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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GM Will Have 20+ Electric Cars by 2023; Apple’s TrueDepth Cam is 2-1/2 Years Ahead of Android; Walmart Buys Delivery Service Parcel; Headphones Customize Music to Your Hearing

Joining a growing number of car makers, General Motors will launch at least 20 all electric cars by 2023. Theverge.com reports that two of those will join the Bolt in the next 18 months, and that the General will also make a hydrogen fuel cell vehicle. GM has said it is committed to an all-electric future. Daimler has said they will have an electric model of every Mercedes-Benz by 2022, Volkswagen will be completely electrified by 2030, and Volvo plant to cease production of gas-only vehicles by 2019.

According to an analysis by KGI Securities, it will take Android makers 2-1/2 years to catch up to the functionality of Apple’s True Depth Camera featured on the iPhone X. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple will ship 30-35 million of the new hero phone by year’s end. The True Depth cam system enables Face ID, and other advanced features like face tracking and analysis for the Animoji. Apparently, it is the difficulty in making the cam system that has delayed production of the iPhone X, which the majority of people seem to be waiting for over the just-released iPhone 8.

With Amazon now doing some of its own deliveries, and not relying on UPS and the post office for everything, Walmart has jumped into the logistics business and picked up Parcel, a Brooklyn based delivery startup. Arstechnica.com says the 4 year old company has focused on getting city dwellers packages at convenient times. They offer a 2 hour pick up window, so your orders aren’t stolen off the porch or out of the entryway. Parcel also sends live updates over text to recipients and shippers updating them on last mile location of the package as its delivered. Walmart plans to expand service beyond New York City, combining Parcel’s infrastructure with that of Jet, which it bought a year ago.

Always of interest to those of us who have made our living wearing headphones…better headphones! According to engadget.com, those might be the Nuraphones. Nura claims they are like prescription headphones for your ears. The cans are over the ear, but contain earbud like inserts inside. They tune themselves to your ears using ‘otoacoustic emissions’…sound returns from the inner ear when stimulated…that produce an aural ‘fingerprint’ of sorts. The processor then creates a personal equalization setting for each ear, custom tailored to your hearing. The app that works on either Android or iOS gives you 3 different hearing profiles, and there are a couple programmable buttons on the headphones. They last 20 hours on a charge, and speaking of charges, they will set you back a princely $399!


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.


Twitter Doubling Tweet Length to 280 Characters; iPhone X Shortage Will Be Due to Facial Recognition Hardware; Dyson Building Electric Car

Twitter is testing out doubling Tweet length to 280 characters for some users. 9to5google.com reports that the company decided on the expansion after finally noting that character count allowed vastly more information in some languages like Chinese, Japanese, and Korean. Those languages can convey about twice as much information per character as can English, Spanish, or French. Twitter noted that 9% of Tweets in English hit the limit, but only .4% do so in Japanese. They still may not expand to everybody if they feel the test goes badly.

Apple’s iPhone X delay and expected shortage is apparently due to part of the module that allows 3D facial recognition. According to macrumors.com, it is taking more time to assemble the dot projector that beams 30,000 invisible dots to your face and allows the phone to map it, determining that it’s you. The hero iPhone may be hard to get through the first quarter of next year because of the issue.

Dyson is working on an electric car. One analyst at cnet.com joked that If it’s priced like its vacuums, it will cost 12 million dollars and have lots of vortices. Actually, James Dyson had already been working on vehicle-related pollution issues since 1990. Now, the company has confirmed that it will build an electric car. Dyson announced Tuesday that his company will build a battery-electric vehicle and it should by ready by 2020. A 400-plus-person team is already hard at work on the car. James Dyson said he’s committed to investing $2.68 billion on the project. No truth to the rumor that it will have 16 vortex nozzles, or that it will Hoover up road debris as you drive…


Facebook Testing ‘Snooze’ Feature; Huawei Takes a Shot at the iPhone X; Your Nintendo Switch Has Hidden Copy of NES Golf

Everyone with more than a handful of friends on Facebook has a few who post really annoying things…whether it’s too many food pictures, political posts, dozens of kid of cat pics, or hourly selfies. Up to now, you’ve either had to unfollow them or unfriend them. Mashable.com reports that Facebook is testing another alternative…’snoozing’ them. The feature lets you temporarily unfollow for 24 hours, a week, or 30 days. While Facebook tests out things that don’t make it into the app for everyone, let’s hope this one does! It will live on the menu with unfollow.

We noted earlier that Huawei will be rolling out their next flagship phone in October. It’s the Mate 10, and the verge.com says they are now running an ad saying they will unveil ‘the Real AI Phone’ next month…specifically on October 16th! Actually, they have had a chipset that does a decent job with AI, and the new iteration will of course be an improvement. With a nod to Apple’s Neural Engine, Huawei calls the system on a chip the “Neural Processing Unit,” or NPU. Keep you skepticism shields up, but we’ll see what they roll out on October 16th!

Hackers at SwitchBrew.org have discovered a fully playable copy of NES Golf buried inside the Nintendo Switch. According to arstechnica.com, they found it under ‘flog,’ which is golf spelled backwards, and it’s the old 80’s NES golf game, updated specifically to run on the Switch. Since the hackers posted screen shots, it’s presumed they have found how to run it, but so far haven’t given up the button combination to unlock it.


Facebook Working On Voice Assistant; Waymo Focuses on Ride-Sharing & Big Rigs; Apple’s Face ID Only Does One Face at Launch

Facebook always has a number of things going on under the radar, and now businessinsider.com says one of those is a voice assistant much like Siri or Alexa. Code was spotted by a developer in a prior mobile app that indicates the assistant would be capable of making suggestions and finding basic information like scores or times of ball games. Facebook said they weren’t working on such a feature ‘right now’ earlier this year, but BI has learned that they are doing so in their secretive Building 8. The voice is code named Aloha, and Facebook is shooting for rolling it out in May 2018.

Waymo’s CEO confirmed in an interview at a Bloomberg conference that the Google subsidiary is focusing…at least initially…on ride sharing and trucking. 9to5google.com reports that CEO John Krafcik said ‘there’s a good and compelling use-case’ for ‘goods transportation,’ in other words, self-driving trucks. The ride-sharing is well underway with the fleet of Chrysler minivans that begun a public trial in Phoenix earlier this year. Also bearing down on the trucking sector….Tesla. Elon Musk announced that they will reveal their electric big rig October 25th.

According to multiple people who spoke to Apple at the rollout Tuesday, Face ID on the new iPhone X will only support one registered face per device…at least at first. According to techrunch.com, which also confirmed this separately, this could limit letting a loved one have that type of access to your phone. The iPhone Touch ID can store up to 5 fingerprints. The fix for now…or even always…is to merely give your loved one your passcode. Presumably Apple will make allowances for additional faces as Face ID expands to iPads and laptops, as those are even more likely to be shared by family members.


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.