Google

Google Allo For Chrome Finally Arrives, But Only For Android Users (engadget.com) 87

Google Allo, the chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, now has a web counterpart. Head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo, Amit Fulay, tweeted: "Allow for web is here! Try it on Chrome today. Get the latest Allo build on Android before giving it a spin." Engadget reports: To give it a go, you'll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link. Once you've scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo's key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it's been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.
Google

Google Pays Apple $3 Billion Per Year To Remain On the iPhone, Analyst Says (cnbc.com) 101

In a note to investors on Monday, Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said Google is paying Apple billions of dollars per year to remain the default search engine on iPhones and iPads. "The firm believes that Google will pay Apple about $3 billion this year, up from $1 billion just three years ago, and that Google's licensing fees make up a large bulk of Apple's services business," reports CNBC. From the report: "Court documents indicate that Google paid Apple $1 billion in 2014, and we estimate that total Google payments to Apple in FY 17 may approach $3 billion," Bernstein analyst A.M. Sacconaghi Jr. said. "Given that Google payments are nearly all profit for Apple, Google alone may account for 5% of Apple's total operating profits this year, and may account for 25% of total company OP growth over the last two years."

Bug

Hundreds Of Smart Locks Get Bricked By A Buggy Firmware Update (bleepingcomputer.com) 119

An anonymous reader quotes BleepingComputer: On Tuesday, August 8, smart locks manufacturer LockState botched an over-the-air firmware update for its WiFi enabled [RemoteLock 6i] smart locks, causing the devices to lose connectivity to the vendor's servers and the ability to open doors for its users... The device costs $469 and is sold mainly to Airbnb hosts via an official partnership LockState has signed with the company. Hosts use the smart locks to configure custom access codes for each Airbnb renter without needing to give out a physical key to each one. The botched firmware bricked the device's smart code access mode. Physical keys continued to work. The botched firmware was a nuisance for private home owners, but it was a disaster for Airbnb hosts, who had to scramble to get customers physical keys so they could enter their rents.
The post includes tweets from angry lock owners, one complaining about a two-week wait for a replacement. The company is also offering to fix the defective units within "5-7 days," promising that "Every employee and resource at LockState is focused on resolving this for you as quickly as possible."
Iphone

Apple Refuses To Enable iPhone Emergency Settings that Could Save Countless Lives (thenextweb.com) 279

An anonymous reader shares a report: Despite being relatively easy, Apple keeps ignoring requests to enable a feature called Advanced Mobile Location (AML) in iOS. Enabling AML would give emergency services extremely accurate locations of emergency calls made from iPhones, dramatically decreasing response time. As we have covered before, Google's successful implementation of AML for Android is already saving lives. But where Android users have become safer, iPhone owners have been left behind. The European Emergency Number Association (EENA), the organization behind implementing AML for emergency services, released a statement today that pleads Apple to consider the safety of its customers and participate in the program: "As AML is being deployed in more and more countries, iPhone users are put at a disadvantage compared to Android users in the scenario that matters most: An emergency. EENA calls on Apple to integrate Advanced Mobile Location in their smartphones for the safety of their customers." Why is AML so important? Majority of emergency calls today are made from cellphones, which has made location pinging increasingly more important for emergency services. There are many emergency apps and features in development, but AML's strength is that it doesn't require anything from the user -- no downloads and no forethought: The process is completely automated. With AML, smartphones running supporting operating systems will recognize when emergency calls are being made and turn on GNSS (global navigation satellite system) and Wi-Fi. The phone then automatically sends an SMS to emergency services, detailing the location of the caller. AML is up to 4,000 times more accurate than the current systems -- pinpointing phones down from an entire city to a room in an apartment. "In the past months, EENA has been travelling around Europe to raise awareness of AML in as many countries as possible. All these meetings brought up a recurring question that EENA had to reply to: 'So, what about Apple?'" reads EENA's statement.
Android

T-Mobile To Launch Its Own Branded Budget Smartphone (cnet.com) 16

In a throwback to a time when carriers differentiated themselves by branding and selling exclusive phones, T-Mobile announced Wednesday that it's launching its very own budget Android smartphone called the Revvl. CNET reports: The Revvl, which runs on Android Nougat, offers pretty basic specs: a 5.5 inch HD display, 2GB of RAM, 32GB of storage, a 13-megapixel rear-facing camera a 5-megapixel front-facing camera. But it also throws in a fingerprint sensor and will cost T-Mobile customers just $5 a month with no down payment through the company's Jump! upgrade program. It goes on sale Thursday. In a blog post, T-Mobile COO Mike Sievert said the company is catering to those who want the latest smartphone technology but can't afford to pay for high-end devices.
The Internet

Maybe Americans Don't Need Fast Home Internet Service, FCC Suggests (arstechnica.com) 376

An anonymous reader shares an excerpt from a report via Ars Technica: Americans might not need a fast home Internet connection, the Federal Communications Commission suggests in a new document. Instead, mobile Internet via a smartphone might be all people need. The suggestion comes in the FCC's annual inquiry into broadband availability. Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act requires the FCC to determine whether broadband (or more formally, "advanced telecommunications capability") is being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion. If the FCC finds that broadband isn't being deployed quickly enough to everyone, it is required by law to "take immediate action to accelerate deployment of such capability by removing barriers to infrastructure investment and by promoting competition in the telecommunications market."

The FCC found during George W. Bush's presidency that fast Internet service was being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion. But during the Obama administration, the FCC determined repeatedly that broadband isn't reaching Americans fast enough, pointing in particular to lagging deployment in rural areas. These analyses did not consider mobile broadband to be a full replacement for a home (or "fixed") Internet connection via cable, fiber, or some other technology. Last year, the FCC updated its analysis with a conclusion that Americans need home and mobile access. Because home Internet connections and smartphones have different capabilities and limitations, Americans should have access to both instead of just one or the other, the FCC concluded under then-Chairman Tom Wheeler.
The report goes on to add that with Republican Ajit Pai as chairman of the FCC, "the FCC seems poised to change that policy by declaring that mobile broadband with speeds of 10Mbps downstream and 1Mbps upstream is all one needs." Furthermore, "In doing so, the FCC could conclude that broadband is already being deployed to all Americans in a reasonable and timely fashion, and thus the organization would take fewer steps to promote deployment and competition."
Privacy

In Less Than Five Years, 45 Billion Cameras Will Be Watching Us (fastcompany.com) 85

An anonymous reader writes: It was a big deal for many when Apple added a second camera to the back of the iPhone 7 Plus last year. In five years, that will be considered quaint. By then, smartphones could sport 13 cameras, allowing them to capture 360-degree, 3D video; create complex augmented reality images onscreen; and mimic with digital processing the optical zoom and aperture effects of an SLR. That's one of the far-out, but near-term, predictions in a new study by LDV Capital, a VC firm that invests in visual technologies such as computer vision. It polled experts at its own portfolio companies and beyond to predict that by 2022, the total number of cameras in the world will reach about 45 billion. Jaw-dropping as that figure is, it doesn't seem so crazy when you realize that today there are already about 14 trillion cameras in the world, according to data from research firms such as Gartner. Next to phones, other camera-hungry products will include robots (including autonomous cars), security cameras, and smart home products like the new Amazon Echo Show, according to LDV. UPDATE: Story has been updated to reflect the updates made to The Fast Company article. The outreach figures are 45 billion cameras by 2022, not trillion.
Operating Systems

Android 8.0's 'Streaming OS Updates' Will Work Even If Your Phone Is Full (arstechnica.com) 40

Regardless of whether or not your phone is full of pictures, or videos, or apps, you will still be able to download and install an OS update with Android 8.0. According to the latest source.android.com documentation, Google has cooked up a scheme to make sure that an "insufficient space" error will never stop an update again. Ars Technica reports: Where the heck can Google store the update if your phone is full, though? If you remember in Android 7.0, Google introduced a new feature called "Seamless Updates." This setup introduced a dual system partition scheme -- a "System A" and "System B" partition. The idea is that, when it comes time to install an update, you can normally use your phone on the online "System A" partition while an update is being applied to the offline "System B" partition in the background. Rather than the many minutes of downtime that would normally occur from an update, all that was needed to apply the update was a quick reboot. At that point, the device would just switch from partition A to the newly updated partition B. When you get that "out of space" error message during an update, you're only "out of space" on the user storage partition, which is just being used as a temporary download spot before the update is applied to the system partition. Starting with Android 8.0, the A/B system partition setup is being upgraded with a "streaming updates" feature. Update data will arrive from the Internet directly to the offline system partition, written block by block, in a ready-to-boot state. Instead of needing ~1GB of free space, Google will be bypassing user storage almost entirely, needing only ~100KB worth of free space for some metadata. Ars Technica goes on to note that the feature will be backported to Google Play Services, and will be enabled on "Android 7.0 and later" devices with a dual system partition setup.
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: Are My Drone Apps Phoning Home? 132

Slashdot reader bitwraith noticed something suspicious after flying "a few cheap, ready-to-fly quadcopters" with their smartphone apps, including drones from Odyssey and Eachine. I often turn off my phone's Wi-Fi support before plugging it in to charge at night, only to discover it has mysteriously turned on in the morning. After checking the Wi-Fi Control History on my S7, it appears as though the various cookie-cutter apps for these drones wake up to phone home in the night after they are opened, while the phone is charging. I tried contacting the publisher of the Odyssey VR app, with no reply.

I would uninstall the app, but then how would I fly my drone? Why did Google grant permission to control Wi-Fi state implicitly to all apps, including these abusers? Are the apps phoning home to report my flight history?

The original submission asks about similar experiences from other drone-owning Slashdot users -- so leave your best answers in the comments. What's making this phone wake up in the night?

Are the drone apps phoning home?
Android

BLU Claims Innocence, Gets Phones Reinstated On Amazon (slashgear.com) 43

Earlier this week, Amazon suspended budget phone maker BLU from selling its phones on the site, citing a "potential security issue." A few days have passed and BLU has made its defense. SlashGear reports: AdUps, the Chinese company that provides affordable firmware update software to countless budget Android phones, is not spyware and not even Kryptowire, the security firm that broke the news last year, called it that, insists BLU. To be fair, Kryptowire really didn't. In its 2016 report, it simply described AdUps' OTA software as "FIRMWARE THAT TRANSMITTED PERSONALLY IDENTIFIABLE INFORMATION (PII) WITHOUT USER CONSENT OR DISCLOSURE." Curiously, that is more or less how the FTC defines spyware (PDF). In its 2017 follow-up, it did drop the second part of that phrase and simply reported on "mobile devices for Personally Identifiable Information (PII) collection and transmission to third parties." While BLU, and a few other OEMs, was caught unaware by the first report, it's insisting on its innocence in this second instance. Its defense stems from the argument that it is doing nothing that violates its Privacy Policy and, therefore, doesn't constitute any wrongdoing. Yes, that privacy policy that barely anyone reads, which can't legally be blamed on manufacturers anyway.

In other words, when you agreed to use BLU's devices, you basically agreed that such PII could possibly be transmitted to a third party outside the US. In this particular case, that does apply to the situation with AdUps. Interestingly, the policy's copyright dates back to 2016, when the AdUps issue first came up. The Internet Archives doesn't seem to have any version of that page before April this year. And so we come to BLU's second arguments: everybody's doing it. The data that AdUps collects is the same or even just a fraction of what other OEMs are collecting. Google is hardly the bastion of privacy and other OEMs are also collecting such data and sending it to servers in China, as is the case with Huawei and ZTE. Finally, BLU says that Kryptowire's new report really only identifies the Cubot X16S, from a Chinese OEM, as the only smartphone really spying on its users.
UPDATE: BLU has confirmed that its devices "are now back up for sale on Amazon."
Network

Apple Plans To Release a Cellular-Capable Watch To Break iPhone Ties (bloomberg.com) 92

According to Bloomberg, Apple is planning to release a version of the Apple Watch later this year that can connect directly to cellular networks, a move designed to reduce the device's reliance on the iPhone. From the report: Currently, Apple requires its smartwatch to be connected wirelessly to an iPhone to stream music, download directions in maps, and send messages while on the go. Equipped with LTE chips, at least some new Apple Watch models, planned for release by the end of the year, will be able to conduct many tasks without an iPhone in range, the people said. For example, a user would be able to download new songs and use apps and leave their smartphone at home. Intel Corp. will supply the LTE modems for the new Watch, according to another person familiar with the situation. Apple is already in talks with carriers in the U.S. and Europe about offering the cellular version, the people added. The carriers supporting the LTE Apple Watch, at least at launch, may be a limited subset of those that carry the iPhone, one of the people said.
Science

Slashdot Asks: Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation? (theatlantic.com) 330

Teens today are more likely to be lonely, depressed and immature than any previous generation, according to analysis published in The Atlantic. According to the professor of psychology who did the analysis, who also has been researching generational differences for 25 years, the culprit is the smartphone. From the article: The advent of the smartphone and its cousin the tablet was followed quickly by hand-wringing about the deleterious effects of "screen time." But the impact of these devices has not been fully appreciated, and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans. The arrival of the smartphone has radically changed every aspect of teenagers' lives, from the nature of their social interactions to their mental health. These changes have affected young people in every corner of the nation and in every type of household. The trends appear among teens poor and rich; of every ethnic background; in cities, suburbs, and small towns. Where there are cell towers, there are teens living their lives on their smartphone. What do you folks think?
Software

Are App Sizes Out of Control? 386

In a blog post, Trevor Elkins points out the large sizes of common apps like LinkedIn and Facebook. "I went to update all my apps the other day when something caught my eye... since when does LinkedIn take up 275MB of space?!" Elkins wrote. "In fact, the six apps in this picture average roughly 230MB in size, 1387MB in total. That would take an 8Mbit internet connection 24 minutes to download, and I'd still be left with 27 additional apps to update! More and more companies are adopting shorter release cycles (two weeks or so) and it's becoming unsustainable as a consumer to update frequently."

Should Apple do something to solve this "systematic" problem? Elkins writes, "how does an app that occasionally sends me a connection request and recruiter spam take up 275MB?"

Further discussion via Hacker News.
Businesses

Apple's Shares Rise On Better-Than-Expected iPhone Sales (fortune.com) 60

Apple reported a 7.2% rise in quarterly revenue on Tuesday, thanks to better-than-expected sales of its iPhones. "The company said iPhone sales rose 1.6% to 41.03 million in the third quarter ended July 1, above analysts' average estimate of 40.7 million units," reports Fortune. "Apple sold 40.4 million iPhones a year earlier." From the report: Apple's shares rose 4% in after-hours trading on Tuesday to $ 156.00. Many customers wait for Apple to launch its new smartphones before deciding on upgrading or replacing their current devices, which usually results in iPhone demand tapering in the months before a release. The company forecast total revenue of between $49 billion and $52 billion for the current quarter, while analysts on average were expecting $49.21 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Analysts on average expect the company to sell 45.55 million iPhones in the current quarter, according to FactSet. Apple sold 45.51 million iPhones in the year-ago quarter.
Iphone

New iPhone To Have Tap to Wake, Attention Detection, and Virtual Home Button, Says Report (theverge.com) 59

HomePod's firmware has revealed several new features coming to the upcoming iPhone, such as a tap to wake function, facial expression and attention detection, and virtual home button. "Apple accidentally released the firmware over the weekend resulting in a frenzy of analysis about previously unknown features," reports The Verge. From the report: Developers including Steve Troughton-Smith and Guilherme Rambo have been tweeting their findings, notably the discovery of the new iPhone's bezel-less screen design. They've also concluded that the resolution for the iPhone 8 could be as much of a visual leap forward from current-generation iPhones as the iPhone 4's Retina display was from the original iPhone. Apple is using codenames for both its face recognition feature and the bezel-less phone, called "Pearl ID" and "D22" respectively. A potential "attention detection" feature is also mentioned in the code, with some speculating that may mean the phone will remain silent for notifications if it knows you're looking at the screen already. Facial references such as "mouthstretch," "mouthsmile," and "mouthdimple" were also found, which are most likely a nod to Apple's rumored facial recognition feature that can even detect faces in the dark using infrared. A tap to wake feature has also been discovered, and should be similar to the Windows Phone function that allows users to double-tap the screen to wake the phone.

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