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 Rolls out Pixels and Adds to the Line; Sonos Bows New Speaker

The highly anticipated Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL today. The XL has a whopping 6 inch OLED screen, all aluminum body, and better image stabilization…although still a single lens cam. Cnet.com reports that it supports AR Core, the Google AR programming interface. The HTC made phone has the squeezable sides to activate Google Assistant, and has always on display for notifications. The handsets are on pre-order now, and start at $649 for the 2 and $849 for the 2XL…they should be on the streets in a couple weeks.

Google Pixel Buds were also rolled out…the earbuds are joined by a neck cord and have a charging case that gives you up to 24 hours use. They work with Google Assistant on Pixel phones, are available in black, white, and blue, and preorders have started. They run $159, and are available next month.

Also bowing today where Google Home Mini and Home Max. The Mini is a smaller version of the Home Assistant speaker, while the Max is geared more towards the audiophile. The max goes on preorder in November, and will be available in December for $399.The Mini can be preordered now, and is $49…should be out in a couple weeks.

The Google PixelBook was also rolled out…a replacement for the Chromebook Pixel of 2 years ago. It’s still Chrome OS, but has Android app support, and quick charges for up to 10 hours battery life. It has instant tethering to Pixel phones, and Google Assistant is baked in. The PixelBooks start a $999, can be preordered now, and will be out the end of the month.

Google also showed an updated Daydream View. It’s $99, and available October 19th. A surprise reveal is Google Clips…a standalone cam that captures short clips. It auto-selects and learns who you want in shots and which shots, and builds clips from them…then uploads on demand. No release date, but it will be $249.

Sonos has rolled out the new One wireless speaker. According to 9to5mac.com, it has Alexa voice control, and will support AirPlay 2 by the first of the year. It doesn’t actually have Siri, but with the Airplay function, can be controlled by any Siri enabled device like iPhones and iPads. It’s $199, and will be out October 24th…preorders are open now.


iPhone Rollout Date; Google Pixel Reveal Date; Samsung’s Echo to the Echo

The highly anticipated (and even more highly hyped) iPhone 8 will roll out on September 12th. Techcrunch.com reports that the date was confirmed by rooting around with the telecom companies and finding that Apple plans a press event for that date. If the usual format since 2012 is followed, the phone should be on sale a week later on September 22nd. Multiple sources have cautioned that the iPhone 8 will be in extremely tight supply until close to the holidays.It’s expected that the upgraded Apple Watch 3 will drop with the iPhone, and of course the next version of the OS, iOS 11.

Google will unveil the Pixel 2 and Pixel 2XL on October 5th, according to android police.com. The next gen phones will be powered by Snapdragon 836 chips. All rumors point to the XL just being a larger version of the 2. Both will have 4 gigs of RAM, dual front facing speakers, an always on display, and as we noted earlier, the feature Mr Whipple of Charmin would love, a squeezable frame to relay commands to the phone.

In a MSNBC interview, Samsung’s mobile division boss confirmed that they are working on a smart speaker…something previously defined. Engadget.com says it will be announced ‘soon,’ but probably not by next week’s IFA show. A smart speaker is a logical next move, since Samsung just expanded their Bixby voice assistant to over 200 countries this week. It’s expected that Bixby will be the ‘star feature’ of the Samsung smart feature.


Google Pixel 2 May Ditch Phone Jack; iPhone 8 May Ship Late October-November; Carmakers Collaborate to Take On Waze & Google Maps

The march towards Bluetooth only seems relentless on smartphones now. According to businessinsider.com, the latest to ditch the venerable headphone jack will be the Google Pixel 2. The latest leaks show that the Pixel 2 XL will have a more premium design, with thinner borders…and both Pixel models will sport a more refined glass back plate.

Apple’s iPhone 8 will be delayed past the September rollout, and now it appears it may be late October to early November before significant numbers are in users’ hands. Macrumors.com reports that a rumor about the side button is probably off base, after picking up on info from Mac Otakara. The handset appears to have an elongated side button that will have Touch ID, since the home button is going away. Mac Otakara says it’s much more likely that the Touch ID will be under the screen, or left out entirely, rather than put into a longer button on the phone’s side.

German carmakers bought a traffic company called HERE from Nokia a couple years ago. Now, mashable.com says they plan to pool traffic data collected by their cars’ sensors for real time traffic conditions in their own map that they claim will have ‘significantly higher accuracy and more precise information about traffic conditions.’ Taken together, they already have a fleet of millions of cars in 60 countries, and the numbers will increase dramatically as more cars with sensor systems hit the roads the next few years. Besides highly accurate info for drivers, it will build data for more reliable self driving systems.


Not Charmin, But You’ll Want to Squeeze Google Pixel 2; Amazon Partners Sell 40 Million Items Prime Day; Apple Teases New Emoji for iOS and macOS

Mr. Whipple might not buy one, but you may want to buy and squeeze a Google Pixel 2. Cnet.com says it will have a squeezable frame. Frame squeezes activate a feature or launch a specific app. The HTC U11— out now—already has this feature. You can configure it to launch the app or shortcut of your choice. One potential issue…how will the feature respond with a very protective case like an Otterbox? Some folks have saved at least hundreds in phone damage with such cases, and may not be ready to give up that protection for a cool new feature.

Amazon has announced that small businesses sold 40 million items this Prime Day. That’s up from 20 million last year. According to geekwire.com, this Prime Day was Amazon’s biggest shopping event of all time…well, maybe until next Prime Day!

Apple is teasing new emoji that will be released with iOS, macOS, and WatchOs later this year. Macrumors.com reports we can expect them with the public launch of the updated systems later this fall. All of the new Apple emoji are in the new Unicode 10 standard that bowed in June. I particularly look forward to the new barfing emoji and the head exploding one!


More Google Pixel 2 Rumors; Lensless Camera Could Allow Truly Flat Phones; Amazon Working on Website Translation Service

Rumors are now flying about Google’s Pixel 2 phones. 9to5google.com reports that they will be made by LG, ad previously thought, and will lose the headphone jack. There will be 2 models, and the smaller one will be nearly identical to the present model. The bigger one will have smaller bezels around the screen than the current one, and will have a 5.99 inch OLED display. It will also feature a two tone metal and glass back. Apparently, no dual camera on the Pixels, just a single lens with dual flash.

One of the major items that hasn’t enabled really flat smartphones is the lens assembly for the cameras. According to engadget.com, that may be changing. Researchers at Caltech have figured out an ‘optical phased array’ chip that uses math as a substitute for a lens. Using minute time delays to light from different locations, it can change focus without a lens! They claim it can switch from a fisheye to a telephoto lens instantly. The tech is in the initial stages, but they have already demoed a proof of concept, so in a few years, you may have a much thinner smartphone.

This is a little back end and geeky, but Amazon is working on tech that would let developers making apps and websites translate content to multiple languages. Techcrunch.com says it is technology based on what Amazon uses on its own products. Amazon acquired machine translation startup Safaba around two years ago, and they are building on their machine learning model.


Pixel 2 To Get OLED Screen; Twitter Users Want to Buy Twitter; TaskRabbit For Sale

The Samsung Galaxy S8 has one, the iPhone 8 is supposed to be getting a curved OLED screen, now it appears that Google may up their game….literally, with a larger, edge to edge curved screen. Bgr.com notes that the Pixel already features an OLED screen, but they have been buying them from Samsung…which will be pretty tapped out with their own phones and Apple’s. Google may drop almost a billion into LG Display, and will likely try to step up to the more technically advanced type like Samsung has built into the Galaxy S8.

Last fall, a group of Twitter users got a petition together to get the social net to sell itself to its users, and turn into a co-op. Now, recode.net reports that Twitter has actually put the idea on the agenda for their shareholder meeting next month. It doesn’t appear like the board is too keen to do it, but just the fact that they are considering it is interesting. A hybrid ownership model is also a possibility, which would give users a portion of voting shares and a few board seats. The Associated Press operates this way as a non-profit cooperative.

One of the pioneers of the so-called ‘gig’ economy, TaskRabbit, is thinking about selling itself. As startups for more specialized areas of pick up work have crowded the marketplace, continued capital has dried up. Techcrunch.com says tthere is still plenty of demand for handyman services, light home renovation, and the like…which are predicted to become a billion dollar business. Time will tell if TaskRabbit will outrun them all or become rabbit stew.