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.

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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!


Disney Launching Own Streaming Service; Google Pixel’s Cool Storage Feature; Super Cheap Chromebook

Netflix cut a deal with Disney back in 2012 to stream the Mouse’s library of movies and shows. According to theverge.com, it just kicked in last year, and now Disney is announcing they will end the deal in 2019 in favor of their own streaming service. Interestingly, Marvel and Star Wars aren’t mentioned in the new Disney streaming service. Apparently, they are kicking around freestanding streaming services for each. At any rate, by 2019, Disney’s amazing library of shows and movies, including their LucasFilm and Marvel material, will be available on stream from a new Disney streaming service.

If you don’t always buy the maxed out memory on your smartphone, you probably have hit the point where you’re deleting songs or pictures to keep from running out of storage. THEN, when you try to update the operating system, you don’t even have room to do that. Bgr.com reports that Google has solved that part of the problem with the new Pixel. Starting with Android 8.0, the phones have a dual partition system for faster streaming updates. Basically, you keep using the system on the phone while a second system updates in the background. After download and restart, the second one becomes the normal OS. With this partition, the phone only needs 100 KB of free space to update instead of a gig. Thanks, Google!

Acer has just bowed its updated Chromebook C771. 9to5google.com says there are two models, one with touch display and one without. The laptop has an 11.6 inch screen and features a spill resistant keyboard. The cheaper version is $279.99. If you don’t mind the chrome ‘all in cloud’ system, it’s practically a disposable laptop at this price.


Next Gen HoloLens will Use Custom AI Silicon; Apple Working to Roll Their Own OLED Tech

Microsoft is working on their own AI coprocessor for the next iteration of the HoloLens. Engadget.com says it will give the headset object and voice recognition ability in real time, without any cloud connection. They intend to bake in assistance to blind folks by recognizing objects and describing them. This will also work without a data connection. There isn’t a HoloLens 2, but we will see a HoloLens 3 in late 2018 or early 2019.

Here’s a number that will bring indigestion to cable and satellite providers…Netflix was the top grossing app in the 2nd quarter of this year, with mobile revenue up 233% year over year! According to techcrunch.com, Netflix hauled in $153 million, compared with $46 million a year ago. Average app revenue growth on both the Apple App Store and Google Play is 56%! In the same period, Hulu grew by just 22%.

The new iPhone 8 will feature OLED screens made by Samsung. Apple, like other major manufacturers, is not keen on having a single supplier, and has reportedly bought CVD machines and has set up an R&D line in Taiwan to make OLED screens. 9to5mac.com notes that Apple almost never does actual manufacturing, but has developed the processes and bought the equipment for suppliers in the past. Besides having multiple manufacturers for their own security, Apple may need the production ability….they are planning to make 3 OLED iPhone models next year, and that would require better yields than Samsung has been getting from its process.


iPhone May Have Smart Connector for AR; Minecraft Getting It’s Own Money; Comcast Plans Netflix Rival, No In-Flight Cell Phone Use; Radiation Blocking Undies

Yes, all the buzz is that the iPhone 8 gets and OLED screen and catches up with Samsung, but the ‘one more thing’ may be connecting to an AR or VR headset via a Smart Connector like the iPad Pro has. The connector could also be used for wireless charging, although that can be done through the back inductively. If Apple is finally ready to jump into AR, that would be huge!

Microsoft is rolling out a new marketplace and currency for Minecraft. According to bloomberg.com, businesses will be able to sell content and creations to the millions of Minecraft players. The rollout…which is due yet this spring….will have feature packs including new story lines, in-game activities, and landscapes, and they will run anywhere from a buck to $10 each. The literal ‘coin of the realm’ will be Minecraft Coins! Up to now, you could only buy items created by the Minecraft development team. 10 third party sellers will kickoff the new Minecraft store. The coins can be bought by any supported device running iOS, Android, or Windows. Microsoft didn’t disclose how much developers will get as a cut, but did say it’s over half.

Comcast is going to create its own rival to Netflix in the next 12-18 months, using NBC shows. Theverge.com says it may also include material from Comcast cable channels SyFy, USA, and Bravo. Yet to be decided is whether or not it will feature a live sports feed. Comcast has owned NBC Universal since 2011.

The new Republican FCC Chairman may have done something you will actually love. The Friendly Candy Company, as broadcasters have called it for decades, plans to kill proceedings that would relax rules and allow people to use cell phones while airborne. Macrumors.com reports that the Chairman calls the plan ‘ill-conceived’ and called tabling cell phones on airliners ‘a victory for Americans all across the country.’ Next time you’re trying to snooze or watch a flick on your mobile device in airplane mode, without some jerk shouting into their phone, thank the FCC!

For guys who carry their cell phone in their pocket that are worried about damaging their little swimmers, check out Spartan boxers and briefs. Mashable.com says they have silver woven into the fabric to protect your boys from electromagnetic radiation from the phone, The maker adds that the silver is also naturally anti-bacterial. Oh…did we mention they’re $45 per PAIR. They should last 300 wash cycles at any rate.


Galaxy S8-3 Colors and Pricier Than iPhone; iPhone May Tease AR Features; Dolby and Netflix Gage Viewer Reaction to Shows

The Samsung Galaxy S8 will drop with 3 different colors and cost more than an iPhone 7. That’s according to thenextweb.com. The colors are ‘black sky,’ ‘orchid grey,’ and ‘arctic silver.’ It looks like it will run $989, with the S8 Plus syphoning off $1113 of your bucks! A rumored feature has been confirmed…the S8 will have Bixby, Samsung’s AI assistant.

Apple is apparently betting big on AR. A large team of experts and engineers has been going full stop on AI since last spring, and some features may bow on the iPhone 8 this fall. Techcrunch.com reports that this may just be a warmup to some AR glasses Apple has in the works that will pair with iPhones. For the iPhone, most features will revolve around the camera….Snapchat style filters and possible after the fact re-focusing of pictures.

So much for Netflix and chill. Dolby Labs is using biosensors to detect how we are reacting to movies and TV shows. Theverge.com says the tech has been licensed to Netflix to use in their new series Iron Fist. Right now, the setup is far from subtile….the rig includes a 64 channel EEG cap, a wrist tracker that picks up heart rate and perspiration, one of those oxygen sensors on a fingertip, and a thermal imaging camera aimed at the viewer. The setup produces data on what scenes make hearts beat faster, what makes cheeks flush, and what ones put them to sleep. Netflix had already been using eye tracking tech to analyze how viewers reacted to their content. I feel like we aren’t far from a jack in the back of the head like in ‘The Matrix.’


VW Unveils First Fully-Autonomous Vehicle; Netflix Passes The Venerable DVR

Volkswagen has shown their first fully autonomous car, a ‘Level 5’ vehicle, which means no driver required at all. Arstechnica.com says the concept vehicle has opposing sliding doors like a commuter train, couch like seating that faces the middle inside, and NO steering wheel or controls. VW says the vehicle, called Sedric, is designed as either a shared mobility system or could be privately owned like most present cars. It’s controlled by a remote control called the Button…the device summons the car, and identifies the user when the car arrives. It’s electric…with a flat battery back under the floor between the sets of wheels. VW hopes to have some version in service by 2025.

In a huge milestone for cord-cutting, Netflix subscribers have passed up the number of people that have a DVR. Arstechnica.com says 54% of US adults have Netflix now, with 53% having a DVR in home. If you throw in other video on demand subscribers, it’s 64% that have either Netflix, Amazon Prime, and/or Hulu. Of those 51% stream shows at least monthly. Your cable company needs some heartburn medicine.