Voice Calling On Amazon Echo & Google Home; Big Facebook Video Update; Apple May Add Additional OLED Screen Supplier

Voice calling may be coming to Amazon Echo and Google home. Theverge.com reports that the feature could be rolled out this year, but both companies ‘have concerns about privacy, emergency services, and regulatory hurdles.’ Apparently, you will only be able to make calls over speakerphone, which may put off some users. Google will probably just extend Google Voice, while Amazon is looking at options such as syncing to your present number, call forwarding, or even having the Echo get its own number. They also haven’t finalized switching to your phone if you leave the house or room where the Echo is located.

Facebook is rolling out a major update for video. Thenextweb.com says one of them will seem more like a bug than a feature…videos will now auto play sound. There is apparently an app setting to disable it, at least. On the plus side, vertical video will now take up more of the screen on Android and iOS devices, and there is a picture in picture mode. Facebook will also be rolling out a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV, as well as other platforms, but no firm date on those yet.

Apple is apparently looking at adding China’s BOE as a supplier of OLED screens for the iPhone 8, according to macrumors.com. Samsung, LG, Sharp, and Japan Display are already believed to be used, but there are concerns that they couldn’t keep up with demand. At this point, it’s still thought that the OLED screen will only be available on the iPhone 8, with the 7S and 7S Plus models staying with LCD displays. BOE is opening an additional factory this summer, and another about 2 years down the line.


Apple TV Hires former Amazon Fire Exec; Google Cracks Extreme Picture Zooming

Every year is going to be the year that Apple comes out with its own TV, or otherwise revolutionizes television by breaking cable’s stranglehold with Apple TV. Now, according to 9to5mac.com, they have taken another step in that direction. Apple has hired Timothy Twerdahl, former head of Amazon Fire TV, and before that at Netflix. It’s unclear what Apple might be up to, but this hire shows that Cupertino still thinks TV has an important future role to them.

We’ve all seen it dozens of times…TV and movie crime dramas where they zoom way in on a picture and get a perfect view of the crook blown up to full screen. Of course, in real life, you just get a hash of big pixels…until now. Zdnet.com reports that Google’s AI Brain team has developed something pretty close. By showing lots of images to the Google Brain, it learns and can interpolate the hash into a viewable image of a face or room. Of course, since it’s an educated guess, it couldn’t really be used as evidence, but it’s still a huge step towards making science fiction into reality.

Apple TV in Stores Friday; GE Rolls Out Hubless Smart Lightbulbs

They went on preorder earlier this week, and priority deliveries start tomorrow for Apple TV…or, you can swing by an Apple Store and try to buy one. 9to5mac.com reports that Best Buy, B&H, and other resellers will also have the set top boxes, but check ahead to make sure they’re selling them tomorrow. Best Buy has said they will be stocking them in store by November 4th. Apple TV is $149 for the 32 gig model, $199 for the 64 gig one.

Long time dumb light bulb maker GE is a bit late to the smart bulb party, but is rolling out a pair of smart bulbs today, with one aimed at emulating natural light to help you wake and sleep better. According to theverge.com, the C Sleep bulb has 3 settings: a bright blue tone to wake you in the morning, a standard orange one for midday, and a softer yellow color for evening. GE says they better match actual lighting outdoors, and you’ll wake easier and get to sleep better with these. They’re controllable via Bluetooth from your smartphone, but you have to be in range…unlike many bulbs you can control remotely from outside the home. The plus is, there’s no hub to buy…you control them directly. The C Sleep bulbs are intended for bedrooms, a C Life model doesn’t have the color range, and it for the rest of the house. Right now, you need to visit GE’s website to buy a starter pack…2-packs will be showing up in stores soon.

Apple ‘Recapple’

Apple rolled through their product updates and introductions in a couple of hours yesterday at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco. Here are a few hi lights:

Apple Watch- Mainly about fashion band accessories, particularly from high end Hermes, and new colors of gold and rose gold. It was announced that Watch OS will drop on September 16th, and include messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and also tight third party integration with AirStrip.

iPad Pro- It’s huge, has a great 12.9 inch screen, and…gasp…a stylus, which Steve Jobs famously mocked years ago. The Apple Pencil will be a separate $99 option. That screen…it has a higher pixel density than a Macbook Pro Retina. Apple claims 10 hours of battery life. It has a keyboard cover that screams ‘Microsoft Surface!’ iPad Pro starts at $799, and will be out in November.

Apple TV- Apple says this will be a game changer…you may have seen a clip of Tim Cook repeatedly on TV by now saying ‘we think the future of TV is apps.’ Apple TV has tight Siri integration, a new remote with the top part being touch screen, and buttons for volume, activating Siri and on-off. The remote is Bluetooth, so you don’t have to point it right at the box. A couple of cool features include asking Siri what did they say, and it will rewind about 15 seconds and playback…with captions. Also, you can ask Siri to search for something, and it will search across all platforms…Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. With the remote, it has gaming capabilities, but don’t look for it to displace gaming systems any time soon. Apple TV is $149 or $199 depending on memory, and out the end of the year.

iPhone- The iPhone 6S and 6S plus debuted, with the expected banner feature of Force Touch, which Apple has renamed 3D Touch for the phones. It recognizes 3 levels of finger pressure, and will call up different results…for example, menus, or when pressing an email, it will pop it open so you can read it, and return you to the previous screen when you lift your finger. The new camera is a big leap…up to 12 megapixels, and capable of 4K video and an new gimmicky feature that records a second and a half of video and sound before and after each picture. When you press the picture on the phone, it shows you that 3 seconds of motion. Hey Siri now allows you to just say that, and Siri will respond without having to press and hold the home button. There’s a new rose gold color (and it and the other gold will now be exclusive to the 6S and 6S Plus). iOS 9 will be available September 16th, and iPhones go on preorder this Saturday, with deliveries to start September 25th. Prices are the same as on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, while those models will be dropped as has been Apple’s past practice…so the 16 gig iPhone 6S will start at $199 with a two year contract. Apple has also added a contractless payment plan like a couple of the carriers have, that starts at $32 a month…PLUS carrier service costs, of course.

4th Generation Apple TV Coming in October

It’s slightly bigger than the present hockey puck, but still has a small footprint. The 4th generation Apple TV is rolling out in October, and will sell for between $149 and $199, according to 9to5mac.com. This is a bump of $50 to $100 bucks, depending on Apple’s final decision, and a good deal more than Roku, Google, or Amazon. Apple will keep the 3rd generation at $69, which it’s been selling for since March. The 4th gen model will feature Siri and a new remote control with a touchpad on top, a microphone for Siri, and motion sensors. There will also be an App store. Apple plans to launch a cable replacing streaming TV service next year for $40 a month that bundles multiple TV channels. The cheaper 3rd gen model won’t have the fancy remote control or Siri support.

It’s a constant battle for computers and smart devices to try to keep up with malware. Qualcomm is taking a new approach with their upcoming new Snapdragon 820 mobile processor. Engadget.com reports the processor will use what they call Smart Protect tech, which uses machine learning to watch for possible security issues in real time, as opposed to relying on a list of threats. In addition the Snapdragon 820 will have faster graphics capability, and an API for security software makers to utilize the chip’s heightened awareness.

Facebook Notes Getting Facelift for Blogging?

Facebook Notes has been one of the social network’s least used and least updated features. It has sat there for years largely unloved and useless…you may not have touched it since 25 Things About Me…remember that? Thenextweb.com reports that Facebook is putting a fresh coat of paint on Notes, and it looks suspiciously like Medium…a blogging platform used by techies and hipsters. One has to wonder if people will blog on Facebook, but they are testing out layouts and features, including cover photos, user tagging, photo resizing, adding links and hashtags. You’ll be able to share notes with the audience of your choice, as you can with normal posts right now.
No specific news on when this might roll out.

It looks like a revamp of Apple TV will roll out along with iPhone 6S and the rest on September 9th, and 9to5mac.com says it will run a full blown iOS 9 core, albeit optimized for the little box. The box is apparently slimmer and a bit wider, and will sport a new remote, with new and more tactile keys, in addition to touch based input and gesture support. The remote will use both Bluetooth and infrared, which should give it better response. It will use Siri for easier search, and Apple TV will have a faster processor and more memory. Sources say it won’t launch with the long sought Apple Cable TV killer service…at least not initially. That may come next year.

Apple TV May Be Coming—As Streaming, Not a Box

Now that Cupertino has jumped into music streaming with both feet, Apple is working on a ‘cable-killer TV app,’ according to theverge.com. There are several reports that they are working to cut deals with ABC, CBS, NBC, and Fox, among others. One sticking point has been the fragmentation of local affiliate feeds, but apparently the networks are close to having rights to negotiate with Apple on behalf of their affiliates. As with apps and music, Apple is looking for a 30% cut of any subscription revenue. Disney and CBS could be first to sign, and ESPN may be included. Rates are rumored to be $10 to $40 a month. No time frame on when it might roll out.

A creepy discovery about Google Photos was uncovered by a reporter. Bgr.com reports that after trying the app, and deleting it, the reporter found his pictures were still being uploaded to Google servers. The uploading apparently takes place independently of the app on your phone, and it’s a feature to Google, not a bug. If you want to stop it, you have to go into Google Play Services and disable automatic uploads.

Apple TV Confirmed As the Hub for HomeKit

As Moscone Center in San Francisco is being readied for Apple’s World Wide Developers Conference next week, more keeps leaking out. This week, several early HomeKit devices from 3rd parties rolled out, and now thenextweb.com reports that…as expected…you’ll need Apple TV to remotely control HomeKit gadgets. Apple has posted a setup page to help people configure the system. If you already have Apple TV, it needs to be 3rd generation or later with software version 7 or newer.

Amazon has rolled out free shipping on small and light products…that is, ones that weigh less than 8 ounces. According to geekwire.com, ‘Fulfillment by Amazon Small and Light’ will also focus on items that cost less than 10 bucks. No more $35 minimum purchase requirement or Prime membership for free shipping of these small and light items. It won’t be free TWO Day shipping though…expect your items in 4 to 8 days.

Apple Watch Will Be Their Highest Profit Product Yet

Apple has been known for making healthy markups on its products, but bgr.com says the new Apple Watch may be their most profitable one ever. Research from Think Big Analytics shows the average gross margins for Apple Watch will be over 60%! Obviously, even with the costs of gold, the Edition version will be much more profitable than that since it’s the same inside as the other two models!

Google is killing the YouTube app on older gear like the 2nd generation Apple TV, and Sony and Panasonic Blu-rays and TVs made before 2012. Thenextweb.com reports older iPhones and iPads will have to run iOS7 or later to still use the app.

Engineering students at Rice University have created a simple gadget to make shots hurt less. According to gizmodo.com, the salt shaker sized device uses a chemical reaction to make skin numb in 60 seconds, allowing the nearly painless shot.

Coming With Apple TV Update

The next version of Apple TV should make its debut at Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference in June. Thenextweb.com says it will sport a new faster processor, more storage, Siri and HomeKit integration. They are likely to reveal more about their streaming TV service at WWDC, and preview an App Store just for Apple TV.

If you are really considering a smart watch, but worry about the poor battery life most have, bgr.com reports that Vector has a couple models available for preordering now. They claim 30 days of battery life for both the rectangular and round dial versions. A ‘sensor activated notification system’ pulls up notifications with the flick of a wrist. They sell for between $244 and $425.

According to tech crunch.com, next week at their F8 developer conference, Facebook will announce new ways for third parties to offer experiences through its messenger app. Facebook is wanting to turn Messenger into a freestanding platform.