Apple Could Make More iPhones Outside of China; Intel’s New Sunny Cove Chips & Archetecture; Amazon NYC Warehouse Workers Push for Union; Top 10 2018 Google Searches

With the continued threat of higher tariffs from the Trump Administration, Apple is looking at moving more iPhone production out of China. Techcrunch.com says Apple is looking at more production in India, and in Brazil, where Foxconn has had a factory since 2011. If there ends up being a 10% tariff, Apple (through Foxconn) will probably stay with China. If the tariff hits 25%, Apple will say goodbye to production in China (with the exception of phones built for sale within China proper.)

Starting new year, Intel will release Core and Xeon chips with a new architecture…the add a number of instructions that accelerate frequently used workloads like cryptography and compression. Intel claims a 75% improvement in compression performance. Arstechnica.com reports that Sunny Cove chips will be built using the 10nm process. It is a derivation of Skylake, but can execute more instructions in parallel with lower latency.

In news that will give Jeff Bezos heartburn, Amazon workers in New York City are pushing to unionize. They are working with the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, and according to the verge.com want to address safety concerns, long unpaid security checks, what they term unreasonable hourly quotas, and insufficient breaks. A leak recently of an anti-union training video Amazon made has increased interest. Among other things, the video encourages managers to express opinions like ‘Unions are lying, cheating rats.’ Even the raise to $15 per hour doesn’t begin to cover things for workers living in NYC, which is also true of other costly areas like Connecticut and the San Francisco Bay Area.

Because we love lists, and think it gives us insight into what the collective of humanity is (or was) thinking about, here are the top 10 Google searches of 2018: #10 (imagine some echo on the numbers if you must) Kate Spade; at 9, Stephen Hawking; XXXTentacion was in the 8th slot; #7 Anthony Bourdain (note that all of these people had died); the #6 most searched was Meghan Markle; 5 actually wasn’t a person…it was ‘Black Panther’ the movie; Stan Lee was 4th; #3 was Mac Miller; in 2nd place was Avicii; and the top spot was the World Cup. Don’t you feel so much more informed?

Advertisements

Vivo’s Dual Display NEX Phone; OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition; Amazon Gives Alexa Location Based Reminders & Routines; Daimler Buying $23 Billion Worth of Batteries for EVs

Vivo has come out with what they call an all-screen NEX smartphone. According to engadget.com, there’s NO selfie cam…but you won’t need one, they say. You can flip the phone around and just shoot your selfie with the pop up back cam…the back of the phone has a rear screen so you can set up your shot! The phone is called the NEX Dual Display Edition. The phone is out in China for $725 December 29th.

OnePlus has showed off a fancy new McLaren Edition 6T. The phone comes with 10 Gigs of RAM and 256 Gigs of storage, according to businessinsider.com. Part of the back is carbon fiber, and it has a beautiful but tough carbon fiber case….and of course, a racing stripe and the McLaren logo. Even with the vanity edition tweaked by the performance car maker, the phone is just $700…$300 less than an iPhone Xs…which doesn’t have that kind of memory or storage, and comes with no case at all to protect that glass back!

A major update has hit Alexa devices. Amazon has opened up new features, including location based routines and reminders, timer enhancements, app notifications, email support, and more. 9to5mac.com says the update was announced in September, but has just rolled out. An example given would be ‘Alexa, remind me to feed the dogs when I get home.’ When the Alexa device detects your phone inside the house, it will remind you. You can also program multiple routines with wait times…like turning on lights when you get up, but pausing for 20 minutes or so before switching on music or news.

Mercedes parent Daimler is going all-in on electric vehicles. The German giant is going to buy $23 billion worth of battery cells by 2030 to go into Mercedes-Benz EVs and commercial trucks. The company presently has supplier deals with LG, SK Innovation, and China’s CATL. Daimler plans to launch 130 electric and hybrid vehicles by 2022, and a number of commercial trucks, busses, and vans, too. Battery production for the cars with all those lithium-ion cells will be in 8 factories on 3 continents.


Ultrasound Powered Qualcomm Fingerprint Sensor; Snapdragon 855; Google & Amazon Making AirPod Alternatives; Apple Adding Health Sensors to AirPods

Adding an extra layer to fingerprint sensor security, Qualcomm is baking in ultrasound to beef up its in-display fingerprint sensor. Engadget.com reports that the ultrasound will allow creation of a 3D mold of your finger, which will be much harder to copy. It will pick up on the ridges and even pores. As a bonus, the sensor should be able to tell it’s you, even though you still have a little of today’s lunch on your finger (wash up, you slob!) They didn’t allow testing at the demo, so we’ll have to wait to see how fast the new tech is.

Speaking of fast, Qualcomm also showed off its Snapdragon 855 at its event in Hawaii. According to 9to5google.com, the chip will power the 2019 flagship phones, including from Samsung. It will support multi-gigabit 5G, which also rolls out next year in a number of markets. Qualcomm says the chip has 3x the AI performance of last year’s chip.

It’s not that there aren’t already cheaper alternatives to Apple’s AirPods on the market, but a couple are coming from some heavyweights…Google and Amazon appear to be preparing to launch competitor products.

9to5mac.com says Apple isn’t exactly waiting around for the increased competition…they are working on more water resistance, support for Hey Siri, and interchangeability…so you could put one in an ear without checking to see if it’s Left or Right, and the AirPod would orient itself and the audio automatically. Apple is also expected to integrate health sensors into the next gen AirPods, and integrate the data with Apple Watch as well as the health app on iPhones. Well known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says to look for Cupertino to sell 26-28 million sets this year, 50-55 million in 2019, and over 100 million in 2021.


Samsung Will Have 5G Phone in 2019; Apple-All New AirPods, But No 5G Phone Until 2020; Amazon Testing King Sized Amazon Go Store

Samsung is partnering with Verizon to bring a 5G smartphone to the US in the middle of 2019! Cnet.com reports that they will show off a concept handset this week at the Qualcomm Snapdragon Tech Summit in Hawaii. 5G is expected to significantly boost the speed, coverage, and responsiveness of wireless networks. Phones will upload and download data at anywhere from 10 to 100 times faster than the 4G network we have today! Samsung has not said if the phone will be exclusive to Verizon, and did note that they will continue to work with other wireless partners.

Over at Apple, the word is that it will be at least 2020 before a 5G iPhone will be in peoples’ hands. According to macrumors.com, Apple will hold off a bit instead of being on the leading edge…which they have done before when new generations of wireless capability rolled out. Bloomberg points out that there has often been poor coverage when a new layer of connectivity rolls out, with phones often having to drop back to the old tech, or jumping back and forth between the two systems. Besides Samsung, Huawei and Oppo will also put out 5G smartphones next year…although neither of those two are really factors in the US market like Samsung is. Part of the delay for Apple may be the ongoing litigation with Qualcomm. Apple is partnering with Intel on 5G chips, and those won’t be out in time to get phones to market in 2019.

There will be all-new AirPods in 2020, but prior to that, Apple will release wireless charging AirPods early next year. 9to5mac.com picked up a report from well known Apple analyst Ming-Chi Kuo that says the wireless model will also include yet to be disclosed upgrades, but that the total revamp will be set for a 2020 release.

Amazon is reported to be testing out a large-sized Amazon-Go type store, sans cashiers, in Seattle. Geekwire.com says it is set up to look more like a traditional grocery store. Now what grocery store could it be designed like…oh, yeah…Whole Foods, which Amazon owns! They are particularly working on seeing if the system that tracks what shoppers grab off the shelves works well with the higher ceilings and bigger spaces with vastly more products. It remains to be seen when or if the tech will reach Whole Foods or other stores. Amazon has said in the past they have no plans to add the tech to Whole Foods stores…but such claims are often made, then things change. We do know Amazon is planning opening up to 3,000 Amazon Go stores by 2021.


Facebook Warned About Russia in 2014; Shopping on Phones Explodes, Top 5 Amazon Items; 10% iPhone Tariff Threat

Things just keep looking worse for Facebook when it comes to protecting user data. Businessinsider.com says a Facebook engineer warned the company in 2014 about a potential giant data issue involving Russia. This info is coming out after the British Parliament got hold of a cache of sealed Facebook documents. UK politician Damian Collins, who reviewed the documents, made the disclosure today at a hearing in front of the International Grand Committee. Mark Zuckerberg refused to show for the hearing, sending policy chief Richard Allen. Allen if this information had been given to an external body (like an agency of the US government) at the time. Allen refused to answer. The documents are sealed under court order in California, but they were published in the United Kingdom under UK parliamentary privilege.

A couple months back, a panicked friend told me ‘My phone is my life,’ as it was temporarily missing. That is more true that ever now. Cnet.com reports that total sales on smartphones through Cyber Monday was $2.2 billion, up from $1.4 billion last year! On Cyber Monday, phones accounted for 47% of traffic to online stores and 36% of actual sales. Overall Cyber Monday sales were $7.9 million, so the mobile component was substantial. Since the 1st of November $50.6 billion has been spent online, up 20% from last year!

Amazon has announced its 5 best sellers on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Topping the list, according to bgr.com, the Amazon Echo Dot at $29.99 instead of $50 In the #2 spot, AncestryDNA: Genetic Testing Ethnicity (still on sale at $59 btw). The third place seller was the adored Instant Pot DUO60 6 Qt 7-in-1 Multi-Programmable Pressure Cooker…still at $30 bucks off. Bose Quiet Comfort 25 Acoustic Noise Cancelling Headphones bagged the 4th place spot…and those are now sold out. #5 was Michelle Obama’s new book Becoming, which is still available at a $20 discount.

Yesterday, Donald Trump threatened to slap a 10% tariff on iPhones and MacBooks imported from China, and the stock acted accordingly. Today, Tim Cook is visiting an Idaho school district with Ivanka Trump to talk tech. Coincidence? I doubt it. So far, Cook has gotten Trump to lay off Apple products. Macrumors.com says in 2016 Apple donated an iPad to every student, a Mac and iPad to every teacher, and an Apple TV to each classroom via its ConnectED initiative. Will a ‘charm trip’ with Ivanka keep tariffs off Apple products again? Stay tuned.


Skype over Alexa; Apple Cuts iPhone Production Orders; Space-X Approved for 7,000 Com Satellites

Microsoft has enabled Skype to work on Amazon’s Alexa devices. The rollout should be complete this week. Theverge.com reports that Echo-type hardware will be able to handle basic calling, and the Echo Show will include video support for Skype. Users will also be able to call mobile and land lines using SkypeOut, and call their contacts by simply asking Alexa to ‘Call Siri on Skype.’ OK, not really Siri…unless maybe you have a friend with that name, which would be nearly as confusing as having a pal named Alexa.

Apple has pared back production orders for the iPhone Xs, Xs Max, and XR, due to ‘lower than expected demand,’ according to a Wall Street Journal report picked up by macrumors.com. Somewhat surprisingly, the biggest cuts are for the XR, which has been whacked by a third of the original 70 million units originally scheduled. Some suppliers are calling the handsets a flop, but with Apple reporting record breaking revenue of $61.5 billion on iPhones during the launch quarter, that’s a stretch. Since Apple is going to quit reporting unit numbers for iPhone sales going forward it will make it even harder to track sales…but competitor Samsung hasn’t reported unit numbers in some time.

SpaceX has gotten FCC approval to launch over 7,000 satellites. Cnet.com says they will be in very low earth orbit, and will give the company the ability to provide global satellite broadband service. The FCC has also signed off on requests from Kepler Communications, Telesat Canada, and LeoSat MA to offer broadband in the US by satellite.


Waymo Public Self-Driving Service Imminent; Facebook Patches Nasty Bug; Amazon Formalizes 2nd HQ (two of them); Apple XR Estimates Cut, but Sells Big on Singles’ Day

Waymo is apparently going to go live with their first commercial driverless car service in December. No name has been leaked yet, but cnet.com reports that the service will be a direct competitor for Uber and Lyft. Waymo will field its fleet of Chrysler Pacifica vans for the service, which will NOT be free. Expect to us an app to hail the car and pay for the ride. An article over the weekend speculated that, in a few years, we might see self-driving vehicles used for quick sex romps…but we will leave that to your imagination.

The engineers at Facebook have squashed a nasty bug in their code base that could have allowed hackers to collect highly personal info on Facebook users. According to zdnet.com, a security researcher found the bug and notified Facebook. He was browsing their online search results, and in the HTML saw iframe elements. By simple queries of yes and no, a lot could be determined about user interests and those of their friends. The researcher believes the iframe was used by Facebook itself. The bug was discovered in May, and the platform patched it shortly after being notified. The researchers, Ron Masas, points out that Facebook has become such a large and complicated platform, that there will always be bugs and hacks…even with their relatively generous bounty for people that spot problems and notify them.

It was reported here and elsewhere last week that Amazon was likely going to settle on two locations for it’s HQ2, and today they made it official. Theverge.com says Long Island City in Queens, NY, and Crystal City in Arlington, VA will share the HQ2 duties. Amazon already employs more people in these two locations than anywhere else outside of its Seattle HQ and the San Francisco Bay Area. An additional announcement was that Nashville will host a new East Coast operations hub, which will handle customer fulfillment and transportation. That facility will employ some 5,000.

The iPhone is doomed…long live the iPhone. A report from Ming-Chi Kuo cuts shipment estimates for the new iPhone XR from 100 million to 70 million, and that…coupled with the announcement last week that Apple won’t be releasing iPhone sales numbers moving forward, have whacked the stock. Nonetheless, 9to5mac.com says Apple had a huge day during Alibaba’s Singles’ Day on Sunday. Apple was the top selling mobile phone brand…one of 237 brands that pulled in over $14.36 million in sales on that one day (yes, it’s a funny number…but a nice, round 100 million yuan.) Apple even beat Chinese makers Xiaomi and Huawei. Huawei did come in 2nd, and Xiaomi was third in sales, though. Neither Alibaba nor Apple broke out what iPhone models sold the most during the giant online one-day event.