Cheaper Retina MacBook Coming; Ford Self-Driving Car Rescue Drone; Free Alexa Calling Moves to Tablets; 3D Printed MicroHomes in 24 Hours

There may be a new lower cost 13 inch Retina MacBook in June, around World Wide Developers Conference, according to 9to5mac.com. Word is, it will be priced lower than the present 12 inch MacBook. It will have the same pixel density as the present 13 inch MacBook Pro. If sources are correct, Apple will roll it out for just a little more than the $999 price of the present MacBook Air. This rumor doesn’t say it is an air, but since KGI Securities was already predicting a cheaper 13 inch MacBook Air, this could be the same device. The Retina display would be a first for this price level.

Long ago, Ford ran ads that crowed, ‘Ford has a better idea.’ Now, techcrunch.com reports on a patent that really is a great idea. Ford envisions a drone that could fly i and dock with a fully self-driving car in case of sensor and camera failure (which would render the vehicle helpless.) The docked drone would be equipped with its own sensors and cams, and could safely guide the vehicle home, or to a shop for service help. Getting such a drone out into the world will take time…but widely used self-driving cars are probably still 10 years away, too, so Ford has time to flesh out this idea!

Free calls and messages over an Echo speaker using Alexa is cool, and now that service has been expanded. Engadget.com says you can now use Alexa to place calls, video calls, and send messages from Android tablets, iPads, and Amazon’s Fire tablets. It’s a snap on the Fire HD 10, where you you just have to ask Alexa to get in touch. For other Fire tablets, you hit the home button first. On Android and iOS, you will need to open the Alexa app. You can also communicate with other devices in your house, basically making it a tablet to Echo or tablet to tablet intercom. This will reduce yelling by Moms when dinner is ready!

An Austin based startup is showing off 3D printable homes today at SXSW. According to theverge.com, they can print a house out of concrete (one report says cement, which is incorrect) in less than 24 hours…and have already printed a permitted micro house in Austin! The 1st one was about $10,000 for a single story, 650 square foot house with one bedroom, a bathroom, and a wrap around porch. (Note: no mention of a kitchen.) Icon believes they can get the cost down to $4000 each, and plan to start building in El Salvador. The idea is to ease the global housing crisis, but Icon says eventually they could produce micro houses in the US, too…up to 800 square feet with the present tech. (The average New York apartment is 866 sq. ft.)

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1st Phone With Diamond Screen Coming; Intel Smart Non-Glasshole Glasses; Galaxy S9 to Get Price Jump; iPad Crushed Competing Tablets Last Year

Cracked screens are a constant worry…even if low level…for everyone who carries a smartphone. Now, cnet.com says something better than either Gorilla Glass or sapphire crystal is on the way. It’s Akhan Semiconductor’s Mirage Diamond Glass. It can be layered on top of screens, much like Gorilla Glass, but is of course, stronger…being made from lab grown diamonds. Akhan will initially work with just one smartphone maker in each category. They are still working on minimizing glare, and pricing, but again…if all works out, we would have the much less breakable screens on phones by next year.

Two of the bigger complaints of GoogleGlass were the way they looked and the fact that ‘Glassholes’ could have the video on at any given time, which was way creepy. Now, theverge.com reports that Intel has a prototype called the Vaunt that may be what we all would have liked in smart glasses in the first place. They use a very low power laser to project the images right into your eyes…it looks like what’s on a screen, but the plus is, the glasses look just like regular…albeit….nerdy…black glasses. According to a Verge reporter who tried them out, they are comfortable enough to wear all day, and Intel says they will come in several styles and work with prescriptions. The electronics and batteries are built into the stems and frames of the glasses. Basically, they are more simple than GoogleGlass. They just display a small heads up display with simple messages or notifications, transmitted by Bluetooth from and Android or iPhone…a lot like how the Apple Watch works. Intel will launch an ‘early access’ program this year. No details yet on getting in that or cost yet.

Another rumor about the imminent Samsung Galaxy S9, and this one is about pricing. According to a leak in Britain, it will sell for £100 more than the S8. The S9 will be £789 in the UK, while the S8 was £689. converting currency, that’s $1114 in the US, with the S8 at $973. Of course, checking actual pricing in the US, the retail is $750, so expect the S9 to be set at more like $850 in the US. Still, a $100 (or £100) bump is not insignificant. It will bet interesting to watch and see how preorders are affected by this increase.

Apple’s decision to release a lower cost but upgraded iPad last year apparently hit the public’s sweet spot. Macrumors.com says Apple’s tablet sold more than Samsung and Amazon’s offerings combined in 2017! Apple pumped out 43.8 million iPads, while Samsung sold 24.9 million and Amazon 16.7 million…even put together, that’s 2.2 million less than Apple’s iPads. Apple grabbed 26.8% of the tablet market last year.


Super King Sized Samsung Tablet Coming?

Samsung had good success for a while supersizing smartphones into phablets, and now theverge.com says SamMobile is reporting the company is working on an 18.4 inch Android tablet. Internally, it’s called Tahoe, and it has a TFT LCD display with a 1920 x 1080 resolution, a 1.6 GhZ processor, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of internal storage, and rear and front cameras — 8 megapixels and 2.1 megapixels, respectively. SamMobile speculates that it wouldn’t be aimed at mainstream users, but for salespeople to make presentations, and architects needing a large mobile device for site visits. No word on when it might hit the market.

As Apple is rumored to be working in secret on their own electric car that would run their Car Play software, Mercedes-Benz is apparently open to different types of collaboration with Cupertino. In an interview out in the last few days, the Daimler CEO, Dieter Zetsche, was quoted as saying “Google and Apple want to provide system software for cars and bring this entire ecosystem around Apple and Google into the vehicle. That can be interesting for both sides.” According to macrumors.com, Apple hired former Mercedes R&D VP Johann Jungwirth, who is now Director of Mac Systems Engineering.


Office for Android Now Available on Phones & Roost Battery Opens Orders

After being dropped for Android tablets in January, theverge.com says Microsoft has released Office for Android smartphones. It’s just about identical to the iOS version…not as robust as the tablet app, but great for quick drafts and edits on your smartphone. It has full Dropbox and OneDrive support for file storage.

Last fall, we covered a Kickstarter for the Roost Smart Battery. Thenextweb.com reports they’ve gone live to the public for preorders. The Roost battery turns your existing smoke alarm into a smart connected one. A 9 volt battery pack is $34.99, and a twin pack is $64.99. You can order through Amazon or GetRoost. They ship in September. The Roost batteries connect over WiFi to your home network, and they have Android and iOS apps for monitoring when you’re away.


Order That Takeout From Your Phone

Ordering takeout from your phone just got easier. Techcrunch.com reports that Square has launched a new app called Square Order, which lets you order from nearby restaurants, pay for your food, and then the app pings you when the food’s ready for pickup. Meanwhile, Square has quietly pulled Square Wallet from the App Store.

LG adds to their 8.3 inch tablet by rolling out no less than 3 additional sizes of the G Pad: 7, 8, and 10.1 inch versions will be available soon…maybe this month. 9to5google.com says all use the personalized ‘Knock Code’ screen lock feature.

The Microsoft morality police have struck, and removed the hidden rude emoticons from Skype. Geek.com says Microsoft has known about them, but no reason was given for pulling the trigger on them now. No more fubar or mooning, until someone comes up with a hack!