Smartphone Sales Contract; Vicis Extends High Tech Helmet Expertise to Military; Comcast Mesh WiFi Extenders Launched; Starbucks-More Mobile Payments than Apple or Google

Smartphone sales dropped overall by 11% year over year first quarter according to counterpointresearch.com. There were 38.7 million sold, the first time in 3 years that number was under 40 million in a quarter. Prepaid phones dropped, most likely due to a ramp-down of government subsidized ‘lifeline’ programs. Apple was actually up 16% in the quarter. Apple seems to be selling less at introduction, but steadier through the year. Samsung was down 4% year over year. Google Pixel 2 sales were solid during the promo period on Verizon. Apple held the top 5 slots first quarter plus #7, with Samsung taking #6, #8, and #9. Motorola…remember them? They squeaked in with #10.

Vicis has made a deal with the US Army to bring their high tech helmet expertise honed in footballl helmets to military ones. According to geekwire.com, they will be working to improve the safety of both Army and Marine combat helmets. Vicis already sells to all 32 NFL teams, 90 NCAA teams, and over 500 high schools.

If you have a larger home, or one with multiple stories, good for you. Sometimes, not so good for WiFi reception. Now, theverge.com reports that Comcast has rolled out Xfinity xFi Pods…mesh WiFi pods to cover dead zones in houses. The little plug in pods were supposed to be out last year, but were delayed. Comcast has 3 packs for $119 and 6 packs for $199, plus shipping.

By the end of this year, almost a quarter of US smartphone users…some 55 million people…will make an in-store mobile payment. It might be a bit of a surprise…or not, but recode.net says Starbucks mobile payment app beats Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay! Starbucks notches some 30 million, with Apple Pay at just under 28 billion. Google Pay has about 13 million users so far, and Samsung Pay around 11 million, all according to eMarketer.

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Offline Gmail Support Rolls Out; Warrantless Cellphone Tracking; Apple v Samsung, Round 3; Amazon Go to San Francisco

The offline Gmail support for search, archive, and compose is rolling out on the web. the feature was promised at Google I/O. Up to now, Gmail over the web had offline capability via the Gmail Offline Chrome app. Google recommends you uninstall the app, as the functionality is not built right into the web app. When you reconnect with the web, your changes will synch up automatically. You’ll need chrome 61 or better to use the feature. Just go to settings and hit the Offline tab, then ‘enable offline mail.’ The default stores 30 days of messages, but you can select 7 or 90 days.

As if there wasn’t enough to worry about over lack of privacy…now, it turns out that a company which mainly works with prison phone systems has leveraged a data-sharing service offered by phone carriers that allows police to track any cellphone number, with no legal checks…like a warrant…to keep the practice from being abused. The New York Times says the company is called Serurus, and they an another company are making available data the phone carriers already offer to marketers to police agencies…basically uncontrolled access to nationwide location tracking. Senator Ron Wyden has already written to the FCC and the carriers, asking them to tighten these disclosures up.

Facebook is apparently working behind the scenes, to try to make up for the Cambridge Analytica debacle. They have now suspended over 200 suspicious apps, and have reviewed ‘thousands so far,’ in the audit promised by Mark Zuckerberg, according to techcrunch.com. The social network has not released the names or info on those apps so far, and says in some cases, apps will be reinstated after reviews, interviews, and even some on-site inspections of the makers. Apparently, apps that don’t agree to the through audit are banned outright. Apps that have grabbed data will be listed on https://www.facebook.com/help/yourinfo, if you want to check whether or not one has gotten your data.

It’s the third trial in 8 years in Silicon Valley for Apple and Samsung over smartphone intellectual property. This one is centered around the $500 million judgment Apple got in the last one.
The judge is the same one who heard both the previous trials. The jury will have to interpret a completely new (and extremely vague) test that came out of the US Supreme Court appeal of this case. The outcome could well re-write US patent law, in a way that could greatly affect makers of complex products such as electronics or electric cars.

Amazon Go appears to be coming to San Francisco. The Chronicle reports that they have their eyes on a site around Post and Kearny near Union Square. Amazon Go is the ‘frictionless’ shopping experience, where you simply log in with an app, pick what you want from the shelves, then just walk out and your account is automatically billed…no waiting in lines at the checkout. Amazon hasn’t commented, but there may be an announcement in a few weeks.


Facebook F8 Keynote; UK Tells Zuck Show Up or Subpoena; 2 Bigger Samsung Galaxy Phones; Another Hint Apple May Roll Without Qualcomm or Intel

Mark Zuckerberg dropped a big bombshell in his F8 keynote this morning….a Facebook dating app! Businessinsider.com reports that the social network will also launch a possible rival to Apple’s FaceTime…video chat via Instagram. WhatsApp will be getting video calling, and Messenger will get simplified, and some AR camera tools are coming. As for VR, the Oculus Go, Facebook’s new standalone VR headset ships today. It’s $199, a big drop from the present $399 Oculus headset (which you need a high end PC to use!) A crowd pleaser—Facebook is handing out a free Oculus Go headset to everyone at F8! FB will also be adding upvotes and downvotes to comments, like Reddit. Also, Stories will be opened up to third party developers. They are also adding ‘live commenting’ to videos…they will appear in a video alongside the video and narrate it in real time.

The UK Parliament really wants to hear from Mark Zuckerberg in person. According to techcrunch.com, they have let Facebook know that since Zuck is giving evidence to the European Parliament in May, if he lands in Britain, he will be hit with a summons.

Up to now, you have only been able to get Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ phones with 64 gigs of storage in the US, but starting May 18th, you can go crazy with more space. Bgr.com reports that both phons will add 128 and 256 gig capacities by then. Preorders are open now. The 128 gig S9 runs $769.99, with the S9+ gobbling up $889.99 of your bucks. For the maxed out 256 gig S9, expect to drop $819.99, or pony up $939.99 for the S9+ .

A job posting was dropped from Apple’s site that some say points to the company rolling their own modem chips and dropping Qualcomm. Businessinsider.com says the gig was for a ‘mmWave IC design engineer.’ That would appear to indicate that Apple was wanting to design in house its own chip for next gen 5G networks. Although Apple is locked in a courtroom battle with Qualcomm, this shouldn’t be a stunner…they have been running iOS mobile devices on processors of their own design for a decade.


Next Samsung Phone Further into Phablet Range; Alphabet Coins Money in Q1 & Adds Employees; iPhone X Users Love Everything-But One; 27 Pages of Facebook No-Nos

It looks like Samsung’s successor to the Galaxy S9 will be going big…bigger than the LCD third iPhone Apple plans for this fall. According to the dailymail.com, it will sport a bigger 6.3 inch super AMOLED screen (the bigger Apple phone is slated to be 6.1 inch, and LED…while the iPhone X successor will be 5.8 inch.) The present Galaxy S9 has a 6.2 inch screen. Also expect a 12 MP camera which will move to the left of the handset’s back like iPhone, faster processor, and that 6.3 inch screen should go edge to edge…but WON’T be curved, according to rumors!

Google parent Alphabet blew past expectations, with first quarter revenues of over 31 billion…that’s up a whopping 26% from first quarter last year. 9to5google.com says the company also hired on another 5,000 employees, and now exceeds 85,000. This is in great part a one time event, as Google brought on board about 2000 engineers in Taiwan from smartphone maker HTC. Google has been hiring 2-3000 employees per quarter since 2017, though.

Early adapters of the iPhone X in the US adore their phones…Creative Strategies found that it has a 97% satisfaction rate. There’s only one thing they don’t like, according to macrumors.com…Siri. The miserably executed voice assistant just had a 20% satisfaction rate! Maybe the AI wizard Apple wooed from Google can fix the mess that is Siri. Just yesterday, a friend was texting me…she dictates to Siri. Most of the garbled things, I was able to figure out from the context, but one paragraph was absolute gibberish! The friend immediately clarified…laboriously with the virtual keyboard. Come on, Apple…fix this mess!

It’s always been kind of like black magic, trying to figure out what facebook won’t allow to be posted…but now it’s clearer. Bgr.com reports that the social network has published 27…count ‘em…pages of Community Standards that have been used in their internal moderation policies. Want to be edgy, or wonder why your hate speech or bullying wouldn’t post…check out the document. Facebook has also unveiled an appeals process. Facebook claims the appeal reviews are done by an actual person, and usually within 24 hours.


Google Pumps $300 Million into Saving Online Journalism; IBM Rolls Out Watson Assistant; 100 TB SSD Drive; IoT Mousetrap-Wait, What?

Google has announced that they are launching the Google News Initiative with $300 million. According to mashable.com, the intent is to fight fake news by providing publishers online tools. No list of the publishers was released at the announcement. Facebook started a similar initiative last January, but so far, not much impact has been felt the past 14 months.

In an effort to build an assistant for the business world, IBM has showed off Watson Assistant. Big Blue has been working on the project for a year, and hopes to get established in the business world before Amazon can with Alexa. Cnet.com reports that Watson won’t be for asking what the weather or a sports score is, but more of a behind the scenes brain. It is already in use in the airport in Munich, Germany for a robot that can give directions and gate info. IBM is also working with BMW for an in car voice helper. No, it doesn’t look like you will be able to use it to play Jeopardy if you’re bored in your cube, but it will be great, according to IBM, for crunching sensitive info companies may not want being bounced out into the world to Amazon, Google, Apple, or Microsoft servers.

Bigger is better, right? Now, a company in Irvine, CA, Nimbus Data, has showed the biggest SSD drive ever, a 100 Terabyte job. To give you an idea of how insanely big that is, thenextweb.com says it would hold half of Spotify’s catalog…in something that fits in a pocket!! Its not really designed for home for office use, actually…more for enterprise customers that need to cram more storage into their space that requires less cooling expense. Speaking of expense, no price is out yet, but as a comparison, Samsung has a 15TB drive that came out in 2016 for 10 grand!

A company named Victor has claimed to have built a better mousetrap…it’s connected to the Internet of Things. If this seems silly and massive overkill for way more than you’d spend on a mousetrap, you’re right. According to zdnet.com, it’s really aimed at restaurants and businesses where traps need to be set in attics and cellars that are not very accessible….because seeing visible rodents can be a sure fire business killer. The IoT mousetrap runs on Comcast’s MachineQ platform, and has a dashboard for monitoring. Victor claims they have improved battery life and WiFi range to the point that they can be left unattended for long periods, saving on labor for pest control in larger facilities. Finally….a trap that catches mice and ‘rats them out.’


Galaxy S10 3D Face Recognition; Galaxy S9 Easter Egg Health Feature; Nest Temp Sensor & Video Doorbell; Apple Patents ‘Keyless Keyboard’

The Galaxy S8 and the new S9’s have face unlock, but it’s 2D, not 3D. Now, according to 9to5google.com, Samsung is working on a true 3D system like Apple’s iPhone X on the S10. If the trials pan out, you may not need to combine the face unlock with either a fingerprint or iris reader to access things like your bank and credit accounts when the S10 comes out next year.

The Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ are out tomorrow, and have a heart rate sensor on the back. That’s nothing new for Samsung, but this one has an added trick that never got covered in all the leaks or even the rollout. Bgr.com says Samsung has managed to fly a feature of it under the radar. In February, at the rollout, Samsung also announced an app called My BP Lab. The app transforms the Galaxy S9’s heart rate monitor into a blood pressure monitor. Preliminary tests by journalists that have tried it out indicate that the readings are extremely accurate! Right now, the feature is a bit of a beta, and isn’t incorporated into the main Samsung Health app, but it likely will be before long.

Nest has rolled out a temperature sensor that works with its smart thermostats to keep rooms in your home closer to the ideal temperature. Theverge.com reports that the #39 sensor will be shipping in April, and there’s a preorder now for a 3 pack for $99. It does require the latest-generation Nest Learning Thermostat or the Thermostat E, and won’t work with first or second generation Nests…so I’m out of luck for now.

Nest has also released the Hello video doorbell for $229, and the long time coming Nest x Yale door lock…which is $249 or $279 if you get Nest Connect. The video doorbell does require a wired connection with power, but it is a direct shot at the Amazon Ring from Google.

Apple has applied for a patent on a ‘keyless keyboard,’ one that would basically use another touchscreen with haptic feedback to allow for a more versatile (and liquid and crumb-proof) keyboard. Appleinsider says it would allow for moving the trackpad into the middle, or changing the layout of the keyboard to an ergonomic one, and even specialty keyboard layouts using just software. As will all patents, and especially Apple’s, there’s no telling when or if this might hit the market.


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.