Android

Motorola Unveils the Moto Z2 Force, a Smartphone With Double the Cameras and a Shatterproof Screen (theverge.com) 41

Motorola has announced a new flagship smartphone that will be available on every major U.S. carrier. Some of the noteworthy specifications include a nearly indestructible screen and dual rear-facing camera sensors. The Verge reports: The Moto Z2 Force is the closest thing to a flagship phone that Motorola has released this year, and it's got all the hardware specs to show for it: inside is Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. It runs Android 7.1 with a promised upgrade to Android O to come. That's all standard fare for an expensive 2017 smartphone, and the Z2 Force is certainly expensive at around $720. It's priced even higher on some carriers like AT&T ($810). This version is much thinner than last year's phone, but that sleek design comes with a significant sacrifice in battery capacity; the Z2 Force has a 2,730mAh battery compared to the 3,500mAh battery in the old Moto Z Force. Between this and the Moto Z2 Play, Motorola sure does seem obsessed with slimming things down lately, and what are we gaining? Oh, there's no headphone jack on this thing either. Be prepared to go wireless or live the dongle life.
Transportation

Uber Takes Inspiration From Its Indian Rival, Plans To Introduce an Infotainment System in Its Cars In the Country (ndtv.com) 20

Reader manishs writes: Uber is taking a page out of Ola's playbook as it pushes to expand business in India, its largest overseas market. Months after its Indian rival introduced its 'connected platform' called Ola Play, Uber is set to launch its own infotainment system across several of its cab tiers in the country, people familiar with the matter have told Gadgets 360. The company began testing its infotainment system -- an Android tablet that comes loaded with a range of services -- in select cities in the country earlier this year. The ride-hailing service now plans to install the tablet on several of its premium cabs including its Uber X fleet, and make it available for passengers in select circles later this year, people said. Uber has been inviting select drivers in New Delhi and other cities to install an HD screen-enabled tablet, according to a source and two drivers who spoke on the condition of anonymity. This is the first time Uber is planning to bring an actual tablet to its cabs in any of the markets where it operates. The company currently offers Uber Trip Experiences in select markets where it lets passengers consume a range of services using their own phone.
Android

Samsung's 'Bixby' Voice Assistant Finally Launches In US (theverge.com) 40

After 3 months, Samsung announced that the voice capabilities of its digital assistant are now rolling out to U.S. Galaxy S8 and S8+ owners. Now, if you happen to own a Galaxy S8 or S8+, the physical Bixby button on the lefthand side of your phone will be able to actually do something somewhat useful. The Verge reports: Bixby's voice capabilities have been available in the US as part of an opt-in beta test, and Samsung says that feedback has led to faster response times, improved comprehension of varied phrasing around the same question, better hands-free operation, and more. Over 100,000 users of the flagship devices have enrolled in the early access program and issued over 4 million voice commands. Also, Samsung says Bixby can now read aloud your latest SMS messages and emails -- if you use its stock apps on the Galaxy S8. Bixby can be activated with a push of the dedicated Bixby button located on the side of the Galaxy S8 and S8+, or by saying "hi Bixby." Like Siri and Google Assistant, Bixby can handle alarms, send texts, and so on, but its real power lies in the ability to access granular phone settings or -- in supported apps -- automatically move through several menu screens to perform commands that Google Assistant simply can't do. Samsung says that deep learning should allow Bixby to improve over time as it begins to recognize users' preferences and ways of speaking. Here's a video showing some of the voice commands Bixby can respond to.
Businesses

Avast Now Owns CCleaner After Acquiring Piriform (betanews.com) 101

An anonymous reader writes: Security firm Avast has acquired software firm Piriform. Not only does the acquired company make CCleaner, but many other solid programs too. In fact, the rest of Piriform's library -- Recuva, Speccy, and Defraggler -- are staples of the Windows freeware community. "CCleaner is a leading brand in the market, used by 130 million people, including 15 million Android users. CCleaner has an extensive and extremely loyal community of tech-savvy users, who need to speed up and optimize their PC and Android experience. Avast will maintain the CCleaner brand of products along with Avast's existing performance optimization products, Avast Cleanup and AVG Tune Up. With the addition of CCleaner, Avast has dramatically expanded its product offerings in the PC and smartphone optimization market reaching customers around the world who demand faster performance," says Avast. Vince Steckler, CEO of Avast explains, "We see many commonalities between CCleaner and Avast, allowing for great new products for our user bases. Avast and CCleaner are the top two downloaded products on popular download sites. They are both known by advanced users as focused on performance, so we believe there will be a great interest from our CCleaner customers in using Avast security products and vice versa. In today's connected world, it's all about speed and high performance, and with Piriform's robust technology we can address this need perfectly. We look forward to working with the Piriform team to grow the business together."
Android

Android Backdoor 'GhostCtrl' Can Silently Record Your Audio, Video and More (neowin.net) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: A new strain of malware designed for Android devices has recently been discovered, which not only can silently record audio and video, but can also monitor texts and calls, modify files, and ultimately spawn ransomware. Dubbed as 'GhostCtrl' by researchers over at Trend Micro, the malware is apparently a variant of OmniRAT, a remote administration tool for Android, which is available to the public. It also appears to be part of a wider campaign that targeted Israeli hospitals, where a worm called RETADUP surfaced back in June. According to the report, there are three versions of the malicious software. The first variant stole information and controlled a device's functionalities, while the second added new features to exploit. The third one combines all the features of the old versions, and adds even more malicious components into its system. The latest iteration of GhostCtrl can now monitor call logs, text messages, contacts, phone numbers, location, and browsing history. Furthermore, it has the ability to record the victim's Android version, battery level, and Bluetooth information. To make make matters worse, it can now also spy on unsuspecting victims by silently recording audio and video. The malware distributes itself via illegitimate apps for WhatsApp or Pokemon GO. Trend Micro suggests you keep your Android devices up to date and data backed up regularly. They also recommend using an app reputation system that can detect suspicious and malicious apps.
Android

Some OnePlus 5s Are Reportedly Rebooting After Dialing 911 (theverge.com) 59

The OnePlus 5, dubbed "the best sub-$500 phone you can buy" when it launched, is having a few problems. Earlier this month, some owners of the new device complained about a weird jelly-like effect that appears when scrolling through apps. OnePlus went on to claim that the effect is normal and not the result of any manufacturing issues. Now, a handful of users are reporting that the OnePlus 5 will reboot itself once 911 is called, preventing them from reaching emergency services. The Verge reports: Reddit user Nick Morrelli noticed the glitch after he tried to call 911 to report a building fire in Seattle, and other users have reported that the OnePlus 5 is unable to dial 911 (or 999 in the UK, as another user reported) without rebooting. While most users haven't reported having the issue, any percentage of devices not being able to reach emergency services is a major issue for OnePlus. In a statement to The Verge, OnePlus says it's looking into the problem. "We have contacted the customer and are currently looking into the issue. We ask anyone experiencing a similar situation to contact us at support@oneplus.net."
Businesses

Apple's Risky Balancing Act With the Next iPhone (macworld.com) 136

Long time columnist Jason Snell: As there always are at this time of year, there are lots of rumors out there about what the next iPhone will be. This year we're hearing that Apple is going to release a high-priced, next-generation phone in addition to the expected iPhone 7s and iPhone 7s Plus models. [...] By most accounts, Apple's next-generation iPhone will offer a similar design. But also, by many accounts, Apple is struggling to create that product -- and when it arrives, it may be expensive, late to ship, and supply constrained. This is one of those areas where Apple may be the victim of its own success. The iPhone is so popular a product that Apple can't include any technology or source any part if it can't be made more than 200 million times a year. If the supplier of a cutting-edge part Apple wants can only provide the company with 50 million per year, it simply can't be used in the iPhone. Apple sells too many, too fast. Contrast that to Apple's competition. On the smaller end, former Android chief Andy Rubin announced the Essential phone, but even Rubin admitted that he'd only be able to sell in thousands, not millions. Same for the RED Hydrogen One -- groundbreaking phone, hardly likely to sell in any volume. The Google Pixel looks like it's in the one million range. Apple's biggest competitor, Samsung, has to deal with a scale more similar to Apple's -- but it's still only expected to sell 50 or 60 million units of the flagship Galaxy S8.
Android

End of the Line For Remix OS as Jide Shifts Its Energy Towards the Enterprise (neowin.net) 30

An anonymous reader shares a report: It was only in July last year that Remix OS, an Android-based operating system for PCs, was bumped up to Version 3.0, which featured Android 6.0 Marshmallow under the hood. In fact, news of the upgrade came hot on the heels of an announcement from Chuwi with regards to the release of its $239 Vi10 Plus tablet that dual-booted Remix OS and Windows 10. A little over a month later, Jide Technology then followed up with a "developer preview" of the OS leveraging Android 7.0 Nougat. However, after a somewhat brief period of existence of just a few years, the company has announced that it is shifting its focus away from the consumer segment to the enterprise. In a statement on its website, Jide stated that: "Over the past year, we received an increasing number of inquiries from enterprises in various industries, and began helping them build great tools for their organizations by leveraging Jide software and hardware. We see huge potential in the role that Jide can play to revolutionize how these businesses operate. And given our existing resources, we decided to focus our company efforts solely on the enterprise space moving forward."
Android

HTC Keyboard Ads Likely an Error, But Damage is Already Done (androidcentral.com) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: Ads in the stock keyboard app on a flagship smartphone added quietly via an app update, which then asks you to pay to remove them. You'd be hard pressed to come up with a more comically villainous thing for a phone manufacturer, or app developer, to pull on its users. Yet that's what's been happening to some HTC phone owners over the past day. HTC 10 owners seem to be worst affected (we're not seeing it on the newer U11 for what it's worth), with the ad bar taking up a good chunk of screen real estate. There's understandable outrage among HTC owners whose phones have started coughing up ads every time they open the keyboard. The consensus, obviously, is that this is not an OK place for ads to be appearing. In a statement, HTC said it was an error, and a fix is underway.
Communications

Amazon May Unveil Its Own Messaging App (engadget.com) 87

The messaging app field is as hot as ever with Apple, Facebook and Google (among others) slugging it out... and Amazon appears to want in on the action. From a report: AFTVnews claims to have customer survey info revealing that Amazon is working on Anytime, a messaging app for Android, iOS and the desktop that promises a few twists on the usual formula. It has mainstays like message encryption, video, voice and (of course) stickers, but it reportedly has a few hooks that would make it easy to sign up and participate in group chats. You would only need a name to reach out to someone, for one thing -- no WhatsApp-style dependence on phone numbers here. You only have to use Twitter-style @ mentions to bring people into conversations or share photos, and you can color-code chats to identify the most important ones. Naturally, there are app-like functions (such as group music listening and food ordering) and promises of chatting with businesses for shopping or customer service.
Android

Windows Phone Dies Today (theverge.com) 233

From a report: Microsoft is killing off Windows Phone 8.1 support today, more than three years after the company first introduced the update. The end of support marks an end to the Windows Phone era, and the millions of devices still running the operating system. While most have accepted that the death of Windows Phone occurred more than a year ago, AdDuplex estimates that nearly 80 percent of all Windows-powered phones are still running Windows Phone 7, Windows Phone 8, or Windows Phone 8.1. All of these handsets are now officially unsupported, and only 20 percent of all Windows phones are running the latest Windows 10 Mobile OS.
Cellphones

RED Launches a $1,200 Smartphone With a 'Hydrogen Holographic Display' (phonedog.com) 76

RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, is launching a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Some of the features include a 5.7-inch "Hydrogen holographic display" capable of viewing holographic RED Hydrogen 4-View content, 3D content, and 2D/3D virtual-reality and augmented-reality content, a built-in H3O algorithm that can convert stereo sound into multi-dimensional audio, and support for modular components. PhoneDog reports: RED isn't really talking about any of the Hydrogen One's raw specs like its processor, camera resolution, RAM, or battery size. We do know that it runs Android and that it'll have a microSD slot, and we can see in RED's sole teaser image that the phone will also have a 3.5mm headphone jack and USB Type-C port. The RED Hydrogen One is currently slated to begin shipping in Q1 2018. If you're already sold on the device, you can pre-order an aluminum model for $1,195 or a titanium version of $1,595. RED does say that these prices will be available for a limited time only.
Communications

Skype Users Slam Microsoft's Attempt To Infuse App With Social Media Magic (theregister.co.uk) 145

Last month Skype announced a major update to its messaging and video calling app. The update brought a visual revamp, as well as "social features" such as Highlights that were first introduced by Snapchat. At any rate, it turns out, people are not enjoying the update as much as Microsoft had hoped. From a report: Reviews of the Android and iOS versions of the app have been mostly terrible, and those posted to the Windows App Store have not been much better. Chief among the issues is that the redesign imagines Skype as a youth-oriented social media app along the lines of Instagram or Snapchat, rather than a staid business communications tool. "This new app is absolutely terrible," observes an individual posting to Google Play under the name Kulli Kelder. "Skype is mostly used by people for professional use or for connecting with friends far away. This looks as far from simple and professional as it can be. Skype does NOT need to be Snapchat ." The Skype team clearly has a different view of its work. "We think it's the best Skype we've ever built -- inside and out -- and it's been designed to make it easier for you to use for your everyday communications," the company said last month. A few individuals have expressed similar enthusiasm, but among those reviewing the most recent update, one-star ratings dominate. Of the 20 most-recent reviews posted to the iTunes App Store, 19 out of 20 award one star out of five. The other is two stars.
EU

Google May Face Another Record EU Fine, This Time Over Android (itwire.com) 192

troublemaker_23 shares a report from ITWire: The EU is contemplating another record fine against Google over how it pays and limits mobile phone providers who use the search company's Android mobile operating system and app store. Reuters reported that a decision could be expected by the end of the year if the opinion of a team of experts, set up by the EU to obtain a second opinion, agree with the decisions reached by the team that has worked on the case. The report quoted Richard Windsor, an independent financial analyst, as saying that the Android fine was likely to hurt Google more than the search fine or the verdict in a third EU probe over AdSense. "If Google was forced to unbundle Google Play from its other Digital Life services, handset makers and operators would be free to set whatever they like by default potentially triggering a decline in the usage of Google's services," he said.

In the chargesheet, issued on April 20, 2016, the European Commission said Google had breached EU anti-trust rules by:
-Requiring manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and requiring them to set Google Search as default search service on their devices, as a condition to license certain Google proprietary apps;
-Preventing manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code;
-Giving financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

Google

Google Photos 3.0 Released, Bringing Smarter Sharing, Suggestions and Shared Libraries (techcrunch.com) 54

Google is rolling out Google Photos 3.0, which features an AI-powered Suggested Sharing feature along with Shared Libraries, "both of which are designed to make the Google Photos app a more social experience, rather than just a personal collection of photo memories," reports TechCrunch. From the report: With the addition of Suggested Sharing, Google Photos will now prompt you to share photos you took by pushing an alert to your smartphone. The feature will identify people in the photos using facial recognition technology and machine learning, which helps it understand who you typically share photos with, among other things. It also looks at the photos you've taken at a particular location, before organizing them in a ready-to-share album by selecting the best shots (e.g., removing blurry or dark photos). You can edit the album if you choose, then share with the people the app suggests, remove suggestions, or add others. Even if your friends or family doesn't use Google Photos, you can share by sending them a link via text or email. A second feature called Shared Libraries is designed more for use with families or significant others. This lets you either share your entire photo collection with someone else, or you can configure it to share only selected photos -- for example, photos of your children.
Google

Google Slapped With $2.7 Billion By EU For Skewing Searches (bloomberg.com) 362

Google suffered a major regulatory blow on Tuesday after European antitrust officials fined the search giant 2.4 billion euros, or $2.7 billion, for unfairly favoring some of its own search services over those of rivals. The European Commission concluded that the search giant abused its near-monopoly in online search to "give illegal advantage" to its own Shopping service. Margrethe Vestager, the EU's competition commissioner, said Google "denied other companies the chance to compete" and left consumers without "genuine choice." The hefty fine marks the latest chapter in a lengthy standoff between Europe and Google, which also faces two separate charges under the region's competition rules related to Android, its popular mobile software, and to some of its advertising products. From a report: Google has 90 days to "stop its illegal conduct" and give equal treatment to rival price-comparison services, according to a binding order from the European Commission on Tuesday. It's up to Google to choose how it does this and it must tell the EU within 60 days of its plans. Failure to comply brings a risk of fines of up to 5 percent of its daily revenue. [...] "I expect the Commission now to swiftly conclude the other two ongoing investigations against Google," Markus Ferber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany. "Unfortunately, the Google case also illustrates that competition cases tend to drag on for far too long before they are eventually resolved. In a fast-moving digital economy this means often enough that market abuse actually pays off and the abuser succeeds in eliminating the competition." Google has been pushing its own comparison shopping service since 2008, systematically giving it prominent placement when people search for an item, the EU said. Rival comparison sites usually only appear on page four of search results, effectively denying them a massive audience as the first page attracts 95 percent of all clicks. In a blog post, Google said the EU has "underestimated" the value Google's services brings to the table. "We believe the European Commission's online shopping decision underestimates the value of those kinds of fast and easy connections. While some comparison shopping sites naturally want Google to show them more prominently, our data show that people usually prefer links that take them directly to the products they want, not to websites where they have to repeat their searches. We think our current shopping results are useful and are a much-improved version of the text-only ads we showed a decade ago. Showing ads that include pictures, ratings, and prices benefits us, our advertisers, and most of all, our users. And we show them only when your feedback tells us they are relevant. Thousands of European merchants use these ads to compete with larger companies like Amazon and eBay. [...] Given the evidence, we respectfully disagree with the conclusions announced today. We will review the Commission's decision in detail as we consider an appeal, and we look forward to continuing to make our case," wrote Kent Walker, SVP and General Counsel at Google.
Hardware

Survey Says: Raspberry Pi Still Rules, But X86 SBCs Have Made Gains (linuxgizmos.com) 82

DeviceGuru writes: Results from LinuxGizmos.com's annual hacker-friendly single board computer survey are in, and not surprisingly, the Raspberry Pi 3 is the most desired maker SBC by a 4-to-1 margin. In other trends: x86 SBCs and Linux/Arduino hybrids have trended upwards. The site's popular hacker SBC survey polled 1,705 survey respondents and asked for their first, second, and third favorite SBCs from a curated list of 98 community oriented, Linux- and Android-capable boards. Spreadsheets comparing all 98 SBCs' specs and listing their survey vote tallies are available in freely downloadable Google Docs.
Other interesting findings:
  • "A Raspberry Pi SBC has won in all four of our annual surveys, but never by such a high margin."
  • The second-highest ranked board -- behind the Raspberry Pi 3 -- was the Raspberry Pi Zero W.
  • "The Raspberry Pi's success came despite the fact that it offers some of the weakest open source hardware support in terms of open specifications. This, however, matches up with our survey responses about buying criteria, which ranks open source software support and community over open hardware support."
  • "Despite the accelerating Raspberry Pi juggernaut, there's still plenty of experimentation going on with new board models, and to a lesser extent, new board projects."

Iphone

Virgin Mobile Becomes World's First iPhone-Exclusive Carrier, Offers Year of Service For $1 (betanews.com) 99

BrianFagioli quotes a report via BetaNews: Goodness gracious, Virgin Mobile USA has made quite the bold moves today. The cellular service provider has become the world's first iPhone-exclusive carrier. In other words, it will no longer offer Android at all. Crazy, right? This is through a partnership with Apple, and Virgin will offer many versions of the device, including iPhone 6, 6S, 7, and SE. The craziness doesn't stop there, however, as there is even something much more exciting -- Virgin Mobile USA is offering unlimited talk, text and data for a dollar. No, that is not a typo -- a single buck will get you unlimited everything for up to a year! This is through a new scheme called "Inner Circle."
Android

Mozilla Launches Privacy-Minded 'Firefox Focus' Browser For Android (venturebeat.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for Android. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Google Play. Because Google isn't as strict as Apple, Android users can set Firefox Focus as their default browser. There are many use cases for wanting to browse the web without being tracked, but Mozilla offers a common example: reading articles via apps "like Facebook." On iOS, Firefox Focus is basically just a web view with tracking protection. On Android, Firefox Focus is the same, with a few additional features (which are still "under consideration" for iOS):
  • Ad tracker counter -- Lists the number of ads that are blocked per site while using the app.
  • Disable tracker blocker -- For sites that are not loading correctly, you can disable the tracker blocker to fix the issues.
  • Notification reminder -- When Firefox Focus is running in the background, a notification will remind you so you can easily tap to erase your browsing history.

Android

OnePlus 5, 'The Best Sub-$500 Phone You Can Buy', Launched (arstechnica.com) 174

From an ArsTechnica article: Smartphone companies don't seem to care about cultivating a true "lineup" of phones. If you aren't spending at least $650, most companies will offer you anonymous, second-rate devices that seem like they've had no thought put into them. Enter the OnePlus 5, which continues the company's tradition of offering an all-business, high-end smartphone for a great price. Today OnePlus is both announcing the OnePlus 5 and lifting the review embargo on the device, which we've had for about two weeks now. $479 gets you an aluminum-clad pocket computer with a 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 SoC, 6GB of RAM, 64GB of storage, and a 3,300mAh battery. You still get OnePlus' physical 3-way alert switch, a USB-C port, capacitive buttons with a front-mounted fingerprint reader, and a headphone jack. The phone has two cameras on the back: one 16MP main camera and one 20MP telephoto camera, arranged in the most iPhone-y way possible. Besides the $479 version, there's a more expensive $539 version, which ups the RAM from 6GB to a whopping 8GB, adds another 64GB of storage for a total of 128GB, and changes the color from "Slate Grey" to "Midnight Black." Further reading: OnePlus 5 review: as fast and smooth as Google Pixel, without the price tag - The Guardian; OnePlus 5 review: the me-too phone - The Verge; OnePlus 5 Review - Wired.

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