MS Surface Go Debuts at $399; Facebook Tests AR Ads; Auto Download for Netflix; Apple iOS 11.4.1 With GrayKey Killer

Microsoft is diving back in to the budget-priced tablet market with the Surface Go. The 10 inch screen tablet has a built-in kickstand, and is loaded with Windows 10, and starts at $399. Theverge.com reports that preorders are open now, and it will ship in August. It basically looks like a Surface Pro that shrunk in the wash, except with somewhat more rounded corners. The smaller Surface weighs 1.15 lbs, which is a little more than the similar iPad, but still half a pound lighter than the Surface Pro. As the Pro, it has the optional keyboard cover in 4 colors, and uses the optional Surface Pen.

In the continuing quest to get and keep more advertisers, Facebook is testing out ads with augmented reality in the newsfeed. According to techcrunch.com, the ads look like normal ads in the feed but there’s a ‘Tap to try it on’ option that activates the AR capabilities. If you like the way the product looks in AR, you can go ahead and buy it. The first test advertiser to test the feature is Michael Kors. Sephora, NYX Professional Makeup, Bobbi Brown, and Pottery Barn are planning to launch tests with AR ads yet this summer.

Your Netflix binge watching just got easier on Android phones. Buzzfeed.com says Netflix is automating downloads of a series with a feature called Smart Downloads. When you finish watching an episode, Netflix will automatically delete it and download the next one as long as you are on a WiFi network. The feature will be coming to iOS phones and tablets later this year. It really only works for series…they haven’t figured out how to program the feature for movies you might want to see next. BTW, if you don’t want the feature…what’s wrong with you? You can go to settings and turn it off.

Apple has dropped iOS 11.4.1, which is mainly just bug fixes and not a terribly big deal…except for what could be one of Steve Jobs’ famous ‘One more things.’ Cnet.com reports that the lates version of iOS brings USB Restricted Mode with it. That’s the feature that keeps the police, government, or thieves from plugging a GrayKey into the handset and using that box to unlock your phone and get your data. A charger will still work, but if you haven’t used the phone in an hour, the phone has to be unlocked with your Face ID and Passcode or Touch ID and Passcode. Apple claims they were more concerned with bad guys using the GrayKey device to hack peoples’ phones than police or governments, but neither of those latter two groups will be any too happy.

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Microsoft Plans Cheaper iPad Rival; Apple Vein Face Scan; New Whole Foods Discount for Prime Members

Microsoft is gearing up to release a line of lower cost Surface tablets by later this year that would compete with the hot selling cheaper iPad. Bloomberg.com reports that the last (somewhat) cheaper Surface kind of bombed at $499 back in 2012, but the pricey Pro has sold well. Of course the cheaper iPad is just over $300, so that may be a sweet spot. The cheaper Surface would have a 10 inch screen…just above the 9.7 inch size of the iPad. It is expected to sell for $400, will have USB-C, and be lighter than present Surface tablets. That comes at the cost of battery life…only 4 hours! The Surface Pro can make 13.5 hours on a charge. Again look for these the 2nd half of the year.

As if Apple’s Face ID and the fact that Ticketmaster is testing out facial recognition for concert admission wasn’t enough, now Apple may be going deeper…literally. According to appleinsider.com, Apple is are looking at taking biometrics to the next level…scanning the veins in a user’s face! In a patent just published called ‘Vein imaging using detection of pulsed radiation,’ Apple can scan the blood vessel patterns below the skin in your face. They claim it can even tell identical twins apart. By the way, ‘radiation’ is relative…you won’t glow in the dark…it’s from infrared light, not radioactive material! As with all Apple patents, this may or may not make it into a phone.

In an effort to build business, Amazon has dangled two new discounts for Prime members at Whole Foods. Arstechnica.com says one is an additional 10% off sale items, and another is ‘deep discounts’ on select best-selling items (or what grocers have called ‘loss leaders’ for decades.’) The deep discounts at Whole Foods will include meat and fish, however. The first deep discount items include organic strawberries, wild-caught halibut, cold brew coffee, and granola.


Apple Ditching Qualcomm Modems; Unbreakable Phone Screens in Works; Surface Pro with LTE Advanced Next Month

Apple has been squabbling in court with Qualcomm for some time, and Qualcomm has withheld software used to test its communications components. Now, according to appleinsider.com, Apple is designing phones and iPads to run on Intel and MediaTek modems. Apple has used multiple suppliers for years in iPhones, but often the Qualcomm modems have been the ones that could work on bands used by more carriers.

Who hasn’t dropped their phone and sweated it cracking or breaking…or worse, picked it up to see a shattered screen? Now, thenextweb.com reports that scientists at the University of Sussex may have a solution…screens made of silver nanowire and graphene. Present screens that use indium tin oxide are not only fragile…indium is scarce and expensive, and an environmental disaster to extract. Of course, the world isn’t exactly flooded with silver, either…that’s where the silver nanoparticles come in. Combining them with graphene…made from plentiful graphite…you get a less expensive and stronger alternative. With any luck, this development…which the scientists say is easily scalable to mass production…will be in phones soon, and broken screens will be pretty much a thing of the past!

Microsoft is planning to ship a new version of Surface Pro tablets that have LTE Advanced mobile connectivity by early december. Geekwire.com says the successor to the Surface Pro 4 will start at $1149 with 4 gigs of RAM and 128 gigs storage. An 8 gig of RAM and 256 gigs storage model will set you back $1449. Both run an Intel Core i5 processor.


Microsoft’s MacBook Air Answer; Daimler Starts Building Huge Battery Factory; iPhone 9—Yes, 9 Rumor

Microsoft has rolled out an $800 MacBook Air competitor. According to business insider. com, it will have 13.5 hours of battery life. Redmond has ditched numbers, the device will just be called Surface Pro, and it is up for preorder today, with the release set for June 15th. It will run 7th generation Intel processors. Keep in mind you will need the added keyboard, which Microsoft says is improved…that will set you back another $130. For another additional charge, they’ve added LTE connectivity. Microsoft isn’t even calling it a tablet anymore in their marketing…they are pitching it as a laptop.

Tesla has their Gigafactory, but that doesn’t mean other car makers are sitting on their hands. In Germany, Daimler has started construction on a half billion dollar lithium ion battery factory. Arstechnica.com says the Mercedes-Benz maker will end up with a plant 4 times as large as their current battery factory, run by their Accumotive division. It will be in production by mid 2018, and they plan to produce batteries that can take a car a whopping 621 miles between charges!

Yeah, the iPhone 8 won’t even be out until fall, but here’s a rumor from macrumors.com about the iPhone 9! Apparently, it will launch with 5.28 inch and 6.46 inch OLED screens. This is up from the expected 5.8 inch screen on the iPhone 8, and 4.7 and 5.5 inch displays on the 7 and 7 Plus (and expected on the S models.) It looks like the iPhone 9 models will be about the physical size of the present ones, only with ‘wall to wall’ screens, and nearly no bezel.


Samsung & Google Partner on New Chromebooks; Batteries Now Rolling off Lines at Tesla Gigafactory; Energous Wireless Charging Debuts This Year; Nvidia Co-Pilot Driving Computer

The Chromebook Plus and Chromebook Pro have finally bowed from Samsung, in collaboration with Google. Theverge.com says they will be worthy competition for Apple’s iPad Pro and Microsoft’s Surface Pro. The Plus is out in February for $449, and sports baked in Android app support, a self-contained stylus, and on-screen inking. It has a 360 degree hinge to allow for both tablet and laptop modes. The Pro will be out later this year, and is basically the same except for a more powerful processor.

It took almost 3 years from the groundbreaking, but batteries are now rolling off the lines at Tesla’s Gigafactory. The first of the custom cells will go into Tesla’s storage products…the Powerwall 2 and Powerpack 2, but are designed to fit into all Tesla cars according to theverge.com. They will start installing them in the new Model 3s when they start production this year. Tesla says the Gigafactory will eventually crank out enough batteries for 1.5 million cars.

Energous will begin shipping its truly wireless systems by later this year, but is holding off due to a partner. Macrumors.com notes that most believe that partner to be Apple, and that the Watts Up system will debut in the iPhone 8 in September. The difference between Energous and other wireless systems is that theirs is truly over the air, and can charge a device from up to 15 feet away…no need to lay the phone on a charging pad. Energous did show off several devices that use contact charging at CES this week.

Nvidia had teased a powerful AI system earlier, and now has announced Co-Pilot. They are baking the tech into their Xavier drive computers they are making to assist drivers when they are doing the driving. Techcrunch.com reports that the system will utilize data from sensors inside and outside a car, and alert a driver when they need to take action. The system can either operate in self-driving mode, or as the Co-Pilot, continuing to monitor and warn drivers to react…say, should you not spot a pedestrian. They are already partnering with ZF in Europe, and may with Bosch as well.


MS Recalls Some Surface Pro Power Cables; Nanoparticles May be Able to Kill Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria

Microsoft is recalling some Surface Pro power cables. ZDnet.com says they have overheating concerns. The cords are apparently wound too tightly, and as they are twisted or pinched over time, a small number of people have reported the heat issue. The recall does not affect the Surface Pro 4, or non Surface Pro models. If you have a Surface Pro, Pro 2, or Pro 3 bought before March 2015, you should be getting a new power cord.

Researchers at University of Colorado Boulder have found that light activated therapeutic nanoparticles may one day be used to kill antibiotic-resistant bacteria. According to bgr.com, the so-called ‘quantum dots,’ 20,000 times smaller than a human hair, can act directly on the infection without affecting the healthy tissue around it. The key these researchers have discovered is to taylor the dots to specific infections by activating the tiny particles with certain light wavelengths. Previously, the quantum dots had been known to kill bacteria, but also damaged the tissue around the area. In tests, the light activated ones killed 92% of the drug resistant bacteria! If perfected, the treatment could also be effective therapy for HIV and cancer.


That Nicer Apple Watch Will Be Pricey

If you really want an Apple watch, start saving pennies now…macrumors.com says the stainless steel model may be $500, and the gold version over 4 grand. Senior VP of Retail and Online Stores Angela Ahrendts says expect them in the spring.

Google Wallet has gotten a nice boost from all the buzz about Apple Pay. 9to5google.com reports that users have now doubled, and payments have grown by 50% since Apple Pay was introduced.

Dell’s just showed it’s updated Venue Pro 11 tablet, and engadget.com says it’s thinner and lighter than Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet! The Venue pro 11 has a 10.8 inch screen and starts at $699.