Last Minute Apple Rumors; Ford’s Electric Crossover; AT&T Adding 5 Cities to 5G Coverage

Noted analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, known for pretty reliable Apple rumors, has dropped a few today, ahead of the Apple rollout Wednesday. According to macrumors.com, Kuo says Cupertino will replace Lightning with a USB-C port on the upcoming iPad Pro. The new iPhones will have 5W power adapters…not the rumored higher wattage ones. The new, cheaper MacBook will have TouchID but won’t have a Touch Bar, and the Watch 4 will all have a ceramic back and support EKG in addition to a thinner bezel and bigger face. As for the iPhones, Kuo thinks the new 6.1” one (which will ship late September or early October) will account for 65-70% of the new iPhone models shipped.

We’ve been hearing that Ford is aiming to drop all sedans save the Mustang, and focus primarily on SUVs and pickups as they move to electric vehicles. Now, that automaker has teased an electric performance crossover SUV codenamed the ‘Mach 1.’ Theverge.com reports that Ford has increased its investment in EV tech to $11 billion. Note that in the teaser image, the tail lights mimic those on the original Mustang.

AT&T has announced they are adding 5 more cities to their 5G network by the end of the year. Houston, Jacksonville, Louisville, New Orleans, and San Antonio will join the 7 cities already announced: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, Indianapolis, Oklahoma City, Raleigh and Waco. Waiting to get the faster service until early 2019: Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Nashville, Orlando, San Diego, San Francisco and San Jose. The carrier is also working on its Project AirGig, which is designed to cover rural populations that don’t have access to high speed internet. They will apparently roll out cheaper plastic antennas that can be mounted on existing poles, buildings, etc to increase coverage.

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Tesla Getting Saudi Cash; Samsung Suspends in China; Apple ‘Inexpensive’ Notebook; Android 9 Pie Charging Issue for Pixel XL

A little more has slipped out about Tesla going private, and one particular item may appear to be a head scratcher….Tesla could be getting funding from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund. According to engadget.com, they already have a 5% stake in Tesla, and would like more. Some are saying the Saudis look at it as a hedge against the oil business, but it could also be that they might someday look to Tesla’s battery and solar panel expertise to power the kingdom and even export electricity. Besides oil and sand, they do have an abundance of sunlight and open space!

On the heels of a pretty positive rollout for the Galaxy Note 9, Samsung is thinking of suspending operations at one of its plants in China due to sagging sales and increasing labor costs. Reuters.com reports that Samsung may shutter its plant in Tianjin. The smartphone market overall has been experiencing slow growth as it matures and becomes relatively saturated. Local Chinese competition has also whacked Samsung’s China penetration. 5 years ago, they had 20% of that market, now it’s less than 1%…with Huawei and Xiaomi undercutting them on prices.

Macrumors.com says Quanta will be building Apple’s upcoming ‘inexpensive notebooks’ in the 4th quarter of 2018. Of course, ‘inexpensive’ is relative when it’s Apple! The cheaper notebooks should drop in September or October, but it’s not clear if they will be branded MacBook, MacBook Air, or some entirely new name. While inexpensive notebook might mean a few hundred bucks for the likes of a Chromebook, Don’t look for Apple to put out one for much less than $999!

An issue has come up with the latest release of Android, version 9…dubbed ‘Pie.’ 9to5google.com reports that fast charging over USB-C seems to have been killed in the original Pixel XL phones. Reports vary…some have said the original charger that came in the box still works, but 3rd party ones don’t. Others have said replacements from the Google Store also don’t work. In a few reports, even the charger that came in the box won’t fast charge. So far, no comment from Google on the issue, including whether a fix is comi


Lots of Alexa, Little Buying; Apple Thinks Virtual Keyboard; Zillow Adds Mortgages; Way Cheaper June Oven

Amazon has been pumping out Alexa devices like crazy, but so far, people love them for playing music, videos, adjusting lights, and all sorts of ‘skills,’ as Amazon dubs them, but very few are actually buying stuff from Amazon with the Alexa enabled devices. Thenextweb.com says only about 2% of people have used it for shopping (according to a report from The Information.) Even worse, 90% of people who tried shopping only did it once. 20% of users have used Alexa to track things they’ve bought or hunt for deals, but actual buying is mainly done on other devices like their phones, laptops, and tablets. Amazon hasn’t given up…they are known for playing a long game…but this has to be disappointing to them.

Although their tablets sell better than about any others, Apple has consistently said they won’t add touchscreens to MacBooks…citing bad ergonomics, among other problems. Now, mashable.com reports that Cupertino may be thinking of a virtual keyboard. Patents recently discovered point to Apple expanding on their TouchBar by looking at fully customizable virtual keyboards…in place of the normal keyboard. A plus would be that you could resize the virtual keyboard on the lower panel, and have increased screen size or even a second screen. Apple’s patent app indicates haptics would allow for feedback for keystrokes. The panel could be modified by the user easily to switch from keys to sliders, which would be great for people doing audio production on a laptop!

Zillow has jumped into the mortgage business with the acquisition of Mortgage Lenders of America. According to techcrunch.com, the real estate portal and lead generation service will now not only provide buyers with quotes from third party lenders but be able to offer real estate brokers in-house type mortgage operations and mortgage affiliation. The jury is out on this move initially….Zillow stock dropped on the news of the acquisition of Kansas-based MLoA.

June rolled out a smart oven a couple years ago. A cool countertop gadget with a built in processor, sensors galore, and a bit of AI. It did an amazing job of cooking various foods with its preset programs…BUT…it was $1500! Now, engadget.com says June has dropped a newer model that’s faster, smarter, and maybe most importantly….cheaper. You will have to live without the stainless steel knob (no loss, since there’s a touchscreen) and weight scale, but more oven for less money should be a winner. The new oven adds functions like slow cooking, air fryer, and dehydrator. In 2016, there were 25 presets…now you get over 100. Lazy cooks and people who really don’t like to cook but love to eat are all set! Yes, there’s even a setting for ‘leftover pizza!’


Freshened MacBook Pro; Apple Watch Grows This Fall; Self-Driving Mercedes Test to Silicon Valley; Purple Galaxy Note 9

Apple has freshened it’s top drawer MacBook Pros today. Theverge.com reports that they come with updated processors, more configuration options, True Tone displays, and what Apple claims is a ‘quieter’ keyboard design. The 15 inch model gets a 70 percent performance boost and the 13 incher doubles in speed. The upgrade doesn’t apply to the base 13 inch MacBook Pro (without the Touch Bar), the MacBook, or MacBook Air. It is rumored the lower line MacBooks will be upgraded this fall. There is a beautiful new leather sleeve for the new MacBook Pros, in black, brown, and dark blue. The price is beautiful, to….a whopping $180 for a SLEEVE! OTOH, a fully tricked out 15 inch MacBook Pro will set you back $6699! (Once your heart resumes beating….the base model remains the same at $2399.

Apple Watch gets updated this fall…probably at the iPhone event in September. One strong rumor from Ming-Chi Kuo is that both watches will get screen size increases without the watch getting larger. According to 9to5mac.com, Apple will do this by cutting the bezel size. The screens will go from 1.31 inch and 1.54 inch to 1.57 and 1.78 inch sizes. the Watch will also get better heart rate detection.

Mercedes-Benz will start pilot testing self-driving taxis in Silicon Valley in 2019. Theverge.com reports that Daimler and Bosch have been partnering on the self-driving tech, which uses a custom version of NVIDIA’s autonomous vehicle tech. The cars will only follow preselected routes, and Mercedes hasn’t decided whether it will go with S-class cars (the biggest body Mercedes) or V-class vans, or both. As with all other self-driving cars right now, there will be a safety driver present in the vehicles.

A leaked poster shows the upcoming Samsung Galaxy Note 9 in a purple color (which they’ve done before, calling it Lilac Purple) but with a twist this time…it comes with a gold S Pen. In addition, 9to5google.com says the phablet will continue to have a headphone jack. All will be revealed at Samsung’s Unpacked event, which is coming up on August 9th.


ARM Based MacBook; Uber Panic Button; Cali Digital License Plates; Pixel 3 XL May Get ‘Notch’

Reports were out earlier this year that Apple will be releasing a new 13 inch entry level MacBook to take the place of the Air in the latter half of 2018. Now, macrumors.com says that Pegatron will be making ARM chips for the laptop…ditching Intel silicon as has been rumored. Using the ARM chips not only reduces Apple’s dependence on Intel, but the chips require less power and fewer transistors and are smaller…which is why they power iPhones and iPads. If another rumor holds, Apple may be trying to get a MacBook out with an entry level price of $799.

Because being able to call 911 on your phone isn’t enough, and because Uber wants to buff up its tarnished image for safety, you can now call 911 directly from the Uber app in the US. Theverge.com reports that Uber has been testing this out in as part of its ‘safety center.’ You can press the 911 button, and it will ask you if you really want to call 911…then puts the call through. It does send the rider’s location and trip details to the dispatchers when the app is used. Uber plans to add a panic button to the driver app soon, too.

From the ‘what could possibly go wrong’ department, California is rolling out a pilot project for digital license plates. According to the Sacramento Bee, the connected plates will have to be installed at a dealership for a pricey $699 PLUS installation. After that, owners will have to pay $7 a month. The plates have their own chip and battery, and can notify authorities if the car is stolen and give the location (at least of the plates…smart thieves will probably pitch them immediately.) If DMV decides to allow it, the plates can display a message as well as the tag number. Also, when you renew, it just changes the year…no stickers need be attached. It goes without saying that hackers should have a field day with these!

Some leaked images of new screen protectors indicate that Google’s Pixel 3 phones may get the dreaded Appleesque ‘notch.’ 9to5google.com says that the Pixel 3 appears to have somewhat thicker bezels than the XL, but could match features of the bigger phone. The cut outs in the notch may be for an ambient light sensor and front cam, or could be for dual front cameras. The notch on the 3XL doesn’t take up as much screen real estate as Apple’s. We’ll have to wait a few months to see if this turns out to be the real deal (or at least for more leaks.)


Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)


Apple Considers iPhone Powered Apple Laptop; iPhone Owners Have More Smart Home Gear; App Converts Your DVDs Into a Personal Netflix

A patent just revealed that Apple is thinking about eventually making laptops that basically just run via your iPhone. According to cnet.com, the filing shows a cavity where the touchpad normally goes that holds an iPhone.The phone not only powers the laptop, but doubles as the touchpad. As always, keep in mind Apple patents lots of things that never see the light of day.

On the topic of iPhones, JD Power says iPhone owners have more smart home devices and are more satisfied with their phones. 9to5mac.com reports that- for example- 13% of iPhone owners have a smart thermostat, compared to 11% for Android owners. While Apple is still winning the satisfaction beauty contest, it’s just by a whisker now. Power says Apple’s average score is 840 out of 1000, but Samsung is just 1% behind at 839.

If you have a cabinet full of DVDs you rarely watch (raising hand here), there’s an app you may love. Businessinsider.com says Walmart’s Vudu will now let you scan the barcode of your DVDs and it will unlock the ability to watch that movie on the Vudu app for $2 each…and it works across all your devices that have the app. You can also upgrade from DVD to HDX for 5 bucks each. Right now, it works on about 8000 titles, but they are working to expand it…Vudu has around 100,000 total titles. Vudu says the average movie collector has about 100 DVDs and Blu Rays. Some of us have a lot more.