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.

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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.


Apple-stravaganza; Electrifying Car News; GM’s 1st Self-Driver Ready For Production

Apple Watch will have cellular, and use the same # as your phone, as predicted. It will stream music starting in October. It sports a faster processor, Bluetooth and WiFi, and an improved heart monitor. The screen is the antenna! Orders open on September 15th, it’s available September 22nd. Starting price with cellular is $399! WiFi only starts at $329, and the Series 1 stays at $249.

iPhone 8 will be the name of the two incremental upgrades, as leaked. Glass backed reinforced by steel. They are adding True Tone (from iPad) to the Retina displays. The chip is A11 ‘Bionic.’ Ok, go ahead and laugh…I did. 2 performance cores and 4 high efficiency cores, all 6 can run at once, making the phone blazingly fast. They have the 1st Apple designed GPU. Cameras have been upgraded, as expected. The Portrait mode gets special lighting for the iPhone 8 Plus. The video has been upgraded, too. The 8 will be calibrated for AR. The 6 processors will come in handy for augmented reality. Apple iPhones FINALLY gets wireless charging, with the Qi standard. They will be 64 and 256 gigs. They will start at $699 for the 8 and $799 for the Plus.

The iPhone X (which they pronounce ten) looks essentially exactly like the leaks. Surgical grade stainless steel bands, with glass back like the 8. Two colors only….Space Gray and Silver. They are calling it the Super Retina display. It’s edge to edge, 5.8” diagonally. 458 ppi, highest pixel count ever for iPhone, and the predicted OLED screen. They have managed to get True Tone color into it, and it will continue 3D Touch for the screen.

The phone will raise to wake, but you can also just tap the screen to wake it. Swipe up from the bottom, and you go from lock screen to home screen. Swipe up and pause for a second, and it goes to multitasking. You can activate Siri with ‘Hey, Siri,’ or the longer power button. It will have Face ID…it unlocks by just looking at it, again, as predicted. 6 sensors in the band that intrudes into the top of the screen calculate that it’s you. A dot projector puts 30,000 little points on your face to ascertain that it’s actually you…it won’t be fooled by a picture or statue. They call the chip that runs this the A11 Bionic Neural engine. They claim Touch ID could be spoofed 1 in 50,000, and that with Face ID that goes to 1 in 100,000. For Apple Pay, double tap side button and look at phone, then hold by the terminal.

They demoed the Animoji which were rumored…emoji you control with your facial expressions. Very cool demo. The 1st release will have a dozen Animoji. With apps, when you close it, just swipe up, and it dissolves and parks back in the icon. Swipe down from the top and bring up your control center.

Dual 12MP camera on the X Plus. The f2.4 is faster on the X. It also has dual image stabilization, which will be cool, and Portrait Mode on the front cam as well as the back. It has a Quad LED True Tone flash. They claim zero shutter lag. The cams are tuned for augmented reality. They have increased battery life 2 hours over the 7. The X will have Qi charging like the 8 models. They are bringing out a bigger wireless charging pad that will charge the iPhone 8 or X, Apple Watch, and AirPods at the same time. They call it Air Power…the charger is out next year.

Like the 8 models, the X will come in 64 and 256 gigs. Pricing starts at $999. Available for preorder on October 27th, and the X ships on November 3rd.

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No, Apple hasn’t sucked quite ALL the air out of the room today!

Yesterday, Mercedes-Benz revealed they would have an electric or hybrid available in eery model by 2022. Now, according to arstechnica.com, Volkswagen Group will electrify ALL 12 brands by 2030! Like Mercedes, Volvo, and Jaguar-Land Rover, this doesn’t mean they will quit making internal combustion engine cars all together by that date, but VW is the biggest volume auto maker to commit to this. The CEO says they’ve seen the future, it’s electric, and they are driving us there! 30 will be plug in hybrids and 50 will will be battery EVs…that’s 80 different electrified models.

There’s a BIG reason so many car makers are looking to electrics. While France and Britain are indicating an endtime for internal combustion vehicles by 2040, the big reason is China… the biggest vehicle market in the world. The Guardian says China is poised to ban gas and diesel cars ‘in the near future.’

Meanwhile, General Motors has thrown down the self-driving gauntlet. According to businessinsider.com, their first self-driving car is ready for production. The GM owned Cruise automation says as soon as federal and state regulators get things together, they can start cranking out the cars…in the hundreds of thousands! The first model is based around the electric Chevy Bolt.


iPhone Details Revealed with iOS Gold Master Leak; Mercedes Goes Big With Electrics; Tesla Expands Supercharger Net; No Stoner Drones in CA

Someone at Apple leaked the Gold Master version of iOS 11 over the weekend, and many details are out about the new iPhones and more. 9to5mac.com says the iPhone X will have wireless charging for sure, Face ID looks to replace Touch ID, the camera gets special flash options for portrait mode, and it all runs on an A11 6 core processor. Two are high power and 4 low power, and all can run at the same time, which will blow away all Android devices out there. A new feature for the X are 3D animations called ‘Animoji,’ that will mimic your expressions using the 3D sensors. The iPhone 8 models will also run 4K video at 60 FPS, and Portrait Lighting will also be included on the 8 models. Of course, it’s still possible that Tim Cook and company have a couple things up their sleeves for tomorrow…the show gets underway at 10am Pacific. Some analysts say if the X model is $999, only 20% will upgrade, but others look for 40% to make the jump.

Also revealed in the OS 11 leak….there will be an LTE Apple Watch for sure. Instructions have been found for pairing it and activating it. It will use the same number as your iPhone, but can be used independently…say, if you are on a run and want to stream music or take a call, but don’t want to schlep your phone along. No details on how much additional the carriers will charge.

The folks who gave us the car, Daimler, are saying Mercedes-Benz will offer electric versions of all models by 2022. Reuters quotes CEO Dieter Zetche (he of the magnificent mustache) on this. This means there will be at least 50 Mercedes that are either hybrid or fully electric within 4 model years!

On the topic of electrics, Tesla has announced that they are adding to their supply of Superchargers. According to techcrunch.com, instead of the freeway system stations, they are focusing on populated city centers…in this case Chicago and Boston. The new chargers are built out so that multiple cars can tap into the same Supercharger without downgrade in charging rate…that should give a full charge in 45-50 minutes! The new chargers are physically smaller, which will help for installations in parking garages.

This story is a big downer, man. Thenextweb.com reports that California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control has explicitly forbidden dispensaries from delivering pot to customers by drone. Drivers can deliver, so long as they don’t leave unattended pot in vehicles. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive or walk to your local dispensary in order to fly high!


Huawei Passes Apple as #2 Smartphone; Apple & Amazon Fight over 007; Epson Shows 130 Inch Projection TV; Steve Jobs Theatre Tricks Revealed

They were neck in neck at the start of summer, but now Huawei has passed up Apple to claim bragging rights as #2 smartphone maker worldwide. 9o5google.com notes that part of the reason is consumers waiting on the new iPhone 8 or Edition that bows next week. OTOH, Huawei will roll out its flagship Mate 10 in October, so time will tell which of the freshened smartphones will rule the year for #2 by the end of the year.

You would think a movie studio would easily snatch up the rights to a franchise as storied as the James Bond one, but not necessarily. Amazon and Apple are apparently in a bidding war for 007, too. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner still has the inside track since the rights with Sony expired in 2015 with ‘Spectre,’ but Sony, Universal, and Fox are all in the hunt. Warner is pressing MGM to close a deal, but just the fact that Apple and Amazon are chasing the franchise shows how important the tech giants think content is becoming. Bond may be the last of the big, untapped movie brands, with Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm already tied up. Meanwhile, Amazon just wrapped a deal to self-distribute its first film…Woody Allen’s ‘Wonder Wheel.’

So you thought projection TV was long gone? Not so much, apparently. Bgr.com reports that Epson has just unveiled a 130 inch ‘screen-free’ laser TV. It’s out this fall for 3 grand. While that seems strong compared to a 45 incher that sells for less than $1000, bear in mind that a panel TV bigger than 75 inches runs between $4000 and $10,000. The 130 inch screen size is 300% larger than a 65 inch display. Epson’s lamp free laser should last 30,000 hours work of viewing.

As a lot of people know, after Apple’s presentations, they always hold product demos for journalists…normally in a separate room. Everyone has been wondering how that will work in the ‘flying saucer’ Steve Jobs Theatre building. Now, it’s leaked out. 9to5mac.com says a wall will slide back, revealing the demo space! A couple other tidbits….the cushy leather seats ran approximately $14,000 each, and while there’s a spiral staircase leading down to the theater area, there are also two round elevators with just one door each. The elevator cars ROTATE so the door can open on the opposite side at the bottom! Only Apple would do this!


Beats Gets Adaptive Noise Canceling; Huawei Building AI into Mobile Chips; Jaguar Land Rover Shows ‘Tron’ Steering Wheel; iPhone Name Claims

Beats has added adaptive noise canceling to Studio 3 Headphones. Techcrunch.com reports it’s a direct shot at Bose, with the new Beats models claiming to screen out sounds better and more comprehensively…not just jet plane roar. The now Apple division has also toned down its colors, and offers a bit less pumped up bass. They claim 22 ours of battery life, and the price? That’s still pumped up at $350…available now.

All the tech product companies are betting big on AI…AI has even made it into the realm of politics, with Russia’s Vlad Putin claiming that whomever nails AI first and best will rule the world. Now Huawei says they are going to bake AI processing into their next chip, with the first ever Neural Processing Unit for smartphones. Thenextweb.com explains that what that means to you is no need to phone home to the cloud for the handset to offer AI assistance. Huawei also says it will get 50% longer batter life. If you are a little skeptical…we’ll all find out how much of this is real and what’s vaporware in October when the successor to the Mate 9 drops.

For decades auto makers have shown cars of the future, and now Jaguar Land Rover has given a peek at their steering wheel of the future. Cnet.com notes that it’s right out of Tron…the ‘wheel’ is more of a flattened octagon, with no visible buttons or switches. Jag says it will be totally AI operated, and will detach and dock in your home when you’re not driving…so it can be used there as a personal assistant, too. The so-called ‘Sayer’ will be attachable to any car you like, based on what tasks you have for the day. Maybe just a sedan for your commute….or a pickup if you are helping a pal move. Jag presumes by the time something like this bows, almost all vehicles will be self-driving…at least primarily. They will show a prototype in London September 8-10, and then the week after at the Frankfurt Motor Show.

A week before the new iPhone bows, and it’s the silly season with rumors. Now, one report picked up by bgr.com says it will be iPhone X for sure. Another that relies on what major case makers are planning…9to5mac.com says that the name will be iPhone Edition, and there won’t be any 7S models…those will jump right to iPhone 8. Of course, we’ll know for sure next week!


iPhone 8 Gesture Controls; Amazon Echo Goes Muiti-Room; Sonos Making Smart Speaker; Cummins Announces Electric Big Rig

There’s already been a lot leaked about the iPhone 8, but now, here’s something new from bloomberg.com: in addition to losing the physical home button, Apple has added gesture controls that open the home screen and can actually move the software-based task bar up to mid-screen, open multitasking, and more. The task bar will look like the dock for iPad on iOS 11. In multitasking, instead of the stack overlapping cards to swipe through, it will appear of a series of standalone cards.

Getting the drop on Apple’s HomePod by a few months, Amazon has dropped a new feature letting you play, sync, and control music over multiple Echos using voce commands. 9to5mac.com says they have also rolled out new developer tools.

Meanwhile, Sonos…which has been the big name in home speakers…is working on a new one with integrated voice control functionality. According to bgr.com, the CEO has said he wants it to work with ‘all services that matter.’ While getting into Apple’s closed system and Siri is probably out, expect it to work with Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. The FCC filing says it will work with ‘multiple voice platforms!’ It may be rolled out in October.

Tesla plans to unveil their electric truck next month. Now, diesel engine maker Cummins has announced their own electric big rig. Electrek.co says it’s designed as an ‘urban hauler,’ and has a 100 mile range on batteries. The rig can recharge in an hour, and Cummins says that will be improved before it hits the market. A hybrid version with a small diesel will also be offered, boasting a 300 mile range. The rig will pull a 44,000 lb. load.