Google Drops Pixelbook; IG Reels Non-Engagement; Twitter Bows Podcasts; iOS 16 ‘Clean Energy Charging’

Google has killed its Pixelbook laptop, and broken up the team that was designing it. Theverge.com reports that the move was a cost-cutting one. Just earlier this year, Google had said they were proceeding to do more Pixelbooks ‘in the future.’ Google has had a hardware strategy to make good products and to try and show other manufacturers how to do the same. While that is working with their smartwatches and may with an Android tablet (due out next year), there are already plenty of good Android phones and Chromebook laptops. 

An internal memo leaked last month indicates that most Instagram Reels aren’t really setting things on fire. In fact, gizmodo.com notes that  “most Reels users have no engagement whatsoever.” Compared to rival TikTok, users in IG spend 17.6 million hours a day all together, while TikTok users rack up 197.8 million hours on short form videos. In the memo, Meta blames its lack of content creators and influencers. Also…over a third of Reels are apparently created on other apps, and ported over. 

If you are a Twitter Blue subscriber, and can’t get enough podcasts elsewhere, you’re in luck…in their redesigned Spaces tab, Twitter Blue members on iOS can now check out popular podcasts. Engadget.com says the feature isn’t intended to replace dedicated apps like Pocket Casts. Twitter just intends it to be a way for users to discover something new to listen to. The Spaces tab also includes themed audio stations. 

iOS 16 is out with its customizable lock screen…a feature Android has had for years, plus some other cool stuff like the ability to select a person or object and pull it right out of a picture to paste into a document or note, or a new picture. According to 9to5mac.com, another feature is coming later this year…it’s what Apple calls ‘Clean Energy Charging.’ Apparently, “Clean Energy Charging aims to decrease the carbon footprint of the iPhone by optimizing charging times for when the grid is using cleaner energy sources.” Apple will also add a dedicated iCloud Shared Photo Library later on. 


Apple October Event; Quest Pro Leak; Zoom Teams; Starbucks Adding NFTs

Apple is planning an October event…wait, didn’t they just reveal new iPhones and Watches last week? Yes, so it’s on to other gear. No date announced yet, but Cupertino plans to announce a new iPad Pro, iPad 10, and M2 chip powered Macs. According to 9to5mac.com, this will be the biggest update in 10 years to the iPad. iPads will get USB-C connectors and better battery life. The 12.9 inch iPad Pro will have a mini-LED screen, and MagSafe connector in addition to USB-C. 

Someone apparently left a prototype “Meta Quest Pro” virtual reality headset in a hotel room, and of course pictures were taken and posted before the employee returned for the headset. Theverge.com reports it looks more like oversized glasses…no strap as on a scuba diving mask. The packaging says “Meta Quest Pro,” but in Meta’s code, the headset is called “Oculus Pro,” so this may be a prototype. Meta is expected to hold their Connect event on October 11th, and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has confirmed they will show their next VR headset at the event.

When something isn’t quite working out of a company, just rebrand! Zoom, which became so big during the pandemic that its name became synonymous with video meetings, has decided to rebrand its Chat feature a bit. Fastcompany.com says it will now be called Zoom Team Chat. Zoom is trying to remind businesses that its chat feature can be used by companies outside of video meetings. To go along with this, they have introduced a new logo with 6 ‘O’s in Zoom…it’s now ZOOOOOOM. Each of the O’s has an icon in it, and under them are: Team Chat, Phone, Meetings, Rooms, Events, and Contact Center. Zoom wants to get users into a broader selection of their services…acknowledging ‘Zoom Fatigue.’ The hope is that by moving more users to Zoom Team Chat, it will lessen the Zoom Fatigue of everything being a video meeting. 

Besides coffee and foods such as a croissant, Starbucks has offered  lots of other things for years. Coffee cups, music CDs (remember CD players in cars?), so naturally they are diving into using the so-called web3 tech to acquire NFTs. According to techcrunch.com, Starbucks Odyssey is coming later this year. You will be able to earn stars towards collecting NFTs. Also as part of the Odyssey platform, users will have activities called ‘journeys,’ which are like interactive games…and through successes in the journeys, earn…yep…NFTs…those ephemeral allegedly unique strings of 1’s and 0’s that many are trying to make into the latest rage. BTW, the ‘journeys’ to be offered so far test your knowledge of Starbucks…in a bit of brand reinforcement!


Meta VR Event; Google Pixel Event; WhatsApp Chat Surveys; Musk Fretted Over WW3

October is shaping up to be busy for tech product rollouts. Meta Connect will be October 11th. It’s a virtual event, bowing Meta’s next steps in VR and AR. According to uploadvr.com, we should see the new high-end Quest Pro standalone headset that CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently teased. Meta has put on Connect yearly since 2014 touting Facebook’s (and before that Oculus’) AR and VR vision. The reveal of the Quest Pro standalone headset should make this Connect the biggest ever. 

October 6th will be the date that Google will show off the Pixel 7 and the Pixel Watch. 9to5google.com reports that it will be live streamed starting at 10 am Eastern, from the company’s in-person event in Brooklyn. This will be the first in person event from Google in 2 years after going all virtual during the pandemic. Quite a bit has leaked out about the phones and the watches, but the real reveal-as usual- will be the new, AI-backed software that Google has baked into the phones. 

As if SurveyMonkey surveys and other ‘quick’ email link surveys weren’t enough, WhatsApp is now working on developing a chat style in-app survey to get feedback from users. Androidpolice.com says that at least it’s an opt in item, and that you can block the WhatsApp Surveys account just like you would any other account. So far, it’s just been spotted in a beta for iOS, but you can be sure they will be putting it on Android as well. It appears the surveys will not be used to ask users for desired features or other big changes to the platform, but it more for checking how things are going for beta testers during development.

Attorneys for Twitter are saying that Elon Musk’s desire to bail out of the Twitter deal was not about ‘bots…it was because  “… it won’t make sense to buy Twitter if we’re headed into World War 3.” According to engadget.com, that remark came from a text Musk sent to his banker at Morgan Stanley. Meanwhile, Twitter cast former head of security Pieter Zatko as a ‘disgruntled employee’ with a ‘huge ax to grind,’ while the Musk team called Zatko’s credentials ‘decorated.’ They claim Twitter purposely hid damaging information. “Why didn’t we discover this in diligence,” Musk’s lawyer said, referencing Zatko’s whistleblower complaint. “They hid it, that’s why.” “We’ll never know, right,” the judge responded. “Because the diligence didn’t happen.” Yes, the judge pointed out that they had WAIVED due diligence! The drama slogs on….


iPhone Passes Android in US; Ireland Fines Instagram; Google Chrome Flaw; EU Pushes Smartphone Support & Repair

Just before Apple releases the latest batch of iPhones, they have something new to brag about. According to engadget.com, Counterpoint Research finds that the iPhone overtook all Android handsets put together and came out on top, garnering a 50% share of the US smartphone market in June. Apple’s gigantic ‘active installed base’ helped making this possible. That grouping includes people using an iOS device after buying or obtaining it used (like a hand-me-down to your kid.) As of early 2022, Android held 70% market Share in the US. It’s unlikely Google is worried…Android buries Apple’s phones in sheer numbers in most of the world.

Instagram has been fined $402 million by Ireland’s Data Protection Commission after an investigation into how it handled the data of teens. Theverge.com reports that full details of the decision will be out this week. One issue was that Instagram was allowing teens 13-17 to set up business accounts on IG (they have more engagement analytics.) Business accounts, however, made the users’ contact information publicly available. Instagram also made the accounts of some young users public by default. Instagram parent Meta had previously been fined $267 million for data sharing on WhatsApp and $18 million for data breaches on WhatsApp.

There’s a Google ‘zero day’ flaw that affects the browser on Windows, Mac, and Linux. Zdnet.com says the newly disclosed flaw is being actively exploit by cyberattacks. Google has released a patch, and Chrome users are advised to install the patch immediately when the browser reminds you to update. If you don’t have it already, the patch should be available in the next few days. Google is withholding specifics on the bug, to prevent even more cyber crooks from exploiting it. 

EU lawmakers are pressing for a set of standard Android updates like the ones Google offers on the Pixel 6. According to 9to5google.com, the EU is pushing to make Google support Android devices for at least 5 years…up from the current 2-3 years. They are also pushing for brands to offer repair parts and service for at least 5 years. Maybe even a bigger deal…batteries would have to keep 83% of rated capacity after 500 charge cycles, and 80% after 1,000 cycles. The Germans would go even further…requiring 7 years of support for phones. 


Apple Reality Pro; Samsung Data Breach; Google- $20 Million To Computer Sci in Schools; AI to Predict EV Battery Degradation

Patent sleuths have already spotted a trademark application from Apple called ‘Reality Pro,’ so we know what they will be calling their augmented and virtual reality headsets. Now, macrumors.com says Mark Gurman has written that there will be at least 3 of the AR or VR headsets…up from the two most people expected. The first one will be a ‘high end rival’ to Meta’s upcoming Quest Pro headset, and may drop in January. A second device is thought to be a lower priced model.The third is the expected augmented reality glasses…which Gurman and other Apple watchers think is still several years away. Apple also applied for trademarks for Reality Processor’ and ‘Reality One.’

It seems like there is one of these almost daily, but now Samsung has notified customers of a ‘cybersecurity’ incident dating from late July. According to mashable.com, the breach exposed names, contact and demographic information, dates of birth, and product registration information. Fortunately, no social security numbers or credit card numbers were part of the breach. Samsung didn’t specify how many people had their info leaked, but if you got a notice… check your credit and financial info.

Google is dropping $20 million in the education sector, in an effort to bring computer science education to 11 million students. This brings the total the company has donated to further computer science to over $240 million. Androidcentral.com reports that some of the money will go to the Oakland based nonprofit The Hidden Genius project. Other nonprofits around the country in major cities will also get part of the funds.

Since electric vehicles are essentially rolling computers with giant battery packs, a healthy battery system is a pretty major concern. We all know from our computers and phones that lithium-ion batteries degrade over time. Now, thenextweb.com says the European Union has a team working on using artificial intelligence to predict aging in EV batteries. Maybe more importantly to users, the AI is supposed to help with developing software to mitigate aging effects and prolong the life of the expensive battery packs in electric vehicles. 


Royal Caribbean Getting Starlink; Cable Firms Lose Net Subscribers; Facebook Gaming Platform Dies

Ahoy, internet! Royal Caribbean has announced that it will be adding Starlink Maritime service to its entire fleet, after a test sailing on one of its ships brought in rave reviews. According to techcrunch.com, people were delighted with the service…especially those cruisers who had sailed before with the expensive and slow net connections. Royal is apparently paying $5000 a month and dropped $10,000 for the upfront hardware…a drop in the ocean compared to the other costs on a cruise ship…for example, it costs about $500,000 for a cruise ship to go through the Panama Canal!

For years, the cable companies have had a legal monopoly or near monopoly on connecting your home…and jacked up prices regularly accordingly. With the advent of 5G and even satellite service like Starlink, their subscriber base is starting to erode. Fastcompany.com reports that Comcast’s internet subscriber base was basically flat last quarter, while Charter dropped by 21,000 Spectrum internet subscribers. In each case, its the first drop ever in their home internet business. With fast 5G cell service costing less money, its easy to see why. T-Mobile, for example, gets $50 a month for home internet…and the speeds run 33-182 Mbps. Verizon also gets $50 a month, and claims 85-300 Mbps. They also cut the price in half for customers who bundle smartphone service. Comcast’s non-promotional internet starts at $99 a month, and Spectrum’s starts at $75 a month. The only think holding back 5G providers is the fact that some hit homes with heavy use data caps, and some people that gobble data to prevent network congestion. Verizon so far has no caps. 

Facebook is killing off its Facebook Gaming Platform, which you probably didn’t even know existed, after two years. Techcrunch.com says as of October 28th, the app will no longer work. If you actually play their games, or use the related streams or groups, you will just have to use the Gaming section on the main Facebook app. Not to give up, Meta is testing a Twitch-like live streaming platform. The company seems to not be able to let go of trying to recreate its initial success with games, from the days when they ran crude Zynga games inside the Facebook app…but users have moved on.


Honda & LG Partner on US EV Batt Production; Data Broker Tracks Millions-FTC Sues; Tesla Workers Can Wear Union Swag; Facebook Supports NFTs

A big boost in US EV battery production from Honda and LG Energy Solution. The two companies are forming a joint venture and funding it with $4.4 billion to make lithium ion batteries in North America. Zdnet.com reports that they will initially just produce pouch type batteries for Hondas. The firms haven’t picked a site yet, but plan to begin construction in early 2023, and intend to be producing what they call ‘advanced’ lithium ion batteries by the end of 2025.

The Federal Trade Commission has sued a data broker for selling location data scooped up from some 125 million active cell phone users. According to arstechnica.com, Idaho-based Kochava has promoted itself as providing “rich geo data spanning billions of devices globally.” The FTC said Kochava amassed the data by tracking the Mobile Advertising ID, or MAID, from phones and selling the data through Amazon Web Services or other outlets without first anonymizing the data. The FTC expressed concern that the data could allow identification of women visiting a reproductive health clinic, and then track them to their residence. 

It’s no secret that Tesla and Elon Musk have opposed unions. Up to now, the company has enforced a dress code in its factories calling for employees to only wear Tesla or other pre-approved back tee shirts. Now, the National Labor Relations Board has stepped in with a decision to make Tesla allow union swag…including shirts with the United Auto Workers logo. Theverge.com says Tesla had claimed its dress code prevented damage to cars and that it needed to maintain ‘visual management’ of its employees. the NLRB rejected those arguments…finding that the policy of no union clothing or logos was ‘presumptively unlawful.’

In a move we’ve all been waiting for breathlessly, Facebook has finally started supporting NFTs…non-fungible tokens. The joy of Facebook users will be overflowing. Actually, your feed may be overflowing…as NFT collectors will be posting the collectibles they have bought! Engadget.com notes that Facebook parent Meta is working on a marketplace where people can buy and sell NFTs…although it remains to be seen if Facebookers will actually use it. 


Honda & LG Partner on US EV Batt Production; Data Broker Tracks Millions-FTC Sues; Tesla Workers Can Wear Union Swag; Facebook Supports NFTs

A big boost in US EV battery production from Honda and LG Energy Solution. The two companies are forming a joint venture and funding it with $4.4 billion to make lithium ion batteries in North America. Zdnet.com reports that they will initially just produce pouch type batteries for Hondas. The firms haven’t picked a site yet, but plan to begin construction in early 2023, and intend to be producing what they call ‘advanced’ lithium ion batteries by the end of 2025.

The Federal Trade Commission has sued a data broker for selling location data scooped up from some 125 million active cell phone users. According to arstechnica.com, Idaho-based Kochava has promoted itself as providing “rich geo data spanning billions of devices globally.” The FTC said Kochava amassed the data by tracking the Mobile Advertising ID, or MAID, from phones and selling the data through Amazon Web Services or other outlets without first anonymizing the data. The FTC expressed concern that the data could allow identification of women visiting a reproductive health clinic, and then track them to their residence. 

It’s no secret that Tesla and Elon Musk have opposed unions. Up to now, the company has enforced a dress code in its factories calling for employees to only wear Tesla or other pre-approved back tee shirts. Now, the National Labor Relations Board has stepped in with a decision to make Tesla allow union swag…including shirts with the United Auto Workers logo. Theverge.com says Tesla had claimed its dress code prevented damage to cars and that it needed to maintain ‘visual management’ of its employees. the NLRB rejected those arguments…finding that the policy of no union clothing or logos was ‘presumptively unlawful.’

In a move we’ve all been waiting for breathlessly, Facebook has finally started supporting NFTs…non-fungible tokens. The joy of Facebook users will be overflowing. Actually, your feed may be overflowing…as NFT collectors will be posting the collectibles they have bought! Engadget.com notes that Facebook parent Meta is working on a marketplace where people can buy and sell NFTs…although it remains to be seen if Facebookers will actually use it. 


Netflix Ads; Apple Sat Watch; 70% of Workers Want Some WFH; DoorDash Data Breach

More is coming out about Netflix’s upcoming tier with ads. Engadget.com reports that the latest guesstimate is that they will charge between $7-$9 a month for the service. Right now, the most basic plan is $10 a month, and it doesn’t include HD streaming. For those who want the top tier, that’s going to run you about $20 a month, which gets you 4K content from the streamer. The ad-supported tier will supposedly have 4 minutes of ads per hour, is expected to hit in a half dozen markets by the end of the year, with a wide rollout in 2023.

It has been rumored for months that Apple plans to bring emergency satellite communication to the upcoming iPhones. According to 9to5mac.com, the initial iPhones would only have quick emergency calling or texting ability, but Apple ultimately plans to add full satellite connectivity. Now, Mark Gurman over at Bloomberg is catching wind that the next generation Apple Watches…not the ones due out next week, but next year…may ALSO have emergency satellite communication capabilities. With Tesla’s Starlink partnering with T-Mobile, it looks like the race is on to make our mobile devices work anywhere via satellite link.

In a new study for Deloitte called ‘2022 Connectivity and Mobile Trends,’ a whopping 70% of those surveyed want to keep at least some work from home. Venturebeat.com says it also found that more than 80% of remote workers said that their family and professional relationships, as well as physical and mental well-being have improved or stayed the same due to working from home. Out of the remote workers, 43% prefer work from home all the time or most of the time. 29% of all employed adults shared that preference. 

A clever phishing attack at DoorDash has exposed a number of customers’ info exposed. Mashable.com reports that Doordash says an “undisclosed number of customers had their names, email addresses, delivery addresses, phone numbers, and partial payment card numbers” stolen. For drivers with the company, hackers were able to access names, phone numbers, and email address information. The hack came via a third party vendor. Employees of the vendor had credentials that were stolen that were then used to access DoorDash’s internal tools. The company said it cut off the third-party vendor’s access to its systems after discovering “unusual and suspicious” activity. They haven’t given a timeline for when this happened nor the number of people affected by the hack. 


New Fitbits; Facebook Squashes Strange Bug; TikTok Trials ‘Nearby’ Feed; Amazon Delivery Partners Touted

Fitbit has freshened 3 of its fitness trackers: the Inspire 3, Versa 4, and Sense 2. Wired.com reports that all 3 are available for preorder today. All are slimmer than the present models, and more powerful as well. What they DON’T have is Google’s wearable OS…all 3 still run Fitbit’s OS. The entry level Inspire 3 runs $100, and sports an always on display and ’10 day battery life.’ The new version adds blood oxygen monitoring, skin temperature, and irregular heartbeat rhythm trackers. the Versa 4 Runs $230, and the Sense 2 is $300. Both work with either an iPhone or most Android phones. Fitbit claims a week of battery life for both after 12 minutes of charge time…compared to less than a day for an Apple Watch 7!

If your Facebook feed was a little bizarre very early Wednesday morning, you weren’t alone. According to theverge.com, many user feeds were spammed with endless posts from celebrity accounts! Some users were seeing post after post from artists like Lady Gaga, Nirvana, and The Beatles. The bug was found and squashed by around 5:15 Eastern Time Wednesday morning. A Meta spokesperson blamed a ‘configuration change.’ Another bug they haven’t eliminated that came with the latest update…the mobile version on iOS keeps switching itself from dark mode back to light mode every time you check the app. No word on when that issue will be fixed. 

TikTok is testing out a third feed for users. Up to now, you have either been able to select ‘For You,’ which features suggestions and content from accounts you follow, or the ‘Following’ feed that focuses on videos from your friends. Now, 9to5mac.com says the third feed being trialed is called ’Nearby,’ and as the name indicates, it focuses on local content. TikTok believes the videos will not only be more relevant for users, but can also help them to find events and places around them. Right now, the test is open to a small group of users in Southeast Asia, but if it seems to strike a chord, could be put into general release. 

Amazon has put out new numbers about their Delivery Partners Program. Geekwire.com reports that there are now 3,000 independent companies delivering over 10 million packages a day and racking up more than $26 billion in revenue the last 4 years. As Amazon celebrates the 4th anniversary of their ‘partners’ in the blue vans, they are hoping to cast a better light on this part of their business, after a parade of stories about the tight controls on those partner employees that brought out word of drivers having to relieve themselves in bottles in the vans to stay on time with deliveries. Your tax dollars have helped keep your boxes coming, according to public records. Two delivery partners, Milum Express and Regional Express, each got million dollar loans through the Paycheck Protection Program in 2020…and those loans and interest were later forgiven!