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!

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

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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!


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.


Solar Powered Bike Lock

For your two-wheeled transport…and specifically making sure it stays yours… cnet.com reports on the Skylock from Velo Labs. Velo is crowd funding a solar powered bike lock you can access from your smartphone. An hour in the sun, and it’s good to go for a week. It will notify you via your smartphone if your bike is moved around, and you can lock and unlock it from your phone via either Bluetooth or wifi. The company was founded by former Boeing and Jawbone people. Skylock similar to BitLock, but BitLock doesn’t work over wifi and isn’t solar. It’s $159 for backers, and will be $249 retail.

If your transportation leans towards the 4 wheeled variety, Pioneer has demoed a number of automotive entertainment systems using Apple’s CarPlay. 9to5mac.com says Pioneer demoed them this past week…they’re already discounted on Amazon from $536 to $984!

The Steam PC gaming system continues to gain steam…Gamasutra.com says more games have been released on Steam so far this year than in all of 2013! The Steam game platform from Valve Corporation runs on Windows, Apple OSX, and Linux. Valve has plans to convert Steam into an open platform, where any developer can publish their games, with Steam users acting as the curators.