Fitbit Charge 3; Tesla Roadster Preview; EU Targets Terror Content; Pepsi Buying SodaStream

Fitbit has unveiled the Charge 3…and the new device seems to blur the line between full smartwatches (including their own Ionic and Versa models) and fitness trackers. Theverge.com says the overall shape and size are pretty much identical to the Charge 2, but the new device has an aluminum body and Gorilla Glass 3 display (like the Versa). More notably, it has a real touchscreen, and supports grayscale colors instead of just black and white. It’s water resistant to 50 meters, has a better heart rate sensor, and the same oxygen saturation sensor as Fitbit’s smartwatches. Fitbit says it will run up to 7 days on a charge.You can also get app notifications, like from calls, calendar reminders, and the like…Android users can even use canned responses for a quick reply right from their wrist. The base model is $149.95, with a Special Edition at $169.95 offering NFC and Fitbit Pay. It comes in a graphite color or rose gold. Preorders are open today, it should hit stores in October.

The Tesla Roadster is supposed to be out in 2020, but you can get a preview of it on the Jay Leno’s Garage show on CNBC August 23rd. Engadget.com reports that Leno will talk to Tesla design chief Franz von Holzhausen about the hot offering. The Roadster is reported to use TV cams instead of outside mirrors to reduce drag, and have a yoke style steering ‘wheel’, much like aircraft have had for decades.

The European Union is cracking down on tech companies after trying to let them voluntarily delete terrorist propaganda and extremist violence. Now, according to cnet.com, the EU will be imposing tough new rules, including one requiring social medial companies to remove terrorist content within one hour. In response, Facebook says it has now set up programs that identified 99% of terrorist propaganda before anyone has a chance to report it to the company…but has struggled more with hate speech.

Pepsi has announced that it’s snapping up SodaStream for 3.2 million. TechCrunch.com says Pepsi sees the move to online grocery buying and delivery, and wants to have the in-home presence. Of course, the SodaStream also appeals to the sustainability crowd, who abhor disposable plastic bottles and straws. The deal should close in January.

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Apple Car in 5+ Years; OneDrive Auto Backup for All; Fitbit Charge 3-Touchscreen; MoviePass Zombie Accounts

A VP of engineering recently left Tesla to go back to Apple. He had previously worked at Ford. This seemed to point to Apple shifting Project Titan back to building an Apple car, not just software they could sell to auto makers. Now, Ming-Chi Kuo, who has one of the most accurate records when it comes to Apple predictions, says Apple will launch an Apple Car between 2023 and 2025, and calls it ‘the next star product.’ According to macrumors.com, Kuo thinks Apple will revolutionize the auto business the way they did the phone market with the iPhone in 2007. Apple’s work in AR could help ‘differentiate the Apple Car from peers’ products.’

If you are on Windows 10 and use Microsoft’s OneDrive, MS has added a great new feature…OneDrive can now automatically back up documents, pictures, and desktop folders. Theverge.com reports that if you use multiple Win 10 PCs, OneDrive folder protection will automatically keep all these folders in sync, too! Business users saw this feature appear available in June, but now it’s coming out for all users. Just hit OneDrive Settings, and go to the Auto Save tab, then click the update folders button.

The upcoming Fitbit Charge 3 will have a full touchscreen, unlike the present Charge 2 with its quasi-touchscreen. TechCrunch.com says that, in addition, Android Authority has discovered that it will be swim-proof down to 50 meters, and have notification reply capability, but on the down side…it won’t have built-in GPS….so you’ll still have to schlep your smartphone along for a jog if you want GPS data. No pricing has leaked out, but the fitness tracker should be out in plenty of time for the holiday season.

MoviePass may be only 3 months from ‘passing away,’ but in the meantime, has a new issue for subscribers…or former subscribers…to deal with. According to engadget.com, people who had cancelled their accounts, then later either checked the app about their account or just to see what movies were available (there were TWO last weekend) got a splash screen with ‘Updates to Your MoviePass Plan’. If you clicked the ‘agree’ button to make it go away, MoviePass reactivated your account! There’s an X in the upper right corner…best to click that and close the screen. Meanwhile, MoviePass will run out of money in 90 days if some movie angel doesn’t show up with lots of cash.


Triple Lens iPhone Cam-in ’19; Fitbit Adds Female Health Tracking, Quick Replies; Facebook’s Oculus Go Ingeniously Ditches Headphones; California Requires Solar on New Homes

‘You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.’ That’s what Frank Sinatra sang in “That’s Life,” and that’s the story as far as Apple’s iPhone getting a 3 lens camera system this fall! According to appleinsider.com, reports from analysts checking with a couple of Apple vendors indicate that the 3 lens system isn’t going to make it by this September. The system will allegedly include a 5x optical zoom instead of the 2x one on present iPhones. The third lens may also improve low light image quality or even play a part in range finding, or possibly add new camera effects. Personally, I hope the earlier rumors are right anyway…the zoom feature is one I have used the most on my iPhone 7 Plus.

Fitbit has rolled out two new features…’female health tracking’ (on iOS and Windows now, Android is on the way), and quick replies on Android with an Ionic or Versa. theverge.com says the female health tracking was announced a couple months ago when the Versa was unveiled. It allows for logging data about periods, including symptoms like cramps or acne. Over time, this should give women more accurate cycle predictions. The quick replies feature can be used to respond to texts or messages in apps like Facebook Messenger. they include yes and no, but also ‘sounds good,’ ‘can’t talk now, will reply later,’ and ‘what’s up?’ You can also customize them, but they have to stay 60 characters or less.

The big reveal on Facebook’s new Oculus Go headsets at F8 was that they operate entirely without an attached computer. It was immediately noted that there were no headphones or earbuds attached, though. Now, businessinsider.com reports why. Oculus has ingeniously built little speakers into the front of the side straps on the $200 VR headset. This means a bit less immersive experience, since your ears aren’t sealed in, but that might be a plus if you are viewing on a plane, train, or bus. BTW, there IS an audio jack right by the micro USB charging port if you insist on plugging in your own headphones or earbuds.

California has often been the trendsetter for many decades, and is ramping up to do it again. According to engadget.com, the states Energy Commission will begin requiring solar panels on roofs of almost all new homes, condos, and apartment buildings by 2020. There will be exceptions for homes that can’t fit panels, or would be blocked by taller buildings or trees. There will also be compliance credits for builders that install batteries like the Tesla Powerwall. It’s estimated that this will add $25,000 to $30,000 to the initial cost, but then will save owners $50,000 top $60,000 over the 25 year lifespan of the solar system. the final vote at the Energy Commission is May 9th, and it is widely expected that the rule making will pass.


T-Mobile & Sprint to Merge; Twitter Also Sold Data to Cambridge Analytica; Siri Mother-Effing Glitch; Fitbit To Use Google Cloud Healthcare API; Dating Apps Employ Paid Impersonators

It’s been a while in the making, but over the weekend, T-Mobile & Sprint announced their $146 billion merger. The companies are crowing about how the combination will bring the only company with the network capacity to launch a nationwide 5G network, according to bgr.com. The merged company will keep the T-Mobile name, and John Legere insists they will stay ‘magenta.’ Legare will be the CEO, and they will remain in Bellevue, WA but keep a second headquarters in Overland Park, KS, the present home of Sprint.

Twitter confirmed Saturday that Dr. Kogan, who supplied data from Facebook to Cambridge Analytica, also bought a one-time API that gained access to a random sample of public Tweets over a 5 month period. In a Bloomberg report picked up by techcrunch.com, Twitter claims that the company didn’t find any access to private data about people who use Twitter. The net is, Cambridge would have been unable to get the treasure trove of personal data from Twitter it got from Facebook, but after an investigation, Twitter has decided to off-board advertising from all accounts owned and operated by Cambridge Analytica.

Another embarrassing glitch has popped up involving Apple’s Siri. Arstechnica.com reports that if you ask it to ‘define the word mother,’ then wait for the assistant to offer an additional definition and say yes, Siri will offer ‘As a noun, it means short for “motherf**ker.” ‘ Be careful trying this out in public…

Fitbit has announced that it is partnering with Google to use their new Cloud Healthcare API to help you and your doctors to manage your healthcare better. Cnet.com says the deal will eventually let users connect results from Fitbit wearables to your electronic medical records. The deal will help Fitbit stay in the game with the likes of Apple Watch, which has the CareKit and ResearchKit platforms to manage medical conditions.

If you use a dating app, you could have flirted with a paid impersonator called a ‘closer.’ According to quartz, there are people who do this for prospective daters that find it to much work or too tedious to do the actual online flirting! One paid impersonator said the makes a screaming $1.75 for every phone number he gets, and the service…which spans a number of dating sites…has quite an extensive training program. If you are too lazy or too clueless to do the online flirting youself, check out ViDA….and good luck when you meet someone in person, and can’t flirt in real life, either!


Apple Buys Texture; Fitbit Releases 2 New Models; Tesla Model 3 Production Pains

Apple has picked up Texture, the digital newsstand, focusing in on content ‘from trusted sources.’ Techcrunch.com says the so-called Netflix of Magazine Publishing will continue to operate as it has, offering some 200 magazines online for the monthly $9.99 fee. The service will continue to run on apps for iOS, Android, Amazon Kindle Fire, and Windows 8 and 10. Texture has been owned by Conde Nast, Hearst, Meredith, Rogers Media, and investment firm KKR.

Fitbit has rolled out a couple of new models. The Versa is positioned as an Apple Watch competitor, while the Ace is touted as being kid friendly. Macrumors.com reports that the Versa, which is more rounded at the corners than previous models, is the lightest metal smartwatch in the US…made of ultra-thin, anodized aluminum. It has a brighter touchscreen and battery that lasts over 4 days on a charge. The Ace looks like a slimmer Fitbit and band, and is for kids 8 and up. It will track steps, active minutes, and sleep on a 5 day battery charge. It works with a Fitbit family account, so parents can monitor and control what the kids connect with. It launches in Q2, but can be pre-ordered today for $99.95 from fitbit.com. The Versa ls also open for preorders at $199.95 at the website, and other online retailers by tomorrow.

Production of the Tesla Model 3 continues to sputter. The company shut down production February 20th to the 24th to ‘improve automation and systemically address bottlenecks,’ according to engadget.com. So much for 5,000 units per week in March. The new goal is 5,000 per week in June.


Amazon Buys Ring; Apple Watch Tracks Skiing & SnowBoarding; Cheaper Fitbit Coming; BMW Smartphone Car Key

Amazon has swallowed up Ring, the smart doorbell and video maker. Ring’s WiFi equipped doorbells with cam detect when there is someone at the door, and notify you via your smartphone or tablet, and allow talkback. Geekwire.com says Amazon claims it will let Ring operate pretty autonomously like they have done with Zappos and Twitch, but expect tighter integration with Alexa powered devices as the online giant moves further into IoT.

As of today, if you have an Apple Watch Series 3, you can track skiing and snowboarding activity. Macrumors.com reports that apps snoww, Slopes, Squaw Alpine, Snocru, and Ski Tracks have been updated to enable custom tracking of specialized metrics including: total vertical descent and horizontal distance, number of runs, average and maximum speeds, total time spent, and of course, calories burned. Right now the SkiTracks app is integrated with Activity and Workout, so it will show up as credit towards Activity rings, and Snowcru will port active calorie measurements to the Activity app. Besides a Series 3 watch with the altimeter function, you’ll need WatchOS 4.2 or later. The apps are in the App Store now.

Fitbit didn’t get the kind of sales they wanted with the $300 Ionic smartwatch when it came out last fall. Now, cnet.com says they are close to rolling out a lower priced watch. Leaked renderings show a more rounded case, and the lower line watch won’t have GPS, but will have 50 meter water resistance. The lower priced watch apparently looks a lot like the Pebble Time Steel, which Pebble was making before Fitbit bought them a couple years ago. No pricing or precise release date is out as yet.

BMW showed a smartphone enabled car locking and unlocking at Mobile World Congress this week. According to mashable.com, the BMW Digital Key will be available to owners with Samsung smartphones. Besides the lock function, you can start the car from the phone, and there’s a wireless charging pad. Apparently, up to 5 family members will be able to use the feature, as long as they are on Samsung phones. BTW, you will still need the physical key fob to drive…for now.


Alexa for Business; Automation vs Jobs; iPhone Batteries Getting Apple Power Management; Smart Wearables Starting to Take Off

Amazon is apparently gearing up to release a version of Alexa for business. More could be out later today at the Amazon Web Services re:Invent meetings. A CNBC report picked up by Geekwire.com says the release would focus on features and skills for workers and businesses. One tricky issue still being navigated is how to authenticate who is speaking so access can be granted based on their permissions.

On a related topic, there’s a new report out that sees up to 375 million workers displaced by AI, robots, or some other form of automation by 2030! The report was produced by the McKinsey Global Institute, which notes that displaced doesn’t mean REplaced. Some will be, but many will add new job skills…others will need to switch occupations. Full employment will be more difficult to attain. The report says what it calls ‘predictable physical work,’ including dish washing, food preparation, and protective services, will take the biggest hit. Demand will increase in India and Mexico, but the US might see 31% less jobs!

Apple is busily working on its own power management chips for iPhone batteries. According to macrumors.com, they could be out in phones in 2 years, and will give users better battery life. Cupertino could replace half the main power management chips in iPhones as soon as next year, but it might be 2019 before they are being built into all Apple mobile devices.

After a very slow start, smart wearables are beginning to take off. Cnet.com reports that global shipments of wearables hit 26.3 million devices in the third quarter of this year, up 7.3%. Most of the growth is in smart wearables…those that can run third party apps. In fact, basic wearables actually declined, but smart watches like the Apple Watch and Android Wear increased by 60%. Fitbit and Xiaomi tied for 1st place in the market, with the Apple Watch third.