Galaxy S9 Gets FM Radio; Shortage of Apple Replacement Batteries; Connected Underwear

Another feature has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy S9 that debuts next month. According to bgr.com, Samsung will unlock the FM chip on phones sold in the US and Canada. While you can get radio and internet radio over apps, this might come in very handy in emergencies like hurricanes, fires, and earthquakes. The FCC recently called on Apple to do the same, and in fact to activate FM chips in existing iPhones (although the latter isn’t technically possible.)

On the topic of Apple, there’s the ongoing saga of the slowed down, older iPhones due to batteries failing. Macrumors.com says those $29 replacement batteries promised by Apple may not be here in enough volume until March or April for the iPhone 6 Plus. The delay is only a couple weeks for the iPhone 6, and Apple says batteries should be available right now for iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and SE.

In a sure sign that the Internet of Things has gone too far….smart underwear! Mashable.com reports that the skivvies come with sensors woven into the fabric of the undies, and the have a small, rechargeable module that can be removed for recharging….and of course, washing. The Skiin bras and underwear from Myant have 6 different sensors that track heart rate, temperature, pressure, motion, body fat, and hydration levels. All the data is sent to your smartphone app. Pricey? Of course! $279 for 4 pairs of undies.

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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!


Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.


Phones That Could Charge in Minutes; Apple Leasing Proving Grounds for Self-Driving Cars; Renewable Energy Takes Huge Price Drop

Samsung has developed battery tech that could allow for faster battery charging than ever. Businessinsider.com reports that with the advanced tech, batteries could fast charge in 12 minutes instead of an hour for present fast charging. They did it using graphene instead of copper. The tech could be used in car batteries as well as smart devices. Samsung says they have found a way to mass produce the batteries at an affordable price, but no word on when they might become available.

It appears that Apple has leased a former Chrysler proving grounds in Arizona to test self-driving cars. According to 9to5mac.com, the land is in Wittmann, AZ. Chrysler has a newer facility in Yucca. The word was that the old facility was being sold to home builders, but now it looks like Apple is leasing the area, with has 3000 acres of fenced land, and 5000 total acres…including a city traffic course.

The march to renewable energy doesn’t look like it will be slowing soon. A story from thinkprogress.org found that steadily improving tech has dropped the prices of solar and wind power by 25% in just this year! That’s on top of an 80% reduction the past 10 years, which makes building renewable sources cheaper now than running old coal and nuclear plants.


Mercedes to Bring Home Storage Batteries to US; Digital Assistants to Outnumber People by 2021

In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.


Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


Apple Corners Smartphone Profits; Super Battery Concept Charges in Seconds & Lasts Days

They may not have the biggest market share, but according to a Strategy Analytics report picked up by 9to5mac.com, Apple took in 91% of mobile industry profits in the third quarter of 2016. Huawei had the best showing of any Android maker with 2.4%. Samsung, of course, helped Apple by taking a big loss with the recall of their fiery Galaxy Note 7 models. LG and HTC also reported losses.

Thenextweb.com reports that a new battery concept from scientists at University of Central Florida may be able to charge in seconds and last 20 times longer than a conventional lithium ion cell….possibly lasting over a week! It’s essentially a super capacitor. The battery doesn’t degrade like present ones, either…holding the same charge after 30,000 recharges. Keep your fingers crossed, if this pans out, it will be a game changer for smart devices, electric vehicles, and anything else running on batteries.