HTC may have a reduced presence, but they are still kicking, and plan to release the fabled first major blockchain phone in third quarter. Techcrunch.com says HTC has partnered with CryptoKitties, and the popular blockchain game will be available on a few of the company’s handsets, leading off with the U12+. HTC says that ‘the partnership with Cryptokitties is the beginning of a non fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.” Although a blockchain phone may not be mainstream, it may be enough of a hook for HTC to revive its flagging smartphone line.
Magic Leap, the company with the unusual and secretive AR glasses, has signed a deal for mobile data service with AT&T. Theverge.com reports that, in addition to selling the device, AT&T will let customers demo the glasses at stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Magic Leap is supposed to be putting out a ‘Creator Edition’ later this year. In this deal, AT&T will only start distributing the glasses once the consumer version becomes available. So far, Magic Leap hasn’t released a timeline for that. AT&T seems to feel that the Magic Leap AR glasses will be a game changer. They previously had cut an exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone…and we know how that turned out!
Britain’s data watchdog has fined Facebook $664,000 over the Cambridge Analytica mess. It will take the social media giant a screaming 18 minutes to pay the fine! According to businessinsider.com, if they had been fined under the new EU law that went into effect in May, the maximum penalty would have been $1.6 billion. Facebook made $4.8 billion in profit just in the first 3 months this year. The EU fine can be up to 4% of a company’s global turnover. Zuckerberg can eat a sandwich at his desk, and the British fine will be paid.
Fresh on the heels of AT&T’s Time Warner buyout approval, the company has announced a $5 a month across the board increase starting August 1st on DirecTV. Saying it will help provide ‘the best streaming experience’ and that it will keep their rates ‘in line with the market,’ the price hike will hit everyone from the $40 basic package to the $75 ‘gotta have it’ one. Engadget.com says the increase does put the base price on par with what you’d get from the likes of YouTube TV or PlayStation Vue, or Sling TV’s combined Orange and Blue package.
Dell Computer has announced a deal that would get them back to trading publicly again. Bloomberg.com reports that by combining with a stock that tracks its VMWare software unit, it brings them back to being a publicly traded stock. The DVMT share swap is valued at $17 billion. Founder and CEO Michael Dell had taken Dell Computer private back in 2013, but is wanting to streamline his multi-company tech empire and get a better handle on a massive debt load, which has been running around $50 billion. The reverse merger with VMWare fills that bill.
Elon Musk made a big splash with his ‘not a Flamethrower,’ but now something out of China is alleged to be a handheld laser. A report in the South China Morning Post says that they have developed a laser weapon dubbed the ZKZM-500, which is something of a laser AK-47. The laser gun can supposedly burn clothes and skin at 500 feet away, and is alleged to be capable of hundreds of shots. Skeptics point out that as described, it pretty badly bends the laws of physics. Also, no tests have been shown or written about. Western scientists say it would take at least a 200 lb backpack battery to power such a weapon. Still, Doctor Evil is salivating at the thought.
Tesla managed to crank out the promised 5,000 model 3’s in a week, but actually did it a few hours past the midnight deadline Sunday. According to Reuters.com, Elon Musk Tweeted about the success and also sent an all-hands email to staff that the company cleared the 5,000 Model 3’s goal and produced a total of 7,000 cars, counting the Model S and Model X production. Musk told employees that they were on track to make 6,000 Model 3’s by the end of July, and quipped ‘I think we just became a real car company!’
There have been rumors in the past that Samsung was going to completely ditch their iris scanner in favor of an improved version of their Apple-like Face ID. Now, it looks like the Galaxy S10 may actually do it. On top of that, 9to5google.com reports that Samsung may have figured out how to put the fingerprint reader under the screen, so they could drop the fingerprint sensor on the back of the S10. It looks like Samsung will be selling 5.8 and 6.2 inch sizes, unchanged from the S8 and S9 models. There may be a third model in the 5.8 inch form factor that will add a second camera, too.
A startup in the Dogpatch neighborhood of San Francisco called Prellis Biologics has apparently taken a big step toward developing viable 3D printed organs for people. According to techcrunch.com, the company has figured out a new tech that allows them to manufacture capillaries, a key component of making printable hearts, livers, kidneys, and lungs. Based on the new tech, Prellis has published findings that indicate that they could be able to deliver 3D printed organs implantable in people within 5 years. They are using holographic printing tech, which allows for the organs very quickly…before cellular material can deteriorate. Before humans, animal trials have to be run…and Prellis expects those to start in about 2-1/2 years!
Facebook shareholders with nearly $3 billion invested in the company are trying to topple Mark Zuckerberg as chairman and tear up the company’s governance structure. A report from Business Insider says there is an unprecedented level of unrest among Facebook’s backers following a series of scandals. At least a half dozen Facebook investors boasting nearly $3 billion in shares are making moves to remove Zuckerberg as chairman and break up his power base at the company. They want Zuckerberg to step down as chairman and an independent executive to be hired in his place. Shareholders also want Facebook’s dual-class share structure to be abolished because they believe it concentrates too much power into the hands of Zuckerberg and his top team. It’s a tough hill for the renegade shareholders to climb: Zuckerberg holds 75% of the class A voting stock.
Hot on the heels of their approval for snapping up Time Warner, AT&T is buying again…this time, a company called AppNexus, that delivers personalized ads based on Internet users’ Web browsing habits. The company will now be able to not only gather more information about people’s video watching habits, both online and on cable and satellite TV services, but can combine this data with AppNexus in order to deliver more personalized ads based on its customers’ TV watching and Web browsing histories. AT&T has 60 million smartphone subscribers, 16 million home internet customers, plus DirecTV already. They expect to close on the AppNexus purchase by 3rd quarter.
Apple’s HomePod has had underwhelming sales so far, and now they may be trying to rectify that with a cheaper model than the $350 one with killer sound but anemic voice command abilities. Bgr.com reports that Apple is looking at bringing out one for $199 under the Beats brand. With a decent sounding Google Home speaker going for $130, and Amazon Alexa speakers for less yet, Apple might have a fighting chance at under $200 if the gadget still sounds better than its competitors.
Microsoft has picked up an AI team that includes the former chief speech scientist for Siri. According to businessinsider.com, Redmond has acquired AI startup Semantic Machines, to boost its ‘conversational AI’ and potentially make Cortana better at understanding natural language inquiries. At least for the short term, the artificial intelligence team will remain in Berkeley where Semantic Machines has been based. Besides Larry Gillick, the former chief speech scientist for Apple’s Siri, the team includes Cal professor Dan Klein and Stanford professor Percy Liang. Several other members worked at Nuance, the voice recognition company that built Siri.
AT&T has launched the LTE-M button, which you can use to order something online with a single click. Engadget.com says the gadget…which not only sounds like and Amazon Dash button, but is actually powered by Amazon Web Services….does have a new trick up its sleeve…it works over AT&T’s network, so doesn’t need WiFi. The AT&T button is not preprogrammed, so you can set it up to order different things, unlike the single function Dash buttons. It is pricier than an Amazon button, though. the first 5000 will be $30, then it will be $35. Since it has to be programmed, the price may not be the only limiting factor…you’ll also need to be geeky enough to figure out how to program the LTE-M button.
It will probably only last until the new models of their competitors come out, but Samsung’s Galaxy S9+ camera has snagged the highest DxOMark score ever at 99. Fortunately for the cellphone makers, the scale doesn’t end at 100! Bgr.com reports that the Galaxy has narrowly eclipsed the cameras on the Google Pixel 2, which had a 98, and the iPhone X with a 97. Huawei’s Mate 10 Pro also scored a 97. No matter how objective these test try to be, with photos, there’s still a subjective element…just like a painting, the art is in the eye of the beholder…but for now, Samsung reigns supreme!
The 4 major US phone carriers, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, & T-Mobile, have rolled out plans for an authentication platform that would add extra security for people downloading apps to Apple’s iPhone and other handsets. Appleinsider.com says the tech uses a ‘cryptographically verified phone number and profile data’, info such as how long you’ve had the number, the account type, IP address, and SIM card info. The carriers plan to trial the system in the next few weeks, and launch it later this year. It is hoped the extra layer of security will help counter fraud and identity theft.
Uber has launched Uber Health, a new ride hailing platform for healthcare. According to techcrunch.com, the service is like UberCENTRAL, their ride-booking service for business customers. With the service, the riders don’t have to have the Uber app, the healthcare provider can book rides to and from appointments. Uber says it is HIPAA compliant, and can be used by the clients via a landline. The ride hailing company points out that the service is just for appointments, and is not designed to replace 911 or ambulance rides for emergencies.
3 First Cities to Get 5G; Apple May Buy Cobalt Direct from Miners; Renault’s “Smart Island”; EV Batteries May be Able to Recharge 5X FasterPosted: February 21, 2018
Even though phones don’t have it yet, the cellular providers have been busily working on building out 5G infrastructure. We have been hearing that AT&T would have some 12 markets on the super fast cellular connection that can carry vast data loads, very soon. Now, AT&T has announced that at least 3 markets will have it by the end of this year. The lucky cities are: Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, TX. Qualcomm has announced its first 5G modem for smartphones, but it isn’t expected to actually be out and in users new phones until 2019!
With cobalt supply iffy, Apple is in talks to buy it direct from miners. According to bloomberg, the cobalt is used in iPhone and iPad batteries, as well as in EVs. Apple wants to ensure that they have enough for their products. They are apparently working on a deal to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt per year over a 5 year period. Samsung, BMW, and VW are also working to secure long term supplies….BMW is angling for a 10 year contract. An iPhone takes 8 grams of refined cobalt…an electric car over 1,000 times more! The price of cobalt has tripled in the last 18 months…supply and demand, you know!
Renault is experimenting with an island totally free of fossil fuels. The island in Portugal, Porto Santo, will have only renewable and independent energy production and use. Solar and wind generators, the Renault Zoe and Kango utility van electric vehicles, home batteries, etch. Engadget.com reports that the more diffuse, less massive installations can be used because the island only has 5400 people plus tourists….so won’t require anything like the Tesla Powerpack mega installation in Australia.
Some researchers at University of Warwick have discovered that the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric cars can be recharged up to 5 times faster than they presently are being charged. Engadget.com says the makers have been conservative about charging, due to fear of overheating (which can cause fires and explosions.) The researchers used a fiber optic sensor protected by a chemical layer…it is inserted right into the cell, and can track the temperature precisely. In testing on over 18000 li-ion cells, they were able to quintuple charging times. The increased time does reduce battery life, but the researchers point out that if charging time could be reduced from 25 minutes to 5, it might really jump start e-car purchases.
Switch Online Launches in September; Owl Auto Security Cam; Google Issues Router Fix; Amazon Hand Tracker PatentPosted: February 1, 2018
Nintendo’s Switch online service, which had been delayed from last year, is now scheduled to be activated in September. Theverge.com says it will cost $3.99 a month, or $19.99 a year. Besides online play, the subscription will give players access to classic games, and features like leaderboards and multiplayer. The hot Switch has already outsold its predecessor Wii U…more than 14 million have been bought since it was launched.
An ex-Apple manager who helped develop the iPod has a startup that is making what they call the 1st security cam for your car. According to 9to5mac.com, the Owl security cam is always connected over AT&T’s LTE system, and it’s powered by the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port every modern car has. Owners can access 24 hours of video footage with a companion app. It has LED lights on either side for theft deterrence, and a 2.4 inch display. Since its always on, it is able to send alerts if activity is detected. The cam is $299, with cellular service for $10 a month, but at launch, a special bundle price of $349 includes the cam and 1st year of cellular service. Preorders are open today at owlcam.com, with delivery expected by the end of the month.
We reported earlier about a bug from Google Play Services that was causing routers to crash when Google Home or Chromecast devices were awakened. 9to5google.com reports that Google has rolled out a fix to all users. It’s version 11.9.75, and should be downloadable from the Play Store if it hasn’t updated your devices already on its own.
In what may be a useful tech that can’t outrun its creepy factor, Amazon has patented wristbands that track where warehouse workers’ hands are. The idea is to make sure they are reaching the right shelf or cubby to grab an item to be boxed and shipped out. Geekwire.com notes that not every patent actually makes it into use, and this one that has the wristbands which emit ultrasonic sounds or radio pulses to help guide the employees’ hands to the right bins may never see actual use. They seem extremely intrusive and super creepy!