Galaxy Note 9 ‘Unpacked’; NYC Whacks Uber and Lyft; Facebook May Drop From #2 Website; Apple Considers Subwoofer for iMacs

Samsung has unveiled the Galaxy Note 9 at their Unpacked event. 9to5google.com notes that it bows with up to 512 gigs of storage, a Bluetooth S-Pen, and has a base price of $999. It’s not a revolutionary update, but has some nice adds…the Bluetooth connected S-Pen, for one. The connection lets you use the pen as a remote shutter for the camera, and a remote for presentations. The Note 9 still rolls with dual cams and the dual aperture primary sensor like the S9 family. It does have a built in AI camera mode that adjusts settings to get the best possible shot. Besides the Bluetooth pen, another notable advance is the 4000 mAh battery, which is up 20% from the Note 8. It should give virtually everyone an all day battery, and has USB-C fast charging as well as wireless charging (with charging pad.) You’ll drop the $999 for the 128 gig model, and a wallet crushing $1249 for the 512 gig memory rig.

New York City’s Council voted to cap the number of for-hire delivery and transportation vehicles yesterday, in a kneecap to Uber and Lyft. According to theverge.com, the city will halt new for-hire licenses for 12 months while it studies the industry. The council made an exception to vehicles that are wheelchair accessible…those can still be licensed. Exceptions can also be had for particular neighborhoods that are low on ride-hail vehicles. The council also passed a bill that establishes a $15 living wage for drivers. Both bills head for Mayor de Blasio’s desk, and he’s likely to sign them. Uber already has 80,000 vehicles in NYC.

Facebook has taken some real hits lately, but may be about to get another body blow. Businessinsider.com reports that SimilarWeb has released a study showing that Facebook is about to be passed up as the number two website in America by YouTube. YouTube is projected to blow past Facebook in traffic in the next 3 months, making it #2 to parent Google. Facebook’s monthly visits have dropped from 8.5 billion two years ago to 4.7 billion this past July. YouTube is up to 4.5 billion in July, and on an upswing.

Apple may be getting ready to improve the tinny sound of the built in speakers in their iMac. They have patented a way of putting in a subwoofer that would double as a cooling device. Without getting into the weeds technically, Apple would use sub-audible air flow to reduce the amount of noise the computer makes in addition to providing cooling and sub-woofer thump for music. Geek.com points out it may be another great idea that never sees the light of day, but a very interesting combination that would go well into Apple’s impossibly skinny computers.

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Alphabet Crushes Estimates; Foxconn Staffs Up For New iPhone; Microsoft Building 2 New Xbox Consoles; YouTube Tests Explore Feature

Google parent Alphabet reported financials yesterday, with a nice beat of Wall Street expectations. According to reuters.com, expenses from Google search didn’t grow as much as expected, which pushed profits up. Their operating margin ticked up from 22 to 24%, excluding the $5 antitrust fine from the EU…which appears like a rounding error. Alphabet hauled in $32.66 billion second quarter, 86% of which came from Google advertising, and beating the estimate of $32.17 billion. Alphabet still trails, Facebook, Amazon and Twitter in valuation, but is in the hunt. Apple still leads in the quest to be the first billion dollar company.

Foxconn is getting ready for the next generation iPhone by offering bonuses to workers who renew their contracts. The $295 bonus and hiring campaign will extend through this November. Macrumors.com reports that Foxconn is expected to assemble the majority of all 3 new iPhone models…the 2nd generation iPhone X, 90% of the iPhone Plus (or whatever Apple ends up calling it), and about 75% of the lower priced 6.1 inch iPhone with the LED screen. All 3 phones are expected to bow in September.

Microsoft is already hard at work on the next iteration of the Xbox console. in addition to the traditional version, Redmond is apparently working on a cheaper ‘streaming box’ designed to work with its previously reported streaming service. The streamer is code named ‘Scarlett Cloud’, and would run games both locally and in the cloud…which has been dubbed slice or splice. The idea is to help reduce latency. Geekwire.com reports that Sony, EA, and Nvidia are also working on cloud based game streaming services.

In the ongoing quest to grab and hold more eyeballs, YouTube is testing out a new feature on around 1% of iOS YouTube app users the next several weeks. Thenextweb.com says it’s an explore feature, similar to the Instagram Explore tab…and the idea is to help users discover more videos and content creators that may be lost in the thousands of others. Personalized recommendations will be based on the user’s previous viewing history.


Twitter Tightening; WPA3 WiFi Security; Alexa Voice Hits iOS; Motion Sickness Fix for Self-Driving Car Riders

It’s widely known that Twitter has had ongoing issues with spam accounts and malicious automation. Twitter is saying that now, using AI, they are able to identify a lot more spam accounts and deactivate them more quickly…9.9 million a week, up from 3.2 million last September. Engadget.com reports that Twitter is not only using AI on present spammy accounts…going forward, new accounts will have to verify with an email address or phone number when they are being created. That feature will be out later this year. Meanwhile, the ‘firehose of social media’ will continue to audit and challenge what appear to be spammy accounts…like ones that do high volume Tweeting using the same hashtag or Tweeting at the same handle without getting a reply. 

After it got out that a huge number of routers had been infected with malware, here’s a little good news going forward: WPA3 has been finalized. New Wi-Fi routers will come with the stronger protections for your data using the new standard. Cnet.com says it will make it harder to run a common hacking attack on your router…frequently called an ‘offline dictionary-based attack,’ which allows hacker to make endless guesses of your Wi-Fi password. WPA3 is available on new routers certified by the Wi-Fi Alliance. It updates WPA2, which has been around since 2004 and has bee woefully out of date. Some manufacturers are looking for ways to update existing routers, but the best bet may be to upgrade your router in the coming months to one that comes with WPA3.

Alexa voice control for the Android app has been out nearly half a year, and Amazon says now it is finally coming to iOS. According to techcrunch.com, it isn’t baked in…you’ll need to tap a button in the app, but after that you can ask Alexa questions, listen to music, access skills, and control smart devices. The update is being rolled out to users over the next few days, so if you love controlling everything possible around your abode with Alexa voice commands, you’re going to have a way to do so on iOS. The touch of a button is unfortunate, but since Apple wants you to use their Siri, iOS devices are unlikely to get voice access without first touching the app. Since their last try at smartphones, Amazon has been at a disadvantage in the mobile market, having to rely on apps on Android and iOS without having and Alexa native device.

As with the space program years ago, Virtual Reality tech is throwing off some cool side benefits. Macrumors.com says Apple engineer and popular YouTuber Mark Rober is the primary inventor of some tech patents that can be used to help stop in-car motion sickness for passengers in self-driving cars. One replaces the view of the real world with virtual environments including visual cues to match the physical motion the passengers are experiencing. Another helps allow passengers to work or surf without getting sick. Drivers are usually not affected by motion sickness, as they are watching the road ahead and their surroundings. Besides his Apple engineer gig, Rober’s YouTube channel with science related videos has some 3.4 million subscribers!


YouTube Creator Plusses; Apple vs Qualcomm; Facebook Messenger Translations; Stanford Blockchain Research

YouTube has announced new ways for content creators to make money. Now, according to engadget.com, channels with over 100,000 subscribers will have access to Memberships, which will let viewers pay a monthly $4.99 fee to get exclusive access to badges, emoji, livestreams, members-only videos and shoutouts. YouTube had already offered this with Sponsorships, but that category was only available to a select group of content producers. If you have less than 100,000 subscribers, YouTube says it will offer Channel Memberships at $5 a month to more people in upcoming months. They are also partnering with Teespring for a merchandise shopping tool creators can use to sell custom gear on their channel. Initially, there are 20 different kinds of gear available. YouTube claims 1.9 billion monthly logged in viewers. 

The Apple-Qualcomm legal battle rages on. Apple has now filed petitions with the US Patent and Trademark Office challenging validity of 4 Qualcomm patents…saying they don’t cover new ideas. Macrumors.com says they cover camera autofocus, a gadget that functions as a phone and digital assistant, touch-sensitive displays, and circuit memory. This type of challenge is a favorite of Apple lawyers…Apple has filed just shy of 400 such challenges with the Patent Office. A panel of 3 judges will now consider Apple’s petition and Qualcomm’s response. Apple and Qualcomm have been hashing it out legally since early 2017, mainly in a dispute over royalties due Qualcomm.

Facebook has rolled out M Translations for Messenger. M Translations join the existing M Suggestions features that are already built into Messenger for things like quick replies, polls, and sharing your location. English-Spanish translation should now be available in both the US and Mexico. The feature was announced at Facebook’s F8 gathering earlier this year. Theverge.com reports that translation had been available for Marketplace transactions, but now all Messenger conversations have the feature. It should work pretty seamlessly. The app will note if, for example, English is your default language, and the Messenger bot will automatically pop up and offer to translate a message you receive in Spanish. Facebook says other languages will be coming, but hasn’t offered a time line as to when.

A group of crypto startups and organizations are sponsoring a new blockchain research center headquartered at Stanford University. According to coindesk.com, The Center for Blockchain Research is being led by two professors who have specialties in blockchain and cryptocurrencies. The research outfit plans to “develop best practices” for blockchain by bringing the university scientists and the industry’s top leaders together. The center will focus on designing a blockchain curriculum for both students and working professionals. The new center notes that blockchain is becoming increasingly critical to doing business globally.


Galaxy Note 9 Rumors; Snap Spectacles II on Amazon; Nintendo Switch Content Leak; Facebook Rebrands On This Day As Memories

More has leaked out about the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, widely expected to be a minor upgrade coming in August. Bgr.com says one tweak may make a noticeable difference over the Note 8…the back cams may go horizontal instead of vertical, with the fingerprint sensor moving directly below. This will not only make the print sensor much easier to find and use, but the horizontal layout of the cams will allow for a bigger battery…perhaps even exceeding the 35 mAh battery of the Galaxy S9+. There’s also an additional hardware button showing up…no clues on what it is, but it may be related to the cameras.

Snap’s original Spectacles were kind of cool, but you had to hunt for a pop up store to get a pair of them. Now, mashable.com reports that the 2nd generation will be much easier to find…you can buy them on Amazon. There’s a price bump of 20 bucks to $149.99, but now they can be at your doorstep in a couple days in the US, UK, and Canada….even tomorrow if you’re terribly impatient! Snap only sold 220,000 of the original Spectacles, and lost a bundle ($40 million), but it appears they are confident about the round pic-taking glasses being a hit in version 2.

Best Buy may have spilled the beans about upcoming Nintendo Switch content at E3. According to businessinsider.com, Hulu, YouTube, and Netflix compatibility may be coming to the Switch. The added capabilities popped up on Best Buy’s online store. Nintendo had been expected to make an announcement anyway, but the retailer inadvertently stole their thunder.

Facebook is rolling out a rebranded On This Day as ‘Memories.’ Techcrunch.com says they are adding friends you made on the date to the usual pictures and posts from the On This Day version, in addition to ‘Memories You May Have Missed’. It’s a great way to get people to engage more…not to mention it saves Facebook server space by recycling posts. Hmm.


Uber Wants Waymo Self-Drivers On Network; WWDC Apple Watch Leak; Reddit Passes Up Facebook; WeChat China-Divorce by Button

At the Code Conference, Uber CEO Dara Khosroshahi revealed that Uber has been in discussions to have Waymo self-driving cars added to its network. This is somewhat remarkable considering the two companies are just coming off a legal battle over alleged trade-secret theft. Theverge.com reports that the Uber CEO also forces self driving tech as ‘a horizontal technology that should be available to everybody.’ He believes that it will be open to all via third party licensing. What about the drivers? Khosrowshahi says they think ‘machines augment humans’ and that ultimately their network will be a machine network and a human network together.

A cool little nugget has been revealed ahead of time that Apple had planned for WWDC. June is Pride Month, and Apple will unveil a special Pride watch face at noon Pacific right at the end of the World Wide Developers Conference keynote. Mashable.com reports that the colors of the rainbow flag are strings on the watch face, and you can interact with them, like strumming a guitar. The special face has two complication spots.

The Facebook/Cambridge Analytics may be hurting the social media platform more than first thought. According to thenextweb.com, Amazon’s Alexa web traffic analyzing platform has determined that Reddit has passed up Facebook as third most visited site in the US. This is probably as scientific as a Survey Monkey poll, but it still gives pause. Google is the top site, with YouTube second, then Reddit, Facebook, and Amazon. Interestingly, average Reddit users spend over 15 minutes a day on the platform, compared to Google with about 7 and a quarter minutes, YouTube 8-1/2 minutes, Facebook at almost 11 minutes, and Amazon just over 7-1/2 minutes.

In what may be the ultimate for a no-deposit, no-return society, people in China can now file for divorce with a button on the WeChat app! Businessinsider.com says the trial divorce function is available right now in th eGuangdong Province, home to cities like Guangzhou and Shenzhen. Just click, enter info, and make an appointment for the local divorce registrar. Payments can also be handled through WeChat, but so far they haven’t opened it up to spousal support payments! WeChat has a billion active users globally.


YouTube Updates Desktop and Mobile Apps; Google Maps Adds Parking Lots in 25 Cities; Aston Martin Going All-Electric or Hybrid

YouTube is rolling out updates to its desktop and mobile versions. Cnet.com reports that it will have a more consistent look across platforms. They have also added a feature to mobile that the desktop had…speeding up or slowing down playback. The newer apps will also adjust to fit the video format you are watching. If the video is vertical, the player will become vertical. They have also added a Dark Theme for the desktop that lets you make the background go dark.

Google Maps has added a feature called ‘Find Parking,’ 9to5google.com says it will show you parking lots and garages in 25 major cities in the US on the Android app. San Francisco, LA, Houston, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston are included…although parking is obviously not the issue in Houston right now! The feature works in tandem with the Parking Difficulty one Google rolled out in January that indicates how tough parking is based on machine learning and current parking data.

In the future, Bond…James Bond, will be looking for a Supercharger instead of pulling into a gas station. Storied British sports car maker Aston Martin has announced that they will be 100% hybrid by the mid 2020’s, and a quarter of all DB models will be EVs by 2030. Maybe Q can rig one up that uses an electric powered lightening bolt instead of the usual machine guns and rockets 007 has used to make his high speed escapes from SPECTRE. Arstechnica.com says the first all-electric Aston Martin will be the RapidE, a quick 4 seater due on the pavement in 2019.