GM Drops Infotainment Apps from EVs

Automakers have never made decent infotainment systems for their cars. Toyota tried forcing its own navigation and entertainment system on buyers some eight years ago and had to relent after two years. Now, GM is planning to drop Apple CarPlay and Android Auto in its electric vehicles, partly because they believe it will be too confusing for salespeople to explain how to use the apps. Seriously? Maybe they should train their sales reps beter.


According to reports on a recent survey by J.D. Power, only 56 percent of owners prefer to use their vehicle’s built-in system to play audio. That’s down from 70 percent in 2020. Less than half of owners said they like using their car’s native controls for navigation, voice recognition, or to make phone calls.

That makes a lot of sense to us and likely to you. Our clients are relatively comfortable with technology and have spent years compiling your music lists, contact lists, and key addresses for destinations. You travel a lot, which means you rent cars. Why would you ever want something that’s not portable? Additional surveys back up that point.

Car manufacturers have been notoriously awful in creating the technology that mirrors what we have on our phones. But it seems like people are warming up to systems developed by Google. JD Power found that models with Android Automotive with Google Automotive’s operating system, AAOS, “score higher in the infotainment category than those with no AAOS whatsoever.”

However, AAOS without Google Automotive Services (GAS) receives the lowest scores for infotainment. GAS refers to all the apps and services that come with the car when Google is built into the vehicle — also known as “Google built-in.” Ford, GM, and Volvo have said they will use GAS for their current and upcoming vehicles. Some Stellantis vehicles use Android Automotive but partner with other tech companies, such as Amazon for their app services.

That should make GM happy after deciding to block access to CarPlay and Android Auto in favor of a native Google infotainment system. If people like cars with GAS, or Google built-in, it could influence a buying decision.

Still, we would prefer to have the choice of using our cell phones for our music playlists and for driving directions. Our phones work better and can be updated more often and more efficiently. For us, the jury is still out, although two things could change our minds:

  1. Will infotainment software updates be included in regular updates from the auto manufacturer – or updated on the fly?
  2. Will the auto manufacturers provide connectivity where there’s no cellular service?

If you’re considering an EV that won’t accommodate CarPlay or Android Automotive, we can discuss the pros and cons of the decision. We can also help you set up Apple CarPlay or Android Automotive with your new or existing vehicles – EV, hybrids, or gas-powered. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

iPhone 15: Silly Little Millimeters; Serious New Performance

The bezels are down to 1.5mm from 2.2mm, and displays for the new iPhone 15 Max and Pro will use a new technology called low-injection pressure over-molding, or LIPO. The Lightning port is out, USB-C is in for greater speed, and the new A17 Bionic chip will be in the Max and Pro models. We’re talking about some serious performance upgrades.

Industry pundits are calling this Apple’s most significant iPhone upgrade since the iPhone X, especially with the camera for the iPhone 15 Pro. While everything is still in the realm of speculation, the iPhone 15 could have a periscope camera. That’s a camera design that allows for much longer-range zoom than smartphones are otherwise capable of, going from the 3x optical zoom of the iPhone 13 Pro to potentially up to 10x or beyond. Apple is not saying which models will have the camera, but the company will be playing catchup. A number of Android phones – such as the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra – already have one, with optical zoom ranges of up to 10x. While it’s not a must-have feature for most people, you could take decent-quality photos of things you can’t get close to, and that could be a welcome option for those not wishing to carry large DSLR cameras.

We talked about the advantages of the USB-C port last month for speed and flexibility. One respected iPhone analyst believes the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra will get USB-C ports that support data transfer speeds of up to either 20Gbps or 40Gbps, up from just 480Mbps on current iPhones. While USB-C isn’t a data standard, several types of USB-C cables exist, including USB 2.0, 3.0, and Thunderbolt 4. You’ll need to look at speed rates for each of them.

The iPhone 15 Pro and Max will have the world’s first 3nm chip — the A17 Bionic. It should enable Apple to claim the title of the world’s fastest phone once again and be more efficient, resulting in longer battery life. For comparison, the iPhone 14 Pro Max was already the best phone battery-life device, lasting over 13.5 hours in some tests. We’re curious to see how the iPhone 15 Pro and Pro Max perform.

One other improvement should be the replacement of the stainless-steel sides with titanium. It’s not only lighter, but much stronger. Speaking of the sides, a new action button should replace the old ringer/mute switch, enabling users to perform all sorts of shortcuts with just a press.

We should know more about all the new features, a release date, and prices at the Sept. 12 Apple Event. If that happens, preordering will start the following Friday, Sept. 15, and availability should begin the next Friday, Sept. 22. the price range looks like $749 to $1299.

If you have any questions about which new iPhone would best fit your needs and budget, we’re here to talk about it with you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us for an appointment.

Manage Your Email to Avoid a Scam

As more businesses are bought and merged, it’s more important than ever to pay attention to email accounts for all the entities involved. We’re finding “sleeper agents” hiding in neglected accounts, and they’re waking up to bite hard.

In a recent case, a client bought a business a few years ago and set up a number of special email accounts to help manage the transition and keep tabs on things going forward. The only problem is that going forward, they did not monitor those emails – and the account – so they didn’t realize their system was compromised.

They did notice irregular financial dealings in a bank account, and they went to the bank to change the account and the associated online password. But the person who had infiltrated their system still had access to all the email notifications, rendering each system fix ineffective. It took some heart-to-heart conversations with our client to get to the root of the problem and then fix it.

We needed strong passwords on every online and email account they had, but with a mole inside the system, that wasn’t enough. There are two more steps you need to take to tighten your system.

The first step is to set up two-factor authentication (2FA) for every account. Yes, it is a pain to wait to complete a secondary step, but it works. We find a text connected to a cell phone is effective because whoever is accessing the account has the cell phone nearby, and you know the verification code is going to the right person. The chances of the text message being intercepted are extremely remote.

The second step is to manage your email more effectively – and that calls for more than just checking it frequently. Whether it’s at the office or home, many email accounts have – or can have – a secondary email associated with each account. Please don’t leave it blank. That’s the door a hacker uses to get in. When you change the password, go into the profile for the user and reset or start using the secondary email account. At the same time, reset the rules for managing each account. The hackers had email forwarded to an account they could monitor, which let them stay up to date on all the changes our client made.

For both online and email accounts, you need to check each user’s profile information regularly. That’s where we can help. We can check or tell you where to look to see if anyone has electronically “jimmied” open a window to your system and help you take more protective measures. As businesses and consumers, we depend more and more on electronic payment systems to pay our bills and have our invoices paid accurately and on a timely basis.

Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your concerns and to schedule an assessment and a remediation plan – if needed. It’s your money, and if a scammer gets it, you likely will never get it back.

New Device, Same You, New Problem

You’re still the same person you always were, but when you get a new device, you’re a different person as far as some login procedures are concerned. You need to get back to basics in setting up account access. It’s a more acute problem as we do more work outside the office.

We recently got a call from a client who had trouble logging into a work system through a VPN with two-factor authentication (2FA). Nobody had changed any of the login information, so it was all baffling until the client mentioned they had a new phone.

Another client called because they couldn’t get into their email. Again, they had a new phone.

These incidents highlight the good and the bad of multiple authentication steps. The good is that they’re based on the device being used to verify the right of the person to access an account. That means a hacker halfway around the world can’t use their computer to get in. The bad is that you have to take the time to reconfigure all your access info. (Hey, we’re really sorry for the inconvenience.)

Because both cases involved clients with new cell phones, we had to invalidate their old cell phones. We registered one client as a new user and registered a new cell phone number for the other. These are essential steps everyone needs to remember to take as you get new devices.

And because all the 2FA steps in common use are tied to devices, it’s a good idea to make sure your devices require some extra steps to unlock them. Many people use a four- or six-digit PIN, and more people are going to biometrics. While nothing is impossible, even if someone knows your online login info and has your device, they can’t access your accounts if they can’t unlock the device.

If you or your employees are getting new devices, we can help you make sure that they have access to email and online accounts and protect them from unauthorized users. The process isn’t difficult, but it does involve diligence to check all the boxes in the setup process. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us if you have questions or need help in going through the process.

iPhone Falling in Line on USB-C

Apple will finally join the rest of the world in switching to USB-C cables for charging iPhones. What pushed them over the line, and what does it mean for you?

In a nutshell, European regulators pushed Apple over the line. The European Union is a large market, and that market includes countries that are geographically close to EU members, even if they’re not members. The regulators are looking at standardizing all types of battery charging systems to reduce the number of cords and charging devices people use to cut waste. If you can use one cord (charger) for multiple devices, fewer cords and chargers will wind up in landfills after they’re worn out and discarded.

Most of the device world has gone to USB-C cords and chargers, and Apple is under pressure to ditch its Lightning cords. Rumors abound that Apple’s new iPhone – iPhone 15 is next in line for an introduction sometime this year – will have a USB-C port.

The EU’s regulations will go into effect next year, and it’s possible that Apple will only make USB-C ports available only in Europe. But that doesn’t make any business sense. We can figure on it being a reality.

So what will it mean for you as a user?

Most likely it will be speed. One respected iPhone analyst believes the iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Ultra will get USB-C ports that support data transfer speeds of up to either 20Gbps or 40Gbps, up from just 480Mbps on current iPhones. While USB-C isn’t a data standard, several types of USB-C cables exist, including USB 2.0, 3.0, and Thunderbolt 4. You’ll need to look at speed rates for each of them.

You’ll also get faster charging times. Apple’s phones currently max out at 20W charging speeds, while USB offers up to 240W. Few phones offer more than 50W charging, but Apple is still lagging behind the more recent Samsung Galaxy phones, which can charge at 45W. Access to faster charging speeds can be a significant upgrade and allow Apple to stay more competitive going forward.

USB-C also unlocks better support for accessories, including external storage, hubs and docs, external displays, keyboards, mice, etc. While all these things are already available on iPads, adding enhanced connectivity to the iPhone through USB-C will give you more choice and flexibility on how they use your phones.

You’ll be able to use the same charger that powers other devices, like your MacBook laptop or iPad, to charge your iPhone, and there’s a broad accessory ecosystem for USB-C. It’s been standard on most electronics, including many other Apple products, for the better part of the last decade. In all likelihood, this also will mean you’ll no longer feel tied to Apple-approved chargers, giving you more flexibility to shop around. The rumor mill reports that many device and charging system manufacturers will produce units to meet Apple’s standards.

Want to add one more twist? There have long been rumors that Apple has been developing a port-free iPhone, which would eliminate all cords. The entire smartphone industry shifted to Qi wireless charging several years ago, Apple included, so wireless chargers are compatible across platforms.

As you all know, we like new technology, and faster data transfer speeds may be something you justifiably need. We can help you determine if the change to USB-C is a game-changer for you. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to talk about your needs.

Where is Technology Going?

Apple just introduced Apple Vision Pro, and it’s as revolutionary as anything we’ve ever seen. In short, it’s a set of goggles that can immerse you in a totally new environment, and it makes Apple’s innovations like the mouse, click wheel (iPod,) and multi-touch (iPhone) seem primitive by comparison. See for yourself how immersive it is, and then step back into reality. Will technology be a tool or a controlling force?

The technical term for Apple’s new technology is spatial computing, and their promotional video will give you a sensual rush. The technology behind the mouse, iPod, and iPhone changed how we looked at computing and forced other technology companies to step up their games, too. In our eyes, Apple has upped the ante again with a quantum leap in technology that will open unimaginable vistas to the public – once we get over the $3,499 price tag and once the price drops.

So what, in essence, is spatial computing? In this case, using Apple Vision goggles and technology enables you to use your eyes, hands and even thoughts to create a screen in front of you that’s as big as you want it to be (larger than life, if you like) and open and use apps as you would from an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer.

While that might be great for editing photos or videos or really zooming in on a map or satellite view of a place you’re going to visit, just think of what it would be like to watch a movie or sporting event in your kitchen or on an airplane. It can become a totally immersive experience. Likewise, think of what it can do for teams of surgeons or infrastructure repair technicians who need the same detailed visual information to complete delicate tasks in tight places. They can take this technology right to where they’re working.

One of the features that separates Apple Vision from VR (virtual reality) goggles is that you’ll still be able to see the space you physically inhabit, such as the room you’re in, and people will be able to see you. That helps for collaborative efforts professionally, and it doesn’t seem as isolating on a personal level.

However, it’s yet another move away from face-to-face human interaction, and that’s what’s bothering us. We already sit in rooms together, each of us busy with our cell phones. If we’re talking about something, at least one of us is consulting the internet to answer a question, provide more information, or order a pizza for delivery. The smartphone is an extension of each of us.

Where will it go with Apple Vision? Will we sit in the same room – and even look at the same things – but still be in our own little VR cocoons? Will we sit in conference rooms and look at the same presentation through our own set of goggles? That will totally defeat the benefits of eye contact and body language in learning some fine points that go into the decision-making process.

We know that’s taking an extreme view, but technology seems to remove more and more human interaction from every transaction. How often have you called a business’s customer service department and gone through exasperating menus before getting a human being to help you solve a problem in a few short minutes? More automation, it seems, makes our experiences more complicated and time-consuming.

Personally, I don’t like where we’re heading with technology. AI and chats don’t do it for me. We still need human interaction. What are your thoughts? Leave a comment.

Security and Relationships

May 23 started out like a quiet day, but one phone call created a two-day scramble to quell a crisis. The solution included working around an unresponsive bank, rapidly deploying technology tools, and cashing in the benefits of good working relationships. It was the stuff of a thriller novel.

It had been a couple of very tough weeks. Your special agent/tech guy (me) was at the carwash when the cell phone rang. A client reported $140,000 was missing. It had been wired out of an account that day, and they couldn’t get anyone from their bank to respond to their phone calls.

“Hmm,” the special agent/tech guy thought, “$140,000 can cover the detailing work for several fleets of Corvettes,” but reality took hold. He couldn’t wait for them to clean his car’s interior. He jumped behind the wheel and headed for his client’s office.

With $140,000 missing and nobody at the bank picking up the phone, we found the police already involved in the case. We quickly realized there would be no telephone solution to the problem, and it took us until the early evening to solve this problem. The good news is that we were able to reverse the wire transfer all on our own after trying for hours to get phone support.

Here are the facts – just the facts, ma’am.

Obviously, our client’s system was hacked. It was a complicated case because it involved the email of an employee in the finance department who had just left the company. That’s one reason why the police were involved. There was no criminal activity, but there was a lot of sloppiness.

The hackers got into the former employee’s email account and saw that one password opened up a lot of doors in the company’s financial system. They reset the account’s password, created a new account that they could use to “approve” new transactions, and used it for the $140,000 wire transfer.

However, they made one mistake: They forgot to turn off forwarding in the account they hacked, and that’s how they were discovered. Our client had done the right thing by having the ex-employee’s email forwarded, and they created a special rule so that all the emails went into a separate folder. Several people monitored that folder periodically, and as soon as one of them saw the emails, the alarm went off. In most cases, this kind of wire fraud isn’t discovered for days, and the money is lost.

Our client was able to freeze their account immediately online, but they still had outstanding checks on that account. That matter also needed immediate attention.

So, the special agent/tech guy took advantage of a good relationship with another bank, which is also a client, first thing the next morning. He jumped in his car. The interior was still dirty. He drove to the bank, where he was able to help his other client open a new account and get checks they could print immediately to replace those outstanding in the frozen account.

But his work wasn’t done. The victimized client had resisted instituting multifactor authentication for all financial transactions. So, the rest of the day was spent instituting a two-factor authentication system and training everyone in its use.

We like to think the goodwill we’d built up with both clients helped one client get out of a hole and another gain a new customer. But it all could have been prevented with better passwords and an authentication system. Don’t wait for a disaster to strike. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your online security and the steps we can take to improve it.

Sharing Your Photographic Memory

We love to share photos and videos of the cool places we visit and things we do, and it’s easier than ever to do it and preserve your images while you’re still traveling. Here are some things to focus on.

If we don’t use our phones as our primary travel camera, we use a digital camera that records our images on SD cards. If we want to post some of our pictures to social media, such as Facebook or Instagram, or put them in an email or text, we need to get that image from the camera to a device that can connect to the internet. There are lots of ways to do it, and for the most part, they’re pretty simple processes. But remember that not all cameras are created equal.

Experienced users of DSLRs (digital single-lens reflex cameras) know, for example, that major brands such as Canon, Nikon, Olympus, and Sony have proprietary systems for how their lenses interface with their cameras’ electronics. The more automated point-and-shoot digital cameras, which work similarly to cellphone cameras, also have differences based on their manufacturers. Most differences come in how you transfer your photos from the camera to a device that can access the internet for social media sharing.

Apps to transfer photos from cameras to phones are manufacturer-specific. Canon has Camera Direct, Nikon has SnapBridge, Olympus has OM Image Share, and Sony has Imaging Edge Mobile. All work with Apple iOS and Android phones; just go to your friendly OS app store to download the app and follow the directions to pair your camera and phone.

The best thing about all these apps is that you can have them transfer photos to the phone almost as soon as you take them so you can share them immediately on social media. More important, transferring your photos from your camera will get them into the cloud so that you’ll have the images if something happens to your camera. The manufacturers all have their own storage sites, and if you shoot RAW files (a complete, uncompressed digital negative), you have the option to save them on those sites. You can also shoot and save RAW files on newer smartphones. The key is to make sure you specify in all transfer settings that you want to keep them as RAW files. The default is to save them as jpg files.

However you save your photo files, today’s smartphones have some basic editing functions to help you improve the exposure and crop the picture before you send it.

If you’re above the basic level of on-phone photo editing, you can add people to a photo, as one of our car club colleagues recently did. Two key people were unavailable for a group photo, so someone with a smartphone camera took a picture of those who were there. He then took separate pictures of the two others, positioning one at each side of where the group photo was taken. He used the software on his phone to copy and paste them into the group picture. For our purposes, it was the perfect solution.

If you want to go beyond photo sharing on social media, you still need to get your photo files onto a device with photo editing software. You can use USB cables to connect your camera to your computer or a card reader that connects through a USB port. If your camera and computer both have the ports, you can also use HDMI cables.

If your camera doesn’t have the capability to work with a transfer app, you can also get a card reader that can connect directly to your phone through a Lightning connector (iPhone, iPad) or USB-C (Android phone or tablet). Whatever solution you wind up using, the cost should be less than $50.

If you have any questions about configuring your equipment to transfer your photos to the cloud or another device, call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us, and we should be able to answer your questions or walk you through the process.

The 2FA Police

Microsoft is enforcing requirements for 2FA (two-factor authentication) for many of its apps. The good news is that it protects your data better. The bad news is that you must use authenticator codes and messages. It’s time to ensure everyone in your office (or family for home users) is up to speed on using authenticators and other 2FA measures.

Microsoft’s Authenticator App gets downloaded onto your iPhone or Android phone and helps to verify it’s you when you log in to an online account using two-step or two-factor verification. It uses a second step, such as a code sent to your phone, to make it harder for others to break into your account. Two-step verification helps you use your accounts more securely because passwords can be forgotten, stolen, or compromised.

One common way to use the Authenticator app is through 2FA, where one of the factors is your password. After you sign in using your username and password, you can either approve a notification or enter a provided verification code. Options include:

  • Signing in by phone with a version of two-factor verification that lets you sign in without requiring a password. It uses your username and your mobile device with your fingerprint, face, or PIN.
  • Using a code generator for any other accounts that support authenticator apps.
  • Using it with any account that uses 2FA and supports the time-based one-time password (TOTP) standards.

Any organization can require using the Authenticator app to sign in and access its data and documents. Even if your username appears in the app, the account isn’t set up as a verification method until you complete the registration. The entire process can be done more efficiently with a mobile phone that can scan a QR code on a computer screen.

Remember that most authenticator apps still require a password in commercial use, and every user must know their password or risk being locked out. The consequences can be time-consuming and costly – if not fatal. Everyone should write their passwords on a piece of paper and store them in a safe place.

We had a case with a client who used a customized database that was never upgraded for 20 years. A former IT company did the last work on it. Nobody had the password to get into the account housing the database. They suggested calling the programmer, but the programmer had died. Nobody admitted to changing the password at any time. We spent a few hours trying to access the database to no avail. Finally, we called the former IT company, and they had a password for one file.

That was the password that worked, and we were able to perform the necessary work. But we can’t stop thinking about all the time – and money – that was wasted because nobody had a password.

In today’s world of hacking and cybercrime, it will become more and more challenging to try multiple passwords without severe consequences. It’s up to you to ensure that you and key employees have all your necessary passwords and 2FA to protect your data – and to insist that your employees have 2FA set up for their corporate login info.

We can help you ensure you have all the correct authentication and management systems. Call us – 973-433-6676 – or email us to discuss your needs and develop an action plan.