Cellphones

Meet the Firmware Lead For Google's Project Ara Modular Smartphone (Video) 25

Posted by Roblimo
from the build-it-one-piece-at-a-time dept.
According to Wikipedia, 'Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.' Google is the sponsor, and the project seems to be moving faster than some people expect it to. There's a Project Ara website, of course, a GitHub repository, a Facebook page, even an Ara subreddit. During his conversation with Timothy Lord, Ara firmware project lead (and spokesman) Marti Bolivar said it won't be long before prototype Ara modular phones start user testing. Meanwhile, if you want to see what Marti and his coworkers have been up to lately, besides this interview, you can read a transcription of his talk (including slides) from the January Project Ara Developers Conference in Singapore.
China

China's Tencent Launches Smart Hardware OS To Rival Alibaba 22

Posted by timothy
from the diversity-in-approach dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Chinese internet and media giant Tencent Holdings has today launched an operating system for mobile devices such as internet-connected phones, TVs, smartwatches and other IoT products. Tencent Operating System (OS) TOS+ is open to all developers and manufacturers free of charge should they agree to share their revenue – a framework similar to Google's popular Android mobile OS. The new Tencent OS offering, which provides voice recognition and mobile payment systems, will rival other home-grown operating systems looking to conquer the smart hardware arena with connected wearables, TVs and smart homeware technology. These competitors include smartphone maker Xiaomi and Asia's largest internet company Alibaba, who hopes to see its recently launched Yun OS eventually installed on tens of millions of smartphones. The Chinese systems for mobile and hardware products provide an alternative to Google's services, which constantly face challenges across the country due to strict censorship and licensing laws.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: What Are the Most Stable Smartphones These Days? 484

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-dad's-flip-phone-is-pretty-stable dept.
janimal writes: The iPhone used to be the smartphone that "just works." Ever since the 4S days, this has been true less and less with each generation. My wife's iPhone 6 needs to be restarted several times per week for things like internet search or making calls to work. An older 5S I'm using also doesn't consistently stream to Apple TV, doesn't display song names correctly on Apple TV and third party peripherals. In short, as features increase, the iPhone's stability is decreasing. In your opinion, which smartphone brand these days is taking up the slack and delivering a fully featured smartphone that "just works"?
Cellphones

Turning a Smartphone Display Into a Biometric Scanner 16

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-make-the-obvious-jokes dept.
New submitter jan_jes writes: Recent mobile phones integrate fingerprint scanners to authenticate users biometrically and replace passwords, making authentication more convenient. Researchers at Yahoo Labs have created a new technology called "Bodyprint," which turns your smartphone's touchscreen display into a biometric scanner. It allows the touch sensor to scan users' body parts (PDF) such as ears, fingers, fists, and palms by pressing them against the display. Bodyprint implements the four-eye principle for locking sensitive documents — accessing the document can require the presence of two or more people involved with the project. Another application is authenticating a user to answer a call by scanning their ear pressed against the phone.
Cellphones

Patents Show Google Fi Was Envisioned Before the iPhone Was Released 31

Posted by timothy
from the I-could-show-you-my-notes-from-7th-grade dept.
smaxp writes: Contrary to reports, Google didn't become a mobile carrier with the introduction of Google Fi. Google Fi was launched to prove that a network-of-networks serves smartphone users better than a single mobile carrier's network. Patents related to Google Fi, filed in early 2007, explain Google's vision – smartphones negotiate for and connect to the fastest network available. The patent and Google Fi share a common notion that the smartphone should connect to the fastest network available, not a single carrier's network that may not provide the best performance. It breaks the exclusive relationship between a smartphone and a single carrier. Meanwhile, a story at BostInno points out that Google's not the only one with a network-hopping hybrid approach to phone calls.
Google

Google Launches Project Fi Mobile Phone Service 112

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-carrier-in-town dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google unveiled today a new cell phone service called Project Fi. It offers the same basic functionality as traditional wireless carriers, such as voice, text and Internet access, but at a lower price than most common plans. From the article: "Google hopes to stand out by changing the way it charges customers. Typically, smartphone owners pay wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon a bulk rate for a certain amount of data. Google says it will let customers pay for only what data they use on their phones, from doing things like making calls, listening to music and using apps, potentially saving them significant amounts of money. For now, the program is invite-only and will only be available on Google's Nexus 6 smartphone."
Bug

Networking Library Bug Breaks HTTPS In ~1,500 iOS Apps 73

Posted by Soulskill
from the snake-in-the-walled-garden dept.
mrflash818 writes: A new report from analytics service SourceDNA found that roughly 1,500 iOS apps (with about 2 million total installs) contain a vulnerability that cripples HTTPS and makes man-in-the-middle attacks against those apps easy to pull off. "The weakness is the result of a bug in an older version of the AFNetworking, an open-source code library that allows developers to drop networking capabilities into their apps. Although AFNetworking maintainers fixed the flaw three weeks ago with the release of version 2.5.2, at least 1,500 iOS apps remain vulnerable because they still use version 2.5.1. That version became available in January and introduced the HTTPS-crippling flaw."
Wireless Networking

Wi-Fi Attack Breaks iPhones By Locking Them Into an Endless Loop 1

Posted by samzenpus
from the going-around-and-around-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Skycure demonstrated a novel attack at the RSA 2015 conference that affects iPhones and other iOS devices. The attack, which takes advantage of new and previously announced vulnerabilities, locks iPhones into a never-ending reboot cycle effectively rendering them useless. Skycure CEO Adi Sharabani explained that this attack began when Skycure researchers bought a new router and were messing around with its network settings. In doing so, they discovered a particular configuration that caused apps in iPhones connected to that router to crash whenever they launched.
Privacy

Baltimore Police Used Stingrays For Phone Tracking Over 25,000 Times 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-don't-remember-that-episode-of-The-Wire dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Baltimore Police Department is starting to come clean about its use of cell-phone signal interceptors — commonly known as Stingrays — and the numbers are alarming. According to recent court testimony reported by The Baltimore Sun, the city's police have used Stingray devices with a court order more than 25,000 times. It's a massive number, representing an average of nearly nine uses a day for eight years (the BPD acquired the technology in 2007), and it doesn't include any emergency uses of the device, which would have proceeded without a court order.
Cellphones

Does Lack of FM Support On Phones Increase Your Chances of Dying In a Disaster? 350

Posted by timothy
from the well-if-you-put-it-that-way dept.
theodp writes "You may not know it," reports NPR's Emma Bowman, "but most of today's smartphones have FM radios inside of them. But the FM chip is not activated on two-thirds of devices. That's because mobile makers have the FM capability switched off. The National Association of Broadcasters has been asking mobile makers to change this. But the mobile industry, which profits from selling data to smartphone users, says that with the consumer's move toward mobile streaming apps, the demand for radio simply isn't there." But FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate says radio-enabled smartphones could sure come in handy during times of emergency. So, is it irresponsible not to activate the FM chips? And should it's-the-app-way-or-the-highway Apple follow Microsoft's lead and make no-static-at-all FM available on iPhones?
Displays

Sharp Announces 4K Smartphone Display 152

Posted by Soulskill
from the more-pixels-than-you-know-what-to-do-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Japanese electronics giant Sharp has announced production of 5.5" displays with 4K (3840 x 2160) resolution. They'll hit the market next year. The display will have a pixel density of 806 PPI. It's not known yet which smartphone makers will build devices with these screens. The displays cost significantly more than a more typical 1080p or 1440p display, so they'll probably only make it into high-end phones. On the other hand, this will help to drive down prices for lower-resolution displays, so it could indirectly benefit everybody.
Cellphones

The NSA Wants Tech Companies To Give It "Front Door" Access To Encrypted Data 212

Posted by samzenpus
from the let-us-in dept.
An anonymous reader writes The National Security Agency is embroiled in a battle with tech companies over access to encrypted data that would allow it to spy (more easily) on millions of Americans and international citizens. Last month, companies like Google, Microsoft, and Apple urged the Obama administration to put an end to the NSA's bulk collection of metadata. "National Security Agency officials are considering a range of options to ensure their surveillance efforts aren't stymied by the growing use of encryption, particularly in smartphones. Key among the solutions, according to The Washington Post, might be a requirement that technology companies create a digital key that can open any locked device to obtain text messages or other content, but divide the key into pieces so no one group could use it without the cooperation of other parties."
Cellphones

LG's Leather-Clad G4 Revealed In Leaked Images 39

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-peek dept.
An anonymous reader writes Evan Blass, known on Twitter as @evleaks, released images of LG's G4 smartphone which was supposed to be unveiled April 28th. "The images reveal what appear to be a multitude of swappable back plates. There are at least six different real leather backs (ranging from black and brown to baby blue and yellow), as well as three more traditional plastic backs. It's fair to assume that the leather versions will carry a cost premium. The LG Quick Circle case, which has a window to let you view notifications while the cover is closed, also appears to be making a return with the G4."
Input Devices

Finding an Optimal Keyboard Layout For Swype 140

Posted by Soulskill
from the designed-for-2015 dept.
New submitter Analog24 writes: The QWERTY keyboard was not designed with modern touchscreen usage in mind, especially when it comes to swype texting. A recent study attempted to optimize the standard keyboard layout to minimize the number of swype errors. The result was a new layout that reduces the rate of swipe interpretation mistakes by 50.1% compared to the QWERTY keyboard.
Businesses

Phone App That Watches Your Driving Habits Leads To Privacy Concerns 73

Posted by samzenpus
from the buying-your-privacy dept.
Toshito writes Desjardins Insurance has launched a smartphone app that tracks driver behaviour in return for the promise of substantial savings on car insurance. Two years ago, Desjardins began offering a telematic device that plugs into a vehicle's diagnostic port, to track acceleration, hard braking and the time of day you were driving, for instance. Now, there's no plug-in device required. With Desjardins's new Ajusto app, all you need is your smartphone. But this comes with great concerns over privacy, and problems have been reported where the device was logging data when the user was riding a bus instead of driving his own car.
Businesses

LG Will Lend You a Free Phone If You Talk About It On Social Media 22

Posted by samzenpus
from the phones-for-flattery dept.
jfruh writes LG will let people in a host of countries use its G4 free for 30 days — with the hope that this will result in positive buzz on social media sites. From the article: "By offering 4,000 people a G4 for 30 days, the company hopes to create some buzz around its new device as flagship devices from its rivals Samsung Electronics and HTC go on sale. The Consumer Experience Campaign kicks off in South Korea on Wednesday, and will then expand to Turkey, Indonesia, Singapore, U.S., China, India, Brazil, Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Mexico, Japan and Hong Kong, LG said."
Cellphones

Smartphone-Enabled Replicators Are 3-5 Years Away, Caltech Professor Says 117

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-are-excited-about-replicating-hard-plastic dept.
merbs writes: In just a few years, we could see the mass proliferation of DIY, smartphone-enabled replicators. At least, Caltech electrical engineering professor Ali Hajimiri and his team of researchers thinks so. They've developed a very tiny, very powerful 3D imager that can easily fit in a mobile device, successfully tested its prowess, and published the high-res results (PDF) in the journal Optics. Hajimiri claims the imager may soon allow consumers to snap a photo of just about anything, and then, with a good enough 3D printer, use it to create a real-life replica "accurate to within microns of the original object."
Cellphones

Tiny LIDAR Chip Could Add Cheap 3D Sensing to Cellphones and Tablets 62

Posted by timothy
from the dig-your-shape-baby dept.
There are expensive dedicated devices that do 3D scanning (like the high-end tablet in Google's Project Tango), and versatile but bulky add-ons, like the Sense from 3D Systems, but it's not a capability built into the typical cellphone or tablet. That could change, thanks to a microsensor being prototyped now (at low resolution) at CalTech. From The Verge's coverage: The tiny chip, called a nanophotonic coherent imager, uses a form of LIDAR (Light Detection And Ranging) technology to capture height, width, and depth information from each pixel. LIDAR, which shines a laser on the target and then analyzes the light waves that are reflected back to the sensor, are best known for their use in precision-guided missile systems and self-driving cars.

While LIDAR itself isn't new, [project lead Ali] Hajimiri explains that "by having an array of tiny LIDARs on our coherent imager, we can simultaneously image different parts of an object or a scene without the need for any mechanical movements within the imager." Each "pixel" on the new sensor can individually analyze the phase, frequency, and intensity of the reflected waves, producing a single piece of 3D data. The data from all of the pixels combined can produce a full 3D scan. In addition, the researchers' implementation allows for an incredibly tiny and low-cost scanner, all while maintaining accuracy. According to the researchers, the chip can produce scans that are within microns of the original.
Communications

The Unlikely Effort To Build a Clandestine Cell Phone Network 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-stop-the-signal dept.
Lashdots writes: Electronic surveillance has raised concerns among Americans and pushed an estimated 30% of them to protect their privacy in some form. Artist Curtis Wallen has taken that effort to dramatic lengths, documenting how to create a "clandestine communications network" using pre-paid phones, Tor, Twitter, and encryption. The approach, which attempts to conceal any encryption that could raise suspicions, is "very passive" says Wallen, so "there's hardly any trace that an interaction even happened." This is not easy, of course. In fact, as he discovered while researching faulty CIA security practices, it's really, comically hard. "If the CIA can't even keep from getting betrayed by their cell phones, what chance do we have?" he says. Still, he believes his system could theoretically keep users' activities hidden, and while it's hard, it's not impossible.
Privacy

Verizon Subscribers Can Now Opt Out of "Supercookies" 82

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-track-me-bro dept.
itwbennett writes Verizon said in January that it would allow subscribers to opt out of having a unique identifier placed on their phones that critics have labelled a "supercookie" because it's almost impossible to remove, but it didn't say when. On Tuesday, Verizon said the identifier won't be inserted for customers who opt out of its mobile advertising program: "Verizon Wireless has updated its systems so that we will stop inserting the UIDH after a customer opts out of the relevant mobile advertising program or activates a line that is ineligible for the advertising program, such as as a government or business line," Verizon said in a change to its policies.