Amazon expands hardware line with new Echo Look device

Building on the hardware line rooted in their Alexa software, Amazon has released a new Echo product called the Echo Look. The device is a hands-free camera with a companion app that Amazon is positioning as a “style assistant.” Fixing what is basically a selfie camera in a device that is also running Alexa software may not be stretching technology, but some of the features in the companion app appear to make good use of the powerful computers we now call smartphones.

AT&T rolling out pseudo-5G in Austin, more cities later this year

The next generation of wireless data speeds are on their way and we will all have to get used to referring to 5G. Before that happens though the standards for just what constitutes 5G have to be established. AT&T decided to get a jump on things with the announcement today that they are launching their own 5G Evolution service in Austin, Texas and will light up 20 more metro areas before the end of 2017.

Spotify to move into hardware space?

Some new jobs listing combined with some anonymous sources suggest Spotify may look to join another app developer, Snapchat, and move into the hardware space. The information is quite vague though about what kind of form such hardware may take and it is a challenge to imagine a Spotify-oriented product that would be commercially viable.

Samsung preparing red tint, Wi-Fi updates for Galaxy S8 devices

Samsung appears to have pulled off most of what they were hoping for with the launch of the Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ this spring. The devices have been noted for nudging smartphone design in a slightly new direction with the sleek look and near bezel-less face and consumer interest has been high. The launch has not been without some smaller hiccups though. One issue that popped up almost as soon as some users got their devices were reports of screens with too much red tint to them. Another issue, that appears to be confined to the Korean market, are some issues with Wi-Fi connections. Already the manufacturer is readying a pair of updates to address these issues.

Samsung’s Galaxy S8 iris scanner may help users unlock financial transactions

New reports out of Korea indicate there may be some growing interest from financial firms like banks or credit card companies to incorporate iris scan security into the methods used to secure financial transactions. Iris scanning may be familiar to more users now with the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and Galaxy S8+ which both make use of the technology as a way for users to unlock their devices. The latest interest shown in this technology could open the door to its use for security purposes when consumers make use of mobile payment platforms.

Microsoft poised to take on Chromebooks with Windows 10 Cloud?

A little over a week from now Microsoft will be holding an event focused on education and it is expected the company will announce some new initiatives targeting Google’s Chromebook market and in particular, Google’s growing presence in the education market. The keys to the move by Microsoft to mount a challenge to Google is going to be the launch of Windows 10 Cloud that will run on hardware similar to a typical Chromebook. That latter point is important as it helps keep the cost down for school systems that may be interested in Microsoft’s solution.

[Deal] Two-for-One Samsung Galaxy S8 through Sprint

Riding on the release of the Samsung Galaxy S8 hitting retail stores on Friday, April 21st, Sprint announced a special deal to try to bring customers over to their network. For one week, from April 21st through April 27th, users who activate a new line with Sprint can lease not one, but two Samsung Galaxy S8 devices for the price of one lease, which is currently $31.25 per month.

Moto Z2 Force video and renders reveal small details and bigger changes

A few days ago a low quality render surfaced that appeared to show the forthcoming Motorola Moto Z2 Force and earlier today news surfaced that the device may not be a Verizon exclusive. New renders and a video reveal much more detail about the device and although the overall device is similar to last year’s version, small details point to some rather significant changes.

Verily, the Alphabet health company, announces the Study Watch

If you happen to own an activity tracker, you probably know that the companies producing them are careful to disclaim the accuracy of the devices. Despite this, companies producing the devices have been hit with the occasional lawsuit because the data the devices provide are not “medical” grade or quality. For a company like Verily, Alphabet’s health-oriented division, that presents a problem that was solved by production of their own wearable device, the newly announced Study Watch.

Google breaks fingerprint sensor for Pixel, Nexus phones with latest Android Nougat update

Keeping things in-house should be a recipe that prevents problems from cropping up when a phone manufacturer decides to update a device. After all, they have all of the software code and hardware specs. Unfortunately, that does not seem to be the case, even after extensive testing. Google is the latest example of an update going awry once it starts landing on actual user devices. Several reports are coming in from owners of Pixel phones and Nexus phones indicating the Android 7.1.2 Nougat update breaks the fingerprint sensor on the devices. This leaves Android support staff and developers scrambling to identify the source of the problem and figure out a fix.

Allo 9.0 update contains code for several unreleased features

Google started updating Allo to version 9.0 recently and those diving into the code for the app found evidence of several features that are not yet enabled. The assumption is that Google will eventually make these available to users, possibly by throwing a server-side switch, but this is not guaranteed. There have been instances in the past where code for a feature was present in one version and then disappeared in a subsequent update. The potential features include a backup mechanism for chats, a quick selfie mode, an incognito mode for group chats, and yes, a sticker pack.