iPad Pro May Get Face ID; Google Looking to Release 3 Pixel 3’s; Asus ZenBook Pro Replaces Touchpad with Touch Screen; Firefox Tests Side by Side Browsing

After yesterday’s preview of iOS 12 at Apple’s WWDC, some techies have noticed changes that indicate that the upcoming refresh of the iPad Pro will have Face ID and no home button. Macrumors.com reports that the higher line iPads will also get gestures that match the iPhone X, like swiping up from the dock to open the home screen, and a swipe from top right to open the Control Center. Since no hardware was shown at WWDC’s keynote, most analysts think freshened iPads and maybe MacBook Pros may come later in the fall, after the iPhone rollout in September.

It looks like Google will be following Apple in adding a 3rd phone to the Pixel line with the Pixel 3’s. According to bgr.com, there will be a Pixel 3 and larger Pixel 3 XL, as expected, but also a cheaper Pixel 3 version…probably coming in 2019, which will run a midrange Snapdragon 710 processor instead of the latest and greatest ones expected in the other Pixel 3’s. The cheaper model just went into development last month, but should be out the first half of next year.

First we got the MacBook Pro with the semi-useful ‘Touch Bar.’ now Asus has introduced the ZenBook Pro with a 5.5 inch touch screen in place of the touch pad. Although kind of gimmicky, the touch screen may be more useful overall than Apple’s Touch Bar. Theverge.com says it adds, rather than taking away features from the keyboard. The touch screen can be used as an app launcher, calculator, calendar, or numeric keypad. You can even play back YouTube videos via a Chrome extension. Asus has partnered with Microsoft, and you can get access to Word, Excel, and Powerpoint shortcuts and adjustments via the pad. It hits the market the middle of next month starting at $2299.

Firefox has released a pilot of some features. One is a Theme Editor that lets you choose colors and even textures and background….if you happen to be very OCD about your browser. The other feature reported by techcrunch.com is pretty cool if you’ve used a later model iPad. With the iPad, you can pull in another window and run a second app, switching between the two…I have found this handy with social media like Facebook and a slide over of my Twitter feed. Firefox is piloting Side View..you can use a widescreen monitor and display two tabs side-by-side inside the browser without having to open a second Firefox window. This can be very handy…here’s hoping they make it a standard feature.

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Microsoft Plans Cheaper iPad Rival; Apple Vein Face Scan; New Whole Foods Discount for Prime Members

Microsoft is gearing up to release a line of lower cost Surface tablets by later this year that would compete with the hot selling cheaper iPad. Bloomberg.com reports that the last (somewhat) cheaper Surface kind of bombed at $499 back in 2012, but the pricey Pro has sold well. Of course the cheaper iPad is just over $300, so that may be a sweet spot. The cheaper Surface would have a 10 inch screen…just above the 9.7 inch size of the iPad. It is expected to sell for $400, will have USB-C, and be lighter than present Surface tablets. That comes at the cost of battery life…only 4 hours! The Surface Pro can make 13.5 hours on a charge. Again look for these the 2nd half of the year.

As if Apple’s Face ID and the fact that Ticketmaster is testing out facial recognition for concert admission wasn’t enough, now Apple may be going deeper…literally. According to appleinsider.com, Apple is are looking at taking biometrics to the next level…scanning the veins in a user’s face! In a patent just published called ‘Vein imaging using detection of pulsed radiation,’ Apple can scan the blood vessel patterns below the skin in your face. They claim it can even tell identical twins apart. By the way, ‘radiation’ is relative…you won’t glow in the dark…it’s from infrared light, not radioactive material! As with all Apple patents, this may or may not make it into a phone.

In an effort to build business, Amazon has dangled two new discounts for Prime members at Whole Foods. Arstechnica.com says one is an additional 10% off sale items, and another is ‘deep discounts’ on select best-selling items (or what grocers have called ‘loss leaders’ for decades.’) The deep discounts at Whole Foods will include meat and fish, however. The first deep discount items include organic strawberries, wild-caught halibut, cold brew coffee, and granola.


Next iPhones May Sport Smaller Notch; Tesla Model 3-Lots of Voice Commands; Google Devices Causing WiFi Outages

After getting universally panned for the notch at the top of the screen, it seems reviewers and actual people really embraced the blacked out area on the iPhone X where Face ID and the front cam live. Now, macrumors.com hears that Apple is looking into combining Face ID and the front cam to produce a smaller notch in the iPhone X successors that will be out in September 2019. It doesn’t look like the combined setup will make this year’s phones. It isn’t clear at this point how they would roll the infrared camera, dot projector, and flood illuminator all into the cam module, but Apple has dumped $821 million into LG Innotek, the company that will make most of all the 3D sensing modules for the upcoming iPhones.

With an answer to a question on Twitter, Elon Musk revealed that the Tesla Model 3…once production is really humming….will be getting a whole slew of voice control options. TechCrunch.com reports that Musk said in response to the question that once the software people got the core product right, you’ll be ‘able to do pretty much anything via voice command’ in the Model 3. So how about “Tesla…Tea. Earl Gray. Hot?”

This isn’t exactly something you want to hear…Google Home and Chromecast devices are causing temporary outages on many routers from ASUS, Linksys, Netgear, TP-Line, and Synology. According to 9to5Google.com, some become completely inoperable for a little bit, and others just drop their internet connection. The short explanation: the Google devices send a giant burst of information when they wake from sleep mode, causing the routers to drop their net connection or shut down the connection to the device. Google says they have a team working quickly to come up with a fix.


Facebook Goes for Home Device Market; LG to Make Face ID Tech for Some iPhones & iPads; Galaxy S9 Bowing at Mobile World Congress

Not much the general public can use has come out of Facebook’s secretive Building 8, the hardware development projects facility. Now, according to cheddar.com, something with mass appeal may be on the way. Apparently, Facebook is looking at dropping a video chat device called Portal in May Cath their developer conference. Facebook isn’t aiming at the smart assistant market, but more of a way for families and friends to stay connected via video chat and other social features. It will sport a wide angle lens and be able to recognize faces and associate them with their facebook accounts. The device has tentively been priced $499, but may be rolled out for less, since Amazon has the Echo Show selling at $230. The Portal will be sold online and through pop up stores.

Apple has dropped some serious change in LG division Innotek. Macrumors.com reports that Cupertino expects LG Innotek to build out additional facilities to produce 3D sensing and cam modules for Face ID in the next round of iPhone X and upcoming iPads. It’s expected that Apple will roll out an updated iPhone X in September, along with a larger X Plus, and a midrange phone with LCD screen instead of OLED. All will have Face ID, as will at least one iPad this year.

You won’t have to wait much longer for the Samsung Galaxy S9. Bgr.com says Samsung will unveil their latest hero handset at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the end of February. This date is actually a couple weeks later than some had been saying. If it’s the folding Galaxy X you’re lusting after, Samsung Mobile boss DJ Koh says that may not be out until 2019.


Samsung Upcoming Exynos Chip Challenges iPhone X; Lenovo’s Cool Low Tech Laptop Feature; Philip Morris Says It Will Ditch Cigarettes

Leading up to this year’s CES, Samsung is showing off its new Exynos 9810 chip, that will power some of the Galaxy S9 Smartphones. 9to5google.com says it brings a 40% bump in multi-core performance. With an obvious reference to iPhone X, Samsung says it uses neural networks for “accurately recognizing people or items in photos for fast image searching or categorization, or through depth sensing, scan a user’s face in 3D for hybrid face detection.” Samsung also mentions in a news release “realistic face-tracking filters” and “stronger security when unlocking a device with one’s face.” So, they are not only teasing their answer to Face ID, but also Apple’s popular animoji. They also tout an improved portrait mode. It looks like the S9 will be breathing down the neck of iPhone X when it rolls out later this spring.

We get so excited about the latest and greatest into the weeds high tech advancements, that sometimes it pays to pull back and admire an elegant low tech feature addition. According to businessinsider.com, the new Lenovo laptops will have such a feature. No more piece of tape or post-it note over your webcam! Lenovo has added a built in webcam cover. If you want to use the cam, just slide the cover…which Lenovo has dubbed the ThinkShutter cover, and cam or Skype away. No worries about the sticky note falling off at an inappropriate time!

Advancing tech may be finally killing off the cigarette. Philip Morris…venerable maker of Marlboro, Chesterfield, and Parliament….has announced it will be phasing out cigarette production. Bgr.com says the maker will abandon smoking products for so-called ‘smoke free products.’ They will make ‘heated tobacco’ gadgets that don’t actually burn the stuff and eCigarettes and vaping devices that deliver nicotine without any tobacco use. All these may be only marginally better than smoking, but it’s at least a step in the right direction. For non-smokers, it’s a huge plus…no more smelling nasty second hand smoke while someone gets their nicotine fix nearby!


Apple Invests in Laser Chips for iPhone; T-Mobile Launching TV Service; Amazon Expands Same and One Day Delivery Service; Target Enters Same Day Delivery Biz

Apple has plowed $390 million into laser chip maker Finisar. Cnet.com says they will use the money to refurbish a plant in Texas to make chips designed for iPhones, running features like Face ID, animojis, and portrait photography. The plant is in Sherman Texas, and will employ 500 skilled workers…Finisar expects to start shipping by the 2nd half of 2018.

Oft times renegade wireless provider T-Mobile is launching a TV service in 2018, with the purchase of Layer4 TV. According to geekwire.com, T-Mobile CEO John Legere says will take on cable companies Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Charter, Frontier and Fox with the same competitive zeal that he has applied to Sprint, AT&T and Verizon. Legere made the announcement in a video, noting about cable and satellite providers ‘It’s no secret that these guys are the absolute worst”

Amazon has announced that it is expanding same day and one day delivery service to thousands more cities for Prime members. Now, the rapid deliveries will be available in some 8,000 cities! Faster delivery has been a major selling point for Prime, and lately Walmart has been getting into Amazon’s jeans with their 2 day delivery service. Now, techcrunch.com reports that Target is buying same day delivery service Shipt for $550 million. Shipt will run as an independent division of Target, and work to expand partnerships with other retailers in addition to serving Target. Target customers will need to sign up to be able to use Shipt. The first products available for same-day delivery will include groceries, non-perishable essentials, home and electronics equipment, and will expand over time to include all of Target’s wares by 2019.


3 New iPhones Next Year; HomePod With Face ID; Sweat ID to Unlock Phones; Self-Driving Trucks Proliferation

Apple is due to roll out 3 new iPhones next year…two with OLED screens. Businessinsider.com reports that there will be a model like the present iPhone X, a king-sized OLED screen version with a 6.5 inch screen, and a 6.1 inch LCD screen version which will sell for substantially less money. All 3 will have the full screen design and TrueDepth Camera for 3D sensing and Face ID. This is all according to Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI securities, who has one of the best track records on future Apple devices. The LCD screen model will sell for between $649 and $749, with the two OLED screen models aimed at ‘the high end market.’

With Apple pressing ahead on Face ID, the iPad and MacBooks are a no-brainer, but here’s one you may not have thought of…apparently, Apple is looking at adding the feature to it’s 2nd generation HomePods. Appleinsider.com notes that obviously the feature won’t make it into the model that comes out in a few weeks, but we may see it by 2019. If so, they will have to develop a system that allows more than one user…the iPhone is one to one right now.

With fingerprint readers on many phones, and Apple adding Face ID across their line, here’s a new biometric that sounds weird but may be hard to crack…’Sweat ID.’ Thenextweb.com says scientists at University if Albany think the unique amino acid profile in our sweat could accurately and securely authenticate us to unlock devices. Unlike your fingerprints, which can be copied, and same (albeit with greater difficulty) with Face ID, it would be harder for someone to take a reading of your perspiration profile. Researchers claim that no two people can have the same profile…and no, you don’t have to have sweaty palms to use it…the sensors detect a very small amount of sweat from the eccrine glands on your fingertips!

Otto made a beer run across Colorado on autopilot in one, Tesla will show off their electric big rig this week with at least some self-driving ability…but meanwhile, a startup called Embark has been making runs since early October. According to Wired, Embark has been hauling loads of new Frigidaires from El Paso, TX to Palm Springs, Ca under the radar. A driver picks the trailer load up at the warehouse, gets them to a rest stop on the highway, and then hands off to another driver with a self-driving cab that makes the run to CA. The human driver rides along, but the truck basically plods along in the slow lane at the limit all the way to CA. Daimler, Volvo, and Tesla are working on this, and Uber’s Otto made one trip, but Embark is out there doing it!