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Cellphones

Amazon Fire Phone Reviews: Solid But Overly Ambitious 52

Posted by Soulskill
from the disturbing-lack-of-actual-fire dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Amazon's Fire Phone launches later this week, and the reviews have started to come in. The hardware: "There's nothing terribly special about the Fire Phone's hardware, but there's very little to turn you off either." "The nice-looking IPS display in the Fire Phone gets bright enough for outdoor viewing, and it has nice viewing angles—a necessity for a phone that's meant to be tilted around and looked at from every which way." "An indistinct slab of glass and plastic, the Fire Phone looks more like a minimalist prototype than a finished product."

Software: "Firefly can recognize lots of things, but it's incredibly, hilariously inconsistent." "Firefly is the one Fire Phone feature you'll want on any phone you're currently using. Let's hope that it gets enough developer support that it isn't just a link to Amazon's storefronts." "First, and to be absolutely clear, Dynamic Perspective will impress you the first time you see it, and Amazon is pretty good at showing it off. ... But if there's some cool, useful functionality to be had from super-aggressive, super-accurate face tracking, the Fire Phone doesn't have it." Conclusion: "Smartphones are for work, for life. They're not toys, they're tools. Amazon doesn't understand that, and the Fire Phone doesn't reflect it."
Cellphones

Why My LG Optimus Cellphone Is Worse Than It's Supposed To Be 289

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-sir-I-don't-like-it dept.
Bennett Haselton writes My LG Optimus F3Q was the lowest-end phone in the T-Mobile store, but a cheap phone is supposed to suck in specific ways that make you want to upgrade to a better model. This one is plagued with software bugs that have nothing to do with the cheap hardware, and thus lower one's confidence in the whole product line. Similar to the suckiness of the Stratosphere and Stratosphere 2 that I was subjected to before this one, the phone's shortcomings actually raise more interesting questions — about why the free-market system rewards companies for pulling off miracles at the hardware level, but not for fixing software bugs that should be easy to catch. Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
China

China Has More People Going Online With a Mobile Device Than a PC 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the surfing-on-the-go dept.
An anonymous reader points out that even though China's internet adoption rate is the lowest it's been in 8 years, the number of people surfing the net from a mobile device has never been higher. "The number of China's internet users going online with a mobile device — such as a smartphone or tablet — has overtaken those doing so with a personal computer (PC) for the first time, said the official China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC) on Monday. China's total number of internet users crept up 2.3 percent to 632 million by the end of June, from 618 million at the end of 2013, said CNNIC's internet development statistics report. Of those, 527 million — or 83 percent — went online via mobile. Those doing so with a PC made up 81 percent the total. China is the largest smartphone market in the world, and by 2018 is likely to account for nearly one-third of the expected 1.8 billion smartphones shipped that year, according to data firm IDC.
Power

Harvesting Energy From Humidity 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-not-the-heat,-it's-the-dizzying-electric-shocks dept.
rtoz writes: Last year, MIT researchers discovered that when water droplets spontaneously jump away from superhydrophobic surfaces during condensation, they can gain electric charge in the process. Now, the same team has demonstrated that this process can generate small amounts of electricity that might be used to power electronic devices. This approach could lead to devices that can charge cellphones or other electronics using just the humidity in the air. As a side benefit, the system could also produce clean water. The device itself could be simple, consisting of a series of interleaved flat metal plates. A cube measuring about 50 centimeters on a side — about the size of a typical camping cooler — could be sufficient to fully charge a cellphone in about 12 hours. While that may seem slow, people in remote areas may have few alternatives.
Blackberry

BlackBerry's Innovation: Square-Screened Smartphones 139

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-you-didn't-know-you-needed-that dept.
EthanV2 sends word that BlackBerry, having finally caught up to a world dominated by smartphones, is now trying to push the envelope by developing a smartphone with a square screen. The BlackBerry Passport has a 4.5-inch screen with a resolution of 1440x1440. The phone has a physical keyboard as well. In a blog post about the new phone, they show a picture with it side-by-side with an iPhone and a Galaxy S5 — the Passport is slightly taller than the iPhone, and significantly wider, as you'd expect. The Passport is a play for BlackBerry's "traditional" work-oriented user base, where the earlier BlackBerry Z10 and Z30 were efforts to break into the post-iPhone consumer smartphone space. Though the Passport may well be preferable for spreadsheets and word processing, that square screen will be much less useful for widescreen movies, and its wide, blocky design will entirely prohibit one-handed use. The Passport is expected to appear later this year, and it will launch with BlackBerry 10.3 (at least, according to early hands-on previews).
China

Gov't Censorship Pushing Users To More Private Messaging In China 47

Posted by Soulskill
from the best-defense-is-a-really-really-good-defense dept.
An anonymous reader writes What happens when the Chinese government drastically restricts the type of speech that can be used in their country's most popular public forum? Users start migrating to more private options, naturally. Microblogging service Sina Weibo is bleeding users, while the semiprivate WeChat is growing expansively. It's growing so quickly that the government is stepping up its efforts to monitor and delete conversations that don't meet its exacting standards. The site's posting rules have developed in an interesting way, given the lack of free speech: "WeChat allows the creation of public accounts that anyone can follow, but limits posts to one a day. In addition, access to public accounts is not possible on cellphones, making it more difficult, for instance, to launch an incriminating photo of a public official into the blogosphere. Comments are also deleted after a few days, making long-term discussions challenging and erasing a historical record." Is this the natural result of government meddling in online conversations? What will chat services in China (and other speech-stifling nations) look like in another five or ten years?
Cellphones

FAA's Ruling On Smartphones During Takeoff Has Had Little Impact 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-we're-just-used-to-hiding-it dept.
colinneagle writes: Airlines have seen almost no increase in the use of smartphones, tablets, and laptops among passengers since the Federal Aviation Administration ruled in October that they are now allowed to do so during takeoff and landing, a recent study found. Over a four month period observed by DePaul University's Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development this year, 35.9% of passengers used mobile devices at any point during the flight. In last year's study, while flight attendants still patrolled the aisles for devices that hadn't been shut off, 35.3% of passengers used devices during flight. Chaddick Institute director Joseph Schwieterman said many people may not be interested in using their mobile devices in-flight, and are simply excited for an opportunity to "use the time to sleep and chill out." Another contributing factor is the stipulation to the FAA's rule that still bans the use of smartphones for making phone calls or send text messages, the report noted. That may change soon, however. The FAA recently received public comment on a proposal to lift its ban on in-flight cellphone communications service, which has been in place since 1991.
Cellphones

Ars Takes an Early Look At the Privacy-Centric Blackphone 67

Posted by timothy
from the all-voice-calls-should-be-encrypted dept.
Ars Technica has spent some time with pre-production (but very nearly final) samples of the Blackphone, from Geeksphone and Silent Circle. They give it generally high marks; the hardware is mostly solid but not cutting edge, but the software it comes with distinguishes it from run-of-the-mill Android phones. Though it's based on Android, the PrivOS system in these phone offers fine grained permissions, and other software included with the phone makes it more secure both if someone has physical access to the phone (by encrypting files, among other things) and if communications between this phone and another are being eavesdropped on. A small taste: At first start up, Blackphone’s configuration wizard walks through getting the phone configured and secured. After picking a language and setting a password or PIN to unlock the phone itself, the wizard presents the option of encrypting the phone’s stored data with another password. If you decline to encrypt the phone’s mini-SD storage during setup, you’ll get the opportunity later (and in the release candidate version of the PrivOS we used, the phone continued to remind me about that opportunity each time I logged into it until I did). PrivOS’ main innovation is its Security Center, an interface that allows the user to explicitly control just what bits of hardware functionality and data each application on the phone has access to. It even provides control over the system-level applications—you can, if you wish for some reason, turn off the Camera app’s access to the camera hardware and turn off the Browser app’s access to networks.
Cellphones

On the Significance of Google's New Cardboard: An Idea Worth Recycling 42

Posted by timothy
from the off-the-shelf dept.
Last week at Google I/O, the company introduced Cardboard, its cheap-and-cheerful (it's made of cardboard, after all) approach to nearly instant VR viewing. It's no Oculus Rift — lacking the Rift's connection to a powerful backend PC, it can't do the same heavy lifting. In fact, it looks sort of like a prank, and the announcement at I/O that everyone at the conference would be getting "a piece of cardboard" drew a lot of chuckles. Gigaom argues that it's nonetheless extremely valuable, because it makes immersive viewing easy and cheap for anyone with a fairly capable smartphone — a pretty satisfying experience in itself, and a good taste of what even higher-end viewers can bring. "In addition to the Cardboard app," writes an anonymous reader, "Google has pushed out an updated version of Google Maps which includes a VR mode for Street View." And if you weren't blessed with an I/O pass, and aren't sure about your skills cutting one out of a pizza box, note that you can buy a kit for about $25, including the RF tag that will tell a phone to fire up the Cardboard app. (The linked article says an aluminum version is in the works from at least one company; I'd like to see one in corrugated plastic — strong but light — and with connection points for a headstrap.) If you've made something similar (or would like to), what would you improve in the design or feature set? (Look soon for a video introduction to Cardboard with Google VP Clay Bavor, too.)
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: SIM-Card Solutions In North America? 146

Posted by timothy
from the not-our-strong-suit dept.
An anonymous reader writes I'll be returning to North America for July for the first time in a few years, and I'm curious how the phone carrier market compares with the rest of the world. My last time in the U.S., I had to pick up a disposable phone with all kinds of unnecessary environmental waste (charger, packaging, etc.), and *still* had to register it with another domestic (!) phone number and credit card. I don't think I could get a SIM card there without a contract. Anywhere else I travel, picking up a new SIM card with pre-loaded credit is trivially easy. In my last trip to the UK, I just put GBP 10 into a vending machine at the airport and picked up a loaded SIM card for my phone which aldready has my contacts and settings. No ID, no name, no hassle. What are the best options for me in North America (U.S. *and* Canada)?
Cellphones

What To Do If Police Try To Search Your Phone Without a Warrant 286

Posted by Soulskill
from the swallow-your-phone-when-they-approach-your-car dept.
blottsie writes: The Supreme Court ruled this week that it is illegal for police to search your phone without a warrant. But just because that's the new rule doesn't mean all 7.5 million law enforcement officers in the U.S. will abide by it. This guide, put together with the help of the EFF and ACLU, explains what to do if a police officer tries to search your phone without a warrant. Of course, that doesn't mean they don't have other ways of getting your data.
Google

Google Demos Modular Phone That (Almost) Actually Works 126

Posted by samzenpus
from the if-youd-like-to-make-a-call-please-wait dept.
An anonymous reader writes Google's Advanced Technology and Projects (ATAP) group demonstrated Tango, a tablet with 3D cameras similar to Microsoft's Kinect and a version of the Ara phone that could almost boot to the Android home screen (it froze during the demo) at Google I/O today. Project Ara will give $100,000 to anyone who can create an Ara module that does something current smartphones can't. From the article: "Ara moved from concept render to physical mockup in about six months, and onstage today Google demonstrated a version of the phone that could just about boot to the Android home screen. In the demo above, the phone displayed a partial boot screen before freezing. The full boot time (had the demo worked as intended) would be about a minute, which would be a long time for a shipping phone but is reasonably impressive for such an early prototype. Software is the other thing that Ara's developers need to figure out. Current Android builds ship with support for the hardware the phone runs, but they don't include a whole bunch of extraneous drivers for other modems or Wi-Fi modules or cameras or SoCs. Current phone hardware doesn't change, so Android doesn't typically need to worry about this kind of thing."
The Courts

Supreme Court Rules Cell Phones Can't Be Searched Without a Warrant 249

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the sanity-outbreak dept.
New submitter CarlThansk (3713681) writes The courts have long debated on if cell phones can be searched during an arrest without a warrant. Today, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the police need warrants to search the cellphones of people they arrest. "Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the court, said the vast amount of data contained on modern cellphones must be protected (PDF) from routine inspection." Phones may still be searched under limited circumstances (imminent threats), but this looks like a clear win for privacy. Quoting the decision: "We cannot deny that our decision today will have an impact on the ability of law enforcement to combat crime. Cell phones have become important tools in facilitating coordination and communication among members of criminal enterprises, and can provide valuable incriminating information about dangerous criminals. Privacy comes at a cost."
Cellphones

Florida Man Faces $48k Fine For Jamming Drivers' Cellphones 358

Posted by timothy
from the carl-hiaasen-on-high-alert dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this news from The Independent: An American driver is facing a $48,000 fine after using a mobile signal jammer in his car to block motorists around him from using their phones on the road. Jason Humphreys reportedly used the jammer from the back seat of his Toyota Highlander for around two years before being caught by Florida police. The 60-year-old said that he used the jammer – which transmits radio signals that interfere with mobile phones – because he was 'fed up' with watching others use their phones on the road. A story from late April (before the fine was levied) gives more detail: The case along I-4 started on April 29, 2013, when the cellular company Metro PCS contacted the Federal Communications Commission because a transmission tower along I-4 would suffer in the morning and evening. A week later, agents from the FCC's enforcement division in Tampa staked out the freeway on May 7, 8, and 9 and pinpointed a “strong wideband emission” in the cellphone wireless range “emanating from a blue Toyota Highlander sport utility vehicle,” with Florida license plates, according to a complaint issued by the FCC on Tuesday. Another clue: When Hillsborough County Sheriffs deputies stopped the SUV, their own two-way radios were jammed."
Blackberry

BlackBerry Back In Profit 67

Posted by Soulskill
from the bouncing-back dept.
An anonymous reader sends word that BlackBerry, hit hard over the past several years by the emergence of smart phones, has come back to profitability. BlackBerry has been fighting an uphill battle to stay relevant in the world of mobile devices. It has lost market share to Apple, companies like Samsung that offer gadgets running on Google's Android operating system, and Microsoft. But John Chen, who took over as CEO in November, has injected new life to the company. Chen, who says BlackBerry is getting close to breaking even on its hardware business, has steered the company's focus more towards software. He's made several product announcements that Wall Street has cheered. Last month, the company launched its Project Ion, an initiative to develop more connected devices ... a trend dubbed the Internet of Things. On Wednesday, BlackBerry reached a deal with Amazon that will let users of BlackBerry's newest operating system access Android apps in Amazon's appstore later this fall.
Cellphones

Amazon Announces 'Fire Phone' 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-actually-made-from-fire dept.
Amazon has unveiled the Fire Phone. It runs a modified version of Android, and it will launch exclusively for AT&T's network. The screen is a 4.7" IPS LCD (they tested from 4.3" to 5.5", and decided 4.7" worked best for single-hand use), with an emphasis on brightness. It runs on a quad-core 2.2GHz processor with 2GB of RAM, and an Adreno 330 GPU. It has a rear-facing, 13-megapixel camera using an f/2.0 five-element lens with image stabilization. There's a dedicated physical button on the side of the phone that will turn it on and put it into camera mode when pressed. The phone comes with dual stereo speakers that produce virtual surround sound. Amazon wants the phone to be distinctive for its ability to provide video content, both from a hardware and software perspective.

The Fire Phone runs Mayday, Amazon's live tech support service for devices. They also demonstrated Firefly, software that recognizes physical objects using the phone's camera, as well as TV shows and songs it hears. It runs quickly, often identifying things in less than a second (and it pulls up an Amazon product listing, of course). It can even recognize art. Firefly has its own dedicated physical button on the phone, and Amazon is providing a Firefly SDK to third parties who want to develop with it. Another major feature of the Fire Phone is what Amazon calls "dynamic perspective." Using multiple front-facing cameras, the phone tracks the position of a user's head, and uses that to slightly adjust what's displayed on the screen so content is easier to see from the new angle. It allows for gesture control of the phone — for example, you can tilt the phone to scroll a web page or move your head slightly look around a 2-D stadium image when browsing for available seats. Putting your thumb on the screen acts like a mute button for the head tracking, so it isn't confused when you look up from the screen or turn your head to talk to somebody. It's an impressive piece of software, and they've made an SDK available for it.
Cellphones

Why Amazon Might Want a Big Piece of the Smartphone Market 61

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-the-world-is-not-enough dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: If rumors prove correct, Amazon will unveil a smartphone at a high-profile June 18 event in Seattle. According to a new article in The New York Times, Amazon's willing to take such enormous risks because a smartphone will help it sell more products via its gargantuan online store. In theory, a mobile device would allow customers in the midst of their daily routines to order products with a few finger-taps, allowing Amazon to push back against Google and other tech companies exploring similar instant-gratification territory. But a smartphone also plays into Amazon's plans for the digital world. Over the past several years, the company has become a popular vendor of cloud services and used that base to expand into everything from tablets to a growing mobile-app ecosystem. A smartphone could prove a crucial portal for all those services. If an Amazon smartphone proves a hit, however, it could become a game-changer for mobile developers, opening up a whole new market for apps and services. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has succeeded in the digital space largely by opening up various platforms—whether Kindle self-publishing or the Amazon app store—to third-party wares. It'll be interesting to see whether he does something similar with the smartphone. Early reports suggest Amazon's phone will be exclusive to AT&T.
Cellphones

Huawei, Vodafone Test Out Hybrid System That Combines LTE and GSM 46

Posted by timothy
from the they're-into-bonding dept.
alphadogg (971356) writes "In the hunt for more spectrum to speed up mobile networks, Vodafone and Huawei Technologies have successfully tested a technology that lets LTE and GSM share the same frequencies. The speed of future mobile networks will depend on the amount of spectrum mobile operators can get their hands on. The more they get, the wider the roads they can build. One thing they can do to get more space is to reuse frequencies that are currently used for older technologies such as GSM and 3G. But that isn't as easy as sounds, as operators still have a lot of voice and messaging traffic in those older networks. However, using a technology called GL DSS (GSM-LTE Dynamic Spectrum Sharing) Vodafone and Huawei have shown a way to allow GSM and LTE to coexist."
Privacy

Help Crowd-FOIA Stingray Usage Across America 89

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the muckrock-reclassified-as-terrorist-threat dept.
v3rgEz (125380) writes "Collaborative investigative news site MuckRock is trying to take a national look at Stingray usage across America, and is looking for people to submit contact information for their local police departments and other law enforcement groups for a mass FOIA campaign. The submissions are free, but the site is also running a crowdfunding campaign to cover the cost of stamps, etc. on Beacon Reader." This comes after news broke that the federal government has been pushing for local police to avoid disclosing their use of Stringray devices.
Bug

European iPhone Chargers Prone To Overheating 128

Posted by Soulskill
from the marketed-as-the-only-incendiary-device-you'll-ever-need dept.
jones_supa sends word that Apple has launched an exchange program for European iPhone USB power adapters. The company says its A1300 adapters were bundled with the iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, and iPhone 4S models, and were also sold on their own from Oct. 2009 to Sept. 2012. The reason for the recall is that the adapters "may overheat and pose a safety risk." No further details are provided (a YouTube video shows a teardown of the device).

With all the fancy scientists in the world, why can't they just once build a nuclear balm?

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