HTC’s Blockchain Phone; Magic Leap Signs With AT&T; Britain Fines Facebook over Cambridge Data

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.

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Samsung Bug; Amazon Anti-HAck Drone; HTC Cuts; Big Bank Blockchain Success

Here’s a creepy new development for some Samsung phone owners. Apparently, Samsung Messaging is randomly sending your camera roll photos to your contacts without permission. According to theverge.com, it is on the S9 and S9+ phones at the least…and appears to be when you use MMS messaging or send a message with a link. Samsung says they are aware of the issue and are looking into it. If you have the problem, Samsung says to call 1-800-SAMSUNG and let them know. The problem was first noticed on T-Mobile, but the carrier says it’s not their issue. Meanwhile, if you have a Samsung phone, better delete those racy selfies and private pictures until Samsung issues a fix!

Amazon just got a patent approved that they filed 2 years ago for “Hostile takeover avoidance of unmanned vehicles”. It’s aimed at making their future drones as hack-proof as possible. Amazon has been experimenting with having drones deliver people’s goods within an hour, so this is one step closer to that goal. The company’s other drone-related patents include self-destruction when a failure is detected and drones that can respond to gestures and voice commands. Mashable.com says Amazon is seeking to avoid hackers who might steal the drones and their payloads, crash them, or otherwise cause disruption to the operation of drones on their way to deliver your order.

The smartphone world is dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huewei. Now, maker HTC is cutting a quarter of its workforce worldwide…mainly at its manufacturing plant in Taiwan. Reuters.com reports that HTC once sold 10% of smartphones worldwide, but that’s been in decline for some time. Sales were down 48% from year to year in March. The company is also consolodating its smartphone and virtual reality divisions. Last year, HTC shifted 2,000 handset engineers to Google in an 1.1 billion dollar deal. Alphabet’s Google has been trying to get a foothold in the handset market with it’s Pixel line of phones.

It was confirmed today that the first cross-border, commercial transactions have been conducted on the we.trade blockchain platform – an initiative established by a group of financial giants, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Rabobank. These aren’t your average bank-funded, cross-border remittances transactions powered by the blockchain, though. This particular test was a sustained cross-country, multi-bank, interoperability remittance fest. Thenextweb.com reports that over a whole business week, 10 companies conducted trades on the we.trade platform, making use of four different banks, in 11 European countries. The successful tests are a major win for the IBM Blockchain Platform, which powers we.trade.


YouTube Creator Plusses; Apple vs Qualcomm; Facebook Messenger Translations; Stanford Blockchain Research

YouTube has announced new ways for content creators to make money. Now, according to engadget.com, channels with over 100,000 subscribers will have access to Memberships, which will let viewers pay a monthly $4.99 fee to get exclusive access to badges, emoji, livestreams, members-only videos and shoutouts. YouTube had already offered this with Sponsorships, but that category was only available to a select group of content producers. If you have less than 100,000 subscribers, YouTube says it will offer Channel Memberships at $5 a month to more people in upcoming months. They are also partnering with Teespring for a merchandise shopping tool creators can use to sell custom gear on their channel. Initially, there are 20 different kinds of gear available. YouTube claims 1.9 billion monthly logged in viewers. 

The Apple-Qualcomm legal battle rages on. Apple has now filed petitions with the US Patent and Trademark Office challenging validity of 4 Qualcomm patents…saying they don’t cover new ideas. Macrumors.com says they cover camera autofocus, a gadget that functions as a phone and digital assistant, touch-sensitive displays, and circuit memory. This type of challenge is a favorite of Apple lawyers…Apple has filed just shy of 400 such challenges with the Patent Office. A panel of 3 judges will now consider Apple’s petition and Qualcomm’s response. Apple and Qualcomm have been hashing it out legally since early 2017, mainly in a dispute over royalties due Qualcomm.

Facebook has rolled out M Translations for Messenger. M Translations join the existing M Suggestions features that are already built into Messenger for things like quick replies, polls, and sharing your location. English-Spanish translation should now be available in both the US and Mexico. The feature was announced at Facebook’s F8 gathering earlier this year. Theverge.com reports that translation had been available for Marketplace transactions, but now all Messenger conversations have the feature. It should work pretty seamlessly. The app will note if, for example, English is your default language, and the Messenger bot will automatically pop up and offer to translate a message you receive in Spanish. Facebook says other languages will be coming, but hasn’t offered a time line as to when.

A group of crypto startups and organizations are sponsoring a new blockchain research center headquartered at Stanford University. According to coindesk.com, The Center for Blockchain Research is being led by two professors who have specialties in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The research outfit plans to “develop best practices” for blockchain by bringing the university scientists and the industry’s top leaders together. The center will focus on designing a blockchain curriculum for both students and working professionals. The new center notes that blockchain is becoming increasingly critical to doing business globally.


Google & LG-Highest Res AR&VR OLED Display; Amazon Sells Face Recognition Tech to Police; Drink a Day Purveyor Hooch Expands

Google has taken the wraps off a high resolution OLED display that more than triples the pixels per inch of the Oculus and the HTC Vive. 9to5google.com says the mobile display was developed in partnership with LG, and has 1443 PPI, a wide field of view, and is optimized for both AR and VR. No word yet on when you might be able to wrap one of these around your face or how much it will cost, but it will essentially take mobile VR and AR headsets from 2-3 megapixels to 18!

Amazon has begun selling facial recognition technology called Rekognition to police. The tech, which Amazon boasts can track and analyze hundreds of people in a photo using a database with tens of millions of faces, has been used in Orlando, Florida, and by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Oregon. According to cnet.com, Rekognition isn’t used for active surveillance… but in a video clip posted online, it was noted that Rekognition could follow Orlando’s mayor using cameras throughout the city. Amazon says the tech matches photos and videos uploaded by the customer — not by Amazon. They note on the positive side that it has been used to help find lost children at amusement parks, and was used for public safety at the Royal Wedding on Saturday to identify attendees. Both the EFF and ACLU have expressed grave concerns about this kind of tech in the hands of law enforcement and government…particularly since tests in London show that facial recognition tech can be wrong up to 98% of the time!

Drink-a-day startup Hooch has announced that it has raised almost 3 million in seed money. Techcrunch.com reports that they are also adding to their base plan…which
offers a basic subscription of $9.99 that gets you one free drink per day from a variety of partner bars and restaurants. Hooch Black (which you have to apply for, and which costs $295 per year) adds hotel deals, concierge service and other perks on top.
On top of that, Hooch is planning to launch its blockchain initiative this summer. They believe that by having their own cryptocurrency token, Hooch could work with partners to create a “decentralized model for consumer rewards.” After reading about the Amazon facial recognition for law enforcement, you might want to subscribe to Hooch!


Pixel 3’s May Get the Dreaded ‘Notch;’ Apple Rolls Out Coding Training for Blind & Deaf Students; HTC’s Blockchain Phone

One of the most roundly criticized things about the iPhone X was the ‘notch’ at the top. Now, most Android makers are copying it, and Google may have inadvertently revealed that the Pixel 3 will also have ‘the notch.’ Of course, Apple uses the space at the top of their iPhone X screen for the Face ID sensors and cam. Bgr.com reports that by looking at the Android P beta, you can see where they have cleared out space at the top center of the screen. There’s no reason for this beyond making room for a notch. This will no doubt seal things with the rest of Android makers that haven’t already embraced notchyness, so brace yourself if it bugs you as much as it does some of the technology press.

Apple is extending its Everyone Can Code to schools that serve blind and deaf students. According to a press release, they will be furnishing the Everyone Can Code curricula for Swift, their programming language, to schools that focus on blind and deaf students starting this fall, including California School for the Blind and California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA, plus schools in Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, The curricula is comparable with VoiceOver technology.

HTC is working on an Android handset that will be powered by blockchain tech. Thenextweb.com says it will have a universal wallet and built-in secure hardware enclave that will support cryptocurrencies and decentralized apps. They also plan to create a native blockchain network with all exodus phones acting as nodes to facilitate cryptocurrency trading among the phone users. They are hoping to have it on the market by next year.


Google I/O Expectations; Apple Beats the Street; Russian ‘Fancy Bear’ Hibernating in Lojack; Automakers Start Blockchain Research Group

Google’s I/O is coming up May 8th at Shoreline in Mountain View. According to 9to5google.com, expect Android P to bow…as well as some gesture navigation. What’s been rumored sounds a lot like iPhone X navigation…it’s unknown though if this will be system wide or just Pixel exclusive. We may see an Android TV dongle…there have been pictures of a new dongle from a Chinese company with the Google logo on them spotted. No details have leaked out, but expect something pretty significant about Google Photos…Photos is getting a session on day two…a first for Photos.

Apple beat both revenue and profit projections yesterday, selling 52.2 million iPhones, just a tad below the Street’s targets. Revenue was $61.1 billion…Wall Street had expected $60.8. Reuters.com reports that Apple will bring about 100 billion back to the US in its capital return program. An interesting tidbit: Apple’s wearables…Apple Watch, Air Pods, and Beats headphones…if broken out as a separate entity, would be a Fortune 300 company, without any of the rest of Apple!

With all the personal data leaks and sales, just one more thing to be unnerved about…Fancy Bear…the Russian group that US intelligence thinks did the hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016…appears to be using Lojack laptop tracking software to propel new hacking campaigns. Axios.com says that the technique of using Lojack to hide malware was first discovered in 2014, but this is apparently a new exploit of it by the Russians.

A number of automakers have started MOBI, the Mobility Open Blockchain Initiative, to use blockchain tech to make cars safer and more affordable. According to techcrunch.com, BMW, General Motors, Ford, and Renault are spearheading the initiative. Previously, Toyota had started doing blockchain research, and Daimler is involved in the Hyperledger project at the Linux foundation. the MOBI group is focusing solely on the automotive space. They claim it may be able to redefine how consumers purchase, insure, and use vehicles.