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.

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iPhone 8 Sales Sluggish; Google Addressing Pixel 2 Screen Issues; India Passes Up US

It appears LOTS of people have been holding out for this morning’s preorder of iPhone X. 9to5mac.com reports that purchase data from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners shows the iPhone 8 is selling less than an S model has in the past. iPhone 8 and Plus models were only 16% of all iPhone sales last quarter, compared with 24% for the 6S and 6S Plus models. We won’t know for a while how iPhone X is selling or will sell, but it basically sold out immediately earlier this morning, with shipping estimates not at 5 to 6 weeks wait time. There will be a very limited number in stores next Friday, November 3, if you love standing in line and taking your chances. **Update: iPhone X reportedly sold out in 38 minutes early this morning.

Complaints have been flying about screens on the new Google Pixel 2 models…colors faded, screen burn of previous images, strange shades of blue at off-axis viewing angles, and on top of those, a high pitched ‘clicking’ during calls. Google says, they are investigating all, and a Google forum post says they are addressing them in an Android update. For the colors, they are adding a ‘saturated’ mode to the ‘vivid’ mode already included. To eliminate the burn effect, they are dropping the screen brightness by 50 nits…an amount that is nearly undetectable to the naked eye. A software fix is coming for the clicking, but you can turn off NFC to fix in the meantime. To ease fears of the bugs, Google has extended the warranty of all Pixel 2 and 2 XL models to two years.

‘We’re number…three?’ Yep, India has passed the US, and is now the world’s #2 smartphone market, behind China. According to techcrunch.com, India exceeded 40 million phones in the 3rd quarter. Looking at India’s 1.3 billion population compared to the US with 320 million, it seems unlikely that the US will regain the slot. China remains far and away the leader with 110 million shipped per quarter.


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.


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!