Google

Google's Record Fine of $2.8 Billion Was a 'Deterrent,' EU Says (bloomberg.com) 13

The European Union was aiming for a "deterrent effect" on Google and other technology giants when it ordered the Android-maker to pay 2.4 billion euros ($2.8 billion) for breaching antitrust law over how it displays shopping ads. From a report: Regulators weighed "the need to ensure that the fine has a sufficiently deterrent effect not only on Google and Alphabet but also on undertakings of a similar size and with similar resources," the European Commission said in a 215-page document laying out details of its seven-year investigation into the company. The "particularly large" revenue of Google's parent, Alphabet, also determined the size of the fine, the EU said. The penalty, levied in June, was more than double an earlier 1 billion-euro fine on Intel and came with a threat of more daily fines for Google if it didn't comply with an order to offer equal treatment to rival shopping-comparison services. Big numbers for big technology names have been a theme for EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who ordered Apple Inc. to pay back some 13 billion euros in taxes last year.
AI

Google Is Shutting Down Project Tango (androidpolice.com) 36

Google announced that it is ending support for Project Tango, the company's first attempt to bring a solid augmented-reality experience to the average user. The project used an array of cameras and sensors to accurately map 3D areas, causing the devices support Tango to be relatively large and expensive. Android Police reports: The first Tango device put into production was the "Peanut" phone, which was given to early access partners in 2014. Then came the "Yellowstone" 7-inch tablet, which was initially sold for $1,024 before a massive price drop to $512. The only other devices with Project Tango were the Lenovo Phab2 Pro, which wasn't a very good phone to start off with, and the ZenFone AR. This move isn't entirely surprising, now that Google is working on a software-only solution called ARCore. Not only is ARCore similar to Tango in functionality, but it doesn't require specialized hardware like Tango does.
Android

Andy Rubin's Essential Phone Considered Anything But (theregister.co.uk) 149

An anonymous reader shares a report: Andy Rubin's ambitions to create a new consumer electronics ecosystem are floundering at base camp. Sales of Essential's phone, which forms a key part of the strategy, are tepid. Google Play reports a mere 50,000 download of Essential's Camera app so far, the Android Police blog notes. This doesn't paint the full picture, but it can be assumed a fairly complete one, barring a few brush strokes. Essential launched in the US with support from Sprint, at a recommended SIM-free retail price of $699. After reported sales of just five thousand in the first month, this was slashed to $499 and could be grabbed for $399 in the post-Thanksgiving sales. As devices from different manufacturers proliferate in the home, Rubin has alluded to "a new operating system so it can speak all those protocols and it can do it securely and privately." But rather than launching a new software platform he's had to launch hardware.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: Are There Any Good Smartwatches Or Fitness Trackers? 251

"What's your opinion on the current state of smartwatches?" asks long-time Slashdot reader rodrigoandrade. He's been researching both smartwatches and fitness trackers, and shares his own opinions: - Manufacturers have learnt from Moto 360 that people want round smartwatches that actually look like traditional watches, with a couple of glaring exceptions....

- Android Wear 2.0 is a thing, not vaporware. It's still pretty raw (think of early Android phones) but it works well. The LG Sport Watch is the highest-end device that supports it.

- LTE-enabled smartwatches finally allow you to ditch your smartphone, if you wish. Just pop you nano SIM in it and party on. The availability is still limited to a few SKUs in some countries, and they're ludicrously expensive, but it's getting there.

Keep reading for his assessment of four high-end choices -- and share your own opinions in the comments.
Android

Google Puts Android Accessibility Crackdown On Hold (slashgear.com) 28

Last month, Google issued a warning to Android app developers that they will no longer be able to access Android accessibility service functions in their apps, unless they can demonstrate that those functions are specifically used to help users with "disabilities." Since a lot of password managers use the Accessibility API, as well as poplar apps like Tasker automation and Greenify battery saver, there was a large amount of backlash from developers and users alike. According to SlashGear, Google is putting the Android accessibility crackdown on hold. From the report: Google has now sent another email that basically says "we'll think about it." It is evaluating "responsible and innovative use" of those services on a case to case basis. It is also requiring developers to explicitly inform users why they are asking for accessibility permissions rather than just informing them. This, of course, puts a heavier burden on Google, as it has to be more involved in the screening of apps rather than just rely on good ol' machine learning and automation. Developers and users probably won't mind, if it means still having access to those features that make Android a platform above all the rest.
Android

Android 8.0 Oreo For Android Wear Released (9to5google.com) 9

According to a Google developer, Android 8.0 Oreo is rolling out to Android Wear devices starting today. The developer said "timing is determined by each watch's manufacturer." 9to5Google notes that there are "no major redesigns with Oreo for the wearable platform," but there are some useful tweaks. From the report: There is a new option to disable touch-to-wake called "Touch lock" in Settings that Google positions as being useful in wet conditions. Google has added the ability to control the strength of vibrations for incoming notifications. Referred to as the "Vibration pattern," options include Normal, Long, and Double. Meanwhile, there is now a toggle to manually enable the "Battery saver," instead of having to wait until the device hits a low charge. This mode disables Vibration, Location services, Wi-Fi & mobile usage, Data & app updates, and the Always-on display. Meanwhile, the update includes notification channels for apps that should provide more granular user control. Google also shared that Wear is now available in seven new countries and languages: Belgium (Dutch), Czech Republic (Czech), El Salvador (Spanish), Honduras (Spanish), Nigeria (English), Paraguay (Spanish), and Portugal (Portuguese).
Google

Inside Oracle's Cloak-and-dagger Political War With Google (recode.net) 86

schwit1 shares a Recode report: The story that appeared in Quartz this November seemed shocking enough on its own: Google had quietly tracked the location of its Android users, even those who had turned off such monitoring on their smartphones. But missing from the news site's report was another eyebrow-raising detail: Some of its evidence, while accurate, appears to have been furnished by one of Google's fiercest foes: Oracle. For the past year, the software and cloud computing giant has mounted a cloak-and-dagger, take-no-prisoners lobbying campaign against Google, perhaps hoping to cause the company intense political and financial pain at a time when the two tech giants are also warring in federal court over allegations of stolen computer code. Since 2010, Oracle has accused Google of copying Java and using key portions of it in the making of Android. Google, for its part, has fought those claims vigorously. More recently, though, their standoff has intensified. And as a sign of the worsening rift between them, this summer Oracle tried to sell reporters on a story about the privacy pitfalls of Android, two sources confirmed to Recode.
Android

Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Boosts CPU and GPU Performance, Delivers 4K HDR Capture, 3x Faster AI Processing (hothardware.com) 48

MojoKid writes: Qualcomm provided a deep-dive view today of its Snapdragon 845 mobile processor platform that it recently announced, highlighting key advancements in what the company is referring to as a completely new silicon design. The new chip now employs a Kyro 385 CPU with four high performance cores at 2.8GHz (25 percent faster than the previous gen Snapdragon 835) and four "efficiency" cores operating at 1.7GHz. The new chip also includes the new Spectra 280 image signal processor (ISP). Compared to its predecessor, the image signal processor (ISP) in the Snapdragon 845 promises a 64x uplift in the ability to capture high dynamic range (HDR) color information for 4K HDR video capture and playback. The chip's new Adreno 630 GPU promises a 30 percent boost in gaming performance compared to its predecessor, along with room-scale VR/AR experiences that support 6 degrees of freedom along with simultaneous localization and mapping, or SLAM. Finally, the new SoC platform incorporates Qualcomm's second-generation gigabit LTE modem: the Snapdragon X20. This Cat 18 modem supports peak download speeds of 1.2Gbps along with 5x carrier aggregation, 4x4 MIMO, and Dual SIM-Dual VoLTE. Qualcomm says that the first Snapdragon 845 processors will begin shipping in production devices in early 2018.
Chrome

Google Wants Progressive Web Apps To Replace Chrome Apps (androidpolice.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Android Police: The Chrome Web Store originally launched in 2010, and serves a hub for installing apps, extensions, and themes packaged for Chrome. Over a year ago, Google announced that it would phase out Chrome apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux in 2018. Today, the company sent out an email to developers with additional information, as well as news about future Progressive Web App support. The existing schedule is mostly still in place -- Chrome apps on the Web Store will no longer be discoverable for Mac, Windows, and Linux users. In fact, if you visit the store right now on anything but a Chromebook, the Apps page is gone. Google originally planned to remove app support on all platforms (except Chrome OS) entirely by Q1 2018, but Google has decided to transition to Progressive Web Apps:

"The Chrome team is now working to enable Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) to be installed on the desktop. Once this functionality ships (roughly targeting mid-2018), users will be able to install web apps to the desktop and launch them via icons and shortcuts; similar to the way that Chrome Apps can be installed today. In order to enable a more seamless transition from Chrome Apps to the web, Chrome will not fully remove support for Chrome Apps on Windows, Mac or Linux until after Desktop PWA installability becomes available in 2018. Timelines are still rough, but this will be a number of months later than the originally planned deprecation timeline of 'early 2018.' We also recognize that Desktop PWAs will not replace all Chrome App capabilities. We have been investigating ways to simplify the transition for developers that depend on exclusive Chrome App APIs, and will continue to focus on this -- in particular the Sockets, HID and Serial APIs."

Android

Qualcomm Announces Latest Snapdragon 845 Processor (9to5google.com) 38

The processor to power the next generation of Android flagship smartphones has been announced today. Qualcomm unveiled the new Snapdragon 845 processor at the 2017 Snapdragon Tech Summit, where Microsoft announced it was working with its PC partners to bring Windows 10 to Qualcomm's ARM processors. While more technical details of the chip will be announced tomorrow, we do know that the Snapdragon 845 processor is based on a 10nm processor and will feature the latest X20 LTE modem for gigabit connectivity speeds. Generally speaking, the new processor will bring improved performance, better power efficiency, and improved image processing.
Security

A Popular Virtual Keyboard App Leaks 31 Million Users' Personal Data (zdnet.com) 65

Zack Whittaker, writing for ZDNet: Personal data belonging to over 31 million customers of a popular virtual keyboard app has leaked online, after the app's developer failed to secure the database's server. The server is owned by Eitan Fitusi, co-founder of AI.type, a customizable and personalizable on-screen keyboard, which boasts more than 40 million users across the world. But the server wasn't protected with a password, allowing anyone to access the company's database of user records, totaling more than 577 gigabytes of sensitive data. The database appears to only contain records on the app's Android users.
Android

Android Go Will Make the Most Basic Phones Run Smoothly (cnet.com) 102

Entry-level phones may cost less than big hitters, but they come at the cost of space, speed and efficiency. Google's looking to change that with Android Go. From a report: Android Oreo (Go Edition) will launch tomorrow as part of the Android Oreo 8.1 rollout and all Android Oreo devices with 512MB to 1GB of memory will be optimised for Android Go. Google says this will allow them to function properly as smartphones while doubling their available storage space. The experience includes: An improved operating system with better performance, storage and security features; a new set of lighter Google apps, suitable for first-time web users; a Google Play store that highlights apps designed to work best on entry-level devices.
Iphone

Should Apple Share iPhone X Face Data With App Developers? (washingtonpost.com) 66

The Washington Post ran a technology column asking what happens "when the face-mapping tech that powers the iPhone X's cutesy 'Animoji' starts being used for creepier purposes." It's not just that the iPhone X scans 30,000 points on your face to make a 3D model. Though Apple stores that data securely on the phone, instead of sending it to its servers over the Internet, "Apple just started sharing your face with lots of apps." Although their columnist praises Apple's own commitment to privacy, "I also think Apple rushed into sharing face maps with app makers that may not share its commitment, and it isn't being paranoid enough about the minefield it just entered." "I think we should be quite worried," said Jay Stanley, a senior policy analyst at the American Civil Liberties Union. "The chances we are going to see mischief around facial data is pretty high -- if not today, then soon -- if not on Apple then on Android." Apple's face tech sets some good precedents -- and some bad ones... Less noticed was how the iPhone lets other apps now tap into two eerie views from the so-called TrueDepth camera. There's a wireframe representation of your face and a live read-out of 52 unique micro-movements in your eyelids, mouth and other features. Apps can store that data on their own computers.

To see for yourself, use an iPhone X to download an app called MeasureKit. It exposes the face data Apple makes available. The app's maker, Rinat Khanov, tells me he's already planning to add a feature that lets you export a model of your face so you can 3D print a mini-me. "Holy cow, why is this data available to any developer that just agrees to a bunch of contracts?" said Fatemeh Khatibloo, an analyst at Forrester Research.

"From years of covering tech, I've learned this much," the article concludes. "Given the opportunity to be creepy, someone will take it."
Businesses

The Underground Uber Networks Driven by Russian Hackers (thedailybeast.com) 49

Joseph Cox, reporting for DailyBeat: Uber's ride-sharing service has given birth to some of the most creative criminal scams to date, including using a GPS-spoofing app to rip off riders in Nigeria, and even ginning up fake drivers by using stolen identities. Add to those this nefariously genius operation: Cybercriminals, many working in Russia, have created their own illegitimate taxi services for other crooks by piggybacking off Uber's ride-sharing platform, sometimes working in collaboration with corrupt drivers. Based on several Russian-language posts across a number of criminal-world sites, this is how the scam works: The scammer needs an emulator, a piece of software which allows them to run a virtual Android phone on their laptop with the Uber app, as well as a virtual private network (VPN), which routes their computer's traffic through a server in the same city as the rider. The scammer acts, in essence, as a middleman between an Uber driver and the passenger -- ordering trips through the Uber app, but relaying messages outside of it. Typically, this fraudulent dispatcher uses the messaging app Telegram to chat with the passenger, who provides pickup and destination addresses. The scammer orders the trip, and then provides the car brand, driver name, and license plate details back to the passenger through Telegram.
Advertising

Google Bans Apps From Displaying Lock Screen Ads (androidpolice.com) 58

Google is banning lock screen ads from the Play Store. In the new section on Google's developer monetization page, Google says: "Unless the exclusive purpose of the app is that of a lock screen, apps may not introduce ads or features that monetize the locked display of a device." Android Police reports: So, an app that bills itself as a photo editor, VPN, or file explorer cannot also cram a new lock screen on your device that's infested with ads. However, an app that is actually a lock screen can still monetize with ads. Presumably, you know what you're getting when you install a lock screen app. This policy change is long overdue. It's been a few years since these ads started showing up, and it's getting pretty out of hand.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Edge Browser Now Generally Available For iOS, Android (zdnet.com) 140

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft announced in October previews of new Edge browser apps for iOS and Android. On November 30, Microsoft officials are announcing that these apps are no longer in preview and are generally available for users in select markets. By making Edge apps available on non-Windows operating systems, Microsoft is hoping to do more than give Windows 10 users who use Edge a more convenient way to sync their bookmarks, tabs, etc., across devices. Microsoft also is doing this to improve its "Continue on PC" feature that it's been touting for Windows 10. With "Continue on PC," users will be able to share a web site, app, photo, and other information from their phones to their Windows 10 PCs in a faster and more seamless way. Microsoft is looking to Continue on PC to help keep Windows PCs relevant in a world where more and more computing is done on mobile devices.
Google

Google Launches App That Can Help You Track and Conserve Mobile Data (venturebeat.com) 46

Google has taken another small step forward in its mission to connect the "next billion" users with a new app designed to optimize your mobile data usage. From a report: Datally for Android has been in testing for several months in the Philippines, and now it's ready for prime time globally. To activate Datally, you will have to give the app access to many facets of your device, including giving it the ability to "make and manage calls," "send and view SMS messages," and view the device's location. But then again, any app that wants to monitor background processes on your smartphone will need fairly comprehensive access to the device.
Android

66 Percent of Popular Android Cryptocurrency Apps Don't Use Encryption (vice.com) 32

An anonymous reader shares a report: High-Tech Bridge used its free mobile app analysis software, called Mobile X-Ray, to peek under the hood of the top 30 cryptocurrency apps in the Google Play store at three different popularity levels: apps with up to 100,000 downloads, up to 500,000 downloads, and apps with more than 500,000 downloads. So, a total of 90 apps altogether. Of the most popular apps, 94 percent used outdated encryption, 66 percent didn't use HTTPS to encrypt user information in transit, 44 percent used hard-coded default passwords (stored in plain text in the code), and overall 94 percent of the most popular apps were found to have "at least three medium-risk vulnerabilities."
Android

Recent Blu Update Locks Users out of Their Phones (bleepingcomputer.com) 81

An Android update that Blu shipped to Blu One Life X2 smartphones yesterday, November 28, has locked people out of their phones. From a report: On forums, Reddit, and Blu's official Facebook page, users are complaining that after applying the update and rebooting the device, their phone won't recognize their password, PIN code, or pattern lock, even if users are 100% sure they are entering the correct data. Bleeping Computer has independently verified this bug. "I updated my BLU Life One X2 around 2 hours ago. It asks for a password in order to access Android," said one of the Blu users facing this problem. "I am completely locked out of my phone. Ever single password used is marked incorrect." After ten "failed" login attempts, the user's data is wiped from the device, according to the standard Android OS behavior.
Businesses

Apple Accuses Qualcomm of Patent Infringement in Countersuit (reuters.com) 34

From a report: Apple on Wednesday filed a countersuit against Qualcomm, alleging that Qualcomm's Snapdragon mobile phone chips that power a wide variety of Android-based devices infringe on Apple's patents, the latest development in a long-running dispute. Qualcomm in July accused Apple of infringing several patents related to helping mobile phones get better battery life. Apple has denied the claims that it violated Qualcomm's battery life patents and alleged that Qualcomm's patents were invalid, a common move in such cases. But on Wednesday, in a filing in U.S. District Court in San Diego, Apple revised its answer to Qualcomm's complaint with accusations of its own. Apple alleges it owns at least eight battery life patents that Qualcomm has violated.

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