The new iPhones are in stores now. With their release, the 2019 tech buying season has officially begun. 

Facebook released its fall hardware lineup on Wednesday, and Roku updated its streaming player offeringsThursday. 

Meanwhile, Amazon is set for this upcoming Wednesday, and Google and Microsoft have October events lined up.

Nuking a muffin in the AmazonBasics Microwave. (Photo: Edward C. baig)

Here’s the latest: 

Amazon. The e-tailer will host press next week at its Seattle headquarters, where the company is expected to introduce several new Amazon Echo speakers and other products. Last year, Amazon unveiled 75 of them at the event, including a microwave that answered to the Alexa personal assistant, a low-priced DVR for cord-cutters and updates to the Echo line. This year, new Echos, and perhaps “a toaster oven?” suggests Bret Kinsella, the editor of Voicebot.AI, a blog that covers voice computing. “That and an Alexa coffeemaker wouldn’t surprise me,” he says. He has one more prediction: an Alexa earbud of some sorts. Amazon missed out on mobile phones, and this would be another way to get Amazon into our mobile heads, he says. 

Microsoft. On Oct. 2, the company meets the press in New York, where it’s expected to show off new versions of the Surface laptop/tablet hybrid. 

Google. The search giant’s event is slated for Oct. 15, also in New York, where it’s expected to unveil the updated Pixel phone, the successor to last year’s Pixel 3, as well as new Nest and Home speakers. The company this week began shipping the Nest Hub Max, a connected video display unit/digital photo frame that is bigger (10 inches versus 7 inches) and pricier ($229 versus $129) than its predecessor launched last year. It also has a new name. Google Home Hub was the original moniker. 

Roku. The new Ultra streaming player ($99.99) introduced this week, has an updated processor and increased memory that launches most favorite channels as much as 17% faster, according to the company. 

Facebook. The social network looks to follow up last year’s Portal video chat device with updates, plus Portal TV, a $149 device that plugs into the TV to bring video-chatting to the biggest screen in the house. There’s also a less expensive Portal, now at $179, with a 10-inch screen, a “mini” $129 version at 8 inches. The TV unit begins shipping Nov. 1, the others on Oct. 15.    

The iPhone 11. (Photo: Apple)

The iPhone is traditionally the best-selling tech product of the year, averaging over 200 million units for the last several years. Amazon said its Echo Dot was the best-selling tech product of 2018. Other big sellers include TV sets, which are generally announced in January at the CES tech show, and then brought to market in the spring. 

Vizio, Samsung, LG and Sony recently introduced new sets that communicate, for the first time, with Apple’s AirPlay system, to bring content off iPhones onto the living room TVs. 

And in case you were wondering, “Black Friday,” and the start of heavy discounts for tech gear, is less than 70 days away. 

Get out your digital wallets, everyone!

In other tech news this week

ICYMI: Apple updated its iOS operating system to version 13, released a new smartwatch, the Apple Watch, 5th edition, and three new iPhones, the 11, 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max. It also spent $400 to trademark the term “slofie,” for its new slow-motion selfie trick on the new phones. 

Video games to get MTV treatment in new esports network. The Video Game Entertainment & News Network (VENN) set to debut next year, aims to be an online video home for esports and game culture. VENN will be available as an app on streaming and mobile devices, and with channels on current video game and esports destinations such as Twitch and YouTube. 

Amazon flipped the switch for Amazon Music HD, offering higher resolution music streaming. The cost is an extra $5 monthly on top of regular Prime Music charges, bringing the total to $12.99 monthly if you’re a Prime member. 

An East Coast cable operator began offering the best deal in wireless – just $20 a month if you subscribe to Optimum or Suddenlink servce, or $30 if you don’t, with unlimited data, talk and text. That’s the good news. The bad: It’s available only in 21 states. 

This week’s Talking Tech podcasts

Echo Auto is not ready for drive time

Google Nest Hub Max review

Talking Alexa

Open Path looks to replace badges

Part 2: Open Path user experience 


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