Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Rise of Skywalker Bundle; Fresh 13 Inch MacBook Pro in 2020; Ford Mustang Mach-E, Amazon Grocery Store in 2020 (NOT Whole Foods)

Samsung is partnering with Disney and will release a special edition Galaxy Note 10+ bundle with a ‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ theme. 9to5google.com reports that the handset is black with red accents all over including around the triple cam housing. The back of the phone gets the Star Wars logo along the bottom, and sports the First Order’s logo, too. The S Pen comes in bright red to match. There is also a special edition leather case that shows Kylo Sen and a metal badge Samsung is pitching as a collector’s item. Included are Galaxy Buds in and black and red case, and all comes in a unique box. Samsung says it will be on sale in limited quantities starting December 13th for $1299, and will be available from AmaZON, Best Buy, Microsoft, and direct from Samsung.

Since the new 16 inch MacBook Pro hit, lots of people have wondered about the smaller profile MacBook Pro…the 13 inter. When will it be updated. According to macrumors.com, it should be out the first half of next year, with the ‘scissor’ keyboard as revived on the 16 inch model. There is a question as to the size…will it be 13 inch, or grow an inch like the bigger model? In an interview, Phil Schiller wouldn’t say, but didn’t foreclose the idea that it might end up 14 inches. Noted Apple watcher Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple will be transitioning all its notebooks to the scissor keyboards in 2020. The company has had complaints for several years about the butterfly keyboard in the Pros and Airs, and may just want to get away from them. Some people have no problems, but others have had sticky, repeating, or non-functioning keys since the keyboard hit in 2016. Apple continues to offer free repairs to affected customers with the butterfly keyboard.

As promised, Ford showed off its new EV yesterday, and it lives at the intersection of SUVs and muscle cars…only electric! Engadget.com says Ford claims a range of 300 miles for the Mustang Mach-E. Calling it a mustang is really just marketing, since it’s a small SUV, but should generate lots of interest. The Mach-E will start at $43,895 and have 4 more expensive versions…the top one cracking $60 grand! All wheel drive will be available, and will come with 2 electric power plants. The RWD one will have a single electric motor. The thriftier model has 255 horsepower while the performance one will rock 459 horses and do zero to 60 in under 4 seconds. Of course, the performance version has less range….235 miles. The first models drop next year, with a couple more models taking until 2021 Ford is taking preorders now with a $500 deposit.

Amazon will opening a full sized grocery store in the LA area next year, and it won’t be a Whole Foods. According to the verge.com, it won’t use the cashier free checkout like Amazon Go, either…but will carry Amazon branding. The store is said to have a different variety of products at ‘a lower price point’ than Whole Foods. Besides the Woodland Hills location in the LA area, they will be opening in Chicago and Philadelphia.


The Motorola Razr Reincarnated; Ford’s e-SUV, Mustang Mach-E; Google Assistant Smart Speaker Sales Way Down; Apple May bundle Music, TV+, and News+

Motorola has unveiled a modern version of the Razr, and this one is a smartphone that folds in half. Theverge.com reports that it has a 6.2 inch foldable plastic OLED screen, and runs Android. It will cost an eye-watering $1499 when it gets into users’ hands in January. The Razr uses hinges on both sides of the screen, so the screen has no crease…think of folding a sheet of paper over but not creasing it. It runs on a Snapdragon 710, has 6 gigs of ram, and in addition to the folding screen, has a 2.7 inch quick view screen for reminders and the like on the front…a call back to the original. Speaking of a tip of the hat to the original, you can even use the software to emulate the old school one…displaying what looks like a Razr keyboard on the bottom half of the screen, and the top half displays images reminiscent of the original! Time will tell if people will go for this pricey a folder that doesn’t offer cutting edge processing and the like (it also has 2 smallish batteries), but perhaps nostalgia will help carry it to some success when it drops.

We are just days from Ford unveiling its e-SUV, and now we have a name. It will be called the Mustang Mach-E when it is shown off on Sunday. Not only that, according to techcrunch.com, you will be able to sign up online and reserve one with a $500 deposit. Early actors will have access to a ‘First Edition.’ Ford will reveal more details about that at the launch event this weekend. Targeted EPA range of the Mustang Mach-E is 300 miles, according to Ford, and you should be able to get 47 miles of charge in only 10 minutes with a 150Kw fast charger.

Alexa is growing like a weed…meanwhile, Google Assistant smart speaker sales have tanked, falling off 40%. 9to5google.com says a report from Canalys indicates that the smart speaker market grew by 44% in the third quarter of 2019, seeing 28.6 million shipped. A ton of those units were from Xiaomi, Alibaba, and Baidu. Amazon still holds down 31.9% of the market, and Google has 29.9%, but the others are growing so explosively, that Google is now 4th in sales. On the other hand, Apple is lumped in with ‘others,’ so it could be worse!

Apple is apparently thinking of offering a bundle next year that would include Apple Music, TV+, and News+. According to bgr.com, Apple has cut deals with publishers that would allow such a deal. Right now, News+ is $10 a month, Apple TV+ is $4.99 a month, and Apple Music runs $9.99 a month for single, $14.99 for Family Sharing. If you add them all up with the family plan, it’s $30 a month…a pretty good hit. No word on how much Apple might shave, but it’s a good bet it will be priced at either $25 or $20 a month.


Apple Drops 16 Inch MacBook Pro; Facebook Pay Looms; Google to Offer Checking Accounts; Court Blocks Suspicionless Border Searches

Apple has rolled out the expected new high end 16 inch MacBook Pro today, replacing the 15 inch lineup. A big deal has been made of the return of the previous scissor switch ‘Magic’ keyboard. 9to5mac.com reports that the 16 incher has a 6 speaker system, up to 8 core processor, and up to 64 gigs of RAM. The physical Escape keys back, and you can get the MacBook Pro with up to 8 TP of storage! The standard one ships with a 512 gig SSD….double that of the previous base model. It is shipping today and starts at $2399.

It seems Apple’s foray into financial services with the Apple Card is spawning more branching into financial services by tech firms. First, we that Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency….which took a hit recently when a number of financial giants bowed out of the program. Now, Facebook is back with something new…Facebook Pay. According to theverge.com, Facebook Pay is a new payment system that will live inside WhatsApp, Instagram, Facebook, and Messenger. It is intended to facilitate sending money to friends, shopping for goods, and donating to fundraisers. It is separate from Facebook’s Calibra wallet and the Libra network. Pay will support most credit and debit cards, as well as PayPal. Facebook is using PayPal, Stripe, and others to process those payments.

Not to be left out of the finance party, Google is going to offer checking accounts in partnership with banks, starting next year. Techcrunch.com says the project is dubbed ‘Cache.’ Banks will handle all the financial and compliance activities related to the accounts. While at first glance, it seems like Google isn’t getting much out of the deal that way, they are. They will have access to the account info, and it will paint Google a clear picture of a users financial behavior. First partners include Citigroup and Stanford Federal Credit Union. Google will offer a set of online tools to manage the accounts that they believe will appeal to younger, more digital savvy customers.

In a victory for privacy, a federal court has ruled that US policies allowing device searches in or within 100 miles of the border without valid suspicion or warrants violates the Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Engadget.com reports that Judge Denise Casper stated that the exemption for border searches was ‘not limitless,’ and still needed a balancing test between privacy and government interests. That generally means focusing on contraband, the court noted. The lawsuit was filed by the ACLU and EFF back in 2017 on behalf of 11 travelers…all but one of whom was a US citizen. In some cases, officials were examining highly sensitive data, such as attorney-client communications, business dealings and the contents of a work phone from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. If this ruling survives appeal, it could force big changes in how border agents conduct searches.


Google Has Massive Trove of Detailed Health Records; Facebook ‘Facebug’ Activates Cam on iOS; Disney+ Is Live; IBM Says Mac Users Perform Better at Work

Google has hoovered up millions of detailed medical records. Arstechnica.com reports that they partnered with Ascension (the 2nd largest US health system) last year on the down low, and gained access to tens of millions of detailed medical records. ‘Project Nightingale’ has at least 150 Google employees getting access to the records….including diagnoses, lab test results, hospitalization records, and more. It contains patient names and birth dates, too. Neither Google nor Ascension notified patients or doctors of the deal. Ascension is a Catholic non-profit with 34,000 providers, 2600 hospitals, doctors offices, and other facilities in 21 states and D.C. Ascension says its goal was to improve patient care. Internal documents seen by the Wall Street Journal say the Google data mining actually identifies additional ways to generate revenue for patients…but you still love your health insurance and don’t want Medicare for all…right?

As if they didn’t know enough already, we’re back to cameras stealthily watching us, apparently. According to cnet.com, iPhone cams can be turned on in the background while your are looking at your Facebook feed. It happens while watching video…if you click to full screen, then return the video back to normal, a bug is created, and facebooks mobile layout moves slightly to the right. With the open space on the left, you can see that your phone’s cam activated in the background. The bug was first discovered November 2nd. The bug happens in iOS 12 and later. Going in and turning off permissions for Facebook gives a black screen, but the cam still seems to activate. Both Facebook and Apple have been notified.

For those under a rock or just waking from a Rip Van Winkle length sleep, Disney+ has launched its new streaming service today. Macrumors reports that it is available in the US over a wide range of devices: iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, Android smartphones, Roku streaming boxes, Amazon Fire TV, and more. It’s $6.99 a month or $69.99 per year. Your big Disney, Star Wars, and Marvel loving friends are already watching. I know someone who probably already watched the first episode of the Star Wars saga ‘The Mandalorian’ just after midnight!

IBM dropped a big item concerning productivity. Big Blue has, the last few years, given employees the choice of PCs or Macs. Now, 9to5mac.com reports that IBM’s research shows that 22% more Mac users exceed expectations in performance reviews as compared to Windows users. Also, they found that Mac users produced high-value sales deals at a 16% higher rate than PC users. In addition, Big Blue found that Mac users were 17% less likely to leave IBM compared to PC users. IBM presently has 200,000 Macs in service supported by only 7 engineers. They report that 200,000 Windows devices require 20 engineers.


Galaxy S11 Feature Leak; Apple AR Headset & Glasses; Applecard Accused of Discrimination; Honda Punts Hydrogen & Diesel for EVs; YouTube Deletes ‘No Longer Commercially Viable’ Accounts

In a few months, Samsung will roll out its next iteration of their flagship, thought to be called the Galaxy S11. 9to5google.com reports that some credible leaks point to some cool details. First, the camera array is supposed to include a 108 MP sensor. This would give pics more detail, and allow users to zoom in on shots. It would be quite a jump from the 12MP sensor Samsung has used in the top line Galaxy phones for a while now. Expect the S11 to have 4 cameras. The S11 will come in 3 sizes, all bigger. The smallest will be either 6.2 or 6.4 inches in screen size, with a larger phone having 6.7, and the biggest 6.9. The mid-sized one will be available in both LTE and 5G versions. The top phone is expected to just have 5G. It is expected that the screens will have a hole punch in the middle of the screen for the cam, instead of off to the right as the present ones do. We should know by February when the phones will roll out.

Apple is reportedly shooting to drop an AR headset with 3D scanning by 2022, followed by sleeker glasses in 2023. According to macrumors.com, this timeline was shared with Apple execs and some employees at Apple Park in October. The meeting apparently filled the Steve Jobs Theatre, which holds 1,000, so Apple must have a pretty large team working on the AR project. The headset is said to have ‘advanced human detection’ in addition to 3D scanning. It may resemble Facebook’s Oculus Quest, but apparently Apple plans to ‘make heavy use of fabrics and lightweight materials’ to ensure that it is comfortable to wear for extended periods of time. It is said to have a high res display and cameras that will let users ‘read small type’ and ‘see other people standing in front of and behind’ virtual objects. The AR glasses apparently resemble high priced sunglasses and have ‘thick frames that house the battery and chips.’ Since it’s Apple, expect them to make the finished product as sleek as technology will allow.

Late last week, a story went viral about a couple claiming Apple Card offered a significantly lower line of credit to a wife than the husband had received. Appleinsider.com says an investigation has been launched, but now Goldman Sachs…which issues the Apple Card…denies the allegations, and says all credit scores are individually determined. The initial claim came from a David Hansson, creator or Ruby on Rails. Later, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak reported having a similar situation with his partner. Goldman notes, that credit decisions are based on previous debt, current income, and similar data. In a statement Tweeted by Goldman, the bank said “it is possible for two family members to receive significantly different credit decisions. In all cases, we have not and will not make decisions based on factors like gender”.

Honda has pulled working on its hydrogen vehicle program and has killed off diesel, and is going all-in on EVs. Electrek.co notes that Honda is a bit later than most to the electric vehicle party, but now plans to start ‘electrifying’ the entire line. This includes hybrids…right now they aren’t going to dump internal combustion entirely. Honda will roll out the small Honda E in Europe next year, and another EV in 2022. They will concentrate on battery only EVs in Europe before bringing them to the US. The Honda E will sell for $33,00 in US dollars, and only has about 125 miles of range. In addition to EVs, Honda is looking at powering solutions…like an experimental vending machine that provides swappable 1 Kw-hour batteries. The mobile batteries are about the size of a milk jug, and would allow EV drivers to drop one off, buy another, and roll on without stopping so long to charge.

YouTube’s new terms of service states “YouTube may terminate your access, or your Google account’s access to all or part of the Service if YouTube believes, in its sole discretion, that provision of the Service to you is no longer commercially viable.” Mashable.com reports that it means if they aren’t making a buck off your account, they can (and will) delete it. I know someone in IT who knows several people who have been deleted under this. Fortunately, they were able to move to Twitch or other platforms.


Amazon’s Black ‘Friday’ Plans; Costco & Instacart Test 1 Hour Prescription Delivery; Facebook-100 Developers Scooped Up Data; Facebook Ad Policy-Possibly Illegal; Surprise! 90% of World Net Users Are Monitored

Amazon has officially revealed their Black ‘Friday’ sales event. Bgr.com reports it all starts at 12:01AM Pacific Friday, November 22nd, and it runs a full week…to the ACTUAL Black Friday…November 29th. Of course, after that, it’s what used to be Cyber Monday, and now Cyber WEEK, which will feature even more crazy deals and bargains. If you want a preview of of a lot of the deals, check out Amazon’s Holiday Sales Event Page.

Costco and Instacart are teaming up to test out one hour prescription delivery in Washington and California. According to engadget.com, the service is is free for orders over $35, although Instacart adds a 5% tip. If less than $35, the delivery price varies on how quickly the patient needs the meds, but usually comes in at under $10. Buyers do need to be over 18, and will have to show an ID to the courier, who must be HIPAA certified. Amazon and Walmart have also explored prescription delivery.

Facebook says that even after it locked down its Groups system last year, some app developers still kept improper access. Theverge.com says it is around 100 developers, some of whom still had access until a couple months ago. So far, no evidence that any really abused the data. A potentially bigger problem for Facebook comes from their political ad policy. An open letter addressed to Zuck from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law indicates that Facebook is exposing itself to liability under various federal and state level statutes…including those aimed at promoting voting rights, protecting consumers from unethical business practices, and preventing racial and religious discrimination. Facebook now says it appreciates the information, and ‘looks forward to continuing the discussion’ with the Lawyers’ Committee.

In one of the biggest non-surprises every, almost 90% of the world’s internet users are being monitored. Mashable.com reports that the study was from Freedom House, which found that 40 out of 65 countries it studied ‘have instituted advanced social media surveillance programs.’ Also not surprising…China is ranked least free, and Russia and Egypt are also ranked as ‘not free.’ In total, almost 3 billion people are being watched by a government. The US is listed as ‘free’ of internet censorship, but was by no means off the hook. Other countries are sending people here to learn all the tricks of the trade. “47 of the 65 countries assessed featured arrests of users for political, social, or religious speech.” Have fun online!


Laser Hacks Siri, Alexa, & Google Assistant; Google Program Rewards App Downloads; iPhone 12 Feature Rumors; Apple May Be Partnering With Valve on AR Headset

It sounds like something out of James Bond, but researchers have figured out how to use lasers to inject commands into voice activated systems like Siri, Google Assistant, and Alexa. Arstechnica.com reports that the system…called Light Commands, can also work on Facebook Portal and a variety of phones. They shoot a low powered laser into the systems from as far away as 360 feet, and can make the device perform tasks on gadgets it controls or over the web. Examples given were: unlocking doors, locating, unlocking, and starting vehicles, visiting websites, and more. Since the voice systems often don’t require that a user authenticate themselves, the laser exploits a vulnerability in microphones that use micro-electro-mechanical systems. (MEMS). The microscopic components in the system unintentionally responds to light as if it were sound. Before you freak out completely, keep in mind that the laser needs direct line of sight to the device, and has to be aimed precisely at a very specific part of the microphone. Also, when activated, all the voice systems respond first, so if someone is around, they will hear the device reply and know something is up.

If you have given up entirely on the concept of privacy, and figure there isn’t much Google doesn’t already know, here’s something that might be for you…that is, if you spend significant time and money on apps and media from Google’s Play store. According to bgr.com, Google has launched a new rewards program in the US. The program has been live in Japan and South Korea, where Google says there are now ‘millions’ of users. It’s called Google Play Points. The program is free to join, and you earn Play Points on everything you buy (in-app items, movies, books, subscriptions, etc.), in addition to featured free apps and games. There are also weekly points events to boost the rate at which you can earn Play Points. The plan has 4 levels, with the usual labels: Bronze, Silver, Gold, and Platinum. You can use points for weekly prizes, or even donate them to a non-profit of your choice. Hit the Google Play Store and tap Play Points for details or to sign up.

As usual, rumors started about the iPhone 12 before the 11 was even out, and continue…building to a climax by next summer. Here’s one from a less solid source than we usually get: there will be a new TrueDepth cam system that is much smaller…and will fit in a small bezel at the top of the screen, eliminating the dreaded (by some) ‘notch.’ Bgr.com notes this comes from a graphic designer with an iffy track record, so don’t plan your pre-order yet. Another rumor is probably on solid ground…Apple may be bringing ‘Pro Motion’ over from its iPad Pros to the phones. This incorporates a 120Hz screen refresh rate instead of the 60Hz one on all Apple phones up to now. Apple watchers say this will bring an eye-popping experience to using the iPhone screens that will amaze and delight users. Stay tuned for this one!

On the topic of Apple, we have previously reported that Cupertino plans to launch their AR glasses in 2020. Now, DigiTimes says they may be partnering with Valve to develop AR head mounted display devices. Valve is the company behind the popular Steam digital storefront and delivery platform, and they introduced their first VR headset, Valve Index, last April. According to highly reliable Apple Watcher Ming-Chi Kuo, the Apple AR headsets could be going into production this quarter, with a launch planned for early 2020!