Scammers Edit Google Maps; Logitech Looks to Buy Plantronics; Video Game Spending Breaks Record; Disney Spend-More on Parks than All Movie Divisions Together

Scammers have figured out a new way to separate you from your money, and this one is particularly sneaky. Businessinsider.com reports that Google Maps has let users submit changes and corrections to listings. The hackers change contact info for banks listed via Google Maps, and when customers call what they think is their financial institution, the scammers confirm banking details from the unsuspecting customer and then drain their account! The scam is apparently hottest in India right now, but Google has previously advised that if you need to talk to your bank, get the number off the bank’s website, not from the Maps app!

You may well have or have had a Plantronics Bluetooth earpiece. I’ve had several over the years. Now, cnet.com says Swiss computer accessories giant Logitech has been in discussions about acquiring Santa Cruz, Ca based Plantronics…which was founded by a couple of pilots. The latest as of this morning is that those talks have ended, but it’s been known that the earpiece maker had put itself up for sale. Logitech had apparently offered $2.2 billion before the talks were called off. Plantronics just bought video conferencing equipment maker Polycom for $2 billion in July, so they probably thought the offer was pretty light.

Movies cost a lot to make, but rake in big bucks. Ralph Breaks the Internet pulled down $55.6 million opening weekend. Black Panther is the third highest grossing movie of all time, making $700 million just in the US. Movies pale at the revenue from video games and gaming systems nowadays, though. According to geekwire.com, video game spending hit a new record of $1.5 billion in October, up 75%. The Nintendo Switch and re-release of the NES Classic and a number of hot games raked in the cash. With the holiday quarter still in progress, game and game system makers have to be smiling broadly. 2019 should be big, too…with the remake of Resident Evil 2, Crackdown 3, Dead or Alive 6, and Jump Force all on the way…not to mention Kingdom Hearts 3, which will drop in January.

Disney has dropped a pretty penny to buy Marvel, Pixar, and Lucasfilm, and they make good money on the products. The investments in movie companies pales on what the House of Mouse is pumping into its 6 theme parks around the world, though. Bgr.com reports that Disney is spending or about to spend $24 billion on the parks and new ships for Disney Cruise Line. By comparison, buying Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm only cost Disney $15.4 billion combined! They are finishing up on the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge at Disneyland, and will also complete one at Walt Disney World. The media nets and movies still make more…counting ESPN and ABC, Disney pulled in $6.6 billion for the fiscal year…but that’s down 3%. The parks made $4.5 billion, and that’s up over 100% from 5 years ago!

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Switch Online Launches in September; Owl Auto Security Cam; Google Issues Router Fix; Amazon Hand Tracker Patent

Nintendo’s Switch online service, which had been delayed from last year, is now scheduled to be activated in September. Theverge.com says it will cost $3.99 a month, or $19.99 a year. Besides online play, the subscription will give players access to classic games, and features like leaderboards and multiplayer. The hot Switch has already outsold its predecessor Wii U…more than 14 million have been bought since it was launched.

An ex-Apple manager who helped develop the iPod has a startup that is making what they call the 1st security cam for your car. According to 9to5mac.com, the Owl security cam is always connected over AT&T’s LTE system, and it’s powered by the OBD (on-board diagnostics) port every modern car has. Owners can access 24 hours of video footage with a companion app. It has LED lights on either side for theft deterrence, and a 2.4 inch display. Since its always on, it is able to send alerts if activity is detected. The cam is $299, with cellular service for $10 a month, but at launch, a special bundle price of $349 includes the cam and 1st year of cellular service. Preorders are open today at owlcam.com, with delivery expected by the end of the month.

We reported earlier about a bug from Google Play Services that was causing routers to crash when Google Home or Chromecast devices were awakened. 9to5google.com reports that Google has rolled out a fix to all users. It’s version 11.9.75, and should be downloadable from the Play Store if it hasn’t updated your devices already on its own.

In what may be a useful tech that can’t outrun its creepy factor, Amazon has patented wristbands that track where warehouse workers’ hands are. The idea is to make sure they are reaching the right shelf or cubby to grab an item to be boxed and shipped out. Geekwire.com notes that not every patent actually makes it into use, and this one that has the wristbands which emit ultrasonic sounds or radio pulses to help guide the employees’ hands to the right bins may never see actual use. They seem extremely intrusive and super creepy!


10 Most Searched for Consumer Tech Products

Because we all love lists, and anyway….it lets me channel my inner Casey Kasem, what were the most searched for consumer tech products this past year? According to Google’s Year in Search report, here are the top 10 hottest items people were looking for:

10- The Samsung Galaxy Note 8…even with the firey demise of the popular Note 7, the Note 8 was widely anticipated by fans of the 7.

At #9, the Apple Watch 3…mainly propelled by the addition of cellular connectivity and improved health and fitness tracking.

The 8th biggest search item was Google’s own Pixel 2 smartphones. The model 1 had a shakey start, but the Pixel 2 looks like a big hit for Google.

At #7, the Super NES Classic…the $80  pint-sized version of the original Super NES that plays 21 built-in games.

The 6th most searched for consumer tech item was the iPhone 8 Plus…which has better internals than the 7 Plus and wireless charging in Apple’s biggest handset.

Holding down #5, and a bit of a surprise…the Razer phone. The maker of gaming computers and accessories touts the Razer’s incredibly smooth visual images in their first phone, priced at $700.

The fourth most searched item was Samsung’s hot selling Galaxy S8 smartphone, with its beautiful wrap around screen and wireless charging.

#3 was the Nintendo Switch, which has been a runaway smash hit for Nintendo. The Switch has sold over 10 million since March.

The #2 spot was taken by Apple’s widely anticipated all glass iPhone 10, or X as some people call it. The thousand dollar hero phone with no home button was eclipsed by Apple’s own iPhone 8…which was the #1 most searched consumer tech item of 2017.


Apple iMac Pro Out This Week; AmEx Drops Signatures; Switch Passes 10 million in As Many Months; Clapboss Wins the Irritating War

As Jobs used to say, ‘One more thing’…yes, Apple kicked the HomePod down the road into next year, but today announced that the iMac Pro will go on sale Thursday. Businessinsider.com reports that the pricey and powerful (starting at $4999) iMac sports a 27 inch Retina display, and can be upgraded (pushing up the nosebleed price even further) to 128 gigs of RAM, 4TB of storage, and an 18 core Intel Xeon processor. The Pro is really made for pros…audio and video pros who need all that power. Unlike the MacBook Pro, which has irritated Pros with only USB C ports and not even a Mag Safe connector, the iMac Pro rocks 4 USB ports, 4 Thunderbolt 3 (USB-C) ports, and a wired ethernet port. Did I mention it starts at almost 5 grand? My eyes are still watering!

American Express has announced that it will stop requiring signatures for purchases. Engadget.com notes that in the last few months, both MasterCard and Discover had announced the same, but only in the US and Canada starting in April. AmEx is dropping signatures globally. All say that tech advances have made signatures obsolete. In some regions people will still have to sign where required by law. This should move lines at check stands faster and increase the spread of cardless transaction systems like ApplePay.

Gaming is more than alive and well! Nintendo has announced that it has pumped out 10 million Switch consoles in 10 months! Variety.com says they are on track to pass up the Wii U soon, which took 5 years to sell 13.6 million! Three games account for over half of game sales: Mario Kart 8 Deluxe, Super Mario Odyssey, and Splatoon 2.

If you’ve ever been irritated by thos obnoxious TV ads with the guy clapping to turn lights and Christmas trees on and off…or worse, been to Grandma’s and she actually bought and uses one, get ready for the ultimate annoyance….the Clapboss! Techcrunch.com says it’s a net connected dongle that lets you clap to turn things off and on. The Kickstarter is $39, and the irritating little dongle…which has a smug, smiley face on it…will be $80 retail. It supports 6 different clap patterns so you can turn on and off 6 different devices….and annoy the hell out of anyone living with you nearly to the point of justifiable homicide.


iPhone X Production Now Stabilizing; Nintendo Switch Chasing All-Time Sales Record

Supply constraints on the iPhone X and it’s complex TrueDepth camera system are opening up. Macrumors.com has picked up a report by KGI securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. In addition to iPhone X production ramping up, Kuo says he expects all iPhones next year to have Face ID like the iPhone X, with Apple dropping Touch ID.

After the flop of the Wii U, Nintendo needed a hit, and it’s got a big one. According to businessinsider.com, the Switch is poised to sell some 14 million systems this year. That compares to just over 13 million EVER for the Wii U, which was on the market for 5 years! Next year should look good for the Switch too, with new games from the Pokemon, Yoshi, and Kirby franchises on the way. Nintendo is promising better Switch availability for the holiday season too.


Nintendo Scores big with the Switch; Lyft Donation Program Going Live; SiriusXM Buys Automatic

Nintendo has a serious hit in the Switch. The new gaming system sold 2.74 million in less than a month, and geekwire.com says that’s more than the Wii U sold in its first full year. The flagship game, “Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild” slightly outsold the console, too!

Lyft had announced it would be offering a ‘Round Up and Donate’ feature, allowing users to top off their fare to the nearest buck and give to a worthy cause. Now, tech crunch.com reports that the program will go live May 1st. It will bow on Android first, followed quickly by an iOS version. The first organization Lyft is supporting is the USO, the folks that provide support and entertainment to military members and veterans. There will be a number of other charity partners, with the user getting to choose which one they donate to.

SiriusXM has snapped up smart car accessory maker Automatic for a cool $100 million plus. Automatic makes a Bluetooth gadget that lets you track and read driving data from your iPhone.The Automatic Link plugs into the OBD….on board diagnostic port of your car, and transmits data to your phone. They also have a cheaper device called the Automatic Lite.


Mac Pro Will Rise Again; Nintendo Switch Warping issue; Oath for Pete’s Sake

Apple has…well kind of…admitted that the ‘trash can’ Mac Pro was a dumb design, and lifted the curtain slightly on the next generation of Pros. Daringfireball.com’s John Gruber was one of the handful of journalists that got to peek at it. The bad news is…it’s due next year. On the plus side, it will be more modular, and accommodate high end CPUs and GPUs, and won’t need to look like a dongle octopus! There will also be an Apple branded Pro display. For those that can’t wait, Apple will also release a Pro level iMac yet this year….so, can we call that one ‘semi-pro?’ In addition, the present ‘trash can’ Mac Pros get a speed bump as an upgrade, and the price is right…the $2999 entry level model gets a 6 core processor, and the $3999 model goes from 6 cores to 8.

In a literally ‘not cool’ item, the hot new Nintendo Switch is a little TOO hot when docked. Bgr.com says with heavy play in the dock, they are physically warping. Apparently, there is a thread on Reddit talking about the issue, complete with pictures of the bent Switch units. For some of the early complainers, the company says that they would either repair the unit or transfer all of its data to a new console and then ship it back. They have yet to publicly acknowledge the problem, though.

In what is becoming a rather long line of stupid rebranding names, Verizon’s Frankenstein mash up of Yahoo and AOL will be called Oath. Maybe the clown who came up with this name should be called an OAF! Techcrunch.com says the name was first acknowledged on Twitter yesterday. The company is modestly claiming that they are launching one of the most disruptive brand companies in digital. Yeah, with a moniker like Oath, good luck with that.