HTC’s Blockchain Phone; Magic Leap Signs With AT&T; Britain Fines Facebook over Cambridge Data

HTC may have a reduced presence, but they are still kicking, and plan to release the fabled first major blockchain phone in third quarter. Techcrunch.com says HTC has partnered with CryptoKitties, and the popular blockchain game will be available on a few of the company’s handsets, leading off with the U12+. HTC says that ‘the partnership with Cryptokitties is the beginning of a non fungible, collectible marketplace and crypto gaming app store.” Although a blockchain phone may not be mainstream, it may be enough of a hook for HTC to revive its flagging smartphone line.

Magic Leap, the company with the unusual and secretive AR glasses, has signed a deal for mobile data service with AT&T. Theverge.com reports that, in addition to selling the device, AT&T will let customers demo the glasses at stores in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, LA, and San Francisco. Magic Leap is supposed to be putting out a ‘Creator Edition’ later this year. In this deal, AT&T will only start distributing the glasses once the consumer version becomes available. So far, Magic Leap hasn’t released a timeline for that. AT&T seems to feel that the Magic Leap AR glasses will be a game changer. They previously had cut an exclusive deal with Apple for the iPhone…and we know how that turned out!

Britain’s data watchdog has fined Facebook $664,000 over the Cambridge Analytica mess. It will take the social media giant a screaming 18 minutes to pay the fine! According to businessinsider.com, if they had been fined under the new EU law that went into effect in May, the maximum penalty would have been $1.6 billion. Facebook made $4.8 billion in profit just in the first 3 months this year. The EU fine can be up to 4% of a company’s global turnover. Zuckerberg can eat a sandwich at his desk, and the British fine will be paid.

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Samsung Bug; Amazon Anti-HAck Drone; HTC Cuts; Big Bank Blockchain Success

Here’s a creepy new development for some Samsung phone owners. Apparently, Samsung Messaging is randomly sending your camera roll photos to your contacts without permission. According to theverge.com, it is on the S9 and S9+ phones at the least…and appears to be when you use MMS messaging or send a message with a link. Samsung says they are aware of the issue and are looking into it. If you have the problem, Samsung says to call 1-800-SAMSUNG and let them know. The problem was first noticed on T-Mobile, but the carrier says it’s not their issue. Meanwhile, if you have a Samsung phone, better delete those racy selfies and private pictures until Samsung issues a fix!

Amazon just got a patent approved that they filed 2 years ago for “Hostile takeover avoidance of unmanned vehicles”. It’s aimed at making their future drones as hack-proof as possible. Amazon has been experimenting with having drones deliver people’s goods within an hour, so this is one step closer to that goal. The company’s other drone-related patents include self-destruction when a failure is detected and drones that can respond to gestures and voice commands. Mashable.com says Amazon is seeking to avoid hackers who might steal the drones and their payloads, crash them, or otherwise cause disruption to the operation of drones on their way to deliver your order.

The smartphone world is dominated by Samsung, Apple, and Huewei. Now, maker HTC is cutting a quarter of its workforce worldwide…mainly at its manufacturing plant in Taiwan. Reuters.com reports that HTC once sold 10% of smartphones worldwide, but that’s been in decline for some time. Sales were down 48% from year to year in March. The company is also consolodating its smartphone and virtual reality divisions. Last year, HTC shifted 2,000 handset engineers to Google in an 1.1 billion dollar deal. Alphabet’s Google has been trying to get a foothold in the handset market with it’s Pixel line of phones.

It was confirmed today that the first cross-border, commercial transactions have been conducted on the we.trade blockchain platform – an initiative established by a group of financial giants, including Deutsche Bank, HSBC, and Rabobank. These aren’t your average bank-funded, cross-border remittances transactions powered by the blockchain, though. This particular test was a sustained cross-country, multi-bank, interoperability remittance fest. Thenextweb.com reports that over a whole business week, 10 companies conducted trades on the we.trade platform, making use of four different banks, in 11 European countries. The successful tests are a major win for the IBM Blockchain Platform, which powers we.trade.


Pixel 3’s May Get the Dreaded ‘Notch;’ Apple Rolls Out Coding Training for Blind & Deaf Students; HTC’s Blockchain Phone

One of the most roundly criticized things about the iPhone X was the ‘notch’ at the top. Now, most Android makers are copying it, and Google may have inadvertently revealed that the Pixel 3 will also have ‘the notch.’ Of course, Apple uses the space at the top of their iPhone X screen for the Face ID sensors and cam. Bgr.com reports that by looking at the Android P beta, you can see where they have cleared out space at the top center of the screen. There’s no reason for this beyond making room for a notch. This will no doubt seal things with the rest of Android makers that haven’t already embraced notchyness, so brace yourself if it bugs you as much as it does some of the technology press.

Apple is extending its Everyone Can Code to schools that serve blind and deaf students. According to a press release, they will be furnishing the Everyone Can Code curricula for Swift, their programming language, to schools that focus on blind and deaf students starting this fall, including California School for the Blind and California School for the Deaf in Fremont, CA, plus schools in Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Massachusetts, The curricula is comparable with VoiceOver technology.

HTC is working on an Android handset that will be powered by blockchain tech. Thenextweb.com says it will have a universal wallet and built-in secure hardware enclave that will support cryptocurrencies and decentralized apps. They also plan to create a native blockchain network with all exodus phones acting as nodes to facilitate cryptocurrency trading among the phone users. They are hoping to have it on the market by next year.


Tesla Working on Own Self-Driving aI Chip; Google Acquires People and IP Rights from HTC; Nest Bows Smart Doorbell and Security System

Tesla is teaming up with AMD to make its own AI processor for their self-driving systems. Techcrunch.com notes that the e-car maker already has a relationship with Nvidia, whose GPUs run its Autopilot system. The new in-house designed chip could reduce or eliminate relying on third party AI software. Tesla reportedly already has pre-production samples in hand. The autopilot program at Tesla is run by Jim Keller, who spent much of his career at AMD and then Apple…he helped design the Apple A4 and A5 chips.

Google has struck a deal with HTC to acquire intellectual property rights (non-exclusively) and certain employees for 1.1 billion. The employees were ones already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones. Google will continue to partner with HTC on smartphones and other hardware, including virtual reality.

Nest showed off new product lines in San Francisco yesterday. Cnet.com reports they include the Nest Hello…a connected doorbell with cam, speaker and microphone. The entryway gadget wasn’t priced, but will be out 1st quarter of next year. Also debuting was the Nest Secure security system. It has a keypad and motion sensor, and a key fob they call the Nest Tag. Systems start at $500, and roll out in November. A new iteration of cam was also revealed, the Nest Cam IQ…which comes in outdoor and indoor versions. The indoor model will have Google Assistant built in. The cam is $255.


Facebook Working on Smart Speaker & Picks up Content Creator Pay Startup; Google Adds Real-Time SOS for Search and Maps; 11 More Smartphones Will be Daydream VR Compatible; Prescription Video Games Coming

Last week, we heard that Samsung was abandoning plans to make a smart speaker…a market dominated by Amazon and with Google in it and Apple planning a Christmas release of the HomePod. Now, businessinsider.com says Facebook is working on a smart speaker similar to Amazon’s that will bow in 2018. It will feature a 15 inch touchscreen, is being designed by Facebook, and will be built for them by Pegatron.

The social giant has picked up a startup which will help it crack down on users that share pirated videos and other content without permission. According to recode.net, it’s Source3. Facebook already has had Rights Manager for a couple years. It’s similar to YouTube’s Content ID. Facebook has wanted to host lots more professional video, but publishers are reluctant to provide them when they think they won’t be paid.

Google is launching a new feature called SOS Alerts, that will work with Search and Maps. Thenextweb.com reports that it’s designed to keep users safe, and will feature emergency hotlines and websites, and even translations of useful phrases. They are partnering with Red Cross and FEMA to help with keeping users abreast of emergency situations and providing safety info to them.

Of course, you may be a bit dialed out of the reality of an emergency if you are wearing a VR headset, but that’s the wave of the future. Google says it’s adding 11 more Daydream VR compatible phones by the end of this year. Pixel, Moto Z, and others are already compatible, according to 9to5google.com, but Huawei and Samsung will join the party, as well as HTC.

Hey, Doc, I need to play more video games…will you write me a prescription? Actually, so-called ‘brain training’ games have been out there, but not without controversy. Some say they really don’t work or work much. Now, theverge.com says a company called Akili is partnering with UCSF’s Neuroscape lab to develop a mobile game called Project:EVO. They aim to get it up to speed for FDA approval to be used to treat kids with ADHD! Clinical trials have already started. It’s not a sure thing, but prescription video games could actually be coming!


HTC Rolls Out New All Glass Phone With AI; CVS Announces Cheaper Alternative to EpiPen; Amazon Will Hire 100,000 Full-time the Next 18 Months

Getting the drop on both Samsung and Apple, HTC has made an early announcement about its new flagship phone, the U Ultra. Bgr.com reports it has a 5.7 inch screen, a small second screen next to the camera and above the main screen, AI to learn your habits and offer suggestions, and a glossy glass back. It has a 3000 mAh battery, but no headphone jack. It’s on presale today at $749, but won’t be out aside from Taiwan until March.

CVS Pharmacy has partnered with Impax Labs to make a much cheaper alternative to the EpiPen from Mylan, which has been priced at $600 brand name, $300 generic for the two pack. According to arstechnica.com, the CVS generic version of Adrenaclick will sell for $109.99, with or without insurance. A factory coupon cuts that to $9.99 for qualifying patients.

Amazon has announced that it plans 100,000 new full time jobs in the US over the next year and a half. Theverge.com says they will be in all areas of the company, but you can bet most will be in their fulfillment centers…Amazon is planning more of the warehouses around the country. While this is great news, it is likely to be much of a wash, as a number of big retailers seem to be on the verge of folding due to sagging sales…while Amazon grows at warp speed. Some analysts see the expansion as a move by Amazon to curry favor with the incoming administration.


Galaxy S8 Goes Stereo; iPhone 7s Will See Red; Fitbit Buys and Kills Pebble

Samsung has had some of it’s best successes borrowing things from Apple, so one would think they’d poach the dual cameras of the iPhone 7 Plus for the Galaxy S8. Well, according to bgr.com, the feature they are thinking about grabbing and highlighting is actually stereo speakers. This rumor comes from Fone Arena, and Samsung will not only pick up on iPhone’s stereo speakers, but look to HTC for the marketing. HTC has featured a stereo setup they called BoomSound, and Samsung will be cooking up a flashy name for theirs. Sadly, it won’t be Harman. Although they bought the upscale audio company, they won’t be able to integrate Harman luxury tech into the Galaxy series until 2018.

Apple iPhones are going to see red next year….and we’re not talking about Product (Red.) 9to5mac.com reports they will actually have a red chassis color to add to Black, Jet Black, Silver, Gold, and Rose Gold. 9to5mac.com picked up the rumor from Macotakara, which correctly touted the demise of the headphone jack. They do differ with KGI Securities, though on the upcoming iPhones. The Japanese site says there will be a high line iPhone 8 with wireless charging and the glass case, but the other two models will be named iPhone 7s and 7s Plus, and will keep metal cases without wireless charging, but will get upgraded internals.

Fitbit has officially bought Pebble. Thenextweb.com says, they also took about 40% of the employees…virtually all from the software side, and they are killing off the smartwatches and Pebble OS. They will be doing more to develop apps for Fitbit products, and haven’t decided if they will even use the Pebble brand. People who contributed to Kickstarter for upcoming Pebble products will get refunds.