Cellphones

The Toughest (And Weakest) Phones Currently On the Market (tomsguide.com) 58

New submitter Daneel Olivaw R. shares a report from Tom's Guide: To measure each phone's toughness, [Tom's Guide] dropped it from both 4 and 6 feet onto wood and concrete. After each test, we recorded the damage to the phone. If a phone was rendered unusable -- the screen totally shattered, for instance -- then we stopped dropping it. [More details on the testing process can be found here.] Each drop was worth a maximum of 5 points; if a phone made it through all of the rounds unscathed, it would earn 35 points. The more severe the damage per drop was, the more points were deducted. If a phone was rendered unusable after a given drop, it would earn no points, and would not undergo any subsequent test. In total, there were seven tests. [...] If a phone died in the 6-foot edge drop, it was penalized an extra 10 percent. If it died in the 6-foot face drop, it was penalized 5 percent. And if it died when dropped into the toilet, it lost 2.5 percent. We then divided the total score by 3.5, to put it on a 10-point scale. Here are the scores of each device:

Motorola Moto Z2 Force - Toughness score: 8.5/10
LG X Venture - Toughness score: 6.6/10
Apple iPhone X - Toughness score: 6.2/10
LG V30 - Toughness score: 6/10
Samsung Galaxy S9 - Toughness score: 6/10
Motorola Moto G5 Plus - Toughness score: 5.1/10
Apple iPhone 8 - Toughness score: 4.9/10
Samsung Galaxy Note 8 - Toughness score: 4.3/10
OnePlus 5T - Toughness score: 4.3/10
Huawei Mate 10 Pro - Toughness score: 4.3/10
Google Pixel 2 XL - Toughness score: 4.3/10
iPhone SE - Toughness score: 3.9/10
Privacy

'TeenSafe' Phone Monitoring App Leaked Thousands of User Passwords (zdnet.com) 44

An anonymous reader quotes a report from ZDNet: At least one server used by an app for parents to monitor their teenagers' phone activity has leaked tens of thousands of accounts of both parents and children. The mobile app, TeenSafe, bills itself as a "secure" monitoring app for iOS and Android, which lets parents view their child's text messages and location, monitor who they're calling and when, access their web browsing history, and find out which apps they have installed. But the Los Angeles, Calif.-based company left its servers, hosted on Amazon's cloud, unprotected and accessible by anyone without a password.

"We have taken action to close one of our servers to the public and begun alerting customers that could potentially be impacted," said a TeenSafe spokesperson told ZDNet on Sunday. The database stores the parent's email address associated with their associated child's Apple ID email address. It also includes the child's device name -- which is often just their name -- and their device's unique identifier. The data contains the plaintext passwords for the child's Apple ID. Because the app requires that two-factor authentication is turned off, a malicious actor viewing this data only needs to use the credentials to break into the child's account to access their personal content data.

Android

The Verge Goes Hands-On With the 'Wildly Ambitious' RED Hydrogen One Smartphone (theverge.com) 52

It's been almost a year since RED, a company known for its high-end $10,000+ cameras, teased a smartphone called the RED Hydrogen One. Several months have passed since the phone was announced and we still don't know much about it, aside from it having a very industrial design and "Hydrogen holographic display." Earlier this week, AT&T and Verizon confirmed that they'll launch the device later this year. Now, The Verge's Dieter Bohn has shared his hands-on impressions with the device, which he claims to be "one of the most ambitious smartphones in years from a company not named Apple, Google, or Samsung." Here's an excerpt from the report: The company better known for high-end 4K cameras with names like "Weapon" and "Epic-w" isn't entering the smartphone game simply to sell you a better Android phone. No, this phone is meant to be one piece of a modular system of cameras and other media creation equipment -- the company claims it will be "the foundation of a future multi-dimensional media system." To that end, it has a big set of pogo-pins on the back to connect it to RED's other cameras also to allow users to attach (forthcoming) modules to it, including lens mounts. If it were just a modular smartphone, we'd be talking about whether we really expected the company to produce enough modules to support it.

RED is planning on starting with a module that is essentially a huge camera sensor -- the company is not ready to give exact details, but the plan is definitely more towards DSLR size than smartphone size. Then, according to CEO Jim Jannard, the company wants any traditional big camera lens to be attached to it. Answering a fan question, he joked that support for lenses will be "pretty limited," working "just" with Fuji, Canon, Nikon, Leica, and more. [...] The processor inside will be a slightly-out-of-date Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, but it seemed fast enough in the few demos I was able to try. Honestly, though, if you're looking to get this thing just as a phone, you're probably making your decision based on the wrong metrics. It's probably going to be a perfectly capable phone, but at this price (starting at $1,195) what you're buying into is the module ecosystem.

Software

Popular 'Gboard' Keyboard App Has Had a Broken Spell Checker For Months 54

The popular Gboard keyboard app for iOS and Android devices has a fundamental flaw. According Reddit user SurroundedByMachines, the red underline has stopped appearing for incorrectly spelled words since November of last year -- and it doesn't appear to be limited to any one device. Issues with the spell checker have been reported on multiple devices across Android and iOS. A simple Google search brings up several different threads where people have reported issues with the feature.

What's more is that nobody at Google seems to get the memo. The Reddit user who first brought this to our attention filed several bug reports, left a review, and joined the beta channel to leave feedback there, yet no response was given. "Many people have been having the issue, and it's even been escalated to the community manager," writes SurroundedByMachines. Since the app has over 500 million downloads on the Play Store alone, this issue could be frustrating a lot of users, especially those who use their phones to send work emails or write documents. Have you noticed Gboard's broken spell checker on your device? If so, you may want to look into another third-party keyboard, such as SwiftKey or Cheetah Keyboard.
Security

RedDawn Android Malware Is Harvesting Personal Data of North Korean Defectors (theinquirer.net) 21

According to security company McAfee, North Korea uploaded three spying apps to the Google Play Store in January that contained hidden functions designed to steal personal photos, contact lists, text messages, and device information from the phones they were installed on. "Two of the apps purported to be security utilities, while a third provided information about food ingredients," reports The Inquirer. All three of the apps were part of a campaign dubbed "RedDawn" and targeted primarily North Korean defectors. From the report: The apps were promoted to particular targets via Facebook, McAfee claims. However, it adds that the malware was not the work of the well-known Lazarus Group, but another North Korean hacking outfit that has been dubbed Sun Team. The apps were called Food Ingredients Info, Fast AppLock and AppLockFree. "Food Ingredients Info and Fast AppLock secretly steal device information and receive commands and additional executable (.dex) files from a cloud control server. We believe that these apps are multi-staged, with several components."

"AppLockFree is part of the reconnaissance stage, we believe, setting the foundation for the next stage unlike the other two apps. The malwares were spread to friends, asking them to install the apps and offer feedback via a Facebook account with a fake profile promoted Food Ingredients Info," according to McAfee security researcher Jaewon Min. "After infecting a device, the malware uses Dropbox and Yandex to upload data and issue commands, including additional plug-in dex files; this is a similar tactic to earlier Sun Team attacks. From these cloud storage sites, we found information logs from the same test Android devices that Sun Team used for the malware campaign we reported in January. The logs had a similar format and used the same abbreviations for fields as in other Sun Team logs. Furthermore, the email addresses of the new malware's developer are identical to the earlier email addresses associated with the Sun Team."

Facebook

Facebook's Android App Is Asking for Superuser Privileges, Users Say (bleepingcomputer.com) 183

Catalin Cimpanu, reporting for BleepingComputer: The Facebook Android app is asking for superuser permissions, and a bunch of users are freaking out about granting the Facebook app full access to their device, an understandable reaction following the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica privacy scandal. "Grants full access to your device," read the prompts while asking users for superuser permissions. These popups originate from the official Facebook Android app (com.facebook.katana) and are started appearing last night [UTC timezone], continuing throughout the day. Panicked users took to social media, Reddit, and Android-themed forums to share screengrabs of these suspicious popups and ask for advice on what's going on.
Android

With Steam Link App, Your Smartphone Can Be An Imperfect Gaming Monitor (arstechnica.com) 47

Ars Technica's Kyle Orland shares his experience with Valve's recently announced Steam Link app, which lets users play games running on a PC via a tablet, mobile phone, or Apple TV on the same network. The app launches today for Android 5.0+ devices; iOS support is "pending further review from Apple." From the report: Valve isn't kidding when it says a Wi-Fi router in the 5Ghz band is required for wireless streaming. I first tested iPad streaming on the low-end 2.4Ghz router provided with my Verizon FiOS subscription (an Actiontec MI424WR), with a wired Ethernet connection to my Windows gaming rig on the other end. The Steam Link network test warned me that "your network may not work well with Steam Link," thanks to 1- to 2-percent frame loss and about 15ms of "network variance," depending on when I tested. Even graphically simple games like The Binding of Isaac ran at an unplayably slowed-down rate on this connection, with frequent dropped inputs to boot.

Switching over to a 5GHz tri-band router (The Netgear Nighthawk X6, to be precise), the same network test reported a "fantastic" connection that "look[s] like it will work well with Steam." On this router, remotely played games ran incredibly smoothly at the iPad's full 1080p resolution, with total round-trip display latency ranging anywhere from 50 to 150ms, according to Steam Link's reports (and one-way "input lag" of less than 1ms). At that level of delay, playing felt practically indistinguishable from playing directly on the computer, with no noticeable gameplay impact even on quick-response titles like Cuphead.

Android

OnePlus 6 Launched With 6.28-inch Display, Snapdragon 845 CPU, and Headphone Jack (phonedog.com) 109

OnePlus has launched their newest flagship smartphone today at an event in London. The OnePlus 6, as it is called, features a 6.28-inch 2280x1080 display with 19:9 aspect ratio and notch, Snapdragon 845 octa-core processor with up to 8GB of RAM, 16- and 20-megapixel rear-facing cameras, 3,330mAh battery, 3.5mm headphone jack, and Android 8.1 Oreo running out of the box with support for Android P coming soon. Strangely, the phone features a glass build construction but no support for wireless charging. OnePlus claims the glass back will be better for transmitting radio waves, but it's likely included in preparation for the OnePlus 6T, which will likely launch several months later and include wireless charging. PhoneDog reports: Around on the back of the OnePlus 6 is a vertically stacked dual rear camera setup that's now in the center of the phone for symmetry. There's a 16MP camera with Sony IMX 519 sensor, f/1.7 aperture, and support for optical image stabilization and electronic image stabilization, as well as a 20MP camera with Sony IMD 376K sensor and f/1.7 aperture. Also included are portrait mode and slow-motion 480fps video capture features.

The body of the OnePlus 6 is made of Gorilla Glass 5, which OnePlus says will be better for transmitting radio waves. Rounding out the OP6's spec list is a 16MP front-facing camera, NFC, Bluetooth 5.0, USB-C, an alert slider, and a 3.5mm headphone jack. On the security side of things, there's a rear fingerprint reader and face unlock, and when it comes to wireless capabilities, the OnePlus 6 supports 40 global LTE bands as well as 4x4 MIMO for speeds up to 1Gbps.
The OnePlus 6 will be available on May 22 with the following prices: 6GB/64GB: $529; 8GB/128GB: $579; 8GB/256GB: $629.
Youtube

YouTube Might Finally Get An Incognito Mode (androidpolice.com) 61

Currently, you can head to the "History and Privacy" settings in YouTube and toggle on the options to pause watch and search history if you don't want the site to track your searches and watched videos, but that can be a bit complicated each time you want to search for something weird. According to Android Police, "YouTube will make it a little easier to go into incognito without digging into many settings and without having to disable it later." A new "Incognito Mode" will appear when you tap your account avatar in the top right of the app. From the report: With "Incognito Mode" on, all your activity from the current session is not saved and subscriptions are hidden too. It's as if you were signed out without being so, and there's a neat incognito icon replacing your avatar. If you turn off Incognito or become inactive on YouTube, you'll be back to using your own account.
Google

Should the FTC Investigate Google's Location Data Collection? (engadget.com) 110

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: In December of 2017, the office of U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal sent Google's CEO a letter asking for a detailed explanation of the company's privacy practices around location services. Based on a report at Quartz, the senator's letter had 12 specific questions about how Google deals with location data. In January, Google responded to all of the issues in a lengthy letter signed by Google's VP of public policy, Susan Molinari. Now, apparently unsatisfied with the response, Senators Blumenthal and Edward J. Markey have sent a written request to the FTC to investigate Google's location services, along with "any deceptive acts and practices associated with the product."

While Google's initial response refuted many of the claims made by Quartz, and explained again and again how Google and Android handles sensitive location data, the letter to the FTC again uses the report as its main basis. The crux of the new letter appears to be this: "Google has an intimate understanding or personal lives as they watch their users seek the support of reproductive health services, engage in civic activities or attend places of religious worship," wrote the senators. All it takes to expose users to data collection, say the letter's authors, is to allow an "ambiguously described feature" once and then it is silently enabled across all signed-in devices without an expiration date.

Cellphones

Lenovo Teases a True All-Screen Smartphone With No Notch (cnet.com) 177

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: Notches, it seems, are the new black. Originally seen -- and often criticized -- on the Essential PH-1 and iPhone X in 2017, the trend of adding notches to Android phones has only accelerated this year as phone makers look to maximize the screen size. But the Lenovo Z5 is going the other way: It's truly all-screen, and notch-free. At least, that's according to a sketch shared last Friday by Lenovo VP Chang Cheng on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China. Cheng's teaser post says (according to Google Translate) that the Lenovo Z5 is the company's new flagship phone. Besides that, the post leaves it pretty vague.

All-screen phones look cool, but they challenge the manufacturer to find a place to put front cameras, sensors and other hardware. That's why we see bezels on some phones and notches on others. It's not clear what Lenovo plans to do with the front camera on the Lenovo Z5. Cheng's post claims that "four technological breakthroughs" and "18 patented technologies" were made for the phone, but doesn't go into details.
One of the first smartphones to launch with an edge-to-edge display was the Xiaomi Mi Mix. It launched with next to no bezel or notch, leaving many to wonder where the earpiece would be. What Xiaomi managed to do was use what it calls "cantilever piezoelectric ceramic acoustic technology." Basically, it's a component that converts electrical energy into mechanical energy to transfer to the phone's internal metal frame, which then vibrates to create sound. It's possible the Z5 relies on a similar technology, or bone conduction technology found in many headphones and some smartphones.

Aside from the front-facing camera and ambient light sensors, the other components that are typically found on the front of smartphones are relatively easy to drag-and-drop to different locations. For example, the speakers in the Z5 are likely bottom facing and the navigation controls are almost certainly software based. The question is whether or not it's worth having a true all-screen smartphone if it means there's no front-facing camera, ambient light sensors, or stereo speakers.
Businesses

President Trump Pledges To Help China's ZTE, After Ban (usatoday.com) 229

President Trump said Sunday that he and Chinese President Xi Jinping are working to put the troubled Chinese telecom manufacturer ZTE back in business. From a report: "President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast," Trump said in a message on Twitter. "Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!" ZTE, maker of Android phones popular with budget-minded consumers, said Wednesday that it would cease "major operating activities," raising questions not only about its survival, but the impact on U.S. consumers who have previously bought or were thinking of buying ZTE phones. The announcement followed a decision last month by the U.S. Commerce Department, which banned American companies from exporting products to the Shenzhen, China-based telecom firm for seven years.
Android

Google Is Building a Pixel-Branded Smartwatch, Says Report (venturebeat.com) 40

Prolific technology leaker Evan Blass received a tip yesterday that Google could unveil a Pixel watch at its annual hardware event later this year. Wear OS didn't get any serious stage time at Google I/O this week, so it's likely to be covered in more detail at the next event. Furthermore, Qualcomm revealed on Tuesday that they are launching a new smartwatch system on a chip (SoC) this fall too. VentureBeat reports: WinFuture concurs that a Google smartwatch is coming, and adds that it will be available in three models, codenamed Ling, Triton, and Sardine. The German publication does not know how the three Pixel watches might differ (presumably either size, connectivity, or finish -- and of course, price).

This is not the first time we've heard about a potential "Pixel-branded watch." Still, this time around is hard to ignore when it comes from Blass, and just two days after Pankaj Kedia, Qualcomm's senior director of wearables, told Wareable that Wear OS smartwatches from several partners would arrive by the holidays, preceded by new chips announced this fall "alongside a lead smartwatch." It all lines up.

Android

Malicious Apps Get Back on the Play Store Just by Changing Their Name (bleepingcomputer.com) 56

Malicious Android apps that have been previously reported to Google are showing up again on company's marquee Play Store with new names, security researchers are reporting. BleepingComputer: Seven of these apps have been "rediscovered," said Symantec in a report published yesterday. The company's experts say the author of the original malicious apps didn't do anything special, but only changed the app's names, without making modifications to the code, and re-uploaded the apps on the Play Store from a new developer account under a new name. Symantec says it detected seven of these re-uploaded apps on the Play Store, which it re-reported to Google's security team and had them taken down again.
Businesses

ZTE Shuts Down Main Business Operations After US Ban (techcrunch.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: ZTE wasn't kidding around when it suggested that a U.S. Department of Commerce order would "severely impact" its survival. It's hard to image a successful path around the seven-year ban on the sale of U.S. products to the company imposed after it reportedly failed to sufficiently reprimand staff for flouting Iranian sanctions. Earlier today, in fact, the Chinese smartphone/telecom manufacturer announced that it had ceased its main business operations as it attempts to figure out the best way forward. "As a result of the Denial Order, the major operating activities of the company have ceased," the company wrote in an exchange filing spotted by Reuters. "As of now, the company maintains sufficient cash and strictly adheres to its commercial obligations subject in compliance with laws and regulations."
Firefox

Firefox Moves Browsers Into Post-Password Future With WebAuthn Tech (cnet.com) 132

Today, Mozilla released Firefox 60 for Windows, Mac, Linux and Android, and with it arrives Web Authentication API for desktop browsers. From a report: Firefox 60 supports technology called Web Authentication, or WebAuthn for short, that can be used to grant you access to websites with a physical authentication device like a YubiKey dongle, biometric identity proof using an Android phone's fingerprint reader or the iPhone's Face ID, and some other alternatives to passwords.

Passwords are a particular problem on the web. Fake websites can coax you to type in credentials that then can be used to steal money from your bank account or snoop your email -- a problem called phishing. Even if you pick hard-to-guess passwords, never reuse them on multiple sites and always remember them, passwords still aren't that strong a foundation for security these days. We're still a long way away from a post-password future, but WebAuthn is an important step, if nothing else, in making sites more secure.

Android

Google Maps Is Getting AR Directions, Recommendation Features (theverge.com) 38

Google Maps is getting a new augmented reality Street View mode to help you follow directions in real time, along with personalized recommendations to help you discover places in your neighborhood. The Verge reports: The new AR features combine Google's existing Street View and Maps data with a live feed from your phone's camera to overlay walking directions on top of the real world and help you figure out which way you need to go. In addition to directions, the new AR mode can help identify nearby places, too, and Google is even testing adding a helpful augmented reality animal guide to lead you along the way.

Maps is also getting a new tab called "For You" that will feature recommendations specifically tailored to you. Google is using a new "match number" system, which will generate a personal score on how much it thinks you'll like the recommendation based on your past likes and reviews, as well as your saved food preferences. Google is also adding more social features to Maps, making it possible to share multiple places to friends with a single action, and vote on them together in real time to decide where to go without having to leave the app.
The AR directions feature has no release date, but the new social and recommendations features will be coming to both Android and iOS later this summer.
Chrome

You Can Now Run Linux Apps On Chrome OS (venturebeat.com) 106

Google today announced Chrome OS is getting Linux support. "As a result, Chromebooks will soon be able to run Linux apps and execute Linux commands," reports VentureBeat. "A preview of Linux on the Pixelbook will be released first, with support for more devices coming soon." From the report: "Just go to wherever you normally get those apps, whether it's on the websites or through apt-get in the Linux terminal, and seamless get those apps like any other Linux distribution," Chrome OS director of product management Kan Liu told VentureBeat.

Support for Linux apps means developers will finally be able to use a Google device to develop for Google's platforms, rather than having to depend on Windows, Mac, or Linux machines. And because Chrome OS doesn't just run Chrome OS-specific apps anymore, developers will be able to create, test, and run any Android or web app for phones, tablets, and laptops all on their Chromebooks. Without having to switch devices, you can run your favorite IDE -- as long as there is a Debian Linux version (for the curious, Google is specifically using Debian Stretch here -- code in your favorite language and launch projects to Google Cloud with the command line.

Android

Google Details New Android P Features, Including iPhone X-Like Gesture Controls (arstechnica.com) 36

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A public beta for Android P, as it's still known, is out today for those who want to try the software for themselves. The usual caveats with installing unfinished software still apply. Notably, however, Google has made the beta available on devices beyond the company's own Pixel smartphones. Google says those who own the Essential Phone, Nokia 7 Plus, Sony Xperia XZ2, Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S, Vivo X21, Oppo R15 Pro, and the OnePlus 6 (when it comes out) can access the early build alongside those with a Pixel or Pixel 2 phone. Google is crediting its Project Treble updating initiative for making this expansion possible.

As for the update itself, the biggest news in Preview 1 was a new design style that was applied to the notification panel, main settings screen, and some system UI bits. Android VP of Engineering Dave Burke recapped a couple of features that had already been announced in that earlier preview, including a simplified volume control widget and the option to change the screen orientation even when you've locked the device in portrait mode. Perhaps the most immediately noticeable new feature, however, is a new set of gesture controls that trade Android's traditional home and recent apps buttons for a setup similar to what Apple does with its iPhone X. Swiping up from a flatter button at the bottom of the screen will now display a horizontal (not vertical!) list of your recent apps, with icons for five "predicted apps" placed underneath them. Swiping up a second time from there will display the all apps screen, effectively allowing you to access it from anywhere on the phone. You can also slide the home button sideways to start scrolling through recent apps. The icons for those recent apps appear to be larger than before, and Google showed off the ability to highlight text within them. The back button is still there, but not as a global key; it instead appears to only show up in certain contexts, such as the new recent apps screen.
Also available in Android P is an "adaptive battery" feature that improves battery life, an "adaptive brightness" feature that uses AI to ensure the phone screen's brightness is more appropriately set for your surroundings, and an "app actions" feature that will surface shortcuts for frequently used apps within the app drawer and Search. Google is also including a "digital wellbeing" Dashboard app that will detail how much time you've spent in particular apps, how often you've unlocked your phone, and how many notifications you've received. There will even be an "app timer" to help you limit your time on a particular app, and a "shush" gesture that will make is so the phone automatically goes into Do Not Disturb mode. Finally, there's a "wind down" mode that will turn on Do Not Disturb until the morning and set your phone screen in a grayscale mode, which will intentionally make content on your phone appear less stimulating to ultimately help you put it down.
Software

Google Says Android Things is Finally Ready For Smart Devices (theverge.com) 34

Ahead of its developer conference I/O, Google said Monday Android Things, a platform for smart devices that the company announced in 2016, is ready for shipping with consumer devices. From a report: Android Things is hitting its 1.0 release today after launching to developers at the end of 2016. Google says the first devices -- which include speakers from LG and iHome, and smart displays from LG, Lenovo, and JBL -- will be released over the next several months. Android Things is a development platform that's meant to make it easier for hardware companies to start building a gadget. It lets Google handle some of the software and intelligence features, while allowing hardware companies to code for it using the Android tools they're likely already familiar with. It's not clear exactly how much easier this makes things, but it probably simplifies development particularly for gadgets that are going to end up with Google Assistant features or Cast capabilities in them.

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