Apple Plans Cheaper 9.7 Inch iPad; Samsung Patents Palm-Reading Phone; Google Home Bug; Facebook ‘Messenger Kids’ Launches

This Spring, Apple rolled out a $329 9.7 inch iPad, and got a nice bump in sales. Now, it looks like they are working on hitting a lower price point yet…around $260. 9to5mac.com says it’s not clear if it will replace the $329 tablet or be an additional model, and what, if any, downgrade to performance there might be. The low line model would be aimed at industrial enterprise users and ‘price-sensitive’ consumers, i.e. cheapskates.

Samsung has been working on a foldable smartphone for some time, and Apple has copied them for once, patenting such a phone. Both companies may have them out in a couple years. Now, engadget.com reports that Samsung has patented a phone that reads your palm. No, it’s not going to be called ‘the Medium’ as far as we know…and this kind of palm reader would be for biometric security! The function is primarily one that uses the lines in your hand and provides hints based on them for passwords…although it could be an additional biometric sign in should Samsung decide to go that route.

Last week was terrible for Apple security, with a couple major bugs…one of which they patched within a day, since it enabled someone with physical access to get root control of your computer. Google has had bug issues too, particularly with the new Pixel 2 series. Add to that a new bug in the Google Home Mini. According to bgr.com, a reviewer found one during testing that made the Home record virtually everything he said, and another that made the thing reboot when you turn the volume up too loud! It might be a great idea for these big firms to hit pause, and bulk up their quality control a bit, even if it means not getting software updates out quite so quickly!!

Facebook has dropped ‘Messenger Kids,’ and app available on iOS that lets kids under 13 chat with safety in mind. Techcrunch.com says parents can download the app onto the kid’s tablet or phone and create a profile for them, then approve friends and family they can text and video chat with using the app and the main Messenger App. Tweens don’t get a Facebook account and don’t have to provide a phone number. Facebook says it’s been working closely with the FTC on the app, and it has detection filters to block sharing nudity, sexual content, and violence. Paso, they have put in a dedicated support team for the youth app. The app has plenty of stickers and reality masks to keep them engaged. An Android version will be released soon, according to Facebook.

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Apple Push on AR Headset iPhone Replacement; Harry Potter AR Game; Facebook Working on Anti-Revenge Porn System

We commented recently that AR- augmented reality and AI-artificial intelligence, will be the next really big thing. Now, word is from bloomberg.com that Apple is working on a breakthrough product to replace the iPhone. It’s an AR headset that could be in customer hands (or more to the point, on their faces) by 2020. That’s only 3 years away, kids! The device will have its own display and run on its own chip and operating system. The whole project is spread over several Apple facilities and code named T288. It builds on the ‘system-on-a-package’ concept of the also small Apple Watch. Not mentioned is how Apple will deal with powering the device…the Apple Watch can easily run all day, but only for an hour when talking on LTE. Streaming video overlays along with live visuals through the glasses won’t exactly be thrifty when it comes to battery use!

Staying with AR, Niantic’s follow up game to the wildly successful Pokemon Go will be a Harry Potter AR game. According to techcrunch.com, it will be out next year. No precise time frame, but the game is expected to let users roam their real surroundings in search of Potter items, casting spells, and fighting villains.

Facebook is working on a system to combat revenge porn. That’s a great idea, but with a catch…9to5google.com says you have to upload your nudes to Facebook…what could possibly go wrong? The idea is that FB would create an encrypted version of the raw data in the image file…if an EX tries to upload a file with that data, it’s blocked. You still have to send the nude to yourself in Messenger…which means people with stupid, simple passwords (lots of them) and people who can be Phished would be vulnerable. No word on how the system would work on altered photos…like the EX pulling the nude of you out of the pic and Photoshopping it into another background or just grabbing (the naughty) parts and posting them, which might show up as different data. Let’s hope Facebook thinks this all through…it’s being trialled in Australia and 3 other countries right now.


Apple’s Siri Speaker in Production; Skype Gets Major Makeover With ‘Me Too’ Features

Apple’s smart speaker, powered by Siri, is apparently in production and will be showed off at WWDC, according to bloomberg.com. In an effort to outshine Amazon and Google offerings, it will feature virtual surround sound, be louder and reproduce sound more ‘crisply’ than others, and (of course) have deep integration with other Apple products. It will also serve as a hub for Apple HomeKit connected devices. The device will be built by the Taiwanese company Inventec, which produces AirPods for Apple. It is expected to be out later this year.

Microsoft is giving Skype yet another makeover, but this one is much more than a fresh coat of paint. The latest iteration takes on the look of Snapchat. Theverge.com reports that although Skype has done well for video and audio calls, it hasn’t made much of a dent in Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, iMessage, or Snapchat….and messaging is where the growth in conversations live. The new interface includes 3 sections in a conversation: find, chat, and capture. Chat is what is sounds like, but the other two allow you to search a convo, or find images, restaurants, or content to drop into a message. Capture is where Microsoft has added the Snapchat like capabilities….the cam opens so you can shoot pics or video, then you can add stickers, text, or annotate the shot. There’s also a Highlights feature so friends can stream pics and videos of yours and react with emoji.


Facebook’s F8 Launches; Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Will Have a Killer Dual Camera

Facebook had a lot to talk about yesterday as their F8 conference opened. Techcrunch.com notes the headline item: FB is working on an augmented reality developer platform. This is not exactly surprising since their acquisition of Oculus, so we can expect more and more selfie masks, overlays of info on real world objects the cam sees, and more…eventually, they expect a normal-ish pair of glasses or contacts to replace the screens we use…from desktop to smart devices! A number of adds to the Messenger app…you can order food through delivery.com, book a restaurant, and group pay for a meal, and there is a new game tab with new bots. Also, QR codes will get you info at concerts and sporting events.

Samsung held back a bit on the stunning Galaxy S8…the Note 8 will be out later this year, and will feature a dual cam setup like the iPhone 7 Plus. According to appleinsider.com, Apple analyst KGI Securities says the Note 8 cam setup will be ‘much better’ than the array on the iPhone 7 Plus, and may match the rumored performance of the one due out on the iPhone 8. KGI thinks Samsung will ship 50 to 55 million S8s this year and 13-15 million of the Note 8 after it rolls out.


Facebook Messenger Has Tons of Artsy New Text Filters; Watch App To Track Falls of Elderly

In a move to syphon off users from Snapchat, Facebook Messenger is rolling out a new feature for the camera that gives users a nearly infinite number of overlaid graphics. Techcrunch.com reports that the improved camera app also has AR selfie lenses, holiday themed masks, and tons of filters…over a billion different ways to spice up your text and pictures. It is rolling out, and will be on all iOS and Android phones by the 21st.

A trauma surgeon and emergency doctor are crowdfunding an Apple Watch app called FallCall, which automatically detects when a person falls and calls for what they describe as ‘the appropriate level of help.’ According to 9to5mac.com, the docs cite statistics that a third of people over 65 fall every year, and many aren’t able to call for help…either because they can’t reach a phone or are unconscious. The campaign is on Medstartr (no ‘e’ in starter), and is shooting for 180 grand. Contributors of at least $20 will be listed as a patron.


HTC 10 Pre-Orders Start Now; Facebook Announces Chatbots at F8 Conference

As we reported last week, HTC has dropped the new model 10. It comes with 4GB of RAM and a 5.2-inch 2K display packs 564 pixels per inch behind layered Gorilla Glass. And the fingerprint sensor unlocks the phone in 0.2 seconds. HTC claims the 3,000mAh battery provides 2 days of use, and can charge up to 50 percent in 30 minutes with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0 through the new USB-C port. According to geekwire.com, it has a separate tweeter and woofer, on the top-front and bottom respectively, each have their own amp. The camera also got a bump. A new 12MP sensor has improved low-light performance thanks to the bigger “Ultra Pixels.”
Pre-orders start today, April 12, with an expected ship date of early May. The unlocked device will go for $699.

Today at the Facebook Developer Conference…F8…the social media giant officially announced it was adding the rumored chatbots to the Messenger app. Gizmodo.com says the bots can book a hotel, order a meal, find a restaurant, hail a cab, and do much more through text chatting. They also will be a lifeline to smaller businesses who have been depending on sketchy websites and 800 phone numbers. They can basically operate as an app within an app. Facebook’s F8 Conference continues this week…more to come, no doubt.


Facebook’s New Dedicated Video Tab; Huawei Shows New Dual Lens Leica Branded Cam in Latest Phone

In an update, Facebook has replaced the Messenger tab that was front and center at the bottom of the app with the live video tab. Theverge.com reports that the tab has different sections for broadcasts happening around the world and broadcasts by your friends and the pages you follow. You can also search for videos by topic. Facebook says the tab is rolling out initially to “a very small percentage” of users. If you like Periscope, you’ll find that they have borrowed features shamelessly from them.

Speaking of cameras and video, Huawei has showed off its latest flagship smartphones. The P9 has a 5.2 inch screen and the P9 Plus a 5.5 inch one. Both feature a Leica branded dual lens camera. TechCrunch.com notes that Huawei says the cam is co-engineered with the famous optics maker, so don’t expect actual Leica lenses! The dual lens rollout now gets the drop on Apple by almost 6 months. Huawei is the 3rd largest smartphone maker by global market share, behind Samsung and Apple. The setup is supposed to give better color and clarity, and allow refocusing after the fact as the old Lytro camera. They also have a ‘Leica film mode,’ which mimics 3 old film processing styles…for those that like to kick a smartphone camera old school.