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Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 91

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
AT&T

AT&T Is the Latest Carrier To Offer Unlimited Data For All Its Customers (phonedog.com) 62

Earlier this week, Verizon announced it is bringing back unlimited data plans after years of selling capped data packages. Now, ATT will be doing the same. ATT will let any current or potential customer buy an unlimited data plan. Until now, only DirecTV customers were able to purchase unlimited data from the carrier. PhoneDog reports: ATT says that starting tomorrow, February 17, its Unlimited Plan will be available to all customers. The plan will include unlimited data, talk, and text, and customers with the plan will also be able to travel to Canada or Mexico and use their plan just as they would at home, with zero roaming charges. ATT's Unlimited Plan also includes Stream Saver, which will optimize video streams to 480p. However, Stream Saver can be disabled if you'd like. One feature that's missing from ATT's Unlimited Plan is mobile hotspot usage, which is notable because the unlimited plans from the other three major U.S. carriers do include some mobile hotspot. Finally, it's worth noting that after 22GB of usage, ATT Unlimited Plan customers may have their speeds slowed during times of network congestion. This policy is also in place at the other three major U.S. carriers, with Verizon's threshold being 22GB, Sprint's 23GB, and T-Mobile's 26GB. A single line on the ATT Unlimited Plan will cost $100 per month. Each additional line will cost $40, but ATT will offer the fourth line free, making the cost for a family of four $180 per month.
Cellphones

FCC Chairman Wants It To Be Easier To Listen To Free FM Radio On Your Smartphone (recode.net) 209

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Recode: Your smartphone has an FM radio in it, only it's unlikely that you're able to use it. That's because in the U.S., less than half of phones actually have the FM tuner turned on. But FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who just recently assumed the top position at the regulatory agency under President Trump, thinks that should change. In remarks made to the North American Broadcasters Association yesterday, Pai said that it's a public safety issue. Both the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Association and an FCC advisory panel on public safety have advocated for turning on the FM radio capabilities in smartphones, since radio is a reliable source of information when internet or cellphone networks go down in severe weather. Although Pai thinks smartphones should have the FM chip turned on, he doesn't think the government should mandate it: "As a believer in free markets and the rule of law, I cannot support a government mandate requiring activation of these chips. I don't believe the FCC has the power to issue a mandate like that, and more generally I believe it's best to sort this issue out in the marketplace."
Google

Google Fiber Sheds Workers As It Looks to a Wireless Future (engadget.com) 107

Mariella Moon, writing for Engadget: Alphabet is making some huge changes to steer Google Fiber in a new, more wireless direction. According to Wired, the corporation has reassigned hundreds of Fiber employees to other parts of the company and those who remained will mostly work in the field. It has also hired broadband veteran Greg McCray as the new CEO for Access, the division that runs Google Fiber. These changes don't exactly come out of left field: back in October, Google announced that it's pausing the high-speed internet's expansion to new markets and that it's firing nine percent of the service's staff. Wired says running fiber optic cables into people's homes has become too expensive for the company. A Recode report last year says it costs Mountain View $1 billion to bring Fiber to a new market.
Iphone

Apple's iPhone 8 To Replace Touch ID Home Button With 'Function Area' (appleinsider.com) 114

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Apple Insider: Apple will ditch the home button when it debuts a new 'iPhone 8' model later this year, and will dedicate the extra screen real estate to an area for virtual buttons, according to KGI analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Adding detail to his previous predictions regarding the next-generation handset, Kuo in a note to investors obtained by AppleInsider said the full-screen design will allow Apple to integrate a "function" area never seen in an iPhone. The device is expected to adopt a 5.8-inch OLED panel in a form factor similar to the current 4.7-inch iPhone 7. Despite having extended screen real estate as compared to current iPhone models, the actual active display area on "iPhone 8" will be closer to 5.15 inches on the diagonal, with the remaining bottom portion dedicated to system functions like virtual buttons. While Kuo failed to elaborate on an exact implementation, the note suggests Apple plans to hardcode a set of always-on, static system controls into iOS. Whether the so-called "function area" is capable of switching to an active display mode for in-app activities like watching videos or playing games, remains to be seen. With the deletion of current Touch ID technology, Kuo believes "iPhone 8" will incorporate new bio-recognition assets to take over device security and Apple Pay authentication duties. The analyst did not offer predictions on the type of biometric tech Apple intends to use, but a report earlier today said the company could integrate a 3D laser scanning module capable of facilitating facial recognition and augmented reality applications. Kuo in a note last month said Apple might integrate a dual biometric system utilizing optical fingerprint readers and facial recognition hardware.
Government

Bipartisan Bill Seeks Warrants For Police Use of 'Stingray' Cell Trackers (usatoday.com) 113

Tulsa_Time quotes a report from USA Today: A bipartisan group of House and Senate lawmakers introduced legislation Wednesday requiring police agencies to get a search warrant before they can deploy powerful cellphone surveillance technology known as "stingrays" that sweep up information about the movements of innocent Americans while tracking suspected criminals. "Owning a smartphone or fitness tracker shouldn't give the government a blank check to track your movements," said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee who introduced the bill with Reps. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, and John Conyers, D-Mich. "Law enforcement should be able to use GPS data, but they need to get a warrant. This bill sets out clear rules to make sure our laws keep up with the times." The legislation introduced Wednesday, called the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance (GPS) Act, would require a warrant for all domestic law enforcement agencies to track the location and movements of individual Americans through GPS technology without their knowledge. It also aims to combat high-tech stalking by creating criminal penalties for secretly using an electronic device to track someone's movements.
Network

Now Get Weather Alerts Even When Your Mobile Networks Are Down, Thanks To IBM's Mesh Networking (cnet.com) 75

Communicating news of severe weather events or natural disasters is something mobile phones are well suited to, but if there's limited or disrupted network coverage the message may fail to get through. But not anymore. From a CNET report: A new Weather Channel app, though, can get the message through even during earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorist attacks when mobile networks can be overwhelmed and may not work. The Android app, geared specifically for developing countries, uses IBM-developed technology called mesh networking that sends messages directly from one phone to another. The result is that information can propagate even when centralized networks fail. Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, the app can send data from phone to phone across distances between 200 to 500 feet, IBM Research staff member Nirmit Desai said. It doesn't add any more battery burden than an ordinary app, and the mesh network can be used without having to reconfigure the phone's network settings.
Android

China's Huawei Catching Up With Apple, Samsung Smartphone Sales (livemint.com) 62

From a report: Chinese smartphone maker Huawei managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of global market share last year, following the problems encountered by the two giants, the Gartner consultancy group said on Wednesday. Over the year as a whole, the Chinese maker saw its sales leap by 26.7 percent, while the South Korean and US rivals both saw their sales decline by 4.3 percent, Gartner said in a study. As result, Huawei was able to increase its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Samsung saw its market share shrink by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple's contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent. "Chinese makers succeeded in winning market share over last year and Huawei now seems to be the main rival to the two giants, even if the gap remains large," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told AFP.
Android

Google's Not-so-secret New OS (techspecs.blog) 128

According to reports late last year, Google is working on a new operating system called Andromeda. Much about it is still unknown, but according to the documentations Google has provided on its website, it's clear that the Fuchsia is the actual name of the operating system, and the kernel is called Magenta. A tech enthusiast dug around the documentations to share the followings: To my naive eyes, rather than saying Chrome OS is being merged into Android, it looks more like Android and Chrome OS are both being merged into Fuchsia. It's worth noting that these operating systems had previously already begun to merge together to an extent, such as when the Android team worked with the Chrome OS team in order to bring Update Engine to Nougat, which introduced A/B updates to the platform. Google is unsurprisingly bringing up Andromeda on a number of platforms, including the humble Intel NUC. ARM, x86, and MIPS bring-up is exactly what you would expect for an Android successor, and it also seems clear that this platform will run on Intel laptops. My best guess is that Android as an API and runtime will live on as a legacy environment within Andromeda. That's not to say that all development of Android would immediately stop, which seems extremely unlikely. But Google can't push two UI APIs as equal app frameworks over the long term: Mojo is clearly the future. Ah, but what is Mojo? Well it's the new API for writing Andromeda apps, and it comes from Chromium. Mojo was originally created to "extract a common platform out of Chrome's renderer and plugin processes that can support multiple types of sandboxed content."
Hardware

Iconic Feature Phone Nokia 3310 Coming Back this Month, VentureBeat Says (venturebeat.com) 95

The iconic Nokia 3310 feature phone is all set for a return, according to a report. VentureBeat adds: HMD Global Oy, the Finnish manufacturer with exclusive rights to market phones under the storied Nokia brand, is planning to announce four such handsets at Mobile World Congress later this month, according to a person briefed on the company's plans. Known primarily for its plentiful battery life and nearly indestructible build, the 3310 was released at the turn of the millennium as a replacement to the also-popular 3210.
Hardware

Researchers Working on Liquid Battery That Could Last For Over 10 Years (engadget.com) 218

Jon Fingas, writing for Engadget: If Harvard researchers have their way, you may not have to worry about replacing power backs quite so often. They've developed a flow battery (that is, a battery that stores energy in liquid solutions) which should last for over a decade. The trick was to modify the molecules in the electrolytes, ferrocene and viologen, so that they're stable, water-soluble and resistant to degradation. When they're dissolved in neutral water, the resulting solution only loses 1 percent of its capacity every 1,000 cycles. It could be several years before you even notice a slight dropoff in performance. The use of water is also great news for both the environment and your bank account. As it's not corrosive or toxic, you don't have to worry about wrecking your home if the battery leaks -- you might just need a mop.
Iphone

Apple Joins Wireless Power Consortium Amid Rumors of iPhone With Wireless Charging (theverge.com) 79

If you've been holding out hope for wireless charging to come to the iPhone, chew on this: Apple joined the Wireless Power Consortium. From a report: Last week, a leaked note suggested that Apple is working on adding wireless charging to three phones scheduled for release in 2017. The technology may be similar to what the company has already implemented with the Apple Watch, though other reports have hinted at charging solutions that can add power to devices from a distance. The Wireless Power Consortium is the group behind Qi, a wireless charging standard that uses inductive power transfers to charge without cords.
Wireless Networking

Qualcomm's New 802.11ax Chips Will Ramp Up Your Wi-Fi (cnet.com) 53

Your home Wi-Fi performance could soon get much better thanks to new Wi-Fi chips that Qualcomm announced today, the IPQ8074 system-on-chip (SoC) for broadcasters (routers and access points) and the QCA6290 SoC for receivers (Wi-Fi devices). They belong to the first end-to-end commercial Wi-Fi portfolio to support the all-new 802.11ax standard. From a report on CNET: Qualcomm says the IPQ8074 is a highly-integrated all-in-one platform designed for access points, gateways and routers. The 14nm chip integrates an 11ax radio, MAC and baseband, and a quad-core 64-bit A53 CPU as well as a dual-core network accelerator. It uses a 12x12 Wi-Fi configuration (8x8 on the 5GHz band and 4x4 on the 2.4GHz band) and supports MU-MIMO for uplink. As a result, it can deliver up to 4.8 Gbps while maintaining fast connections over a larger coverage area than any 802.11ac chip. On the client side, Qualcomm says the QCA6290 SoC can offer up to a 4x increase in throughput speed in a crowded network. It supports 2x2 MU-MIMO and can realize the full benefits of the 8x8 MU-MIMO thanks to its 8x8 sounding mechanism. The chip can combine 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands using its Dual Band Simultaneous (DBS) feature to deliver up to 1.8 Gbps Wi-Fi speed. Compared with 802.11ac, the chip can reduce power consumption by two-thirds.
NASA

US-Born NASA Scientist Detained At The Border Until He Unlocked His Phone (theverge.com) 626

Sidd Bikkannavar works at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. After racing solar-powered cars in Chile, he had trouble returning to America. mspohr quote The Verge: Bikkannavar says he was detained by U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and pressured to give the Customs and Border Protection agents his phone and access PIN. Since the phone was issued by NASA, it may have contained sensitive material that wasn't supposed to be shared. Bikkannavar's phone was returned to him after it was searched by CBP, but he doesn't know exactly what information officials might have taken from the device...

The officer also presented Bikkannavar with a document titled "Inspection of Electronic Devices" and explained that CBP had authority to search his phone. Bikkannavar did not want to hand over the device, because it was given to him by JPL and is technically NASA property. He even showed the officer the JPL barcode on the back of phone. Nonetheless, CBP asked for the phone and the access PIN. "I was cautiously telling him I wasn't allowed to give it out, because I didn't want to seem like I was not cooperating," says Bikkannavar. "I told him I'm not really allowed to give the passcode; I have to protect access. But he insisted they had the authority to search it."

While border agents have the right to search devices, The Verge reports that travelers aren't legally required to unlock their phones, "although agents can detain them for significant periods of time if they do not." They also report that Bikkannavar "was not allowed to leave until he gave CBP his PIN," adding that the cybersecurity team at JPL "was not happy about the breach."
Cellphones

Shamed In Super Bowl Ads, Verizon Introduces Unlimited Data Plans (theverge.com) 172

A surprise announcement Sunday revealed that tomorrow Verizon will begin offering introductory plans with unlimited data.*

* Customers "will get full LTE speeds until they reach 22GB of usage," reports The Verge, "after which they'll be subject to reduced data speeds and de-prioritization."

An anonymous reader writes: Other carriers have similar limits. "For Sprint it's 23GB. T-Mobile has a slightly higher threshold of 26GB... AT&T matches Verizon at 22GB," reports The Verge. Verizon says their cap is "to ensure a quality experience for all customers... While we don't expect to do that very often, network management is a crucial tool that benefits all Verizon customers." The $80-a-month plan also includes hotspot tethering -- up to 10 gigabytes -- and "includes 'HD' video as opposed to the 480p/DVD-quality video that T-Mobile One customers get by default."

In a Sunday YouTube video, the head of Verizon's wireless effort says customer interviews found "Some of the heavier users of data -- the power users -- had data anxiety." But it's still a surprising move. Engadget reports that in the past Verizon "frequently tried its hardest to discourage unlimited data users," but today is "facing stiff competition from T-Mobile, which engineered a dramatic comeback in recent years and upped the ante by making unlimited data standard through the One plan."

Verizon's pricing was also targeted heavily last week in a barrage of Super Bowl ads by both Sprint and T-Mobile just last Sunday. T-Mobile showed a masochistic woman calling Verizon just to enjoying hearing about the overages, taxes and fees she incurred by exceeding her data limit, while Sprint showed a man who was trying to escape his Verizon contract by faking his own death.
Networking

College Network Attacked With Its Own Insecure IoT Devices (zdnet.com) 53

An anonymous reader writes:An attacker compromised over 5,000 IoT devices on a campus network -- including vending machines and light sensors -- and then used them to attack that same network. "In this instance, all of the DNS requests were attempting to look up seafood restaurants," reports ZDNet, though the attack was eventually blocked by cybersecurity professionals. Verizon's managing principal of investigative response blames the problem on devices configured using default credentials -- and says it's only gong to get worse. "There's going to be so many of these things used by people with very limited understanding of what they are... There's going to be endless amounts of technology out there that people are going to easily be able to get access to."
The article suggests "ensuring that IoT devices are on a completely different network to the rest of the IT estate." But it ends by warning that "until IoT manufacturers bother to properly secure their devices -- and the organizations which deploy them learn to properly manage them -- DDoS attacks by IoT botnets are going to remain a huge threat."
Cellphones

Mission Possible: Self-Destructing Phones Are Now a Reality (yahoo.com) 142

drunkdrone quotes the International Business Times: Self-destructing gadgets favored by the likes of James Bond and Mission: Impossible's Ethan Hunt have taken one step closer to reality. Researchers in Saudi Arabia have developed a mechanism that, when triggered, can destroy a smartphone or other electronic device in as little as 10 seconds. The self-destruct mechanism has been created by electrical engineers at the King Abdulla University of Science and Technology and consists of a polymer layer that rapidly expands when subjected to temperatures above 80 degrees Celsius, effectively bursting the phone open from the inside. The mechanism can be adapted to be triggered in various ways, including remotely through a smartphone app or when it's subjected to pressure.

Once triggered, power from the device's battery is directed to electrodes that rapidly heat, causing the polymer layer to expand to around seven times its original size within 10-15 seconds. This crushes the vital components inside the device, destroying any information stored on board.

One engineer believes the phone will see adoption in the intelligence and financial communities, though it can also be retrofitted to existing phones for just $15. This raises an interesting question -- would you want a self-destructing phone?
Iphone

Apple Fails To Remove 'Deleted' Safari Web Browser Histories From iCloud (betanews.com) 29

Reader BrianFagioli writes: Apple was storing Safari browsing histories in iCloud, even after they had been 'deleted' by the user, with such records being kept going back to 2015 -- although apparently this was an accidental by-product of the way the cloud syncing system works rather than anything malicious, and the issue has now been fixed. This information first came to light in a Forbes report, which cited Vladimir Katalov, the chief executive of Elcomsoft, a Russian security firm (which focuses on password/system recovery). Katalov stumbled onto the issue when reviewing the browsing history on his iPhone, when he discovered his supposedly deleted surfing history still present in iCloud, being able to extract it by using his company's Phone Breaker tool.
Iphone

All Three New 2017 iPhones To Feature Wireless Charging, Says Analyst (macrumors.com) 143

In late October, Nikkei Asian Review released a report claiming Foxconn was testing wireless charging modules for the iPhone 8. Another report has surfaced recently that further reinforces those claims. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo now claims that all three new iPhones expected to launch later this year will feature wireless charging. MacRumors reports: Kuo said wireless charging increases the internal temperature of smartphones, so he expects the rumored iPhone 8 with an OLED display and glass casing to have a new 3D Touch module with "additional graphite sheet lamination" in order to prevent the device from malfunctioning due to overheating. An excerpt from Kuo's research note obtained by MacRumors: "While we don't expect general users to notice any difference, lamination of an additional graphite sheet is needed for better thermal control and, thus, steady operation; this is because FPCB is replaced with film, which is more sensitive to temperature change of the 3D touch sensor in OLED iPhone." The new 3D Touch module could be up to $5 more expensive for Apple to procure per phone. While that is a minimal increase, it lends further credence to a report claiming the high-end iPhone 8 could cost upwards of $1,000 in the United States due to a significant redesign and the use of premium parts.
Communications

Linux Kernel 3.18 Reaches End of Life (softpedia.com) 101

prisoninmate quotes a report from Softpedia: Linux kernel 3.18.48 LTS is here and it's the last in the series, which was marked for a January 2017 extinction since mid-April last year. According to the appended shortlog, the new patch changes a total of 50 files, with 159 insertions and 351 deletions. It brings an updated networking stack with Bluetooth, Bridge, IPv4, IPv6, CAIF, and Netfilter improvements, a couple of x86 fixes, and a bunch of updated USB, SCSI, ATA, media, GPU, ATM, HID, MTD, SPI, and networking (Ethernet and Wireless) drivers. Of course, this being the last maintenance update in the series, you are urged to move to a newer LTS branch, such as Linux kernel 4.9 or 4.4, which are far more secure and efficient than Linux 3.18 was. But Linux 3.18 appears to be used by Google and other vendors on a bunch of Android-powered devices, and even some Chromebooks use Linux kernel 3.18 on Chrome OS, so here's what the kernel developer suggests you do if you can't upgrade. "If you are _stuck_ on 3.18 (/me eyes his new phone), well, I might have a plan for you, that first involves you yelling very loudly at your hardware vendor and refusing to buy from them again unless they cut this crap out. After you properly vent to them, drop me an email and let's see what we can come up with, you aren't in this sinking ship alone, and it's obvious your vendor isn't going to help out," said Greg Kroah-Hartman in the mailing list announcement.

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