2 New Google Pixelbooks Coming; Audi Integrated Toll Module; Apple Pay and Google Pay Live at 7-11 Stores

Google has already let us know the rollout date for the new Pixel Phones, and we’ve had rumors of a fresh Pixelbook, too. Now, thenextweb.com says there may be two new Pixelbooks coming. In a leaked video, one looks much like the one Google put out last year, but the other has a hinge similar to Microsoft’s Surface. So far, there aren’t any other rumors confirming this, but we may just see not only a couple of updated Pixel phones but also a couple new Pixelbooks next month…maybe a freshened Daydream View and additional or updated Google Home smart speakers, too!

Here’s the kind of tech innovation I like to see…Audi is going to make paying tolls simpler with an Integrated Toll Module. According to cnet.com, it’s built into the mirror, and will debut on the upcoming Tron e-SUV. It’s more than just a transponder. You can reconfigure it with the car’s infotainment module…for example, re-setting the vehicle occupancy for HOV lanes, or to use a different toll network if you are traveling out of your area. Audi will show off the e-Tron next week in San Francisco…and by the way, it has already gone into production!

7-11 says they now have Apple Pay and Google Pay available at nearly all their 10,000 US locations. Macrumors.com reports that they also have a 7-11 NOW app for on-demand orders, and a loyalty program. For Apple Pay, you need an iPhone 6 or better, and can use a compatible Apple Watch model if you want. In addition to 7-11, long time holdout CVS Pharmacy will start taking Apple Pay this fall.

**We will have a full recap of the Apple event tomorrow morning after the presentation from the Steve Jobs Theater that starts at 10am.

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Smartphone Sales Contract; Vicis Extends High Tech Helmet Expertise to Military; Comcast Mesh WiFi Extenders Launched; Starbucks-More Mobile Payments than Apple or Google

Smartphone sales dropped overall by 11% year over year first quarter according to counterpointresearch.com. There were 38.7 million sold, the first time in 3 years that number was under 40 million in a quarter. Prepaid phones dropped, most likely due to a ramp-down of government subsidized ‘lifeline’ programs. Apple was actually up 16% in the quarter. Apple seems to be selling less at introduction, but steadier through the year. Samsung was down 4% year over year. Google Pixel 2 sales were solid during the promo period on Verizon. Apple held the top 5 slots first quarter plus #7, with Samsung taking #6, #8, and #9. Motorola…remember them? They squeaked in with #10.

Vicis has made a deal with the US Army to bring their high tech helmet expertise honed in footballl helmets to military ones. According to geekwire.com, they will be working to improve the safety of both Army and Marine combat helmets. Vicis already sells to all 32 NFL teams, 90 NCAA teams, and over 500 high schools.

If you have a larger home, or one with multiple stories, good for you. Sometimes, not so good for WiFi reception. Now, theverge.com reports that Comcast has rolled out Xfinity xFi Pods…mesh WiFi pods to cover dead zones in houses. The little plug in pods were supposed to be out last year, but were delayed. Comcast has 3 packs for $119 and 6 packs for $199, plus shipping.

By the end of this year, almost a quarter of US smartphone users…some 55 million people…will make an in-store mobile payment. It might be a bit of a surprise…or not, but recode.net says Starbucks mobile payment app beats Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay! Starbucks notches some 30 million, with Apple Pay at just under 28 billion. Google Pay has about 13 million users so far, and Samsung Pay around 11 million, all according to eMarketer.


Apple Making a Killing on iPhone X; Walmart Pay Close to Surpassing Apple Pay; Waymo Tests Self-Drivers on Public Roads; Super Tiny Japanese Phone

A fair amount of noise has been made about US companies stashing cash overseas and not paying taxes, especially using an accounting trick through Ireland. Apple is at the top of the list, although they claim they pay plenty of tax…some 35 billion dollars. That said, where does it come from? iPhones, of course. Macrumors.com says TechInsights ran numbers, and it costs about $357.50 to make a gorgeous new iPhone X…which sells for a base of $999! That’s a gross margin of 64%…compared to the iPhone 8’s already good 59% margin. Having had several friends in the retail electronics business, a lot of goods only have 28-35% margin, so Apple is making a killing….enjoy that new iPhone X…and buy a case…it’s the most breakable phone ever!

Walmart says they are close to passing up Apple Pay with their Walmart Pay system, in terms of mobile payments usage in the US. Walmart Pay, of course, runs in 4774 Walmart stores, and is available on both Android AND iOS systems. Macrumors.com reports that the average Apple Pay user makes 2 transactions per month. I must be an outlier…I use it 5-6 times a month, and would use it more if more places accepted it. By the numbers, a Forrester survey of 58,000 online consumers found that 7% used Apple Pay the last 90 days, and 6% used Walmart Pay.

Watch out drivers and pedestrians in Chandler, AZ. If you’re in the Phoenix area, you may see cars tooling down the streets sans driver. According to techcrunch.com, Google’s Waymo has driverless cars loose on the streets of Chandler…and not just a couple pre-set routes, either! In technical terms, the cars are at full level 4 autonomy. Waymo expects their first actual product to be basically a replacement for Uber, Lyft, and cabs….and it could be here sooner, not later!

A Japanese firm called FutureModel, is putting out the NichePhoneS, a credit card sized smartphone…or maybe it should be called a ‘not quite dumb’ phone. Businessinsider.com says all it does is make calls, send texts, and play some music…shades of one Motorola made years ago…remember the Rokr? It’s $88 and will be out this week in Japan. It runs Android 4.2…a 2012 operating system! If it makes it over here, it could be ok as a 2nd or 3rd phone or burner.


Apple Watch May Not Make Voice Calls at Launch; PayPal & Apple Pay Cut off White Supremacists; Nokia 8 Boasts Dubious ‘Bothie’ Photos

Despite the very strong rumors that Apple Watch will launch with an LTE capable model, it looks like it won’t initially make voice calls. Appleinsider.com says the LTE capability will initially just work for faster data. Voice calling will likely be activated later in the year. In the meantime, the Watch will support FaceTime, Skype, and other apps that make calls, so it will still be pretty Dick Tracy. KGI Securities says it might even be early 2018 before the Watch will make cell calls over the regular carrier networks.

Apple Pay and PayPal have both cut off websites that sell Nazi apparel and materials. According to buzzfeed.com, white supremacist merch will be banned. Uber, Facebook, Twitter, MailChimp, and WordPress have also taken some live of action against the groups. Earlier, Airbnb had cancelled lodging attempts by white supremicist groups trying to book in Charlottesville.

In a sign that feature creep has gotten to the point of ridiculousness, the new Nokia 8, an otherwise good hero smartphone, has introduced the ‘bothie.’ Mashable.com reports that the phone has a feature called Dual Sight, that lets you view the back and front cams on a split screen, and shoot simultaneous photos with them. The ‘bothie’ feature works on both photos and video, and can be live streamed to social media. It’s $701, and rolls out in September. If you buy one…and it’s a nice phone…PLEASE don’t post ‘bothies!’


Analyst Claims No Touch ID on iPhone 8; Tesla Model 3 Production Starts Friday

Frequently reliable KGI Securities has put out a list of predictions about the iPhone 8….most of which everyone has been reporting on by now. According to 9to5mac.com, one has people scratching their heads. The analyst says no Touch ID…under the screen or on the back. It is widely believed that the new iPhone will have a facial recognition feature, but dropping Touch ID would not only anger buyers, but banks that Apple has wooed to use Apple Pay. There may be a somewhat obvious answer…KGI Securities has also said the iPhone 8 screen will have a ‘function area’ at the bottom of screen that’s not part of the main display. The Touch ID button may be integrated into this much like it is on the MacBook Pros. On them, there is an OLED strip that runs the width of the keyboard with the Touch ID button at the end. A close examination reveals that the Touch ID button is actually separate. That may be how Apple does it. KGI is very accurate in touting upcoming Apple features, but not 100%…number crunchers say more like 44%…which is very high when predicting, but not spot on.

Some day, there may be a little book of the Tweets of Elon Musk. Among them will certainly be one which just appeared today. Arstechnica.com reports that Musk has Tweeted that the Tesla Model 3 has passed all regulatory requirements, and goes into production Friday. Musk says they should be cranking out 20,000 a month by December!


Apple Issues With Touch ID for iPhone 8; Snapchat Launches ‘World Lenses’; Pornhub Rolls Out Snapchat for Nudes

Some reports are indicating that Apple’s plan to put the fingerprint scanner under the edge to edge display is not going well. If so, this could be more than a fly in the ointment for the 10th anniversary iPhone….more like a buzzard! Bgr.com reports that even with 3D facial recognition cams that the phone will apparently have, Apple still needs Touch ID to work well for signing into apps and services, and using Apple Pay. Apparently, Cupertino hasn’t placed firm orders for production of the sensors. They have also looked at The Synaptic optical fingerprint solution Samsung wanted to use on the Galaxy S8…as we know, that one didn’t make it, and Samsung had to put the fingerprint reader on the back of the phone. Apple could delay the launch of the iPhone 8 or may have to drop the fingerprint sensor, which would cause an uproar.

Snapchat has rolled out what they call 3D World Lenses in an app update. According to 9to5google.com, World Lenses will work like the selfie Lenses feature, only add 3D elements to shots taken with the back camera, like adding shadows and depth, in addition to the whimsical overlays everyone loves from Snapchat.

In somewhat related news, Pornhub has released their own ‘Snapchat for nudes,’ giving people the option of covering their private areas with stickers and graphic animations. Thenextweb.com says the app is available from the App Store and Google Play for those who want to sext, but are a little shy about exposing the whole enchilada.


Spotify Grabs Mighty TV; Wells Getting Cardless Apple Pay ATMs; Ikea Dives Into Smart Home Automation; Uber Grounds Self-Drivers in Az After Crash

Spotify has picked up MightyTV, which will shut down. Techcrunch.com reports that CEO Brian Adams will become Spotify’s VP of Technology. MIghtyTV had specialized in content recommendations, but used a Tinder style swipe left and right system. Spotify was also interested in adding MightyTV’s tech to improve its recommendations and beef up its programmatic advertising.

Wells Fargo customers will be able to withdraw from ATMs by later this year using Apple Pay without needing an ATM card. According to 9to5mac.com, it may be convoluted enough that most people will stick with the card for a while. You have to log into the Wells mobile app, select card-free, ask for a single use 8 digit code AND ATM card PIN, then withdraw. Towards year end, though, Wells Fargo says, you will be able to just use Apple’s Tap and Pay. They also will add Android Pay, Samsung Pay, and their own Wells Fargo Wallet to the Tap and Pay setup.

The smart home hub gets a boost from a big player known for low prices. Ikea is diving into the smart home with a system based on the ZigBee Light Link standard…same as Philips Hue uses. Theverge.com says the system has been in a few European countries since fall, but will be widely available the end of this month. Ikea will sell a base set of an internet gateway, remote, and two light bulbs for $85.40. An Ikea extra is a motion-controlled dimmer switch, which is an extra $20.41, but can be used independently of the connected system.

Uber has sidelined its self-driving cars in Arizona after a crash involving one left it on its side. Recode.net reports that there were no injuries, and only the back up driver was aboard. Some reports say that the other driver failed to yield, but Uber is pulling all of them until the investigation is complete. So far, Uber safety drivers have had to intervene every .8 miles, so their tech is far from solid at this point.