The Pepsi P1 Smartphone Takes Consumer Lock-In Beyond the App ( 142

An anonymous reader writes: On the 20th of October Pepsi will launch its own smartphone in China. The P1 is not just a cowling brand, but a custom-made device running Android 5.1 and costing approximately $205. At that price it's almost a burner, but even so it represents new possibilities for a brand to truly control the digital space for its eager consumers in a period where mobile content-blocking is becoming a marketing obstruction, and where there is increasing resistance on Google's part to allow publishers to push web-users from the internet to 'the app'.

Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 159

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.

Windows Phone Store Increasingly Targeted With Fake Mobile Apps 90

An anonymous reader writes: A post by security company Avast says not only are a large amount of fake apps available from the third-party marketplace of the Windows Phone Store, but they also remain available for quite a while despite negative comments and other flags from end-users. Avast speculates that improved security and auditing procedures at rival stores such as Google Play account for the increasing attention that fake app-publishers are giving to the Windows phone app market.

Motorola Marketed the Moto E 2015 On Promise of Updates, Stops After 219 Days 123

An anonymous reader writes: Over the past few years, Motorola has emerged as one of the best manufacturers for low-to-mid-range Android phones. Unlike many other major manufacturers, they keep their version of Android close to stock in order to keep OS updates flowing more easily. When they began marketing the Moto E 2015, updates were one of the features they trumpeted the loudest. But after the company published a list of devices that will continue to get updates, Android Police found the Moto E to be conspicuously absent. The phone launched on February 25, a mere 219 days ago. According to an official Motorola marketing video from launch day, "...we won't forget about you, and we'll make sure your Moto E stays up to date after you buy it."

Sprint To Begin Layoffs, Cut $2.5 Billion In Expenses 55

An anonymous reader writes: Sprint's struggles to remain a major carrier continue. Just a few days after announcing that it is dropping out of a major low-band spectrum auction, the company now says it must cut between $2 billion and $2.5 billion in costs over the next six months. The cuts will need to be aggressive — according to the Wall Street Journal (paywalled), Sprint "had $7.5 billion in operating expenses during the three months ended June 30," even as it cut $1.5 billion over the past year. The only good news for Sprint is that its subscriber base is still slowly growing, though not quickly enough to keep pace with T-Mobile, let alone Verizon or AT&T.

The Real Cost of Mobile Ads 117

New submitter cvdwl writes: A New York Times (mildly paywalled) article and associated analysis discuss the consumer cost of mobile ads, assuming a US$0.01/MB data plan. The article provides one of the only estimates I've seen of the the real cost in time and money (and time is money) of mobile advertising. Ethics of ad-blockers aside, this highlights the hidden costs of data-heavy (often lazy and poorly developed) web-design. In a nutshell, the worst sites took 10-30s load 10-20MB, costing $0.15-0.40, over 4G due to a blizzard of video, heavy images, and occasionally just massive scripts. The best sites had high content to ad ratios, typically loading 1-3MB of content and >500kB of advertising.

Google Shows Off 2 New Nexus Phones, a New Pixel, and More 208

Two of the products officially unveiled at Google's much-anticipated (at least much-hyped) release announcement were widely and correctly predicted: a pair of new Nexus phones. The flagship is the all-metal Huawei 6P, with a 5.7" AMOLED display (2,560x1,440), 3GB of RAM, and a Snapdragon 810 chip. The Huawei overshadows the nonetheless respectable second offering, the LG-made Nexus 5X, which makes concessions in the form of less RAM (2GB instead of the 6P's 3), smaller battery (2700mAh, instead of 3450) and a lesser Snapdragon chip inside (808, rather than 810). Both phones, though, come with USB-C and with a big upgrade for a line of phones not generally praised for its cameras: a large-pixel 12.3-megapixel Sony camera sensor. Much less predicted: Google announced a new bearer for the Pixel name, after its line of high-end Chromebooks; today's entrant is a tablet, not running Chrome, and it's running Android rather than Chrome OS. The Pixel C tablet will debut sometime later this year; google touts it as "the first Android tablet built end-to-end by Google." Also on the agenda today, news that Android 6 will start hitting Nexus devices next week.

iPhone 6s's A9 Processor Racks Up Impressive Benchmarks 213

MojoKid writes: Underneath the hood of Apple's new iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus models is a new custom designed System-on-Chip (SoC) that Apple has dubbed its A9 processor. It's a 64-bit chip that, according to Apple, is the most advanced ever built for any smartphone, and that's just one of many claims coming out of Cupertino. Apple is also claiming a level of gaming performance on par with dedicated game consoles and with a graphics engine that's 90 percent faster than the previous generation. For compute chores, Apple says the A9 chip improves overall CPU performance by up to 70 percent. These performance promises come without divulging too much about the physical makeup of the A9, though in testing its dual-core SoC does seem to compete well with the likes of Samsung's octal-core Exynos chips found in the Galaxy S6 line. Further, in intial graphics benchmark testing, the A9 also leads the pack in mosts tests, sometimes by a healthy margin, even besting Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 in tests like 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited.

South Korea's "Smart Sheriff" Nanny App Puts Children At Risk 54

Starting in April, the South Korean government required that cellphones sold to anyone below the age of 19 be equipped with approved monitoring software that would allow the user's parents to monitor their phone use, report their location, and more. Now, however, researchers have discovered that one of the most popular of the approved apps, called Smart Sheriff, may not actually be very smart to have on one's phone. Researchers from Citizen Lab and Cure53, at the request of the Open Technology Fund, have analyzed the code of Smart Sheriff, and found that it actually endangers, rather than protects, the users. Reports the Associated Press, in a story carried by the Houston Chronicle: Children's phone numbers, birth dates, web browsing history and other personal data were being sent across the Internet unencrypted, making them easy to intercept. Authentication weaknesses meant Smart Sheriff could easily be hijacked, turned off or tricked into sending bogus alerts to parents. Even worse, they found that many weaknesses could be exploited at scale, meaning that thousands or even all of the app's 380,000 users could be compromised at once.

Google Releases Open Source Plans For Cardboard V2 Virtual Reality Viewer 26

An anonymous reader writes: After revealing an improved version of Cardboard, the super-low cost virtual reality smartphone adapter, Google has now also freely released the detailed design documents, encouraging people to use them for projects ranging from DIY fun to full blown manufacturing. The v2 version of Cardboard is easier to assemble, has larger lenses, a universal input button, and is bigger overall to support larger phones.

Ask Slashdot: What To Do About Android Malware? 191

An anonymous reader writes: What's your approach to detecting and dealing with Android malware? I have a fairly new, fairly fancy phone running Android Lollipop, the recently degraded performance of which leads me to believe that it's infected with malware. That, and a friend who noticed a lot of strange activity coming from my phone's IP — sorry, I don't have the logs, but he pointed out that there were pings coming from my phone to a lot of sketchy addresses — which pretty much seals the deal. There have been lots of stories lately about Android malware that remind me of the old saw about weather: everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. However, that can't be completely true, and before I reach a phone crisis, I'd like to get some sane, sage advice about diagnosing malware, and disposing of it, or at least mitigating its damage. When it comes to diagnosing, I don't know what software to trust. I've heard positive things from friends (and seen both positive reviews and terrible negative ones, raising even more meta questions about trust) about Malwarebytes, so I installed their mobile version. This dutifully scans my system, and reports no errors and malware. Which doesn't mean there isn't any, though I'd be happy to find out that I'm just being paranoid. The OS is stock (Motorola Nexus 6) and kept up to date. I have only very conventional apps, all downloaded from Google's Play store, and believe it or not I don't visit any dodgy websites on my phone, at least not intentionally. So: what's the most reliable way to get an accurate view of whether I am dealing with malware at all, and hopefully to eradicate it? Good malware hides well, I know, but is there any tool on the side of the righteous that is currently best at rooting it out? If I find a specific form of malware on my phone, how can I remove it?

Purdue 'HUSH' Tool Promises 16% Battery Life Gain For Wasteful Android Phones 80

MojoKid writes: Researchers from Purdue University have developed a software tool for Android smartphones that purportedly slows down battery drain when handsets enter a sleep state. With the software tool installed, the researchers claim that smartphone battery life can be extended by nearly 16 percent. Called "HUSH," the software solution was developed in response to what the researchers say is the first large-scale study of smartphone energy drain occurring from everyday use by consumers. According to their research, apps drain 28.9 percent of battery power while the screen is turned off. HUSH dynamically identifies app background activities that it deems aren't useful to the user experience on a per-app basis and suppresses those apps when the screen is turned off.
Input Devices

Using a Smartphone As a Virtual Reality Controller 13

New submitter mutherhacker writes: A group from Osaka University in Japan and McMaster University in Canada have presented a method to control a virtual 3D object using a smartphone [video]. The method was primarily designed for presentations but also applies to virtual reality using a head mounted display, gaming or even quadrocopter control. There is an open paper online as well as a git repository for both the client and the server. The client smartphone communicates with the main computer over the network with TUIO for touch and Google protocol buffers for orientation sensor data.

Amazon Stops Selling Fire Phone 80

An anonymous reader writes: Last June Amazon announced their Fire Phone, an Android device packed with interesting but questionably useful tech that left reviewers unimpressed. Now, just a few weeks after big layoffs in Amazon's Fire Phone division, the phone has gone out of stock globally and seems unlikely to return. GeekWire says it's "an indication that they've finally exhausted their supply and they don't have plans to manufacture anymore."

Proposed MAC Sniffing Dongle Intended To Help Recover Stolen Electronics 120

An anonymous reader writes to say that an Iowa City police officer is developing a new concept to help police find more stolen property. The Gazette has a short report that officer David Schwindt, inspired by a forensics class, is working on L8NT, a specialized wireless dongle to help police officers locate stolen electronics (any of them with wireless capabilities and a MAC address, at least) by scanning for MAC addresses associated with stolen goods. The idea is to have police scan as they drive for these MAC entries, and match them against a database. The article notes a few shortcomings in this concept, but does not point out an even bigger one: MAC addresses are usually mutable, anyhow, in a way that's not as obvious as an obscured serial number, and thieves could refine their business model by automating the change.

Microsoft Killing Off Nokia's Windows Phone Apps 77

jfruh writes: As Nokia's smartphone division becomes more fully absorbed into Microsoft, the company is cleaning house and ending some apps and services that Nokia had developed specifically for Windows Phone. Lumia Storyteller, Lumia Beamer, Photobeamer, and Lumia Refocus are photo and video apps that integrate with online services, and those services will be shutting down on October 30. Microsoft says its to better commit resources to work on the mobile version of Windows 10, which is coming soon, but not all the features of the canceled services will appear in the new OS.

20+ Chinese Android Smartphones Models Come With Pre-Installed Malware 74

An anonymous reader writes: Security researchers from G DATA have published research (PDF) into Android phones produced in China, which found that a large number of devices ship with pre-installed malware and spyware. Affected models include the Xiaomi MI3, Huawei G510, Lenovo S860, Alps A24, Alps 809T, Alps H9001, Alps 2206, Alps PrimuxZeta, Alps N3, Alps ZP100, Alps 709, Alps GQ2002, Alps N9389, Android P8, ConCorde SmartPhone6500, DJC touchtalk, ITOUCH, NoName S806i, SESONN N9500, SESONN P8, Xido X1111, Star N9500, Star N8000 and IceFox Razor. The researchers do not believe the manufacturers are responsible for the malware; rather, they suspect middlemen within distribution channels. "According to G DATA, the contamination of these smartphones is done by hiding malware as add-on code in legitimate apps. Since users don't usually interact with the malware and the add-on runs in the app's background, unless using a mobile antivirus solution, these infections are rarely discovered."

Sony Unveils Smartphone With 4K Screen 117

An anonymous reader writes: Sony has taken the wraps off its new Xperia Z5 Premium smartphone, which has a 5.5" display that operates at 4k resolution. "The company acknowledged that there was still a limited amount of professional content available in 4K — which provides about four times the number of pixels as 1080p high definition video. But it said the Z5 Premium would upscale videos streamed from YouTube and Netflix to take advantage of the display." Sony's answer to the obvious battery concerns raised by such a pixel-dense (808 ppi) screen was to use a 3,430 mAh battery and memory-on-display technology. The video upscaling can also be turned off to decrease battery drain.

Smartphone Malware Planted In Popular Apps Pre-sale 42

An anonymous reader writes with news from The Stack that makes it a little harder to scoff at malware on phones as being largely the fruit of dodgy sideloaded software, game cracks, et cetera. They report that even phones marketed as brand new, from well-known brands like Lenovo and Xiaomi, have been tampered with and "infected prior to sale with intelligent malware disguised in popular apps such as Facebook." (To U.S. buyers, those makers may be slightly obscure as cellphone vendors; the scheme this article addresses involves handsets sold by vendors in Europe and Asia, involving more than 20 different handset types.)

T-Mobile Starts Going After Heavy Users of Tethered Data 346

VentureBeat reports that T-Mobile CEO John Legere has announced that T-Mobile will cut off (at least from "unlimited" data plans) customers who gloss over the fine print of their data-use agreement by tethering their unlimited-data phones and grab too much of the network's resources. In a series of tweets on Sunday, Legere says the company will be "eliminating anyone who abuses our network," and complains that some "network abusers" are using 2TB of data monthly. The article says, "This is the first official word from the carrier that seems to confirm a memo that was leaked earlier this month. At that time, it was said action would be taken starting August 17 and would go after those who used their unlimited LTE data for Torrents and peer-to-peer networking."