Galaxy Note 8 Design Leak;, Microsoft Surface Plus Upgrade Plan; Ford’s ‘Good Neighbor Mode’

A new leak of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 shows it will keep the squared off, boxy shape of the Note 7, but uses a curved, edge-to-edge ‘Infinity Display’ that covers almost the entire front surface. There’s no physical home key. Businessinsider.com reports that it has a dual rear camera. On the front, there’s an infrared iris scanner for secure access, but the fingerprint reader is unfortunately on the back. Samsung will roll it out August 23rd in New York.

Ahh, planned obsolescence…something the tech industry has learned well from the auto industry. There are upgrade plans for your smartphone from both manufacturers and phone companies to keep you in the latest and greatest…for a price. Now, according to thenextweb.com, you can upgrade your PC every 18 months with Microsoft’s new Surface Plus program. The deal lets you pay off your computer in 24-month installments with zero interest if paid off in time (otherwise, it’s 19.99%!) If you trade in your old computer in working condition, you can start a new plan after 18 months. Check it out at microsoft.com or Microsoft Stores in the US.

Some of us who like cars have opted for a so-called ‘more aggressive’ exhaust system. Harley Davidson motorcycles have a characteristic sound. Now, Ford…which decades ago touted a model that was quieter than a Rolls Royce…has introduced ‘Good Neighbor Mode.’ Cnet.com notes that there are already a few cars like Aston Martin that have so-called silent start modes, but Ford is bringing one to the 2018 Mustang GT that you can schedule ahead of time. Starting in Quiet Exhaust mode cuts the sound level to about 72 decibels, close to what your dishwasher sounds like. You can program it ahead, so you can start off quiet at 7am, then let ‘er roar when you fire it up later in the day. Just the thing if you have crabby neighbors who don’t appreciate cars that are fun.


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!


Ford Will Build Electric SUV; Amazon’s Fire TV Baked in to Some 4K TVs; Intel Inside-Your Car

Ford will produce and all electric SUV in 2020. Theverge.com reports it will be built in Flat Rock, Michigan, and will sport a range of 300 miles on a charge. They are also cooking up hybrid versions of the Mustang and F-150 pickup. Present electric vehicles are mostly stuck in the low 200’s for range, with the Chevy Bolt claiming 238 miles and the upcoming Tesla Model 3 at 215. Ford is also testing wireless charging for their models.

Amazon’s Fire TV will now come in several lower cost 4K TV models. According to Variety.com, Seiki, Westinghouse and Element Electronics will all roll out Fire powered TVs this year ranging from 43 to 65 inch screen models. An integrated mic will double as a direct line to Amazon’s Alexa assistant.

Intel has announced the ‘Go’ brand, and will build chips aimed at the self-driving car market. Cnet.com says Intel’s driving group has a $250 million R&D budget, and they will go head to head with Nvidia and Qualcomm in trying to get car makers to integrate their processors in upcoming self-drivers.


Waze Ridesharing Coming to San Francisco; Google Dropping Nexus Brand; Ford Patents Button Press Car Passcodes

In what may be a precursor to driverless service, Google is going to open up a ride share pilot program through the Waze app this fall. They had already tested a smaller version near Google headquarters that allowed people to grab a ride with another Waze user. Appleinsider.com says this may not just be aimed at Uber and Lyft, but to get a head start on Apple in the driverless car arena. The service will roll out in San Francisco.

Google is also dropping the Nexus brand for its smartphones. Theverge.com reports that they’ll still be made by HTC, but will be branded with a ‘G’ logo. For the first time, they won’t run a ‘pure’ version of Android. The next version of Google phones will be slightly smaller, with 5 inch and 5.5 inch screen models offered. This will be the first use of the Google brand on hardware for the company.

Ford has patented an interesting method to safeguard your car. With key fobs being relatively easy to hack, Ford has developed a way to set a security code with a series of presses. Cnet.com notes that the interesting part is it’s not all buttons, which makes it much tougher to hack. It will use the radio buttons, both on the dash and steering wheel, and the brake pedal. The car won’t start without the correct sequence. It could be used with keyless and keyed entry systems, or maybe without any key fob at all. No word from Ford on when…or if…the feature might be available.


Ford Driving for 2021 for Self-Driving Car; Amazon Patents Several Drone Systems

Ford announced yesterday that they expect to have self-driving cars on the road by 2021…the same time frame as Google and Apple’s secretive Project Titan. According to appleinsider.com, the car will be specifically built ‘’for ride sharing and ride hailing.’ The cars will have no steering wheel or pedals, and will only drive a pre-programmed area that’s been 3D mapped. Ford says these will meet SAE Level 4 standards for autonomous operation…Tesla and Mercedes only make Level 2 right now. Ford didn’t say if the cars would be hybrid, electric, or even still take old-fashioned gasoline.

A couple of interesting patents show that Amazon is looking at different kinds of drones for different applications. Geekwire.com reports that one shows 4 rotors in a protective shroud. Another design has shrouded rotors, plus two smaller pusher props, and a fixed wing. It’s thought the shrouds are to protect people and property in the event of a crash. The extended wing would provide extra lift, perhaps giving the small electric motors more range and a better flying time than 20 minutes, like a lot of drones out there now. Amazon has said they have a goal of delivering small packages weighing 5 pounds or less in a half hour or less.


iPhone 7 May Have Fast Charging; New Audis Help With Speed & Green Lights; Ford Teams With Baidu, Buying LIDAR Tech

According to a rumor out of Asia, Apple’s iPhone 7 will have improved, fast charging circuitry supporting at least 5 volt, 2 amp charging. Right now, iPhone chargers put out a measly one amp. According to appleinsider.com, Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge already have fast charge tech that gets them from totally drained to half charged in 30 minutes. As a lot of iPhone users have griped for years that their phones don’t even make it through the day, this will be a welcome upgrade if true.

New Audi models have what is really a gimmick, but a pretty cool one at that. Arstechnica.com reports that they’ll have a display that will show the real time time to green light countdown in cities that have city-wide traffic management systems. It will be on 2017 A4s and Q7s. Now, you’ll be able to check that display, and know when to mash the pedal to the metal and beat that light. As Evel Knievel used to say, ‘Speed and Green Lights!’ (Ok, no he didn’t…I made that up.)

Ford and Chinese search giant Baidu have dropped a combined 150 million into LIDAR tech. Theverge.com says the two companies, which are both hard at work on developing self-driving tech, have invested in Velodyne, a Silicon Valley operation that makes LIDAR sensors for autonomous cars. LIDAR works on the same principle as RADAR, except using light waves, which gives you the ability to make more detailed 3D maps of what’s around the vehicle. Baidu already has 100 people in the Valley working on self-driving tech, and Ford plans to triple the size of its test fleet this year.


Lobbying for Self-driving Cars Takes Quantum Leap; Amazon Prime Now SF Launch With New Guarantee

A gigantic lobbying group has just been formed to press regulators to allow for self-driving cars. Google, Ford, Uber, Lyft, and Volvo are all involved. It’s called the Self-Driving Coalition for Safer Streets, according to theverge.com, and is headed by David Strickland, a former NHTSA administrator. They will press the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to come up with a clear set of federal standards by this summer.

Amazon has added San Francisco as the 8th city for its Prime Now one hour restaurant delivery service. With over 4000 restaurants packed into 49 square miles, San Francisco may be the restaurant capital of the world, and Amazon has thrown in a new feature…for all markets with Prime Now…a price guarantee. Geekwire.com says if you find a lower price on the restaurant’s in-person menu within 24 hours, you’ll get a refund. 33 zip codes in the City by the Bay will get the service, and there are 117 restaurants to choose from. If you want to try it out, it’s FREE during launch. Regular price for One Hour Prime Now is usually $7.99.