Apple Music Getting Much-Needed Makeover; Flexible Brighter e-Paper May Be Coming

Apple will show a revamp of it’s Apple Music streaming service at WWDC in June, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by macrumors.com. The interface will allegedly be more intuitive and easier to use. The service has grown to more than 13 million subscribers in the past year, but has also taken considerable criticism on it’s clunkiness and artists have griped that the social aspect….Connect….has failed miserably.

A Chinese company has figured out a way to use graphene to make e-paper that’s brighter and more flexible that the present screen material. Geek.com reports that the company- Guangzhou OED Technologies- already markets e-paper displays under the O-paper brand. They are promising that production will start yet this year, so the next generation Kindles from Amazon in 2017 may be not only much more readable, but ‘bendy,’ or there could even possibly be a roll up e-paper device.


Facebook’s Crazy 360 Degree Camera; New Kindle Out; Apple Owns Teens

At F8, Facebook revealed the “Surround 360”, a 17-lens 3D VR camera yesterday that looks like a UFO on a stick and requires almost no post-production work. They won’t make or be selling the Surround 360. Techcrunch.com says that later this summer Facebook will put the hardware designs and video stitching algorithms on Github. All the parts can by bought online for $30,000.

As expected, Amazon has launched a brighter, smaller, thinner Kindle Oasis for $290, with a leather case increasing battery life to 20 months standby time, It has a funky bump on one side Amazon says helps make it easier to hold with one hand like a book. Theverge.com says it’s available for pre-order today, and ships April 27th.

For decades, it’s been a marketing truism that if you get buyers when they’re teens, you can often keep them for life. Apple seems to be doing this…they did it with the original Macs in schools, and now with iOS and wearables. According to a Piper Jaffray survey picked up by appleinsider.com, only 12% of teens had a smartwatch. Of those, 71% were Apple’s. 69% of teens owned an iPhone, and 64% an iPad. The iPad percentage is up slightly…analyst Gene Munster says probably with the introduction of the 9.7 inch iPad Pro that can use a Smart Keyboard and Apple Pencil. Parents…keep your wallet handy!


Rent a Charger at Your Coffee Spot; Roku Shows New Quad Core Streaming Stick; New Kindle Rolls Out Next Week

A division of Battery charger maker Anker is preparing to roll out Ankerboxes that rent out portable battery packs to charge your mobile devices in a couple hundred bars, restaurants, cafes, and gyms in Seattle, with 500 planned by May. As with bike sharing services, you download an app, go to an Ankerbox in the establishment or an a portable kiosk, charge up, then return the drained battery pack to any location. It’s 30 minutes of free charging when you rent a charger— a buck 99 a day if you keep it over a day. Even if you don’t return the charger or lose it, you never pay over 30 dollars. The little chargers can give 3 full charges, with two 3350 mAh power cells in each one. Look for them April 15th in Seattle, and in other cities later this year.

Roku has dropped a new quad core streaming stick, and at just $49.99. TechCrunch.com reports that the processor bump should make the software feel much speedier than before, and it also allows for private listening through headphones plugged into your smartphone…or via wireless Bluetooth cans. Roku says the entry level sticks are the fastest growing segment of the streaming market. They also have a ‘hotel and dorm room connect’ feature, that makes it easier to connect to WiFi with an authentication page.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Tweeted yesterday that a new top line Kindle will be shown next week. No date or details, but we’ll have those when they’re available. The verge.com notes that Amazon usually doesn’t announce products until they’re ready to go.


Amazon Rolls Out Answer to Apple iBooks Author

Thenextweb.com says Amazon has released it’s Kindle Textbook Creator. A beta that will help educators get their materials onto Kindles is out today. Unlike Apple’s iBooks Author, the Amazon tool can create publications for Android, iPads, Macs, and PCs.

Apple has patented a smarter smart cover. Apple insider.com reports that users could access information by partially opening the smart cover, or use gestures on it to control iPads inside. It could mean less physical buttons on future iPads.

It sounds si-fi, but researchers at UC Riverside, Georgia Institute of Technology, and in China have developed a keyboard that converts strokes into energy, protects your computer from hackers, and is self-cleaning. Cnet.com says no word on when it might be on the market.


More Picture Space For Your Smartphone

If you take a lot of selfies, and are always running out of space, there’s a new app called PhotoShrinker. Techcrunch.com says it’s out for iOS and Android, and will compress your photos to a tenth their original size, making room for more. The shrunken pix look fine online, etc. but save a normal copy for any you intend to make large, actual prints from.

Appleinsider.com reports that the iPhone 6 is outselling the larger 6 Plus by a 3 to one margin in the US. The study comes from Consumer Intelligence Research Partners. The average storage size is now 48 gigs, which shows that more people are buying the 64 gig and 128 gig models…which means more profit for Apple.

A nice feature in the latest Kindle software just being pushed out…gigaom.com says Family Library lets people with Amazon accounts linked to family members share ebooks others have downloaded.


Another Player Joining the ‘Internet of Things’ Party

Samsung is about to join the ‘internet of things’ party, in talks to buy SmartThings for $200 million. Bgr.com reports this would put them in the game with Google’s Nest and Apple’s HomeKit. Another option for those who need to control their appliances, light bulbs, security system, & garage door with their smartphones!

Gigaom.com reports that Amazon is testing a Kindle Unlimited ebook subscription service for $9.99 a month. It gives unlimited access to 600,000 titles and thousands of audiobooks.

Metromile is expanding to California. Techcrunch.com says you plug the gadget into your car, and you can save money on pay-per-mile insurance if you’re one of the 70% of people that drives less than 10,000 miles a year. Keep in mind that 70% of Bay Area drivers DON’T drive less than 10,000 miles a year, though.


Ringly Keeps Your Finger On Incoming Calls & Texts

Can’t hear the phone when it’s in your purse? Ringly may be for you. It looks like a fashion ring, but 9to5mac.com says light and vibration patterns can be set to alert you via Bluetooth to calls, texts, and more. It works with iOS and Android, and presale price is $149. That’s a bit pricey, but if you can’t miss a crucial call or text, check it out.

Google Now continues to get smarter. Thenextweb.com says Google is testing a feature that suggests calendar entries from your Gmail inbox. It’s already live with a select pool of users, and you can switch it off if you find it creepy.

According to tech crunch.com, Amazon has added audio integration to its iOS and Kindle apps. It’s an extra $.99 to $3.99 per title, but you can switch from reading to being read to on the fly. You could listen to a book while commuting, then pick up reading later right where you left off with Amazon’s Whisper Sync.

Apple insider.com says the Apple has patented a smarter smart cover for iPads with illumination that lights up to alert users to incoming messages, low battery warnings and other notifications.