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Businesses

Apple's iPhone Turns 10 (www.bgr.in) 168

An anonymous reader shares a report: "Every once in a while there is a revolutionary product that comes along, that changes everything," that's how Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone 10 years ago. To think about it, the iPhone did not have anything that anyone associated with a smartphone. On top of that, it was expensive, you could not share files over Bluetooth, it did not support 3G, it did not have an expandable storage slot and you needed iTunes for everything. But despite that, and to the horror of its rivals, everyone wanted one. Veteran journalist Steven Levy spoke with Phil Schiller, VP of Worldwide Marketing at Apple on the occasion.
Cellphones

Nokia Finally Returns To The Smartphone Market (In China) (mashable.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: To little fanfare, the Finnish technology company HMD Global Sunday unveiled the Nokia 6, a mid-range Android smartphone for the Chinese market. HMD owns the rights to use Nokia's brand on mobile phones. The Nokia 6, which runs the newest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920x1080 pixels) display. With metal on the sides and a rounded rectangular fingerprint scanner housed on the front, the Nokia 6 seems reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The new Nokia smartphone is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor and will compete with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy A series models and other mid-end smartphones... The smartphone is priced at 1,699 Chinese Yuan (roughly $250).

AI

Huawei Snubs Google, Ships An Android Phone With Alexa (reuters.com) 63

Huawei announced its flagship handset will gives users access to Amazon's Alexa assistant in the U.S., suggesting a new worry for Google, according to Reuters. An anonymous reader writes: "The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said." Analyst Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research even told Reuters that if Google's personal assistant lags in popularity when voice becomes the most popular interface, "that's a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI, and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue."

Tension may have started when Google decided to debut Google Assistant on their own Pixel smartphones. "While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said. 'It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services.'"

Nvidia announced this week at CES that they'd be using Google Assistant for their Shield TVs, while Whirlpool and Ford both announced Alexa-enabled products. But this article argues Google Assistant has one thing that Alexa doesn't have: a search engine.
United States

US Government Offers $25,000 Prize For Inventing A Way To Secure IoT Devices (ftc.gov) 196

An anonymous reader writes: America's Federal Trade Commission has announced a $25,000 prize for whoever creates the best tool for securing consumers' IoT devices. The so-called "IoT Home Inspector Challenge" asks participants to create something that will work on current, already-on-the-market IoT devices, with extra points also awarded for scalability ad easy of use.

"Contestants have the option of adding features, such as those that would address hard-coded, factory default, or easy-to-guess passwords," according to the official site, but "The tool would, at a minimum, help protect consumers from security vulnerabilities caused by out-of-date software." The winning submission can't be just a policy (or legal) solution, and will be judged by a panel which includes two computer science professors and a vulnerability researcher from Carnegie Mellon University's CERT Coordination Center.

Computerworld points out that "This isn't the first time the FTC has offered cash for software tools. In 2015, it awarded $10,500 to developers of an app that could block robocalls."
Government

FBI Releases (Redacted) Documents About The San Bernardino iPhone Case (go.com) 35

The FBI released 100 pages of documents about the unidentified vendor who unlocked the iPhone used by the San Bernardino shooter, but "censored critical details that would have shown how much the FBI paid, whom it hired and how it opened the phone." An anonymous reader quotes the Associated Press: The files make clear that the FBI signed a nondisclosure agreement with the vendor. The records also show that the FBI received at least three inquiries from companies interested in developing a product to unlock the phone, but none had the ability to come up with a solution fast enough for the FBI. The FBI also said in contracting documents that it did not solicit competing bids or proposals because it thought widely disclosing the bureau's needs could harm national security... The suit by the media organizations argued there was no legal basis to withhold the information and challenged the adequacy of the FBI's search for relevant records. It also said the public had a right to know whether the vendor has adequate security measures, is a proper recipient of government funds and will act only in the public interest. In refusing to provide the records, the FBI said the records had been compiled for law enforcement purposes and might interfere with ongoing enforcement proceedings, even though at the time the shooters were both dead and there were no indications others were involved.
Iphone

Original iPhone Prototype With iPod Click Wheel Surfaces Online (macrumors.com) 35

Famed Apple leaker Sonny Dickson has shared an early prototype of the original iPhone, with a collection of images and a video that provides a glimpse into one version of the iPhone that Apple created and tested before ending up with the first iteration of the device. Mac Rumors reports: The prototype includes some similar features to the first generation iPhone, like an aluminum chassis, multi-touch compatible screen, 2G connectivity and Wi-Fi, but its entire user interface is taken directly from the click wheel system of Apple's original iPod line. Called "Acorn OS," the prototype software includes an on-screen click wheel on the bottom half of the screen and a menu system on the top half, and the two are bisected by a bar with rewind, menu, play/pause, and fast-forward buttons. On the menu are options such as "Favorites," "SMS," "Music," "Settings," and "Recents," and it's navigated by circling around the click wheel to go up and down, with a center press confirming an action, just like on the iPod. Dickson references Apple's patent for a "multi-functional hand-held device," filed and published in 2006, as proof that such a prototype did exist at one point and could potentially have been an alternate version of the iPhone. In one of the patent's drawings, a click wheel can be seen as a possible input method for the proposed device. The patent's abstract describes a product with "at most only a few physical buttons, keys, or switches so that its display size can be substantially increased."
The Almighty Buck

T-Mobile Eliminates Cheaper Postpaid Plans, Sells 'Unlimited Data' Only (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: T-Mobile USA will stop selling its older and cheaper limited-data plans to postpaid customers, shifting entirely to its new "unlimited" data plans that impose bandwidth limits on video and tethering unless customers pay extra. To ease the transition, T-Mobile will offer bill credits of $10 a month to customers when they use less than 2GB per month. T-Mobile began its shift to unlimited data plans in August with the introduction of T-Mobile One, which starts at $70 a month. While there are no data caps, customers have to pay a total of $95 a month to get high-definition video and mobile hotspot speeds of greater than 512kbps. The carrier said in August that the unlimited plan would be "replacing all our rate plans," including its cheaper plans that cost $50 or $65 a month. Nonetheless, T-Mobile kept selling limited postpaid data plans to new customers for a few months, but yesterday CEO John Legere said that as of January 22, T-Mobile One will be the "only postpaid consumer plan we sell." Existing postpaid customers can keep their current plans. For new customers, T-Mobile will presumably keep selling its prepaid plans that cost $40 to $60 a month and come with 3GB to 10GB of data. T-Mobile also said yesterday that it will start including taxes and fees in its advertised rate when customers sign up for new T-Mobile One plans and enroll in automatic payments, essentially giving subscribers a discount. "The average monthly bill for a family of four will drop from $180.48 to $160, according to a company spokesman," The Wall Street Journal reported.
Android

LG Is Abandoning the Modular Smartphone Idea (theverge.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: LG's modular phone accessory strategy that served as the primary differentiator for last year's G5 smartphone appears to be no more. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South Korean company is pivoting away from the plug-in "Friends" modules for the upcoming G6 device after lackluster sales for the G5. Per The Wall Street Journal, an LG spokesperson commented that consumers aren't interested in modular phones. The company instead is planning to focus on functionality and design aspects for the upcoming G6, which Chief Technologist Skott Ahn says will be released "in the very near future." According to the WSJ, the LG G6 will arrive "in the very near future," which suggests the phone will launch at Mobile World Congress next month.
AT&T

AT&T Plans 5G Network Trial for DirecTV Customers (fortune.com) 58

AT&T said it plans to test its high-speed wireless 5G network, which reached speeds of 14 gigabits per second in lab trials, for customers of its online streaming television service, DirecTV Now, in Austin, Texas. From a report on Fortune: The U.S. wireless carrier, which plans to conduct the trial in the first half of 2017, has also teamed up with Qualcomm and Ericsson for mobile and broadband trials of the 5G network in the second half of the year. New 5G networks are expected to provide speeds at least 10 times and maybe 100 times faster than today's 4G networks, giving the potential to connect at least 100 billion devices with download speeds that can reach 10 gigabits per second.
Security

Norton Announces Core, a Smart Router To Protect Domestic IoT Devices (cnet.com) 119

fiannaFailMan writes: Norton has announced the launch of a smart router designed to protect connected home devices from intrusions. The Symantec-owned company says the device aims to keep safe up to 20 devices connected to it, including Windows computers, Macs, phones, tablets or any internet-of-things devices, in real time. Norton Core, shaped a little like a geodesic dome, can isolate an infected device from the rest of your network to prevent the spread of any malware. Some of the technical specifications include a dual-core 1.7GHz processor, 1MB of system memory and 4GB of flash memory, and the latest 4x4 AC2600 Wi-Fi standard, with a top speed on the 5GHz band of 1.73 megabits per second and up to 800Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. It also features four Gigabit LAN ports and can cover between 3,000 and 5,000 square feet.
Communications

Linksys Latest Company To Unveil a Wi-Fi Mesh System (engadget.com) 88

From an Engadget report: Mesh networking has become trendy for folks looking to fill every nook and cranny of their homes with Wi-Fi. So it should be no surprise that the makers of the most iconic router ever is unveiling its own system. The Linksys tri-band Velop setup is a modular system that the company says is made to expand as your needs do. Each Velop Tri-Band 2x2 802.11ac Wave 2 MU-MIMO node pulls quadruple duty as a router, range extender, access point and bridge. According to Linksys, each Velop is capable of a combined speed of 2,200 Mbps. It's like having a bunch of little routers in your home all working together to make sure you can stream The OA regardless of which room you're in.Linksys' Velop will set you back by at least $200 for an individual modular, with the pack of two and three priced at $350 and $500, respectively. This makes it costlier than Google's Wi-Fi router, which starts at $129.
Hardware

Samsung's Upcoming Galaxy S8 Smartphone Could Run a PC - Report (cnbc.com) 127

Samsung's upcoming flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone could give users the ability to plug it into a screen and turn it into a desktop personal computer, according to a media report. From the article: The All About Windows Phone blog posted a leaked slide from a presentation showing a Samsung smartphone being connected to a screen with a keyboard and mouse. The slide is titled "Samsung Desktop Experience" and shows a phone powering a screen to create a multi-tasking interface, presumably running on Google's Android mobile operating system. There is not much more information on the slide than a visual representation, but if this is true, it'd be an interesting feature that Samsung will tout as it launches its next flagship phone, one that is crucial to make up the fire-prone Galaxy Note 7 which was subsequently recalled.
Iphone

Family Sues Apple For Not Making Thing It Patented (nymag.com) 455

An anonymous reader writes: A lawsuit filed against Apple last week argues that, by not actually making a product that it patented, the company is partly responsible for an automobile accident. According to Jalopnik, James and Bethany Modisette are suing the tech company after a car crash two years ago that killed one of their daughters and injured the rest of the family. The driver of the car who hit them had been using Apple's FaceTime video chat at the time. The patent in question was first applied for in 2008, and describes "a lock-out mechanism to prevent operation of one or more functions of handheld computing devices by drivers when operating vehicles," such as texting or video chatting. The complaint cites Apple's "failure to design, manufacture, and sell the Apple iPhone 6 Plus with the patented, safer, alternative design technology" -- in other words, lack of the program's inclusion -- as a "substantial factor" in the crash.
Businesses

Samsung To Reveal This Month What Caused the Galaxy Note 7 Smartphone To Catch Fire - Report (reuters.com) 131

One of the biggest mysteries of 2016 will come to an end sometime this month. Samsung will make public the results of its months-long investigation into what caused several Galaxy Note 7 smartphones to turn into flames later this month, according to a report on Reuters. From the report: The South Korean firm said in October it was examining all aspects of the phone, suggesting there may be a combination of factors that contributed to one of the costliest product safety failures in tech history. Samsung has also previously noted that it was working with several third-party sources and experts to figure out what could have caused the error. A popular theory among many is that Samsung attempted to further slim the form factor of the Galaxy Note 7, which resulted in the battery to be held too tightly within the device -- which in turn, caused the layers of lithium cobalt oxide and graphite to touch.
AT&T

Verizon and AT&T Prepare to Bring 5G To (Select) Markets In 2017 (ieee.org) 53

An anonymous reader quotes IEEE Spectrum: This year, Verizon and AT&T plan to deliver broadband internet to select homes or businesses using fixed wireless networks built with early 5G technologies. These 5G pilot programs will give the public its first glimpse into a wireless future that isn't due to fully arrive until the early 2020s. With 5G, carriers hope to deliver data to smartphone users at speeds 10 times as fast as on today's 4G networks, and with only 1 millisecond of delay... Over the past year, companies have completed a flurry of lab tests and trials to figure out what types of radios, antennas, and signal processing techniques will work best to deliver 5G in hopes of bringing those technologies and their capabilities to market as soon as possible.
The article notes that standards groups are halfway through their eight-year process of finalizing technical specifications (set to finish in 2020), but "With so much cash on the line, and facing pressure from data-hungry customers, carriers are moving fast." In Japan, NTT Docomo has even tested dozens of programmable antennas simultaneously transmitting signals, resulting in transmissions at 20 gigabits per second. "At that speed, a complete 2-hour, 1080p, high-definition movie can be transmitted in a second and a half."
Cellphones

Google and Facebook Dominate The List of 2016's Top Ten Apps (betanews.com) 37

After surveying over 9,000 Android and iPhone users, Nielsen's "Electronic Mobile Measurement" has calculated the 10 most popular apps of 2016. Interestingly, the #1 and #2 most popular apps of the year were Facebook and Facebook Messenger. BrianFagioli writes: Facebook holds the first, second, and eighth spots -- remember, the company owns Instagram too. Google has the most number of spots in the top 10, with three, four, five, six, and seven [YouTube, Google Maps, Google Search, Google Play, and Gmail]. Rounding out the bottom of the list is Apple [for Apple Music] and Amazon. Google Play is sort of a weird inclusion, however, as it is the app which downloads other apps -- it probably should have been excluded.

Amazon saw insane growth, seeing a massive 43 percent year-over-year gain. Instagram comes in at second place with 36 percent. Facebook Messenger scores the third spot. The biggest surprise is that Apple Music is the top streaming music app, beating apps like Pandora and Spotify...because other music apps had huge head-starts.

Patents

Apple Patent Hints At Magnetic Ear Hooks To Keep Future AirPods In Your Ears (digitaltrends.com) 73

Patently Apple has recently uncovered a new Apple patent that may help AirPods stay in your ears. The patent details a magnetic mechanism that wraps around the user's ear. Digital Trends reports: The magnets attract each other through the ear tissue, keeping the AirPods in place and ensuring that they don't get lost. Of course, it's not certain if Apple filed this patent with AirPods in mind -- one of the images clearly shows a wired pair of headphones, and the patent was filed in June. The concept, however, would help keep both wired and wireless earbuds in place. The issue of keeping AirPods in the ear has been arguably the biggest issue related to the AirPods, and for good reason -- they're pretty expensive little devices, so losing them is definitely not something you want to do. It's possible that Apple decided against using the ear hooks for aesthetic reasons -- Apple is known for its excellent design and the ear hooks in the patent don't exactly look great. Not only that but the design of the charging case would have to change with the ear hooks. Some reports indicate that the patent could be implemented with future versions and given the hullaballoo surrounding keeping AirPods in, we wouldn't be totally surprised. It's also possible, however, that Apple patented the design but ultimately ended up nixing it.
Iphone

Apple To Cut iPhone Production By 10%: Nikkei (nikkei.com) 113

A new report from Nikkei Asian Review says that Apple will cut iPhone production by around 10% in the first quarter of 2017. From the report: This comes after the company slashed output in January-March 2016 due to accumulated inventory of the iPhone 6s line at the end of 2015. That experience led Apple to curb production of the iPhone 7, introduced in September, by around 20%. But the phones still have sold more sluggishly than expected. Information on production of the latest models and global sales suggests cuts in both the 7 and 7 Plus lines in the coming quarter. The larger iPhone 7 Plus, which features two cameras on its back face, remains popular. But a shortage of camera sensors has curbed Apple's ability to meet demand for the phones. U.S. research company IDC forecasts global smartphone shipments in 2016 on par with the 2015 level. Even Apple has had difficulty creating appealing new features, stifling demand from customers who otherwise would look to upgrade to the latest device.
Microsoft

Microsoft Is No Longer Selling Any Lumia Windows Phones On Its US Store (neowin.net) 85

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Neowin: It seems that Lumia has reached the end of the line, as the Microsoft Store is no longer selling any of the company's Windows Phone 8.1 or Windows 10 Mobile handsets in the U.S. The first signs that the end was approaching for Lumia came back in February, when Microsoft launched the Lumia 650, which was said to be the last in the company's Lumia line. In August, Microsoft removed all mention of Windows handsets from its U.S. store homepage, relegating 'Windows phone' to a dropdown menu instead. This week, just one Lumia handset remained on sale: the ATT-locked Lumia 950, available only in white. Now, that model has sold out too, leaving none of the company's Lumia handsets available to buy on its store. The Windows phones page on the Microsoft Store lists thirteen products, but eight of these are out of stock. When more stock is expected on a temporarily sold-out product, Microsoft typically replaces the 'Add to cart' button with one that says 'Email me when available'. Instead, each of these products now has a grayed-out button, stating "Out of stock."
Android

Android Users Are So Committed that Exploding Note 7 Did Little To Help Apple: NPD (appleinsider.com) 191

An anonymous reader writes: Like loyalty to a political party or hometown sports team, smartphone users are extremely passionate about their choices -- a commitment that led many customers to stick with Samsung, despite the disaster of its downright dangerous Galaxy Note 7. Earlier this week, mobile analytics firm Flurry published data from the holiday season, showing that Apple saw twice as many device activations as rival Samsung. Despite Apple's continued commanding lead in holiday sales of smartphones and tablets, however, the numbers suggested Apple's share was lower and Samsung's was slightly higher from last year. Attempting to explain the trends shown in the data, NPD analyst Stephen Baker told The Wall Street Journal he believes that Android loyalists are committed, and even dangerous exploding batteries in the Galaxy Note 7 were not enough to push significant numbers of customers over to the iPhone. "Most of those who bought or wanted to buy a Note 7 opted for a different high-end Galaxy phone," Baker said.

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