Next iPad Pro Gets Face ID; Microsoft Joins AirDrop Party; Amazon Makes Sub-$100 Sound Bar

Apple is going all-in on Face ID. The iPad Pro will get it in 2018, according to a Bloomberg report picked up by 9to5mac.com. The top line Apple tablet will also get an improved Apple Pencil, and smaller top and bottom bezels, but no OLED screen, which could be quite pricey on a 12.9 inch device.

Just a couple days ago, there was a report that Google was working on an answer to Apple’s AirDrop over Android, which allows sharing between devices nearby that are connected via WiFi or Bluetooth. Now, theverge.com reports that Microsoft has begun testing its own similar system called ‘Near Share’ for Windows 10 devices. It’s available now on the latest Insider build of Windows 10, and makes sharing documents or photos to nearby PCs virtually seamless over Bluetooth. Redmond is also adding a mute tab to the Edge Browser.

Amazon has brought out its own sound bar for under $100 under the AmazonBasics line. Bgr.com says the $94.99 system works over Bluetooth, and has a built in subwoofer. It has 3 sound modes: Standard, News, & Movie, plus its own remote (it’s not compatible with universal or TV remotes.) If you want to spring for a few bucks more, and get a sound bar with a REAL, 6” subwoofer, check Amazon’s deal on the Klipsch Reference Series R-4B, for just under $150 while supplies last.

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Apple Ditching Qualcomm Modems; Unbreakable Phone Screens in Works; Surface Pro with LTE Advanced Next Month

Apple has been squabbling in court with Qualcomm for some time, and Qualcomm has withheld software used to test its communications components. Now, according to appleinsider.com, Apple is designing phones and iPads to run on Intel and MediaTek modems. Apple has used multiple suppliers for years in iPhones, but often the Qualcomm modems have been the ones that could work on bands used by more carriers.

Who hasn’t dropped their phone and sweated it cracking or breaking…or worse, picked it up to see a shattered screen? Now, thenextweb.com reports that scientists at the University of Sussex may have a solution…screens made of silver nanowire and graphene. Present screens that use indium tin oxide are not only fragile…indium is scarce and expensive, and an environmental disaster to extract. Of course, the world isn’t exactly flooded with silver, either…that’s where the silver nanoparticles come in. Combining them with graphene…made from plentiful graphite…you get a less expensive and stronger alternative. With any luck, this development…which the scientists say is easily scalable to mass production…will be in phones soon, and broken screens will be pretty much a thing of the past!

Microsoft is planning to ship a new version of Surface Pro tablets that have LTE Advanced mobile connectivity by early december. Geekwire.com says the successor to the Surface Pro 4 will start at $1149 with 4 gigs of RAM and 128 gigs storage. An 8 gig of RAM and 256 gigs storage model will set you back $1449. Both run an Intel Core i5 processor.


Google Assistant Now Controls Smart Appliances; App to Download Streamed Netflix & HBO Shows to Watch Offline; BMW Charging Pad..for Cars; Microsoft Dives Into Quantum Computing

Google Assistant can now control more smart devices, including appliances from LG. 9to5google.com reports that included are fridges, AC, ovens, washers & dryers…almost 90 different appliances. There are also some new headphone models that utilize Google Assistant. LG is even offering a deal…get an LG smart Wi-Fi appliance between October 8th and October 25th, and you’re eligible for a free Google Home unit.

When you’re binge watching a show from Netflix. Amazon, Hulu, or HBO, sometimes things get glitchy. Now, there’s an app on Android and iOS that lets you download the shows for later viewing OFFLINE! According to thenextweb.com the app, PlayOn Cloud, also supports YouTube, Yahoo Views, CBS, PBS CW, ABC, NBC, & Fox. There is an extra charge, though. It’s $0.99 per recording, or there are bundles for $0.20 each. Netflix has offered offline downloads as has Amazon, but they expire. With PlayOn, the videos are deleted from the cloud after 30 days, but anything you have downloaded stays on your device.

We’ve all been in places like Starbucks and seen the wireless charging pads, and of course Apple has made a big deal about joining the wireless charging smartphone club now with Qi charging…pads are already available from Mophie and Kensington. Theverge.com says BMW is getting ready to roll out one for their 530e iPerformance plug in hybrid. They claim 3.5 hour charging without a cable. The pad requires a 22o volt outlet, and is still awaiting final testing and UL approval, so it may be a year or more away, but faster, hassle free charging for cars will only accelerate the move to electric vehicles.

On Monday, Microsoft announced that it is going to be moving into the next big thing in computing….quantum computing. According to arstechnica.com, this should allow computers to do absolutely amazing things in the future. Redmond plans to release a new quantum computing programming language late this year, with full Visual Studio integration. If quantum computing sounds like Greek to you, don’t feel bad. In a Wall St. Journal interview, Bill Gates noted that while he was good at math and physics…probably an understatement….when the quantum computing slides came up in a presentation, it looked like hieroglyphics to HIM!


HP Education Chromebook is Out; Sprint & T-Mobile Merger Talks; iOS 11 is Out for iPhone & iPad; Microsoft Mixed Reality Event

HP has released their touted Chromebook x360. It had been only available as an education edition, but now is on sale to the public. According to theverge.com, it has a 1.1 Gig processor, 4 Gigs of RAM, and 32 Gigs of storage. The touch screen is Gorilla Glass, and it has 2 USB-C ports and two USB 3.0 ports. The rugged laptop will make it 11 hours on a charge. Best of all, it’s $299….and on sale at Amazon, Walmart, and Costco.

We’ve heard this story before, but now, it appears that Sprint and T-Mobile are actually in serious talks about a merger. Engadget.com reports that CNBC has picked up on the scent that the two are in active talks about a merger. This was a story back in 2014 too, but now the regulatory environment may have loosened enough that they think it will work. While less competition is usually not great for customers, it can be a boon to investors…or not. Sometimes, it’s like tying two bricks together and seeing if they’ll float. Time will tell…stay tuned.

Today is iOS 11 release day…10 am is the usual time Apple makes operating system updates like this live. Cnet.com notes that this upgrade really shines on the iPad. The iPad gets a dock much like the Mac OS has on laptops and desktops, and a Files App keeps files and folders handy…much like on a regular desktop. Also, the App switcher supports drag and drop…text, images, and more. Apple has said that the send money feature to friends via Apple Pay won’t go live until later…maybe when the iPhone X comes out in November.

Microsoft has invited a small number of journalists to a ‘mixed reality’ event in San Francisco October 3rd. Mashable.com says they don’t expect a huge reveal of gear, but more about Microsoft’s mixed reality strategy and Redmond has teased the opportunity to ‘experience Windows Mixed Reality for yourself.’


Amazon Looks to Build 2nd HQ in 2nd US City; New Surface PCs Out Next Month; Apple Paying Dearly for Single OLED Supplier Samsung

Amazon is ‘seeking proposals’ for a second US campus which they will drop about 5 billion on…and which will create as many as 50,000 jobs. According to geekwire.com, it would be the ‘full equal’ of the Seattle operation. They are looking at cities of over a million with a stable, business friendly environment and urban or suburban locations with the ability to attract and retain strong tech talent. Expect a bidding war like for the Olympics or a professional sports franchise from cities! Stay tuned.

Microsoft will drop at least one new Surface at its Future Decoded event in late October. Thenextweb.com reports there could be LTE versions of the Surface Pro, and maybe a refresh of the Surface Book, which dates to 2015. It’s also expected that Microsoft will show some Snapdragon powered Windows devices, but those may be third party, not Surface machines.

Apple is racing to help things along for a second supplier of OLED screens. Ming-Chi Kuo of KGI Securities estimates that those Samsung displays for the iPhone 8 or Edition are running around $120-$130 per handset for Apple….compared with about $45-$55 per phone they pay for the LCD screens on the iPhone 7 Plus! This is one of the major reasons analysts think the new hero iPhone will run around $1000. At any rate, we’ll know for sure what it will cost next week!


New Nest Leaves the Nest; Alexa & Cortana Buddying Up; 2018 iPhone ‘Phablet’

Nest has dropped a new baby bird into the air to let it fly. The Nest E is the first really new Nest since 2011. Theverge.com reports a main feature is its plainness…it’s a white ring with a frosted screen. The really big selling point is the price…it’s way down from earlier nests, starting at $169. The traditional nest will still be sold at $249. The rub is, the new E model is compatible with less systems…about 85%, while the old school one will work in 95% of homes. It also lacks ‘farsight,’ which senses if you’re across the room and turns the screen on. Since mine is in a hall, like most people’s, I am never more than 2 feet away from it when I walk past, so this won’t be a feature you will miss. It works with the Nest app like the older Nests, and they claim it will save 12-15% on your heating and cooling bills.

Amazon and Microsoft have made a remarkable announcement: they are working on getting Alexa and Cortana to work together. According to businessinsider.com, the two AI voice assistants will be able to hand off to each other. There are no plans for them to completely merge, as both companies want to hold on to your data. Switching from Alexa to Cortana will help you use voice assist for Office 365, as well as connect with more IoT stuff in your home. Switching back to Alexa will be great for listening to streaming music and of course, buying stuff from Amazon.

There was a hint earlier this year, but now 9to5mac.com says the Korea Herald has added to it….the ‘it’ is a 6.46 inch iPhone for 2018. The new iPhone 8 is due to bow on the 12th of September, and will sport a 5.85 inch screen, but apparently there will be the new bigger Plus model a year from now. Samsung is reputedly building the world’s largest OLED factory in prep for these phones and their own. The bigger 2018 iPhone would have its own production line.


Galaxy Note 8 Design Leak;, Microsoft Surface Plus Upgrade Plan; Ford’s ‘Good Neighbor Mode’

A new leak of the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 shows it will keep the squared off, boxy shape of the Note 7, but uses a curved, edge-to-edge ‘Infinity Display’ that covers almost the entire front surface. There’s no physical home key. Businessinsider.com reports that it has a dual rear camera. On the front, there’s an infrared iris scanner for secure access, but the fingerprint reader is unfortunately on the back. Samsung will roll it out August 23rd in New York.

Ahh, planned obsolescence…something the tech industry has learned well from the auto industry. There are upgrade plans for your smartphone from both manufacturers and phone companies to keep you in the latest and greatest…for a price. Now, according to thenextweb.com, you can upgrade your PC every 18 months with Microsoft’s new Surface Plus program. The deal lets you pay off your computer in 24-month installments with zero interest if paid off in time (otherwise, it’s 19.99%!) If you trade in your old computer in working condition, you can start a new plan after 18 months. Check it out at microsoft.com or Microsoft Stores in the US.

Some of us who like cars have opted for a so-called ‘more aggressive’ exhaust system. Harley Davidson motorcycles have a characteristic sound. Now, Ford…which decades ago touted a model that was quieter than a Rolls Royce…has introduced ‘Good Neighbor Mode.’ Cnet.com notes that there are already a few cars like Aston Martin that have so-called silent start modes, but Ford is bringing one to the 2018 Mustang GT that you can schedule ahead of time. Starting in Quiet Exhaust mode cuts the sound level to about 72 decibels, close to what your dishwasher sounds like. You can program it ahead, so you can start off quiet at 7am, then let ‘er roar when you fire it up later in the day. Just the thing if you have crabby neighbors who don’t appreciate cars that are fun.