Samsung Galaxy X Folder; iPhones Beef Up Hack-proofing; Waymo Ridership; Microsoft Eyes Automated Check Out

The mythic Samsung Galaxy X folding smartphone may yet be coming…the latest rumors say in 2019…pretty cool news for those excited about a phone with a large, folding screen. Ok…that’s the good news. The not-so-good news? According to Golden Bridge Investment, it will probably cost a bit under $1850…or almost double the cost of the present iPhone X. In addition to the two OLED screens with virtually no bezel between them that fold in, the handset will have a third panel for use when the phone is folded. Bgr.com reports that unfolded, the inner screens will combine for a phablet-sized  7.3 inch display! Samsung partners should get a preview at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Apple has confirmed a leak that says it is closing the tech loophole that has been letting law enforcement hack iPhones via USB based hardware like the GrayKey box. The GrayKey box is designed to plug into the Lightening port of an iPhone, and it then uses a data connection to brute force a passcode in as little as a few hours.  In an upcoming software update, the port will be disabled and require a password starting an hour after the phone is locked. The setting will be enabled by default. Macrumors.com says an exception is charging…which doesn’t require a data connection. Apple notes that they aren’t anti-law enforcement…in 2017 they responded to over 29,000 National Security Requests from the US government.

This Spring, Google’s Waymo kicked off an Early Rider program to let people in Arizona get their feet wet in experiencing self-driving cars. They have now let us in on a bit of a progress report. Waymo has gotten 20,000 applications to participate, and so far, riders have ranged in age from 9 to 69. Destinations pretty well mirror rides from Uber or Lyft…the most popular is getting to work…followed by restaurants, schools, and bars. According to 9to5google.com, the biggest request by riders: closer pickup and drop-off points. You’ll be glad to know that Waymo is working on how to gently wake napping riders upon arriving at their destination!

Amazon’s checkout-less stores…Amazon Go… have been covered here a number of times, but now there’s word of a heavyweight challenger in the push to eliminate the check out line at stores….Microsoft. Reuters.com says The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart  about a potential collaboration. While it isn’t clear how soon Microsoft could get their system to the market, it’s worth noting that they are the #2 provider of cloud services behind Amazon. According to analyst Gene Munster of Loop Ventures, the US market for automated checkout is worth some $50 billion dollars.

Advertisements

Facebook Goes for Home Device Market; LG to Make Face ID Tech for Some iPhones & iPads; Galaxy S9 Bowing at Mobile World Congress

Not much the general public can use has come out of Facebook’s secretive Building 8, the hardware development projects facility. Now, according to cheddar.com, something with mass appeal may be on the way. Apparently, Facebook is looking at dropping a video chat device called Portal in May Cath their developer conference. Facebook isn’t aiming at the smart assistant market, but more of a way for families and friends to stay connected via video chat and other social features. It will sport a wide angle lens and be able to recognize faces and associate them with their facebook accounts. The device has tentively been priced $499, but may be rolled out for less, since Amazon has the Echo Show selling at $230. The Portal will be sold online and through pop up stores.

Apple has dropped some serious change in LG division Innotek. Macrumors.com reports that Cupertino expects LG Innotek to build out additional facilities to produce 3D sensing and cam modules for Face ID in the next round of iPhone X and upcoming iPads. It’s expected that Apple will roll out an updated iPhone X in September, along with a larger X Plus, and a midrange phone with LCD screen instead of OLED. All will have Face ID, as will at least one iPad this year.

You won’t have to wait much longer for the Samsung Galaxy S9. Bgr.com says Samsung will unveil their latest hero handset at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona the end of February. This date is actually a couple weeks later than some had been saying. If it’s the folding Galaxy X you’re lusting after, Samsung Mobile boss DJ Koh says that may not be out until 2019.


New Google Smart Display; Microsoft Meltdown Updates Brick Some AMD PCs, Samsung’s Foldable Galaxy X Phone; LimeBike eBikes to Select Cities; Robot Strippers Hit Vegas

Google has made a big splash at CES in Las Vegas. From wrapping the trams, to their giant ‘Hey Google’ booth, they are hard to miss. They are going for smart assistant market share in a big way, too. Theverge.com says the list of smart speakers that use Google Assistant has expanded rather dramatically. Altec Lansing, Anker Innovations, Bang & Olufsen, Braven, iHome, JBL, Jensen, LG, Lenovo, Klipsch, Knit Audio, Memorex, RIVA Audio, SōLIS, and Sony will all feature speakers with Google Assistant. Of those, JBL, Lenovo, LG, and Sony will make smart speakers with screens. They should be out by summer. The smart-screen speakers will apparently run Android Things, a version of Android tailored for Internet of Things devices. One obvious leg up on Amazon’s Alexa devices….the Google smart speakers with screens will play YouTube videos! They will also let you access you Nest cam security cams.

Public service message: Apparently Microsoft’s updates to stop ‘Meltdown’ have been pulled, because they bricked some AMD computers. Engadget.com reports that Redmond blames AMD’s documentation, but at any rate, it primarily affects Athlon and Sempron equipped computers. Apple released patches for Meltdown and Spectre on both the Mac OS and iOS yesterday, and they work fine. If you have a Windows machine you know doesn’t have AMD processors, go ahead and install the patch.

Another tease about the folding Galaxy X phone. Samsung is now saying it might enter production by November, and be out by this coming December. Bgr.com notes that CEO of mobile DJ Koh has been teasing this handset for a while now, but we’ve never even gotten a tentative date up to now. The premium handset would be a smartphone while folded, then open up for use as a tablet. No price range, but Samsung calling it ‘premium’ gives you the idea that it will be over a grand like the iPhone X.

There are already bike rental set ups in a number of major cities…even Ford has entered the fray with those. Now, LimeBike is rolling out electric bicycles, or e-bikes in several cities, including San Francisco, Seattle, Scottsdale, and Miami. Geekwire.com says the e-bikes debuted at CES, and 3ill cost $1 to unlock and and additional buck for each 10 minutes of riding time. LimeBike already has a fleet of garish green bikes with no electric assistance that rent for a dollar per 30 minutes of riding time. The new e-bikes should be available in a couple weeks. They are restricted to 14.5 mph, due to many cities having 15mph bike speed limits. The thought is that with certain cities that have a fair amount of hills, the e-bikes will give riders a break in trying to negotiate those. OK, no Idea about Miami, though…

The most off the wall thing at CES…or maybe ‘off the pole’, isn’t at the show, but at a strip club. According to businessinsider.com, the Sapphire has flown in robot strippers with large security cameras for heads from London! If that isn’t crazy enough, the club claims…claims that the idea is to attract women to the club! So far, no ‘thumbs up’ from either Robocop or Lt Cmdr. Data.


Samsung Making Galaxy X; Apple HomePod Started as Side Project; Keystroke Logging and Location Tracking-Paranoid yet?

Samsung has been at work on a Galaxy X, and surprisingly, they didn’t steal the name from Apple. Bgr.com says they’ve had it in the works since back when the iPhone X was still just called ‘8’ in rumors. The X is even more radical than the iPhone though…it’s Samsung’s long rumored bendable smartphone. They have ben doing demos at trade shows, but up to now, nothing. A sharp Dutch site has now noted that a support page has gone up online for the X family. It is expected that if and when the Galaxy X launches, it will be in very limited numbers.

Apple’s HomePod apparently started out 5 years ago as a side project for some audio engineers. According to 9to5mac.com, they wanted to build an audiophile speaker, and some versions were 3 feet tall! The project was cancelled and revived a few times. When Amazon brought out the Echo, the team was shocked at how it caught on and how much it did. Even now, some of the team has lobbied to have the HomePod do more than just music and controlling smart devices, and only running iPhone apps. Perhaps some of this is the reason for the delay in rollout…maybe they are going to bulk up HomePod’s abilities..for that, we’re going to need ‘Super-Siri!’

Not to rile you up going into the holiday shopping season, but if you think you’re being watched…you’re not paranoid, you ARE. Arstechnica.com reports that numerous sites have been running scripts that log your keystrokes, mouse moves, and wait times…even before that input is submitted or later deleted. They even grab the number of characters typed into password fields and the last 4 digits of credit cards. According to a study out last week, 482 of the 50,000 highest traffic sites are key logging you. One more thing….and not the cool kind like Steve Jobs used to tout…gizmodo.com says your Android phone has been sending location data to Google, even if you have opted out. Happy Holidays!


Folding Samsung Smartphone Due Next Year; MacBook Pro Touch Bar out Nov. 17th at Third Party Stores; MacBook Outsold All Competition in 5 Days

Samsung has a trick up its sleeve…or maybe in its pocket…for an upcoming Galaxy model. According to 9to5google.com, they will roll out a foldable smartphone! Some are calling it the ‘Galaxy X’ right now. It sports an accordion hinge much like Microsoft’s Surface Book laptop, so when folded, it’s not completely flat. The display is much larger than usual, and has a different aspect ratio that the 16:9 most phones have. It will retain a home button and capacitive buttons along the bottom, and a camera at the top back. The bottom of the phone will still have a charging port, headphone jack, and speaker. The total screen size hasn’t leaked out yet.

The hot new MacBook Pro with the Touch Bar will be in third party stores November 17th. 9to5mac.com says there’s still a 4-5 week wait time if you order from Apple right now. The non-Touch Bar model is available from Apple, Amazon, and others with no delay. According to Slice Intelligence, the MacBook Pro not only set an online sales record, it outsold every competing laptop in 5 days….including the Dell XPS 13 and 15. In that 5 day period, Apple also hit 80% of 2015 and ’16 year to date MacBook Pro sales.