Pixel 2 Takes Top Cam Spot from iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8; Netflix is Upping Prices; Zunum Rolls Out Electric Plane

For now, at least, the new Google Pixel 2 reigns supreme in smartphone cameras…scoring a 98 in DxO Labs’ test. The iPhone 8 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tied at 94. Macrumors.com notes that the Google phone may not have the top spot for long…Apple’s iPhone X will be out in late November. The lab tests found the cam was nearly flawless except in very low light images, but had ‘amazing’ ability to render detail in both the bright and dark areas of difficult scenes. If you didn’t preorder one yesterday, prepare to wait…a lot of models are sold out!

Just in time for me to grumble about it when the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ debuts later this month, Netflix has raised prices. According to businessinsider.com, the cheapie plan stays at $7.99…but the most popular ‘standard plan,’ which scores you HD and 2 simultaneous streams, jumps from $9.99 to $10.99 a month. The Cadillac plan that has 4K video and 4 simultaneous streams goes form $11.99 to $13.99. Netflix says they know people don’t like price increases, but will be spending almost $7 billion on content next year, including their own productions.

Seattle area based Zunum has unveiled its electric powered airplane, slated for first deliveries in 2022. Geekwire.com says the company has added a second development center in Chicago, in addition to what they have in Kirkland, WA. They are shooting for flight testing to start in 2019 and deliveries in 2022. Eventually, they hope to crank out a couple hundred of the thousand mile range electric planes per year. They expect most to to to regional air carriers…noting that with today’s hub and spoke system, there are some 5,000 underserved airports in the US. The plane can carry 12 passengers in economy type configuration, or 6 in executive travel mode.

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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.


Google & Walmart Team Up to Take on Amazon’s Voice Based Shopping; Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 Launch Date; Samsung’s Bixby Spreads to 200 Countries

Samsung officially rolled out the Galaxy Note 8 in New York today. The widely anticipated successor to the flameout Note 7 has a 6.3 inch display, dual cams, and 6 gigs of RAM. You get 64 gigs of storage plus what you can add with an SD card. 9to5google.com reports It has a more ‘boxy’ look than the 7, in a callback to previous Notes. The dual 12Mp cameras on the back are different than Apple’s different focal length system. One is a standard cam, and the other shoots black and white. The standard lens takes wide angle shots and the monochrome one shoots telephoto. This should produce a 2X optical zoom and take better low light shots. The phablet should be available September 15th, and will come in silver, orchid gray, gold, and the new ‘deep sea’ blue.

Google and Walmart have announced you will be able to use Walmart’s ‘Easy Reorder’ feature via Google Assistant through a Google Home speaker. Techcrunch.com says Google Express has also ditched membership fees and now promises 1 to 3 day free delivery for minimum orders or more. Amazon with Alexa will still remain the 800 pound gorilla of voice online shopping, but a partnership of Google and Walmart should give them a serious run for their money. It’s a LOT of money, too…RBC Capital figures Alexa could be a $10 billion business by 2020.

Bixby…the intelligent assistant which Samsung dropped very late earlier this summer in the US, for the Galaxy S8 phones, is now live in 200 countries in addition to Korea and the US…including UK, Australia, and Canada. This rollout just a day before today (Wednesday’s) big unveiling of the Galaxy Note 8 in New York City.


Facebook Makes News Feed Changes; Galaxy Note 8 Gets Exclusive Color; iPhone 7 Reigns as World’s Most Popular Smartphone

Just as I was about to write these words, my Facebook newsfeed changed! Call it a crazy coincidence or their algorithms are REALLY creepy, but it’s a somewhat different look. 9to5mac.com reports that The comment section now looks more like chat bubbles…and speaking of chat, now, the chat has its own column instead of the pop up from the bottom. Watch for profile pics to go circular, and updated Like, Comment, and Share buttons, among other things. The changes are being rolled out gradually…so you may not see them for a while yet.

As if there wasn’t enough buzz about the Samsung Galaxy Note 8….despite the demise by fire of the popular Note 7 last year, they are adding an exclusive color that won’t be available on the S8. According to bgr.com, it’s ‘Deep Sea Blue.’ The S8 has a Coral Blue in partnership with Best Buy, but the note will be sporting the Deep Sea Blue all by itself. It debuts next week, and should be have a princely price near $1000.

While it is expected to lose sales in the run up to the iPhone 8 rollout next month, and right after due to shortages, iPhone 7 stays on the top of the heap as the world’s most popular smartphone in the June Quarter. Macrumors.com says Apple shipped 16.9 million iPhone 7 handsets and 15.1 million 7 Plus models (for 2nd place) in the quarter. The Galaxy S8 was third at 10.2 million and the S8 Plus was 4th with 9 million even.
Xiaomi was 5th with 5.5 million, then there’s everybody else. Don’t cry too hard for the also rans…they accounted for 303.7 million smartphones!


Galaxy Note 8 May Actually Be Available the 24th; 1000 Spyware Apps at Android App Stores, Google Buys Health Monitoring Startup

The rollout of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 is coming up fast…August 23rd…and now we have word when phones might be available. According to word leaked by a Best Buy employee picked up by 9to5google.com, it could be in the hands of users by the very next day! If Samsung is able to do this, instead of the usual 2 plus weeks wait time, it will give them a major jump on the release of the iPhone 8.

Hackers have apparently flooded Android app stores INCLUDING the official Google Play store with over 1000 spyware apps. ZDnet.com reports that SonicSpy can silently record calls and audio, take photos, MAKE calls, send texts to numbers the attackers have programmed, monitor call logs, contacts, and wi-fi systems picked up. It is believed to be the handiwork of malware developers in Iraq. The apps are marketed as messaging apps. Google has killed Sonic, Hulk Messenger, and Troy Chat, but there are still numerous other versions on various app stores.

We have often reported on how Apple has a virtual army working on health apps for iPhone. Now, Google has bought a health monitoring startup called Senosis. Geekwire.com says the founder of Senosis, Shwetak Patel, won a MacArthur genius grant in 2011. His team of a dozen engineers and physicians have focused on making smartphones into monitoring devices for pulmonary function, hemoglobin counts, and other vital health info. So far, they make apps called SpiroSmart, SpiroCall, HemaApp, and OsteoApp, which are under review by the FDA.


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.


Galaxy Note 8 To One Up iPhone 7 Plus Cams; Flash will (Finally) Go Bye-Bye; Roku Bests Chromecast in Users

The Galaxy Note 8 may be about to better the flagship feature on Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus…the dual lens camera. Bgr.com reports that Samsung wanted to put the feature on the Galaxy S8, but instead opted for the Note. Like with Apple, the Note will have a regular and telephoto lens. Samsung will have a 3x optical zoom on the Note, where Apple only has 2x, and will include optical image stabilization on the telephoto as well as main lens, which Apple doesn’t. They also are making the wide angle lens 13 megapixel, while Apple shoots with 12 megapixels on both lenses…a negligible difference, but enough to tout as a feature.

It’s been a long, slow death, but Adobe is finally pulling the plug on Flash, probably the most frequently compromised software on anyone’s computer. Mashable.com says it won’t happen until 2020, but at least there is an end date to the problematic software that Steve Jobs panned back in 2009! Most all major browsers support HTML5, and many disable Flash Player by default already. Bye, Flash…we won’t miss you.

According to info from eMarketer picked up by recode.net, Roku pulls in around 40 million people in the US per month. This gives them 23% of connected TV users, easing past Google’s Chromecast with 22% and Amazon Fire TV with 21. Apple TV is an anemic 7%. The big number is 37%….that’s how many just watch via smart TVs. Mine isn’t even all that new, but has dedicated Netflix and Amazon buttons on the remote, and was dead simple to set up.