against the likes of Netflix, which has a giant head start on NBC as well as Amazon, Hulu, Fox Nation and the upcoming Apple and Disney services.

Tesla has rolled out their first non-hardwired wall connector with a NEMA 14-50 plug to charge your EV (presumably a Tesla.) In English, a NEMA 14-50 plug is one that will plug into a 240 volt outlet like for your stove or electric dryer. The big feature of this one is that it can be taken with you if you move. It can charge the cars 25% faster than the Tesla Gen 2 Mobile connector (which comes standard with Model S, Model X, and Model 3 cars.) Engadget.com says it runs $500, but since you don’t need an electrician to install it, it is a cheaper alternative to the hardwired home charger….and you can easily take it if you move.

OK, what could possibly go wrong? The FAA has proposed relaxing drone rules, and allowing those under 55 lbs to fly at night and over crowds of people. Up to now, night flights have only been allowed on a case-by-case basis. Arstechnica.com reports that the drone makers will have to certify that if the vehicles fall, it will be with a Federal Aviation Agency maximum amount of kinetic energy of either 11 or 25 foot-pounds, depending on the situation. Oh, I’m so relieved to hear that! A final rule could be in place in 12-18 months.

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New iPod Touch Coming; Pandora Launches Voice Assistant; Googlers Protest Arbitration on Twitter; Court Rules Against Forced Biometric Unlocking

It appears that Apple may not be ready to retire the iPod Touch quite yet. The venerable music player hasn’t been updated since 2015, but apparently Apple is working on a revised version. The thought is, it’s a way to keep people in the Mac ecosystem and sell more services…which Apple wants to do with iPhone sales (and all smartphones for that matter) softening. 9to5mac.com says Apple may switch the 2019 iPhones to USB C, as they have already done with the iPad Pros.

What the world needs right now is another voice assistant. Well, maybe not, but we are getting one anyway! Pandora has just launched their own in-app voice assistant on Android and iOS using the ‘Hey Pandora’ command. 9to5google.com reports that the voice assistant will make it easier for users to control stations, and perform common actions within the app. It will supposedly be accurate enough to respond well to ‘play something for my workout,’ or ‘play something I like’. The voice assistant will be live today to a small subset of users, and rolling out more widely over the next couple months.

Google employs are holding a Twitter protest today about forced arbitration agreements…common in the tech industry and widely used across business and industry to stay out of court and hold costs down. The Tweetstorm will emphasize ‘how forced arbitration denies 60 million Americans access to their civil rights.’ A little insight into binding arbitration: Most companies use arbitration clauses to force employees into binding arbitration when a dispute arises. This saves them big money by avoiding court. The pitch is, they use private judges, and the judge acting as the arbitrator hears both sides and renders a non-appealable decision. A very lopsided majority of such decisions go to the employer. Why would that be? The judges are all retired judges picking up a little extra cash, but should be fair…right? Since the companies pay the fees to the judges…which are often much more than they could make an hour practicing law, and since they are human, they know where their bread is buttered, and usually find for the companies paying the freight. According to mashable.com, the Tweetstorm will be going until 6pm Eastern tonight @endforcedarb and with the hashtag #EndForcedArbitration.

A federal court has ruled that the government can’t get a warrant granting permission to turn up at a house allegedly connected to a criminal suspect, seize all digital devices, and force those found at the house to use biometrics to unlock the devices. Arstechnica.com says the court held that the government request ‘runs afoul of the Fourth and Fifth Amendments,’ and the protections therein against unreasonable searches and self-incrimination. The judge held that such a request was ‘over broad.’ The court cited a Supreme Court decision from 2018 known as Carpenter. It is likely that this decision will be kicked back up the court system by the government.


Cadillac shows Pic of 1st EV; Ford Hybrid Explorer SUV; Quarterly Smartphone Production to Drop 19%-Credit Suisse; New Twitter Beta

Cadillac has dropped a pic of its first EV platform. The GM division didn’t give a name or details, but the Caddy EV will be the first to use the so-called ‘BEV3’ platform that will eventually be used across the GM lines for EVs. Interestingly, Cadillac president Steve Carlisle (as quoted by engadget.com) said “The architectural design will allow the battery packs to fit into the vehicle like ice cubes in an ice cube tray, you can put in as much water as you want to make as many cubes as you need — the tray still takes up the same space in the freezer.” A modular battery pack enables different range vehicles to be built on the same line…and may allow for upgrades at dealerships. No word on when the Caddy EV will be out, but they did announce they will be rolling out new models at the rate of one every 6 months through 2021.

Ford is adding a hybrid Explorer to their SUV line, coming in 2020. According to techcrunch.com, it’s loaded with tech, and importantly to people that buy SUVs…won’t lose space in the back to haul stuff thanks to stashing the battery pack under the 2nd row seats. The hybrid will have 318 combined horsepower and a range of 500 miles. It will have a 10 speed hybrid modular transmission and liquid cooled lithium-ion battery.

In the aftermath of Apple cutting iPhone production, now Credit Suisse predicts overall smartphone production will drop 19% this quarter. 9to5mac.com reports that such a drop will make it the lowest level of production since 2013. The bank warned that they don’t see a bottom in sight. As with Apple, the softening China market is a big part of the culprit. On the plus side, refreshed iPhones should sell better in China and everywhere this Fall…especially with the rumors that Apple will add a third rear camera to the top line phone, and a 2nd cam to the iPhone XR replacement. Of course, there are already some phones out that have FIVE rear cameras.

Twitter is going to launch a new beta in the next few weeks, using a standalone app for a select group of users. Techcrunch.com says it will focus on a new design for the way conversations are Threaded. One big experiment in the beta will be color coded replies….one color for people you follow, another for others, and a third for your replies through the thread. Beta testers will also be able to mark replies that branch off so they can come back to those later and follow threads or sub-threads that have information of interest to them. Interestingly, the heart for liking and arrows for re-Tweeting don’t show up until you click on a Tweet…to give a cleaner flow as you scroll through the timeline.


Samsung Will Show Galaxy S10 & Announces Unpacked; Google Adds Activity Cards to Search; Apple Says Biggest Impact Will Be On Health; Tesla Roadster Will Hover

Samsung will reveal the Galaxy S10 at a Galaxy Unpacked event on February 20th…a week prior to Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. According to 9to5google.com, Samsung Newsroom confirms the event will take place in San Francisco at 11am at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. They will reportedly show off a fully functional folding phone, as well as 3 versions of the Galaxy S10. A higher-end 4th model will drop later in the spring and have 5G connectivity.

Google is adding ‘activity cards’ to help your search on mobile. Cnet.com reports that it will pop up a related activity drop down menu to give you a leg up on previous searches- to either start where you left off or avoid repeating something you already found. You can mark a page to check later by touching the activity card link. The feature is rolling out today in the US.

In an interview (with CNBC), Apple’s Tim Cook says Apple’s greatest contribution to mankind will be its contribution to health care. Businessinsider.com says Cook expanded on this by saying “Because our business has always been about enriching people’s lives. And as we’ve gotten into healthcare more and more through the Watch and through other things that we’ve created with ResearchKit and CareKit and putting your medical records on the iPhone, this is a huge deal.” It’s worth noting that it’s also a huge deal because $3.5 trillion was spent on healthcare in 2017, according to Uncle Sam. That’s a pretty enormous market for Apple to tap!

Elon Musk is noted for saying and Tweeting some outrageous things. A fair number of those things have actually happened, too. Musk had said that the new Tesla Roadster would incorporate a ‘SpaceX package’ that will include cold air thrusters. Now, he’s added a claim that the car will actually be able to hover over the ground! Electrek.co reports that Tesla is trying to get the vehicle to market by 2020. If you want one, the $200,000 version requires a $50,000 deposit, and the $250,000 Founders Series takes a heart-stopping $250,000 deposit…the fun price in advance!


Apple Cuts iPhone Production 10%; Folding Phone at CES; AT&T Burned for Fake 5G Claim; FightCamp Motion Tracking Boxing Trainer

Apple is cutting iPhone production by 10%, according to businessinsider.com. The slowdown will be in effect between January and March. The projected production will be between 40 and 43 million, instead of the original 47 to 48 million.

It isn’t a Samsung, but a real folding phone is showing at CES. Engadget.com reports that it’s from Royole, and the FlexPai works…but it’s kind of rough around the edges as a product. That said, it will be available to developers for a princely $1300.

We noted a couple days ago that AT&T was branding its LTE network 5G. They have been badly burned by the Twitterverse and competitors, but none better than T-Mobile, which show someone taping a ‘9G’ sticker on an iPhone. (See Picture.)

Fight Camp showed their connected home boxing gym. Sensors in the connected gloves and sneakers track your workout and coordinate with training videos.


Sony TVs Getting Apple Airplay; Intel & Comcast-10 Gig Broadband & WiFi 6 Deal; Gillette Bows Heated Razor; AT&T Brands 4G ‘5G’; App Helps Kill Spoofed Spam Calls

After the announcement at CES yesterday that a number of Samsung TVs will feature iTunes and Apple AirPlay, today Sony revealed that it will also have 4K and 8K sets that will support Apple Airplay 2 and HomeKit. The full iTunes availability remains exclusive to Samsung for now. Engadget.com says the Sony sets will continue to offer Google’s Cast protocol as well, giving buyers more options than ever…including synchronized multi-room audio via your TV controls.

Comcast has cut a deal with Intel…announced at CES…that will enable fast broadband speeds of 10 Gigs per second and using WiFi 6, the latest WiFi standard that uses less energy. TechCrunch.com reports that this should be a plus for Comcast’s home gateway in that it will enable much more efficient hubs and control of Internet of Things devices in connected homes. The actual service should be rolled out in 2020, although some devices that use it will be available later this year. As more people cut the cord, Comcast seems to be positioning itself to be the ultimate home net supplier, as a way to fend off lightening fast 5G cell service.

Gillette has taken a bit of a beating lately…note that they are running TV ads after a long time away. The likes of Harry’s and Dollar Shave club are cutting into their business. With Dollar shave blades costing…well, a dollar, and Harry’s getting 2 bucks, it makes it tough to sell blades that are…at the cheapest….$3.66 each. Engadget.com says Gillette has taken a new tack. For decades, they’ve sold razors cheap, and made money on the blades. Now, instead of adding a ludicrous 6th blade, they have rolled out a heated razor. It has a gold, metal bar on the blade surface that heats up in a second and warms the shaving cream, giving you a ‘hot towel’ quality shave, like in a barber shop. That’s all great, but The razor will sell for $160! A Harry’s razor will set you back $9! No word on when the heated razor will hit the shelves and web.

So 5G isn’t ready to roll out yet, and phones don’t really have it? No problem! AT&T has re-branded their 4g LTE as ‘5G* Evolution.’ It will be 5G E for short. This is reminiscent of the old ‘Edge’ network, that was really 2.5G. According to arstechnica.com, when ACTUAL 5G is more widely available, AT&T will brand that 5G+! Don’t be sucked in…neither AT&T nor anyone else has real 5G in 400 markets or anything close, and the first true 5G handsets are just going to hit the market this year. It’s marketing, folks!

If you’ve been getting more and more spam calls that seem to be from the same area code and exchange as your number, a new app might help. A lot of folks have gone to Nomorobo, but that costs. Now, an app called No Neighbor is available on Apple’s App Store for free…normally $.99. Engadget.com says the app sends calls with the same number and exchange (next 3 digits) to voicemail automatically. Since a lot of spoof calls are using the technique of posing as one from your exchange, it should really cut down on those. Please note that it doesn’t whitelist any…so if you have a lot of friends with your exchange (I don’t), you will have to check VM and call them back. For me, it will cut down dramatically on the Chinese language fake IRS calls…a big win!


HP Chromebook Uses AMD; 3 Rear Cams-Next iPhone; Samsung TVs Get iTunes; Win 10 Build Mutes Cortana; Kroger Partners with Microsoft-Connected Grocery Store

Up to now, Chromebooks have all been powered by Intel and ARM. Now, according to 9to5google.com, AMD is getting into the game. The HP Chromebook 14 will be powered by either AMD A4 or A6 chips, and have AMD graphics chips as well. They launch later this month in 3 colors, with a starting price at $269.

A very early leak from Steve Hemmerstoffer (partnered with Indian tech site Digit) shows a new iPhone with 3 rear cams in a triangle orientation. Macrumors.com reports they protrude in a square box with the 3 cams, flash, and a microphone. Although Hemmerstoffer has a good track record going back years, he admits this is a ‘creakingly early leak’, and may not be the final final version. Still, it’s a good bet with some makers building handsets with 5 rear cams, that Apple will go to 3 on the next top line iPhone in September.

Still on the subject of Apple, Samsung is going to offer iTunes via a dedicated app on their 2018 and 2019 TVs. Theverge.com says it the app will play both your music and Apple TV show libraries, and will include support for Airplay 2. This is the 1st time Apple has allowed a third-party to access its video library outside of Windows PCs…but rumor has it that Apple will launch a video streaming service this year, which would also be available on the Samsung TVs.

Having mentioned Windows, it’s worth noting that the latest Windows 10 build features passwordless Microsoft accounts. You can now set up the initial sign in using SMS, which will prompt you to configure either a biometric or PIN authentication. From then on, you can used the biometric…face or fingerprint…or the PIN to log in. According to arstechnica.com, you no longer need to suffer through Cortana talking you through the installation process. This will be especially welcome in an office full of Win machines getting updated…no multiple Cortanas blathering away at different points. Clean installs of Win 10 Home will still have Cortana turned on by default for the install.

Microsoft and Kroger are teaming up, and shamelessly aping Amazon—building connected grocery stores. The companies have configured 2 pilot stores, one near each headquarters….in Monroe, Ohio and Redmond, Washington. Venturebeat.com reports that they are using tech powered by connected sensors and Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform.

A feature rolling out to even more stores is digital displays on shelves in place of the paper price tags. The digital displays can quickly be changed in real time, replacing the tedious task of hand replacing those all over the stores. The more automated test stores use a dedicated Kroger app, which guides you around the store to find the items on your list. It will also tell you if an item is out of stock before wasting time walking over to its shelf.