iPhone Rollout Date; Google Pixel Reveal Date; Samsung’s Echo to the Echo

The highly anticipated (and even more highly hyped) iPhone 8 will roll out on September 12th. Techcrunch.com reports that the date was confirmed by rooting around with the telecom companies and finding that Apple plans a press event for that date. If the usual format since 2012 is followed, the phone should be on sale a week later on September 22nd. Multiple sources have cautioned that the iPhone 8 will be in extremely tight supply until close to the holidays.It’s expected that the upgraded Apple Watch 3 will drop with the iPhone, and of course the next version of the OS, iOS 11.

Google will unveil the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL on October 5th, according to android police.com. The next gen phones will be powered by Snapdragon 836 chips. All rumors point to the XL just being a larger version of the 2. Both will have 4 gigs of RAM, dual front facing speakers, an always on display, and as we noted earlier, the feature Mr Whipple of Charmin would love, a squeezable frame to relay commands to the phone.

In a MSNBC interview, Samsung’s mobile division boss confirmed that they are working on a smart speaker…something previously defined. Engadget.com says it will be announced ‘soon,’ but probably not by next week’s IFA show. A smart speaker is a logical next move, since Samsung just expanded their Bixby voice assistant to over 200 countries this week. It’s expected that Bixby will be the ‘star feature’ of the Samsung smart feature.


Google & Walmart Team Up to Take on Amazon’s Voice Based Shopping; Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 Launch Date; Samsung’s Bixby Spreads to 200 Countries

Samsung officially rolled out the Galaxy Note 8 in New York today. The widely anticipated successor to the flameout Note 7 has a 6.3 inch display, dual cams, and 6 gigs of RAM. You get 64 gigs of storage plus what you can add with an SD card. 9to5google.com reports It has a more ‘boxy’ look than the 7, in a callback to previous Notes. The dual 12Mp cameras on the back are different than Apple’s different focal length system. One is a standard cam, and the other shoots black and white. The standard lens takes wide angle shots and the monochrome one shoots telephoto. This should produce a 2X optical zoom and take better low light shots. The phablet should be available September 15th, and will come in silver, orchid gray, gold, and the new ‘deep sea’ blue.

Google and Walmart have announced you will be able to use Walmart’s ‘Easy Reorder’ feature via Google Assistant through a Google Home speaker. Techcrunch.com says Google Express has also ditched membership fees and now promises 1 to 3 day free delivery for minimum orders or more. Amazon with Alexa will still remain the 800 pound gorilla of voice online shopping, but a partnership of Google and Walmart should give them a serious run for their money. It’s a LOT of money, too…RBC Capital figures Alexa could be a $10 billion business by 2020.

Bixby…the intelligent assistant which Samsung dropped very late earlier this summer in the US, for the Galaxy S8 phones, is now live in 200 countries in addition to Korea and the US…including UK, Australia, and Canada. This rollout just a day before today (Wednesday’s) big unveiling of the Galaxy Note 8 in New York City.


Samsung Backs Away From Smart Speakers; Microsoft Reveals Cortana Controlled Thermostat; Sears Rolls Out Alexa Powered Appliances on Amazon

We had reported, along with numerous others, that Samsung was working on a Bixby powered smart speaker to compete with Amazon’s, Google’s, and the upcoming Apple one. Now, thenextweb.com reports that Samsung has suddenly decided they are not marketable, with the dominance of Amazon, and Apple waiting in the Wings. Meanwhile, Global Market Insights predicts that the smart speaker market will grow to $13 billion by 2024. Almost half of smart speaker owners buy an additional one for their homes.

Microsoft has rolled out a great looking IOT thermostat today called GLAS. It’s made for them by Johnson Controls. According to theverge.com, it runs Windows 10 IoT Core, and has Cortana built in. Microsoft says it will detect if you are in the room or not, and also continuously monitor air quality inside and outside. Microsoft plans to add other appliances that will run their system and use Cortana.

Meanwhile, struggling retail giant Sears, which for decades had huge market share in appliances with its Kenmore brand, has started selling Alexa powered appliances via Amazon. Techcrunch.com says the retailer will bake in Alexa to air conditioners in addition to the expected refrigerators, stoves, washers, dryers. You will e able to yell at Alexa to turn the AC up or down from your couch!


Analyst-No, iPhone 8 Won’t Be $1200; Bixby is Launched in US; Facebook to Let Publishers Charge Readers to View Stories

There have been several rumors that Apple’s iPhone 8 will start at over $1000, and go as high as $1200, to set it up as a ‘niche’ product. In a report picked up by apple insider.com, an analyst from UBS says they see the iPhone 8 shipping in November, and starting at $900 for the 64 gig model, and a $256 gig model for $1000. UBS thinks iPhone sales will be up 15% in Apple’s 2018 year. [Update: Analysts at JC Morgan believe it will ship in September, but with very tight availability.]

It wasn’t ready for the launch of the Galaxy S8 this spring, and Samsung promised voice assistant Bixby by the end of May in the US. Well, that didn’t happen either, but according to engadget.com, it’s out now. Bixby’s draw, according to Samsung, is that it understands natural language expressions better than other voice assistants. So far, the English release works in the US and South Korea. No word on if it is out in other English speaking countries yet. As we’ve reported, Samsung is working on a voice activated speaker like Amazon and Google have, and Apple is rolling out in December.

Facebook is preparing to let media outlets charge readers for access to their stories, starting in October. Businessinsider.com says they will be able to show 10 free articles per month before a paywall kicks in. No info on how much Facebook will skim from publishers on this, or if anyone there has calculated what percentage of people will simply click away, rather than pay…I predict that will be a huge majority of Facebook users. It’s tough to find people who don’t despise paywalls.


Samsung Working on Smart Speaker With Bixby; Valve Founder Raises $$ for New Startup; Texting Makes You Walk Funny

With Apple now getting ready to enter the smart speaker sweepstakes along with Amazon and Google, Samsung appears poised to join the party. The Wall St. Journal says it will use Bixby, the voice assistant that has been late rolling out on the Galaxy S8 due to issues with English! It will be a touch market, with Amazon’s Alexa presently holding 70% of the US market, and Apple not even in the market until the end of the year. Microsoft also has a voice controlled speaker using Cortana called Invoke, which hits this fall. If Samsung can get Bixby working in English like they plan, they could have a edge in the Internet of Things, since they actually produce some appliances like TVs and fridges.

Rick Ellis, who founded Valve’s Steam gaming platform is on to another startup…he’s raised $1.25 million for Sharkbite Games. According to geekwire.com, the new company is already working on two games…the first is a casual mobile game that will be out later this year. The other will bow in 2019, and is an ambitious multiplayer game that will run on PC and mobile, and which Ellis says is aimed at the ‘mid-core’ space. He has hinted that they were looking at virtual reality in the future.

Quick— call the Ministry of Silly Walks! A study from Anglia Ruskin University indicates that people walk funny while texting, reading text, or chatting on phones! Cnet.com reports that phone users spend 61% less time watching out for obstacles, and lift feet ‘higher and slower’ over them while walking…adapting a ‘cautious and exaggerated stepping strategy.’ Or…as most of us call them….smartphone zombies, often shortened to smombies!


Samsung Delays Bixby for the US Again; 5 New Macs & 4 iOS Devices on Horizon

Samsung rolled out its latest Galaxy phones, the S8 models, without the virtual assistant Bixby in the US. It was due by now, but has been delayed a month. The Wall St. Journal reports that they are having trouble getting it to understand English syntax and grammar. Virtual assistants haven’t been the ‘killer app’ on smartphones anyway…only about 9% of users use the AI feature on a regular basis, according to research firm Ovum. Half of smartphone owners either had no interest in the feature or didn’t even know about it. It has been a different story with talking speakers, which the public seems to be accepting more quickly….with Amazon’s Alexa and the Google Assistant in the lead.

There are armies of people digging through regulatory filings around the world to bring you tidbits like this: a Russian filing points to 5 new Macs and 4 new iOS devices on the way from Apple. According to apple insider.com, we could see some rolled out at WWDC. There has already been speculation that Apple would show a new mid-sized iPad Pro at WWDC, fitting in between the 9.7 inch and 12 inch iPad Pros. A recent shortage of MacBooks seems to point to a refresh of MacBook Pros and Airs as well.


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.


Waymo Offers Free Rides in Self-Driving Vans; Galaxy S8 Grabs Big Preorders; Google Tweaks Search to Tamp Down Fake News

If you live in the Phoenix area, and intrigued by self-driving cars, has Waymo got a deal for you. According to theverge.com, you can sign up for a free ride in a Waymo minivan…in fact, you can sign up as often as you like on their website. They will select riders based on the types of trips they want to take and agreeableness to using the self-driving service as their primary mode of transportation. All the test cars will have a safety driver along to grab the controls if needed. Besides Phoenix, the service will be available in Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler. Waymo says the service area there is about twice the area of San Francisco, to give you an idea of the covered territory. They have 100 minivans there, and will add 500 more for this free project, which they are calling “Easy Rider.”

Despite the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 with the fires and recall, Samsung says the Galaxy S8 preorders are their best ever, with 30% year over year growth compared to the S7. Macrumors.com reports that this is despite launching without one of the signature features, the personal assistant Bixby in English language countries. Samsung says that should be available by the end of May…maybe they hooked up the software with a Berlitz course.

Google has announced that it has altered its search engine to ‘surface more high quality content from the web,’ or in English, tamp down fake news, offensive, or clearly misleading content. Cnet.com says Google is also allowing users to flag results that are offensive or unhelpful.


The Galaxy S8’s Bixby Won’t Understand English at Release; Flying Cars Coming This Year; Fitbit’s Apple Watch Competitor & Headphone Release Pushed Back

The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S8 release is just days away, at April 21st, but don’t expect the much touted personal assistant Bixby with it. Arstechnica.com reports that the English language version of Bixby will probably not be released until the end of May. There is reportedly a hack to let you access Google Assistant with the dedicated Bixby button if you’d like.

AeroMobil says they will unveil their flying car later this year. Mashable.com says they will also start accepting preorders in late 2017. It runs like a regular car, and runs on regular gas, but in flight, utilizes ‘hybrid propulsion,’ a combo of the internal combustion motor and and electric one. The price hasn’t been announced, but it’s probably more than your house. The prototype will debut April 20th in Monaco at a luxury supercar show….of course.

Fitbit is reportedly having production issues with its Apple rival smartwatch and Bluetooth headphones. According to cnet.com, both were supposed to be available after midyear, but now it looks like the release has been pushed back to fall to work out the production kinks. The watch is supposed to have a color display like Apple Watch, 4 days battery life, heart rate monitor, touchless payments, and live streaming support.


Galaxy S8’s Bixby Button Can Be Changed to Google Assistant; Apple Says No to All-ARM Macs; Spotify Testing Lossless Audio; Unexpected Changes From Driverless Cars

Samsung touts its Bixby personal assistant and even provides a dedicated soft button for it. Now, 9to5google.com says an app lets you remap the button for Google Assistant (or other functions.) Just get the app All in One Gestures and you can remap buttons. Do expect a cat and mouse though, as Samsung try to disable the app from getting around their assistant!

Previously, Apple has said they think touchscreens on computers are less efficient than mice and touchpads. Macrumors.com reports that they have repeated this, and also said they have no plans for ARM chips in Macs, except as ‘companion processors,’ like the one that runs the Touch Bar in the new MacBook Pros. For the foreseeable future, Cupertino’s laptops and desktops will continue to run on Intel silicon.

Last month, Spotify tested a new lossless version of its audio stream. According to theverge.com Spotify Hi-Fi will cost an extra $10 a month, on top of the $10 price of the premium ad-free service. Tidal already has hi-fi streaming for $19.99 a month. If you have a great audio system you route your streaming audio into, and have golden ears, it may be worth it, but several tech writers say it’s hard to tell the difference.

Driverless cars…a lot of folks are looking forward to surfing the web, watching videos, and otherwise kicking back during a commute in vehicles that handle the piloting chore for us. Washingtonpost.com notes some ways things might change you may not have thought of. It’s possible traffic could become worse, as people opt for the privacy of self-driving cars and ditch public transport. Also, with the array of cams and sensors, cars may become witnesses to crimes. This is random, but as electric self driving cars come on line, cigarette sales may drop, since a lot of gas stations make considerable extra cash selling those cancer sticks while we fill up. Air bags and crumple zones may become a thing of the past, as crashes practically disappear and they aren’t needed. You won’t need to circle like a vulture for parking, since the computer in the car will be able to find the closest spot…which will open frequently as shared vehicles come and go. Car expenses will drop…most cash goes into crashes and engine repairs. Electric cars require far less upkeep, and with nearly no crashes, cars could last far longer, too. Self driving trucks may not displace as many drivers as originally thought…there’s already a shortage, and as drivers retire, they just won’t be replaced. Plus, some firms will always carry a human to make sure cargo that’s loaded and unloaded isn’t ‘shorted’…they will want their person at the site to supervise.