Alexa Gets Contact Blocking for Voice Calls; LG Said to be Building Pixel XL Successor; Fisker’s Tesla Beater- 400 Mile Range & 5 Minute Charging

Amazon’s Alexa app is getting a blocker for it’s voice activated calling feature. According to geekwire.com, you just select the Conversations icon, then the Contacts icon, scroll down to Block contacts, and choose the one(s) you want to block. A number of users were surprised when voice calling was rolled out, finding out they could get unwanted calls….problem solved.

Google apparently has a different successor to the Pixel XL phone in the works. 9to5google.com reports that Google has sidelined ‘muskie,’ the earlier reported device, in favor of a bigger model from LG code named ‘taimen.’ Details are sketchy, but it appears it will be thinner, in addition to having a larger screen, and will rock a hotter Snapdragon processor…but he main focus will be on camera performance and features.

Fisker has had an answer to the Tesla in the works since at least 2014, and despite selling out to Karma Automotive, the luxury eMotion electric model is still on track for manufacture. It’s beautiful, fast (161 mph), and has a 400 mile cruising range…easily rolling past the Tesla Model S with it’s under 350 mile range. The wildest feature….it doesn’t use lithium-ion batteries….but super capacitors designed by scientists at UCLA that use graphene. They recharge in FIVE minutes! No word on the retail launch date or pricing so far…stay tuned!


LTE Apple Watch & AR Glasses Coming; Amazon Puts Off Brick & Mortar; Faraday Future Punts California Plant

In a report picked up from Barron’s by 9to5mac.com, an analyst for Susquehanna Financial picked up repeated rumors of an LTE connected Apple Watch 3, complete with micro SIM card. It will have a very low power chip to save battery and VoIP tech for calling.

Also, the drumbeat continues that Apple is going big with Augmented Reality. Macrumors.com says Cupertino is focusing on moving from the science project stage towards a finished consumer product. Even at that, it will probably be a 2018 launch at the soonest….although one analyst insists they will roll out AR glasses with the iPhone 8 this fall.

Amazon Go, the brick and mortar Amazon store, has been put on hold. Recode.net says the biggest sticking point is that the tech in the stores with no cashiers or checkout lines can’t handle crowds. More than 20 people inside, and it goes bonkers over tracking people and what’s been taken from specific shelf space.

Another shattered dream for further revitalizing the former submarine base at Mare Island in Vallejo, CA. According to techcrunch.com, vaporware electric car maker Faraday Future has walked away from finalizing an assembly plant and showroom there, at least for now. Faraday plans to focus on finishing their original billion dollar, 3 million square foot plant in Nevada near Las Vegas…but has downsides that to 650,000 square feet. They say they will open it this fall.


Screen Cost Much Higher for iPhone 8; Pricey But Cool Smartwatch; Volvo Rolls Out Cheaper Electric Car Than Tesla With Greater Range

We’ve reported, along with numerous others, that the upcoming iPhone 8 or Edition or whatever will probably break the $1000 barrier…now we know why. According to 9to5mac.com, the OLED screen and 3D Touch module is costing 60% more to make than the ones on the iPhone 7. That, along with other premium components that integrate the fingerprint sensor and allow wireless charging will cause the new hero phone to break the 1 grand barrier. BTW, that 60% increase? It’s to $15, so don’t feel sorry for Cupertino!

Even though smartwatches haven’t really caught fire…FIGURATIVELY, Samsung fans….the latest Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch is from premium watchmaker Tag Heuer partnering with Intel. Theverge.com says it’s $1600, which kind of gives perspective to the next iPhone and to the Samsung Galaxy S8 topping a thousand dollars! On the other hand, it’s a Tag Heuer, so it looks gorgeous AND it’s modular…both when you order, and later. They say you can swap out the internals when the current one becomes obsolete for new smartwatch guts or even an analog chronograph!

Volvo is out with an electric car that will compete with the Tesla Model 3, only apparently is cheaper and has better range. Bgr.com reports that the Volvo will have a 250 mile range and sell for $35,000 to $40,000. Chevy already has the Bolt out in that price band with a 238 mile range. It’s expected that since it’s a Volvo, a mini-SUV body will be offered. It’s out this year.


New GoPros Including Drone; Waze Gets Parking Help; Google’s Pixel Event; GM Sets Bolt Price & Pledges 100% Renewable Power

googleannouncement

GoPro has revealed 3 new cams- the Hero 5, Hero 5 Session, and Hero Session. Businessinsider.com says they start at $399 for the 5. They also showed a foldable drone called Karma. The Drone is $799, but can be bundled with the cams…with the Hero 5 Session the combo is $999, and it’s $1099 for the Hero 5 Black and the Karma. It has a gimbal to stabilize footage you shoot.

Parking in cities can be infuriating. Now, Google’s Waze throws you a lifeline, as they’ve partnered with Inrix to bring additional parking lot data to the Waze app. According to 9to5google.com, the beefed up parking adding parking lot data to the already available street parking data is available on both the Android and iOS Waze apps.

We reported a rumor last week about Google’s Pixel smartphone event in early October. Now it’s official. Engadget.com reports that the invites are out and the event is October 4th. Google may show 2 new Pixel branded phones, a 4K Chromecast, and a new Daydream VR headset.

GM has announced pricing for it’s all electric Bolt, due out the end of the year. Reuters.com says it will start at $37,495. This should bring it under the ‘magic’ $30,000 level with the Federal tax break of $7500. It’s supposed to go 238 miles fully charged. Also, the General has just pledged that it would move all its facilities to 100% renewable energy by 2050…that’s over 350 facilities in 59 countries! Walmart, Unilever, and Apple are also moving to all-renewable facilities.


Chevy Bolt Will Break the 200 Mi Ceiling; Netflix-Caps Are Dumb; T-Mobile iPhone Preorders Explode, Longer Tweets in Days

Chevrolet has announced that the Bolt…the smaller, all electric sibling to the hybrid Volt….will have a range of 238 miles. Engadget.com notes that 200 miles is the ‘sweet spot,’ and cars having range exceeding that seem to ease driver fear of being stranded. Chevy says the Bolt will be in showrooms before the end of the year. The Tesla Model 3 is still about a year away from hitting the roads.

Days ago, Netflix wrote the FCC, imploring the Federal Cookie Company…as broadcasters have loved to call it…to disallow data caps. Bgr.com reports that Netflix argues caps serve no legitimate purpose and ‘are an ineffective management tool,’ really serving as a way for Comcast and TWC to stifle competition…primarily from services like Netflix. The Federal Communications Commission…which generally moves with the speed of an elderly snail…has yet to respond.

For months, the tech media has whined that the iPhone 7 would be SO boring with not changing the case design that sales would tank. According to appleinsider.com, T-Mobile’s CEO says sales of the iPhone 7 are quadruple that of the iPhone 6. So far on T-Mobile, Matte Black is the most popular color…that’s what I have coming. CEO Legere has a Jet Black one on the way.

The wait is nearly over…next Monday, Twitter’s longer Tweets will finally be live. Theverge.com reminds us that media attachments…including images, videos, polls, etc, as well as quoted Tweets, will no longer count towards the 140 character limit. Usernames at the beginning of Tweets will also no longer be counted. Go crazy, Twitterati!


Apple Will Ditch iPhone Home Button in 2017; VW To Make a 2019 Electric Model that Will Charge in 15 Minutes

iPhone8 Mockup

All the rumors have said Apple plans a radical redesign to the 2017 iPhone. Earlier this year, there were stories about this year’s model losing the home button. That didn’t happen, but according to macrumors.com, the redesigned 2017 phone….which we’ll call iPhone 8…will finally lose the venerable home button, to make way for a flexible edge to edge, curved OLED screen.

Volkswagen is working on a 2019 electric car that will go 300 miles after a 15 minute charge. According to techcrunch.com, they will preview an electric Golf sized model at the Paris motor show this year. It is expected to roll out in late 2018 or early 2019 as a 2019 model. 300 miles on just a 15 minute charge could be a real game changer for electric cars if it’s priced for mass appeal.

Photo: macrumors.com


Apple Car Delayed at Least A Year; Dyson Tests Robot Vac With 360 Degree Vision

This was probably telegraphed by the fact that Steve Zadesky, who’d led Project Titan for Apple, left after 16 years with the company, but now it looks like we won’t be seeing an Apple car before 2021. 9to5mac.com says Cupertino had been shooting for 2020. One tidbit…Apple is apparently looking into its own charging systems that would replace gas stations for EV drivers. Earlier this week, Elon Musk over at Tesla claimed that 2020 would be too late for Apple to enter the market…but anyone who remembers what happened when Apple entered the mp3 player market late with the iPod isn’t going to believe that! Right now, about 600 people are still working on Project Titan, the alleged Apple car.

Dyson has been hard at work on their ‘360 Eye,’ a robotic vacuum with 360 degree vision and connectivity. It’s bigger than a Roomba, and Dyson claims it will be far better, as the software and cameras plus sensors will let it get around rooms better and easier, even if you move the couch. According to techcrunch.com, Dyson has been refining the 360 Eye concept for 18 years, and is now working on version 3. After a lot of testing in Japan and then release, the 360 Eye launches in Canada today, and will roll out in the US soon. Dyson claims they can update the software over the air, and that they plan to do so frequently. They also hint that the tech in the vacuums is more widely applicable…will we see a Dyson household robot some day like Rosie from the Jetsons?


Amazon Hosted Secret Robotics Meeting; GM Starts Pre-Production of All Electric Bolt

This week in Palm Springs, Amazon hosted an invitation only conference for experts on AI, robotics, and space exploration. Geekwire.com reports the people from Toyota, Rethink Robotics, MIT, UC-Berkeley and others were present. Amazon not only has a big interest in robots….they have over 30,000 of them working in their warehouses, made by Kiva…a company they acquired in 2012.

General Motors has begun pre-production on the all-electric Chevy Bolt, just ahead of the showing Tesla plans for their Model 3. Both vehicles are intended for a mass market, with price tags under 30 grand. Thenextweb.com notes that pre-Production may mean GM isn’t far from full production, so the Bolt could possibly be out in the Fall as a 2017 model…at least 6 months ahead of the smaller sized Tesla Model 3.


Oculus Rift Pre-Orders Open Wednesday, Leak: Galaxy S7 Water Resistant & Micro SD, & Some Crazy Car News

FaradayFuture

The long wait is nearly over for those wanting to immerse themselves in virtual reality with this highly touted device. Oculus Rift VR headsets go on pre-order at 8am Pacific tomorrow, January 6th. But…and there are always a couple of hitches…no pricing has been released yet! TechCrunch.com notes that the dev kit Rift was priced at $350, so you can count on it being more than that. Pre-orderers will get two games along with the purchase…Lucky’s Tale and Eve: Valkyrie.

A new leak indicates the the Samsung Galaxy S7 will be water resistant down to a meter…that’s 39.37 inches, and have a MicroSD slot…two features that aren’t on the S6 and S6 Edge. According to mashable.com, the MicroSD slot will support up to 200 gigs. The upcoming Samsung flagships will also have bigger batteries, revamped cameras, and a new processor.

Monday night, Faraday Future gave a peek at their modular electric car. The coupe looks like a Batmobile, is claimed to have 1000 horsepower, and do zero to 60 in under 3 seconds. As theverge.com notes, however, these are all theoretical…they haven’t produced a real car. Faraday claims it’s not vaporware, but come on, Faraday…even Preston Tucker built almost 50 pre-production models and that was in the 40’s! If you are insanely rich, and want to really stand out, Bentley has added a feature to their ‘bespoke’ collection. You can now get stone dashboards and trim to match your granite counter in the kitchen of your mansion. The bespoke line is for the ‘if you have to ask how much, you’re too poor’ crowd!


Thoughts On The Coming Apple Electric Car

It was all over the tech news yesterday, and first reported by the Wall St. Journal, that Apple had put it’s Project Titan…their car project…on the front burner, and want an Apple car on the road by 2019. Google has spoken out couple times, underscoring that they are NOT planning to actually build a Google self-driving car, but will partner with car makers. Apple’s electric car project, by the way, will apparently not be self-driving. Apple will not be building their own car. As bgr.com snarked, who is going to build it…it won’t be Foxconn! I predict that Apple will have to partner with one or more actual car maker. Right now, it takes a car maker a minimum of 4 years to get a model out, and they have the actual plants and equipment to build cars at scale. Apple doesn’t, and can’t possibly be ready to produce them by 2019. Even an electric with no EPA emission requirements will still have to meet federal standards in various countries for safety. Which manufacturer or manufacturers will they partner with, and will it be sold from present dealerships or out of Apple branded car stores, like Tesla is doing? Stay tuned.

From Microsoft’s Office blog, comes something that’s NOT vaporware…Office 2016 for Windows and Office 2016 for Mac are available now to everyone. The Windows version is more tightly integrated with both Windows 10 and Office 365, and subscribers can get more frequent updates with new features and improvements. Microsoft says the Mac version had been out since July for 365 subscribers, but now is a one-time purchase option open to all with several new and enhanced Office 365 services. As is typical for Office and Microsoft products, the features and even pricing are beyond the time constraints we have here.