Scammers Edit Google Maps; Logitech Looks to Buy Plantronics; Video Game Spending Breaks Record; Disney Spend-More on Parks than All Movie Divisions Together

Scammers have figured out a new way to separate you from your money, and this one is particularly sneaky. Businessinsider.com reports that Google Maps has let users submit changes and corrections to listings. The hackers change contact info for banks listed via Google Maps, and when customers call what they think is their financial institution, the scammers confirm banking details from the unsuspecting customer and then drain their account! The scam is apparently hottest in India right now, but Google has previously advised that if you need to talk to your bank, get the number off the bank’s website, not from the Maps app!

You may well have or have had a Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece. I’ve had several over the years. Now, cnet.com says Swiss computer accessories giant Logitech has been in discussions about acquiring Santa Cruz, Ca based Plantronics…which was founded by a couple of pilots. The latest as of this morning is that those talks have ended, but it’s been known that the earpiece maker had put itself up for sale. Logitech had apparently offered $2.2 billion before the talks were called off. Plantronics just bought video conferencing equipment maker Polycom for $2 billion in July, so they probably thought the offer was pretty light.

Movies cost a lot to make, but rake in big bucks. Ralph Breaks the Internet pulled down $55.6 million opening weekend. Black Panther is the third highest grossing movie of all time, making $700 million just in the US. Movies pale at the revenue from video games and gaming systems nowadays, though. According to geekwire.com, video game spending hit a new record of $1.5 billion in October, up 75%. The Nintendo Switch and re-release of the NES Classic and a number of hot games raked in the cash. With the holiday quarter still in progress, game and game system makers have to be smiling broadly. 2019 should be big, too…with the remake of Resident Evil 2, Crackdown 3, Dead or Alive 6, and Jump Force all on the way…not to mention Kingdom Hearts 3, which will drop in January.

Disney has dropped a pretty penny to buy Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, and they make good money on the products. The investments in movie companies pales on what the House of Mouse is pumping into its 6 theme parks around the world, though. Bgr.com reports that Disney is spending or about to spend $24 billion on the parks and new ships for Disney Cruise Line. By comparison, buying Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm only cost Disney $15.4 billion combined! They are finishing up on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, and will also complete one at Walt Disney World. The media nets and movies still make more…counting ESPN and ABC, Disney pulled in $6.6 billion for the fiscal year…but that’s down 3%. The parks made $4.5 billion, and that’s up over 100% from 5 years ago!

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YouTube Updates Desktop and Mobile Apps; Google Maps Adds Parking Lots in 25 Cities; Aston Martin Going All-Electric or Hybrid

YouTube is rolling out updates to its desktop and mobile versions. Cnet.com reports that it will have a more consistent look across platforms. They have also added a feature to mobile that the desktop had…speeding up or slowing down playback. The newer apps will also adjust to fit the video format you are watching. If the video is vertical, the player will become vertical. They have also added a Dark Theme for the desktop that lets you make the background go dark.

Google Maps has added a feature called ‘Find Parking,’ 9to5google.com says it will show you parking lots and garages in 25 major cities in the US on the Android app. San Francisco, LA, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston are included…although parking is obviously not the issue in Houston right now! The feature works in tandem with the Parking Difficulty one Google rolled out in January that indicates how tough parking is based on machine learning and current parking data.

In the future, Bond…James Bond, will be looking for a Supercharger instead of pulling into a gas station. Storied British sports car maker Aston Martin has announced that they will be 100% hybrid by the mid 2020’s, and a quarter of all DB models will be EVs by 2030. Maybe Q can rig one up that uses an electric powered lightening bolt instead of the usual machine guns and rockets 007 has used to make his high speed escapes from SPECTRE. Arstechnica.com says the first all-electric Aston Martin will be the RapidE, a quick 4 seater due on the pavement in 2019.


Google Pixel 2 May Ditch Phone Jack; iPhone 8 May Ship Late October-November; Carmakers Collaborate to Take On Waze & Google Maps

The march towards Bluetooth only seems relentless on smartphones now. According to businessinsider.com, the latest to ditch the venerable headphone jack will be the Google Pixel 2. The latest leaks show that the Pixel 2 XL will have a more premium design, with thinner borders…and both Pixel models will sport a more refined glass back plate.

Apple’s iPhone 8 will be delayed past the September rollout, and now it appears it may be late October to early November before significant numbers are in users’ hands. Macrumors.com reports that a rumor about the side button is probably off base, after picking up on info from Mac Otakara. The handset appears to have an elongated side button that will have Touch ID, since the home button is going away. Mac Otakara says it’s much more likely that the Touch ID will be under the screen, or left out entirely, rather than put into a longer button on the phone’s side.

German carmakers bought a traffic company called HERE from Nokia a couple years ago. Now, mashable.com says they plan to pool traffic data collected by their cars’ sensors for real time traffic conditions in their own map that they claim will have ‘significantly higher accuracy and more precise information about traffic conditions.’ Taken together, they already have a fleet of millions of cars in 60 countries, and the numbers will increase dramatically as more cars with sensor systems hit the roads the next few years. Besides highly accurate info for drivers, it will build data for more reliable self driving systems.


Verizon Rolls Out $80 Unlimited Data Plan; Google Maps Lets You Share Faves; Cook Says AR May Rival iPhone’s Impact

For the first time since 2011, Verizon has an unlimited data plan. Macrumors.com says the $80 a month plan called Verizon Unlimited gets you unlimited talk, text and 4G LTE data on one smartphone or tablet or $45 a month for 4 lines. Verizon has had an access charge of $20 per month per smartphone, but it’s not clear if that applies or is included. If it applies, the plan is really $100 per month. Unlike the cheaper T-Mobile and Sprint unlimited plans, Verizon’s includes full HD streaming.

Google Maps has unveiled Lists on Android and iOS. According to techcrunch.com, the feature lets you make lists of places you can share with friends. Some power users have been testing this out since Fall. It appears that Starred and Favorites have some overlap. The Lists can be shared with friends, and even public Lists can be created, similar to Foursquare.

More and more, AR looks like Apples Next Big Thing. In an interview with The Independent, picked up by cnet.com, Tim Cook called Augmented Reality a big idea, like the smartphone. He noted that like a smartphone, AR isn’t limited to certain demographics, countries, or other niche….it can be for nearly everyone. With AR overlays seen through some lightweight glasses….which Apple is reputedly working on with Carl Zeiss, Apple’s Next Big Thing could soon be right before our eyes.


Amazon Future Supermarket-Lots of Robots; Google Maps Gets Makeover; Tech Companies Joined in Opposing Immigration Ban

As we’ve reported before, Amazon is testing their Amazon Go stores for fresh food sales, but the future could bring radically different supermarkets. Businessinsider.com reports that their future stores could be staffed with just 3-10 humans on the ground floor with over 4000 items people ‘like to touch,’ and no cashiers, no registers or lines. The app on smartphones would detect what was picked from the shelves and bill the customers. Upstairs, a fleet of robots would find and pack other items selected by customers. Amazon has denied that it is working on such a supermarket, but already does use 45,000 robots in 20 fulfillment centers.

Google Maps for Android has been refreshed, with traffic, transit, and places now living in a bottom bar. 9to5google.com says it is a cleaner interface, and that a quick swipe of the bar will bring up more details. Public transit includes travel time and nearby stations, and will even recommend what train or bus to take, based on your work address. It’s rolling out now over Google Play for Android users. No word on when the revised app will be showing up on Apple’s iOS.

In an almost unheard of show of solidarity, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft, and Twitter were part of 97 tech companies that joined in filing an amicus brief at the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals opposing the Trump executive order on immigration. According to techcrunch.com, the companies will probably do so again when the Administration continues the appeal to the Supreme Court.


New iPhone Color; Google Maps & Pokemon; Galaxy Note Blows Up in Samsung’s Face; Google Self-Drivers Spot Cops; Netflix Grabs 3 ‘Mythbusters

Tomorrow, we’ll know for sure, but for weeks, the tech media has been complaining that there’s nothing cool about the upcoming iPhone 7…not even a dual lens camera that may allow focusing after the fact. Now, they’re all excited about a….color. Mac rumors.com says there will be a glossy ‘piano black’ color. Never let it be said the tech media isn’t shallow!

Google Maps has added a Catching Pokemon feature to the timeline. According to thenextweb.com, you can now show in Maps when and where you’ve been Playing Pokemon Go.

In an amazing gift to Apple, Samsung is recalling all Galaxy Note 7’s..up to 2.5 million, due to batteries that can explode when charging! What has been reviewed as the best Android ever will now be recalled just as the iPhone 7 is rolled out. Bgr.com reports that you can either take it back to where you bought it, or call Sammy at 1-800-SAMSUNG. Whether you decide to swap it for a less ‘explody’ one, or trade for a Galaxy S7 or S7 Edge, Samsung will throw in a $25 gift card.

A couple of quick notes….Google has gotten a patent for self-driving cars detection of police vehicles. Thenextweb.com says it picks up on the flashing lights. The cars will automatically move to yield.

The ‘Mythbusters’ build team is getting a show on Netflix. According to bgr.com, Kari Byron, Tory Belleci, and Grant Imahara will star in ‘The White Rabbit Project,’ which will start airing on Netflix December 9th. They’ll investigate things from science, pop culture, and history…and it’s a good bet some things will blow up. Hopefully, not any Samsung batteries.


Google Maps Adds OFFLINE Features; Vizio TVs Sleazy ‘Opt Out’ Data Harvesting

Google is rolling out a MAJOR new feature for Google Maps on Android…full offline support. 9to5google.com says you could already see a map area without a net connection, but now you will be able to use features like navigation and business info without being connected. You will need to download sections of the map while you’re online first…once you’ve done that, all of the above is available without using your cellular or wi-fi connection. Keep in mind that some features…like traffic alerts…won’t work if you’re offline. The rollout of the feature is underway to Android users now.

Big Brother may not be watching, but your big screen TV may be. Of course, you knew that some brands have had this dubious feature….it’s been reported about Samsung, LG, & Toshiba…but on those, you have to opt in. It turns out that Vizio smart TVs make you opt out of their spying on you and selling your data. Geek.com reports that they’ve buried the option under the ‘Smart Interactivity’ label, and they even tell you the so-called feature is at ‘no cost to you,’ and warn that you’ll miss out on coupons and special offers if you turn it off. As geek.com pointed out, if you’ve ever wondered how Vizio can sell its TVs so cheaply, with the same features as the big boys, now you know.