Android

Essential Phone Will Ship Next Week, Shortly After Breaking $1 Billion Valuation (9to5google.com) 55

New submitter cloud.pt writes: Andy Rubin's Essential Phone will be released next week according to 9to5Google, just shy from its initial June mark. The company has been speculated to be worth around $1.2 billion, after giant Foxconn filed yesterday for a 0.25% acquisition at around $3 million -- clearing unicorn status as it hasn't shipped a single unit at the time. According to Engadget, future and existing pre-orders will have a chance to switch to the Pure White version of the slab, despite initial shipments being scheduled to be of the Black Moon variety. Essential's storefront orders will get the device unlocked, while the only parties offering the device will initially be Sprint. Rumor has it Amazon plans to sell the device as it invested in the company through its Alexa fund. No matter the contract attached, it will come with the full range of network capabilities unlocked.
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.
Patents

Toyota Patents Cloaking Device To Make Car Pillars Appear Transparent (thedrive.com) 102

Toyota has patented a cloaking device that aims to make big, chunky car pillars transparent. The "apparatuses and methods for making an object appear transparent" which Toyota just patented uses cleverly placed mirrors to bend light around an object making it visible from the other side. The Drive reports: So you're not really seeing through the pillars, you're seeing around them. This is a much cheaper option than adding more cameras and screens all over the place and much more realistic than Harry Potter's invisibility cloak. The patent was filed with the U.S. patent office by Toyota North America, so if Toyota does go forward with this technology, we can probably expect to see it in cars in the U.S.
United States

Hearing Loss of US Diplomats In Cuba Is Blamed On Covert Device (bostonglobe.com) 224

bsharma shares a report from The Boston Globe: The two-year-old U.S. diplomatic relationship with Cuba was roiled Wednesday by what U.S. officials say was a string of bizarre incidents that left a group of American diplomats in Havana with severe hearing loss attributed to a covert sonic device. In the fall of 2016, a series of U.S. diplomats began suffering unexplained losses of hearing, according to officials with knowledge of the investigation into the case. Several of the diplomats were recent arrivals at the embassy, which reopened in 2015 as part of former President Barack Obama's reestablishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba. Some of the diplomats' symptoms were so severe that they were forced to cancel their tours early and return to the United States, officials said. After months of investigation, U.S. officials concluded that the diplomats had been exposed to an advanced device that operated outside the range of audible sound and had been deployed either inside or outside their residences. It was not immediately clear if the device was a weapon used in a deliberate attack, or had some other purpose.
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.
Intel

Intel's Upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs Won't Work With Today's Motherboards (pcworld.com) 239

Intel's upcoming Coffee Lake CPUs won't work with existing 200-series motherboards that support Kaby Lake, a manufacturer confirmed on Wednesday. In a Twitter post by Asrock last Saturday, the company confirmed the news when asked if "the Z270 Supercarrier [will] get support for the upcoming @intel Coffee Lake CPUs." Their response: "No, Coffee Lake CPU is not compatible with 200-series motherboards." PCWorld reports: According to at least one reliable source outside of Intel, the new Coffee Lake CPU will indeed not be compatible with Z270 boards, even though the chipsets with the upcoming Z370 appear to be the same, PCWorld was told. The source added that there are hopes in the industry that Intel will change its mind on compatibility. Tomshardware.com said it had independently confirmed the news with Asrock officials as well.

Why this matters: The vast majority of new CPU sales are in new systems, and they likely won't be impacted by the incompatibility. However, there's also a very large and very vocal crowd of builders and upgraders who still swap out older, slower CPUs for newer, faster CPUs to maximize their investment. An upgrade-in-place doesn't sell an Intel chipset, but it at least keeps them on the Intel platform. If consumers are forced to dump an existing Z270 motherboard for a newer Z370 to get a six-core Coffee Lake CPU, Intel risks driving them into the arms of AMD and its Ryzen CPUs.

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.
Facebook

Facebook Is Working On a Video Chat Device (bloomberg.com) 86

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Bloomberg: Facebook Inc. is working on a video chat device for the home -- the first major hardware product from its experimental Building 8 lab. Featuring a laptop-sized touchscreen, the device represents a new product category and could be announced as soon as next spring's F8 developer conference, according to people familiar with the matter. They say the large screen and smart camera technology could help farflung people feel like they're in the same room, which aligns with Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg's mission of bringing Facebook users closer together. The device is in the prototype phase but is already being tested in people's homes. Geared to the living room, the video chat device will feature a wide-angle camera lens, microphones and speakers that are all powered by artificial intelligence to boost performance, the people said. A version of the device in testing includes a thin, vertical stand that holds a large touchscreen measuring between 13 and 15 inches diagonally, the people said. Facebook has considered running a version of the Android operating system on its device instead of building its own core operating system, according to the people. Facebook is testing a feature that would allow the camera to automatically scan for people in its range and lock onto them, one of the people said. Facebook is also working on a standalone smart speaker to compete with the Amazon Echo and Google Home, reports Bloomberg. The social media giant is "hiring Apple veterans to help create a Siri-style voice assistant that would run on both devices."
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.
Security

Hackers Can Turn Amazon Echo Into a Covert Listening Device (helpnetsecurity.com) 114

Orome1 shares a report from Help Net Security: New research released by MWR InfoSecurity reveals how attackers can compromise the Amazon Echo and turn it into a covert listening device, without affecting its overall functionality. Found to be susceptible to a physical attack, which allows an attacker to gain a root shell on the Linux Operating Systems and install malware, the Amazon Echo would enable hackers to covertly monitor and listen in on users and steal private data without their permission or knowledge. By removing the rubber base at the bottom of the Amazon Echo, the research team could access the 18 debug pads and directly boot into the firmware of the device, via an external SD card, and install persistent malware without leaving any physical evidence of tampering. This gained them remote root shell access and enabled them to access the "always listening" microphones. Following a full examination of the process running on the device and the associated scripts, MWR's researchers investigated how the audio media was being passed and buffered between the processes and the tools used to do so. Then they developed scripts that leveraged tools embedded on the device to stream the microphone audio to a remote server without affecting the functionality of the device itself. The raw data was then sampled via a remote device, where a decision could then be made as to play it out of the speakers on the remote device or save the audio as a WAV file. The vulnerability has been confirmed to affect the 2015 and 2016 editions of the device. The 2017 edition of the Amazon Echo is not vulnerable to this physical attack. The smaller Amazon Dot model also does not carry the vulnerability. More technical details can be found here.
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.
Android

Is the iPhone 'Years' Ahead of Android In Photography? (9to5mac.com) 408

Former Google senior vice president of Social, Vic Gundotra, said that Android phones are years behind the iPhone when it comes to photography. In a Facebook post, Gundotra said: "The end of the DSLR for most people has already arrived. I left my professional camera at home and took these shots at dinner with my iPhone 7 using computational photography (portrait mode as Apple calls it). Hard not to call these results (in a restaurant, taken on a mobile phone with no flash) stunning. Great job Apple." 9to5Mac reports: In response to a comment suggesting that the Samsung S8 camera was even better, Business Insider spotted that Gundotra disagreed. He said that not only was Apple way ahead of Samsung, but Android was to blame. From Gundotra's Facebook post: "I would never use an Android phone for photos! Here is the problem: It's Android. Android is an open source (mostly) operating system that has to be neutral to all parties. This sounds good until you get into the details. Ever wonder why a Samsung phone has a confused and bewildering array of photo options? Should I use the Samsung Camera? Or the Android Camera? Samsung gallery or Google Photos? It's because when Samsung innovates with the underlying hardware (like a better camera) they have to convince Google to allow that innovation to be surfaced to other applications via the appropriate API. That can take YEARS. Also the greatest innovation isn't even happening at the hardware level -- it's happening at the computational photography level. (Google was crushing this 5 years ago -- they had had 'auto awesome' that used AI techniques to automatically remove wrinkles, whiten teeth, add vignetting, etc... but recently Google has fallen back). Apple doesn't have all these constraints. They innovate in the underlying hardware, and just simply update the software with their latest innovations (like portrait mode) and ship it. Bottom line: If you truly care about great photography, you own an iPhone. If you don't mind being a few years behind, buy an Android."
Crime

Feds Crack Trump Protesters' Phones To Charge Them With Felony Rioting (thedailybeast.com) 465

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Daily Beast: Officials seized Trump protesters' cell phones, cracked their passwords, and are now attempting to use the contents to convict them of conspiracy to riot at the presidential inauguration. Prosecutors have indicted over 200 people on felony riot charges for protests in Washington, D.C. on January 20 that broke windows and damaged vehicles. Some defendants face up to 75 years in prison, despite little evidence against them. But a new court filing reveals that investigators have been able to crack into at least eight defendants' locked cell phones. Now prosecutors want to use the internet history, communications, and pictures they extracted from the phones as evidence against the defendants in court. [A] July 21 court document shows that investigators were successful in opening the locked phones. The July 21 filing moved to enter evidence from eight seized phones, six of which were "encrypted" and two of which were not encrypted. A Department of Justice representative confirmed that "encrypted" meant additional privacy settings beyond a lock screen. For the six encrypted phones, investigators were able to compile "a short data report which identifies the phone number associated with the cell phone and limited other information about the phone itself," the filing says. But investigators appear to have bypassed the lock on the two remaining phones to access the entirety of their contents.
AI

Qualcomm Opens Its Mobile Chip Deep Learning Framework To All (techcrunch.com) 13

randomErr shares a report from TechCrunch: Mobile chip maker Qualcomm wants to enable deep learning-based software development on all kinds of devices, which is why it created the Neural Processing Engine (NPE) for its Snapdragon-series mobile processors. The NPE software development kit is now available to all via the Qualcomm Developer Network, which marks the first public release of the SDK, and opens up a lot of potential for AI computing on a range of devices, including mobile phones, in-car platforms and more. The purpose of the framework is to make possible UX implementations like style transfers and filters (basically what Snapchat and Facebook do with their mobile app cameras) with more accurate applications on user photos, as well as other functions better handled by deep learning algorithms, like scene detection, facial recognition, object tracking and avoidance, as well as natural language processing. Basically anything you'd normally route to powerful cloud servers for advanced process, but done locally on device instead.
Government

Travelers' Electronics At US Airports To Get Enhanced Screening, TSA Says (arstechnica.com) 151

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Aviation security officials will begin enhanced screening measures of passengers' electronics at US airports, the Transportation Security Administration announced Wednesday. Travelers must remove electronics larger than a mobile phone from their carry-on bags and "place them in a bin with nothing on top or below, similar to how laptops have been screened for years. This simple step helps TSA officers obtain a clearer X-ray image," the TSA announced amid growing fears that electronic devices can pose as homemade bombs. The TSA was quick to point out that the revised security measures do not apply to passengers enrolled in the TSA Precheck program.

"Whether you're flying to, from, or within the United States, TSA is committed to raising the baseline for aviation security by strengthening the overall security of our commercial aviation network to keep flying as a safe option for everyone," TSA Acting Administrator Huban A. Gowadia said. "It is critical for TSA to constantly enhance and adjust security screening procedures to stay ahead of evolving threats and keep passengers safe. By separating personal electronic items such as laptops, tablets, e-readers and handheld game consoles for screening, TSA officers can more closely focus on resolving alarms and stopping terror threats."

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