Tesla Getting Saudi Cash; Samsung Suspends in China; Apple ‘Inexpensive’ Notebook; Android 9 Pie Charging Issue for Pixel XL

A little more has slipped out about Tesla going private, and one particular item may appear to be a head scratcher….Tesla could be getting funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. According to engadget.com, they already have a 5% stake in Tesla, and would like more. Some are saying the Saudis look at it as a hedge against the oil business, but it could also be that they might someday look to Tesla’s battery and solar panel expertise to power the kingdom and even export electricity. Besides oil and sand, they do have an abundance of sunlight and open space!

On the heels of a pretty positive rollout for the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung is thinking of suspending operations at one of its plants in China due to sagging sales and increasing labor costs. Reuters.com reports that Samsung may shutter its plant in Tianjin. The smartphone market overall has been experiencing slow growth as it matures and becomes relatively saturated. Local Chinese competition has also whacked Samsung’s China penetration. 5 years ago, they had 20% of that market, now it’s less than 1%…with Huawei and Xiaomi undercutting them on prices.

Macrumors.com says Quanta will be building Apple’s upcoming ‘inexpensive notebooks’ in the 4th quarter of 2018. Of course, ‘inexpensive’ is relative when it’s Apple! The cheaper notebooks should drop in September or October, but it’s not clear if they will be branded MacBook, MacBook Air, or some entirely new name. While inexpensive notebook might mean a few hundred bucks for the likes of a Chromebook, Don’t look for Apple to put out one for much less than $999!

An issue has come up with the latest release of Android, version 9…dubbed ‘Pie.’ 9to5google.com reports that fast charging over USB-C seems to have been killed in the original Pixel XL phones. Reports vary…some have said the original charger that came in the box still works, but 3rd party ones don’t. Others have said replacements from the Google Store also don’t work. In a few reports, even the charger that came in the box won’t fast charge. So far, no comment from Google on the issue, including whether a fix is comi

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3 First Cities to Get 5G; Apple May Buy Cobalt Direct from Miners; Renault’s “Smart Island”; EV Batteries May be Able to Recharge 5X Faster

Even though phones don’t have it yet, the cellular providers have been busily working on building out 5G infrastructure. We have been hearing that AT&T would have some 12 markets on the super fast cellular connection that can carry vast data loads, very soon. Now, AT&T has announced that at least 3 markets will have it by the end of this year. The lucky cities are: Atlanta, Dallas, and Waco, TX. Qualcomm has announced its first 5G modem for smartphones, but it isn’t expected to actually be out and in users new phones until 2019!

With cobalt supply iffy, Apple is in talks to buy it direct from miners. According to bloomberg, the cobalt is used in iPhone and iPad batteries, as well as in EVs. Apple wants to ensure that they have enough for their products. They are apparently working on a deal to buy several thousand metric tons of cobalt per year over a 5 year period. Samsung, BMW, and VW are also working to secure long term supplies….BMW is angling for a 10 year contract. An iPhone takes 8 grams of refined cobalt…an electric car over 1,000 times more! The price of cobalt has tripled in the last 18 months…supply and demand, you know!

Renault is experimenting with an island totally free of fossil fuels. The island in Portugal, Porto Santo, will have only renewable and independent energy production and use. Solar and wind generators, the Renault Zoe and Kango utility van electric vehicles, home batteries, etch. Engadget.com reports that the more diffuse, less massive installations can be used because the island only has 5400 people plus tourists….so won’t require anything like the Tesla Powerpack mega installation in Australia.

Some researchers at University of Warwick have discovered that the lithium-ion batteries used in most electric cars can be recharged up to 5 times faster than they presently are being charged. Engadget.com says the makers have been conservative about charging, due to fear of overheating (which can cause fires and explosions.) The researchers used a fiber optic sensor protected by a chemical layer…it is inserted right into the cell, and can track the temperature precisely. In testing on over 18000 li-ion cells, they were able to quintuple charging times. The increased time does reduce battery life, but the researchers point out that if charging time could be reduced from 25 minutes to 5, it might really jump start e-car purchases.


More Galaxy S9 Rumors; Huawei Mate 10 Coming to US New Facebook Tools & Facial Recognition; Worst Passwords

It appears that Samsung will be again aping Apple, and the Galaxy S9 will be something of an ’S’ model…virtually identical on the outside to the present model. According to bgr.com, though, there will be some desirable upgrades inside. First off, it looks like a beefy 3200 mAh battery, up 7% from the S8. Also, the S9 reportedly will support Quick Charge 3.0 tech and 12W fast wireless charging. For comparison, Apple’s iPhone X, 8, and 8 Plus just have 7W fast charging. We should see the Galaxy S9 and S9+ in late February, and they should be in hand by March.

Huawei has be rumored to be working on coming to the US via at least one of the mobile carriers. Now, 9to5google.com reports that we will probably find out who at CES next month, and that the Mate 10 will go on sale in the US in 2018. The rumor is, the Huawei hero handset will be offered through AT&T and Verizon.

Facebook has announced some new features, including one that keeps people you’ve blocked from making up a new profile and trying to contact you. Techcrunch.com says the tool kit detects the IP address and other signals to make sure the person stays blocked. They also have added one to ignore conversations, and move those to your filtered messages folder. A really slick addition now uses facial recognition to notify you if someone uploads a photo with you in it…even if you’re not tagged. You can choose to stay untagged, tag yourself, or report the photo if you think it’s inappropriate.

What are the worst passwords of the year? Splash data has put out the list, taken from over 5 million passwords that were leaked across 2017 by hackers. Macrumors.com reports that the top one is an old favorite from way back. Here are the top 5…PLEASE tell me none of you reading this has ever used these!!
1. 123456
2.password
3. 12345678
4. querty
5. 12345
If you ‘have a friend’ who’s using any of these, ask them to change to something stronger, and don’t admit it!


Phones That Could Charge in Minutes; Apple Leasing Proving Grounds for Self-Driving Cars; Renewable Energy Takes Huge Price Drop

Samsung has developed battery tech that could allow for faster battery charging than ever. Businessinsider.com reports that with the advanced tech, batteries could fast charge in 12 minutes instead of an hour for present fast charging. They did it using graphene instead of copper. The tech could be used in car batteries as well as smart devices. Samsung says they have found a way to mass produce the batteries at an affordable price, but no word on when they might become available.

It appears that Apple has leased a former Chrysler proving grounds in Arizona to test self-driving cars. According to 9to5mac.com, the land is in Wittmann, AZ. Chrysler has a newer facility in Yucca. The word was that the old facility was being sold to home builders, but now it looks like Apple is leasing the area, with has 3000 acres of fenced land, and 5000 total acres…including a city traffic course.

The march to renewable energy doesn’t look like it will be slowing soon. A story from thinkprogress.org found that steadily improving tech has dropped the prices of solar and wind power by 25% in just this year! That’s on top of an 80% reduction the past 10 years, which makes building renewable sources cheaper now than running old coal and nuclear plants.


iPhone 8 Will Not Go to USB-C; Chevy to Offer Cheap, Unlimited In-Car Data; Lyric Thermostat Talks to Alexa and Siri

After reports that Apple would ditch the Lightening port on iPhone 8, now comes a new report from KGI Securities disputing that. 9to5mac.com says the new iPhone will have internal upgrades that will support fast charging over lightening. Apparently, Apple didn’t want to go to the larger form factor if the USB-C connector…at least not yet.

Chevrolet has announced that it will offer unlimited in-car data for just $20 per month. According to thenextweb.com, it will be available on any vehicle with OnStar, and will be LTE. The system will support up to 7 devices. It will apply to cars sold in the US starting tomorrow. Ford is working on something similar which will include Europe, as more people clamor for fast connectivity in vehicles.

The Nest Learning thermostat got the ball rolling for smart thermostats and in-home smart devices, but is still pricey at $200 to $250. Now, bgr.com reports that Honeywell has rolled out the Lyric T5, a smart thermostat that can talk to Amazon’s Alexa or Apple’s Siri via HomeKit for half the price of a Nest. It’s $114.95, and great if you’re too lazy to pick up your phone to adjust the thermostat upstairs…now, you can just ask your virtual assistant to do it!


Apple Corners Smartphone Profits; Super Battery Concept Charges in Seconds & Lasts Days

They may not have the biggest market share, but according to a Strategy Analytics report picked up by 9to5mac.com, Apple took in 91% of mobile industry profits in the third quarter of 2016. Huawei had the best showing of any Android maker with 2.4%. Samsung, of course, helped Apple by taking a big loss with the recall of their fiery Galaxy Note 7 models. LG and HTC also reported losses.

Thenextweb.com reports that a new battery concept from scientists at University of Central Florida may be able to charge in seconds and last 20 times longer than a conventional lithium ion cell….possibly lasting over a week! It’s essentially a super capacitor. The battery doesn’t degrade like present ones, either…holding the same charge after 30,000 recharges. Keep your fingers crossed, if this pans out, it will be a game changer for smart devices, electric vehicles, and anything else running on batteries.


Pictures Are Out of Google’s Pixel Phone a Day Before Launch; Tesla Makes Record Deliveries; 1st Test of Solar Road Tiles

pixel-cw-1

There’s already quite a bit of information about Google’s new Pixel phones that will be rolled out tomorrow, but thanks to a new leak, there are good pictures and more. 9to5google.com notes that in the pictures, you can see a couple of cutouts next to the USB-C port that look like two rear firing speakers. Google will also tout fast charging…claiming a 15 minute charge will get you 7 hours of battery life. A big feature will be what they’re calling ‘Your own personal Google Assistant.’ Google is also going to brag that Google photos will give you ‘unlimited storage for your photos and videos,’ all at full resolution. Of course, we’ll know all after tomorrow.

Tesla has ramped up and delivered a record number of cars in the 3rd quarter. Theverge.com says they got 24,500 Teslas into the hands of customers, a 70% increase over the previous quarter. Tesla said there were another 5500 cars in transit, but that didn’t get delivered, too. They still expect to put 50,000 cars into garages and carports the 2nd half of this year.

solarroadtiles

When we reported on this idea a while back, it seemed a bit like pie in the sky….solar road tiles. Now, according to engadget.com, Solar Roadways has installed its first public energy tiles in the pavement in Sandpoint, Idaho. Besides a light show, the panels will produce power for a fountain and restrooms in a public square. Sandpoint has put in a webcam so you can see the light show part yourself.