Galaxy S9 Will Clone Apple’s Animojis; Twitch Has Viewer Numbers of Cable News Nets; Amazon Rolling Own AI Chips for Alexa; Facebok Launches Lists

Call it practical or insulting, but Samsung has done best with smartphones when they’ve stolen liberally from Apple. Now, macrumors.com says the Galaxy S9 will copy the iPhone X’s Animojis. Samsung teases that theirs will be 3D and be ‘more advanced’ than Apple’s. They will reveal the name of their clone when the phone rolls out on March 16th. The Samsung version, like Apple’s, will be powered by the Galaxy S9’s facial recognition system. Samsung’s facial recognition isn’t expected to be as secure as Apple’s, but Samsung will also include a rear fingerprint sensor and iris scanner.

Twitch has now become as big as the big cable nets in viewership. According to businessinsider.com, the Amazon-owned streaming service had 962,000 average viewers last month (January 2018). ESPN and Fox News have 1.5 million, MSNBC has 885,000, and CNN 783,000. Twitch channels are not all just gaming…there are also IRL streams (in real life) with massive amounts of content covering all sorts of subjects. Find them on the web at Twitch.tv.

Amazon has started designing its own AI chips to work with Alexa devices. Engadget.com says the custom silicon should enable the virtual assistant to respond more quickly by baking speech recognition into the devices that use it, rather than having to bounce to the cloud then back with a response. Alexa would still need to touch base with the cloud for more complex inquiries, but for simple requests, the chips will make it responses quicker.

Because they can never have enough of our information to sell, Facebook has launched ‘Lists.’ The new feature is rolling out today. Techcrunch.com reports that Facebook sees it as a way to get users to share more personal content. The lists can be To Do lists, Resolutions, eateries to try, bucket list travel destinations, or whatever. To entice usage, Facebook has included choices of colored backgrounds and emoji. It will appear in the ‘What’s on your mind’ status update box along with the other options.

Google sold 3.9 million Pixel phones in 2017. If that doesn’t sound like a record shattering number to you, you’re right. According to theverge.com, that’s about what Apple sells in iPhones in a week. The good news is, with the Pixel 2, the sales pace has doubled. If they can keep doubling periodically, it should be a success.

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iOS 12-Better QC & FaceTime Emoji; Apple Watch is So Number 1; Government Sites Mining Cryptocoin; Facebook Patents Social Class Tracking Tech

A relatively long time ago, Apple used to release OS updates that were pretty bulletproof. Of late…not quite so much. Now, according to macrumors.com, Cupertino is going to get back to a less concrete update release schedule and focus on quality more with iOS 12. This probably means more of a 2 year update cycle for iOS and the MacOS, instead of yearly. You can expect deeper Siri integration into iPhone searches, and a better Do Not Disturb feature, as well as Animoji on FaceTime…but all only if the engineers say the OS is ready, NOT because of an ironclad marketing release schedule!

There has been plenty of reporting on what a dud the Apple Watch has been. Well, guess what, kids? It’s all BAD reporting. Businessinsider.com reports that last quarter, Apple sold more watches than Swatch, Rolex, Omega, and all the rest of Swiss watch brands combined! The data came from industry researcher Canalys and IDC, and also publicly released shipment stats from the Federation of the Swiss Watch Industry. Apple apparently sold 8 million Apple Watches in the final quarter of 2017. Obviously, Rolex isn’t a high sales brand, but Swatch is, and they sell for about $180, comparable with the price of some of the Apple Watch line. As far as other smartwatches from Samsung and Google…they don’t even register!

Lots of people are trying to get into mining cryptocurrency, and they appear to have enlisted some government websites in that endeavor. Thenextweb.com says a security researcher has found that thousands of otherwise legit websites have had crypto mining scripts injected into them, which has let miners use unwitting folks’ computers to mine coin for them. Sites that were infected include those of the state of Indiana and also the US court system! Apparently, someone tainted the BrowseAloud software, which is embedded in those sites to allow accessibility services. The good news is, the hack was discovered within 24 hours, and the makers of BrowseAloud are working to squash the hack.

As if social media didn’t already know enough about all of us, Facebook has patented tech to determine users class without even knowing their income. The software can divide us up into ‘working class,’ ‘middle class,’ or ‘upper class’ using a variety of data sources and qualifiers, according to engadget.com. Facebook says the algorithm is intended for use by “third parties to increase awareness about products or services to online system users.” Examples given include corporations and charities. It remains to be seen how accurate it will be…apparently, their idea of middle class is a home owner in pricey Palo Alto. Own a home in San Jose, CA? Oh…you’re working class. WHAT? Million dollar working class houses? With an algorithm like this, probably 90% of us are ‘the poors,’ by Facebook standards!


Facebook to Update Privacy; Apple iOS 11.3 Features; Bitcoin & Real Estate

Facebook will roll out a global privacy settings hub later this hear. Techcrunch.com says. The social media giant claims it will put core privacy settings on FB in one place and make it much easier for people to manage their data. This has been expected due to their need to support the General Data Protection Regulation…or face penalties. Those standards go into effect for the European Union starting May 25th. Fines can reach 4%, which would be over a billion dollars based on 2016 revenue…so we can anticipate compliance!

Apple will roll out iOS 11.3 this spring, with controls to allow you to undo throttling of older iPhones to save battery life, new Animoji, and health record access. Macrumors.com reports that the new Animoji include a lion, bear, dragon, and skull, bringing the total to 16. Apple is expanding the Health App, and you will be able to view available medical data from providers who are participating including Johns Hopkins and Cedars-Sinai. That data is encrypted, and will be protected by a passcode. In addition to removing processor throttling to save battery on older iPhones, the updated software will give more info about the health of a device’s battery, including a recommendation that the battery be serviced (translation: replaced.)

In Bitcoin news, real estate has become a hot market. It may seem crazy to trade in the cryptocurrency with transactions involving pricey real estate, but properties are for sale and changing hands in the US, Canada, and Australia now using it. In fact, according to Mashable.com, At the end of 2017 a Miami condo reportedly sold for 17.7 bitcoin and actual cryptocurrency was exchanged between the buyer and seller. Not just bitcoin converted into cash, which is the more popular way to use the coin. Meanwhile, at the lower end, online payments company Stripe is dropping Bitcoin as a payment option effective April 23rd. They say it’s just too expensive for small transactions. Mining fees spiked at $37 per purchase in December.


Samsung Upcoming Exynos Chip Challenges iPhone X; Lenovo’s Cool Low Tech Laptop Feature; Philip Morris Says It Will Ditch Cigarettes

Leading up to this year’s CES, Samsung is showing off its new Exynos 9810 chip, that will power some of the Galaxy S9 Smartphones. 9to5google.com says it brings a 40% bump in multi-core performance. With an obvious reference to iPhone X, Samsung says it uses neural networks for “accurately recognizing people or items in photos for fast image searching or categorization, or through depth sensing, scan a user’s face in 3D for hybrid face detection.” Samsung also mentions in a news release “realistic face-tracking filters” and “stronger security when unlocking a device with one’s face.” So, they are not only teasing their answer to Face ID, but also Apple’s popular animoji. They also tout an improved portrait mode. It looks like the S9 will be breathing down the neck of iPhone X when it rolls out later this spring.

We get so excited about the latest and greatest into the weeds high tech advancements, that sometimes it pays to pull back and admire an elegant low tech feature addition. According to businessinsider.com, the new Lenovo laptops will have such a feature. No more piece of tape or post-it note over your webcam! Lenovo has added a built in webcam cover. If you want to use the cam, just slide the cover…which Lenovo has dubbed the ThinkShutter cover, and cam or Skype away. No worries about the sticky note falling off at an inappropriate time!

Advancing tech may be finally killing off the cigarette. Philip Morris…venerable maker of Marlboro, Chesterfield, and Parliament….has announced it will be phasing out cigarette production. Bgr.com says the maker will abandon smoking products for so-called ‘smoke free products.’ They will make ‘heated tobacco’ gadgets that don’t actually burn the stuff and eCigarettes and vaping devices that deliver nicotine without any tobacco use. All these may be only marginally better than smoking, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. For non-smokers, it’s a huge plus…no more smelling nasty second hand smoke while someone gets their nicotine fix nearby!