Alexa Gets Contact Blocking for Voice Calls; LG Said to be Building Pixel XL Successor; Fisker’s Tesla Beater- 400 Mile Range & 5 Minute Charging

Amazon’s Alexa app is getting a blocker for it’s voice activated calling feature. According to geekwire.com, you just select the Conversations icon, then the Contacts icon, scroll down to Block contacts, and choose the one(s) you want to block. A number of users were surprised when voice calling was rolled out, finding out they could get unwanted calls….problem solved.

Google apparently has a different successor to the Pixel XL phone in the works. 9to5google.com reports that Google has sidelined ‘muskie,’ the earlier reported device, in favor of a bigger model from LG code named ‘taimen.’ Details are sketchy, but it appears it will be thinner, in addition to having a larger screen, and will rock a hotter Snapdragon processor…but he main focus will be on camera performance and features.

Fisker has had an answer to the Tesla in the works since at least 2014, and despite selling out to Karma Automotive, the luxury eMotion electric model is still on track for manufacture. It’s beautiful, fast (161 mph), and has a 400 mile cruising range…easily rolling past the Tesla Model S with it’s under 350 mile range. The wildest feature….it doesn’t use lithium-ion batteries….but super capacitors designed by scientists at UCLA that use graphene. They recharge in FIVE minutes! No word on the retail launch date or pricing so far…stay tuned!


Apple’s Neural Engine AI; LG Phone May Have Screen Under Screen

Besides working on AR…augmented reality…most of the big tech companies: Google, Facebook, Apple, & Microsoft, are working on beefing up AI as well….artificial intelligence. While they all offer some form of AI assistant, apparently Apple is working on a dedicated processor being called the ‘Apple Neural Engine’. 9to5mac.com says the chip will produce much improved face and speech recognition apps and help extend battery life. It is expected to be small and thrifty enough to fit into iPhones and iPads. Here comes facial recognition, iris recognition, and 3D selfies! Apple has already tested prototypes, but it’s not known if it will make it into the iPhone 8 this fall. 3D selfies….now you’re REALLY going to worry about it being your good side!

It’s not quite like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, but LG’s V10 and V20 had secondary screens on top of the main one. Now, Mashable.com says they may go all out with the upcoming V30, with a secondary screen that slides out from under the main screen. The secondary screen can display shortcuts of most used apps, keyboard, audio controls, and more. Part of the screen is visible when the phone is ‘closed,’ so it can function in always on mode, displaying the time and weather.


Microsoft Win 10 Update & Microsoft Windows Story Remix; iPhone Facial Recognition & Release Timing

Some very cool things coming in the Windows 10 update later this year. According to businessinsider.com, Windows Story Remix will take your photos and videos and stitch them into a story, including a soundtrack and transitions. It seems to echo a similar function to Google Photos. Also, Win 10 will keep track of a timeline of your apps and sites, so you can go back to where you were…AND pick up on your PC, or your mobile device running iOS or Android. It’s a lot like Apple’s “Handoff”, but that only works between Macs, iPhones, and iPads. (Disclosure: I use Handoff, and it works great, but only on Apple devices.) The Microsoft version will work across platforms, which is very cool. Redmond is also working on a universal clipboard that will cut and past across platforms.

LG will supply Apple 3D facial recognition modules for the iPhone 8. Macrumors.com says LG already builds the dual lens cams for the iPhone 7 Plus, and will be building a $238 million dollar plant to crank out the 3D modules for Cupertino’s anniversary flagship phone. According to KGI Securities, the system runs tech from PrimeSense, which Apple bought 4 years ago, and can also do iris scanning, and a combination of augmented reality, virtual reality and mixed reality.

A number of reports have warned that the iPhone 8 will be out later in the Fall due to problems with the embedded fingerprint sensor under the screen. According to bgr.com, a reliable leaker has said hiring and training at Foxconn has started, and they will begin building iPhone 8 in August for a September launch.


Windows 10 S Laptop Guns for Chromebooks; 43 Inch LG Monitor Supports 4 Sources; Twitter Adds More Streams and Shows

Microsoft has revealed its answer to Chrome OS. Windows 10 S is a ‘streamlined and secured’ version of Windows 10…translation….it’s sandboxed. That’s not the biggest part, though. Techcrunch.com reports that Microsoft has talked most major PC makers into making Windows 10 S machines. Base level ones will start at $189, and should be out this summer. Redmond expects school districts to snap up the laptops at that price point. They come with a one year free subscription to Minecraft: Education Edition, and Office 365 apps are free for both students and teachers.

As Apple announced they were getting out of the monitor business (then had a change of heart of sorts), other companies have jumped in with displays to take up the slack. Now, 9to5mac.com says LG has quietly unveiled a 42.5 inch 4K job that has 4 HDMI ports and supports up to 4 display feeds….for under $700! Four feeds, so you could keep a browser open, watch a game, PLAY a game, and have a window for actual work!

We heard yesterday that Twitter was building out a 24/7 streaming video service with Bloomberg. Now, they’ve announced live video plans with Live Nation, Buzzfeed, The WNBA, and almost a dozen partners. According to recode.net, the partners look so far to be heavy on sports, then news, with a little entertainment sprinkled in. It remains to be seen how much of the new content will materialize and when.


Pixel 2 To Get OLED Screen; Twitter Users Want to Buy Twitter; TaskRabbit For Sale

The Samsung Galaxy S8 has one, the iPhone 8 is supposed to be getting a curved OLED screen, now it appears that Google may up their game….literally, with a larger, edge to edge curved screen. Bgr.com notes that the Pixel already features an OLED screen, but they have been buying them from Samsung…which will be pretty tapped out with their own phones and Apple’s. Google may drop almost a billion into LG Display, and will likely try to step up to the more technically advanced type like Samsung has built into the Galaxy S8.

Last fall, a group of Twitter users got a petition together to get the social net to sell itself to its users, and turn into a co-op. Now, recode.net reports that Twitter has actually put the idea on the agenda for their shareholder meeting next month. It doesn’t appear like the board is too keen to do it, but just the fact that they are considering it is interesting. A hybrid ownership model is also a possibility, which would give users a portion of voting shares and a few board seats. The Associated Press operates this way as a non-profit cooperative.

One of the pioneers of the so-called ‘gig’ economy, TaskRabbit, is thinking about selling itself. As startups for more specialized areas of pick up work have crowded the marketplace, continued capital has dried up. Techcrunch.com says tthere is still plenty of demand for handyman services, light home renovation, and the like…which are predicted to become a billion dollar business. Time will tell if TaskRabbit will outrun them all or become rabbit stew.


Dates for Galaxy S8 Release; Apple- 5 Groups Working on Wireless Charging; Tesla Formulating All-in-One Pricing & More Gigafactories

Samsung had originally wanted to show the Galaxy S8 at Mobile World Congress, but the Note 7 mess threw a wrench into that plan. Now, bgr.com says they will show the latest handset on March 29th, and likely preorders in the US will begin on April 13th. Competitor LG WILL show their new G6 model at MWC, and it will go on sale March 10th.

Apple reportedly has 5 groups working on wireless charging. There has been speculation for months about the iPhone 8 getting that feature, but disagreement about whether it would be inductive charging…which other phones have…or a longer range system. According to macrumors.com, they have also been testing 10 different versions of the iPhone 8. It’s likely things are pretty well finalized, and Apple did join the Wireless Power Consortium, which pushes the Qi inductive system. They may be looking to the across the room charging systems for future iPhones.

Tesla is working on formulating all-in-one pricing for their cars, which would include lifetime insurance and maintenance. Thenextweb.com reports that the insurance would come from traditional insurers. Tesla feels that with their autopilot and future self-driving, the accident rate would be low enough to make this work financially. Their electric cars have far less mechanical systems to maintain already. Also, Elon Musk wrote to shareholders that they may be looking at adding 3 more Gigafactories. The first one is in Reno, and they call the solar plant in New York Gigafactory 2.


Voice Calling On Amazon Echo & Google Home; Big Facebook Video Update; Apple May Add Additional OLED Screen Supplier

Voice calling may be coming to Amazon Echo and Google home. Theverge.com reports that the feature could be rolled out this year, but both companies ‘have concerns about privacy, emergency services, and regulatory hurdles.’ Apparently, you will only be able to make calls over speakerphone, which may put off some users. Google will probably just extend Google Voice, while Amazon is looking at options such as syncing to your present number, call forwarding, or even having the Echo get its own number. They also haven’t finalized switching to your phone if you leave the house or room where the Echo is located.

Facebook is rolling out a major update for video. Thenextweb.com says one of them will seem more like a bug than a feature…videos will now auto play sound. There is apparently an app setting to disable it, at least. On the plus side, vertical video will now take up more of the screen on Android and iOS devices, and there is a picture in picture mode. Facebook will also be rolling out a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV, as well as other platforms, but no firm date on those yet.

Apple is apparently looking at adding China’s BOE as a supplier of OLED screens for the iPhone 8, according to macrumors.com. Samsung, LG, Sharp, and Japan Display are already believed to be used, but there are concerns that they couldn’t keep up with demand. At this point, it’s still thought that the OLED screen will only be available on the iPhone 8, with the 7S and 7S Plus models staying with LCD displays. BOE is opening an additional factory this summer, and another about 2 years down the line.