Galaxy Note 9 Rumors; Snap Spectacles II on Amazon; Nintendo Switch Content Leak; Facebook Rebrands On This Day As Memories

More has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, widely expected to be a minor upgrade coming in August. Bgr.com says one tweak may make a noticeable difference over the Note 8…the back cams may go horizontal instead of vertical, with the fingerprint sensor moving directly below. This will not only make the print sensor much easier to find and use, but the horizontal layout of the cams will allow for a bigger battery…perhaps even exceeding the 35 mAh battery of the Galaxy S9+. There’s also an additional hardware button showing up…no clues on what it is, but it may be related to the cameras.

Snap’s original Spectacles were kind of cool, but you had to hunt for a pop up store to get a pair of them. Now, mashable.com reports that the 2nd generation will be much easier to find…you can buy them on Amazon. There’s a price bump of 20 bucks to $149.99, but now they can be at your doorstep in a couple days in the US, UK, and Canada….even tomorrow if you’re terribly impatient! Snap only sold 220,000 of the original Spectacles, and lost a bundle ($40 million), but it appears they are confident about the round pic-taking glasses being a hit in version 2.

Best Buy may have spilled the beans about upcoming Nintendo Switch content at E3. According to businessinsider.com, Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix compatibility may be coming to the Switch. The added capabilities popped up on Best Buy’s online store. Nintendo had been expected to make an announcement anyway, but the retailer inadvertently stole their thunder.

Facebook is rolling out a rebranded On This Day as ‘Memories.’ Techcrunch.com says they are adding friends you made on the date to the usual pictures and posts from the On This Day version, in addition to ‘Memories You May Have Missed’. It’s a great way to get people to engage more…not to mention it saves Facebook server space by recycling posts. Hmm.

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SpaceX Will Build BFR in L.A.; Netflix Adds Yet More Subscribers; Big Walmart Web Makeover; If Facebook Went Subscription

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti let the cat out of the bag during a speech yesterday…and it’s a BIG cat! SpaceX will build their BFR- Big Falcon Rocket at the Port of L.A. According to arstechnica.com, SpaceX has leased an 18 acre site at Berth 240 at the port. SpaceX is apparently already moving hardware to temporary facilities, but will build a state of the art facility. The waterside site allows for easy shipping to test sites and launch pads. Preliminary tests could start in 2019. SpaceX has said the BFR might be used for colonizing Mars.

Netflix added over 7 million subscribers in the 1st quarter, and projects picking up another 6.35 million this quarter. Recode.net reports that Netflix is now up to 1245 million subscribers globally. This puts Netflix at the fastest growth rate since they went into streaming.

Walmart has done a major makeover to its website, in hopes that a cleaner, more modern walmart.com will better compete with Amazon. Reuters.com says the company has been investing heavily in its e-commerce business, including trying to leverage its 4700 brick and mortar stores to help fuel the web growth. Walmart has been letting pick up and return online orders in stores, and last month, announced that it was adding grocery delivery that would reach more than 40% of American households. Look for the big website update to be fully in place in a couple weeks. The company announced that its online sales had increased 23% last quarter, doing a bit over 11 billion. That’s just a trickle of sales compared to the nearly 319 billion the company does overall, though.

Although Mark Zuckerberg again insisted during recent Congressional hearings that Facebook would always remain free to everyone, so those who can’t afford a fee could use it, they have been considering an ad-free subscription. Techcrunch.com reports that based on ad earnings in the US and Canada, they would have to charge $7 per month. Of course, ads aren’t the only way they make money. Some users are more well heeled, and might buy nicer products and services, so they are worth more to advertisers. They also might spend more time on the platform….but would they pony up as much as $11 to $14 a month, like a higher end subscription to Netflix or Hulu? If so, would they be able to opt out of not only ads, but having their data sold off to third parties? Nothing is rumored as happening yet, but we could be seeing both a free tier and paid tier Facebook, and even multiple subscription prices at some point. Will that help ‘save’ Facebook from the Cambridge Analytica fallout? Stay tuned.


Samsung In-Person Phone Repairs; Google Bans Crypto Ads; Netflix May Bow Weekly Newsmagazine Show; Walmart Expands Grocery Delivery

A strong plus for Apple’s iPhone line has been the ability to make an appointment, and hit an Apple store when your phone is on the fritz. Now, Samsung has announced they are acting to offer in-person service for Galaxy phones in the US. Engadget.com reports that after March 15th, users will be able to visit one of 300+ uBreakiFix locations around the country and get Samsung authorized repairs in person on late model high end Galaxy phones, from the S6 and Note 5 on up to the new S9’s. Both Samsung and uBreakiFix are promising same day repairs, and in most cases 2 hour fixes. Walk-ins are ok, but appointments are encouraged. The repair chain is also adding 200 more locations, and that is expected by 2019.

Google AdWords has banned all cryptocurrency ads. 9to5google.com says the ban will take effect in June to give advertisers time to wrap up schedules. The ban includes related content in addition to actual cryptocurrencies…initial coin offerings, exchanges, wallets, and trading advice ads will be stopped. The action is no doubt in response to the high volatility in the virtual currency market lately. Google notes the havoc that can wreak in less savvy people.

Word is, Netflix may be dipping its toe into news. According to cnet.com, the streaming programming giant is working on something in the vein of ’60 Minutes’ or ’20/20,’ a newsmagazine type format that will run weekly. In addition to entertainment programming, Netflix has already expanded to documentaries, so this may be another nature extension to position them as a full service program provider.

With Amazon now utilizing their acquisition of Whole Foods to expand their own grocery delivery business, Walmart has reacted with an aggressive lan to expand its own grocery delivery service from the present 6 test markets to 100 metro areas. Geekwire.com says Walmart will be able to leverage its 800 physical stores to reach what they say is over 40 percent of US households. Walmart will charge a $9.95 fee on orders of over $30. Using the Whole Foods grocery delivery service, Amazon Prime Now members can get free delivery in 4 test markets: Austin, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Virginia Beach. If they want delivery in an hour or less, it’s an additional $7.99.


Apple HomePod Launch Date & Feature Delay; iPhone X Discontinued When Successor Debuts; Amazon Discounts Echo Spot; Netflix Exceeds Growth Estimates

They didn’t have it ready for the holidays, but Apple’s HomePod goes on pre-order this Friday, and will finally launch February 9th. The premium smart speaker isn’t the priciest, but it’s close at $349. The initial launch is just in the US, UK, and Australia. Macrumors.com reports that the device will launch later in Germany and France, and also will launch without the multi-room connectivity or the ability to set up two in a room for stereo…those features will come in a software update later this year. It probably won’t hurt sales…at $700 for a pair, a lot of Apple fans will probably want to hear how just one sounds before springing for another $350!

Apple is apparently going to try a different tack with the launch of the successor to the iPhone X. The present iPhone X will be dropped. Apple hasn’t done this before, but accroding to reports from KGI Securities, Cupertino doesn’t want to drop the price since they already have a new lower-priced model coming out, and it would spit sales. KGI says they will probably price the 2nd gen iPhone X at $999, like the present one, and the larger 6.5 inch screen model (iPhone X Plus) should start at $100 more. Then, the new mid-range 6.1 inch screen iPhone will be $649 or $749…this is the one with Face ID and a full screen front, but has the LCD screen instead of OLED. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus will remain at $549 and $669, and the 7 and 7 Plus will come in at $449 and $569. The entry level iPhone SE will be $349. Even with the original iPhone X as a single year orphan, there will be a wider range of iPhones than ever to pick from.

The Amazon Echo Spot is a cool little gadget…the small smart speaker sports a little color display, in addition to Alexa taking verbal commands. It’s been $130, but if you order a pair of them now, Amazon will knock off $40 bucks for the price of the pair.

Netflix picked up a lot more viewers through the holidays than analysts had predicted. According to bgr.com, they signed up enough to hit 8.33 million, blowing past the anticipated 6.3 million. The company hit the expected financials, and is now raising estimates for early 2018…but will have more competition ahead, as Disney will be rolling out its streaming service soon, and has poured cash into Hulu as well.


Galaxy S9 Keeps Headphone Jack; True Depth Cam & Face ID Big iPhone X Draws; Netflix Kids See Way Less Ads; Google Poaches Apple Chip Engineers

Yes, it’s ‘old tech’, and yes it takes up space that prevents the screen from going clear to the top or bottom of a smartphone, but according to a rumor spotted by bgr.com, Samsung will keep the venerable 3.5 mm headphone jack on the upcoming Galaxy S9. The Galaxy will have the same size bezels as the S8, but upgraded internals…much like Apple’s ’S’ updates. The S9 Plus will get a dual camera, again taking a page out of Apple’s book. With Apple and most other makers opting to drop the headphone jack, though, swimming against the tide may draw in a significant number of users that refuse to go all in on Bluetooth only smartphones….particularly if they have invested hundreds of dollars in good noise cancelling wired headphones…you supposedly can’t use Bluetooth while flying, because ‘airplane mode’ turns it off.

In a report picked up by appleinsider.com, the big draws for the iPhone X are the TrueDepth camera and FaceID. Some analysts thought the FaceID concept might put buyers off, but according to the study by Strategy Analytics, buyer interest in the two features is ‘extremely positive.’ The firm surveyed 568 early adapters of the iPhone X, and also found that the so-called Super Retina HD display and improved battery life were big selling points.

It may be the death knell for sugary cereal and toy ads on TV. ‘It’ being the cord cutter household. According to bigstockphoto.com, so-called Netflix only households that use only streaming services and not over the air or cable channels have kids who see 230 hours LESS of ads per year….that’s a full 9.6 days of ads! Don’t cry your eyes out for the advertisers, though. Some will figure out ways to use ‘product placement’ in the actual kids shows to hawk their goods to the younger set…the same way products have been seen in movies for decades!

Apple has been designing chips in house for its mobile devices for several years, and is moving that way with Macs, too. Now, Google has stepped up its effort to poach Apple chip engineers, as it does the same. 9to5mac.com reports that Google has hired several key chip engineers away from its rival in Cupertino, including noted designer John Bruno. Prior to Apple, Bruno had worked at AMD.Google is not only designing chips for its Pixel line of smartphones, but also working on custom silicon for AI devices, like the wearables they, Apple, Samsung, and Microsoft are viewing as the future.


Pixel 2 Takes Top Cam Spot from iPhone 8 and Galaxy Note 8; Netflix is Upping Prices; Zunum Rolls Out Electric Plane

For now, at least, the new Google Pixel 2 reigns supreme in smartphone cameras…scoring a 98 in DxO Labs’ test. The iPhone 8 Plus and Samsung Galaxy Note 8 tied at 94. Macrumors.com notes that the Google phone may not have the top spot for long…Apple’s iPhone X will be out in late November. The lab tests found the cam was nearly flawless except in very low light images, but had ‘amazing’ ability to render detail in both the bright and dark areas of difficult scenes. If you didn’t preorder one yesterday, prepare to wait…a lot of models are sold out!

Just in time for me to grumble about it when the new season of ‘Stranger Things’ debuts later this month, Netflix has raised prices. According to businessinsider.com, the cheapie plan stays at $7.99…but the most popular ‘standard plan,’ which scores you HD and 2 simultaneous streams, jumps from $9.99 to $10.99 a month. The Cadillac plan that has 4K video and 4 simultaneous streams goes form $11.99 to $13.99. Netflix says they know people don’t like price increases, but will be spending almost $7 billion on content next year, including their own productions.

Seattle area based Zunum has unveiled its electric powered airplane, slated for first deliveries in 2022. Geekwire.com says the company has added a second development center in Chicago, in addition to what they have in Kirkland, WA. They are shooting for flight testing to start in 2019 and deliveries in 2022. Eventually, they hope to crank out a couple hundred of the thousand mile range electric planes per year. They expect most to to to regional air carriers…noting that with today’s hub and spoke system, there are some 5,000 underserved airports in the US. The plane can carry 12 passengers in economy type configuration, or 6 in executive travel mode.


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!