Next iPhones-Smaller Then No Notches; Amazon Expands Discounted Prime; Cam Makers Partner for Easier Smartcams; Brits Refine Laws for Self-Driving Cars

The latest word, which comes from Korea’s ET News by way of macrumors.com, is that the next iPhones will have a notably smaller notch for the TrueDepth camera system. This will apparently be true for all 3 models expected in the fall. In addition to that, a sketchier rumor says Apple will be able to ditch the notch entirely in 2019!

Amazon already discounts Prime for people with an EBT card to $5.99 a month, instead of $12.99. Now, according to geekwire.com, they will expand this program to people on Medicaid, too. Users will still get free 2 day shipping, Prime Video, etc. Amazon says they plan to add other ways for people on assistance to qualify for the discount moving forward. The 2 day delivery for people on Medicaid is especially interesting since Amazon is looking to get into the prescription business.

Smartcams can bee cool to have for checking on kids, pets, or just for home security, but some can be a pain to set up, and even more so to get to work with other kinds, and with various systems. Now, Sony, Nikon, iPhone maker Foxconn, as well as others, are working together to make it possible for you to monitor video streams from different cams through a unified interface. Thenextweb.com reports that the makers are devising a specification called NICE so the footage from various cams can be split into scenes, indexed, made searchable and scannable in thumbnails, and more easily stashed in cloud storage. If all works out, there should be NICE cams and related products on the market by 2019.

Self-driving cars are gearing up to hit the roads, and like in the US, the Brits are trying to get things ready. Techcrunch.com says regulators in the United Kingdom are shooting for 2021 as the year driverless cars without a safety operator can be rolling on the roads there. A number of issues have to be worked out, including who is the responsible party if there’s no driver, and how to allocate civil and criminal responsibility where there is shared control through some human-machine interface. If things go as planned, car makers may not have to worry one day about building right hand drive cars for the UK and a number of former British colonies that still drive on the left side of the road.

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Samsung Galaxy S9 is Here; Sony Xperia XZ2 Gets 3D Scanning; Nokia Bows Retro Matrix Banana Phone; Apple Working on High End Over Ear Headphones

With all the leaks, there was precious little unknown about the Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9 Plus, but they were finally shown over the weekend at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. 9to5google.com notes that we did get the pricing, which isn’t as bad as predicted. The S9 will be $719 unlocked, and the S9+ weighs in at $839. They can be preordered March 2nd, and will be out March 16th. As predicted, it has a dual aperture camera, with the settings f/1.5 and f/2.4. The larger S9+ has the dual rear cams, too. Both phones have Face Unlock as well as IrisScanning. Samsung’s ‘Intellegent Scan’ turns out to actually just be a way to fallback to IrisScan if Face Unlock can’t be used. IrisScan and your fingerprint are still used for secure authentication, like Samsung Pay.

Sony has really never been able to gain traction in smartphones like they have in other electronics, so with the Xperia XZ2, they tout features ported over from their other devices. Zdnet.com reports that the phones have added 3D scanning to the front cam. This isn’t a huge feature now, but can create 3D selfies that can be uploaded to Facebook and be for avatar creation…which could be used in gaming features later. Sony has added a vibration system that they say adds to the ‘feel’ of bass heavy music, and they claim the screen tech comes from their Bravia TVs.

Once dominant, Nokia has been an also-ran in the era of smartphones. Now owned by HMD, the Nokia brand is re-introducing the Nokia 8110 from the 1999 movie ‘The Matrix.’ It comes in black like the movie, and banana yellow. Theverge.com says t’s still just a feature phone, not s smartphone, so you can’t run all your Android apps on it, but on the plus side…25 days of standby battery and it will be on sale in May for only $97. Use it and throw it in the trash when you’re zapped back to the Nebuchadnezzar.

A world away from smartphones….Apple is working on some high end over hear headphones to be released later this year. They will be Apple branded, not Beats, according to macrumors.com. The rumor is that they will have the ease of use of AirPods only with better sound. The leak indicates that the ‘cans’ will be more expensive than AirPods, but not as pricey as some super premium headphones, so may be in the price range of Apple’s Home Pod…under $400.


Two Wild TVs From CES; iOT-Everything Including the Kitchen Sink; Alexa Baked into Some New Windows 10 PCs; Sony Bows 3 New Phones

It’s CES week, the BIG Show for consumer electronics, and you can always count on some off the wall, ‘wow’ items. Theverge.com reports there are a couple of TVs that won’t disappoint in that department. Samsung has rolled out a 146 inch TV called The Wall. It uses Micro LED, which has a lot of the same benefits of OLED, and is ‘module based.’ The modules can be assembled to make a TV just the size to fit your needs…although 146 inch would probably be perfect for a man cave. You have to think the price will exceed that of many houses, though! The Wall launches this spring.

If a wall sized TV isn’t to your liking, how about a 65 inch screen that rolls up like a piece of paper? LG is showing their updated roll-up TV. It’s a 4K model that rolls down into a base when not in use. No word from LG when this marvel might be available.

The old joke is something has ‘everything but the kitchen sink.’ Well now, the Internet of Things can even control that! According to mashable.com, Delta is showing a sink that can be controlled by Alexa. They plan to have these in model homes to show the tech off by later this year, with the sinks hitting the market sometime in 2018.

Speaking of Alexa…and I realize you know what I did there, last year Amazon and Microsoft announced plans to let Cortana and Alexa talk to each other on Windows 10 PCs. Now, arstechnica.com says Acer, Asus, and HP have all announced that Alexa will be baked into some of their notebooks that will be coming out this year. All will apparently use the Alexa Windows 10 app that will be released later this year. It should be just about like using an Echo.

Sony has unveiled 3 new smartphones at CES. According to bgr.com, they are mid-range phones, not flagship type devices. Nothing spectacular about them, with one exception….the Xperia XA2 Ultra has two FRONT facing cams, and a 23 megapixel rear cam! The phones should be out late this month, giving people a chance to see if the buzz over the cam setup is worth it, or just a cool gimmick.


LG May Supply OLED Screens for iPhone X; Instagram Tests Standalone Messaging App; PS4 Sales Pass Big Milestone

LG had already been rumored to be working on a deal to supply OLED screens to Apple for the iPhone X. Its been expected that something would work out for the next generation by September 2018, but now it could happen before that. 9to5mac.com reports that while Samsung has been the exclusive supplier to Apple for OLED screens, both LG and Chinese maker BOE have been trying to get in as suppliers. Apple earlier invested almost 14 billion in LG’s OLED production, with 2/3’s of it earmarked for iPhone screens.

Facebook is going full speed ahead in standalone messaging apps. Earlier this week, they announced Messenger Kids, and now it’s out that they are testing a standalone Instagram app for direct messaging. TechCrunch.com says right now the app is only available in Uruguay, Chile, Turkey, Italy, Portugal, and Israel. Besides sharing messages and stories (and of course pictures), there are exclusive filters. It may be out to everyone next year.

Sony has announced the Playstation 4 sales have crossed the 70 million mark, a notable milestone, because the PS3 sold just over 80 million over its lifespan, and the PS4 has gotten to this point in 4 years. According to theverge.com, best estimates for the Xbox One sales are 20 million. Another notable mark…Playstation VR, the virtual reality version has passed 2 million sold!


Galaxy S9 Will Be Major Redesign; Pixel 2 Getting Even Better Pictures In Software Update; Amazon Launches Countdown to Black Friday Deals; Sony Revives Robot Dog

Samsung is busily working on the Galaxy S9, and word is, it will be a major redesign. Bgr.com says you can expect echoes of the iPhone X, to the surprise of no one. Rumors include 3D facial recognition, dual 16 MP cameras, and dual 12 MP selfie cams, with a nearly all screen display. It looks like it will be offered with either a 5.8 inch or 6.2 inch screen for the S9 and S9+. There are still rumblings of an under screen fingerprint sensor, but if the 3D face recognition is widely accepted on the Apple iPhone X, Samsung may drop that feature.

The Pixel 2 and 2 XL already have a terrific camera. Now, according to 9to5google.com, it’s going to get even better. Apparently Google baked in a custom chipset that improves HDR+ functionality. It didn’t make it into the 1st developer release of Android 8.1, but it looks like they will flip it on for the 2nd developer preview of Android 8.1. It should be widely available in time for the holidays!

Countdown to Black Friday is here! Amazon has launched their run up sales to the big sale day today. Bgr.com says look for a 65 inch 4K Samsung TV for under a grand, a refurbished Dyson Ball vacuum for only $150, and more. Hit Amazon’s Countdown to Black Friday page for other bargains.

Woof! Sony has revived its AIBO robot dog. Theverge.com reports that the new dog’s eyes use a couple of OLED panels to show a range of expressions, and that your robot dog can bond with you for up to two hours at a time…with 3 hours recharge time. If you ever wanted a dog that finally gets tired of chasing the ball, this one will after 2 hours! It’s controlled by an app, and you can purchase additional ‘tricks’ from an app store….requiring a $26 a month subscription. Besides that ongoing fee, the robot dog will set you back $1700. Preorders start today.


Huawei Passes Apple as #2 Smartphone; Apple & Amazon Fight over 007; Epson Shows 130 Inch Projection TV; Steve Jobs Theatre Tricks Revealed

They were neck in neck at the start of summer, but now Huawei has passed up Apple to claim bragging rights as #2 smartphone maker worldwide. 9o5google.com notes that part of the reason is consumers waiting on the new iPhone 8 or Edition that bows next week. OTOH, Huawei will roll out its flagship Mate 10 in October, so time will tell which of the freshened smartphones will rule the year for #2 by the end of the year.

You would think a movie studio would easily snatch up the rights to a franchise as storied as the James Bond one, but not necessarily. Amazon and Apple are apparently in a bidding war for 007, too. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Warner still has the inside track since the rights with Sony expired in 2015 with ‘Spectre,’ but Sony, Universal, and Fox are all in the hunt. Warner is pressing MGM to close a deal, but just the fact that Apple and Amazon are chasing the franchise shows how important the tech giants think content is becoming. Bond may be the last of the big, untapped movie brands, with Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm already tied up. Meanwhile, Amazon just wrapped a deal to self-distribute its first film…Woody Allen’s ‘Wonder Wheel.’

So you thought projection TV was long gone? Not so much, apparently. Bgr.com reports that Epson has just unveiled a 130 inch ‘screen-free’ laser TV. It’s out this fall for 3 grand. While that seems strong compared to a 45 incher that sells for less than $1000, bear in mind that a panel TV bigger than 75 inches runs between $4000 and $10,000. The 130 inch screen size is 300% larger than a 65 inch display. Epson’s lamp free laser should last 30,000 hours work of viewing.

As a lot of people know, after Apple’s presentations, they always hold product demos for journalists…normally in a separate room. Everyone has been wondering how that will work in the ‘flying saucer’ Steve Jobs Theatre building. Now, it’s leaked out. 9to5mac.com says a wall will slide back, revealing the demo space! A couple other tidbits….the cushy leather seats ran approximately $14,000 each, and while there’s a spiral staircase leading down to the theater area, there are also two round elevators with just one door each. The elevator cars ROTATE so the door can open on the opposite side at the bottom! Only Apple would do this!


Battery Advancement Doubles Capacity; Sony In-Dash Aftermarket Receiver Does Both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay

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A startup company hatched at MIT has cooked up a new ‘anode free’ lithium metal battery that is smaller, and has twice the energy capacity of most lithium ion batteries. This means either batteries could take up half the space, or one the same size could last twice as long. Mashable.com says the key is that the batteries have very thin, high-energy lithium-metal foil, which holds many more ions than the more widely used graphite. More ions means more energy capacity, and the batteries are twice as energy-dense as lithium-ion batteries. In addition to that, they’re also safer. The company, Solid Energy, expects to have the tech available for smartphones by next year and cars by 2018.

There have been aftermarket car audio systems available, but none up to now have offered both Android Auto and Apple CarPlay. According to techcrunch.com, Sony just rolled one out for $500 retail. It sports a 6.4 inch touch screen, and supports NFC, Bluetooth, has an aux input, and a dedicated hardware button for triggering voice input. The Pioneer AppRadio 4 has a similar screen, but only does CarPlay, and is $100 bucks more. Alpine’s offering is also more. Of course, you have to factor installation on any of them into the price, but on the other hand, it’s getting CarPlay or Android Auto without buying a whole new car!