iPhone X Made Bank in 4th Quarter; New iPhone SE Soon; Facebook’s EU Privacy Compliance; Company Using Facebook for Massive Facial Recognition Database

There has been so much coverage about what a big flop the iPhone X is…now, comes word that the flagship handset brought in 35% of total worldwide iPhone profits in the 4th quarter….and really only 2 months of that quarter! Macrumors.com reports that Counterpoint Research crunched the numbers, and also found that the handset generated five times the profit of over 600 Android OEMs that quarter! For comparison at Apple, the iPhone 8 brought in 19.1% of the profits, and the iPhone 8 Plus 15.2%.

The diminutive (by today’s standards) and dated iPhone SE only amounted to .9% of Apple’s iPhone profits in the 4th quarter last year, and now it looks like it will be getting a long-overdue refresh. According to bgr.com, Apple has registered a number of new model numbers for iPhones that will run iOS 11 with the EU and with Russia, which require them in advance. The smaller and less pricey iPhone may be out in May, or around WWDC in June. It will have greatly improved internals, but one rumor has it staying the same on the outside, with another indicating a brand new design. At any rate, we will know in a matter of weeks.

The EU’s new privacy regs go into place next month, and Facebook has released some details about how they will comply. 9to5google.com says the US will get a watered down version, as had been previously rumored. The GDPR….General Data Protection Regulation compliance makes Facebook ask users specifically to agree to a number of things, and is not allowed to present pre-selected defaults. Three key things they must ask are to chose whether or not you want them to use data from partners to show you ads, if you want Facebook to continue to let them use info you’ve shared about political, religious, or relationship info (hint: they will still have the data!), and lastly if you will allow them to use face recognition tech (like for tagging in photos.) These are such mild requirements, don’t expect much change in the ‘watered down’ US version!

If you thought the Cambridge Analytica scandal was creepy, you’ll love this…a surveillance company founded by former Israeli intelligence officers called Terrogence has been using social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube to build a giant facial-recognition database. Mashable.com reports they’ve been at this for five years! The database is part of their facial recognition service called Face-Int. Terrogence, and its parent company Verint supply intelligence tech to the US government including the NSA and the Navy. They would not disclose whether or not the US government utilizes their face database.

Advertisements

Android Apps Track Kids; Making Facebook Friends Portable; Amazon’s Choice Secrets; Mini Sega Genesis Coming

In the wake of the Facebook Cambridge Analytica flap, more people are becoming re-sensitized to their privacy…or lack of it. Bgr.com is pointing out that Google does a much better job of protecting privacy, but…and there’s always a but…with their third party apps, not so much. Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute have discovered thousands of Android apps that track young kids. In fact, the majority of 5855 of the most popular children’s apps were guilty of tracking in some manner. 19% of them collect personally identifiable information, while 66% transmit non-resettable persistent identifiers that negate the privacy preserving properties of the advertising ID. So…those thousands of apps are free, except for the data they steal to serve targeted ads to your kids. What a deal! ‘OK, Google! Fix this!’

Some people are leaving Facebook after the Cambridge Analytica mess…I count 31 that have bailed or deactivated on my friends list. For me, the horse got out of the barn a long time ago, so it seems a bit late to leave when you’re privacy has been violated continuously for 8 or 10 years. TechCrunch.com notes that you can download your facebook info, including your friends list…but it’s just a text list…you can’t easily take it to a competing platform. It’s just not going to work having to type them all in, or letting another platform use your email list and keep sending out pestering email to your friends. If people want the government to regulate Facebook as a utility, being able to export your friends list in a useable form to port them to another platform would be a great start. Meanwhile, we’ve speculated that somewhere, some brilliant geeks are working on programming to do it whether Facebook likes it or not. Whatever platform gets that kind of feature first will have a hell of a leg up in giving Facebook some real competition.

What kind of magic formula does Amazon use to give a product the Amazon’s Choice designation? No one has had a clue…until now. Geekwire.com reports that the online giant has started placing a ‘why we like this product’ link next to the Amazon’s Choice logo. If you click it, it will give you 3 specific reasons Amazon has awarded the Choice designator to that particular product. Some of the criteria seem heavily skewed towards highly rated, but also seen have been low return rate and popularity in Amazon search results. At least it’s a peek behind the curtain. So far, all the factors seem to be ones that lend themselves to a high degree of automation..hey, it IS Amazon!

Having purchased probably every system Sega ever made for a certain family member (which paid off in a way…he now works for a game company), I was interested to see that Sega is probably going to bring out a Sega MegaDrive Mini later this year. Cnet.com says the little box has just rolled out in Japan to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the system (MegaDrive was the original name for the system.) Now, a number of reports are surfacing saying the diminutive Genesis will e hitting the US later this year. It appears that Sega is presently asking users to let them know what classic games they want pre-loaded onto the system. Apparently the system will feature both Japanese and English voiceovers, and choice of classic or modern controls.


Apple News- Phone Screens & New AI Head; Facebook Privacy Standards; Parallel Reality Tech ‘Magic Pixels’

Apple is reportedly working on some wild ideas for future iPhones. Bloomberg.com reports that two ideas Cupertino is pursuing include touches gesture control, and curved screens….but different from those of Samsung. The control feature would let users interact in some ways by moving a finger near the screen, without actually touching it. This possible feature is a couple years away, if they go through with it. The curved screen curves inward gradually from top to bottom. There was no info on how this type of curve might help the user.

Apple also lured away Google’s Chief of Search and Artificial Intelligence. John Giannandrea will oversee Apple’s machine learning and AI strategy, and will report directly to CEO Tim Cook. One major item on his to-do list: Make Siri work better!

The word is out that Mark Zuckerberg will testify before Congress next week, in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data mess, and the Android phones tracking calls and texts. Now, we’ve all heard that Facebook was putting in new privacy standards, which it should. The bad news? According to 9to5google.com, the gold standard privacy protection European Union users will get WON’T be extended to the US! The social media giant only says they will do something ‘in the same general direction.’ Facebook has made it easier to remove apps, though. You could always do this, but had to jump through hoops. Now, you merely click each app you want to remove, and hit the Remove button to delete them.

A Redmond, WA company has given a peek into the future of what they’re creating, and it’s pretty amazing. Misapplied Sciences was started by former Microsoft and Disney geniuses. Geekwire.com says the tech will…for example…allow you to be walking along in an airport, look up at the screen to find your gate, and only see YOUR gate info! Others walking along will only see their info. There’s no smoke, but mirrors are involved in what they call ‘parallel reality’ display technology. They have developed a ‘multi’view’ pixel, which can send different colors of light in up to millions of directions. No goofy looking (sorry, Disney) goggles or glasses are required!


Waymo’s Jaguar Deal; Facebook Speaker Delayed; President Criticizes Amazon

When you call a self-driving e-car, sometimes you may want to go posh. At least Waymo thinks so. Apparently, their latest partner for their autonomous taxi fleet is Jaguar. Jag’s new BEV–…battery electric vehicle, goes on sale later this year, and Waymo has ordered a whopping 20,000 of the classy e-cars with their I-Pace self driving system. The sensors will be built right into the Jags at the factory in Graz, Austria. Waymo says they want to give users a choice…, so will continue to run the Chrysler Pacifica vans, and add in the Jaguar I-Pace BEVs in 2020, with the full fleet of Jags on the roads by 2022. 

In the aftermath of Facebook’s frankly terrible couple of weeks with the Cambridge Analytica data mis-use disclosure, followed by the discovery that they had been logging call and text data from Android phones for years, Facebook has postponed release of their connected speaker. Originally, it was thought that the new gadget would roll out at their developer conference F8 May 1st, and be available to buyers this fall, but now the connected speaker will debut late in the year. The Facebook speaker will reportedly not only have voice control, but also video chat capability.  Continuing damage control, Facebook has now introduced a new privacy shortcuts menu, simplified shortcuts menu on mobile, and tools to find, download, and delete your Facebook data. 

While Congress is digging into Facebook and their data use or mis-use,  the president is more obsessed with Amazon. Axios is reporting that he is concerned with both the online giant’s tax treatment, and the fact that they are hurting brick and mortar stores and malls. Another thing that disturbs the Chief Executive is Amazon’s so-called ‘cushy deal’ with the US Postal Service. There has been some pushback on the latter, as the Post Office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. There isn’t much question that Amazon has taken a big bite out of brick and mortar retailers, and that the US Treasury would benefit if Amazon collected and paid in sales tax the way physical stores all do. So far, there’s no plan from the White House dealing with these issues, but they are on Trump’s radar. Amazon stock was down as much as 7%, or 52 billion, after this report came out. In other words, it dropped 5 times more than than the president has claimed he was worth.


Facebook Privacy Issues Multiply & Their Damage Control; iPhone X Will Add a Color; FedEX Orders Tesla e-Big Rigs; Google Assistant Gets Philips Hue Scene Support

Over the weekend, Facebook ran full page ads in several US and British newspapers, with an apology from Mark Zuckerberg for the recent data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Since the ads ran, a new report from arstechnica.com says in some cases, Facebook’s Android apps will keep logs of the names of people you called and texted, how long the convos were, and the other person’s phone number. Users are now madder than ever. Facebook claims it got permission to scrape the call and text data, but that likely won’t help. A Reuters/Ipsos poll came out Sunday indicating less than half of Americans trust the social media giant to obey US privacy laws. It’s 41% that trust Facebook, compared to 66% trusting Amazon, 62% trust Google, 60% trust Microsoft, and 47% Yahoo. The Federal Trade Commission has an investigation underway into Facebook now.

After production problems limited the iPhone X to two colors, it looks like Apple will add another color to try to boost sales of the successor phones out this fall. According to 9to5mac.com, it will be a ‘blush gold’ tone. A more iffy rumor also has a (Product)Red iPhone in the mix. Apple’s education event in Chicago is Tuesday…we’ll cover what they bow there…a cheaper iPad is expected.

FedEx has preordered 20 electric big rigs from Tesla. The rigs go into production next year, and rival UPS has preordered 125 of the e-rigs. Techcrunch.com says each of these orders is a pretty small pilot fleet, but will jump start the Tesla truck production. Tesla is already running test rigs between the Gigafactory in Reno, Nev. and the production factory in Fremont, CA.

Google Assistant has picked up a handy feature…native support for Philips Hue scenes. 9to5google.com reports that Assistant has been supporting Hue lights since it came out, but that support didn’t extend to the preset ‘scenes’…which the Hue app and Amazon Alexa could control. Now, Assistant can use them, too. One note…you may have to delete and re-add your Hue lights to Assistant, or at least sync before the new feature works. A lot of users find it quite handy to be able to adjust colors on several lights or in multiple rooms with just a voice command.


Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)


Segway Scooter; Dyson’s New Gorilla V10 Cordless Vac; Outlook Cortana for iOS & Android; Whole Foods Amazon Delivery Expands

You see a few Segways around, but they never caught on as anticipated. Now, businessinsider.com reports the company has launched an Indiegogo preorder for the Loomo, a robotic platform that you can ride, or park a bag or briefcase on and it will follow you around. It’s kind of a mashup of a hoverboard and a personal robot with a personal assistant…like if you could ride R2D2 and it responded like Alexa. The Loomo is $1300, not cheap, but it not only will carry you or your stuff, or follow you around like a puppy, but will also shoot pics or video on command. It takes about 3 hours to charge, and has a range of 22 miles. It runs on a customized version of Android. BTW, if you think the $1300 pre-order price is a bit steep, it will be $1800 later at retail!

Dyson’s vacuums suck like no others. That’s a good thing when it comes to vacuums, of course. Now, they’ve rolled out the Cyclone V10, the most powerful cordless one yet, which they claim can completely replace a corded canister vac. TechCrunch.com says the suction is 20% better than the V8 model it replaces, and the new canister holds 40% more dirt and dust. It also is lighter due to some ceramics used in place of metal. The vac charges in 3.5 hours, and will run an hour on normal, or 10 minutes on super suction. There’s also an in-between setting for semi-super suction and more battery life. The new rig sports LEDs that tell you when to clean the filters, which has been kind of a guess up to now. Being a Dyson, it’s $499…of course, and on the market in April.

A huge number of businesses use Microsoft Outlook for their email and calendaring, and now Redmond is testing out using Cortana with Outlook over iOS and Android to read you your emails while commuting. According to arstechnica.com, Google Assistant doesn’t offer that functionality with Outlook. Siri will, but only if you have the email poured into the Apple Mail app, not with the Outlook app. Right now, the Cortana for email is only being internally testing, but if it works well enough, they plan to roll it out for a public test before long.

Amazon continues to eat the world, and is making it a bit easier for you to eat, too…at least in San Francisco and Atlanta. Geekwire.com says those cities are getting the expansion of Amazon’s Whole Foods grocery delivery service. The service is already available in Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. You will be able to get 5% back on purchases on the Amazon Rewards Visa Signature Card, just like in store purchases in these Whole Foods delivery cities.