Apple-WWDC & iPhone News; Amazon One Day Shipping & Shrinkage; Google Pixel Price Screw Up; USAF Gets Lasers Dr. Evil Would Love

New rumors for what we might see at Apple’s WWDC have landed. According to 9to5mac.com, the Apple Watch may get its own App Store ON the Watch! This would launch with WatchOS 6. ‘Dose’ and ‘Cycles’ apps for pill reminders and menstrual cycle tracking respectively. A couple watch faces with ‘X-Large’ fonts. iOS 13 will get Dark Mode toggling right in the Control Center, and a new, systemwide Sleep Mode is coming that also works in Control Center. It turns on Do Not Disturb, darkens the Lock Screen, and mutes all notifications. An improved Maps app, including easier setting of frequent locations.

On the iPhone front, well-reputed analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says the 2019 iPhones will get a new antenna design…a modified-PI structure. It should help coverage with high-frequency cellular transmissions. It should bring better performance to LTE, and obviously looks ahead to 5G tech. A down side…the new tech is 10-20% more expensive…but don’t expect that kind of a bump in prices…that’s just for the antenna part, which isn’t a huge factor in iPhone materials costs.

It’s been reported that Amazon is gearing up for 1 day shipping for Prime members as standard. Now, CNBC has crunched the numbers, and determined that Amazon can ALREADY ship one-day to 72% of the US population. The have made significant progress in building their delivery network in the past 4 years, via acquiring planes for Prime Air and adding more delivery partners. According to RBC Capital Markets, Amazon has double the distribution space as Home Depot! If you need something immediately, a brick and mortar store is still your best bet in most cases, but one-day delivery cuts in to that advantage significantly.

With all the security Amazon has around their distribution centers, and horror stories about employees tracked so closely that can barely take a bathroom break, you’d think shrinkage…or employee theft…would be almost impossible. Apparently not! Geek.com reports that 4 Amazon warehouse workers have been busted in Delaware for making off with $100,000 worth of Apple Watches and other merchandise. In a police photo after the bust, you can make out some 9 Apple watches, an iPad, and a laptop. Trial dates have been set for 3 of them, with a warrant out for the 4th, who flew the coop.

We reported last week on how soft sales had seen Google offer 50% off on Pixel phones if bought through GoogleFi. Now, 9to5google.com says there was a screw up. People who chose to but the phone with a payment plan were accidentally charged full price for the phones…not even the $200 discount Google is still offering on them! Google has acknowledged the goof, and is making the discount price good to all who bought phones through this channel.

Dr Evil’s greatest thrill in Mike Myers’ Austin Powers movies was ‘Sharks with fricking laser beams!’ He would probably get a pretty good rise out of what theverge.com is reporting now. Apparently, the US Air Force has successfully tested a jet mounted laser system that can shoot down multiple targets…whether they are surface to air launched missiles or air to air from enemy planes. The laser system can reportedly recharge nearly instantly, so it is a formidable defensive weapon. Of course, it comes with the usual military naming convention…SHiELD….for Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator. The one down side is true of all lasers…weather. It will be of limited or zero usefulness in heavy fog, etc. The Army is also testing such a system for Apache attack choppers, and the Navy is working on one for warships. Pew, pew, pew!

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Facebook Bans Alex Jones & Others; Facebook Under FTC Scrutiny; Google Pixel 3a Price Leak; Samsung Galaxy Tab Drops WiFi; Apple Watch Dominates Wearables

Facebook has banned several (mainly) far right people and groups for violating their rules. Alex Jones & Infowars, Louis Farrakhan, Laura Loomer, Paul Nehlen, Paul Joseph Watson, and Milo Yiannopoulos and groups that follow them were cut. Engadget.com quoted Facebook’s statement: “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology.” They claimed it took so long to deliver these bans due to the “extensive” process of evaluating potential offenders.

Probably helping to move them along in this and other actions to clean up their act is the FTC. In addition to some $3 billion in fines that have already been disclosed, the FTC is apparently demanding creation of an ‘independent’ privacy oversight committee, so it is safe to say that the FTC is probably also dangling requirements concerning those who have stirred up hate and spread blatant lies.

We’ve reported on Google’s practically official budget Pixel line, thought to be coming out to pick up the slack in sagging hero Pixel sales. Now, a leak may indicate the pricing. According to theverge.com, YouTube channel This Is Tech Today claims they will be $399 for the Pixel 3a and $479 for the 3a XL. That’s for the base model with 64 Gigs. The channel showed off what looks like official packaging with a bar code, which indicates a Walmart listing for an unlocked Pixel 3a. The packaging indicates a 5.6 inch screen size.

Only Samsung could have two disasters on equipment at the same time, and be likely to actually survive and move on. After the fiery Galaxy Note a couple years ago, they now have the Galaxy Fold screen issues that have delayed release, and NOW the new Galaxy Tab has an unfixable problem. In shades of an iPhone that could have its antenna blocked by your hand, bgr.com says the Galaxy Tab S5e has a similar problem. If you hold the tab horizontally, with your hand on the lower left corner, the WiFi will drop…or drop off badly. No software fix will really help this, so if you buy this tablet, just keep in mind not to hold it horizontally with your left hand on the lower left corner.

Apple Watch retains its crown as the world’s most popular smartwatch by a wide margin. According to macrumors.com, the Watch was snagging 35.8% of the market January through March of this year. Samsung is a distant 2nd, with 11.1%, with Fitbit getting 5.5%. A survey found that the ECG function on the new Series 4 that came out last fall is the most desired feature.


Facebook F8; Google Tool Limits Data Retention Time; Fitbit Bests Q1 Predictions; Netflix Is Rolling Out Better Audio

Facebook kicked off its F8 developer conference yesterday with Mark Zuckerberg repeating again the ‘future is private.’ Although he tried to joke that they hadn’t been so great with peoples’ data in the past (and got an awkward silence from the audience), he went on to show off changes coming. 9to5mac.com reports that the primary Facebook app will lose the blue bar at the top, and will sport a redesigned top bar that should make it easier to navigate. There will be a greater focus on Groups…with a featured tab at the top bar. The build is out to day for mobile-at least for developers- and coming soon to desktops. Messenger gets end to end encryption, and they are building in interoperability between Messenger, Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Preorders opened for the wireless Oculus Quest VR headset. It doesn’t require a PC or Mac with the VR option, and starts at $399.

Google says in the next few weeks, they will roll out a setting for their apps that will let users delete location data automatically. According to venturebeat.com, you will be able to choose a 3 month window or an 18 month window. The deletion choice will also extend to web and app activity like things searched or browsed for in Discover on Android, Maps, Search, and Google Play. Google also says older data will be deleted on a regular basis.

Fitbit announced that he beat Q1 expectations as their smartwatch business grew 117% year over year. Techcrunch.com says Wall Street looked for $259.7 million in revenue, and Fitbit brought home $271.9 million. The tracker part of their business grew more modestly….17% year over year.

Netflix has been working of making the audio better, both for its original content and licensed content. Bgr.com reports that they are bumping the bit rate up form 192Kbps to 640Kbps, and using a machine learning algorithm that analyzes your connection in real time and adjusts the audio. You will need an extra 10Mbps to handle the higher quality audio in the stream. If you are just listening over the little, crappy speakers in your TV, none of this will make much difference. If you have good speakers or a sound bar that supports Dolby 5.1 and Dolby Atmos, you’re in luck.


Top Pixels Not Selling; Samsung Wrap Around Phone Display; Foxconn MicroLED Screens for iPhones; Amazon In Car Delivery Adds Ford-Lincoln Cars

A big reason Google seems to be working on its mid-priced Pixel phones…the top line models aren’t really moving…even with deep discounts. Cnet.com reports that the Pixel 3 at $799 has been trimmed to $599, and the 3XL at $899 backed off to $699, but they are still soft sellers. The sluggish sales are through Verizon, Google’s Fi, and even include unlocked versions. Earlier in April, Google even offered a 50% discount on the Pixel 3 if bought on Google Fi. The cheaper line of Pixel 3a phones will run a slower Snapdragon processor, start at 32GB of storage instead of 64, and be plastic instead of glass. Google is hoping the less pricey handsets coming out as a mid-range line will jump start Pixel business.

The Galaxy Fold is on hold with screen problems, but that hasn’t slowed Samsung down. According to bgr.com, a patent just granted to the company indicates they may be working on a ‘wrap around’ display for a smartphone. The front side would have the main screen, the back one (nearly as large) would be the secondary, and on the edge would be a small screen for notifications. A big benefit of the secondary screen would be allowing removal of the front selfie camera, and increasing the size of the front screen. To shoot a selfie, you would just flip the phone to the other side with the camera, frame yourself and shoot! Apparently, a couple of Chinese phone makers have already done this. Another interesting feature: you could activate a screen by hovering your hand over it…or hovering a stylus. No word on when the 3 screen phone might become reality.

It’s been reported for years…even before Apple caved and put OLED screens into iPhones….that the company eventually wanted to go to MicroLED. Now, macrumors.com says Foxconn is aggressively investing in that tech. MicroLED has many of the advantages OLED has over LCD displays, including improved color accuracy, contrast ratio, faster response times, true blacks, and self-lit pixels. The MicroLED panels are thinner, brighter, and more energy efficient than OLED, though. They also have a longer life span than the OLED panels, and should be resistant to burn-in issues. Apple has been interested in MicroLED since 2014, now it looks like they could be moving to them in the next year or two. Taiwan Semiconductor has also been working on the tech for Apple.

Amazon is adding Ford and Lincoln cars to those that will allow customers to have packages delivered to their trunks…joining General Motors and Volvo. Theverge.com reports that initially, the service is limited to 50 US cities, and to vehicles that connect to Ford’s connected cloud service. It will only be offered to Prime customers, and the package size is limited to under 50 lbs, no bigger than 26×21/16, and can’t require a signature. Also, the item or items can’t be valued at over $1300 or come from a third party seller. If you are game, you need both Amazon Key and a FordPass, and will have to add your car to the Amazon Key app. If you are one of those who never remotely considered Amazon in-home delivery (or anyone else’s in-home delivery), you will probably want to take a pass on this service.


iPhone 11 Max Update; Preorders for Powerbeats Pro Open Friday; Spotify Hits 100 Million Users 1st Quarter; United Covers Un-ordered Seatback Webcams

Any number of renderings and leaks have shown the new top-line iPhone 11 and 11 Max with a large, square bump for the 3 cams, etc. Now, bgr.com reports there’s a new leak that makes it appear much more elegant. This leak is courtesy of OnLeaks, and shows a one piece, frosted glass back, with the bump sticking up much less…and in fact integrated into the back, as opposed to something that protrudes through a hole cut in the glass. As previously leaked, this source also says the phones will be a bit thicker and have a bigger battery. I can’t think any Apple users will knock a little thicker phone if it comes with a bigger, longer lasting battery!

In other Apple news, Powerbeats Pro earbuds will go on preorder this Friday. According to macrumors.com, the in-store availability will follow on May 10th. The Powerbeats Pro models are pretty much AirPods, albeit with a sportier look, and will come with the H1 chip for Hands free Siri. Apple claims up to 9 hours listening per charge, and 24 hours total after trips to the charging case for a top off. The Fast Fuel feature gets you 1.5 hours of play time with a 5 minute charge. They’ll set you back $249.95…compared to $159 and $199 for the 2nd gen AirPods and $199.95 for the Powerbeats 3 Wireless.

Spotify continues to burn through cash, still not making money, but did hit 100 million users in the 1st Quarter. Techcrunch.com says that’s up 32% from a year ago. Spotify did rake in $1.68 billion in revenue, beating estimates of $1.64 billion…but still lost money….although the loss is less than before.

United Airlines has taken action concerning the webcams in their seat back entertainment screens. The in-flight entertainment screens United got from the aviation equipment division of Panasonic were basically an enterprise grade tablet…and came with a built-in web cam. Theverge.com reports that the tablets had the cams by default…they aren’t in use, but Panasonic claimed they could be used in the future for seat to seat video calling and multiplayer gaming. Passengers had noticed the cams, including a security researcher, and complained that they cams were not disclosed, and that passengers had no idea if they were on or not., Now, united has covered the cams with physical pieces of plastic and stickers. Apparently, American and Delta have done the same. Fly Big Brother Air…he’ll keep an eye on things….and YOU!


Samsung Galaxy S10 5G on Pre-Order; NSA Says Phone Surveillance Unworkable; Facebook’s $3-5 Billion Fine; Microsoft Beats Street-Thanks, Cloud

With the terrible issues with their model F folding screen phablet, Samsung needed some good news. The Galaxy S10 5G is now open for pre-orders at Verizon. According to engadget.com, the 256 Gig base model starts at a whopping $1300, and it’s $1400 for 512 Gigs. Kind of makes the $999 iPhone sound like a quaint bargain. You can opt for $54.16 or $58.33 a month for 24 months on Verizon Device Payment plans to ease the pain. Also, if you act quickly, you can pick up a free set of Galaxy Buds and a Samsung Wireless Charging Battery Pack. Verizon now has 5G AREAS in Chicago and Minneapolis, and will add 20 more cities this year.

The NSA has reportedly told the White House that their phone surveillance program is no longer worth the effort. 9to5mac.com reports that legislation is needed to continue the program, and the NSA has instead recommended dropping it…saying the logistical and legal burdens outweigh the intelligence benefits. The secret spy agency has been doing it since at lest 2006, and it became known in 2013 when Ed Snowden leaked classified documents.

Facebook announced total 1st quarter revenue of $!5.1 billion, but warned that it could face between $3-5 billion in fines but the FTC over its data sharing practices. Engadget.com says the revenue was up 26%, and that such a fine won’t put too much of a dent in their revenue…although it drops the overall net profit by 51% year to year. The fines flow from the Cambridge Analytica deal in the runup to the 2016 election.

Microsoft beat the Street’s expectations, but it wasn’t on the back of Windows 10, Office, or Xbox. Redmond reported $30.6 billion in revenue, mainly on growth of their cloud computing operations. Geekwire.com also notes that the Surface division was also up nicely, 21% first quarter, after a strong holiday season.


Amazon Reviewers Got Access to Alexa Location Data; Ford Pumps $500 Million into Rivian EVs; San Francisco May Be First City to Ban Facial Recognition; Apple Repairs MacBook Keyboards in Stores Now

More and more people keep buying smart speakers, and at the same time, more keeps coming out about how little protection is available for our personal data collected by them. Now, 9to5google.com reports that Amazon reviewers had access to Alexa location data and even audio clips! The reviewers are an internal team which are working on improving the Alexa product. Although Amazon claims that the geolocation data can’t really identify users, plugging it into Google Maps spits out the exact location in seconds. Yep, more evidence that your private data isn’t yours at all. You’re not going to give up your Alexa device over it either, are you?

Ford has dropped a cool half-billion dollars into Rivian, and intends to build a vehicle on Rivian’s EV platform. According to techcrunch.com, this comes a couple months after a $700 million investment led by Amazon. The most likely vehicles Ford is considering are and SUV and a 5 passenger pickup, as those mirror what Rivian announced last year for its EV platform. Ford already has several EVs in production and coming, including an electric model of its top selling F-150 pickup.

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors is considering a ban on facial recognition tech. Engadget.com says the ordinance would impose strict limits on what forms of biometric data can be collected by various departments, how and when it’s used, and more. Oakland and Santa Clara already have such laws, but the SF one would flat-out ban the use of facial recognition tech by local government….in fact, it would also nix cell tower spoofers like the Stingray, automated license plate readers (although CalTrans uses these on the Bay Bridge, as does the Golden Gate), Shotspotter, surveillance cameras, RFID, scanners, and more, Stay tuned…

Apple has had issues with its so-called ‘butterfly’ keyboards for some time now. The third generation of the keyboards, which came out in the 2018 MacBook and MacBook Pro models seems to be doing ok, and they are not included in the repair program. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple has started an in-store repair program with one day turnaround. This will be much quicker, and presumably less hassle than shipping them to repair centers.
Cupertino says they have already trained up staff and shipped parts to Apple stores.