Ford-Bye Gas, Hello Batteries; Samsung Giant Indian Factory; Owning Apple i Devices = Wealth

Previously, Ford had announced that, outside of the Mustang, they were ditching cars for all SUVs and trucks. Now, engadget.com reports that Ford is going all-in on electrics. They plan to have a 300 mile range Mustang inspired small SUV (code name Mach 1) on the road by 2020. They plan to have 40 electrified vehicles…16 of then EVs…..by 2022.

Samsung has opened the world’s largest mobile phone factory in India. According to Bloomberg, it will make everything from $100 cheapies to the flagship S9. Locally, most sales in India are in the $250 or less range. Last year, India passed up the US to become the 2nd largest market for smartphones after China. Cisco did a study, and sees India going from 359 million smartphones in 2018 to 780 million in 2021.

In a study by the University of Chicago, in the US ’no individual brand is as predictive of being high-income as owning an Apple iPhone’. Businessinsider.com says the study was based on 2016 data. According to the researchers, owning an iPhone gave them a 69% chance to correctly infer that the phone owner was ‘high-income,’ which they defined as in the top 25% of income for the household type (like single adult….or couple with dependents.) For reference, back in 1992, the strongest indicator of high income households was Grey Poupon mustard!

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Samsung Galaxy X Folder; iPhones Beef Up Hack-proofing; Waymo Ridership; Microsoft Eyes Automated Check Out

The mythic Samsung Galaxy X folding smartphone may yet be coming…the latest rumors say in 2019…pretty cool news for those excited about a phone with a large, folding screen. Ok…that’s the good news. The not-so-good news? According to Golden Bridge Investment, it will probably cost a bit under $1850…or almost double the cost of the present iPhone X. In addition to the two OLED screens with virtually no bezel between them that fold in, the handset will have a third panel for use when the phone is folded. Bgr.com reports that unfolded, the inner screens will combine for a phablet-sized  7.3 inch display! Samsung partners should get a preview at next year’s Consumer Electronics Show.

Apple has confirmed a leak that says it is closing the tech loophole that has been letting law enforcement hack iPhones via USB based hardware like the GrayKey box. The GrayKey box is designed to plug into the Lightening port of an iPhone, and it then uses a data connection to brute force a passcode in as little as a few hours.  In an upcoming software update, the port will be disabled and require a password starting an hour after the phone is locked. The setting will be enabled by default. Macrumors.com says an exception is charging…which doesn’t require a data connection. Apple notes that they aren’t anti-law enforcement…in 2017 they responded to over 29,000 National Security Requests from the US government.

This Spring, Google’s Waymo kicked off an Early Rider program to let people in Arizona get their feet wet in experiencing self-driving cars. They have now let us in on a bit of a progress report. Waymo has gotten 20,000 applications to participate, and so far, riders have ranged in age from 9 to 69. Destinations pretty well mirror rides from Uber or Lyft…the most popular is getting to work…followed by restaurants, schools, and bars. According to 9to5google.com, the biggest request by riders: closer pickup and drop-off points. You’ll be glad to know that Waymo is working on how to gently wake napping riders upon arriving at their destination!

Amazon’s checkout-less stores…Amazon Go… have been covered here a number of times, but now there’s word of a heavyweight challenger in the push to eliminate the check out line at stores….Microsoft. Reuters.com says The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is developing systems that track what shoppers add to their carts. Microsoft has shown sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart  about a potential collaboration. While it isn’t clear how soon Microsoft could get their system to the market, it’s worth noting that they are the #2 provider of cloud services behind Amazon. According to analyst Gene Munster of Loop Ventures, the US market for automated checkout is worth some $50 billion dollars.


iPhones May Get USB-C Ports; Microsoft Revamps Office; Tesla Laying Off 9%; Big Names Back Better Battery Quest

After going all-in on USB-C on the MacBook Pro line, it looks like Apple may be getting ready to retire the Lightening connectors on the upcoming iPhones in favor of the more universally used connection. 9to5mac.com reports that Apple may also include an 18 watt charger to take advantage of quick charging…which the current phones are already capable of, but only with 3rd party chargers. It’s worth noting that this rumor comes from Digitimes, which doesn’t have the stellar accurate leak record of the likes of KGI Securities. That said, Apple has run with the Lightening port since 2012, so a change is more likely than not.

Microsoft is porting over its Fluent Design system from Windows 10 to Office, in an effort to simplify them for the some billion users of the productivity suite. According to theverge.com, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook will all get a new, simplified ribbon that is smaller and easier to use. There are new animations, icons that are more accessible, and more. The goal is to modernize Office, and make it more intuitive. The changes will hit the main desktop versions first, but also will be brought over to the web versions. They should appear on the apps for Windows next month, and on Macs by August. Microsoft also promises and increase in speed for the productivity suite.

As first indicated last month, Tesla has begun laying off salaried employees as they move to what Elon Musk calls ‘flattening the management structure’, and a ‘thorough reorganization’ of the company aimed at helping Tesla achieve profitability by the end of this year. Electrek.co notes that as many as 3,500 employees could be let go. No line workers will be involved in the layoffs, as Tesla continues to ramp up Model 3 production, and they will still be hiring ‘mission critical’ people. After the Solar City acquisition, Tesla laid off about 20% of that workforce, cutting duplicate positions and restructuring. They are also not continuing the residential sales agreement with Home Depot…although those employees will have the opportunity to move to Tesla retail locations.

Billion dollar startup Breakthrough Energy Ventures has dived into a couple startups aimed at power storage. Form Energy is working on novel chemistries for low-cost, long-term, high-density batteries, and Quidnet Energy is working on storing energy in highly compressed water. Geekwire.com says Breakthrough is backed by some really big players in tech: Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Jack Ma. The fund was started a couple years ago, but the two energy storage tech startups are two of the first investments revealed by Breakthrough. Cheap, efficient energy storage will allow power generated by renewable energy sources to be stored for use 24/7 on the energy grid.


Triple Lens iPhone Cam-in ’19; Fitbit Adds Female Health Tracking, Quick Replies; Facebook’s Oculus Go Ingeniously Ditches Headphones; California Requires Solar on New Homes

‘You’re riding high in April, shot down in May.’ That’s what Frank Sinatra sang in “That’s Life,” and that’s the story as far as Apple’s iPhone getting a 3 lens camera system this fall! According to appleinsider.com, reports from analysts checking with a couple of Apple vendors indicate that the 3 lens system isn’t going to make it by this September. The system will allegedly include a 5x optical zoom instead of the 2x one on present iPhones. The third lens may also improve low light image quality or even play a part in range finding, or possibly add new camera effects. Personally, I hope the earlier rumors are right anyway…the zoom feature is one I have used the most on my iPhone 7 Plus.

Fitbit has rolled out two new features…’female health tracking’ (on iOS and Windows now, Android is on the way), and quick replies on Android with an Ionic or Versa. theverge.com says the female health tracking was announced a couple months ago when the Versa was unveiled. It allows for logging data about periods, including symptoms like cramps or acne. Over time, this should give women more accurate cycle predictions. The quick replies feature can be used to respond to texts or messages in apps like Facebook Messenger. they include yes and no, but also ‘sounds good,’ ‘can’t talk now, will reply later,’ and ‘what’s up?’ You can also customize them, but they have to stay 60 characters or less.

The big reveal on Facebook’s new Oculus Go headsets at F8 was that they operate entirely without an attached computer. It was immediately noted that there were no headphones or earbuds attached, though. Now, businessinsider.com reports why. Oculus has ingeniously built little speakers into the front of the side straps on the $200 VR headset. This means a bit less immersive experience, since your ears aren’t sealed in, but that might be a plus if you are viewing on a plane, train, or bus. BTW, there IS an audio jack right by the micro USB charging port if you insist on plugging in your own headphones or earbuds.

California has often been the trendsetter for many decades, and is ramping up to do it again. According to engadget.com, the states Energy Commission will begin requiring solar panels on roofs of almost all new homes, condos, and apartment buildings by 2020. There will be exceptions for homes that can’t fit panels, or would be blocked by taller buildings or trees. There will also be compliance credits for builders that install batteries like the Tesla Powerwall. It’s estimated that this will add $25,000 to $30,000 to the initial cost, but then will save owners $50,000 top $60,000 over the 25 year lifespan of the solar system. the final vote at the Energy Commission is May 9th, and it is widely expected that the rule making will pass.


New Snap Specs; No 3D Touch on Upcoming 6.1 Inch iPhone, Ford Dropping Most Cars for Trucks & SUVs

As rumored, Snap has revealed its new version of Spectacles…and updated the camera glasses with a new feature…and, of course, bumped up the price. According to businessinsider.com, the new Spectacles are a little slimmer, can take photos as well as video, and they are water resistant. Snap also says they have new and improved audio. The latest version are priced at $149.99, a $20 bump from the originals. You can buy them now at spectacles.com.

Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities, probably the most accurate Apple prognosticator on the planet, has reaffirmed that the 6.1 inch LCD screen iPhone coming this fall…which will be priced noticeably lower than the successor to the iPhone X with its OLED screen…will not have 3D Touch. Apparently, it’s due to a tech Apple plans to use called Cover Glass Sensor tech that makes the display lighter and more shock resistant. Macrumors.com says the updates to the iPhone X and X Plus will continue to have 3D Touch, which is pretty well integrated through iOS. Apple is known to be moving towards a touchless gesture controls, but that is thought to be a couple years away. It’s possible the CGS tech can integrate some substitute for 3D touch, but what and how is unknown right now.

Talk about the end of an era. Ford has announced that it will kill off all its cars except for the Mustang and Focus Active. Arstechnica.com reports that the company would focus almost entirely on SUVs, crossovers, and trucks in the US. The very thing Henry Ford pioneered with mass production….the automobile…will become a virtual sideline. What would the old man think?


Amazon Will Deliver Your ‘Junk’ to Your Trunk; Updated Gmail Bows; iPhone Unlocker GrayKey Hacked; Twitter Revenues Up..& Profit!

Amazon has launched a new service that gives its couriers access to a person’s vehicle for the purpose of leaving package deliveries inside. The service is in partnership with two major automakers — General Motors and Volvo — and will be rolling out in 37 cities in the US starting today. Theverge.com reports that initially, the service will only be available to Amazon Prime subscribers. who are also owners of 2015 or later GM and Volvo vehicles, with active OnStar and Volvo on Call accounts. Amazon says it plans to add other automobile brands over time. Packages that weigh over 50 pounds, are larger than 26 x 21 x 16 inches in size, require a signature, are valued over $1,300, or come from a third-party seller also are not eligible for in-car delivery. To access the new delivery service, add your car to your Amazon Key app and include a description of the vehicle, so Amazon’s couriers will be able to locate it. The car will need to be parked within a certain radius of an address used for Amazon deliveries, so either home or work. Driveways, parking lots, parking garages, and street parking are all eligible locations, Note that the courier will just send code to the Amazon Cloud, which contacts the OnStar or Volvo Cloud, and that service pops the trunk…Amazon doesn’t get access directly to unlock your car.

The freshened Gmail, with come new features, is live now. According to techcrunch.com, some highlights include an ever present sidebar with built in Google Calendar, Tasks, and Keep, and both snoozing and disappearing email (which Google calls Confidential Mode.) The confidential email can’t be forwarded, copied and pasted, or downloaded and printed…and goes ‘poof’ after a selectable amount of time. Another key feature is offline mode…you can save up to 90 days of email even when you aren’t connected to the web.

GrayKey, the unlocking system in a box that can crack an iPhone in 3 days…has been hacked. 9to5mac.com says part of their code leaked onto the internet, and the leaker has demanded $15,000 from the company…which happens to be the price of an entry level GrayKey device. Turnabout is fair play, it would appear!

Here’s a headline we haven’t seen in a while…well, actually ever! Twitter’s revenue was up 21% year over year first quarter, and the company made a profit! 9to5google.com reports that Twitter beat Wall Street expectations, with a net income of $61 million, and daily active users increased by 10%. Twitter also Tweeted out their updated privacy policy yesterday, and emailed about it early this morning. Video now accounts for more than half Twitter’s ad revenue.


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!