Amazon Doorbell To Let Delivery People in Once; Amazon Prime ‘Really Valuable’ to Whole Foods Shoppers; Google Mini Bug Left Mics On; Movie Studios Band Together For Easier Film Downloads

The battle of grocery home delivery has heated up, with Amazon matching Walmart with in home, right to the fridge deliveries. Amazon, however, may have an ace up its sleeve…theverge.com says they are working on a smart doorbell device that could allow delivery drivers one-time access to enter a home and drop off a package or groceries to the fridge! Amazon has been talking to Phrame, which makes smart license plate frames that secure an emergency key.

If, like a lot of people, grocery shopping means running to the store, Amazon is also touting Prime membership further…according to geekwire.com, Amazon is promising to make Prime membership ‘really valuable’ to Whole Foods shoppers, essentially making Amazon Prime the customer rewards program at Whole Foods. Amazon says that so far, the merger is going well enough they are thinking about shutting down their own grocery services and doing everything through the Whole Foods subsidiary.

Google is working on a fix for the Google Home Mini. Some of the pre-production ones don’t wait for you to address them….they have been listening and recording every word. 9to5google.com says it’s because the devices think they are getting a touch to activate. They have put out a patch to make them respond only to the verbal ‘OK Google’ command, and are working on a fix for the hardware gesture.

In a move that’s amazing for Hollywood, Disney, Fox, Warner, & Universal may team up on downloadable movies. Engadget.com reports that they have signed up to make flicks available through Disney’s new film service. The studios hope people will just buy more movies directly through the service instead of going through iTunes, Amazon, etc. to get links to download. It isn’t known if the studios will continue to support Ultraviolet to provide cross platform links.

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2018 iPad Pro May Get Face ID; Apple’s Amazing Market Penetration; Galaxy S9 Will Rock Advantage Over All Other Androids; Waymo’s Self-Driving Education Campaign

It’s looking like Apple’s 2018 iPad Pro models will have a True Depth cam and support Face ID. Macrumors.com reports that KGI Securities sees the features migrating over from the iPhone X. The system will only be on the Pro models, not the other iPads.

A lot of us can remember when Apple’s Mac had 3% or 5% of the PC market. According to a new survey picked up by appleinsider.com, that puny penetration is not Apple’s problem in the US anymore. The CNBC All-American Economic Survey finds that 64% of all Americans own an iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch, or iPod product! Not only that, the number of Apple products in active use has gone from 1.6 to 2.6 products per household. If you think Apple stuff is a little rich…you’re right…87% of households claiming an income over $100,000 have at least one Apple product.

Samsung strikes again….strikes a deal on processors, that is. Bgr.com says they have inked a deal with Qualcomm to have an exclusive on the upcoming Snapdragon 845 chip for the Galaxy S9 and S9+. In addition to getting the jump on other Android makers with faster silicon, Samsung will allegedly roll out the new handsets a month earlier…probably in February 2018, but some rumors say they will drop even before Mobile World Congress…maybe in January.

Some people are super excited about self-driving cars, and others are honestly a little put off if not scared by the proposition. Now, Google division Waymo is launching a campaign to teach people about self-driving cars. Mashable.com reports that Way is partnering with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Foundation for Blind Children, the National Safety Council, and Foundation for Senior Living in developing a website and ad and promotion materials extolling the virtues of self-driving cars. Ads will run on the internet and digital and radio outlets as well. The campaign is called ‘Let’s Talk Self Driving.’


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.


Google Rolls out Pixels and Adds to the Line; Sonos Bows New Speaker

The highly anticipated Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL today. The XL has a whopping 6 inch OLED screen, all aluminum body, and better image stabilization…although still a single lens cam. Cnet.com reports that it supports AR Core, the Google AR programming interface. The HTC made phone has the squeezable sides to activate Google Assistant, and has always on display for notifications. The handsets are on pre-order now, and start at $649 for the 2 and $849 for the 2XL…they should be on the streets in a couple weeks.

Google Pixel Buds were also rolled out…the earbuds are joined by a neck cord and have a charging case that gives you up to 24 hours use. They work with Google Assistant on Pixel phones, are available in black, white, and blue, and preorders have started. They run $159, and are available next month.

Also bowing today where Google Home Mini and Home Max. The Mini is a smaller version of the Home Assistant speaker, while the Max is geared more towards the audiophile. The max goes on preorder in November, and will be available in December for $399.The Mini can be preordered now, and is $49…should be out in a couple weeks.

The Google PixelBook was also rolled out…a replacement for the Chromebook Pixel of 2 years ago. It’s still Chrome OS, but has Android app support, and quick charges for up to 10 hours battery life. It has instant tethering to Pixel phones, and Google Assistant is baked in. The PixelBooks start a $999, can be preordered now, and will be out the end of the month.

Google also showed an updated Daydream View. It’s $99, and available October 19th. A surprise reveal is Google Clips…a standalone cam that captures short clips. It auto-selects and learns who you want in shots and which shots, and builds clips from them…then uploads on demand. No release date, but it will be $249.

Sonos has rolled out the new One wireless speaker. According to 9to5mac.com, it has Alexa voice control, and will support AirPlay 2 by the first of the year. It doesn’t actually have Siri, but with the Airplay function, can be controlled by any Siri enabled device like iPhones and iPads. It’s $199, and will be out October 24th…preorders are open now.


Facebook to Hire 1000 To Battle Election Interference; Facebook Testing Face Recognition to Unlock Accounts; Apple Looking To Roll Own on Mac Chips; Google Launches “Made for Google” Accessory Program

Facebook is making changes in the wake of the Congressional investigation of Russian election meddling via social media including Facebook. TechCrunch.com says that includes hiring 1000 more people to its global ads review team over the next year, and making it so anyone can see any ad run by any organization on Facebook instead of only the ads targeted to them.

Facebook is also testing out facial recognition as a way to get back into your account if you’re locked out. 9to5mac.com points out that if you are on the road, and don’t have roaming available, you can’t even use 2 factor identification. The face recognition would not be Apple’s Face ID, but Facebook’s own system, and it would be in addition to two-factor authentication using SMS….as noted, where SMS might not be available. It’s not clear if or when the feature will be rolled out.

Future laptops from Apple may feature Apple designed chips in place of ones from Intel. Businessinsider.com says this is coming on the heels of Apple’s new iPhone 8 models with Apple designed ARM chips that can outperform a MacBook Pro in bench tests. Apple is also apparently looking at designing custom silicon for their modem chips, too in place of Qualcomm or Media Tek.

Google is readying a ‘Made for Google’ program to certify accessories from its partners. According to 9to5google.com, it should work similarly to Apple’s accessory program, giving users a little peace of mind about buying gear that they can know will work well with Google hardware devices. No time frame as yet, but we may hear more later this week when Google bows the Pixel 2 family of products in San Francisco.


Amazon Drops New Echos; Google Making Higher End Home ‘Max;’ Next LED iPhones May Be Bezel-less, Too

Amazon rolled out 2nd generation Echos yesterday, and they’re shorter by half, have a dedicated bass speaker, and are on sale for $99. Theverge.com reports that you can also pick up a 3 pack for $250, so you can have multi-room coverage. The new Echos can also make free calls to the US, Canada, and Mexico. If you just want the calling, Amazon also dropped a $35 gadget called Connect.

With the new Amazon Echos, upgraded Sonos speakers coming, and the Apple iHome looming in December, Google isn’t sitting on its hands, either. According to bgr.com, there’s an upgraded Google Home in the works called the Max. It will be a higher end version with so-called premium sound to compete with the Sonos and iHome. Since the Pixel 2 phones are supposed to roll out next week, maybe Google will tease the Max or even show it.

The iPhone X will be out in November in very short supply, and now we’re hearing the phones for next year may not all go to OLED screens like it has…Apple may stick with LCD for it’s lower tier phones. 9to5mac.com says Apple is working on a new form of advanced LED panel that will give the phones a near bezel free design like the OLED iPhone X has. Since LED screens cost less, it will help keep the price down on the successor to the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus.


Tesla May Build Convenience Stores At Superchargers; Apple May Keep Some LCD Screen iPhones; Now YOU Can Have a $350 Smart Jacket

Tesla is adding still more Superchanger charging stations this year, and now it appears they may add small convenience stores so you can refill yourself (or empty your tank!) while you wait on the car to charge. According to engadget.com, Tesla’s CTO JB Straubel showed mockups at the FSTEC food tech conference last week. The company is already working with some restaurants on installing some charging stations along the roadways.

A report out of Korea says Apple is thinking of ditching the smaller 5.28 inch iPhone next year in favor of a bigger LCD screen phone with over 6 inches of screen real estate. Up to now, most analysts have thought Apple would switch all iPhones to OLED screens eventually. 9to5mac.com reports that orders for the bigger LCD panels have already been placed with Japan Display. The same report indicates that there will be 2 iPhones with the OLED screens like the iPhone X, however. It’s early, and just one report, so a little skepticism is in order on this one!

Ever wanted to control your smart devices from your jacket? That time has arrived. The Google powered Levi’s Commuter Trucker Jacket is finally out. Thenextweb.com says it uses Bluetooth and touch sensitive controls that allow you to play and pass music, get directions over your phone audio, and read incoming messages. It all works with touch sensitive fabric around the cuff, and is powered by a snap tag on one of the cuffs. (Watch someone wash it without removing the tag and ruin it right after they get it.) The real questions are: 1) would you wear a denim trucker jacket if you want to play with touch sensitive controls on your sleeve, and 2) would you drop $350 bucks on it? If so, it’s on sale Wednesday at select shops, and online next week at levis.com.