Amazon Prime Shipped 5 Billion; Apple’s iPhone Battery Replacement; Germany Enforcing Social Media Hate Speech Law; Yes-Robocalls Have Gotten Worse; Wireless Android Auto Coming

Order lots or stuff with free shipping using Amazon Prime? Yeah, you and everyone else. According to techcrunch.com Amazon shipped over 5 billion items with Prime in 2017. We don’t know how much growth this shows, as they’ve never released numbers before, but 5 billion is a staggering number! A third party estimate from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners has 63% of all Amazon customers as Prime members, though, and calculates that there are 90 million Prime members just in the US!

You probably heard the flap over the holidays about Apple using software to slow down older iPhones to conserve dying batteries…and not telling anyone, and hence, the uproar. Apple last week issued a rare apology, and dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29…available right now in limited quantities. The replacement applies to ‘anyone with an iPhone 6 or newer whose battery needs to be replaced.’ In the rush, Apple didn’t note what happened if the phone fails an official Genius Bar diagnostic test. Now, macrumors.com reports that Apple will replace the batteries at their stores even if the phone doesn’t flunk the Genius Bar test! How about phones older than iPhone 6? Basically…you’re screwed….you’ll have to pay the $79 bucks.

Germany has waded into the arena of hate speech, fake news, and illegal material on social media. BBC.com says they are now starting enforcement of a law banning such content. If the content isn’t removed within 24 hours after the social media company is notified, the fine is up to 50 million Euro…or about $60 million bucks! That MIGHT get their attention. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law’s main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in the dragnet.

If it seems like you’ve been getting more robocalls…you are. According to theverge.com, a recent FTC report shows they have quintupled since 2009! The agency has gotten 375,000 complaints a month in 2017, compared to 63,000 a month in 2009. One reason is cheap access to internet calling services and autodialing. Now, there is vastly more neighborhood or area number spoofing, with the calls really calling from almost anywhere in the world. The do not call registry and blocking tools from phone companies and phone makers MAY have helped, but aren’t remotely keeping up with the problem.

Lots of cool things will be rolled out at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. 9to5google.com says one will be wireless Android Auto. JVC/Kenwood will show off an Android Auto screen that doesn’t have to be plugged into your USB port, but runs over the Bluetooth. There was already such a device for Apple CarPlay rolled out by Alpine a few months ago. They use a 6.8 inch screen, and will sell under the JVC and Kenwood brands. It’s expected that they will also be bringing out an Apple CarPlay compatible version later on. Let’s hope they are easily detachable and can be hidden in trunks, for break-in prone cities like San Francisco!


Apple’s Previously Secret Screen Repair Machine Coming To 3rd Parties; Waze App Hits Android Auto in Beta

Soon, you won’t have to necessarily send an iPhone in to Apple or go to one of their stores for a cracked screen. Apple is planning to put 400 of its proprietary machines in 400 third party repair centers in 25 countries. Reuters.com says one of the first will be Best Buy. The Horizon machine has been restricted to now to only Apple stores, and Apple has been quite secretive of it. According to Apple, it’s not due to legislative pressure that they are making the machines available. Some in the tech world wonder if this is a preparation for the all glass iPhone 8 models…is Apple expecting a lot more breakage? Up to now, a good repair shop could replace your screen without voiding the warranty, but couldn’t activate the fingerprint sensor. The Horizon machine takes care of that, so you can unlock with your digits and get your Apple Pay and bank apps to work.

A lot of people use and like Waze, and now the Google owned navigation app with crowd sourcing is getting into Android Auto…at least in beta. Arstechnica.com notes that most of the data for navigation is and has been available in the Google Maps app anyway, but if you love the crowd sourced traffic info…and many folks swear by it, sign up for the beta if you want to use it with your Android Auto system.


Google & Chrysler Pairing for Android Powered Infotainment System; Theatre Mode for iOS; Tesla Autopilot Update

Google and Chrysler are partnering on more than just self-driving tech. 9to5google.com says they are also working on an Android powered infotainment system. This is not Android Auto…it’s built on the Android Open Source Platform, and should provide full access to Google Assistant, Maps, and other resources like Pandora, Spotify, NPR One, and Pocket Casts. It will probably live within the Uconnect system on rollout.

Bgr.com reports that Apple’s iOS 10.3 is getting something called ‘Theatre mode.’ It’s not clear what it is….a popcorn icon denotes it on the screen….but it’s thought to be a Dark Mode something like ‘Do Not Disturb’ where all sounds are muted, and many apps display white text on a black screen. Twitter already has a dark mode for its iOS app, and it works well…easy on the eyes and discreet.

Tesla has started rolling out what they call HW2 Autopilot updates to cars made since October. By next week, according to techcrunch.com, the rest of the Tesla fleet will start seeing the updates. The rewrite of the Autopilot software will eventually enable full self driving mode in Tesla cars. Tesla wants to test complete autonomy by the end of 2017!


Battery Advancement Doubles Capacity; Sony In-Dash Aftermarket Receiver Does Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

SonyXAV-AX100

A startup company hatched at MIT has cooked up a new ‘anode free’ lithium metal battery that is smaller, and has twice the energy capacity of most lithium ion batteries. This means either batteries could take up half the space, or one the same size could last twice as long. Mashable.com says the key is that the batteries have very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which holds many more ions than the more widely used graphite. More ions means more energy capacity, and the batteries are twice as energy-dense as lithium-ion batteries. In addition to that, they’re also safer. The company, Solid Energy, expects to have the tech available for smartphones by next year and cars by 2018.

There have been aftermarket car audio systems available, but none up to now have offered both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. According to techcrunch.com, Sony just rolled one out for $500 retail. It sports a 6.4 inch touch screen, and supports NFC, Bluetooth, has an aux input, and a dedicated hardware button for triggering voice input. The Pioneer AppRadio 4 has a similar screen, but only does CarPlay, and is $100 bucks more. Alpine’s offering is also more. Of course, you have to factor installation on any of them into the price, but on the other hand, it’s getting CarPlay or Android Auto without buying a whole new car!


Samsung Announces Galaxy Unpacked Date; Tesla May Mirror Apps On Big Screen

It’s official…Samsung has announced their Galaxy Unpacked event at Mobile World Congress February 21st in Barcelona. 9to5google.com says the event will be live streamed at 10am Pacific, 1pm Eastern over Samsung’s YouTube channel. A teaser video has a person wearing a Gear VR virtual reality headset reaching for a cube with a 7 on it, a nod to the rollout of the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge.

Tesla is looking at allowing smartphone apps from iPhones and Androids to be mirrored on it’s big display in the centre console of the cars. Theverge.com reports that the maker may be going this direction instead of putting out their own native developer kit to wall the phone apps off from the system that controls the functionality of the car itself. Although Tesla has one of the better infotainment systems in any car, they haven’t embraced Android Auto and Apple CarPlay at this point.


Fords to Get Apple CarPlay & Android Auto; 18 Inch Roll Up LG Display!

Ford will integrate both Apple CarPlay and Android Auto into its in-dash infotainment system. Thenextweb.com reports that all existing and future models with the Sync 3 connectivity system will support both platforms. This means all 2017 Ford models will work with either for calling, music playback, and voice commands. Ford predicts that 43 million Sync 3 equipped cars will be on the road by 2020. If you have a present Ford with Sync 3, you’ll be able to upgrade and add CarPlay or Android Auto later this year.

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The folks at LG have been experimenting with roll up screens for a while now. They are now going to show a prototype 18 inch screen at CES this week! Sony, Samsung, & Sharp are all looking into rollup screens, but this is the largest one by far. Theverge.com says LG will also show off a 55 inch ‘paper thin’ TV that has all the electronics installed independently.


Facebook Enters Crowdfunding; Ford Sees Self-Driving Cars in 4 Years

A lot of projects have been launched on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Now, it appears that Facebook is dipping its toe into the crowdfunding pool. According to techcrunch.com, they’ve just released something called Fundraiser, which lets non-profits set up a campaign page where they can roll a video, collect cash, and let people share on their newsfeed. As it stands, Fundraiser competes with Crowdrise, but it wouldn’t take much for Facebook to drop the ‘non’ from nonprofit. With people able to donate and never leave Facebook, it will be easier than ever to fund nonprofit projects…and perhaps in the near future, FOR profit ones.

The race is really on…figuratively, at least…to autonomous cars. Recode.net reports that Ford’s CEO Mark Fields said this week that he sees completely self-driving cars on the streets within 4 years. That’s even quicker than Google’s prediction of 5 years. Ford has started testing autonomous cars at Mcity, the 30 plus acre test layout operated by the University of Michigan. Mcity has a full scale urban streets test layout. The Ford CEO also said they have plans to include Apple Car Play and Google’s Android Auto in some of the Ford line, but he didn’t specify what models or the timetable.


Monitor Wirelessly Charges Phones

Samsung has revealed the first monitor that wirelessly charges phones. If your phone has the Qi wireless charging standard, venturebeat.com says you can lay it on the stand’s charging area, a little green LED lights, and that’s it! The monitor also features an ‘eye saver mode’ that reduces the blue light that causes eye strain. The SE370 monitor will come in 23.6 and 27 inch sizes, and will be out before the end of the year. No pricing has been announced yet.

Android Auto will be out in the next year, as will Apple’s further integration with Car Play, and arstechnica.com has ferreted out some cool future features by activating developer mode. It looks like Android Auto will eventually include roadside assistance, vehicle check, and service history later on. There is also a dummy screen titled ‘more car apps,’ so the system has code baked in to operate as a launcher for additional car apps. Arstechnica also found a huge list of sensors hidden away in Android auto, that will allow it to monitor more than just the speed and location of the car, including the cryptic ‘driving status.’ Could this be a mode for self-driving? Stay tuned.


Updated Automatic Smart Driving Monitor

Automatic has rolled out its second generation smart driving monitor. The gadget plugs into the ODB2 port on your car….and by ‘your car,’ that’s all cars built since 1996. Cnet.com says the new gadget not only gives you driving data and tracks mileage and fault codes, but works as an app store for cars, with 20 apps available right now. A couple apps pull data so you can easily generate mileage reports for expense reporting, and another to split the cost of carpooling. It now works with Apple Watch and Pebble, with Android Auto integration in the works. Best of all, the second generation model is priced like the 1st at $99.95.

Apple Pay…after an initial splash last fall, has been pretty well operating under…or maybe even off the radar. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple just signed 34 new banks and credit unions, and now there are nearly 300 institutions using it. Trader Joe’s just announced in the last few days that they are starting to activate it in some stores, and Home Depot is moving towards most stores accepting it by the end of the year…although Home Depot says they play to accept as wide a variety of payment systems as possible. If you have an iPhone 6 or 6 Plus and haven’t used it, here’s a tip: when you hold the phone near the terminal, don’t touch the fingerprint image on the screen, touch the home button…and touch, don’t PRESS the home button…pressing will activate Siri instead of authorizing the payment!


New Force Touch Macbook Pro and iMac Out This Week

Wednesday looks to be the day that Apple drops new 15 inch Macbook Pros and 27 inch iMacs with Force Touch baked in to the track pads. 9to5mac.com says that otherwise, the update will be a minor one, with upgrades to the CPU and graphics processors.

In a story from tech crunch.com penned by the CEO of Zuora, the present car industry is compared to the early PC industry of the mid 80’s. The auto makers are cast as being as clueless as giant IBM was at that time, and Digital Equipment…remember them…even more out of touch. IBM went on to be clobbered as the platform…like Windows or Mac…became much more important to consumers than the brand itself. With Gartner predicting that there will be 250 million connected cars on the road by 2020, the platform makers, like Google with Android Auto and Apple with Car Play, may become far more important that the actual brand of cars…causing a gigantic shakeup in the auto industry.