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.

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iPhone Day September 12th; Galaxy Note 8- Record Bright Screen; New From Fitbit; Expedia CEO to Helm Uber

Multiple sources, notably the Wall St. Journal, say Apple will roll out its updated handsets, included the widely anticipated iPhone 8 on September 12th. A lot of details are already known, including wireless charging. Now, it appears Apple’s iPhone 8 and the upgraded 7’s will only support the slower wireless charging standard from Qi. If rumors are true, pre-orders will start September 15th, and phones will be out the 22nd. Apple will also drop new Apple Watch models and a 4K capable Apple TV.

Some reports in the last week have snorted that the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 isn’t much of an improvement over the 7, or the S8 models. After some testing, 9to5google.com reports that the screen brightness is 22% better than on the Galaxy S8. Tests were run by DisplayMate. The phablet is not only that much brighter than the S8, it is nearly TWICE as bright as Apple’s iPhone 7!

Fitbit has released 3 new products. According to businessinsider.com, they are a new smartwatch called the Ionic, the Fitbit Flyer, their first ever wireless headphones, and the Aria 2, a redesigned of their Wi-Fi scale. The ionic smartwatch features 4 day battery life, GPS, water resistance to 50 meters, better heart rate tracking, in-device music storage, and contactless payments. Three colors are available: Silver Gray, Smoke Gray, and Burnt Orange. All are available with interchangeable leather and sport bands. The watches start at $299.95.
The Flyer wireless headphones are of the type with interconnecting wire between, reside in-ear, and are sweat proof. They connect with the Ionic watch, so you can listen to up to 300 songs without having a smartphone along. Fitbit claims 6 hours of play time, and the tariff will be $129.95. Preorders open Monday, they’ll be in stores and online by October. They come in Lunar Gray and Nightfall Blue.

Nope. Not Jeff Immelt. Not Meg Whitman, either. Uber will be helmed by Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi. Recode.net says the board has voted on what Recode calls the ‘truce’ choice for the board, which has been squabbling about ousted CEO Travis Kalanick and investor Benchmark. Benchmark had backed Meg, while Kalanick pulled for Immelt.


The Galaxy S8’s Bixby Won’t Understand English at Release; Flying Cars Coming This Year; Fitbit’s Apple Watch Competitor & Headphone Release Pushed Back

The highly anticipated Samsung Galaxy S8 release is just days away, at April 21st, but don’t expect the much touted personal assistant Bixby with it. Arstechnica.com reports that the English language version of Bixby will probably not be released until the end of May. There is reportedly a hack to let you access Google Assistant with the dedicated Bixby button if you’d like.

AeroMobil says they will unveil their flying car later this year. Mashable.com says they will also start accepting preorders in late 2017. It runs like a regular car, and runs on regular gas, but in flight, utilizes ‘hybrid propulsion,’ a combo of the internal combustion motor and and electric one. The price hasn’t been announced, but it’s probably more than your house. The prototype will debut April 20th in Monaco at a luxury supercar show….of course.

Fitbit is reportedly having production issues with its Apple rival smartwatch and Bluetooth headphones. According to cnet.com, both were supposed to be available after midyear, but now it looks like the release has been pushed back to fall to work out the production kinks. The watch is supposed to have a color display like Apple Watch, 4 days battery life, heart rate monitor, touchless payments, and live streaming support.


UK Military Picks iPhone Over Android; Fitbit Cutting Staff 10%, Focusing On Software

Due to security concerns, the British military has gone for the iPhone 7 instead of Android. According to bgr.com, they feel the overall security is tighter. BT Group is adding some additional security level for them on the handsets. They had originally looked at the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, but just couldn’t lock it down enough, according to TechRepublic.

The wearables market still hasn’t caught fire as many expected it to, and now Fitbit is cutting 10% of its workforce. Arstechnica.com reports that the company is pivoting to software and may be developing its own app store. The cutback is expected to reduce costs $200 million as Fitbit is getting ready to announce lower than expected Q4 earnings. Fitbit did show a freshened app at CES. With purchases of both Pebble and Vector, a European smartwatch startup, it’s possible that Fitbit may be writing a complete OS that could power a future full blown smartwatch.


Apple iPhone ‘Ferrari’; Wearables Market Hitting the Skids

As we’ve reported, it’s looking more and more like there will be 3 iPhone models next year….a couple of incremental upgrades to the 7 and 7 Plus, and a ‘wow’ factor model. Bgr.com reports that a new leak says the top line iPhone 8 is code named ‘Ferrari.’ The leak also outed the internal code numbers for the models. Interestingly, Chinese site cnBeta claims Apple will drop prices noticeably on the 7s and 7s Plus models to grab market share, with the 8 commanding a premium price…maybe even more than the present models do.

Apple still says its Watch sales are ‘doing great,’ without releasing figures to back that up, but according to a report from eMarketer picked up by techcrunch.com, wearables like the Fitbit and Apple Watch were supposed to grow 60% from 2015 to 2016, but only grew 25%. It should be pointed out that a lot of product categories would kill to have growth as high as 25%, but in a newish tech category, expectations are always high. Without making a clear case for people to want or need a smartwatch, those wearables in particular have failed to impress enough buyers. eMarketer expects wearable devices to hit 15.8% of the population this year, and 21.1% by 2020. Apple Watch did sell better in the runup to the holidays this year, but market watchers are skeptical that Apple alone can save the wearable category as a whole.


Galaxy S8 Goes Stereo; iPhone 7s Will See Red; Fitbit Buys and Kills Pebble

Samsung has had some of it’s best successes borrowing things from Apple, so one would think they’d poach the dual cameras of the iPhone 7 Plus for the Galaxy S8. Well, according to bgr.com, the feature they are thinking about grabbing and highlighting is actually stereo speakers. This rumor comes from Fone Arena, and Samsung will not only pick up on iPhone’s stereo speakers, but look to HTC for the marketing. HTC has featured a stereo setup they called BoomSound, and Samsung will be cooking up a flashy name for theirs. Sadly, it won’t be Harman. Although they bought the upscale audio company, they won’t be able to integrate Harman luxury tech into the Galaxy series until 2018.

Apple iPhones are going to see red next year….and we’re not talking about Product (Red.) 9to5mac.com reports they will actually have a red chassis color to add to Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. 9to5mac.com picked up the rumor from Macotakara, which correctly touted the demise of the headphone jack. They do differ with KGI Securities, though on the upcoming iPhones. The Japanese site says there will be a high line iPhone 8 with wireless charging and the glass case, but the other two models will be named iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, and will keep metal cases without wireless charging, but will get upgraded internals.

Fitbit has officially bought Pebble. Thenextweb.com says, they also took about 40% of the employees…virtually all from the software side, and they are killing off the smartwatches and Pebble OS. They will be doing more to develop apps for Fitbit products, and haven’t decided if they will even use the Pebble brand. People who contributed to Kickstarter for upcoming Pebble products will get refunds.


Much Bigger Apple Watch Battery; Possible Light Blue iPhone; Subtile Improvements to Fitbit Charge 2

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A key rumor about the Apple Watch 2. Macrumors.com has picked up a report out of China from Weibo that the 42mm Watch will have a 35% bigger battery. Prior rumors had a faster processor, GPS, barometer, superior waterproofing…but apparently NO cellular. It may launch with the iPhone in a bit over a week.

Speaking of the iPhone 7, invites to the media should be going out this week for a showing next week, if the rumors are right. Bgr.com has spotted Tweets with a new blue color, and it’s a cool light grayish blue, not the very dark color mentioned earlier. If so, it could be hotter than the Rose Gold was when Apple introduced it. [Update: The invitations are out, and the iPhone 7 rollout date is officially September 7th. The event will be at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco.]

No ‘wow’ features in Fitbit’s Charge 2, but some nice adds to a lot of peoples’ constant companion. Techcrunch.com says they have added removable bands. A standard fitness one is $30, while a premium leather band sets you back $70. The Charge 2 is a bit more streamlined than the previous model. As for tracking, it can tell if you’re walking or using an elliptical, and Fitbit has added Guided Breathing. It has two and 5 minute sessions, allowing the device to be used as a meditation wearable. It’s $150.