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The Courts

US Appeals Court Revives Antitrust Lawsuit Against Apple (reuters.com) 121

iPhone app purchasers may sue Apple over allegations that the company monopolized the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store, leading to higher prices, a U.S. appeals court ruled. From a report on Reuters: The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling revives a long-simmering legal challenge originally filed in 2012 taking aim at Apple's practice of only allowing iPhones to run apps purchased from its own App Store. A group of iPhone users sued saying the Cupertino, California, company's practice was anticompetitive. Apple had argued that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.
Google

Google's New Compression Tool Uses 75% Less Bandwidth Without Sacrificing Image Quality (thenextweb.com) 103

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Next Web: Google just released an image compression technology called RAISR (Rapid and Accurate Super Image Resolution) designed to save your precious data without sacrificing photo quality. Claiming to use up to 75 percent less bandwidth, RAISR analyzes both low and high-quality versions of the same image. Once analyzed, it learns what makes the larger version superior and simulates the differences on the smaller version. In essence, it's using machine learning to create an Instagram-like filter to trick your eye into believing the lower-quality image is on par with its full-sized variant. Unfortunately for the majority of smartphone users, the tech only works on Google+ where Google claims to be upscaling over a billion images a week. If you don't want to use Google+, you'll just have to wait a little longer. Google plans to expand RAISR to more apps over the coming months. Hopefully that means Google Photos.
AI

HTC's New Flagship Phone Has AI and a Second Screen, But No Headphone Jack (theverge.com) 205

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: HTC is getting 2017 off to a flying start with an unseasonably early announcement of its next flagship phone: the U Ultra. This 5.7-inch device inaugurates a new U series of smartphones and is joined by a smaller and lesser U Play, which scales things down to 5.2 inches and a humbler camera and processor spec. HTC is touting a new Sense Companion, which is its take on the growing trend for putting AI assistants into phones, plus the addition of a second screen at the top of the U Ultra. As with Apple's latest iPhones, Lenovo's Moto Z, and the HTC Bolt, neither of HTC's new handsets has a headphone jack. The other big change on the outside is the U Ultra's second screen, which is a thin 2-inch strip residing to the right of the front-facing camera and immediately above the Super LCD 5 screen.
AT&T

New FCC Report Says AT&T and Verizon Zero-Rating Violates Net Neutrality (theverge.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Just a week and a half before he is set to leave office, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has issued a new report stating that the zero-rated video services offered by ATT and Verizon may violate the FCC's Open Internet Order. Assembled by the FCC's Wireless Telecommunications Bureau, the report focuses on sponsored data programs, which allow companies to pay carriers to exempt exempt their data from customers' data caps. According to the report, many of those packages simply aren't playing fair. "While observing that ATT provided incomplete responses to staff inquires," Wheeler wrote to Senators, "the report states that the limited information available supports a conclusion that ATT offers Sponsored Data to third-party content providers at terms and conditions that are effectively less favorable than those it offers to its affiliate, DirecTV." In theory, sponsored data should be an even playing field, with providers bearing the costs and making the same charges regardless of who's footing the bill. But according to the report, ATT treats the DirectTV partnership very differently from an unaffiliated sponsored data system, giving the service a strong advantage over competitors. "ATT appears to view the network cost of Sponsored Data for DIRECTV Now as effectively de minimis," the report concludes. While ATT still bears some cost for all that free traffic, it's small enough that the carrier doesn't seem to care. The report raises similar concerns regarding Verizon's Go90 program, although it concludes Verizon's program may be less damaging. Notably, the letter does not raise the same concerns about T-Mobile's BingeOn video deal, since it "charges all edge providers the same zero rate for participating."
Transportation

JetBlue Giving All Passengers Free In-Flight 'Fly-Fi' High-Speed Wi-Fi (betanews.com) 71

BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, JetBlue announced something miraculous for travelers. Every one of its passengers will have access to free in-flight high-speed Wi-Fi, which it calls "Fly-Fi." This is on every single aircraft in its fleet. In other words, if you are flying JetBlue, you get free high-speed internet "JetBlue's Fly-Fi, which clocks in at broadband speeds beating sluggish and pricey Wi-Fi offerings onboard other carriers, keeps customers connected with an Internet experience similar to what they have at home, including the ability to stream video and use multiple devices at once. The service enables JetBlue to deliver Amazon Video streaming entertainment to customers onboard to their personal devices, as well as web surfing and chatting on favorite messaging apps," says JetBlue. The vice president of JetBlue, Jamie Perry, explains, "It's 2017 and our customers expect to be connected everywhere, whether that be from the comfort of their sofa or 35,000 feet above it. That's why we're so proud that JetBlue is now the only airline to offer free, high-speed Wi-Fi, live TV and movies for all customers on every plane."
Wireless Networking

Wireless Headphone Sales Soared After Apple Dropped Headphone Jack (fortune.com) 252

Apple's decision to remove the headphone jack from new iPhones last year prompted lots of consumers to switch to wireless headphones, according to a new report on holiday shopping. From a report: Three-quarters of all headphones sold online in December were wireless models, up from 50% a year earlier, according to shopping tracker Slice Intelligence. Apple was the biggest beneficiary of the shift, as both its new AirPods earphones and models from its Beats subsidiary led the sales charts. The $159 AirPods, Apple's first wireless model sold under its own brand, didn't go on sale until Dec. 13, but the product quickly dominated the wireless headphone market, Slice found. In the year prior to the debut, the Beats brand topped online sales of wireless models with a 24% market share, trailed by Bose with an 11% share and Jaybird at 8%. But after AirPods went on sale, they grabbed 26% of online wireless sales, Slice found. Bose was second at 16% and Beats dropped to third with 15% of the market during the period considered.
AT&T

AT&T Imposes Another $5 Rate Hike On Grandfathered Unlimited Data Plans (arstechnica.com) 58

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: ATT is raising the price of its grandfathered unlimited data plans by $5 a month, the second such increase in the past year. The price increase affects longtime mobile customers who have held onto unlimited data plans for years after ATT stopped selling them to new subscribers. The latest price increase was reported by DSLReports yesterday, and ATT confirmed the move to Ars. "If you have a legacy unlimited data plan, you can keep it; however, beginning in March 2017, it will increase by $5 per month," ATT said. The unlimited data price had been $30 a month for seven years, until ATT raised it to $35 in February 2016. The price increase this year will bring it up to $40. That amount is just for data: Including voice and texting, the smartphone plans cost around $90 a month. ATT encouraged customers to move to one of its new plans, most of which have data limits, saying the newer packages "provide several benefits that our legacy unlimited plan doesn't." For example, the newer plans support mobile hotspot connections allowing a phone's Internet service to be shared with another device. ATT had stopped selling unlimited smartphone data to new customers and to customers who are switching plans, but last year introduced a new unlimited plan that's available only to people who also subscribe to DirecTV or U-verse TV.
Network

Verizon Purges Unlimited Data Customers, Targets Those Using 200GB (arstechnica.com) 196

If you're a Verizon customer on an unlimited data plan who uses more than 200GB a month, you will soon need to switch to a limited plan or be disconnected, according to Verizon. "Because our network is a shared resource and we need to ensure all customers have a great mobile experience with Verizon, we are notifying a small group of customers on unlimited plans who use more than 200GB a month that they must move to a Verizon Plan by February 16, 2017," Verizon spokesperson Kelly Crummey told Ars Technica today. Ars reports: Since Verizon stopped offering unlimited data to new smartphone customers in 2011, this change affects only longtime customers who were allowed to hang on to the old plans. Verizon could simply force all customers who aren't under contract to switch to new plans, but instead it has periodically made moves that reduce the numbers of unlimited data subscribers. This policy will apply to people who average more than 200GB "over several months," Verizon said. Customers who do not move to limited plans "will be disconnected," Verizon confirmed. On limited plans, customers get reduced speeds after they exceed monthly data limits unless they purchase extra 4G LTE data. Verizon previously purged its unlimited data rolls in August 2016. In that case, Verizon set a limit of 500GB a month, the company told Ars today. This is more specific information than we previously reported. Shortly before the August 2016 move, Verizon told us that it was targeting customers who were "using data amounts well in excess of our largest plan size (100GB)," but Verizon did not specify that it was only targeting customers using at least 500GB. With the threshold being dropped from 500GB to 200GB, the latest move will affect customers who weren't using enough data to be caught up in the last round.
Wireless Networking

LG Threatens To Put Wi-Fi in Every Appliance it Introduces in 2017 (arstechnica.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares a report: During the company's CES press conference today, LG marketing VP David VanderWaal says that "starting this year" all of LG's home appliances will feature "advanced Wi-Fi connectivity." One of the flagship appliances that will make good on this promise is the Smart Instaview Refrigerator, a webOS-powered Internet-connected fridge that among other things supports integration with Amazon's Alexa service.
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."

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