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Iphone

Apple To Swap Faulty iPhone 6S Batteries (bbc.com) 29

Apple is offering to replace the batteries of a "small number" of iPhone 6S phones with a fault that makes them unexpectedly shut down. The phones with this fault were manufactured between September and October 2015, it said in a statement. From a report on BBC:Affected devices will suddenly stop working even though the handset's battery has plenty of charge. Anyone with an eligible phone who takes up the offer will get a free replacement battery for their handset. In its announcement, Apple urged customers who believe they have a faulty phone to contact an Apple store, an authorised repair shop or the firm's support line to start the process of getting a new battery. A "limited serial number range" was affected, it said.
Canada

Google Opens Real-World 'Google Shops' in Canada (digitaltrends.com) 43

Streetlight writes: Google is moving towards a physical presence in Best Buy stores...mimicking what Samsung has done. Hopefully the "stores" are staffed with competent professionals that know what they're selling and maybe provide some help to those who have purchased Google's hardware and software.
Google "is launching a store-within-a-store debuting in North America at select Best Buy locations in Canada," reports TechCrunch, adding that recently "Google also revealed that it would be creating a pop-up Experience Store for users to check out its new wares in New York City."
Google

Google Bans Hundreds Of Pixel Phone Resellers From Their Google Accounts (theguardian.com) 171

Hundreds of Google users lost their access to their emails, photos, documents, "and anything else linked to their Google identity," wrote the Guardian last week, reporting on "hundreds of people who took advantage of a loophole in US sales tax to make a small profit on Pixel phones" -- and got all of the Google accounts suspended. Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: "The Google customers had all bought the phones from the company's Project Fi mobile carrier, and had them shipped directly to a reseller in New Hampshire, a US state with no sales tax. In return, the reseller split the profit with the customers," the Guardian adds.

People might ask, in a hurt tone of voice, "why are you doing this to me?" To which the obvious answer is "because we can, and you agreed to these (link to 3000 pages of text) terms and conditions, including our ability to do this"... The only question has been "When?", never "If?"

Update: Google "has reviewed banned users' appeals and re-enabled their accounts," reports The Guardian.
Security

Second Chinese Firm In a Week Found Hiding a Backdoor In Android Firmware (bleepingcomputer.com) 108

An anonymous reader quotes Bleeping Computer: Security researchers have discovered that third-party firmware included with over 2.8 million low-end Android smartphones allows attackers to compromise Over-the-Air (OTA) update operations and execute commands on the target's phone with root privileges. This is the second issue of its kind that came to light this week after researchers from Kryptowire discovered a similar secret backdoor in the firmware of Chinese firm Shanghai Adups Technology Co. Ltd.. This time around, the problem affected Android firmware created by another Chinese company named Ragentek Group.
It apparently affects more than 55 low-end/burner phones from BLU, Infinix Mobility, DOOGEE, LEAGOO, IKU Mobile, Beeline, and XOLO. According to the article, the binary performing the insecure updates "also includes code to hide its presence from the Android OS, along with two other binaries and their processes... Without SSL protection, this OTA system is an open backdoor for anyone looking to take control of it." Even worse, three domains were hard-coded into the binaries, two of which were unregistered, according to the researchers. "If an adversary had noticed this, and registered these two domains, they would've instantly had access to perform arbitrary attacks on almost 3,000,000 devices without the need to perform a Man-in-the-Middle attack."
Businesses

Barnes & Noble Announces A New $50 Android Tablet (teleread.org) 41

Next Friday Barnes & Noble will release a $50 Android tablet, competing against Amazon's tablets with a more-open version of Android. Long-time Slashdot reader Robotech_Master writes: The specs are similar to slightly better than the $50 Fire, but the kicker is this tablet will ship with plain-vanilla Marshmallow Android 6.0 and the Google Play utilities -- unlike the Fire, which limits its users to only those apps Amazon deems suitable to offer. Might this be enough to rescue the ailing Nook brand?
If you truly care about your app ecosystem, this would at least save you the trouble of having to root your tablet just to install apps from the Google Play Store.
Crime

New York's District Attorney: Roll Back Apple's iPhone Encryption (mashable.com) 215

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said Thursday that he wants Apple's encryption to go back to how it was in early 2014. Back then, police could basically extract any information they wanted after getting a warrant. "Doing nothing about this problem will perpetuate an untenable arms race between private industry and law enforcement," Vance said on Thursday. "Federal legislation is our only chance to lay these arms aside."

Vance said he's got 423 "lawfully-seized Apple devices" that his employees can't do anything with. Forty-two of those devices "pertain to homicide or attempted murder cases" according to the district attorney's office, and a similar number "relate to sex crimes." The argument, of course, is that the district attorney's office would have an easier time solving crimes if they had access to these phones... Apple believes being forced to hack into phones at the government's will is an unreasonable burden.

ZDNet adds that "the call for federal legislation could be given a popular boost by president elect Donald Trump, who previously called for a boycott on Apple products when it refused to help the FBI."
Graphics

The Next iPhone Will Feature An OLED Display, Says Bloomberg (bloomberg.com) 67

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Apple Inc. has big plans to outfit its next iPhone with vibrant, energy-sipping organic LED displays, seeking to entice consumers with new technology that's already been embraced by other high-end smartphone makers. The trouble is that the four main suppliers for such components won't have enough production capacity to make screens for all new iPhones next year, with constraints continuing into 2018, people familiar with the matter said, presenting a potential challenge for the Cupertino, California-based company. OLED screens are more difficult to produce, putting Apple at the mercy of suppliers that are still working to manufacture the displays in mass quantities, the people said. The four largest producers are Samsung Display Co., LG Display Co., Sharp Corp., and Japan Display Inc. While Samsung is on track to be the sole supplier for the new displays next year, the South Korean company may not be able to make enough due to low yield rates combined with increasing iPhone demand. The supply constraints may force Apple to use OLED in just one version of the next-generation iPhone, push back adoption of the technology or cause other snags. Apple plans to ship at least one new iPhone with an OLED screen next year, the 10th anniversary of the smartphone's debut, people with knowledge of the matter said. A pair of other new iPhone models will likely feature screens that use older LCD technology, partly because there won't be enough OLED displays to satisfy anticipated demand, according to KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. The OLED iPhone, at least, will have a new look that extends glass from the display to the device's back and edges, according to a person familiar with Apple's plans. This all-glass design will have a virtual Home button embedded in an edge-to-edge screen, rather than a physical button that can be pressed, the person added.
Portables (Apple)

Slashdot Asks: Which Windows Laptop Could Replace a MacBook Pro? 315

Last month, Apple unveiled new MacBook Pros, featuring an OLED Touch Bar, Touch ID, and all-new form factor that shaves off roughly 3mm in thickness. There are three base versions of the 13-inch MacBook Pro with Intel Core i5 processors and 8GB of memory (upgradable to 16GB RAM and dual-core Intel Core i7 processors) for $1,499, $1,799 and $1,999. The base model 15-inch MacBook Pro comes with Core i7 processors and 16GB of memory for $2,399 and $2,799. Of course, adapters and AppleCare support are sold separately. The new laptops are great for Apple users -- but what about Windows users? Is there a Windows laptop that matches the new MacBook Pro in terms of build quality, reliability, and performance? Jack Schofield via The Guardian attempts to help Patrick, who is looking for a PC that matches Apple's new offerings as closely as possible. "I use my Mac for all the usual surfing, watching videos, listening to music and so on," Patrick writes. "I also use Adobe Photoshop pretty heavily and video-editing software more lightly." Schofield writes: The Dell XPS 13 and 15 are the most obvious alternatives to MacBooks. Unfortunately, they are at the top of this price range. You can still get an old-model XPS 13 (9350) for $950, but that has a Core i5-6200U with only 4GB of memory. The latest 9360 version has a 2.5GHz Core i5-7200U, 8GB of memory and a 128GB SSD for $1,050. If you go for a 512GB SSD at $1,150, you're only saving $420 on a new 2.0GHz MacBook Pro. HP's Spectre x360 range offers similar features to Dell's XPS range, except that all the x360 laptops have touch screens that you can rotate to enable "tent" (eg for movie viewing) or tablet operation. The cheapest model is the HP Spectre x360 13-4126na. This has a 13in screen, a Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of memory and a 256GB SSD for $1,050. You can upgrade to an HP Spectre x360 13-4129na with better screen resolution -- 2560 x 1440 instead of 1920 x 1080 -- plus a 2.5GHz Core i7-6500U and 512GB SSD for $1,270. Again, this is not much cheaper than a 2.0GHz MacBook Pro 13. You could also look at the Lenovo ThinkPad T560, which is a robust, professional 15.6in laptop that starts at $800. Do any Slashdotters have any comparable Windows laptops in mind that could replace a new MacBook Pro?
AT&T

Apple's Chip Choices May Leave Some iPhone Users in Slow Lane (bloomberg.com) 35

Not all iPhone 7s are created equal, it turns out. The latest flagship smartphones from Apple that run on Verizon's network are technically capable of downloading data faster than those from AT&T. Yet in testing, the two phones perform about the same, according to researchers at Twin Prime Inc. and Cellular Insights. From a Bloomberg report: Neither firm is clear on the reason, but Twin Prime says it may be because Apple isn't using all the potential of a crucial component in the Verizon version. "The data indicates that the iPhone 7 is not taking advantage of all of Verizon's network capabilities," said Gabriel Tavridis, head of product at Twin Prime. "I doubt that Apple is throttling each bit on the Verizon iPhone, but it could have chosen to not enable certain features of the network chip." "Every iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus meets or exceeds all of Apple's wireless performance standards, quality metrics, and reliability testing," Apple spokeswoman Trudy Muller said. "In all of our rigorous lab tests based on wireless industry standards, in thousands of hours of real-world field testing, and in extensive carrier partner testing, the data shows there is no discernible difference in the wireless performance of any of the models." It would be an unusual step for a major phone company to restrain its devices. Normally, companies battle to make the fastest, most reliable handsets. Apple may be doing this because it wants to ensure a uniform iPhone experience, according to analysts.
Operating Systems

iOS Devices Failed More Often Than Android Units During Q3, Says Report (phonearena.com) 95

A report from Blannco Technology Group has revealed that iOS devices failed more often than Android devices in the third quarter. Specifically, 62% of Apple iPhone and Apple iPad units suffered failures, compared to the 47% failure rate tallied by Android devices. Phone Arena reports: Apps crashed on 65% of iOS powered devices compared to just 25% of Android models. The breakdown for the iOS devices shows the Apple iPhone 6 with a leading 13% failure rate, followed by the Apple iPhone 6s (9%), Apple iPhone 5s (9%) and the Apple iPad Air 2 (2%). In the report, some of the blame for the high iOS failure rate is placed on the iOS 10 update. Among Android devices, the LeEco Le 2 had a 13% failure rate to lead the way. Two Xiaomi devices were next, both with a 9% rate. Those models were the Redmi 3S and the Redmi Note 3. Rounding out the top five are the Samsung Galaxy S7 edge (5%) and the Lenovo Vibe K5 Note (4%). Android flavored models faced problems with the battery (seen on 7% of devices) and issues with the screen (6%). Samsung branded phones and tablets had the most Android failures among manufacturers at 11%. That was followed by the 4% registered by Xiaomi built products. Crashed apps by far was the leading problem for iOS users in North America during the quarter. Worldwide, the rising temperature of an iDevice was the biggest issue. Android users in North America had to deal with crashed apps (21%) more than other problems. Worldwide, those using an Android phone or tablet were most likely to face an issue with the USB port. Last quarter, iOS devices had a 58% failure rate, which marked the first time that Apple's devices had a lower performance rate compared to Android.
Iphone

Apple Launches 'Touch Disease' Repair Program For iPhone 6 Plus (macrumors.com) 176

Apple has ignored one of the biggest problems plaguing iPhone 6 Plus devices -- until now. The company today launched a new "Touch Disease" repair program for the iPhone 6 Plus, finally addressing complaints about a hardware defect that causes the display of the devices to become unresponsive to touch, or less responsive overall. If you have an iPhone 6 Plus that is affected by this defect, you will be able to have your device fixed for a service price of $149. You will be reimbursed by Apple if you paid more than $149 to have your device fixed before the repair program was implemented. MacRumors provides some extra details: Complaints about the iPhone 6 Plus touchscreen issue started in August, after iFixit published a video highlighting the bug and dubbed it "Touch Disease." Touch Disease presents as a gray flickering bar at the top of the screen and a display that becomes unresponsive or less responsive to touch. The problem is believed to be caused by the touchscreen controller chips soldered to the logic board of the phone, making repairs difficult. Third-party repair outlets speculated that the issue could be linked to the same structural design flaw that caused the major "Bendgate" controversy, and Apple's suggestion that it is caused by repeated physical damage seems to confirm that. Customers who have an iPhone 6 Plus with Multi-Touch issues can visit an Apple Authorized Service Provider or an Apple retail store to see if they qualify for the $149 repair fee.
Firefox

Mozilla Launches Firefox Focus, a Stripped-Down Private Browser For iOS (venturebeat.com) 35

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: Mozilla today launched a new browser for iOS. In addition to Firefox, the company now also offers Firefox Focus, a browser dedicated to user privacy that by default blocks many web trackers, including analytics, social, and advertising. You can download the new app now from Apple's App Store. If you're getting a huge feeling of deja vu, that's because in December 2015, Mozilla launched Focus by Firefox, a content blocker for iOS. The company has now rebranded the app as Firefox Focus, and it serves two purposes. The content blocker, which can still be used with Safari, remains unchanged. The basic browser, which can be used in conjunction with Firefox for iOS, is new. Firefox Focus is basically just an iOS web view with tracking protection. If you shut it down, or iOS shuts it down while it's in the background, the session is lost. There's also an erase button if you want to wipe your session sooner. But those are really the only features -- there's no history, menus, or even tabs.
America Online

AOL To Cut 500 Workers To Narrow Focus On Mobile, Video (bloomberg.com) 60

According to a report from Bloomberg, AOL is firing as many as 500 employees as part of a restructuring plan to focus on mobile, video and data. The move comes a year after Verizon acquired the company for $4.4 billion. Bloomberg reports: The layoffs are occurring in all of AOL's business units, said the person, who asked not to be identified disclosing the scope of the cuts. AOL employs about 6,400 people worldwide, the person said. In addition to the job cuts, the company will split into two parts, according to the memo. One will be dedicated to media properties, which include Huffington Post and TechCrunch, and the other will focus on platforms, like AOL's advertising technology. "Mobile, video, and data are the key growth drivers of that strategy and the company will be putting resources into each of these areas," [Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong wrote in a memo to employees Thursday.] With the wireless industry maturing, AOL parent Verizon has been buying up media and advertising-technology companies and working to refine go90, its free video-streaming service aimed at phone-toting teens.
Intel

Qualcomm's Snapdragon 835 is Its First 10-Nanometer SoC (engadget.com) 70

An anonymous reader writes: Chipset maker Qualcomm has unveiled its next-gen Snapdragon 835 flagship SOC and confirmed rumors that it will be built by Samsung using its 10-nanometer FinFET process. Compared to the current 14-nanometer Snapdragon 821 (also built by Samsung), the new CPU packs 30 percent more parts into the same space, yielding 27 percent better performance while drawing up to 40 percent less power, the company says. It also improved the design, which will yield "significant" improvements to battery life. The new chip comes with Quick Charge 4, which supports 20 percent faster charging than Qualcomm's last-gen tech. That, the company says, will give you up to five hours of extra battery life with just a five-minute charge. In just 15 minutes, it'll give Snapdragon 835 phones a half-full battery.
Businesses

Apple Explores Making iPhones in the US, Finds 'the Cost Will More Than Double': Nikkei (nikkei.com) 472

Apple is exploring the idea of making iPhones in the United States. But the company has realized that it will cost more than double to make the shiny new gadgets at home, according to a report on Japan-based outlet Nikkei. From the report:Key Apple assembler Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as Foxconn Technology Group, has been studying the possibility of moving iPhone production to the U.S., sources told the Nikkei Asian Review. "Apple asked both Foxconn and Pegatron, the two iPhone assemblers, in June to look into making iPhones in the U.S.," a source said. "Foxconn complied, while Pegatron declined to formulate such a plan due to cost concerns." Foxconn, based in the gritty, industrial Tucheng district in suburban Taipei, and its smaller Taiwanese rival churn out more than 200 million iPhones annually from their massive Chinese campuses. Another source said that while Foxconn had been working on the request from Apple Inc., its biggest customer that accounts for more than 50% of its sales, Chairman Terry Gou had been less enthusiastic due to an inevitable rise in production costs. "Making iPhones in the U.S. means the cost will more than double," the source said.
Iphone

iPhones Secretly Send Call History To Apple, Security Firm Says (theintercept.com) 124

Russian digital forensics Elcomsoft says iPhones send near real-time logs to Apple servers even when iCloud backup is switched off. The firm adds that these logs are stored for up to four months. From a report on the Intercept:"You only need to have iCloud itself enabled" for the data to be sent, said Vladimir Katalov, CEO of Elcomsoft. The logs surreptitiously uploaded to Apple contain a list of all calls made and received on an iOS device, complete with phone numbers, dates and times, and duration. They also include missed and bypassed calls. Elcomsoft said Apple retains the data in a user's iCloud account for up to four months, providing a boon to law enforcement who may not be able to obtain the data either from the user's carrier, who may retain the data for only a short period, or from the user's device, if it's encrypted with an unbreakable passcode. "Absolutely this is an advantage [for law enforcement]," Robert Osgood, a former FBI supervisory agent who now directs a graduate program in computer forensics at George Mason University, said of Apple's call-history uploads. "Four months is a long time [to retain call logs]. It's generally 30 or 60 days for telecom providers, because they don't want to keep more [records] than they absolutely have to. So if Apple is holding data for four months, that could be a very interesting data repository and they may have data that the telecom provider might not."
The Almighty Buck

Comcast Takes $70 Gigabit Offer Away From Cities Near Chicago (arstechnica.com) 79

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: When Comcast brought its gigabit cable Internet service to the Chicago area in August, it gave customers in some parts of Chicago and nearby towns the option of subscribing for $70 a month -- half off the standard, no-contract price of $140. Though the $70 gigabit offer required a three-year contract, it came with unlimited data, which normally costs an extra $50 a month on top of the $140 no-contract price. For Comcast customers, this was a good deal. But Comcast didn't make the $70 offer available throughout the Chicago area, and now the company has restricted it even further. The offer remains available in parts of Chicago, namely Uptown, Grand Crossing, the Loop, and South Loop. But Comcast has stopped offering the $70 price in all nearby cities and towns where it was originally available. The $70 price was briefly offered in Arlington Heights, Naperville, Plainfield, Waukegan, Tinley Park, Batavia, and Bloomington in Illinois and in South Bend in Indiana. In those areas, the $140 no-contract price is now the only option for new gigabit cable customers. (People who signed up for the $70 deal before it was rescinded will still get it for three years, as they're under contract.) A Comcast spokesperson said the company had been "testing" the $70 promotion in certain areas of Illinois and Indiana but decided to stop the tests in most of them. It's not clear why Comcast stopped the tests in these cities and towns, but Comcast told Ars that it often changes its promotions and thus could expand the $70 deal to other areas or offer new discounts soon. However, there are no expansions of the $70 offer being announced right now.
China

Chinese Consumer Group Has Asked Apple To Investigate 'a Considerable Number' of iPhone Shutdowns (businessinsider.com) 73

An anonymous reader writes:The China Consumers Association (CCA) has asked Apple to investigate "a considerable number" of reports by users of iPhone 6 and 6s phones that the devices have been shutting off and cannot be turned back on again, it said on Tuesday. The reported problems specifically involve users seeing their iPhones automatically shut off despite 50-60 percent battery levels, and the involuntary shutting off in room temperature or colder environments, as well as the inability to turn the cellphone back on despite continuous battery charging, the statement said. "In view that Apple iPhone 6 and iPhone 6s series cellphones in China have a considerable number of users, and the number of people who've reported this problem is rather many, China Consumer Association has already made a query with Apple," the association said in a statement on its website.
Patents

Samsung Patent Describes Holographic TV Technology (consumerist.com) 52

Patently Mobile is reporting about a new patent application filed by Samsung that lays out new holographic TV technology. Slashdot reader Rick Schumann writes via Consumerist: Holographic displays as described by Samsung would be able to make the depth the brain perceives consistent with the focus of the eyes. Lasers would be used to project holograms that float in front of the screen, which of course sounds a heck of a lot like a mini Princess Leia telling Obi-Wan Kenobi he's her only hope. The display apparatus could also include an eye tracking unit that would locate an observer's pupils and adjust how far it has to project the holographic image for optimum viewing.

Worth noting: This is just a patent application; no indication of even a working prototype.


Medicine

Chemical Traces On Your Phone Reveal Your Lifestyle, Scientists Say (theguardian.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Scientists say they can deduce the lifestyle of an individual, down to the kind of grooming products they use, food they eat and medications they take, from chemicals found on the surface of their mobile phone. Experts say analysis of someone's phone could be a boon both to healthcare professionals, and the police. "You can narrow down male versus female; if you then figure out they use sunscreen then you pick out the [people] that tend to be outdoorsy -- so all these little clues can sort of narrow down the search space of candidate people for an investigator," said Pieter Dorrestein, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Diego. Writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers from the U.S. and Germany describe how they swabbed the mobile phone and right hand of 39 individuals and analyzed the samples using the highly sensitive technique of mass spectrometry. The results revealed that each person had a distinct "signature" set of chemicals on their hands which distinguished them from each other. What's more, these chemicals partially overlapped with those on their phones, allowing the devices to be distinguished from each other, and matched to their owners. Analysis of the chemical traces using a reference database allowed the team to match the chemicals to known substances or their relatives to reveal tell-tale clues from each individual's life -- from whether they use hair-loss treatments to whether they are taking antidepressants.

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