Mercedes Teases Production e-SUV; Smart Speaker Sales Climb; Pixel 3 Rollout; iPhone Xs-or Whatever

Their company slogan for over 100 years, a personal motto of Gottlieb Daimler, has been ‘The best…or nothing.’ Now, Mercedes is going to reveal their first production electric SUV on September 4th. According to engadget.com, a very brief video clip dropped of the vehicle over the weekend. It does have a grill…unnecessary in an e-vehicle, but perhaps necessary from a branding standpoint…making it clear that it’s unmistakably a Mercedes. Interestingly, except for the tiny script on the crest on the hood, Mercedes-Benz has never put their actual name on a vehicle in the past 70 years…only the iconic 3 pointed star! The e-SUV will roll with a 400HP motor system and 70kWh battery pack. It will boast 0-62mph in under 5 seconds and a 310 mile maximum range. It should hit the roadways in 2019.

The smart speaker market is exploding, but no one knows how much longer it will sustain such growth. Geekwire.com reports that an analysis by Canalys estimates that in the second quarter of this year, the market grew 187% worldwide year over year, with shipments of 16.8 million smart speaker devices. Amazon still commands half the market, Google now has a quarter, and the final quarter is divided up amongst Chinese players and Apple. Canalys sees Google shipping more than Amazon in Q2, 32.3% to 24.5%, but others disagree. Futuresource and Strategy Analytics say Amazon is still on top. The latter gave amazon 41% and Google 27.6% in 2nd quarter, so we’ll have to stay tuned to see who actually comes out on top when the smoke all clear.

Google will roll out the Pixel 3 at an event in New York City on October 9th, according to a couple Bloomberg sources, in a story picked up by 9to5google.com. In addition to the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL, we should also see a 2nd generation Pixelbook, a new set of Pixel Bud earphones, and a Pixel Watch running the Wear OS.

We are pretty certain Apple will roll out its 3 new iPhone models on September 12th, but no one is certain about the name. Macrumors.com says Apple has considered ’S’ since this would ordinarily be an ’S’ year for them…they may have more significant changes next year….BUT is waffling on naming the OLED models that. Maybe that’s due to how it sounds. Although the ‘X’ model was supposed to be TEN, most people called it X. An Xs model could bring snark and ridicule…say it fast…Xs….excess! Well, a lot of people feel that way about Apple’s prices! Anyway, whatever it is should roll out September 12th.

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Alphabet Crushes Estimates; Foxconn Staffs Up For New iPhone; Microsoft Building 2 New Xbox Consoles; YouTube Tests Explore Feature

Google parent Alphabet reported financials yesterday, with a nice beat of Wall Street expectations. According to reuters.com, expenses from Google search didn’t grow as much as expected, which pushed profits up. Their operating margin ticked up from 22 to 24%, excluding the $5 antitrust fine from the EU…which appears like a rounding error. Alphabet hauled in $32.66 billion second quarter, 86% of which came from Google advertising, and beating the estimate of $32.17 billion. Alphabet still trails, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter in valuation, but is in the hunt. Apple still leads in the quest to be the first billion dollar company.

Foxconn is getting ready for the next generation iPhone by offering bonuses to workers who renew their contracts. The $295 bonus and hiring campaign will extend through this November. Macrumors.com reports that Foxconn is expected to assemble the majority of all 3 new iPhone models…the 2nd generation iPhone X, 90% of the iPhone Plus (or whatever Apple ends up calling it), and about 75% of the lower priced 6.1 inch iPhone with the LED screen. All 3 phones are expected to bow in September.

Microsoft is already hard at work on the next iteration of the Xbox console. in addition to the traditional version, Redmond is apparently working on a cheaper ‘streaming box’ designed to work with its previously reported streaming service. The streamer is code named ‘Scarlett Cloud’, and would run games both locally and in the cloud…which has been dubbed slice or splice. The idea is to help reduce latency. Geekwire.com reports that Sony, EA, and Nvidia are also working on cloud based game streaming services.

In the ongoing quest to grab and hold more eyeballs, YouTube is testing out a new feature on around 1% of iOS YouTube app users the next several weeks. Thenextweb.com says it’s an explore feature, similar to the Instagram Explore tab…and the idea is to help users discover more videos and content creators that may be lost in the thousands of others. Personalized recommendations will be based on the user’s previous viewing history.


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.


Next Samsung Phone Further into Phablet Range; Alphabet Coins Money in Q1 & Adds Employees; iPhone X Users Love Everything-But One; 27 Pages of Facebook No-Nos

It looks like Samsung’s successor to the Galaxy S9 will be going big…bigger than the LCD third iPhone Apple plans for this fall. According to the dailymail.com, it will sport a bigger 6.3 inch super AMOLED screen (the bigger Apple phone is slated to be 6.1 inch, and LED…while the iPhone X successor will be 5.8 inch.) The present Galaxy S9 has a 6.2 inch screen. Also expect a 12 MP camera which will move to the left of the handset’s back like iPhone, faster processor, and that 6.3 inch screen should go edge to edge…but WON’T be curved, according to rumors!

Google parent Alphabet blew past expectations, with first quarter revenues of over 31 billion…that’s up a whopping 26% from first quarter last year. 9to5google.com says the company also hired on another 5,000 employees, and now exceeds 85,000. This is in great part a one time event, as Google brought on board about 2000 engineers in Taiwan from smartphone maker HTC. Google has been hiring 2-3000 employees per quarter since 2017, though.

Early adapters of the iPhone X in the US adore their phones…Creative Strategies found that it has a 97% satisfaction rate. There’s only one thing they don’t like, according to macrumors.com…Siri. The miserably executed voice assistant just had a 20% satisfaction rate! Maybe the AI wizard Apple wooed from Google can fix the mess that is Siri. Just yesterday, a friend was texting me…she dictates to Siri. Most of the garbled things, I was able to figure out from the context, but one paragraph was absolute gibberish! The friend immediately clarified…laboriously with the virtual keyboard. Come on, Apple…fix this mess!

It’s always been kind of like black magic, trying to figure out what facebook won’t allow to be posted…but now it’s clearer. Bgr.com reports that the social network has published 27…count ‘em…pages of Community Standards that have been used in their internal moderation policies. Want to be edgy, or wonder why your hate speech or bullying wouldn’t post…check out the document. Facebook has also unveiled an appeals process. Facebook claims the appeal reviews are done by an actual person, and usually within 24 hours.


Amazon Working On 1st Home Robot; iPhone Price Rumor; Streaming Music Growth Exploding; Google And (Lots of) Your Data

It was bound to happen, and of course Amazon is involved. Theverge.com reports that Amazon is working on a robot for homes…code named ‘Vesta.’ The development is happening in Lab126, the Amazon ‘Skunk Works’ that cranked out the Kindle, Fire Phone, and Echo. Apparently, the device is something of a ‘mobile Alexa,’ that would follow you around the house, awaiting your commands. It could be out for the public…at least in beta…by next year!

There’s been talk for months about Apple bringing out 3 phones this fall….successors to the iPhone X and X Plus with OLED screens (and a budget-busting price), and a less expensive 6.1 inch LED screen phone. According to businessinsider.com, KGI Securities…probably the most reliable leaker about things Apple on the planet…says it could be priced starting at $550! But wait….there’s more! This more reasonably priced iPhone could also have a $650 version with TWO sim cards for 2 different numbers! This is not only a plus for travelers or for having both a home and business number, but it’s a really big deal inAsia, where people like to be able to easily switch between carriers and data plans. If these rumors pan out, KGI says the phone could account for 65-75% of iPhone sales next year.

The death of the recorded music business has apparently been ‘highly exaggerated!’ After dropping for the last 10 years, the music biz is being buoyed by…of all things…streaming music. 9to5mac.com says streaming music now makes up some 43% of total revenues, but it grew a full 39% last year! On top of that, the combined revenue of indie artists was nearly as big as that for Universal Music, the biggest label. Apple Music now boasts 40 million subscribers, and some analysts think it may grow another 40% a year for the next 3 years!

Facebook has been getting pounded for the Cambridge Analytica scandal involving the data of millions. Meanwhile…amazingly under the radar….Google rolls merrily along, Hoovering up even more of your data! Bgr.com is reporting that Google is able to track you even better than Facebook can, and has vast information on people…especially people who use Google services like gmail. A report finds that Google collects enough data on some users to fill a stack of pages 8 feet high every two weeks! The European Union is cracking down on such data grabs, and Google is working to change their policies to comply…but be aware that even if you don’t use their services and opt out of ad targeting, Google still has plenty of info on you! They know what you want and where you go, and even what you read. Again…even if you don’t use anything but the web, and no services but Google search, they have piles of info about you!


iPhone X Made Bank in 4th Quarter; New iPhone SE Soon; Facebook’s EU Privacy Compliance; Company Using Facebook for Massive Facial Recognition Database

There has been so much coverage about what a big flop the iPhone X is…now, comes word that the flagship handset brought in 35% of total worldwide iPhone profits in the 4th quarter….and really only 2 months of that quarter! Macrumors.com reports that Counterpoint Research crunched the numbers, and also found that the handset generated five times the profit of over 600 Android OEMs that quarter! For comparison at Apple, the iPhone 8 brought in 19.1% of the profits, and the iPhone 8 Plus 15.2%.

The diminutive (by today’s standards) and dated iPhone SE only amounted to .9% of Apple’s iPhone profits in the 4th quarter last year, and now it looks like it will be getting a long-overdue refresh. According to bgr.com, Apple has registered a number of new model numbers for iPhones that will run iOS 11 with the EU and with Russia, which require them in advance. The smaller and less pricey iPhone may be out in May, or around WWDC in June. It will have greatly improved internals, but one rumor has it staying the same on the outside, with another indicating a brand new design. At any rate, we will know in a matter of weeks.

The EU’s new privacy regs go into place next month, and Facebook has released some details about how they will comply. 9to5google.com says the US will get a watered down version, as had been previously rumored. The GDPR….General Data Protection Regulation compliance makes Facebook ask users specifically to agree to a number of things, and is not allowed to present pre-selected defaults. Three key things they must ask are to chose whether or not you want them to use data from partners to show you ads, if you want Facebook to continue to let them use info you’ve shared about political, religious, or relationship info (hint: they will still have the data!), and lastly if you will allow them to use face recognition tech (like for tagging in photos.) These are such mild requirements, don’t expect much change in the ‘watered down’ US version!

If you thought the Cambridge Analytica scandal was creepy, you’ll love this…a surveillance company founded by former Israeli intelligence officers called Terrogence has been using social networking sites like Facebook and YouTube to build a giant facial-recognition database. Mashable.com reports they’ve been at this for five years! The database is part of their facial recognition service called Face-Int. Terrogence, and its parent company Verint supply intelligence tech to the US government including the NSA and the Navy. They would not disclose whether or not the US government utilizes their face database.


Facebook Privacy Issues Multiply & Their Damage Control; iPhone X Will Add a Color; FedEX Orders Tesla e-Big Rigs; Google Assistant Gets Philips Hue Scene Support

Over the weekend, Facebook ran full page ads in several US and British newspapers, with an apology from Mark Zuckerberg for the recent data privacy scandal involving Cambridge Analytica. Since the ads ran, a new report from arstechnica.com says in some cases, Facebook’s Android apps will keep logs of the names of people you called and texted, how long the convos were, and the other person’s phone number. Users are now madder than ever. Facebook claims it got permission to scrape the call and text data, but that likely won’t help. A Reuters/Ipsos poll came out Sunday indicating less than half of Americans trust the social media giant to obey US privacy laws. It’s 41% that trust Facebook, compared to 66% trusting Amazon, 62% trust Google, 60% trust Microsoft, and 47% Yahoo. The Federal Trade Commission has an investigation underway into Facebook now.

After production problems limited the iPhone X to two colors, it looks like Apple will add another color to try to boost sales of the successor phones out this fall. According to 9to5mac.com, it will be a ‘blush gold’ tone. A more iffy rumor also has a (Product)Red iPhone in the mix. Apple’s education event in Chicago is Tuesday…we’ll cover what they bow there…a cheaper iPad is expected.

FedEx has preordered 20 electric big rigs from Tesla. The rigs go into production next year, and rival UPS has preordered 125 of the e-rigs. Techcrunch.com says each of these orders is a pretty small pilot fleet, but will jump start the Tesla truck production. Tesla is already running test rigs between the Gigafactory in Reno, Nev. and the production factory in Fremont, CA.

Google Assistant has picked up a handy feature…native support for Philips Hue scenes. 9to5google.com reports that Assistant has been supporting Hue lights since it came out, but that support didn’t extend to the preset ‘scenes’…which the Hue app and Amazon Alexa could control. Now, Assistant can use them, too. One note…you may have to delete and re-add your Hue lights to Assistant, or at least sync before the new feature works. A lot of users find it quite handy to be able to adjust colors on several lights or in multiple rooms with just a voice command.