Cellphones

Modular Smartphones Could Be Reused As Computer Clusters 80

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-your-own dept.
itwbennett writes The promise of modular smartphones like Google's Project Ara is that buyers will be able to upgrade components at will — and now Finnish company Circular Devices has come up with a use for discarded computing modules, which they're calling Puzzlecluster. Drawings of the Puzzlecluster architecture show a chassis with slots for the reused modules, which can then be interconnected with others to create the cluster. Just one unit could also be used as a desktop computer."
Google

Google Explains Why WebView Vulnerability Will Go Unpatched On Android 4.3 535

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-patch-for-you dept.
MojoKid writes If you're running Android 4.3 or earlier, you're pretty much out of luck when it comes to a baked-in defense against a WebView vulnerability that was discovered earlier this month by security analyst Tod Beardsley. The vulnerability leaves millions of users open to attack from hackers that choose to exploit the security hole. WebView is a core component of the Android operating system that renders web pages. The good news is that the version of WebView included in Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop is based on Chromium and is not affected by the vulnerability. The bad news is that those running Android 4.3 and earlier are wide open, which means that 60 percent of Android users (or nearly one billion customers) are affected. What's most interesting is that Google has no trouble tossing grenades at the feet of Microsoft and Apple courtesy of its Project Zero program, but doesn't seem to have the resources to fix a vulnerability that affects a substantial portion of the Android user base.
Communications

For New Yorkers, Cablevision Introduces a Wi-Fi-Centric VoiP Network 42

Posted by timothy
from the they'll-take-manhattan dept.
The New York Times reports that Cablevision Systems plans to announce on Monday the start of a low-cost mobile phone service that will use Wi-Fi for connectivity rather than standard cellular networks, the first such service to be introduced by a cable operator. Called Freewheel, the service will offer unlimited data, talking and texting worldwide for $29.95 a month, or $9.95 a month for Cablevision’s Optimum Online customers — a steep discount compared with standard offerings from traditional cellular carriers. Freewheel customers initially must use a specific Motorola Moto G smartphone, which is being sold for $99.95. The service goes on sale next month, and no annual contract is required. (Reuters carries a similar story.)
Operating Systems

Could Tizen Be the Next Android? 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the yes-no-maybe dept.
MollsEisley writes: Right now, Tizen is still somewhat half-baked, which is why you shouldn't expect to see a high-end Tizen smartphone hit your local carrier for a while yet, but Samsung's priorities could change rapidly. If Tizen development speeds up a bit, the OS could become a stand-in for Android on entry-level and mid-range Samsung phones and eventually take over Samsung's entire smartphone (and tablet) lineup.
Power

Microsoft Researchers Use Light Beams To Charge Smartphones 65

Posted by samzenpus
from the power-up dept.
angry tapir writes A group of Microsoft researchers has built a prototype charger for smartphones that can scan a room until it locates a mobile device compatible with the system and then charge the handset using a light beam. The researchers say they can achieve efficiency comparable to conventional wired phone chargers. The biggest barrier? Smartphones don't (yet) come with solar panels attached.
Communications

FCC May Permit Robocalls To Cell Phones -- If They Are Calling a Wrong Number 217

Posted by timothy
from the all-numbers-will-be-wrong-numbers dept.
An anonymous reader writes There have been plenty of false rumors about cell phones being opened up to telemarketers, but now the FCC is actually considering it. From the article: "Consumers have long had the support of government to try to control these calls, chiefly through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which actually allows consumers to file lawsuits and collect penalties from companies that pepper them with robocalls or text messages they didn't agree to receive. But now the Federal Communications Commission is considering relaxing a key rule and allowing businesses to call or text your cellphones without authorization if they say they called a wrong number. The banking industry and collections industry are pushing for the change." In one case recently, AT&T called one person 53 times after he told them they had a wrong number...and ended up paying $45 million to settle the case. Around 40 million phone numbers are "recycled" each year in the U.S. Twice, I've had to dump a number and get a new one because I was getting so many debt collection calls looking for someone else. Apparently the FCC commissioners may not be aware of the magnitude of the "wrong number" debt collection calls and aren't aware that lots of people still have per-minute phone plans. Anyone can file comments on this proposal with the FCC.
Advertising

Micromax Remotely Installing Unwanted Apps and Showing Ads 50

Posted by timothy
from the what-will-you-tolerate dept.
jones_supa (887896) writes "Reports are coming in that users of certain devices by Indian phone manufacturer Micromax noticed apps being silently installed without their consent or permission. Uninstalling these apps won't help, as they will be automatically reinstalled. Alternatively, instead of downloading apps, the phone might litter the UI with stack of notifications which are advertisements for online stores and other apps. It turns out that the "System Update" application is responsible for all of this. When starting to tear down the application (which is actually called FWUpgrade.apk on the filesystem), the first thing you notice is that it's a third-party application. A Chinese company named Adups developed it as a replacement for the stock Google OTA service. The article shows the potential abilities of this app and how Micromax customers can work around the disruptive behavior."
Software

'Be My Eyes' App Crowdsources Help For the Blind 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the is-this-a-rabid-wolverine-chewing-on-my-leg? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A new not-for-profit app, Be My Eyes, aims to help the visually-impaired by connecting them with volunteer users who can support them in their daily lives via live video calls. Once downloaded, Be My Eyes asks the user to identify as blind or sighted, to see if you require help or are offering it. When a blind person requests assistance the app scans the system for an available volunteer. The blind user connects with the volunteer over a video call and points to the item they would like described. Be My Eyes was created by Hans Jørgen Wiberg, a visually-impaired entrepreneur, at a startup event. Wiberg teamed up with Robocat, the Danish software studio behind Haze and Thermo, to make his vision a reality.
Cellphones

Samsung Launches Tizen Phone In India 35

Posted by samzenpus
from the check-it-out dept.
puddingebola notes that Samsung's first smartphones powered by its Tizen operating system have gone on sale in India. "After plenty of speculation and an abort launch in Russia last year, Samsung has finally managed to release its first phone powered by the Tizen operating system. The Samsung Z1 is coming to India initially, where it is available to buy for 5,700 INR — that’s around $92 — from today. The Z1 is an affordable device, both in price and specs. It packs a four-inch WVGA PLS screen, and is powered by a 1.2 GHz dual-core processor and 768 MB RAM. There’s a 3.1-megapixel camera on the rear, and a limited VGA camera on the front. The phone runs version 2.3 of the Tizen operating system, and comes with 4GB of on-device storage which can be expanded by up to 64GB via a micro SD card. It supports dual SIMs, as is commonplace with devices in India."
Cellphones

Ars: Samsung Gear VR Is Today's Best Virtual Reality 74

Posted by Soulskill
from the jury-still-out-on-today's-best-actual-reality dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung took a distinctly different tack from Oculus VR in developing virtual reality tech. Whereas Oculus has a dedicated device, Samsung simply has a high-tech piece of headgear that you strap a Galaxy Note 4 phone into. A review popped up at Ars Technica after a month using the device, and they say it works surprisingly well. Quoting: "Though the weight of the two units is comparable, the Gear VR benefits from a strap system that distributes that weight on the upper forehead and the back of the skull rather than through an elastic death grip around the eye area."

They still say a purchase is hard to justify, simply because the content selection is lacking. But as that improves, the price tag will become worth it. "Simple, minimally interactive virtual reality experiences like The Deep, BluVR, and Titans of Space have become go-to apps when passing the Gear VR around a party for friends to check out. It's incredible just sitting in place and following along with your gaze as sea life or entire planets fly by in sharp, well-rendered, 360-degree glory."
Cellphones

The Fire Phone Debacle and What It Means For Amazon's Future 155

Posted by Soulskill
from the an-internet-of-fire-things dept.
HughPickens.com points out an article at Fast Company that dug into the creation of Amazon's floundering Fire Phone to figure out why the company pushed so hard to bring it to market. The piece is an indictment of Jeff Bezos's determination to make the Fire Phone into a competitor for an already-saturated high-end smartphone market. "This wasn't some vague guideline from an executive busy running other parts of the business; based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former employees, most of whom were deeply involved with the project, the CEO drove every aspect of the phone’s creation from the outset."

Now that Amazon's growth is slowing and profits have yet to be seen, investors and analysts have run out of patience for gambles like this one. "What makes the Fire Phone a particularly troubling adventure, however, is that Amazon’s CEO seemingly lost track of the essential driver of his company’s brand. It’s understandable that Bezos would want to give Amazon a premium shine, but to focus on a high-end product, instead of the kind of service that has always distinguished the company, proved misguided."
Microsoft

Microsoft Unveils Nokia 215, a $29 Phone With Internet Access 150

Posted by samzenpus
from the lowering-the-price dept.
An anonymous reader sends word of the Nokia 215, Microsoft's $29 internet-ready phone. "Smartphones may be more affordable than ever, but, for quite a few people, they are still too expensive. And they offer short battery life, pretty much across the board. It is not a winning combination, especially for those living in developing markets, looking to be connected to the Internet while on the go. Enter Nokia 215, a dirt-cheap Internet-ready phone, which Microsoft announced earlier today. It packs some of the most-important features people want in a smartphone, but without any of the major drawbacks. The software giant calls it its "most affordable Internet-ready entry-level phone yet", costing just $29."
Software

What Isn't There an App For? 421

Posted by Soulskill
from the surviving-a-walrus-attack dept.
An anonymous reader writes: "There's an app for that!" It's been both an educational comment and a joke for years, now. There are so many small, single-purpose pieces of software available that it's impossible to keep track of everything apps can do. Indeed, when I'm looking for more usefulness out of my phone, I tend to browse the various app stores for interesting software, trying to figure out what more the phone can do for me. But a recent article turns that around and asks: for what tasks does the software have yet to be written? Though most of the article itself doesn't focus on that subject, it got me thinking about apps I'd like to see. (Which was harder than I expected.) I'd like an app that'd help me diagnose bad noises my car makes. I'd like one that can aggregate all my communication channels into one screen. I'd like one that can easily pick up program states from one PC — like an IDE session — and carry them to another PC. What apps are you still waiting for?
Businesses

Pew Survey: Tech Increases Productivity, But Also Time Spent Working 82

Posted by Soulskill
from the one-step-forward-two-steps-back dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A survey of American workers conducted by the Pew Research Center found that email was their most indispensable tool, topping even broad access to the internet. 46% of workers say their productivity has increased thanks to email, the internet, and cell phones, while only 7% say those technologies have caused it to decrease. While many workers say technology has created a more flexible work schedule, they also say it has increased the total amount of hours they spend working. Almost half of the surveyed employees say their employer either forbids or explicitly blocks access to certain websites at the office. How have these technologies affected your work environment?
Cellphones

Samsung To Discontinue Galaxy Alpha For Cheaper Galaxy A5 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
An anonymous reader writes that Samsung is giving up on their Galaxy Alpha smartphones. "Samsung will reportedly stop producing the metal-clad Galaxy Alpha early next year, and instead position the Galaxy A5 smartphone as its replacement. According to a report, with the launch of Galaxy A5 in South Korea - which can be as early as mid-January and as late as early February - Samsung will phase out production of the Galaxy Alpha once the current inventory of materials is exhausted for the smartphone, reported Korean publication ET News on Friday."
Cellphones

High Speed DIY M&M Sorting Machine Uses iPhone Brain 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the solving-tasty-problems dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Canoe Tech reports that M&M sorting machines are a popular project for people who like combining electronics, programming and machine building. Most of them send a single M&M down a chute to a simple color sensor where the color sensor will then take a second or two to figure out the color. A servo motor will then rotate a chute that will direct the M&M into the correct pot. But a new project created by the nameless blogger behind the reviewmylife blog that uses an iPhone 5s as its brain is capable of sensing different colors and so can "sort" the M&Ms as they fall past. The iPhone communicates the information via Bluetooth to an Arduino board, which in turn fires off the correct electro magnet controlled gate. One practical application of the sorter could be creating a bowl of M&Ms — with all the brown ones removed.
Cellphones

Kodak-Branded Smartphones On the Way 94

Posted by samzenpus
from the shake-to-call dept.
An anonymous reader sends news about Kodak's latest attempt to come back from the grave. "For a while there it looked like Kodak's moment had come and gone, but the past few months have seen the imaging icon fight back from the brink of irrelevance. Now the company's planning to push a Kodak-branded smartphone, and thankfully it's not going to sue everyone in the business along the way this time. To be clear, Kodak won't actually make its own devices — instead, it's going to farm out most of the development work to an English company called Bullitt."
Google

Google+ Will Make Your Videos Look Better 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the won't-fix-your-awkward-breathing-into-the-microphone dept.
ErnieKey writes: A new Google+ feature for uploaded videos has been released that automatically enhances lighting, color, and stability. Soon, it'll also enhance speech in videos. "As more and more people now also take videos with their smartphones, it makes sense for Google to bring some of the technologies it has developed for photos (and YouTube) to these private videos, as well. Google has long offered a similar feature for YouTube users, so there is likely some overlap between the two systems here. While YouTube offers the option to 'auto-fix' videos, though, it doesn't automatically prompt its users to do this for them. YouTube also offers a number of manual tools for changing contrast, saturation and color temperature that Google+ doesn’t currently offer."
Cellphones

T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills 51

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you-wanted-honesty dept.
itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.
Security

Researchers Discover SS7 Flaw, Allowing Total Access To Any Cell Phone, Anywhere 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the just-in-case-you-were-feeling-safe-and-secure-today dept.
krakman writes: Researchers discovered security flaws in SS7 that allow listening to private phone calls and intercepting text messages on a potentially massive scale – even when cellular networks are using the most advanced encryption now available. The flaws, to be reported at a hacker conference in Hamburg this month, are actually functions built into SS7 for other purposes – such as keeping calls connected as users speed down highways, switching from cell tower to cell tower – that hackers can repurpose for surveillance because of the lax security on the network. It is thought that these flaws were used for bugging German Chancellor Angela's Merkel's phone.

Those skilled at the housekeeping functions built into SS7 can locate callers anywhere in the world, listen to calls as they happen or record hundreds of encrypted calls and texts at a time for later decryption (Google translation of German original). There is also potential to defraud users and cellular carriers by using SS7 functions, the researchers say. This is another result of security being considered only after the fact, as opposed to being part of the initial design.