Google Home Max Out; Big Apple Watch Series 3 Sales Uptick Coming; Deactivated Keylogger in Some HP Laptops

Google Home Max is rolling out to stores….it should be available in limited numbers today in Best Buy and Verizon stores, according to arstechnica.com. The $399 Home Has has dual 4.5 inch woofers and custom tweeters, and Google says it’s 20 times more powerful than the original Home. You can set it up either horizontally or vertically, and it has an aux input jack. Google’s ‘smart sound’ measures the room and it adjusts itself sonically to fit. With the delay of Apples HomePod, this gives Google a head start now in the premium home smart speaker market.

Number crunchers scouring supply lines are predicting that the Apple Watch Series 3, which was up in record territory for a wearable in November, will grow by 20% in 2018. 9to5mac.com reports that the Series 3 will hit 25 to 35 million units sold next year. The addition of health tracking, Gym Kit, Apple Pay Cash, and of course LTE connectivity seem to have been the magic combination that are propelling Watch sales now.

It’s bad enough that the FCC may be voting to allow paid fast lanes on the internet this week. Now, here’s a chilling nugget: Some HP laptops have a deactivated key logger on them. Techcrunch.com says the software has been found on over 460 HP laptop models. It’s deactivated by default, but could be turned on by any hacker getting physical access to the laptop. Upon raising the issue to HP, they have responded that it is a debug trace, that that there’s a software update out to remove it. Here’s a link to download the update: https://support.hp.com/us-en/document/c05827409

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Every iPhone Gets ‘the Notch’ Next Year; Google Files Go! is Live; Tesla Behind Global Battery Shortage?

Latest word is that Apple will again have 3 iPhones next year. One will be a freshened iPhone X, another a super-sized iPhone X with OLED display, and a third phone…which will have an LCD display, but still sport ‘the notch’ at the top. Bgr.com reports that Apple may offer up to 512 gigs of storage, and the iPhone X Plus (or whatever it will be called) will have TWO SIM card slots. The updated X will still be a 5.8 inch screen, and the Plus 6.5”. The LCD screen model will run somewhere between $650 and $900, and will have the TrueDepth camera for 3D facial recognition, but it won’t have 3D Touch and will have a single lens camera on the back. Apparently, 3D sensing abilities on the rear camera won’t make it into next year’s iPhones.

Google Files Go! is out of beta and available if you are running Android 5.0 or higher, and also with Oreo 8.1 (Go Edition.) According to engadget.com, the Go Edition runs in a slimmed down version on less powerful Android phones. Files Go! gives direct access to downloads, files, apps, pix, video and audio, and will be handy for freeing up space. You can either offload to an SD card or to the cloud. Files Go! lets you backup to Drive, OneDrive, Dropbox, and other apps. Files Go! uses Bluetooth for device discovery, and it allows file sharing across devices over WiFi, which is super handy.

There’s apparently a worldwide shortage of cylindrical batteries caused by Tesla scooping them up for the Gigafactory in order to ramp up car production. Engadget.com says Panasonic has given most of its Japanese supply to Tesla to jump start production, leaving everyone else needing the power packs to scrap for whatever Samsung, LG, and Murata (previously Sony) can spare…which is not much. IT, electric vehicle, and home appliance companies may be scrambling to cover the shortages through the 1st half of 2018.


Apple Plans Cheaper 9.7 Inch iPad; Samsung Patents Palm-Reading Phone; Google Home Bug; Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ Launches

This Spring, Apple rolled out a $329 9.7 inch iPad, and got a nice bump in sales. Now, it looks like they are working on hitting a lower price point yet…around $260. 9to5mac.com says it’s not clear if it will replace the $329 tablet or be an additional model, and what, if any, downgrade to performance there might be. The low line model would be aimed at industrial enterprise users and ‘price-sensitive’ consumers, i.e. cheapskates.

Samsung has been working on a foldable smartphone for some time, and Apple has copied them for once, patenting such a phone. Both companies may have them out in a couple years. Now, engadget.com reports that Samsung has patented a phone that reads your palm. No, it’s not going to be called ‘the Medium’ as far as we know…and this kind of palm reader would be for biometric security! The function is primarily one that uses the lines in your hand and provides hints based on them for passwords…although it could be an additional biometric sign in should Samsung decide to go that route.

Last week was terrible for Apple security, with a couple major bugs…one of which they patched within a day, since it enabled someone with physical access to get root control of your computer. Google has had bug issues too, particularly with the new Pixel 2 series. Add to that a new bug in the Google Home Mini. According to bgr.com, a reviewer found one during testing that made the Home record virtually everything he said, and another that made the thing reboot when you turn the volume up too loud! It might be a great idea for these big firms to hit pause, and bulk up their quality control a bit, even if it means not getting software updates out quite so quickly!!

Facebook has dropped ‘Messenger Kids,’ and app available on iOS that lets kids under 13 chat with safety in mind. Techcrunch.com says parents can download the app onto the kid’s tablet or phone and create a profile for them, then approve friends and family they can text and video chat with using the app and the main Messenger App. Tweens don’t get a Facebook account and don’t have to provide a phone number. Facebook says it’s been working closely with the FTC on the app, and it has detection filters to block sharing nudity, sexual content, and violence. Paso, they have put in a dedicated support team for the youth app. The app has plenty of stickers and reality masks to keep them engaged. An Android version will be released soon, according to Facebook.


Next iPad Pro Gets Face ID; Microsoft Joins AirDrop Party; Amazon Makes Sub-$100 Sound Bar

Apple is going all-in on Face ID. The iPad Pro will get it in 2018, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by 9to5mac.com. The top line Apple tablet will also get an improved Apple Pencil, and smaller top and bottom bezels, but no OLED screen, which could be quite pricey on a 12.9 inch device.

Just a couple days ago, there was a report that Google was working on an answer to Apple’s AirDrop over Android, which allows sharing between devices nearby that are connected via WiFi or Bluetooth. Now, theverge.com reports that Microsoft has begun testing its own similar system called ‘Near Share’ for Windows 10 devices. It’s available now on the latest Insider build of Windows 10, and makes sharing documents or photos to nearby PCs virtually seamless over Bluetooth. Redmond is also adding a mute tab to the Edge Browser.

Amazon has brought out its own sound bar for under $100 under the AmazonBasics line. Bgr.com says the $94.99 system works over Bluetooth, and has a built in subwoofer. It has 3 sound modes: Standard, News, & Movie, plus its own remote (it’s not compatible with universal or TV remotes.) If you want to spring for a few bucks more, and get a sound bar with a REAL, 6” subwoofer, check Amazon’s deal on the Klipsch Reference Series R-4B, for just under $150 while supplies last.


Apple Making a Killing on iPhone X; Walmart Pay Close to Surpassing Apple Pay; Waymo Tests Self-Drivers on Public Roads; Super Tiny Japanese Phone

A fair amount of noise has been made about US companies stashing cash overseas and not paying taxes, especially using an accounting trick through Ireland. Apple is at the top of the list, although they claim they pay plenty of tax…some 35 billion dollars. That said, where does it come from? iPhones, of course. Macrumors.com says TechInsights ran numbers, and it costs about $357.50 to make a gorgeous new iPhone X…which sells for a base of $999! That’s a gross margin of 64%…compared to the iPhone 8’s already good 59% margin. Having had several friends in the retail electronics business, a lot of goods only have 28-35% margin, so Apple is making a killing….enjoy that new iPhone X…and buy a case…it’s the most breakable phone ever!

Walmart says they are close to passing up Apple Pay with their Walmart Pay system, in terms of mobile payments usage in the US. Walmart Pay, of course, runs in 4774 Walmart stores, and is available on both Android AND iOS systems. Macrumors.com reports that the average Apple Pay user makes 2 transactions per month. I must be an outlier…I use it 5-6 times a month, and would use it more if more places accepted it. By the numbers, a Forrester survey of 58,000 online consumers found that 7% used Apple Pay the last 90 days, and 6% used Walmart Pay.

Watch out drivers and pedestrians in Chandler, AZ. If you’re in the Phoenix area, you may see cars tooling down the streets sans driver. According to techcrunch.com, Google’s Waymo has driverless cars loose on the streets of Chandler…and not just a couple pre-set routes, either! In technical terms, the cars are at full level 4 autonomy. Waymo expects their first actual product to be basically a replacement for Uber, Lyft, and cabs….and it could be here sooner, not later!

A Japanese firm called FutureModel, is putting out the NichePhoneS, a credit card sized smartphone…or maybe it should be called a ‘not quite dumb’ phone. Businessinsider.com says all it does is make calls, send texts, and play some music…shades of one Motorola made years ago…remember the Rokr? It’s $88 and will be out this week in Japan. It runs Android 4.2…a 2012 operating system! If it makes it over here, it could be ok as a 2nd or 3rd phone or burner.


Google Tested a Pixel 2 Wake to Shoot Feature; Broadcom Offers to Buy Qualcomm; Foxconn Added as Apple Watch Supplier; Tesla Invite To Truck Reveal is Out

It hasn’t been activated yet, but 9to5google.com has discovered a wake to shoot gesture that activates the camera. Basically, when you pick it up and hold it in either landscape or portrait picture mode, the camera app opens. It will work whether the phone is asleep or locked. The feature requires specific hardware. It’s not known if Google has held off due to concerns of launching the cam by mistake or couldn’t finish some work before launch, but let’s hope it comes in the future!

An offer is in the works that will be the biggest tech deal ever. Broadcom has proposed buying rival Qualcomm for $130 billion. According to businessinsider.com, this would make Broadcom the third largest maker of chips and components for smartphones behind Intel and Samsung. It also might make the Qualcomm vs Apple lawsuit go away. As we reported last week, Apple is looking at ditching Qualcomm completely over that, and Apple is one of Qualcomm’s biggest customers that throws off most of the modem division’s revenue. The merger would have to be approved by shareholders and the Department of Justice due to antitrust concerns.

Foxconn is apparently supplying System in Package tech for Apple Watch next year. 9to5mac.com reports that Quanta Computer was the original sole assembler of the smartwatch, and Apple added Compal Electronics this year, but only for older generation watches. Like many huge companies, Apple likes to have 2 or more suppliers for major components, to avoid getting gouged on price and unexpected supply chain jam ups.

The invite is out, and so’s the date. Tesla will preview its electric big rig on November 16th, in Hawthorne, CA. at 7 in the evening. Cnet.com notes that the twilight shot of the truck is from the right front quarter…the only other tease pic we’ve seen was from the front…yep…it just looks like the outline of a more zoomy big rig.


Amazon Augmented Reality Shopping for iPhone; Google ‘Advanced Protection System’; New Entry Level GoPro Next Year

IKEA has it, not Amazon joins the party in a big way. The party is the augmented reality shopping party. Geekwire.com reports that the latest Amazon app update for iPhone 6S and above running iOS 11 includes an augmented reality feature. We tried it out yesterday, and noted a couple ways it works. One, you can open the app, point the cam at an object…I used my coffee table…and Amazon will show you a slew of other tables. You can also pick an item and use the app to virtually place it in your room…I tried a lamp, and it was pretty cool to see it virtually appear on my messy coffee table on top of the books and magazines! Hey, just in time for the holidays, a way to spend more….and with Amazon’s countdown to Black Friday in full swing, enjoy your augmented shopping!

Most any true techie will tell you that any passwords can be hacked with time and trouble. Now, Google is rolling out a solution…a tried and true system that will work, but some will hate. Yep, it’s a DONGLE. According to zenet.com, the $20 solution, which is made like a key fob you can put your physical keys on, will be made available first to politicians and lawmakers, business leaders, activists, and reporters…the people most likely to be hacked. There are two keys involved as part of two factor ID…a Feitian key to wirelessly authenticate your computer or phone over Bluetooth and a Yubikey that can be used in a USB port. They only work with real Google pages, so phishing sites are out of luck. If you lose the dongle, you will be locked out for a few days while Google determines that you are really you and unlocks your account. One catch…besides having to plug in and push a button…the system only works directly with Google accounts, so you won’t be able to get your gmail over Apple’s mail on an iPhone or Microsoft Outlook.

GoPro has had a rough couple years, with layoffs, dropped products, and closed departments in an effort to turn a profit. Now, theverge.com says that corner has been turned, and GoPro made money third quarter. In addition to rolling out a new flagship cam, the Hero 6 Black this fall, GoPro will be unveiling a new entry level cam to replace the original Hero Session in 2018. The cam maker said there will be additional products, but wouldn’t specify what they were.