HomePod Sounds Great, Siri Sucks; Pixel 2 Visual Core Works With Apps; France Bans Handheld Smartphone Use in Cars; Military-Self Driving Vehicles & Auto WeaponsPosted: February 6, 2018
A number of reviews are out for Apple’s HomePod. According to 9to5mac.com (as I am way too small potatoes to have actually gotten a review unit), reviewers are pretty universally impressed with the HomePod’s great sound. On the other hand, they hate the stupidity of Siri compared to Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa. The semi-smart speaker also gets knocks for being a closed system (like Apple would ever make it otherwise!) It won’t work with Spotify, Pandora, Amazon Music, etc. If you have all your music on Apple’s system, and love great sound with tight, loud, punchy bass and crisp highs, that sounds good anywhere in the room, by all means…go for it.
Google’s Pixel 2 had gotten accolades from it’s great camera app. The pix are just great on its proprietary processor Now, techcrunch.com says Google is opening up that tech to third party apps. As of today, it will work on Instagram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Snapchat if you update the software. That software is showing up as part of the monthly software update today…although it may take a day or two to get to you…your mileage may vary.
Love ‘em…hate ‘em, it’s often fun to pick on the French. Now, they’ve done something that may have their own citizens up in arms. 9to5google.com reports that France has banned hand held smartphone use in cars…EVEN if the car is sitting still with the engine off! Apparently, France changed their legal definition of driving to include everything except being parked off-road or in a designated parking spot! The fine is 135 Euros, and points on your license, same as if you were motoring down the road doing it. I suspect the French may invent a new hand sign to display in protest of this!
Welcome to the future and our new, robotic overlords! The military is now testing autonomous vehicles equipped with robotic weapons systems! According to zdnet.com, the Army has announced ‘Wingman,’ and they have successfully destroyed targets from a self-driving Hummer with an autonomous 7.62mm weapon system. The Army claims that, for the foreseeable future, there will always be a human soldier in the loop, making the decisions.
LG May Supply OLED Screens for iPhone X; Instagram Tests Standalone Messaging App; PS4 Sales Pass Big MilestonePosted: December 7, 2017
LG had already been rumored to be working on a deal to supply OLED screens to Apple for the iPhone X. Its been expected that something would work out for the next generation by September 2018, but now it could happen before that. 9to5mac.com reports that while Samsung has been the exclusive supplier to Apple for OLED screens, both LG and Chinese maker BOE have been trying to get in as suppliers. Apple earlier invested almost 14 billion in LG’s OLED production, with 2/3’s of it earmarked for iPhone screens.
Facebook is going full speed ahead in standalone messaging apps. Earlier this week, they announced Messenger Kids, and now it’s out that they are testing a standalone Instagram app for direct messaging. TechCrunch.com says right now the app is only available in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, and Israel. Besides sharing messages and stories (and of course pictures), there are exclusive filters. It may be out to everyone next year.
Sony has announced the Playstation 4 sales have crossed the 70 million mark, a notable milestone, because the PS3 sold just over 80 million over its lifespan, and the PS4 has gotten to this point in 4 years. According to theverge.com, best estimates for the Xbox One sales are 20 million. Another notable mark…Playstation VR, the virtual reality version has passed 2 million sold!
Twitter is still a rather shaky proposition to Wall St. types, but did add 9 million users last quarter, the most since early 2015. Recode.net says they also made 11 cents a share on $548 million in revenue, beating the expected penny a share on $512 million for the quarter. Importantly, daily active users went up 14% year over year. Twitter doesn’t release the number of active users, only the percentage, but 14% growth is a good sign. Twitter claims about 328 million users.
Meanwhile, at Instagram, they now boast 700 million users, and added 100 million the last 4 months. Engadget.com reports that the last time they put on that many new users it took 6 months. If they can keep adding at that pace, they will be the second social network to pass a billion users, like parent Facebook has.
Mattel is about to release Aristotle, a $349 voice-activated speaker launching in May that functions like Google Home or Amazon Echo devices, but for kids. Aristotle is built to live in a child’s room—and answer a child’s questions. Think a combination of: a nanny, friend, and tutor, equally able to soothe a newborn and aid a tween with foreign-language homework. It’s an AI to help raise your child. Mashable.com says they have particularly worked on making little voices understandable to it and making it as hack proof as possible…since it’s equipped with a camera that streams video to your phone.
Samsung has showed off the Galaxy Note 7 at their unpacked event in New York. It looks like a mix of the Note 5 and the S6 edge+…a sleek, attractive phablet. Bgr.com says the 5.7 inch screened handset has the usual improved innards, including 4 gigs of RAM, a 3500 mAh battery, is water and dust resistant, and carries a 12 megapixel Dual Pixel rear cam and 5 mp front selfie cam. (Why aren’t phone makers giving us selfie cams that are as good as back cams?) It has a fingerprint scanner, iris scanner, and improved S Pen stylus. Price will vary by carrier, but the Note 7 will be available August 19th.
Instagram has added Stories to the app on both Android and iOS. According to tech crunch.com it’s pretty much a direct ripoff of Snapchat Stories. letting you to post 24-hour ephemeral photo and video slideshows that disappear. They appear at the top of your feed, so followers won’t miss them…even if they wanted to. In a rare moment of candor, Instagram’s CEO admitted it’s basically a clone of the snapchat feature.
Pokemon Go has hit 100 million downloads now. 9to5mac.com says App Annie is reporting that the still hot game is hauling in $10 million a day for maker Niantic after 3 weeks! Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be stealing players from other games. This may be a huge break in getting people into augmented reality.
We just reported about 10 days ago about a British company called Intelligent Energy working with Apple on a fuel cell battery case that can keep your iPhone going for a week. Now, businessinsider.com says Apple has a patent for a fuel cell battery that could run some of its devices for days or even weeks. This one describes a “portable and cost-effective fuel cell system for a portable computing device,” and it joins others Apple already had on the books. This one seems to be aimed at MacBooks…the filing mentions the ‘MagSafe’ connector, but not the Lightening connectors used on iPhones and iPads. Apparently, you would just replace a fuel cartridge ‘detachably affixed to the fuel cell system’ when the fuel runs out.
It seems like everyone has a smartphone now…and that perception isn’t far from reality. According to an analysis by ComScore picked up by marketingland.com, US smartphone penetration hit 77% in July. In the social media race on smartphones, Facebook dominates more than ever. They stay #1, and Facebook’s freestanding Messenger app is now #2, bumping YouTube to third place. Don’t shed a tear for Google though…their apps hold down slots 3, 4, 5, and 6! Pandora radio, Gmail, Instagram, and Yahoo stocks round out the top 10.