iPhone 8 in Production & Huge 3D Sensing Component Order; Tesla Working on Self-Driving Electric Big Rig; Facebook Launches ‘Watch’

Despite some rumors, appleinsider.com has gotten word from DigiTimes that Apple’s iPhone 8 is already in mass production. It’s still thought that there will be very limited supply at launch next month, but it looks like they are planning for millions of sales. 9to5mac.com reports that Lumentum, which makes the 3D sensing laser components believed to be used in the iPhone 8, looks to be cranking out around 55 million of the sensor units by the end of the year, and about 160 million next year. A number of reports say the iPhone 8 will be over $1000, but analyst Gene Munster expects the entry level model of Apple’s new hero phone to start at $950.

Some former Googlers started Otto, the self-driving semi company that was picked up by Uber. Now, according to Reuters, Tesla is working on self-driving tech that will helm its upcoming electric big rigs. The tech would let the rigs roll as a convoy with a lead vehicle furnishing the guidance for autonomous follower trucks. Alphabet’s Waymo is also deeply into self-driving truck tech. The wrinkle with Tesla’s plan is that the platooning might mean autonomy requirements wouldn’t be a lot higher than what’s already being done…an actual human driver would pilot the lead truck, and the others would just follow along. Tesla has apparently been in touch with Nevada to see about testing a couple prototype trucks.

Facebook is introducing a new spot for original video content produced by partners, who pick up 55 percent of ad break revenue. Techcrunch.com says Facebook will get 45%. The “Watch” tab and several dozen original shows will debut to a small group of U.S. users tomorrow across mobile, desktop and Facebook’s TV apps. With the hosting of original programming, Facebook can tack on more ad revenue and give people a reason to frequently return to the News Feed for content they can’t get anywhere else.


Analyst Claims No Touch ID on iPhone 8; Tesla Model 3 Production Starts Friday

Frequently reliable KGI Securities has put out a list of predictions about the iPhone 8….most of which everyone has been reporting on by now. According to 9to5mac.com, one has people scratching their heads. The analyst says no Touch ID…under the screen or on the back. It is widely believed that the new iPhone will have a facial recognition feature, but dropping Touch ID would not only anger buyers, but banks that Apple has wooed to use Apple Pay. There may be a somewhat obvious answer…KGI Securities has also said the iPhone 8 screen will have a ‘function area’ at the bottom of screen that’s not part of the main display. The Touch ID button may be integrated into this much like it is on the MacBook Pros. On them, there is an OLED strip that runs the width of the keyboard with the Touch ID button at the end. A close examination reveals that the Touch ID button is actually separate. That may be how Apple does it. KGI is very accurate in touting upcoming Apple features, but not 100%…number crunchers say more like 44%…which is very high when predicting, but not spot on.

Some day, there may be a little book of the Tweets of Elon Musk. Among them will certainly be one which just appeared today. Arstechnica.com reports that Musk has Tweeted that the Tesla Model 3 has passed all regulatory requirements, and goes into production Friday. Musk says they should be cranking out 20,000 a month by December!


GM Starts Mass Producing Self-Driving Electric Cars; Firefox Gets Multiprocess Update (Finally); Amazon Patents Delivery Drone with Winch

It’s likely that the Tesla Model S can be fully self-driving with software activation, but isn’t yet. Meanwhile, they aren’t asleep at the switch at General Motors. GM has cranked out 130 electric Bolts on a production line. according to engadget.com, the General had already built 50 self-driving Bolt EVs, but this latest batch is fully mass produced, and more advanced than the hand finished models. The future really is coming at warp speed.

Mozilla has finally released Firefox with multiprocess architecture, 8 years after starting the project. Arstechnica.com says, without getting into the weeds, the net is that it’s faster and more stable, and despite multiprocess platforms hogging more memory, they were able to build it so it is quicker and uses less RAM than Google’s Chrome. It’ probably worth giving a spin if you’re not already a Firefox user.

Amazon has patented a couple of interesting things for drones. Geekwire.com reports that one is a winch setup that can lower packages to the ground on a tether. It has a counterbalance to keep the package from swaying wildly on its way to your porch or other delivery spot. Another patent is for folding wings, that fold in half, but then extend themselves for flight. Amazon had previously experimented with dropping packages with a small parachute.


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.


Mercedes to Bring Home Storage Batteries to US; Digital Assistants to Outnumber People by 2021

In more of a broadside than a shot across the bow to Tesla, Mercedes-Benz Energy has partnered with Vivint Solar to sell home storage batteries in the US. Techcrunch.com says homeowners who hire Vivint Solar to install an array on their roof can add up to 8 2.5 kWh Mercedes batteries for a whopping 20 kWh of storage! This is a major direct competitor to Tesla with their Solar City, solar shingles, and PowerWall. As the move to greener and more self-sustaining power systems picks up speed, expect more big players in this area.

Amazon, Google, Apple, and Microsoft all have them, and are aggressively pushing them into our lives….digital assistants, that is. According to research by Ovum picked up by cnet.com, the number of devices with digital assistants will be over 7.5 billion by 2021, which will then exceed the population of the world! By the way, there are already 3.5 billion of the sometimes helpful little devils active in the world right now! Ovum projects that Google Assistant will command the market, followed by Chinese assistants, Siri and then Bixby form Samsung…mainly due to the count of cell phones and tablets. Amazon’s Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana are primarily in devices other than smartphones.


Lyft & Waymo Partner on Self-Drivers; EV Battery That Charges in 5 Min; 10.5 Inch iPad Pro at WWDC, Google Asst Coming to iOS

Lyft and Google’s Waymo will team up on self-driving cars, according to a report from the New York Times. The plan is to introduce a wide swath of people to them using fleet services. Waymo had already started a public pilot in Arizona where they will pick up people and families on demand. The Lyft deal will quickly help them to expand that, and explore not only demand modeling, but efficient routing as well. Meanwhile, a judge has banned a Uber employee, who was a former Google manager and is the subject of a lawsuit, from working with Lidar at all for the time being.

If this pans out to any degree, it will be a game changer for electric vehicles. StoreDot, and Israeli startup, has shown its new battery model for EVs at the CUBE Tech Fair in Berlin. Engadget.com reports that the battery can reach full charge in FIVE minutes, and run the car for 300 miles! Compare that to Tesla’s Supercharger, which takes two hours to fully charge a Tesla EV. StoreDot also claims their batteries are safer than litihum-ion. They use layers of nano materials and proprietary organic compounds not used in batteries before.

Apple will probably show a new 10.5 inch iPad Pro at WWDC next month. Theverge.com says KGI Securities, generally one of the most reliable sources, is reporting this. Ming-Chi Kuo, of KGI also says it’s 50-50 that Apple will launch their Siri powered speaker at WWDC.

Siri could be in for some ‘Siri-ous’ competition soon. Google may be rolling out Google Assistant on iOS, and could show it at I/O this week! It will debut first in the US, and apparently will be slightly different than the Android version. The voice controls will be the same, but it will used the chat style fro Allo. This is probably necessary since it will be a free standing app, and not a baked in extension that’s part of the Google platform.


Screen Cost Much Higher for iPhone 8; Pricey But Cool Smartwatch; Volvo Rolls Out Cheaper Electric Car Than Tesla With Greater Range

We’ve reported, along with numerous others, that the upcoming iPhone 8 or Edition or whatever will probably break the $1000 barrier…now we know why. According to 9to5mac.com, the OLED screen and 3D Touch module is costing 60% more to make than the ones on the iPhone 7. That, along with other premium components that integrate the fingerprint sensor and allow wireless charging will cause the new hero phone to break the 1 grand barrier. BTW, that 60% increase? It’s to $15, so don’t feel sorry for Cupertino!

Even though smartwatches haven’t really caught fire…FIGURATIVELY, Samsung fans….the latest Android Wear 2.0 smartwatch is from premium watchmaker Tag Heuer partnering with Intel. Theverge.com says it’s $1600, which kind of gives perspective to the next iPhone and to the Samsung Galaxy S8 topping a thousand dollars! On the other hand, it’s a Tag Heuer, so it looks gorgeous AND it’s modular…both when you order, and later. They say you can swap out the internals when the current one becomes obsolete for new smartwatch guts or even an analog chronograph!

Volvo is out with an electric car that will compete with the Tesla Model 3, only apparently is cheaper and has better range. Bgr.com reports that the Volvo will have a 250 mile range and sell for $35,000 to $40,000. Chevy already has the Bolt out in that price band with a 238 mile range. It’s expected that since it’s a Volvo, a mini-SUV body will be offered. It’s out this year.