Tech News Weekly 320 Transcript

Please be advised this transcript is AI-generated and may not be word for word. Time codes refer to the approximate times in the ad-supported version of the show.

0:00:00 - Mikah Sargent
Coming up on Tech News Weekly. I am Mikah Sargent, and this week I kick things off with a story of the week. We've got to understand where things are when it comes to the Apple Watch Series 9, the Apple Watch Ultra 2, and that sales ban that is in place for the device. Then I am joined by Jennifer Pattison Tuey of the Verge to talk about CES smart home trends. Yes, there's lots to talk about. There are lots of new devices and even more when it comes to matter and where the smart home is and where it's going. Afterwards we talk about another story of the week. This time it's about Facebook collecting lots of data from companies. Who are sending Facebook and Meta information about you, how you can get your data, how much data is collected. It's an eye-opener. Before I round things out with a very special guest, it's Jason Howell who joins me to talk about Samsung Galaxy Unpacked 2024. Stay tuned for this episode of Tech News Weekly. This is Tech News Weekly, episode 320, recorded Thursday, january 18th 2024, unpacking Galaxy Unpacked 2024.

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Hello and welcome to Tech News Weekly, the show where every week I talk to and about the people making and breaking the tech news. I am your lonely host this week, micah Sargent. Thank you again to Amanda Silverling for joining me last week. I hope you all enjoyed that. Amanda will be back with us again next month and I continue to be on the hunt for some other folks to join me on the show as special guest hosts.

But I think it's time to kick this show off and it starts with my first story of the week. My first story of the week is about this little device on my wrist, and if you're listening and not watching, the little device on my wrist you may imagine is my Apple Watch. I have the Apple Watch Ultra, so technically it isn't part of this. But the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 have been in this ongoing situation. We'll call it where a company by the name of Massimo has said look, we have a patent for a technology that can measure your blood oxygen level, and the Apple Watch, of course, has a feature and a bit of hardware that allows the watch to measure your blood oxygen level. There's actually an app on the Apple Watch both the Ultra, the Ultra 2 and the Series 9, called Blood Oxygen and what you do is you tap on the app and you're meant to kind of hold your wrist very steady and you hit the start button and the pulse oximeter on the back of the Apple Watch does what it needs to do. Basically, it's looking at your blood and looking at the color of your blood. And by looking at the color of your blood it can determine and apparently I'm moving around too much because I did get an unsuccessful measurement but the more red your blood is then the more oxygenated your blood is, and of course there's a lot of little stuff that goes into it as well, but this is kind of the base understanding and so by looking at that and determining how red the blood is, it can tell you how oxygenated your blood is and it can kind of pay attention to this over time. So the last measurement on my Apple Watch was it looks like 14 hours ago, and I had 99% blood oxygen level.

Because of the patent dispute, we saw Apple essentially have to say well, we can either kind of do business, figure this out with Massimo, or we can completely stop the sale of Apple Watches in the United States, and for a brief period of time. You may remember, if you are a regular watcher or listener of the show I had on Mark Gurman of Bloomberg to talk about what was an actual stop on the sale of Apple Watches with the blood oxygen sensor. And it ended up being a very short period of time that this took place because shortly after that, apple was provided a stay that allowed the company to continue to sell the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2 with the blood oxygen feature. But as of today well, technically, as of Wednesday, so yesterday, as we record this show the company, because of the sort of latest rulings, had to make another change to the sale of Apple Watches in the United States. So on Wednesday the company said that it had tweaked models that would go on sale on Thursday as we record the show today, at its retail outlets, in its online store. The models, of course, have the blood oxygen tool inside the necessary sensors, but those sensors won't function and in fact, if you go to applecom slash watch and then you click on the Apple Watch Series 9 or the Apple Watch Ultra 2, a little banner appears at the top of the screen that says Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 no longer include the blood oxygen feature. Now, to be clear, they say at the end feature. That is because they have not changed the hardware at all. The feature is still there, or rather, the hardware is still there, but the feature is gone, and so you will not be able to use it if you buy a new Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2.

That also then led to questions of what about those of us who have an Apple Watch that does have blood oxygen sensing and we have purchased this Apple Watch at some point in the past. So, like the Ultra, this non-2 device or even an Ultra 2 that you bought before this ruling came into play, your Apple Watches as it stands are fine. They will continue, as mine just did. Well, I don't know, I was getting an unsuccessful reading. No, the blood oxygen sensor will continue to work and, as far as we know and of course I will update you if this changes you shouldn't have to worry about reading the fine print of any software update or firmware update that's going to suddenly take out the feature on your already purchased Apple Watch.

These rulings are exclusively, are almost exclusively, tied to the Apple Watch. Oh good, I did get a reading this time 98% blood oxygen currently. So these rulings are almost always tied to the sale of new Apple Watches. But, to add to the confusion, there are multiple groups who get to kind of rule on this process and Apple and its lawyers have worked to also kind of figure out the way to go about making it so that the sale could kind of continue. And I think that that's kind of added to the confusion, because the company did get approval from the US Customs and Border Protection Agency. That said and this was last week if your Apple Watch doesn't have the capability to do the blood oxygen sensing, then you are able to import and sell the Apple Watch in the United States. But they again, the customs agency is not the only group who gets to rule on this. And so the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declined to give Apple any more of a pause on this import ban. So they had had that import ban in place, or rather the pause on the import ban, and then they appealed to try and get a longer pause, and that did not work out. So the US ITC, that's the International Trade Commission, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit and the US Customs and Border Protection Agency were all involved in this ruling and I think that that has kind of made things more complicated.

But what I talked to German about in that previous episode was kind of the confusion around the Apple Watch and the impact that it has on the sale of the Apple Watch in general. Because when we first heard about this ban, one of the first things that I heard from people who don't cover the stuff regularly, who aren't paying attention to stuff regularly, was that question of is someone going to come and take away my Apple Watch because it's now banned in the United States? And that is the first kind of confusion. The watch is not banned in the United States.

The sale of new Apple Watches with this feature is banned in the United States or was banned in the United States at the time, and so Apple couldn't sell any new watches. It also meant that watches that were purchased within that period if they needed their, because with the Apple Watch, it's such a compact and kind of all-in-one device that if something happens to it and you've got an Apple Watch, or rather an Apple Care protection for it, when you took it in to be serviced, most of the time they weren't doing any replacements of different components. They were instead just taking your Apple Watch, shipping it off, doing what Apple does with those broken devices and then just giving you a new or refurbished Apple Watch as a replacement. So because of that and the ban that was in place, new parts that would be coming over to the US new Apple Watches are becoming over to the US you wouldn't necessarily be able to get that replacement. That added to the confusion, because Apple's Apple Care support tends to be pretty good about if something's broken, they're going to fix it, no big deal and so that kind of led to even more question of what happens if I do buy an Apple Watch. So, hey, even though I know that I have an Apple Watch right now, if it breaks will I be able to replace it? No, no one's going to take your Apple Watch away from you. No, you probably don't have to worry about software or firmware updates being at issue here.

But it is important to understand that this is a back and forth between the company that's ongoing, and I was talking to Burke, one of our studio engineers, before the show about kind of what this means going forward and what Apple's plan is here, because again, when I spoke to German, one of the things that he pointed out is that this is something that Apple has known about for some time. Apple and Mossimo have been at it for a while and Apple still did go forth with selling a device where there was this point of contention that the blood oxygen sensor and feature in the device would perhaps infringe on a patent. And so you have to wonder what is the? What was Apple's plan at the time? What is Apple's plan now? And was a complete pause on the sale of the device part of the company's plan? Were they hoping to outlast Mossimo's kind of money for fighting this in the court? What's going on here and where do things stand and how does Apple fix this going forward?

Because yes, in the same way that you may remember, we've talked on the show before about I believe it was BMW who offered a vehicle and the vehicle. Of course they offered a vehicle, but the vehicle you could pay to enable some of the features in the car, like heated seats. So you'd have the vehicle. It would have heated seats as a feature, but you just couldn't use them unless you paid more. This is not the same thing, of course, but the idea that you're buying a device and that device has the capability of doing something that you don't have access to.

That adds a wrinkle to the purchase decision that someone might make when it comes to buying an Apple Watch and as far as that impacts the company, as far as that affects the company, that's something that I think Apple needs to or is almost certainly paying attention to and trying to figure out here. The company has to figure out a way to be able to offer the Apple Watch for sale and hopefully figure out a way to offer it with the technology that's included and be able to use all of the features that the hardware makes possible. So going forward, we will continue to see Apple kind of try to figure out whether there is some sort of firmware update that can appease and please the necessary ruling bodies if that is proved to be different enough from the patent argument from Massimo, and potentially a change in the hardware if all else fails. Whether that means a change in the hardware such that the blood oxygen sensor is completely removed or a change in the hardware such that the blood oxygen sensor is different enough from the patent by Massimo that the company no longer has claim on it, we don't know and we'll have to see. But as it stands I'm just kind of curious if the company of Apple is going to end up just working out some sort of agreement with Massimo to just pay Massimo to be able to include this technology in the Apple Watch, versus offering an Apple Watch that no longer has a feature that was once available in it. Because if there's one thing that I have learned and seen, especially in covering smart home technology, it's that offering a feature and then later taking that feature away, but charging the same price for the product, never goes well. And right now, yeah, you can buy an Apple Watch Ultra II and you buy it at the standard cost, but now you're getting one less feature than one fewer feature, I guess, than you would have if you had purchased it a couple of months ago, and I think that's a complication. So I don't know how Apple is handling this going forward. It's kind of incredible to see how quickly and rapidly things are shifting and how new rulings are coming into play, coming into effect, that are making a change to the company's behavior and whether or not it's able to sell the device. So we will have to see. But I have a feeling that Apple's got most of its attention on the launch of the Apple Vision Pro headset, as pre-orders start tomorrow, friday, january 19th, for that new mixed reality device although Apple prefers the term spatial computing device. In any case, as always, I'll be keeping my eye on the Apple Watch sales and import ban as we figure out what's going on there. All right, that is my first story of the week.

Up next, we are going to take a look at CES Smart Home Trends. In just a moment. Folks, it is time to talk about trends. Yes, I feel good about the fact that I did not have to take a trip to CES, but I'm so glad that some of my fellow journalists were there and are able to share their experiences. Joining us today to talk about trends is what we need to know about the Smart Home. Can you guess? You might be able to guess. It's the wonderful Jennifer Pattison Tue who joins us again from the Verge. Welcome back to the show, jennifer.

0:19:52 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Hey Mikah. It's great to be here, as always, and you did a good thing not going, because I got sick and I think everyone I know got sick, as you expect at CES. That's just the way it goes, sadly. But anyway, I'm off my sick bed now and happy to come and chat with you about all things. Smart Home, yay.

0:20:09 - Mikah Sargent
Wonderful to have you here and, yes, I'm sorry to hear that you got ill, but I did hear most of the folks who went got some sort of illness while they were there. So, yeah, I mean, let's get into it. I mean, this is a time it has been a time every time CES is rolled around for lots of different Smart Home tech to take off. And I just want this to be kind of a free-flowing conversation as we just sort of dive into what you saw while you were there and what really stuck out in terms of the Smart Home. But before we dig into those trends, I feel it is so important for us to start with where we left off last time, which was talking about matter. How often did you see matter mentioned at CES?

0:20:57 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Yeah, it was definitely very present. It wasn't quite as big a splash as, say, last year, but I think that was more because companies are adopting it and using it and it's sort of part of the parcel. Now there was discussion about some of the teething problems that we've talked about, but overall there was a positive atmosphere. Like this is creating new, helping create new solutions in the Smart Home. That was really sort of a trend I saw was making the Smart Home easier, simpler, also more affordable, more accessible to people because of things like matter and also the other buzzword that you couldn't avoid at CES this year, which was AI. So there was a real trend around that. A lot of new products using both matter and generative AI to kind of make their devices more interoperable.

A lot of home key. We saw a lot of home key, which was interesting, some of which was enabled through matter, so that was an interesting development. So many smart locks like crazy amount of smart locks, including ones that can unlock with facial recognition, which was a first for the residential smart lock. And then, something you will be excited about, which wasn't really a trend but an announcement made at CES by the Thread Group, is that they're finally fixing the Thread Border Router issues with shared credentials coming. The Thread Group is mandating shared credentials, so it's no longer up to the individual border router manufacturers to determine how they're going to work together. So Samsung and Apple and Google and Amazon don't have to figure out how to be friendly. They did have to do what the Thread Group says and hopefully now we can all have one nice big, happy, meshy Thread Network in our homes, even if we have multiple devices from different vendors.

0:22:48 - Mikah Sargent
Yes, that's one of the most I open up the. There are a couple of apps that will show you what Thread Border Routers are on your network and you'll see one that has grabbed one device and is holding onto it and one that's got three of them and you're going. Why can't you all just talk to one another and we're supposed to be this whole network working together? Yeah, that gets so frustrating. So I'm happy to hear that. That'll be interesting to see how the company or how the group actually enforces that going forward. Now it's interesting. You mentioned Home Key. That kind of was my next question in terms of Because we talk about matter and we talk about how this is supposed to be the way that all devices can just communicate together. So I was curious to hear how much are you still seeing marketing where you see works with Google, works with Apple Home, those individual sort of team badges? Is that still pretty prevalent or are we trying to move past that?

0:23:55 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
So I think in an ideal world we'd move past that, but the consumer just does not know what matter is. Yet the general consumer has We've just educated them on works with Alexa, works with Google, works with Apple Home, and now that we can't just take that away, I think too many manufacturers realize that if I don't have those badges on my boxes and I just have matter, a lot of consumers will think well, that means it doesn't work with my platform. Until we get to the point where matter is in this consciousness, just in the same way that Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are, it's a challenge to just get rid of all the badges. So no, you're still seeing devices with boxes that have all the badges. It's confusing. I think it'd be more confusing, though, if they went away at this stage, because people are used to them.

So what I heard from talking to manufacturers who are sort of in two minds about this they'd obviously like not to have to put the badges on. They do also have to pay to go through that certification. So to have a badge, you have to go through the certification, which means you have to pay for the certification. It's apparently got a lot easier to do since matter came along, because matter's kind of like the level, the base level, and then you just can kind of add your works with Alexa and Google on top. So it's easier than it used to be, but it's still a complicated process, it's more expensive and it's a printing process. It's part of the manufacture process that they'd like to get rid of, but that's not happening anytime soon. The other confusing thing is Apple, because we have so, as you, I'm sure, aware Apple kind of shifted from being called Apple HomeKit to Apple Home.

And that was in large part a move towards matter, because HomeKit is the sort of underlying architecture of the smart home platform that Apple put into place. Matter has replaced that for Apple, although you still have HomeKit, because we still have devices that work over HomeKit. But going forward, my impression is that Apple would like everything to just be motor. That's the way they're going forward and that's why HomeKit is now part of matter, slowly becoming part of a matter. So there was a door lock on show that, while we were at CES, got permission to say, yes, this is a home key lock through matter. So we're just beginning to get that sort of glimpse of this interoperability and how it's all gonna work through matter and you won't need home kit. That doesn't mean that existing home kit devices are going away. Obviously, there are some products that only work through home kit and that's that's gonna continue to stay that way. But the future, really for Apple, home users will be using devices through matter.

0:26:43 - Mikah Sargent
Okay, interesting that that's. I did not know about Apple really trying to kind of move all of that over over to matter, and I can remember Learning about home kit over thread, and now we're going. Now we're even shifting further into Matter as the standard, which is what I want ultimately. I'm curious did was there any kind of Product category that surprised you or that was new? Are we still mostly seeing the the same old, same old in terms of vacuums and lights and and security cameras? How, how's it looking? Are we? Is anyone thinking of anything new?

0:27:27 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
So it actually was, I would say, a more iterative rather than a Great innovative year for the smart home, which I think is a good thing. You know the smart homes kind of getting a little more mature. It's not just throw it all at the wall and see what will stick. It's like well, we've got good products, we're gonna make them better. So, for example, going back to smart locks, we saw thread coming to a lot of smart locks. We saw home key coming to smart locks. We also saw quite a few Iterative but good updates around, like smart lighting, like better quality lighting, better dimming, better brightness those types of sort of small improvements that are ultimately gonna make the smart home a more, a more enjoyable experience.

And Robo vacuums, which are always an area of innovation. We did see some kind of fun things Robo rock came out with a robot arm, which was a lot smaller than I was expecting, but it was still cool. And to see arms on robots no legs yet, although LG did come out with a robot with legs, although that was definitely more of a Attention grabber, I think, than anything Anyone's ever really gonna see in their home. And I was excited by Bolly or Bali, depending On your pronunciation, which was Samsung's new home robot, which had actually been announced a few years back but has come with more features. And feature I really liked about the new Bolly is it has a projector screen in it, so it's kind of like a mobile smart display so it can kind of roll around your house and Project onto a nearby wall or ceiling or flat surface or even the floor anything You're interested in seeing or controlling, and is it?

0:29:18 - Mikah Sargent
Is that gonna be available to actually have, or is it kind of one of those?

0:29:21 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
look what we can do so there was a lot of Argument about this in my team.

It's like yes, paperware and then no, it's coming. So they had it 2020 CES. It was on show and Every time I've spoken to a Samsung exec since I've asked and they said, oh yeah, it's coming. I mean so, and they showed it this year. It was a big splash and I was told by one of the Samsung reps Yep, it's, it's gonna be this year. I'm not holding my breath, but it would be cool. It would be cool, it's.

You know, ai in the smart home is an interesting trend. I Think AI in the robots is probably something that we're not gonna really benefit from for a while, because I think the way LG and Samsung we're kind of pushing it is like this home robot will know everything about you and know exactly what you need. And, in fact, LG's version, which was called the AI agent, which is slightly sort of scary name, was actually like telling in the demo. It was telling the lady who was sort of in her home you know, oh, you're not very well. You should stay home. Oh dear, don't want my smart home to tell me what to do.

0:30:36 - Mikah Sargent
No no.

0:30:37 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
That's not what I need.

0:30:39 - Mikah Sargent
Don't like that at all.

One thing I wanted to ask you about is we I've slowly started to see a trend of different manufacturers moving from going look at how we can you can push a button on your phone and that makes this light turn on, and then when you push another button and that makes the color change, and then look at how you can turn on this fan and then change the speeds to Trying to make these devices, through AI of some sort, a little bit more Automatic and intelligence, that that intelligent, that automation aspect.

I was curious to hear how many demos of that level of automation and kind of home awareness you saw, especially in regard to Some promise that these devices can still all work together. Right, because you can and get one device and use that app and that platform to get that one device to, you know, turn on and then set the color temperature based on the time of day, but to get it to do that and then also get your other lights that you bought from another company to Play ball in some way, it's just it's a lot of work and I'm curious if there were any promises about better group automation and just more general smart home being smart on its own kind of pitches at CES.

0:32:06 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Yeah. So I think there's two things that kind of come together to make this possible and yes, I saw a few companies showing you know this is what we're working on and this is where we'll take it, hopefully. So, obviously, the interoperability that matter has brought or is bringing is Helping you be able to just have one app or one's platform that you're controlling all your devices. So that helps with that problem you were outlining where you know you want your fan to turn on and your lights turn on, but you've got two different apps and you want to work them to connect together. That we're seeing Big strides in. For example, a Cara came out with its new M3 hub, which is it had traditionally been Zigbee hub for its own Zigbee based Devices with matter. It's now going to be a matter controller and you'll be able to add any matter accessory from any manufacturer to that hub. So, just like you can do that with Amazon Alexa and Google Home and Apple Home and smart things Sometimes smart things you can now use a Cara to do that. So you're getting more options for broader smart home control. I think we'll see more companies doing that to going forward and that you know. The nice thing about that is.

A Cara has a really powerful automation engine, much more powerful Than most of the sort of mainstream platforms. I mean there's home assistant, where you can do lots of great stuff and smart things, has some good powerful automations too, but in general, and home major smart home platforms are a little bit sort of straightforward and there's not a lot of really cool stuff you can do. A Cara has some really neat things, so that's going to be interesting to play with, and nothing that a Cara introduced and I saw with other platforms and product manufacturers was a home co-pilot. So, using generative AI, the app will actually help suggest routines and automations for you and make it easier to set up. So you can just speak what you want to the chatbot and it will say, okay, here's an automation created for you, which will be much easier, and this is something that Google Home already has with its Help Me script. But again, you have to go into coding to do that. We need much easier interfaces Like just I can just type do this for me.

One fun thing that I saw a demo of was GoVie, which is a smart lighting company. They had a big old booth and they have a AI lighting bot and so their main thing is smart lights. They have a huge array of fun smart lights and you can do some crazy sort of lighting automations, but they're kind of complicated and if you've got lots of GoVie devices, you know you have to go into each one and set them up. Now you can just type into the AI chatbot and they showed this example Turn my house into Barbie's dream house, and then everything in your house will go different shades of pink.

0:34:57 - Mikah Sargent
Oh, neat. That's pretty cool.

0:35:00 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
So those types of small things will make it easier for you to get the most out of your devices without having to spend a lot of time learning how to program your smart home. And then I also the one thing I really liked and I'm interested in your take on this, because I haven't seen a lot of people that have had a chance to use these things yet but the map view is becoming a real thing for smart home.

0:35:20 - Mikah Sargent
Yes, yes.

0:35:22 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Samsung really went all big on it, showing off its map view at CES, which they have had for a while, but they were sort of under wraps a little bit and now they're kind of going all out with it and Bolly the robot will actually help you map your home, which is another reason why I think it's likely we will actually see it, because it's got a very kind of core function for the smart home for Samsung, and so this map view is like a 3D view of your home with all your devices on it in the actual place they are in your home and rather than just having to use your smartphone for this, which can be a bit fiddly and Amazon has a map view that you use the smartphone to control and it is a bit fiddly you can use your TV.

So you can use your TV remote to point and click at a light and turn it on. Wait, that's pretty cool.

0:36:11 - Mikah Sargent
Okay, that makes Exactly, and this is the thing I think that finally, companies are realizing that if they want adoption of these technologies, they have to do what I can't remember exactly the term Leo Laporte uses, but it's something about the spousal adoption Spousal- approval factor. Spousal approval factor yes.

And so I will go with the partner approval factor Because genuinely that is the one thing that has kept me from completely just blanketing my homeless smart stuff is that the person who I very much care for that I live with would be absolutely annoyed with trying to figure all of this out. And I think that these maps and the idea that you just mentioned where you just point your remote at something and get it to go, that is for the rest of us, that is genuinely for the people who don't think in the way that you and I do. Where it's We've done this enough that we kind of just get it. I love that.

I think that it makes it much more possible for more people to be able to use and understand the smart home, as long as it works right. Because that's the thing, that frustration that happens. Maybe you give it one time to mess up, but two times and that's too many for the person who's not just a smart home enthusiast. So I'm really liking this, the mapping idea in general. I love the idea of the screen on the wall that has the map of the home, and we also have to consider these rentals, like the temporary rentals with Airbnb and that kind of thing as well. It makes it much easier for folks that are staying at a place to be able to control the smart home. So yeah, I'm very pro the map idea and especially this remote idea. That's clever.

0:37:58 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Yeah, it makes a lot of sense and, it being smart things, they have the map everywhere, so you can get it on your fridge, you can get it on your M8 monitor. They actually start putting little tablets in washing machines and cookers as well now. So it's everywhere. I'm not sure I really want touch screens in my washing machine, but if you want, it's the option and this sort of integration of smart home control, so it's everywhere, not just on your phone. I mean not, that voice is great, but no, minglacha can be clunky and my husband will be like every night. He's like can you turn the lights off? But he knows how to say it, but he's if you do it it's gonna work, whereas if I do it I'll get it wrong.

0:38:43 - Mikah Sargent
Right, yeah, there's like a confidence that needs to be built there.

And I have absolute understanding and sympathy for folks that just feel like they can't get it right or just are confused by it, and that's the thing is. It's tended to be my experience that it starts with amazement and people are really like, wow, that's so cool that you can do that, and then after a while it goes to why is this not working, or why do I have to do it this certain way? So, yeah, I love this idea. I think that that's great. I think I've got time to just ask one last thing of you, which was is there anything else there that kind of stood out to you or had you kind of jumping with joy or getting very excited about, or yeah, yeah, just anything that stuck out?

0:39:28 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
There were quite a few things, but just because it's CES you've got to go with the weird and the wacky, and I have to say that E-ink smart toilet from Cola was quite the hit.

0:39:41 - Mikah Sargent
You know, I saw that and I saw that, unfortunately, that is more of a vaporware product.

0:39:48 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
But I just I mean E-ink is everywhere, it's like-.

I'm glad it was yeah, and I never really, so I do like smart toilets. I think smart toilets are a good idea, and Cola did come out with a, and this is what I mean again about Iterative. They came out with a smart bidet, so you can have a smart toilet without spending $10,000. You just can buy their smart bidet, which does basically everything their fancy $10,000 smart toilet does, except for it's only $2,000 and you can add it on your existing toilet. I know it's still not cheap, but bidets save a lot of toilet paper.

Yes, yes, yes, and it has auto open and all that fun stuff and voice control.

0:40:31 - Mikah Sargent
Just imagining hearing from the other room someone talking to the bidet. That's a sitcom right there. But yeah, yeah Well, jennifer, pat and Situy, I want to thank you so much for your time today. It's always a pleasure to get to talk to you and I appreciate you risking the germs of CES to join us. Of course folks can head to thevergecom to check out your work. Is there anywhere else they should go to follow along with what you're doing?

0:40:58 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Yeah, so mom threads and Instagram. At Smart Home Mama, we did a lot of social videos and actually I did a Smart Home CES walkthrough video on YouTube. So the Verge is YouTube YouTube channel where you can see four or five sort of gadgets that I picked as some of my top picks from the show. So, yeah, those are all places you can find me.

0:41:23 - Mikah Sargent
Wonderful. Well, thank you again for your time and we'll be seeing you again soon.

0:41:28 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Sounds good. Thanks, Mikah.

0:41:29 - Mikah Sargent
Bye-bye, all righty folks up. Next it's time for my next story of the week and then we've got a very special guest joining us for the final interview of the day. All right, for my next story of the week. I wanted to talk about a really interesting sort of study that was done between the markup and consumer reports. These two groups got together to look at the internet activity, the online activity of many volunteers 709 volunteers and kind of dig into how these volunteers had their data shared with Facebook, which, of course, is owned by Metta. So 709 volunteers collected I think it was three years of data from their Facebook accounts. You can go to a special page and kind of download this data. And then consumer reports looked into it to see how many companies, many different companies, were sending data from them, from the companies themselves, to Facebook about these users. So in total, of the 709 volunteers, 186,892 companies sent data about these 709 volunteers to Facebook. They looked at it and on average, that meant that each participant in the study had their data sent to Facebook by about 2,230 companies. There were some who had more than 7,000 companies who were sending data to Facebook.

And here's the important thing to understand this data which was collected. There were kind of two kinds of data that were collected here, and one of them was, let's say, custom audiences and the other category was events, and so these data sets were not what you might be thinking. You might be thinking that what we're talking about is when someone is online and they go to a site and that site has a Facebook like button on it and they do things on that page and then they go back to Facebook and then Facebook gets that information about them. No, no, no, no, no. That is not what this data is. This is data according to the markup that is called server-to-server tracking. This is when personal data goes from a company's servers to meta, to Facebook's servers. It's not the tracking pixel data that you and I are much more aware of and that, frankly, we can block much more easily, Because with that, we can turn off that Facebook social link button or the hidden tracking pixels that exist through different types of add-ons or other means. With this, it's stuff that's happening behind the scenes, and so this server-to-server data often involves, in the case of the custom audiences data. This is, and I quote custom audiences allow advertisers to upload customer lists to meta, often including identifiers like email addresses and mobile advertising IDs. These are for the companies to just wholesale give Facebook the information about a user and then their mobile advertising IDs so that if that advertising ID pops up in different activities and different apps or different websites, then they can link that together and learn more about you.

And the other category of the data collection was called events, and this is when you do a certain thing in a certain app or in your interaction with a brand. So some of the examples that they gave were whenever you're playing a game and you level up, when you visit a page on a company's website, if you go to a physical store and use your loyalty card, if you purchase a specific product. These are specifically events that exist again kind of in the background, that let the company send all of this information to Facebook. I don't want to give away this whole piece because I really do think it's important for folks to A head to the markuporg to support them and head to Consumer Reports to learn more, but I will kind of go into a few more details here so that you get a taste and can learn a little bit more about it. So some of the biggest or the companies that most frequently occurred in the data were and the number one was a company called LiveRamp, which happens to be based in San Francisco, and LiveRamp is a huge data broker. So you might I mean it makes sense that that company is sending a lot of data to Facebook. The reason why Facebook slash meta takes and uses this data is because it gives the ability for people or companies on Facebook to advertise and to be able to direct their advertisements specifically. So I, as a Facebook advertiser, can run an ad campaign that says I only want you to advertise to people between this age and this age who live in the United States, who may have purchased a vehicle in the last 10 years, and I am advertising some sort of I don't know car care device or car cleaning device. Another frequently recurring company was, as you might imagine, amazoncom. That was the 10th in the list. Most of the top 10 were data brokers, but I was surprised to see the Home Depot coming in at number seven. Apparently, the Home Depot sends a lot of data to Facebook.

The data contains all sorts of information, as I just mentioned, and you are able to go and download your data and look into it as well. The problem is that it's kind of hard to understand. You've got to jump through some different hoops to get into it and in fact I'll read a little bit about it. I'll go to the article to get the link to this and to learn a little bit more. But it says users can either download or access their information to see the companies outside of Meta that have been sharing information. You have to select a certain tab, then another tab. You might have to reenter your password. It will show you some of these connections and then you can actually go through and disconnect. But that information can be reconnected. And of course there are opt-out options, but companies are not always required to honor those opt-outs. So it's, of course, from the markup, a piece about how we need to better understand, maybe, how companies are tracking us, but more importantly, what control we do have and what control we're led to believe we have. And I think that, secondary, that latter issue is the biggest issue. That's. The problem is that we may think that we have more control over this, but when that server-to-server data is being exchanged, you might not be aware of how that's being tracked and sent. So just something to be aware of. Head over to the markuporg. We'll, of course, include a link to the article in the show notes so you can learn more about that.

Okay, let us move along to our final interview in just a moment. Our final interview is coming up. Folks, it is time for the final interview of Tech News Weekly this week, and I want to talk about something that just happened yesterday. It was the Samsung Galaxy Unpacked event, where we expected Samsung to announce some new hardware, but maybe also announce some AI stuff, and indeed that is what we got. Joining us to talk about. This event is noted Android authority and a good pal. It's Jason Howell. Welcome to the show, jason. How's it going?

0:50:07 - Jason Howell
It's good to see you, Mikah, it's good to see you. It's good to see you. It's good to be back on the other side. It's a little bit surreal.

0:50:14 - Mikah Sargent
I have to say, whoa, the fist bumps are just not the same this way. But let's see, there we go there, we go yeah. Jason, did you watch Samsung Galaxy Unpacked?

0:50:29 - Jason Howell
Yeah, actually I very last minute was like wait a minute. Normally, when I was working at Twitter, I would be covering this. Why am I not doing that this morning? So I quickly set everything up and opened up live stream and watched the entire event.

0:50:42 - Jennifer Pattison Tuohy
Oh nice, it was a lot of fun.

0:50:44 - Jason Howell
It was enjoyable. I wish I could have been there, to be honest, In person. Yeah, exactly.

0:50:50 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, at San Jose. So I would love for the folks who didn't tune into your coverage or our coverage yesterday. Now it's the opportunity to kind of give people the breakdown of what happened. What was striking to me, and I'm hoping you can explain this, is how we really didn't learn a lot about hardware at this event and that was sort of a secondary aspect of the show. Is this common for Samsung? Does it always kind of pre-release what hardware I? Just I didn't get that. Can you explain it to me?

0:51:27 - Jason Howell
Well, I mean, you know the different years that Samsung's had its hardware announcements. It's been very different every time, right. And I think in the last couple of years we've really hit a point in mobile just in mobile phones in general where the differentiation is less and less happening on the hardware side, because the cameras are all amazing, the batteries are all very large and last longer than they ever have All of these things that used to get us really excited about the hardware when the software was struggling to kind of keep up with it. Those things have all been ironed out, and not only ironed out the price on those things has been pushed down. So we're starting to see these really great hardware advancements in the mid to even, in some cases, the lower range phones.

And right now, as you know as well as we all probably do, the this like current iteration, this current insurgents of artificial intelligence, is painting everything. Last year was a huge year for AI, and now every company feels like they've got to have a major AI play in the basket, and not only that, I mean for mobile phones in general. You're going to see Google doing this a lot as well. They're realizing that they've got to have this stuff on device and that there is a lot of wow factor potential to integrating some of this AI capability into into software in a way that actually makes us excited about mobile devices. That's what they're banking on. I think that's exactly what you saw from Samsung yesterday.

0:52:59 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, I mean that is precisely what we saw. We saw a huge focus paid on generative AI and how the company was integrating that technology into its devices. But can we, I guess can we have a breakdown maybe of what are what are going to be, what are the latest Samsung actual devices, and you know price points and that, and then we'll get into AI stuff.

0:53:30 - Jason Howell
Totally. Let's get the boring stuff out of the way. The hardware right. That's literally where we're at now. Weird, I know. My health, things change, I mean.

And the reason that it's kind of boring is because it is very samey right. Even the design of these devices looks very similar to last year's devices, say, for a few minor updates that people are plotting. But there's the S24, the Galaxy S24, the S24 plus the S24 Ultra, and those prices range from 799 on the S24 to 999 starting on the plus, to 1299 starting on the Ultra. And I mean, I've always been just a huge fan well, maybe not always, but in the last handful of years, I'd say in the last five years, especially when I get my hands on a Galaxy Ultra device, like it's a wow factor For me I've noticed that, like it really is Samsung going all out and not putting all that money into what some might consider gimmicks as far as, like, the foldable technology is concerned, but really kind of just going.

For this is your standard mobile phone on steroids. This year they've given it a flat display and that might sound kind of boring if you're outside of the Android ecosystem, but you know, there for a while the trend was the curved displays. In the beginning Everybody was like, wow, this is different, it's neat. Over time we realized that made things kind of hard to use, and especially on a display that supports the S-Pen, as the S24 Ultra does. So it's flat titanium build, so the build quality is better, a little bit thinner, you know 5000 milliamp hour battery, ray tracing capabilities and improvements. So a great gaming device with some extra additional kind of heat dissipation happening underneath the surface. I mean, if you're you know, $12.99 is a price that's a high price to pay for a smartphone in the Android world, but you're getting the best of the best. In my opinion.

0:55:18 - Mikah Sargent
Okay, yeah, I mean that's. I still think that the fact that they include the stylus of the S-Pen is such a cool thing. On that Ultra, Totally I agree. It's unique and I appreciate it. So then, moving past the boring, which is the hardware, let's get into the AI. What were you expecting the company to announce in terms of AI? Did what you saw surprise you at all, or was it all kind of in line with what you again expected? And, overall, what stood out as far as the generative AI stuff goes for you?

0:56:02 - Jason Howell
Yeah, I mean, we knew in advance, leading up to this announcement and I can't remember now off the top of my head if it was rumor or if it was stated by Samsung itself that there was this thing, this Galaxy AI, and the question there then became okay, so Samsung's doing whatever other company is going to do this year you're going to see a ton of this this year is really leaning into all the many ways that we can make your phone better with AI, be it generative, be it processing your photos, which I didn't even talk about, the cameras on the devices that's where we're at right now. That used to be a really big deal, and now cameras they're all great. So it's hard to really talk about too many advances there. It's really about the software, and I'm excited about this moment, and Samsung really dove into some of the things that potentially set it apart, I think the real time call translation. So if you're on a phone call with someone who doesn't speak the same language as you, there are 13 languages that are on the device that you can do real time translation. So I talk in my own language, it interprets that and immediately spits that out in the language of the person that I'm talking to and vice versa. That is like maybe that's not a feature that everyone has everyday use of. There are certain people that it probably does apply to like that, but I'm going to Italy this summer and that might actually be incredibly handy for me. Not only that the in-person translation being able to use your phone as that magical device that allows you to talk to people in other languages, which we have seen before but again, samsung needs to show that it's doing the things that we expect out of modern AI, and one of the things that it's very good at is transcription. It's very good at providing summaries, which this system can do on these phones, as well as that translation. These are things that we, in a very short amount of time, have learned that AI is pretty good at now, going to be amazing at in the near future, and so Samsung's got to be there.

Another thing that stood out for me was Not Assist, because I've realized, especially in the last month, as I'm trying to organize my stuff and really set up my own podcast business right now, I've got notes everywhere.

How do I organize and keep track of these things, or when I'm talking to someone, and I've got all these things that I'm writing down because I don't want to forget it, because that's how my brain works, not Assist with the S-Pen allows you to very quickly kind of organize those notes on the fly. So if I'm just chicken scratching on my screen, it can take that and it can put it into some sort of organization system key points, a bulleted out summarization, all that kind of stuff. So these are things that in everyday use are going to be incredibly, hopefully effective, but incredibly useful once we use them enough to realize that we can maybe trust them for these tasks. And I think that's kind of the challenge is getting people to use these, because Samsung has always been so feature rich when it comes to software on their devices, almost to a negative point where it's like, okay, it's noise at this point. But I think I feel like this is different and not just for Samsung, for all mobile OSs at this point.

0:59:09 - Mikah Sargent
Now, one of the features that they showed continues to be a feature that makes me roll my eyes and I'm curious about your take on it the typing into the chat or wherever you want to, and then having the device like, change the formality or make it Shakespearean, for whatever reason. Do you feel this is gimmick, or is there some use case for this that you could actually see someone using it? It just feels so insincere to me, I guess, but maybe I'm missing something.

0:59:45 - Jason Howell
No, I completely agree. I do feel like it is insincere. At the same time, I also feel like it's a natural extension of where we're at with kind of spell correct and correction, the kind of grammatical correction that's happening on these devices. It's like, oh well, we can do that. But what about this? You know, it's almost like it's almost more of a flex than it is, I think, useful. It's like see, it is capable of taking what you wrote and maybe toning it down, although there are probably people out there that are good at writing the important things but want to make it more approachable. Maybe this is a system to do that. I don't know. I'm probably not going to be using that a whole lot. I much prefer keep things in my own voice and everything and maybe have light corrections around the side, but I'm sure some people who just absolutely hate reading love seeing that. So we'll see how it is in practice.

1:00:35 - Mikah Sargent
I will say I doff give you permission to only message me in Shakespearean, but outside of that, I hope no one else uses this with me. Yeah, I hear it. I love to hear your thoughts on the huge Google presence and on stage at this event. It reminded me of when Steve Jobs said I have a special guest who's going to be joining us and then sort of gestured over in the screen, appeared with Bill Gates sort of calling in live, and I believe it was talking about?

1:01:12 - Jason Howell
Yeah, exactly Down on him menacingly.

1:01:14 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, I believe it was talking about office on the Mac at the time. That was the announcement and I may even remember there were some booze.

1:01:22 - Jason Howell
But I was definitely some size or like gaffaws from the audience.

1:01:26 - Mikah Sargent
Yes, yes, but they hear at the with Android and everything, that was not the case, google being there, and Google got a lot of time on the stage. Tell me your thoughts about that, as being someone who's paid attention to this for so long, and then, specifically, you can tell us a little bit about what Google actually announced.

1:01:43 - Jason Howell
Yeah, I mean it is interesting, and especially because I have paid such close attention to this for so long. It's interesting from the perspective of the fact that I remember a time when Google wanted to be everybody's pal, but Samsung wanted really nothing to do with Google. Samsung, you know, really for a long time, was like, ok, yeah, sure, we're using Android, but we're never even going to say the word Android on the stage because we want everyone to think that all of this is ours, mu ha ha. And then, you know, in the last handful of years, that has really changed. And now, like I had the same same reaction when I was watching this show, I was like, all right, hiroshi is on stage, it's possible he's joined them on the stage, or you know, someone high up at Google has joined Samsung on the stage of their announcements. In the past I did look that up before the show time to see if he'd been there before, but I do believe that it's notable, in combination with a few other things. You know, hiroshi announced kind of the fact that a lot, if not all, of this kind of generative AI that's happening on the device that Samsung is making a really big deal about is coming from Google right. So using Google's cloud is using Gemini, google's AI platform, and that's what they're leveraging. So the idea of Samsung kind of creating its own AI and relying upon that maybe five or seven years ago that would have been Samsung strategy. Now Samsung feels comfortable leaning into Google and using their resources to create something hopefully special on the device. Not only that, there is the nearby share, quick share kind of merging that happened like a week ago. Nearby share is essentially the has been the way on Android that you do kind of person to person file exchange, so if we're both in the same room, I can wirelessly send a file from me to you using nearby share. Samsung had their own version of that, called quick share, and it offered, you know, a few extra features that nearby share didn't, and so if you had a Samsung phone, you kind of had both, and it's really confusing. Well, google opted to, with this partnership with Samsung, bring in the nomenclature, the quick share, and bypass their own nearby share, and it's just really interesting Altogether. It really seems like Google is getting closer with Samsung through. All this Makes sense. Samsung is a huge, huge player in the smartphone world, and especially on Android number one. But what does?

I think the question that was kind of ricocheting through my mind as I was watching this yesterday on the stream is like what does this mean about Google's own ambitions, its own intentions with its hardware, if Samsung is getting closer and closer, you know? What does this mean about the pixel line? Does it mean anything? Is Google still going to kind of play both, both fields, like they have been for so long, or is there a kind of a sea change happening where Google is like you know what? That isn't our strength. Our strength is our partnerships. Our strength is getting our technologies into all these devices. Let's focus on what makes us strong, not the things that distract. That would be. That would be a lot of clarity for Google. History is saying something, but that might be a smart move. I'm not sure, and I say that as a pixel owner. I love the pixel device, but I do wonder.

1:05:01 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, I think that that would be cool. That would be cool to see. I like the pixel too. That is the not the pixel too, but the pixel also as as a primary iOS user. Pixel always made sense to me, but if it means Google, maybe you know closing, closing down fewer things, shuttering fewer things, killing fewer things, because they have more of a focused attention, that would be great. Last thing I'll ask you about is the one ring to rule them all. The ring, what, what do you think? What do you know? What have you heard? And will you be wearing one?

1:05:41 - Jason Howell
Well, I, you know there is not a whole lot to know about this other than it really kind of you know, sounds similar to like the aura ring. You know this is, this is a wearable. That's really all that Samsung revealed, except that they revealed it after spending like five minutes talking about some random announcements about Samsung health and sleep tracking and stuff like that. So if you're to use those as clues for the ring, then it actually, to be quite honest, it actually starts to make more sense to me. And why? Because, like I have the Pixel Watch too, it does sleep tracking. I never wear it for sleep tracking because I hate wear a big honking thing on my wrist when I sleep, but would I wear a ring if it could do a lot of that stuff? It's a smaller kind of I was going to say footprint, but fingerprint and you know, if it does some of this stuff, then I might be more inclined to do it.

Not only that, we're just talking about AI and this. This right now we're starting to see the early stages of companies, like the humane AI pin, that are thinking about wearables that can integrate AI the interesting, fun and useful things that we're probably going to see on smartphones in different form factors that are smaller, you know, miniaturized, different, don't, don't occupy so much physical space, but still give us the benefit of that. And maybe the ring, the galaxy ring, is a step towards that direction. I'd be really surprised if it hits on all those points right out of the gate, but maybe this is a first step for that.

1:07:12 - Mikah Sargent
Nice Well, Jason Howell, thank you so much for joining me this week. You bet Any time folks want to keep up with what you're doing online. If you have anything you want to plug, now's the time to do that.

1:07:27 - Jason Howell
Well, today's a pretty big day because I just launched a new show with Jeff Jarvis called AI inside. When I was working at it, we were workshopping this show behind the club twit walls for probably about five months and we're launching it officially. It starts next Wednesday, which is eight. Is that January 24th? I should have that memorized. Anyways, just go to AI inside dot show. We do have a Patreon, a patreoncom slash AI inside show. But yeah, I am thrilled to do a show with Jeff and to get to hang out with him every week and talk about artificial intelligence, and I'm thrilled to hop on with you today. Thank you, mike, it was fun hanging out with you.

1:08:06 - Mikah Sargent
Yeah, good to see you, good to hang out with you, good to chat and great analysis and coverage of Samsung Galaxy Unpacked. I appreciate it.

1:08:15 - Jason Howell
Thank you, mike, we'll see you all real soon.

1:08:17 - Mikah Sargent
Bye, all righty folks. Tech News Weekly publishes every Thursday at twittv slash T N W. That is where you can go to subscribe to the show in audio and video formats. If you'd like to get all of our shows ad free, well, there's a way to do that. And, of course, to get that warm fuzzy feeling in your heart because you are supporting what we do here at twit, that's by joining club twit at twittv slash club twit for $7 a month or $84 a year. You out there can join the club and when you do, you get every single twit show with no ads. It's just the content all of our shows that are published outside of the club, and you will also get some special club twit shows, which I'll talk about in a moment. You get access to the twit plus bonus fee that has extra content you won't find anywhere else behind the scenes before the show, after the show and special club events get published there, like our recent escape room in a box and access to the members only discord server, a fun place to go to chat with your fellow club members and also those of us here at twit. Along with all of that at twittv slash club twit for $7 a month, $84 a year.

You gain access to a number of club twit shows. There's the untitled Linux show. There is hands on windows, which is, as you might imagine, a show that covers windows tips and tricks from Paul Therat. There's hands on Mac, which is a show from yours truly that covers Apple tips and tricks, and home theater geeks from Scott Wilkinson, which is a show all about the home theater. That's reviews, interviews, questions answered. And iOS today from Rose Mary Orchard and yours truly, which is all about iOS. Folks, thank you for being members of club twit. Thank you for tuning in to this episode. If you'd like to follow me online, I'm at Mikah Sargent on many social media network where you can add to chiwawacoffee. That's CHI H-U-A, h-u-acoffee, where I've got links to the places I am most active online. Thanks for your time and I'll see you again next week for another episode of Tech News Weekly. Bye-bye.

1:10:21 - Jason Howell
Ah, you're going to leave me hanging.

1:10:27 - Jonathan Bennett
Hey, we should talk Linux. It's the operating system that runs the internet, but your game console, cell phones and maybe even the machine on your desk. Did you already know all that? What you may not know is that TWiT now has a show dedicated to it, the Untitled Linux Show. Whether you're a Linux pro, a burgeoning sysad man or just curious what the big deal is, you should join us on the Club twit discord every Saturday afternoon for news analysis and tips to sharpen your Linux skills. And then make sure you subscribe to the Club TWiT exclusive Untitled Linux Show. Wait, you're not a club twit member yet. We'll go to and sign up. Hope to see you there.

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