Digital Car Key; Instagram’s IGTV; German Flying Taxi; Netflix Sharing

First, we got the key fob that you don’t have to pull out of pocket or purse to open and start your car. Now, the Car Connectivity Consortium, and organization of the likes of Apple, Samsung, and LG on the electronics end and Audi, BMW GM, VW, and Hyundai representing the automotive side unveiling a new Digital Key specification. Macrumors.com says it will allow manufacturers to transfer a digital key to a Trusted Service Manager via NFC directly to the secure area of the smartphone. It could not only be used for operation of your own car key-free, but also car rentals and car sharing. 

Instagram has fired a cannon blast over the bow of YouTube and Snapchat. They just rolled out IGTV, which is a new app for publishing long form videos. According to businessinsider.com, content creators will be able to make 4K videos that are significantly longer that the current Instagram 60 second limit. What remains to be seen is whether high profile users, or even we mortal video shooters, will bite when it comes to shooting and uploading mobile-first vertical video.  There is a 10 minute limit, with exceptions running to an hour for accounts with huge numbers of followers. Initially, the longer form videos will be ad-free, but they will have them later. CEO Kevin Systrom says there will be a way for creators to make a living. The IGTV app is available now on  Android and iOS just by updating the Instagram app. F

The world has missed the George Jetson 60’s flying car debut so far, but now Germany is preparing to test out a flying taxi concept from Airbus and Audi! Engadget.com reports that the government has signed a letter of intent to green light tests around Audi’s home city of Ingolstadt. Uber has also been trying to develop a flying taxi at their research center in Paris. The letter didn’t give any indication as to when tests would start. At this point, neither the Airbus-Audi partnership nor Uber has produced and flown a functional prototype, but the letter from the German Transportation minister authorizing tests shows that a flying taxi concept isn’t just hot air any longer.

There have been jokes floating for years to the effect that there is only one paid Netflix subscriber…everyone else is using their password. Now, Exstreamist has done a survey to gauge just how much password and account sharing really goes on. Bgr.com says 22% of users log in with their parents’ credentials. For 20%, it’s the password of a friend, with another 17% using the login of their current boyfriend or girlfriend. 13% are even using the Netflix account of an ex! Netflix keeps growing and seems unconcerned. A few years ago, CEO Reed Hastings said they find that password sharers are likely to become paid users anyway down the road. Netflix revenue the 1st quarter of 2018 is up 43%, with a subscriber base of 125 million worldwide.

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Amazon Prime Shipped 5 Billion; Apple’s iPhone Battery Replacement; Germany Enforcing Social Media Hate Speech Law; Yes-Robocalls Have Gotten Worse; Wireless Android Auto Coming

Order lots or stuff with free shipping using Amazon Prime? Yeah, you and everyone else. According to techcrunch.com Amazon shipped over 5 billion items with Prime in 2017. We don’t know how much growth this shows, as they’ve never released numbers before, but 5 billion is a staggering number! A third party estimate from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners has 63% of all Amazon customers as Prime members, though, and calculates that there are 90 million Prime members just in the US!

You probably heard the flap over the holidays about Apple using software to slow down older iPhones to conserve dying batteries…and not telling anyone, and hence, the uproar. Apple last week issued a rare apology, and dropped the price of replacement batteries from $79 to $29…available right now in limited quantities. The replacement applies to ‘anyone with an iPhone 6 or newer whose battery needs to be replaced.’ In the rush, Apple didn’t note what happened if the phone fails an official Genius Bar diagnostic test. Now, macrumors.com reports that Apple will replace the batteries at their stores even if the phone doesn’t flunk the Genius Bar test! How about phones older than iPhone 6? Basically…you’re screwed….you’ll have to pay the $79 bucks.

Germany has waded into the arena of hate speech, fake news, and illegal material on social media. BBC.com says they are now starting enforcement of a law banning such content. If the content isn’t removed within 24 hours after the social media company is notified, the fine is up to 50 million Euro…or about $60 million bucks! That MIGHT get their attention. Facebook, Twitter and YouTube will be the law’s main focus but it is also likely to be applied to Reddit, Tumblr and Russian social network VK. Other sites such as Vimeo and Flickr could also be caught up in the dragnet.

If it seems like you’ve been getting more robocalls…you are. According to theverge.com, a recent FTC report shows they have quintupled since 2009! The agency has gotten 375,000 complaints a month in 2017, compared to 63,000 a month in 2009. One reason is cheap access to internet calling services and autodialing. Now, there is vastly more neighborhood or area number spoofing, with the calls really calling from almost anywhere in the world. The do not call registry and blocking tools from phone companies and phone makers MAY have helped, but aren’t remotely keeping up with the problem.

Lots of cool things will be rolled out at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show. 9to5google.com says one will be wireless Android Auto. JVC/Kenwood will show off an Android Auto screen that doesn’t have to be plugged into your USB port, but runs over the Bluetooth. There was already such a device for Apple CarPlay rolled out by Alpine a few months ago. They use a 6.8 inch screen, and will sell under the JVC and Kenwood brands. It’s expected that they will also be bringing out an Apple CarPlay compatible version later on. Let’s hope they are easily detachable and can be hidden in trunks, for break-in prone cities like San Francisco!


iPhone Claws Back Market Share from Android; Tesla’s Gigafactory Will Be Solar Powered; Amazon Prime Bows Cashback Rewards Visa Card

According to the latest data, Apple’s iPhone picked up 6.4% in market share in the US for the 3 months ending last November. 9to5mac.com also says that Apple did the same in 7 of 9 other key markets. The iPhone 7, 7 Plus, and 6s were the 3 most popular phones in the US for the period, combining for 31.3%. Samsung’s Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge where next, grabbing 28.9% share. Apple snagged a whopping 9.1% in the UK…mainly crushing the hopes of Windows phones.They did drop 5.4% in China to local brands and lost out 3.2% in Germany, where Android picked up share.

Theverge.com reports that Tesla plans to power its Gigafactory with a 70 megawatt solar installation on the roof! That would make it 7 times larger than the present largest rooftop solar array. Excess power picked up would be stored by Powerpack storage units for use after dark, etc. The solar panels will all come from Solar City of course. Tesla acquired them last year.

If you need a reason to spend even more money with Amazon, have they got a deal for you. TechCrunch.com says Amazon is partnering with Chase to offer Prime members an Amazon Prime Visa card with 5% cash back on Amazon purchases. The card would give 2% back for restaurants, gas stations, and drugstores, and 1% elsewhere. There’s no annual fee on the card. Amazon is believed to have between 58 and 69 million members, or roughly half of US households. The card is available today.


Galaxy Note Nightmare Continues; Two Tesla Launch Events This Month; German Bundesrat Votes to Ban Internal Combustion Engine

After a 4th of the new, supposedly safe replacement Galaxy Note 7’s caught fire, AT&T, Verizon, and T-Mobile have stopped selling the phablet, and now Samsung is ‘temporarily’ suspending production of the device. 9to5google.com says Samsung has yet to comment on the suspension of production, which includes a plant in Vietnam that is responsible for global shipments of the Note, aside from saying they are ‘adjusting’ production.

Doing his best Apple impression, Elon Musk has tweeted that the company is planning two product launches in October. According to thenextweb.com, the first will be October 17th, and Musk claims it will be unexpected by most. The second is a joint Tesla/Solar City event scheduled 10 days later for October 28th. There’s some speculation that the first one will be for the Model 3. Musk has already indicated that there would be a joint unveiling of an integrated Powerwall 2.0 and Tesla charging unit. Tesla has recently added land that would allow them to double the size of the Fremont, CA factory.

In something of a shockwave, the German Bundesrat has voted to ban internal combustion engines by 2030. Arstechnica.com reports that it’s a non-binding resolution, but still a hell of a shot over the bow coming from the country where the internal combustion engine was invented, and where Karl Benz built the first ‘patent motorcar.’ Germany produces more cars than any country in Europe and the third most in the world. The Bundesrat is the federal council of all 16 German states.


Google Still Working on Second VR/AR Project; Flight Recorder for Self Driving Cars

For those saddened by an article over the weekend that Google had killed their VR project aimed at Oculus Rift…take heart! Engadget.com reports that while it’s true, Google has ANOTHER team working on a dedicated headset that blurs the line between virtual and augmented reality! The headset still being worked on does not require a computer or phone to power it. It appears that it would be aimed at competitor’s headsets that focus mainly on gaming.

With all the flap about several crashes involving or possibly involving Tesla’s Autopilot, Germany is looking to pass a law requiring black boxes in self-driving cars, much like those in commercial aircraft. According to techcrunch.com, the flight recorder type boxes would record whether the autopilot is engaged, when the driver is controlling manually, when the system asked the driver to take over, and when it is disengaged. Most modern cars already have systems that record functions like speed, brake application, and so forth which police and insurance companies can tap into. If the Germans pass this law, expect it to be copied throughout the EU, an probably in the US.