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.


iPhone Details Revealed with iOS Gold Master Leak; Mercedes Goes Big With Electrics; Tesla Expands Supercharger Net; No Stoner Drones in CA

Someone at Apple leaked the Gold Master version of iOS 11 over the weekend, and many details are out about the new iPhones and more. 9to5mac.com says the iPhone X will have wireless charging for sure, Face ID looks to replace Touch ID, the camera gets special flash options for portrait mode, and it all runs on an A11 6 core processor. Two are high power and 4 low power, and all can run at the same time, which will blow away all Android devices out there. A new feature for the X are 3D animations called ‘Animoji,’ that will mimic your expressions using the 3D sensors. The iPhone 8 models will also run 4K video at 60 FPS, and Portrait Lighting will also be included on the 8 models. Of course, it’s still possible that Tim Cook and company have a couple things up their sleeves for tomorrow…the show gets underway at 10am Pacific. Some analysts say if the X model is $999, only 20% will upgrade, but others look for 40% to make the jump.

Also revealed in the OS 11 leak….there will be an LTE Apple Watch for sure. Instructions have been found for pairing it and activating it. It will use the same number as your iPhone, but can be used independently…say, if you are on a run and want to stream music or take a call, but don’t want to schlep your phone along. No details on how much additional the carriers will charge.

The folks who gave us the car, Daimler, are saying Mercedes-Benz will offer electric versions of all models by 2022. Reuters quotes CEO Dieter Zetche (he of the magnificent mustache) on this. This means there will be at least 50 Mercedes that are either hybrid or fully electric within 4 model years!

On the topic of electrics, Tesla has announced that they are adding to their supply of Superchargers. According to techcrunch.com, instead of the freeway system stations, they are focusing on populated city centers…in this case Chicago and Boston. The new chargers are built out so that multiple cars can tap into the same Supercharger without downgrade in charging rate…that should give a full charge in 45-50 minutes! The new chargers are physically smaller, which will help for installations in parking garages.

This story is a big downer, man. Thenextweb.com reports that California’s Bureau of Cannabis Control has explicitly forbidden dispensaries from delivering pot to customers by drone. Drivers can deliver, so long as they don’t leave unattended pot in vehicles. Otherwise, you’ll have to drive or walk to your local dispensary in order to fly high!


Microsoft’s MacBook Air Answer; Daimler Starts Building Huge Battery Factory; iPhone 9—Yes, 9 Rumor

Microsoft has rolled out an $800 MacBook Air competitor. According to business insider. com, it will have 13.5 hours of battery life. Redmond has ditched numbers, the device will just be called Surface Pro, and it is up for preorder today, with the release set for June 15th. It will run 7th generation Intel processors. Keep in mind you will need the added keyboard, which Microsoft says is improved…that will set you back another $130. For another additional charge, they’ve added LTE connectivity. Microsoft isn’t even calling it a tablet anymore in their marketing…they are pitching it as a laptop.

Tesla has their Gigafactory, but that doesn’t mean other car makers are sitting on their hands. In Germany, Daimler has started construction on a half billion dollar lithium ion battery factory. Arstechnica.com says the Mercedes-Benz maker will end up with a plant 4 times as large as their current battery factory, run by their Accumotive division. It will be in production by mid 2018, and they plan to produce batteries that can take a car a whopping 621 miles between charges!

Yeah, the iPhone 8 won’t even be out until fall, but here’s a rumor from macrumors.com about the iPhone 9! Apparently, it will launch with 5.28 inch and 6.46 inch OLED screens. This is up from the expected 5.8 inch screen on the iPhone 8, and 4.7 and 5.5 inch displays on the 7 and 7 Plus (and expected on the S models.) It looks like the iPhone 9 models will be about the physical size of the present ones, only with ‘wall to wall’ screens, and nearly no bezel.


Mercedes to Bring Home Storage Batteries to US; Digital Assistants to Outnumber People by 2021

In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.


German Car Makers Heating Up on Hydrogen; Samsung New Smartwatch/Fitness Tracker?

Audi and Mercedes are getting excited about hydrogen fueled cars. For Mercedes, it’s back to the future…they first had a fleet of them in 1980, but with a 150 mile range and 45 minutes to fuel up, killed the project. Now Audi has showed it’s h-tron Quttro fuel cell SUV at the North American International Auto Show, and according to arstechnica.com, Mercedes has green-lighted production of it’s fuel cell version of the GLC SUV to sell in 2017. BMW has showed an i8 and a 5 series with fuel cells, but neither is set for production so far. General Motors has partnered with the Army to investigate suitability of fuel cell EVs for military use. Toyota and Honda are well along in hydrogen fuel cell tech, too. Toyota has the 2016 Mirai that’s actually for sale. California…where you can buy a fuel cell EV, has now increased the subsidy on them up to $6500 on top of any federal incentive. A combination of hydrogen fuel cell and electric may be the wave of the automotive future…along with driving by Jarvis, apparently.

Details are sketchy, but Samsung may be about ready to launch new wearable, possibly to replace the less than exciting Gear Fit. It’s called SM-R150 for now, and a watch version has a rotating bezel like the Gear Fit. The interesting thing is a picture with one on a shirt…like a removable that you don’t have to keep on your wrist. Engadget.com points out that leaks so far don’t indicate if it will be a full blown smart watch or something more like a Fitbit, but expect it to be revealed in the coming months.


Super King Sized Samsung Tablet Coming?

Samsung had good success for a while supersizing smartphones into phablets, and now theverge.com says SamMobile is reporting the company is working on an 18.4 inch Android tablet. Internally, it’s called Tahoe, and it has a TFT LCD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, a 1.6 GhZ processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and rear and front cameras — 8 megapixels and 2.1 megapixels, respectively. SamMobile speculates that it wouldn’t be aimed at mainstream users, but for salespeople to make presentations, and architects needing a large mobile device for site visits. No word on when it might hit the market.

As Apple is rumored to be working in secret on their own electric car that would run their Car Play software, Mercedes-Benz is apparently open to different types of collaboration with Cupertino. In an interview out in the last few days, the Daimler CEO, Dieter Zetsche, was quoted as saying “Google and Apple want to provide system software for cars and bring this entire ecosystem around Apple and Google into the vehicle. That can be interesting for both sides.” According to macrumors.com, Apple hired former Mercedes R&D VP Johann Jungwirth, who is now Director of Mac Systems Engineering.


Big Microsoft Product Event In October

Microsoft is planning a monster product launch event in October. According to theverge.com, they’ll show two new Lumia handsets, the Surface Pro 4, and a Microsoft Band 2. There MAY be a slimmer Xbox One as well, but that’s an outside chance. More likely is additional Surface hardware in addition to the Surface Pro 4….Maybe a Surface Mini.

Ford has patented an autonomous car that allows for the driver pivoting around with their back to the wheel. This would enable 4 adults to sit facing each other. It will be interesting to see how this works out, as Mercedes-Benz already has a functioning self-driving car that does this, and has demonstrated it to the press. A fresh wrinkle in the Ford version is that the entire front seat can fold back, creating a bed or leg rest for back seat passengers. That in and of itself will present interesting scenarios for future parents when junior asks to borrow the car!


Plenty of Apps For Apple Watch

In a vote of confidence about the imminent Apple Watch, geekwire.com reports that developers submitted over 1000 apps to run on the smart watch in the first 4 days they could be. The watch becomes available April 24th.

Just 4 days after that, on the 28th, LG will roll out it’s G4 smartphone at an event. According to theverge.com, it will feature a new camera with an f 1.8 lens, that shoots much better in low light.

Daimler Trucks, a division of the company that makes Mercedes-Benz cars, has a prototype Freightliner big rig that doubles the 6 mpg of normal rigs. Engadget.com says it uses a hybrid diesel/electric power plant, and has solar panels on the roof of the trailer. No word on when it might hit the market.


Nokia Is Going to Build An Aluminum Body Tablet

Nokia is jumping back into the tablet business. Slashdot.org says they’ll launch a one piece aluminum bodied tablet running Android Lollypop in China  on January 7th.

Legendary film company Kodak is going to roll out a smartphone at the Consumer Electronics Show. According to engadget.com, the Android phone will be made for them by British firm Bullitt, who make the ruggedized Caterpiller phones.

LG and Mercedes-Benz are partnering to make a system to power self driving cars. Techcrunch.com says the system is based on LG’s Advanced Drive Assist Program. LG’s entertainment systems are also slated to go into Mercedes cars.