New submitter sackvillian writes: An article in Wired reports on the ongoing development of the Fairphone 2, planned for European release in September. The phone is the follow-up to the Indiegogo-funded original that inevitably had room for improvement. The manufacturers promise a modular phone with an emphasis on repairability and expandability, with otherwise respectable specs (Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, 2GB RAM, Dual SIM, 8MP camera). It runs on a customized Android 5.1. So, the inevitable question arises — would you be willing to sacrifice some performance (and pay a significant premium) for a phone that's repairable, moddable, and ethical?
Adesso writes: A serious security problem in the default Samsung keyboard installed on many of the company's cellphones has been lurking since December 2014 (CVE-2015-2865). When the phone tries to update the keyboard, it fails to encrypt the executable file. This means attackers on the same network can replace the update file with a malicious one of their own. Affected devices include the Galaxy S6, S5, S4, and S4 mini — roughly 600 million of which are in use. There's no known fix at the moment, aside from avoiding insecure Wi-Fi networks or switching phones. The researcher who presented these findings at the Blackhat security conference says Samsung has provided a patch to carriers, but he can't find out if any of them have applied the patch. The bug is currently still active on the devices he tested.
According to Reuters, foreigners in North Korea who formerly had online access via the country's 3G network have now been blocked from using it, in the wake of a fire at Pyongyang's Koryo Hotel, though it was not immediately clear whether the two events are related. Vox.com has an interesting look into what internet access is like for North Koreans, but as the linked Reuters report explains, access is in general much freer for residents as well as visiting foreigners.
New submitter raburton writes: Santander (one of the biggest banks in Europe) slipped a little note on the corner of my latest statement saying they intend to start collecting "location or other data" from mobiles and tablets that their customers own, from 1st July 2015. There is no link to further information about the policy, or any suggestion you can opt out of it. The stated aim is of course to "prevent and detect fraud", but once they have the data (and they'll probably keep it for a long time) they, or anyone who can gain access to it, can do whatever they like with it. In this day and age I find it hard to take any assurances to the contrary very seriously. Is this kind of policy common practice with banks elsewhere?
n01 writes: Researchers of the University of Washington are testing the prototype of their ApneaApp to diagnose sleep apnea, a health problem that can become life-threatening. To monitor a person's sleep, the app transforms the user's smartphone into an active sonar system that tracks tiny changes in a person's movements. The phone's speaker sends out inaudible sound waves, which bounce off a sleeping person's body and are picked back up by the phone's microphone. "It's similar to the way bats navigate," said Rajalakshmi Nandakumar, lead author and a doctoral candidate in the UW's department of computer science and engineering. "They send out sound signals that hit a target, and when those signals bounce back they know something is there." In technical terms, the app continuously analyzes changes in the acoustic room-transfer-function (sampled at ultrasonic frequencies) to detect motion. This is very similar to what the iPhone app Sleep Cycle Sonalarm Clock does, except that the UW researchers have improved the sensitivity of the method so it can precisely track the person's breathing movements which allows it to not only detect different sleep phases but also sleep apnea events. The advantage in both use cases is that the sleep monitoring is contact-less (there's nothing in the user's bed that could disturb their sleep) and doesn't require any additional hardware besides the user's smart phone.
An anonymous reader points to an interesting comparison of current tablets' peformance, as measured with the Geekbench benchmarking tool, which boils down various aspects of performance to produce a single number. The clear winner from the models fielded wasn't from Apple of Samsung (Samsung's entrants came much lower down, in fact), but from Microsoft: the i5-equipped Surface Pro 3, with a Geekbench score of 5069.; second place goes to the Apple iPad Air 2, with 4046. The Nexus 9 rated third, with 3537. One model on the list that U.S. buyers may not be familiar with is the Tesco Hudl 2, a bargain tablet which Trusted Reviews seems quite taken by.
An anonymous reader writes: According to a Reuters report BlackBerry may launch an Android phone with a hardware keyboard. If true, it's a definite shift in their business model. "We don't comment on rumors and speculation, but we remain committed to the BlackBerry 10 operating system, which provides security and productivity benefits that are unmatched," said the company in an email. Google declined to comment.
New submitter nickweller writes: More than 20 Stingray fake phone towers which can collect data from passing devices and listen in on calls have been discovered operating in the UK. The Metropolitan Police have refused to say who is controlling the IMSI catchers, also known as Stingrays, or what is being done with the information they are gathering. Met Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said: "If people imagine that we’ve got the resources to do as much intrusion as they worry about, I would reassure them that it’s impossible.”
An anonymous reader tips news that South Korea has stepped up its efforts to fight an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) after the number of known cases keeps increasing rapidly. World health officials are not recommending general travel restrictions, but members of the public are being advised not to do so. Nearly 2,000 schools have been closed, and 2,300 people are in quarantine. The South Korean government is also taking the unusual step of using mobile phones to track which citizens may have been in contact with confirmed MERS patients. The outbreak in South Korea has been traced back to a man who went to multiple medical centers in mid-May seeking treatment for his symptoms. The government is apologizing for its slow response to the situation, and hoping the economic damage won't be too bad.
New submitter CarlottaHapsburg writes: Ericsson and Nokia are leading the pack when it comes to developing 5G, but there are some major complicating factors: flexible architecture, functioning key standards, the U.S.'s lethargy in expanding mmWave, and even the definition of what 5G is and can do. It'll get here, but not soon: "5G networks are widely expected to start to roll out by 2020, with a few early debuts at such global events as the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. It is an ambitious deadline given what is expected from 5G -- no less than the disruption of the communications market in general, and telecom in particular, as well as related sectors such as test equipment." The FCC's Tom Wheeler says 5G is different for every manufacturer, like a Picasso painting. It should be an exciting five years of further developments and definitions — and, hopefully, American preparedness.
Kristine Lofgren writes: Nikola Tesla dreamed of a world full of free, wireless power. While he never accomplished that dream during his lifetime, researchers at the University of Washington are doing their part to make it a reality with a breakthrough in wi-fi powered electronics. Dubbed PoWi-Fi, the team led by Vamsi Talla were able to recharge and maintain consistent low-level power over a number of different devices at distances of up to 28 feet.
jfruh writes: Microsoft's acquisition of Nokia's handset business was mostly focused on gaining a hardware line that ran the company's Windows Phone OS; but in the process, Microsoft also gained ownership of some model lines that are classified as "feature phones" and some that are straight up dumb, and they're still coming out with new models, confusingly still bearing the "Nokia" brand. The $20 Nokia 105 as billed as "long-lasting backup device" and comes with an FM radio, while the $30 Nokia 215 is "Internet-ready" and comes with Facebook and Twitter apps.
MojoKid writes: AMD previously only teased bits of detail regarding their forthcoming 6th Generation A-Series APU, code named "Carrizo," as far back as CES 2015 in January and more recently with AMD's HSA (Heterogenous System Architecture) 1.0 spec roll-out in March. However, the company has officially launched the product today and has lifted the veil on all aspects of their new highly integrated notebook APU. Carrizo has been optimized for the 15 Watt TDP envelope that comprises the bulk of the thin and light notebook market currently and it brings a couple of first to integrated notebook chip designs. AMD's Carrizo APU is the first SoC architecture to fully support the HSA 1.0 specification, allowing full memory coherency of a shared memory space for both CPU and GPU up to 32GB. It's also the first integrated chip to include full support in hardware for H.265/HEVC HD video decoding and finally, Carizzo is also the first AMD APU to have a full integrated, in silicon, Southbridge controller block. So, with its CPU, GPU, memory controller, Northbridge, Southbridge, and PCIe 3.0 links, Carrizo is truly a fully integrated System On A Chip. The company is claiming a 39% CPU performance lift (combination clock speed and IPC) and up to a 65% in graphics, versus their previous generation Kaveri APU. AMD notes laptops from major vendors will begin shipping in the next few weeks.
Lirodon writes: Its funky rear-mounted buttons may have left critics divided, but the LG G2 is still a pretty capable Android device. While it has gotten an update to Android 5.0 "Lollipop" in some major markets (including the United States, of course), one major holdout is Canada. Reports are surfacing that LG's Canadian subsidiary has decided not to release the update for unknown reasons. But, what about custom ROMs? Well, they handled that too: they have refused to release Lollipop kernel source for the Canadian variant of the device. It is arbitrary actions like this that cause Android's fragmentation problems. A curious note, LG has not specifically made reference to the bugs other users have been having with the update.
New submitter juniorkindergarten writes: Blackberry and Typo have reached a final settlement that effectively ends Typo selling its iPhone keyboard accessory. Blackberry took Typo to court for twice for patent infringement over the copying of Blackberry's keyboard design. Blackberry and Typo first battled it out in court, with Typo losing for copying the Blackberry Q10 keyboard design. Typo redesigned its keyboard, and again Blackberry sued them for patent infringement. The final result is that Typo cannot sell keyboards for screens less than 7.9", but can still sell keyboards for the iPad and iPad air. Exact terms were not disclosed.
jfruh writes: With Nokia's handset business now sold off to Microsoft, you might be wondering what the remainder of the company does, exactly. The company is trying to use its expertise at other end of its old business, offering data centers and virtualized infrastructure to wireless networking companies to make their businesses more efficient. Competitors include Ericsson, another mobile phone also-ran.
Ars Technica has a look at the experimental multi-window mode in the just-announced Android M. It's not a headlining feature yet: "buggy, busted, and buried, but intriguing nonetheless" is how Ars describes it. Android Police is similarly faint in its praise. All that might be true, but to many users even a partly working multi-window mode would be welcome, especially one blessed by Google. (Some Samsung users have had multi-window support for a while, but not built into the OS proper, and multi-window capabilities can be found via app, too.)
New submitter expert464 writes: I just purchased an external USB battery for the main purpose of charging smartphones. I've also thought of using it to power a USB lamp and charge a bluetooth speaker. What other things am I missing that would be useful and/or interesting to power when not near an electrical outlet?
An anonymous reader writes: Google's I/O 2015 conference opened with a surprise announcement: that Chromecast, Android TV, and other Android devices will soon be able to offer HBO Now. "The announcement marks the end of a 7-week exclusive that Apple had on HBO's stand-alone streaming and on-demand video service," reports Digital Trends, and it also further weakens the exclusivity of cable TV packages. "Traditional TV subscriptions are slowly starting to slip," one newspaper reports, "as more people watch online video." Other online streaming sites are already confronting the popularity of HBO's "Game of Thrones" series, with Netflix already experiencing a 33% dip in their online traffic during the new season's online premiere and Amazon rushing to discount their "Game of Thrones" graphic novels, and the turmoil seems to be continuing in the online video space. "Shortly after the premier of the new season, HBO Now seems to have taken the top spot when it comes to internet traffic," reports one technology site, "causing a huge dent in Netflix's attempt to make it to the top."