New Google Pixelbook Coming; HomePod Siri Features; Qualcomm Shows 5G Module; Tesla Supplier Cash Ask

The Pixel 2 was a big improvement on the original Google Pixel phone, and the 3 is eagerly anticipated this Fall. Now, 9to5google.com says leaker Evan Blass, who has a pretty decent track record, is touting the release of and updated Pixelbook alongside the Pixel 3 and 3XL handsets. Bless claims the updated Chrome OS Pixelbook will be shipping by the holidays. The fall event is expected to also show off A Pixel Watch and new generation of Pixel Buds.

Apple is testing a private beta version of OS12 for HomePod that includes multiple Siri timers and allows people to make and answer phone calls…in an effort to keep up with Alexa and Google Home. 9to5mac.com reports that corporate and some retail employees are test driving the beta. The multiple timers feature is one Alexa has that allows, for example, someone to put a couple timers on different things they are cooking at the same time. Right now, it’s unclear which, if any, of these features will make it to the final release of OS12 for HomePod this fall.

Qualcomm has showed off the first completely integrated 5G module for smartphones…including 5G mmWave antenna, wave radio, power amp, and antenna array. According to macrumors.com, the whole system has been crammed into a package small enough to sit on your fingertip. It is thin enough to fit the bezel of a phone, and Qualcomm sees up to 4 being put into a handset so if one antenna is covered by a hand or otherwise blocked, the unit will still transmit and receive. The tiny 5G modules are being shipped to phone makers this week.

Tesla has reportedly ask for cash back from suppliers, in order to cut their costs and become profitable in Q4. While it’s not unusual for a company to ask for or demand price cuts from suppliers….Walmart is a past master at this…it IS unusual to ask for money back from previously furnished and paid for items. That’s what electrek.co says Tesla has done. Some of the clawbacks would date back to 2016. It remains to be seen if any suppliers will cooperate, now that Tesla is producing the promised 5,000 Model 3s per week.

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4K Android TV Dongle May Be Coming; Spotify & Hulu Discount Bundle; Amazon Post Office Use; Passwordless Authentication Via WebAuthn

There is a patent application at the FCC that seems to indicate that Google is getting ready to bring Android TV to a set near you. Thenextweb.com reports that the 4K dongle, which is from Shenzhen SEI Robotics, has an HDMI cable, micro USB port for charging, and Google branding. There’s also a remote with a built in mic and dedicated button so you can use voice commands via Assistant. Google already has 3 Chromecast gadgets that can stream fun HD video, 4K and audio to speakers from your mobile device, so a jump to the TV set is plausible.

Spotify and Hulu teamed up last fall, and now, they’re back. A bundle of services from the pair is being offered for $12.99 a month, according to techcrunch.com. Last fall, it was a students-only deal…this one is open to all Spotify Premium users. The $12.99 gets you Spotify’s on-demand Premium music service plus Hulu’s Limited Commercials plan. Sometime this summer, the deal will be opened up to all Spotify users, and new customers as well.

After the president came out a couple weeks ago and ranted that Amazon was fleecing the post office, numerous sources noted that the post office actually makes a ton of money from Amazon. So how much business does the online giant do with the post office? ZDNet.com says a report commissioned by Jefferies estimates that 62% of Amazon shipments flow through the US Postal Service.

It seems to always be on the horizon, but always ends up being a mirage. Now, arstechnica.com reports that we may actually be closer to passwordless authentication with a new spec from the World Wide Web Consortium and FIDO Alliance called WebAuthn. The spec allows browsers to expose hardware authentication devices, be then USB, Bluetooth, or NFC, to sites on the web. The hardware allows users to prove their identity without requiring usernames or passwords. With the WebAuthn standard, your credentials, whether biometric like fingerprints and face recognitions or a USB YubiKey, never leave the browser. This gives stronger protection against phishing, man in the middle attacks, and replay attacks than we have presently. WebAuthn has commitments for support from Microsoft, Google, and Mozilla. Chrome 67 and Firefox 60, both due out in May, will have WebAuthn baked in by default.It may not kill the dreaded password overnight, but now, that merciful death may be coming.


Another Day, Another iPhone 8 Design; MasterCard Testing Fingerprint Secured Cards; Google May Bake Ad Blocker into Chrome

Yet another iPhone 8 design has showed up, and it’s getting lots of hate from the tech media community. Macrumors.com says this one has an aluminum back with the apple cutout and vertical double camera, but also has a round cutout about halfway down. Some reports are that Apple is having problems with its under screen Touch ID sensor (as we reported Samsung has), and they may use this plan B metal back to put the Touch ID on the back…as the Galaxy S8 has. Actually, at this point, Apple has always had multiple designs going, then chooses the final one, so it’s probably not time to freak out yet. When orders for the sensors are placed, we’ll know more which way Apple will go.

Speaking of fingerprint sensors, here’s an interesting idea….MasterCard is testing them on payment cards in South Africa. Engadget.com reports that if they pan out, MasterCard could start rolling them out worldwide by the end of the year. After that, it will be up to your bank to decide to use it. Like photos on cards, you would have to go into the bank to have your prints scanned to be stored on the card. It’s all card based, so merchants wouldn’t have to replace terminals to use the newer print-secured cards.

Google…which makes bags of money from ads…is apparently working on an ad blocker for Chrome. According to recode.net, it would either filter certain types of ads out, or entirely block ones from sites that carry ‘bad ads.’ Filtering would be based on standards from the Coalition for Better Ads, which both Google and Facebook belong. Note: they also both help fund said coalition! Does anyone see Google filtering out IT’S OWN ads with the Chrome ad blocker? This seems like a real unfair competition issue!


Google Will Launch Hybrid OS; Xiaomi’s New Flagship Has Ultrasonic Fingerprint Reader; Apple Patents Laser Mapping System & Hybrid Keyboard

Google looks to launch its upcoming Andromeda…Android/Chrome hybrid OS on a Huawei Nexus tablet and a convertible laptop, according to 9to5google.com. The convertible laptop will probably sport the new Pixel brand, as Google appears poised to call the phones they will show October 4th. It will have either an Intel M3 or i5 Core processor, 32 or 128GB of storage and 8GB or 16GB of RAM. There’s also apparently a fingerprint scanner, two USB-C ports, stereo speakers, four microphones, and a 10 hour battery. It’s apparently priced around $800.

Chinese phone maker Xiaomi has showed off its Mi 5s and 5s Plus handsets. According to theverge.com, they have a better camera, faster processor, but of most interest…and ultrasonic fingerprint reader that is under the glass on the front. The portion of the front with the reader doesn’t have screen space under it. Apple has a patent for similar tech, but the iPhone 8 will likely have an all glass screen on the front, edge to edge. On the Xiaomi phones, an indentation in the glass is the only spot that will read prints. Apple’s may not be so restrictive. Ultrasonic fingerprint readers are generally more accurate than the capacitive ones currently used by Apple, Samsung, and the rest.

Apple has also patented laser based positional and 3D mapping hardware…this could give far more reliable mapping for…say…self-driving cars! Appleinsider.com says they were also granted a patent for a hybrid mechanical/ capacitive touch sensitive keyboard. They also have an optical connector that converts signals to light which connects accessories to a laptop through micro-perfs that are invisible to the naked eye. It uses infrared laser light, which draws less power than Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.


New Apple iPhone Battery Case; Google Makes Mobile Chrome Safe by Default

Several Apple news items: Today, Cupertino rolled out a Smart Battery Case for the iPhone 6S and 6, their first since 2007. According to appleinsider.com, Apple claims 25 hours of extended use. It’s soft silicone with a strange hump for the battery on the back, and runs $99. The silicone gives a sure grip, but does collect dirt.

Many people will be surprised to find that Apple Maps is now used 3 times as often as Google Maps on iPhone. Macrumors.com says this figure was given to the AP by Apple. Google does dominate over all smartphones, of course, with more Android phones in service than iPhones. I tried Apple Maps last spring traveling from Northern California to the Magic Kingdom, and it routed me off the 5 through city streets and back. I thought it was nuts, until I discovered it routed me around a terrible crash in LA with a monster backup.

Apple is dropping 13 million on their Sacramento area campus. Reportedly, this is to change a large warehouse into a logistics center, and they will add an additional 1450 parking spaces and jobs, of course. It’s possible more than logistics is going on…this facility was Apple’s last manufacturing center in the US until 2004.

In a nice move by Google, they have turned on Safe Browsing by default on Chrome for Android. Theverge.com reports that it has always been in the settings, but this will give an extra layer of protection to mobile browsing on Android for Chrome users. Google is releasing the feature as part of Play Services, which means it will appear in other in-house apps moving forward.


Apple’s Next Generation iPhone Cameras

You have probably heard that Apple is holding their rollout event for the new iPhones and more on September 9th. One of the marquee features, as reported by 9to5mac.com and others is a 12 megapixel main camera, and upgraded signal processor for larger, higher resolution pictures. 4K video is also in store on the 6S and 6S+…which a lot of people won’t need as they don’t have 4K TVs or monitors. One thing you WILL use is the upgraded front selfie cam with flash…no, there’s not a front-facing LED flash…Apple will flash the screen white when you shoot, like Snapchat and Photo Booth. The front cam is also likely to get panorama and slo-mo video, too.

In a move that will improve performance, Google’s Chrome web browser will start pausing Flash ads by default September 1st. The function has been in the beta version for a while now. By pausing auto-playing flash, Chrome users should see speed improvements and better batter life. Google, in addition to Apple, has been trying to get away from Flash tech for quite a while. YouTube switched over to streaming HTML5 video by default the first of the year.


Find in iOS 9 Beta Points to Larger iPad

A developer running the beta of iOS 9 has found a hidden, larger keyboard layout in the system, according to theverge.com. The scaled up keyboard isn’t a dramatic departure from the present one, but does add a narrow top row of symbols keys, adds a redo key, a tab key, and a caps lock key. A widely rumored 12 inch plus iPad dubbed the ‘Pro’ is expected out later this year.

Engadget.com reports that Google has killed off the widely disliked bookmark manager, and reverted to the previous version. The cluttered, slower version can still be downloaded as an extension from the Chrome Web Store for those who really want it.

A security researcher was able to hack a page on Uber’s website, with a humorous result. Businessinsider.com says Uber’s micro-site on their website with a petition to get San Francisco to allow them to operate on Market Street had the flaw. The hacker was able to just key in ‘zipcode,’ instead of numbers. Being a security researcher, he didn’t dump malware code or steal information…he uploaded an ad for arch rival Lyft to Uber’s site!