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Nerval's Lobster writes With the debut of Android 5.0 (also known as Lollipop, in keeping with Google's habit of naming each major OS upgrade after a dessert), it's worth taking a moment to break down how the latest version of Google's mobile operating system matches up against Apple's iOS 8. After years of battle, the two are remarkably similar. So while nobody would ever confuse Android and iOS, both Google and Apple seem determined to go "flatter" (and more brightly colored) than ever. Whether or not you agree with their choices, they're the cutting edge of mobile UX design. The perpetual tit-for-tat over features has reached a climax of sorts with Lollipop and iOS 8: both offer their own version of an NFC-powered e-wallet (Apple Pay vs. Google Wallet), a health app (Apple's Health app vs. Google Fit), car-dashboard control (Android Auto vs. CarPlay), and home automation. That's not to say that the operating systems are mirror images of one another, but in terms of aesthetics and functionality, they'll be at near-parity for most users, albeit not for those users who enjoy customizing Android and hate Apple's "walled garden." (Related: Lots of reviews are popping up for Google's new Nexus 6, one of the first phones to come with the newest Android; TechCrunch's is typical, in that reviewer Greg Kumparak has high praise for the Lollipop UI, but found himself nearly dropping the device because of its size and texture.)
MojoKid writes It has been over six years since Intel first unveiled its Atom CPUs and detailed its plans for new, ultra-mobile devices. The company's efforts to break into smartphone and tablet sales, while turning a profit, have largely come to naught. Nonetheless, company CEO Brian Krzanich remains optimistic. Speaking to reporters recently, Krzanich opined that the company's new manufacturing partners like Rockchip and Spreadtrum would convert entirely to Intel architectures within the next few years. Krzanich has argued that with Qualcomm and MediaTek dominating the market, it's going to be tougher and tougher for little guys like Rockchip and Spreadtrum to compete in the same spaces. There's truth to that argument, to be sure, but Intel's ability to offer a competitive alternative is unproven. According to a report from JP Morgan, Intel's cost-per-wafer is currently estimated as equivalent to TSMC's average selling price per wafer — meaning TSMC is making money well below Intel's break-even. Today, Intel is unquestionably capable of building tablet processors that offer a good overall experience but the question of what defines a "good" experience is measured in its similarity to ARM. It's hard to imagine that Intel wants to build market share as an invisible partner, but in order to fundamentally change the way people think about Intel hardware in tablets and smartphones, it needs to go beyond simply being "as good" and break into territory that leaves people asking: "Is the ARM core just as good as the Intel chip?"
KentuckyFC writes During the Chinese New Year earlier this year, some 3.6 billion people traveled across China making it the largest seasonal migration on Earth. These kinds of mass movements have always been hard to study in detail. But the Chinese web services company Baidu has managed it using a mapping app that tracked the location of 200 million smartphone users during the New Year period. The latest analysis of this data shows just how vast this mass migration is. For example, over 2 million people left the Guandong province of China and returned just a few days later--that's equivalent to the entire population of Chicago upping sticks. The work shows how easy it is to track the movement of large numbers of people with current technology--assuming they are willing to allow their data to be used in this way.
jfruh writes In-flight Wi-Fi services tend to be expensive and disappointingly slow. So when AT&T announced a few months ago that it was planning on getting into the business, with customer airlines being able to connect to AT&T's LTE network instead of slow satellite services, the industry shook. But now AT&T has announced that, upon further review, they're not going to bother.
MojoKid writes When Phonebloks visionary Dave Hakkens began evangelizing the idea of a modular phone with interchangeable components, many scoffed at the idea saying it couldn't be done or wasn't commercially feasible, that is until Google stepped up and backed a team of engineers for Project Ara. Ultimately, Project Ara's proof of concept efforts bore fruit and the vision is quickly becoming reality, now with apparently new competitors entering the fray. A start-up company by the name of Vsenn has come out of cover to disclose its intention to start a "smartphone evolution" and it also turns out that company has been co-founded by a former Nokia Android X Program Manager. The company also makes some lofty promises and has set big goals, noting not only modular hardware design but "guaranteed updates, maximum security and customizable looks." From encryption to secure VPN cloud services and back covers that are easily changed out, Vsenn seems to be targeting not only "Phonebloks-style" modularity and customizations like Project Ara but also some of the secure device and communication hot buttons that both Apple and Google have been acting on as of late with iOS and Android Lollipop.
dkatana writes: NXP, having worked with Apple on Apple Pay, is now launching its PN66T module for secure NFC mobile transactions — for Android. It's intended to implement the same functionality of Apple Pay. While NXP claims the module is OS independent, the features clearly indicate that Android devices are the likely recipients of the SoC. The PN66T is Europay, MasterCard, and Visa (EMVCo) certified, and also supports American Express ExpressPay, thus fully covering the three big credit card companies, ensuring compatibility and interoperability with existing and future payment methods.
angry tapir writes A security researcher has developed a tool to demonstrate how the unauthenticated data packets in the 802.11 wireless LAN protocol can be used as a covert channel to control malware on an infected computer. From the article: "The protocol relies on clients and access points exchanging informational data packets before they authenticate or associate with each other, and this traffic is not typically monitored by network security devices. Tom Neaves, a managing consultant at Trustwave, developed a proof-of-concept tool called Smuggler that leverages these packets, known as wireless management frames, to communicate with malware."
An anonymous reader writes A few weeks ago I noted how security researchers had discovered that Verizon has been injecting a unique new 'stealth cookie' identifier into all user traffic that tracks user online behavior, even if the consumer opts out. Using a unique Identifier Header, or UIDH, Verizon's ham-fisted system broadcasts your identity all across the web — and remains intact and open to third-party abuse — even if you opt-out of Verizon's behavioral ad programs. Now the Electronic Frontier Foundation has filed a complaint with the FCC and has strongly indicated that they're considering legal action against Verizon for violating consumer privacy laws.
An anonymous reader writes Microsoft today announced a significant change to its Office strategy for mobile devices: creating and editing is now free. The company also released standalone Word, Excel, and PowerPoint apps for the iPhone, as well a new preview of these apps for Android tablets. Starting today, whether you're using an Office app on Android or iOS, you can create and edit content without an Office 365 subscription. The company is pitching this move as "More of Office for everyone."
An anonymous reader writes: Over the past couple of years, Google has implemented some changes to how Android handles SD cards that aren't very beneficial to users or developers. After listening to many rounds of complaints, this seems to have changed in Android 5.0 Lollipop. Google's Jeff Sharkey wrote, "[I]n Lollipop we added the new ACTION_OPEN_DOCUMENT_TREE intent. Apps can launch this intent to pick and return a directory from any supported DocumentProvider, including any of the shared storage supported by the device. Apps can then create, update, and delete files and directories anywhere under the picked tree without any additional user interaction. Just like the other document intents, apps can persist this access across reboots." Android Police adds, "All put together, this should be enough to alleviate most of the stress related to SD cards after the release of KitKat. Power users will no longer have to deal with crippled file managers, media apps will have convenient access to everything they should regardless of storage location, and developers won't have to rely on messy hacks to work around the restrictions."
mpicpp sends a BBC report on a study that found there are, on average, 150 people per Wi-Fi hotspot, worldwide. In the U.K. alone, there is one hotspot for every 11 people. The study estimates there will be roughly 47.7 million hotspots worldwide by the end of the year. France has the most, followed by the U.S., the U.K., and China. Future growth is expected to be high: "Over the next four years, global hotspot numbers will grow to more than 340 million, the equivalent of one Wi-Fi hotspot for every 20 people on earth, the research finds. But this growth will not be evenly distributed. While in North America there will be one hotspot for every four people by 2018, in Africa it will be one for every 408. While Europe currently has the most dense wi-fi coverage, Asia will overtake it by 2018, according to the report."
An anonymous reader writes Starwood Hotels and Resorts has became the first chain to let guests unlock doors with their phones at 10 Aloft, Element and W hotels. They hope to expand the program to 140 more properties in those brands by the middle of next year. From the article: "The technology's developer says that it uses its own encrypted secure channel to ensure thieves cannot abuse the innovation. But one expert had reservations. "Nothing is 100% secure, and once this technology is in widespread use it will make a very tasty target for hackers," said Prof Alan Woodward from the University of Surrey's department of computing.
theodp writes With an 11.6" screen, Windows 8.1, and free Office 365 for a year, the $199.99 solid-state HP Stream 11 laptop is positioned to make people think twice about Chromebooks (add $30 for the HP Stream 13). But will it? "The HP Stream 11 is clearly both inexpensive and a great value," writes Paul Thurrott. "At just $200, it's cheap, of course. But it also features a solid-feeling construction, a bright and fun form factor, a surprisingly high-quality typing experience and a wonderful screen. This isn't a bargain bin throwaway. The Stream 11 is something special." The HP Stream Family also includes the HP Stream 7, a $99.99 Windows 8.1 Tablet that includes the Office 365 deal. By the way, at the other end of the price spectrum, HP has introduced the Sprout, which Fast Company calls a bold and weird PC that's bursting at the seams with new ideas, from 3-D scanning to augmented reality. (We mentioned the Sprout a few days ago, too; HP seems to be making some interesting moves lately, looks like they're getting on the smartwatch bandwagon, too.) If you're looking at the Stream as a cheap platform for OSes other than Windows, be cautious: one of the reviews at the Amazon page linked describes trouble getting recent Linux distributions to install.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "LG Display has announced that it has developed a 5.3-inch Full HD LCD panel for smartphones with the world's narrowest bezel at 0.7mm. It's even thinner than a credit card, making the screen give you the impression that it 'overflows.' The company calls the construction Neo Edge technology; it uses an adhesive instead of double-sided tape to attach and seal the panel's circuit board and backlight unit.
schwit1 writes with news of a Circuit Court decision from Virginia where a judge has ruled that a criminal defendant cannot use Fifth Amendment protections to safeguard a phone that is locked using his or her fingerprint. According to Judge Steven C. Fucci, while a criminal defendant can't be compelled to hand over a passcode to police officers for the purpose of unlocking a cellular device, law enforcement officials can compel a defendant to give up a fingerprint. The Fifth Amendment states that "no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself," which protects memorized information like passwords and passcodes, but it does not extend to fingerprints in the eyes of the law, as speculated by Wired last year. Frucci said that "giving police a fingerprint is akin to providing a DNA or handwriting sample or an actual key, which the law permits. A passcode, though, requires the defendant to divulge knowledge, which the law protects against, according to Frucci's written opinion."
An anonymous reader writes: The Wall Street Journal reports that Andy Rubin is leaving Google. Rubin co-founded Android in 2003 and stayed on when the company was acquired by Google in 2005. Rubin led Android through the acquisition of over a billion users, until 2013 when he moved to Google's robotics division. He was replaced in the Android division by Sundar Pichai, who continues in charge of that, Chrome, Google+, and many other products. Rubin's robotics role will be filled by James Kuffner. "Mr. Rubin's departure is a blow to Google's robotics efforts. However, Mr. Kuffner is experienced in the sector, having worked on human-like robot technology for over two decades, including seven years at Carnegie Mellon University and five years on Google's self-driving car project."
An anonymous reader writes: Security researcher Mordechai Guri with the guidance of Prof. Yuval Elovici from the cyber security labs at Ben-Gurion University in Israel presented at MALCON 2014 a breakthrough method ("AirHopper") for leaking data from an isolated computer to a mobile phone without the presence of a network. In highly secure facilities the assumption today is that data can not leak outside of an isolated internal network. It is called air-gap security. AirHopper demonstrates how the computer display can be used for sending data from the air-gapped computer to a near by smartphone. The published paper and a demonstration video are at the link.
Nerval's Lobster writes Apple design chief Jony Ive has spent the past several weeks talking up how the Apple Watch is an evolution on many of the principles that guided the evolution of timepieces over the past several hundred years. But the need to recharge the device on a nightly basis, now confirmed by Apple CEO Tim Cook, is a throwback to ye olden days, when a lady or gentleman needed to keep winding her or his pocket-watch in order to keep it running. Watch batteries were supposed to bring "winding" to a decisive end, except for that subset of people who insist on carrying around a mechanical timepiece. But with Apple Watch's requirement that the user constantly monitor its energy, what's old is new again. Will millions of people really want to charge and fuss with their watch at least once a day?
SmartAboutThings writes If somehow you missed the reports of Lenovo buying Motorola – which was also bought by Google for $12.5 billion back in 2011 – then you should know that the deal is now complete. Lenovo has announced today that Motorola is now a Lenovo company — which makes Lenovo not only the number one PC maker in the world but also the third-largest smartphone maker.
An anonymous reader writes Google today announced it will be hosting the second iteration of its Project Ara Module Developers Conference for its modular device project early next year. The first event will be in Mountain View on January 14, 2015, with satellite locations at Google offices in New York City, Buenos Aires, and London. The same agenda will be repeated in Singapore on January 21, 2015, with satellite locations at Google offices in Bangalore, Tokyo, Taipei, and Shanghai. The company also released a video showing off the first prototype from Project Ara. Until now, all we've seen so far are industrial design models. This one actually boots up.