Alexa Can Send SMS Messages; Amazon QR ‘Smile’ Codes; Samsung Chip Biz Eclipses Intel; Apple Still Bringing iOS Apps to Macs

Bringing us one step closer to a Star Trek future, Amazon just rolled out another skill for Alexa. Thenextweb.com reports that now you can send SMS text messages by voice command over your Echo or other speaker that has Alexa. A couple of notes, though. It doesn’t work for texting 911 or sending group messages or MMS. Should be pretty handy though, if you need to send a text, and your phone’s across the room or across the house!

Yet another trick Amazon has pulled out of its sleeve…they are working with their own version of QR codes…those little boxes with gibberish patterns. TechCrunch.com says they call them ‘SmileCodes.’ In this case, you can open the scanner that is built into the Amazon app, scan the code, and it will take you to that item on Amazon’s site, or play a related movie trailer or product review. Right now, the codes are listed to pop-up shops and Amazon Lockers in Europe, but the test should be over soon, and expect a rollout in the US before long.

After decades as the top dog in chip manufacturing, Intel has been eclipsed by Samsung as of 2017. The numbers have been crunched, and according to theverge.com, Samsung raked in $69.1 billion worth of the little silicon rascals, while Intel’s take was $62.8 billion. To be fair, Samsung produced more memory and flash, while Intel still leads in processor chips. With the demand only set to increase with self-driving vehicles and more AI coming on line, Samsung should be sitting pretty with this segment of their business.

Yesterday, there was a story out that Apple would be holding back some features for iOS 12 in order to focus on security and reliability of the OS. Apparently, one feature that won’t be held back will be the ability to port iOS apps to Macs. Cnet.com says the team developing that is still on track to roll it out this year, which will make the App Store on the Mac a lot more fun and interesting.

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3 New Macs Coming; Google Home Catching Up With Amazon Echo; Nationalized 5G Network; Nissan Self-Parking Slippers

Apple is reportedly working on 3 new Models (maybe more). They will be integrated with custom co-processors, and Cupertino has both new laptops and desktops in the works, according to macrumors.com. Some could be out yet this year. Apple had already confirmed it was working on an new, modular Mac Pro, but what other models could be refreshed are only an educated guess at this point. The MacBooks and MacBook Pros could use it for sure, as well as the Air, and Mac Mini.

Amazon has held the lion’s share of home speakers with it’s Echo line, powered by Alexa, sitting at 69%. 9to5google.com points out that Google Home has grown from almost nowhere to 31% already, though, and now with the Apple HomePod just out, expect more erosion in that number. Google Home barely registered in June of 2017, but during the holidays grabbed 40% of sales…mainly due to success of the Home Mini! Microsoft’s Cortana speakers haven’t really moved the needle, but Apple could…recall how they jumped into the already going portable music market years ago with the iPod, and virtually took that segment over.

You have to go a ways to freak out and infuriate both the far left and the far right, but it looks like an idea from the Trump Administration has done just that. According to businessinsider.com, they are exploring a form of nationalized 5G wireless network. The government apparently fears a huge cybersecurity threat…mainly from China…if they don’t. Folks on the left and the right are more freaked out by the prospect of the government controlling the wireless network. The administration is looking at a totally government one, or a national network in partnership with the wireless companies. Both AT&T and Verizon have responded, noting that they are ‘already well down the road’ to 5G wireless networks nationwide. In other words…’bug off!’

Self-driving cars? Pfft! Get me some of these self-driving, self-parking slippers. Bgr.com says Nissan has made some for a Japanese hotel, the ProPILOT Ryokan. Little wheels drop out of the bottom, and a small electric motor run by a processor magically returns the slippers to their proper place! Apparently the TV remote will do the same in rooms, and the bedding is wired with tricks of their own. Personally, I bow down to our robot overlords…and request that my slippers head over here to my feet!


Samsung Making Galaxy X; Apple HomePod Started as Side Project; Keystroke Logging and Location Tracking-Paranoid yet?

Samsung has been at work on a Galaxy X, and surprisingly, they didn’t steal the name from Apple. Bgr.com says they’ve had it in the works since back when the iPhone X was still just called ‘8’ in rumors. The X is even more radical than the iPhone though…it’s Samsung’s long rumored bendable smartphone. They have ben doing demos at trade shows, but up to now, nothing. A sharp Dutch site has now noted that a support page has gone up online for the X family. It is expected that if and when the Galaxy X launches, it will be in very limited numbers.

Apple’s HomePod apparently started out 5 years ago as a side project for some audio engineers. According to 9to5mac.com, they wanted to build an audiophile speaker, and some versions were 3 feet tall! The project was cancelled and revived a few times. When Amazon brought out the Echo, the team was shocked at how it caught on and how much it did. Even now, some of the team has lobbied to have the HomePod do more than just music and controlling smart devices, and only running iPhone apps. Perhaps some of this is the reason for the delay in rollout…maybe they are going to bulk up HomePod’s abilities..for that, we’re going to need ‘Super-Siri!’

Not to rile you up going into the holiday shopping season, but if you think you’re being watched…you’re not paranoid, you ARE. Arstechnica.com reports that numerous sites have been running scripts that log your keystrokes, mouse moves, and wait times…even before that input is submitted or later deleted. They even grab the number of characters typed into password fields and the last 4 digits of credit cards. According to a study out last week, 482 of the 50,000 highest traffic sites are key logging you. One more thing….and not the cool kind like Steve Jobs used to tout…gizmodo.com says your Android phone has been sending location data to Google, even if you have opted out. Happy Holidays!


Amazon Drops New Echos; Google Making Higher End Home ‘Max;’ Next LED iPhones May Be Bezel-less, Too

Amazon rolled out 2nd generation Echos yesterday, and they’re shorter by half, have a dedicated bass speaker, and are on sale for $99. Theverge.com reports that you can also pick up a 3 pack for $250, so you can have multi-room coverage. The new Echos can also make free calls to the US, Canada, and Mexico. If you just want the calling, Amazon also dropped a $35 gadget called Connect.

With the new Amazon Echos, upgraded Sonos speakers coming, and the Apple iHome looming in December, Google isn’t sitting on its hands, either. According to bgr.com, there’s an upgraded Google Home in the works called the Max. It will be a higher end version with so-called premium sound to compete with the Sonos and iHome. Since the Pixel 2 phones are supposed to roll out next week, maybe Google will tease the Max or even show it.

The iPhone X will be out in November in very short supply, and now we’re hearing the phones for next year may not all go to OLED screens like it has…Apple may stick with LCD for it’s lower tier phones. 9to5mac.com says Apple is working on a new form of advanced LED panel that will give the phones a near bezel free design like the OLED iPhone X has. Since LED screens cost less, it will help keep the price down on the successor to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.


iPhone 8 Gesture Controls; Amazon Echo Goes Muiti-Room; Sonos Making Smart Speaker; Cummins Announces Electric Big Rig

There’s already been a lot leaked about the iPhone 8, but now, here’s something new from bloomberg.com: in addition to losing the physical home button, Apple has added gesture controls that open the home screen and can actually move the software-based task bar up to mid-screen, open multitasking, and more. The task bar will look like the dock for iPad on iOS 11. In multitasking, instead of the stack overlapping cards to swipe through, it will appear of a series of standalone cards.

Getting the drop on Apple’s HomePod by a few months, Amazon has dropped a new feature letting you play, sync, and control music over multiple Echos using voce commands. 9to5mac.com says they have also rolled out new developer tools.

Meanwhile, Sonos…which has been the big name in home speakers…is working on a new one with integrated voice control functionality. According to bgr.com, the CEO has said he wants it to work with ‘all services that matter.’ While getting into Apple’s closed system and Siri is probably out, expect it to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The FCC filing says it will work with ‘multiple voice platforms!’ It may be rolled out in October.

Tesla plans to unveil their electric truck next month. Now, diesel engine maker Cummins has announced their own electric big rig. Electrek.co says it’s designed as an ‘urban hauler,’ and has a 100 mile range on batteries. The rig can recharge in an hour, and Cummins says that will be improved before it hits the market. A hybrid version with a small diesel will also be offered, boasting a 300 mile range. The rig will pull a 44,000 lb. load.


Prime Day-Best Deals Are Amazon’s Own-Natch; Galaxy S8 Sales Trail S7’s; Audi A8 First Level 3 Semi-Autonomous Car

Prime Day is in full swing, and it should come as no surprise to anyone that some of the primo deals are on Amazon’s own stuff. If you want to get your feet wet with Alexa, bgr.com says to check out the Amazon Echo in black for $89.99, or the 2nd Gen Echo Dot…also in black for $34.99. As for TVs, a Sony 65 inch 4K Smart TV is $1498, and a Samsung 55 inch Smart TV with 4K is $700.99!

According to 9to5google.com, brokerage analysts estimate that Samsung Galaxy S8 sales are trailing the S7 by about 20% for the 1st two months….9.8 million for the S8, where the S7 hit 12 million. They believe the sales hit may be due to stronger competition from Chinese brands, plus customer anticipation of the highly hyped iPhone 8.

Audi has revealed that their 2019 A8 sedan will have level 3 autonomous features. Engadget.com reports that the ‘AI Traffic Jam Pilot’ will move the car in gridlock situations on the highway without driver input. The system handles acceleration, steering, braking, and starting from dead stop. Drivers will be able to take their hands off the wheel at speeds up to 37 mph. As with all of these systems, it depends on local laws, and the car will nag you if you need to take over…no napping! It is a mild hybrid…not hybrid to the level of their e-tron plug in or a Prius, but should save on fuel.


iPhone 8 Color Rumor; 3 OLED iPhone 9 Models; Amazon Prime Poised to Pass Up Cable TV; Alexa Can Tell When Your Stuff is Out for Delivery; Future 3D Printing-Star Trek Replicator?

The latest iPhone 8 rumor is that there will be 4 colors, and one will be mirror like. 9to5mac.com says it will be either sliver or black…which is confusing, since there is already the pretty mirror-like Jet Black. Perhaps with the glass back, it will be even more mirror-like. You can admire it before you stuff it in an Otterbox so you don’t break your precious thousand buck toy! In other future iPhone news, 2018 reportedly will bring 3 new iPhone models, and all will have OLED displays. It’s over a year away, but Nikkei sees Apple suppliers preparing to meet the expected demand.

Amazon Prime is nipping at cable TV’s numbers. According to recode.net, there are 79 million US homes that have Amazon Prime, including Prime Video. That compares to 90 million who are paying for cable or satellite this year. Amazon’s numbers grew from 66 million to the 79 million year over year, to they may pass up pay TV by next year! It’s a desirable market, too…over 80% of America’s wealthiest households have Amazon Prime.

If you are like most of us, you probably go to Amazon’s website and obsess over when your loot is going to be delivered. Theverge.com says you can ask Alexa ‘where’s my stuff,’ and your Echo will track deliveries. Now, just in time for prime day, your Echo will also light up a different color on delivery day. Alexa will ask you if you want to be notified when your package is out for delivery. For some of us, the Echo’s LED ring will probably actually stay that ‘out for delivery’ color all the time!

3D printing just gets more amazing all the time. They are building everything from toys to food to cars to houses right now…some admittedly pretty crude. Zdnet.com says the logical extension will be the Star Trek replicator making our food …or ‘Tea…Earl Grey….hot!’ They point out that there is a difference between printing materials at the molecular level and the micron level, but it’s really not that much. We may not see this right away, but it’s definitely on the horizon. With improving printers to work at the molecular level and better voice assistants, we could all be Captain Picard in this lifetime!