Iphone

New iPhone SE Could Launch In May With Touch ID and A10 Fusion, Without 3.5mm Headphone Jack (macrumors.com) 90

Mac Rumors reports, citing Japanese website Mac Otakara, that Apple will release an updated iPhone SE next month with a similar form factor as the previous model. It is expected to retain Touch ID, but will drop the 3.5mm headphone jack. From the report: Also like the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus, the new iPhone SE will supposedly be powered by Apple's last-generation A10 Fusion chip, up to 40 percent faster than the A9 processor in the current iPhone SE. The chip will likely enable support for the HEIF image format and HEVC video compression standard. The report speculates that the new iPhone SE may have a glass back with wireless charging capabilities, like the iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, and iPhone X, but evidence is said to be inconclusive at this time.
Robotics

Apple Has a New iPhone Recycling Robot Named 'Daisy' (techcrunch.com) 39

Apple has unveiled a new robot called Daisy that's designed to recycle nine different versions of the iPhone. The new robot is an update to Liam, the recycling robot the company announced back in 2016. TechCrunch reports: Daisy was developed in-house by Apple engineers, using some of Liam's parts -- a recycling of sorts. The industrial robot is able to disassemble nine different versions of the iPhone, sorting all of their reusable components in the process. In all, Daisy is capable of taking apart a full 200 iPhones in a given hour, proving a solid alternative to traditional methods that can destroy valuable components in the process. Along with Daisy, Apple's also using the occasion to announce GiveBack, an addition to its recycling program. For every device customers turn in or trade from now until April 30, the company will make a donation to Conservation International, a Virginia-based environmental nonprofit. Eligible devices will still qualify for an in-store or gift card credit.
Facebook

Facebook To Design Its Own Processors For Hardware Devices, AI Software, and Servers (bloomberg.com) 55

Facebook is the latest technology company to design its own semiconductors, reports Bloomberg. "The social media company is seeking to hire a manager to build an 'end-to-end SoC/ASIC, firmware and driver development organization,' according to a job listing on its corporate website, indicating the effort is still in its early stages." From the report: Facebook could use such chips to power hardware devices, artificial intelligence software and servers in its data centers. Next month, the company will launch the Oculus Go, a $200 standalone virtual-reality headset that runs on a Qualcomm processor. Facebook is also working on a slew of smart speakers. Future generations of those devices could be improved by custom chipsets. By using its own processors, the company would have finer control over product development and would be able to better tune its software and hardware together. The postings didn't make it clear what kind of use Facebook wants to put the chips to other than the broad umbrella of artificial intelligence. A job listing references "expertise to build custom solutions targeted at multiple verticals including AI/ML," indicating that the chip work could focus on a processor for artificial intelligence tasks. Facebook AI researcher Yann LeCun tweeted about some of the job postings on Wednesday, asking for candidates interested in designing chips for AI.
Cloud

Microsoft Built Its Own Custom Linux Kernel For Its New IoT Service (techcrunch.com) 199

At a small press event in San Francisco, Microsoft today announced the launch of a secure end-to-end IoT product that focuses on microcontroller-based devices -- the kind of devices that use tiny and relatively low-powered microcontrollers (MCUs) for basic control or connectivity features. TechCrunch reports: At the core of Azure Sphere is a new class of certified MCUs. As Microsoft president and chief legal officer Brad Smith stressed in today's announcement, Microsoft will license these new Azure Sphere chips for free, in hopes to jump-start the Azure Sphere ecosystem. Because it's hard to secure a device you can't update or get telemetry from, it's no surprise that these devices will feature built-in connectivity. And with that connectivity, these devices can also connect to the Azure Sphere Security Service in the cloud. For the first time ever, Microsoft is launching a custom Linux kernel and distribution: the Azure Sphere OS. It's an update to the kind of real-time operating systems that today's MCUs often use.

Why use Linux? "With Azure Sphere, Microsoft is addressing an entirely new class of IoT devices, the MCU," Rob Lefferts, Microsoft's partner director for Windows enterprise and security told me at the event. "Windows IoT runs on microprocessor units (MPUs) which have at least 100x the power of the MCU. The Microsoft-secured Linux kernel used in the Azure Sphere IoT OS is shared under an OSS license so that silicon partners can rapidly enable new silicon innovations." And those partners are also very comfortable with taking an open-source release and integrating that with their products. To get the process started, MediaTek is producing the first set of these new MCUs. These are low-powered, single-core ARM-A7 systems that run at 500MHz and include WiFi connectivity as well as a number of other I/O options.

Businesses

Apple's Stumbling HomePod Isn't the Hot Seller It Wanted (bloomberg.com) 98

The recently-released Apple HomePod smart speaker is not selling very well. According to Bloomberg, "By late March, Apple had lowered sales forecasts and cut some orders with Inventec, one of the manufacturers that builds the HomePod for Apple." From the report: At first, it looked like the HomePod might be a hit. Pre-orders were strong, and in the last week of January the device grabbed about a third of the U.S. smart speaker market in unit sales, according to data provided to Bloomberg by Slice Intelligence. But by the time HomePods arrived in stores, sales were tanking, says Slice principal analyst Ken Cassar. "Even when people had the ability to hear these things," he says, "it still didn't give Apple another spike." During the HomePod's first 10 weeks of sales, it eked out 10 percent of the smart speaker market, compared with 73 percent for Amazon's Echo devices and 14 percent for the Google Home, according to Slice Intelligence. Three weeks after the launch, weekly HomePod sales slipped to about 4 percent of the smart speaker category on average, the market research firm says. Inventory is piling up, according to Apple store workers, who say some locations are selling fewer than 10 HomePods a day. KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo says Apple is "mulling" a "low-cost version" of the HomePod that may help short-term shipments. However, even if the product materializes, he predicts it will only provide a short-term boost to sales.
Software

New Navigation App 'Live Roads' Promises 1.5m-Accuracy With Standard Cellphone Hardware (arstechnica.com) 80

Jonathan M. Gitlin from Ars Technica reviews a new navigation app called Live Roads, which promises 1.5m-accuracy via your current smartphone without the need of any extra hardware. In a nutshell, the app provides more accurate mapping/navigation than what's currently available via Google Maps or Apple Maps, but it's still not quite as accurate as a true "HD map." HD maps are accurate to within a centimeter or two and are usually made by a combination of traditional surveying and lidar scanning. Here's an excerpt from the report: A few weeks after talking with the company, I was delivered a Samsung S7 loaded with Live Roads. I'll be honest: I'm not that familiar with Android, and this isn't really a review of the app. I used it enough to check that it does what it claims, but I didn't use it as my sole method of navigation. However, this brief bit of user-testing did let me check out the claims in that email. I don't think I'd equate the app with the HD maps that autonomous vehicles will need. For one thing it's readable by a human being; for another it's not quite that accurate. But the spatial resolution was indeed better than it should be on a consumer phone, and Live Roads was able to locate me down to a specific lane on a multi-lane road. Various navigation apps give you lane-specific instructions -- for instance, telling you to stay in the middle two lanes if you're approaching a complicated intersection. Where Live Roads differs is that it can also tell which lane you're actually in. Whether this is enough of a feature to build a business model around is an open question; I'm quite happy using Google Maps on iOS, with occasional forays into Waze (running in the background to warn of speed traps) and Apple Maps (if I'm driving something with CarPlay and the infotainment's built-in navigation sucks).

But it left me wondering: how does it work? Paul Konieczny, CEO of Live Roads, gave me an explanation -- up to a point. "Primarily it is based around sensor fusion and certain probabilistic models -- we call it the Black Box," he said. "The current release of the app that is available in the Play Store has an earlier revision of our Black Box. This initial version is missing some of the functionality of the full-fledged system and thus has a spatial resolution of ~2.5m. This compares favorably to standard GPS that has a resolution of 4.0 m+." By summer, Konieczny hopes that the system will be fully operational and that accuracy will be down to under 1.5m. Assuming a large enough user base, that should let it offer lane-specific traffic data, "as well as introducing an entire ecosystem of 3D objects that users will be able to interact with," he told me.

Cellphones

The Personality Traits That Put You At Risk For Smartphone Addiction (washingtonpost.com) 73

Zorro shares a report from The Washington Post: When the Trump-affiliated firm Cambridge Analytica obtained data on tens of millions of Facebook users, it used the "Big 5" or "Five Factor Model" personality test to target them with ads designed to influence their votes in the 2016 election. The test scores people on five traits -- openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness and neuroticism -- and was used in the election to predict the way a voter would respond to an advertisement. But the Big 5 can predict a lot more -- including how likely you are to even use Facebook or any other social media (Warning: source may be paywalled; alternative source).

That's because the way you score on the test can tell you how likely you are to become addicted to your screen. Research shows that people who score high on neuroticism, low on conscientiousness, and low on agreeableness are more likely to become addicted to social media, video games, instant messaging, or other online stimuli. Studies have also found that extraverts are more likely to become addicted to cellphone use than introverts. Some of the correlations make sense. Less agreeable people may be more apt to immerse themselves in technology because it does not require the kind of friendly interactions that real life does. Neurotic people have been shown to spend more time online because it validates their desire to belong or be part of a group. Conscientious people are less impulsive and therefore more able to control and organize their time. But then it gets complicated. Because according to a new study out of the State University of New York at Binghamton, specific combinations of those personality traits can mitigate or exaggerate one's propensity to addiction.

Android

LG's Upcoming 'G7 ThinQ' Smartphone To Feature Almost-Bezel-Less Display With Notch, Launch On May 2nd (9to5google.com) 51

Earlier this morning, LG announced in a blog post that it will be hosting an event on May 2nd in New York City, where it would unveil its upcoming "LG G7 ThinQ" Android smartphone, with a public event in Korea on May 3rd. While LG has yet to confirm any other details of the phone in this post, we do have a pretty good idea as to what this flagship smartphone will feature thanks to some recently-leaked renders courtesy of Android Headlines. 9to5Google reports: This latest shot of the phone gives us a clear look at the design on the front and back. Up front, there's the same notched display we saw at MWC with questionably thick bezels on the bottom and top. With those bezels and the notch, users are undoubtedly going to be questioning LG's design choices this time around. There's also a glass back that comes in several colors with a fingerprint sensor and vertically oriented camera in tow. According to the report, LG will be launching the phone in Aurora Black, Platinum Grey, Moroccan Blue, Moroccan Blue (Matte), and Raspberry Rose, but it's unclear which markets those colors will be available in.
IOS

Recent iOS Update Kills Functionality On iPhone 8s Repaired With Aftermarket Screens (vice.com) 229

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Apple released iOS 11.3 at the end of March, and the update is killing touch functionality in iPhone 8s repaired with some aftermarket screens that worked prior to the update. That means people who broke their phone and had the audacity to get it repaired by anyone other than Apple is having a hard time using their phone. "This has caused my company over 2,000 reshipments," Aakshay Kripalani, CEO of Injured Gadgets, a Georgia-based retailer and repair shop, told me in a Facebook message. "Customers are annoyed and it seems like Apple is doing this to prevent customers from doing 3rd party repair." According to Michael Oberdick -- owner and operator of iOutlet, an Ohio-based pre-owned iPhone store and repair shop, every iPhone screen is powered by a small microchip, and that chip is what the repair community believes to be causing the issue. For the past six months, shops have been able to replace busted iPhone 8 screens with no problem, but something in the update killed touch functionality. According to several people I spoke to, third-party screen suppliers have already worked out the issue, but fixing the busted phones means re-opening up the phone and upgrading the chip. It remains to be seen whether Apple will issue a new software update that will suddenly fix these screens, but that is part of the problem: Many phones repaired by third parties are ticking timebombs; it's impossible for anyone to know if or when Apple will do something that breaks devices fixed with aftermarket parts. And every time a software update breaks repaired phones, Apple can say that third-party repair isn't safe, and the third-party repair world has to scramble for workarounds and fixes.
Android

Slashdot Asks: Should Android OEMs Adopt the iPhone's Notch? 240

Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that Google was currently working on a "dramatic redesign" of its Android OS -- one that embraces the "notch" made popular by the iPhone X. A couple weeks after that report was published, Mobile World Congress was happening, and the biggest trend among Android OEMs was the introduction of a notch in their smartphones. The Verge's Vlad Savov argues that Android smartphone manufacturers are straight up copying the iPhone's design with "more speed and cynicism" than ever before.

Should Android original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) adopt the iPhone's display notch? A display notch can offer a greater screen-to-body ratio, for example, but lower overall aesthetic value. It can also create a headache for developers who need to update their apps to account for the notch that eats into the actual display area. What are your thoughts on display notches? Should Android OEMs adopt the iPhone X's display notch in their devices?

If you're not a fan of notches for aesthetic reasons, you may like the solution that OnePlus has come up with. The company will soon be launching their notch-equipped OnePlus 6 smartphone, but will allow OnePlus 6 owners to "hide" the device's notch via software. Users will have the option to black out the background of the notifications and status bar if they so desire.
Android

Google Is Considering Launching a Mid-Range Pixel Phone This Summer, Claims Report (arstechnica.com) 40

According to a report from The Economic Times, Google is developing a new mid-range Pixel smartphone. "The paper claims that 'Google's top brass shared details of its consumer products expansion plans in trade meetings held in Malaysia, the UK, and the U.S. last month." The story cites "four senior industry executives" that were present at the talks. Ars Technica reports: The Economic Times pegs "around July-August" for the launch date of this mid-range device, which the publication says will have a focus on "price-sensitive markets such as India." The phone would be part of Google Hardware's first push into India, which would involve bringing the Pixelbook, Google Home, and Google Home Mini to the country. The Indian paper did not say if the phone would launch in other countries, but it did say the phone would be launched in addition to the regular Pixel 3 flagship, which the report says is still due around October. It's good to hear Google is considering expanding the Pixel line to more countries (even if it's just one more country) as distribution is currently one of Google Hardware's biggest weak points. The Pixel 2 XL is only available in eight countries; by comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is sold in 110 countries. If Google really wants to compete in the smartphone market, it will have to do a lot better than selling in eight countries.
Cellphones

Two Studies Find 'Clear Evidence' That Cellphone Radiation Causes Cancer In Rats (qz.com) 217

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Quartz: [A] pair of studies by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found "clear evidence" that exposure to radiation caused heart tumors in male rats, and found "some evidence" that it caused tumors in the brains of male rats. (Both are positive results; the NTP uses the labels "clear evidence," "some evidence," "equivocal evidence" and "no evidence" when making conclusions.) Tumors were found in the hearts of female rats, too, but they didn't rise to the level of statistical significance and the results were labeled "equivocal;" in other words, the researchers couldn't be sure the radiation is what caused the tumors. The next scientific step will be to determine what this means for humans. The peer-reviewed papers will be passed on to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for determining human risk and issuing any guidelines to the public, and the Federal Communications Commission, which develops safety standards for cell phones. The FDA was part of the group of federal agencies who commissioned the studies back in the early 2000s.

Ronald Melnick, the NTP senior toxicologist who designed the studies (and who retired from the agency in 2009), says it's unlikely any future study could conclude with certainty that there is no risk to humans from cell phone use. "I can't see proof of a negative ever arising from future studies," Melnick says. He believes the FDA should put out guidance based on the results of the rat studies. "I would think it would be irresponsible to not put out indications to the public," Melnick says. "Maintain a distance from this device from your children. Don't sleep with your phone near your head. Use wired headsets. This would be something that the agencies could do right now."
Quartz notes that when the draft results were published earlier this year, all the results were labeled "equivocal," meaning the study authors felt the data weren't clear enough to determine if the radiation caused the health effects or not. "But the panel of peer reviewers (among them brain and heart pathologists, toxicologists, biostaticians, and engineers) re-evaluated the data and upgraded several of the conclusions to 'some evidence' and 'clear evidence.'"
Privacy

Adobe Is Helping Some 60 Companies Track People Across Devices (neowin.net) 66

Neowin reports of Adobe's recent announcement of its new Marketing Cloud Device Co-op initiative: The announcement of the new solution for tracking customers across devices was made at the Adobe Summit this week in Las Vegas to a digital marketing conference. According to an Adobe blog post released earlier this month citing Forrester, consumers are increasingly accessing multiple devices before making a purchase decision -- an average of 5.5 connected devices per person. This behavior creates a challenge for retailers, who cannot easily target people in their marketing campaigns, ultimately depending on Facebook or Google to track people instead of devices. Both Facebook and Google are able to do this job because of the massive amount of users logged into their ecosystems regularly, so most retailers have been opting to use those platforms as a way to reach potential customers. But Adobe's approach is to provide a platform agnostic solution acting as a glue between the world's biggest brands' own data management platforms.

In order for Device Co-op to work, each company that has joined the initiative will provide Adobe with "cryptographically hashed login IDs" and HTTP header data, which Adobe claims will completely hide the customer's identity. This data will be used to create groups of devices used by the same person or household, which will then be made available to all the members of the initiative so they can target people on different devices, instead of creating one customer profile per device, as can be seen from the example given in the image above. Until now, some 60 companies have joined the Adobe initiative, including brands such as Subway, Sprint, NFL, Lenovo, Intel, Barnes & Noble, and Subaru. Also, preliminary measurements made by Adobe indicate that Device Co-op could link up to 1.2 billion devices worldwide, based on the amount of accesses seen by current members. But it is important to note that the initiative is currently collecting data of U.S. and Canada users only.
Adobe is claiming the initiative will not disclose a user's identity to its members, including any personal data, but, given the recent Facebook and Cambridge Analytica scandal, many will be skeptical of those claims. Thankfully, Adobe is allowing users to completely opt out all of their devices from the services via this website.
Education

Apple Announces New $299 iPad With Pencil Support For Schools (theverge.com) 141

At its education event in Chicago today, Apple introduced a refreshed 9.7-inch iPad with Apple Pencil support. "The updated iPad will be available in Apple stores today, in silver, space gray, and a new gold finish," reports The Verge. "The tablet will include Touch ID, an HD FaceTime camera, 10 hours of battery life, an 8-megapixel rear camera, LTE option, and Apple's A10 Fusion chip." From the report: Apple previously lowered the price of its 9.7-inch iPad last year, with a base model starting at $329, but today it's going a step further for students. Apple is offering the new iPad to schools priced at $299 and to consumers for $329. The optional Apple Pencil will be priced at $89 for schools and the regular $99 price for consumers. This is obviously not the $259 budget iPad pricing that was rumored, but it does make it a little more affordable to students and teachers. This new iPad will be a key addition to Apple's lineup as it seeks to fight back against Google's Chromebooks. Apple's iPads and Mac laptops reigned supreme in U.S. classrooms only five years ago, accounting for half of all mobile devices shipped to schools in 2013. Apple has now slipped behind both Google and Microsoft in U.S. schools, and Chromebooks are dominating classrooms with nearly 60 percent of shipments in the U.S. Apple had some other non-hardware, education-themed announcements at its event today. "Apple demonstrated Smart Annotation, which allows teachers to mark up reports in Pages directly, and the company promised new versions of its iWork apps like Pages, Numbers, and Keynote that support the Apple Pencil," reports The Verge. "Teachers will also be able to use Macs to create digital books for their classrooms, and Apple is building a books creator into the Pages app." The company also announced a new augmented reality app called Froggipedia that lets students virtually dissect frogs using an Apple Pencil. The free iCloud offering for students has also been bumped up from 5GB to 200GB.
Encryption

Justice Department Revives Push To Mandate a Way To Unlock Phones (nytimes.com) 171

"FBI and Justice Department officials have been quietly meeting with security researchers who have been working on approaches to provide such 'extraordinary access' to encrypted devices," reports The New York Times (alternative source), citing people familiar with the matter. Justice Department officials believe that these "mechanisms allowing access to the data" exist without weakening the devices' security against hacking. Slashdot reader schwit1 shares the report: Against that backdrop, law enforcement officials have revived talks inside the executive branch over whether to ask Congress to enact legislation mandating the access mechanisms. The Trump White House circulated a memo last month among security and economic agencies outlining ways to think about solving the problem, officials said. The FBI has been agitating for versions of such a mandate since 2010, complaining that the spreading use of encryption is eroding investigators' ability to carry out wiretap orders and search warrants -- a problem it calls "going dark." The issue repeatedly flared without resolution under the Obama administration, peaking in 2016, when the government tried to force Apple to help it break into the iPhone of one of the attackers in the terrorist assault in San Bernardino, Calif. The debate receded when the Trump administration took office, but in recent months top officials like Rod J. Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, and Christopher A. Wray, the FBI director, have begun talking publicly about the "going dark" problem. The National Security Council and the Justice Department declined to comment about the internal deliberations. The people familiar with the talks spoke on the condition of anonymity, cautioning that they were at a preliminary stage and that no request for legislation was imminent. But the renewed push is certain to be met with resistance.

Slashdot Top Deals