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.


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.


More Cortana Driven Smart Speakers; Waymo Logs Millions of Miles; Apple Buys Sleep Tracker; iPhone 8 Leaked CAD Drawings

Earlier this week, Harman Kardon unveiled Invoke, their Cortana powered Amazon Echo competitor. Now, techcrunch.com says HP is also jumping into the smart speaker market. Instead of following their rather successful Surface marketing effort of rolling their own, Microsoft seems to be using the formerly wildly successful PC model of licensing to numerous makers. The speakers will reportedly use Skype for calling. The Amazon Alexa device can take and make calls, and Apple’s is expected to as well.

Waymo, the self-driving car people from Alphabet/Google, says they have now logged 3 million miles on public roads. According to 9to5google.com, a million of those self-driven miles have been in the last 7 months! In March, Waymo greatly expanded their fleet with 500 Chrysler Pacifica minivans.

Apple has bought Beddit, a company that tracks sleep. According to business insider.com, they make a $150 sleep monitoring pad that goes between the sheets. The monitor tracks a person’s heart rate, awake time, and snoring, then the companion app calculates a ‘sleep score’ and can wake users at an ‘optimal’ time with a smart alarm. The page linked to the Watch App Store is gone from their website, but the app is still live there as of today.

Some CAD drawings have leaked out from a manufacturer of the upcoming iPhone 8. 9to5mac.com says that these show no fingerprint sensor on the back, but do depict the all glass front and back with stainless steel edges and the vertical dual cams on the back. The phone appears to be thicker than the current iPhone 7 and Plus. It’s still possible the 8 will have an ugly and clumsy fingerprint sensor on the back like the Samsung Galaxy S8, but we probably won’t know that until Fall.


Waymo Offers Free Rides in Self-Driving Vans; Galaxy S8 Grabs Big Preorders; Google Tweaks Search to Tamp Down Fake News

If you live in the Phoenix area, and intrigued by self-driving cars, has Waymo got a deal for you. According to theverge.com, you can sign up for a free ride in a Waymo minivan…in fact, you can sign up as often as you like on their website. They will select riders based on the types of trips they want to take and agreeableness to using the self-driving service as their primary mode of transportation. All the test cars will have a safety driver along to grab the controls if needed. Besides Phoenix, the service will be available in Gilbert, Tempe, and Chandler. Waymo says the service area there is about twice the area of San Francisco, to give you an idea of the covered territory. They have 100 minivans there, and will add 500 more for this free project, which they are calling “Easy Rider.”

Despite the disastrous Galaxy Note 7 with the fires and recall, Samsung says the Galaxy S8 preorders are their best ever, with 30% year over year growth compared to the S7. Macrumors.com reports that this is despite launching without one of the signature features, the personal assistant Bixby in English language countries. Samsung says that should be available by the end of May…maybe they hooked up the software with a Berlitz course.

Google has announced that it has altered its search engine to ‘surface more high quality content from the web,’ or in English, tamp down fake news, offensive, or clearly misleading content. Cnet.com says Google is also allowing users to flag results that are offensive or unhelpful.


Waymo Self-Drivers More Independent Last Year; Apple Watch Owns Wearable Market; AT&T Starting 5G Rollout

Alphabet’s Waymo division continues to march relentlessly towards fully autonomous self-driving cars. 9to5google.com says California DMV figures showed far fewer safety related disengages in 2016 and considerably more miles driven. In 2015, there were .8 disengages per 1000 miles, and in 2016 that dropped to .2 per thousand. Both numbers are exceptionally low, and now word is, Waymo has started using an updated sensor suite just last month…which presumably will drive the figures lower.

Apple said they had record sales 4th Quarter for the Apple Watch, but still doesn’t release details. According to data from Strategy Analytics, though, they pumped out 5.2 million of them for the holidays, grabbing 63.4% of the market. Samsung was next at 9.8%. Overall, smartwatches were up a tiny 1% in 2016 from 2015.

Later this year, Austin, Texas and Indianapolis, Indiana will be first to get blazingly fast 5G service from AT&T. Theverge.com reports that speeds will hit 400 Mbps. That’s not true 5G, which is 1Gigabit, but AT&T claims some top speeds will hit that by year’s end. At any rate, it’s 40 times faster than 4G, and unquestionably in the ballpark with fiber speeds.


iPhone is 10; Freshened iPads Coming, Waymo Says It’s Cut Self-Driving Equipment Cost in Half; Mercedes Autopilot Will Give Tesla a Run

Ten years ago today Steve Jobs…remember him?…stood in front of the crowd at Macworld, and introduced the iPhone. Of course, we didn’t get it until almost July, but smartphones were absolutely revolutionized. Now, we wait until September to see if the iPhone 8 will be anywhere near as revolutionary with a wraparound screen that covers the front and wireless charging.

Meanwhile, 9to5mac.com reports that KGI Securities is expecting 3 updated iPads, and they believe a sales slump will be blunted. Apple appears to be preparing a 12.9” model, 10-10.5” size, and a 9.7” version. The first two will get a higher end A10X chip, with the smaller one keeping the A9. More business and enterprise users will gravitate to the larger models, but KGI thinks the cheaper model will grab 50-60% of total iPads sold. They may drop this spring.

The Waymo self driving car division of Google…or if you insist, Alphabet….has cut the cost of LIdar sensors for the rigs by 90%. They’re still pricey, but in 2009 ran $75,000! They have done it by building the sensors in house, according to recode.net. At $7500, and likely to fall more, self driving tech is becoming something that can roll out in vehicles to the mass market soon!

Mercedes showed off its Drive Pilot in conjunction with CES in Las Vegas. Theverge.com says it actually works better than Tesla’s system…in fact, so well, that Mercedes has ‘detuned’ it a bit to make it move around in the lane so drivers won’t be lulled into dialing out completely. It does the emergency stop routine like the Tesla, but in the case of the Mercedes, automatically calls the Mercedes SOS service to connect a live person…a nice touch since both are in the luxury car strata. Drive Pilot will bow this summer in the S class Mercedes cars.


iPhone 8 May Be A Rare Find Next Year; Google May Add Hondas to Self-Driving Fleet

We’ve been seeing reports for months about the exciting iPhone 8 with curved OLED screens that cover virtually the whole front, and have wireless charging and all. Apparently, it’s going to be a treasure hunt trying to get your hands on one next year. Bgr.com reports that the screens will probably be made by Samsung, but there’s a bottleneck…only one company….Canon Tokki, makes the 328 foot long, 85 million dollar machines that can build the OLED screens, and there’s a two year wait time to get one! A lot of folks may have to settle for a ‘boring’ iPhone 7s or 7s Plus next fall!

Google’s self-driving division Waymo is maturing beyond the funny little Googlemobiles with no steering wheel or pedals. According to businessinsider.com, Waymo…which has rolled out a fleet of Fiat Chrysler minivans and had previously had Lexus SUVs running their system, is now in talks with Honda about integrating Google’s self-driving system into a fleet of Honda cars. Google is still shooting for Level 5 autonomy…which is the car driving itself completely autonomously with no human interaction or supervision.