Phandroid » Industry News Android Phone News, Rumors, Reviews, Apps, Forums & More! Sat, 23 May 2015 00:19:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Report: NSA found a way to “hijack” Google Play to install spyware on phones Thu, 21 May 2015 18:49:04 +0000 NSA

Well, if you had any doubt that the NSA and national security agencies everywhere didn’t have the capability to treat themselves to your information, perhaps Edward Snowden’s latest leak will change your mind. The rogue ex-intelligence agent leaked another document to the press today detailing a program by the 5-Eyes Alliance (the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand and Canada) called “Irritant Horn.”

The idea — which was discussed at conferences and workshops in Australia and Canada between November 2011 and February 2012 — is that they could intercept the connection that happens between a smartphone and an app store when a user downloads an app, during which time they could drop a “payload,” of sorts, that would likely sneakily install some sort of spyware.

It was more than just an idea, too — the document suggests the agency did find a way to consistently and reliably intercept that connection for both Google Play and the Samsung Apps Store.. Whether they were successful in executing the other half of the strategy (dropping the “payload” and getting it installed without the user’s knowledge) remains to be known, as it’s not clear if any progress has been made on this project since these documents were drafted.

More than just receiving information, the alliance also explored the possibility of altering the information being sent to a device, potentially using misinformation to manipulate criminals, terrorists or anyone else they’d have a reason to spy on.

For what it’s worth, it’s long been revealed that the NSA and other intelligence agencies have developed software that could pull basically any bit of data they want from a phone, but this couldn’t happen unless they could guarantee a way to get the goods onto the phones in question. “Irritant Horn” may just be the last piece they need to complete the puzzle and help themselves to information whether a user likes it (or knows about it) or not.

The report also makes mention of a browser by Chinese search giant Alibaba called UCBrowser. Their studies found that the browser had a security hole that allowed those with the technical know-how to pull an alarming amount of device information from its users.

The 5-Eyes alliance reportedly used the exploit to find out about the possibility of covert operations being carried out by foreign military. It ultimately turns out to be an unrelated tidbit, though the leak and the ease of gaining access to the information supposedly sent good vibes around the offices of the intelligence agencies working on this project.

The Intercept and the CBC have a lot more information to dive into if you’re curious, so be sure to check them out when you can spare a minute. Let us know how you feel about all this straight ahead.

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Report: HTC could reduce One M9 component orders by 30% in the wake of poor sales Thu, 21 May 2015 13:19:59 +0000 htc-one-m9-orcs

While it’s hard to say how well, exactly, the HTC One M9 is doing in terms of sales, it’s still rather easy to get a rough idea. For the HTC One M9, the idea couldn’t get any rougher — the company is reportedly cutting back on component orders by a whopping 30% thanks to less-than-expected sales. That’s the word coming out of DigiTimes, a reputable Taiwanese tech publication whose ear is kept close to the component industry.

It hasn’t been easy going for HTC in the early parts of 2015, with the general public perception being that the HTC One M9 gives no compelling reason to upgrade from an HTC One M8, or from any 2014 flagship for that matter. They also have to deal with stiff competition from Samsung and LG who have successfully created 2015 flagships with enough innovation and advancement to capture the public interest.

And none of that is to mention the rise of Chinese manufacturers who are steadily producing better and better phones at more affordable price points. We’re not sure what all this will translate to in an HTC financial report in a couple of monts, but we’re betting it won’t look great. In fact, the company’s stock on the Taiwan Stock Exchange is now at the lowest it’s been in over 10 years at roughly $3.40 per share.

HTC will have to hope their dual-pronged strategy of releasing an upgraded version of the main flagship can help turn things around, though considering the HTC One M9+’s availability is limited to China we can’t say there’s much hope there.

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LG planning to launch a second flagship smartphone in 2015 Wed, 20 May 2015 13:51:34 +0000 LG logo DSC08660

Samsung won’t be the only South Korean company to launch two flagship smartphones this year. Focus Taiwan reports that LG is looking to introduce another flagship device in the second half of 2015.

This follows the launch of two very nice smartphones in the LG G Flex 2 and LG G4, as well as an assortment of mid-range and entry-level options to fill out the market. It isn’t all that strange to hear that the company isn’t satisfied with the size of their current 2015 roster.

Much of their motivation comes from the success of the strategy last year, when the LG G3 and LG G Pro 2 combined to drive some of LG’s best smartphone sales in the company’s history. With the LG G4 being a sizable upgrade over yesteryear’s option (read our LG G4 review to find out how) there’s no reason to suggest they can’t follow-up with an encore performance.

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Google, Microsoft, Apple and more urge Obama to protect smartphone security and privacy in open letter Tue, 19 May 2015 19:23:14 +0000 Handshake

It’s that time again, folks — a cause so important has resulted in the country’s top tech firms joining hands to stand up and fight. This time, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo, Adobe and many more companies, technology experts and security experts (including some within his own cabinet) have all signed a 6 page letter to President Obama (which was recently published by The Washington Post).


The letter urges Mr. President to reconsider supporting legislature that would require device makers to give police and law enforcement backdoor access to users of their products:

We urge you to reject any proposal that U.S. companies deliberately weaken the security of their products.
We request that the White House instead focus on developing policies that will promote rather than undermine the wide adoption
of strong encryption technology.
Such policies will in turn help to promote and protect cybersecurity, economic growth, and human rights, both here and abroad.

This comes at a time where all three companies responsible for the world’s top mobile operating systems are doing more than ever to strengthen the security of their users’ devices as they become more popular not only with common consumers, but also with businesses and government agencies that handle sensitive data.

For Google’s part, Android 5.0 Lollipop introduced full device encryption, though the company has yet to implement or activate policies that would force manufacturers to enable the encryption by default.

No one wants more for it to be easier to catch baddies than the American public, but giving up basic civil liberties and privacy is where most will draw a hard line. And it’s not just about taking the government’s word that the access would be used in a responsible manner, but you also have to consider the matter of exposing millions of devices to potential cyber security threats and possibly exposing sensitive data to any ill-mannered black hat hackers.

The full letter isn’t very long at all (in fact, the list of signees takes up 66% of the document’s pages), so give it a read and see if you agree. Our bet is that you will, and that you’ll send your thoughts to POTUS himself on his shiny, brand new Twitter account right here.

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Report: the Samsung Galaxy S6 reached 10 million units shipped within a month Tue, 19 May 2015 13:44:15 +0000 Samsung Galaxy S6 DSC09370

It seems Samsung sells their flagship phones faster and faster each year, and 2015’s lineup seems to be no different. The Korea Herald reports that Samsung shipped (which is as good as sold, really) over 10 million Samsung Galaxy S6 smartphones within a month of its April 10th launch.

The report says the Galaxy S6 “models” sold enough to surpass the milestone, so we imagine it includes both the Samsung Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge. For what it’s worth, Samsung’s Galaxy S4 and Galaxy S5 also reached 10 million with a month, so they’re quite used to these results by now.

What’s interesting to note is that Samsung admitted to having supply issues after misjudging the market, particularly in the UK. The company didn’t anticipate that the popularity and demand for the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge would come close to that of the base model. Had their estimations been accurate they might have been able to produce a sufficient amount and sell even more.

The success of the phone comes at an important time where Samsung has been challenged to start thinking differently about mobile. They’re still by and large one of the biggest single manufacturers in the space, though they’ve had their mettle tested in many different regions, particularly in China where up and coming domestic manufacturers are creating better devices and commanding a lot more market share than years past. A sudden early launch of the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 might do even more to help them regain the strong footing they once had.

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HTC won’t be looking to make a “One Mini 3″ Mon, 18 May 2015 14:41:03 +0000 HTC One and HTC One mini

We’ve typically come to expect miniature variations of flagship handsets shortly after they launch, but one report suggests HTC won’t be looking to further that trend for the HTC One M9. Focus Taiwan credits the president of HTC North Asia for making that apparent.

HTC says the market is no longer ripe for that category of products, with folks demanding phones with bigger displays. To that end, HTC already has a few devices to offer up, including the flagship HTC One M9 and M9+, the slightly more affordable HTC One E9++, and the budget Desire devices they’ve seeded into the market as of late. It also doesn’t help that the “mini” devices were nearly as big as the normal-sized variants.

The decision to ditch the Mini line might have come at just the right time as few are likely to trust HTC’s willingness to support the devices with ample updates. They recently confirmed that neither the HTC One Mini or HTC One Mini 2 would be seeing Android 5.0 Lollipop.

It’s understandable for the original HTC One Mini as it launched about two years ago, but we’d say the one-year lifespan of the HTC One Mini 2 was far too short. Regardless, the line is dead so moot point is moot — if you’ve been waiting for a smaller version to launch we’d say it’s safe to start exploring other options.

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Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 11 accidents in 6 years, and none were their fault Tue, 12 May 2015 13:34:14 +0000 google self-driving car

“Self-driving cars? Madness! What happens when the cars get hacked? Or the electric circuitry gets all weird? Or, even worse, they become sentient evil beings? These cars must be banned before they even hit the road!”

Those are the lines we imagine many people have had run through their heads when they first heard Google was working on self-driving vehicles, but Google’s cars have actually proven to be much safer than many people could have anticipated. Head of the project Chris Urmson revealed that Google’s cars have only been involved in 11 accidents in the past 6 years.

While that number alone should be low enough to quell fears, this fact should drive that point home: none of the accidents were caused by fault of the vehicles, and they all resulted in 0 injuries and only minor damage. The most common cause of accidents were other drivers rear-ending the driverless cars, which Google says accounted for 8 of the 11 accidents.

Those are some pretty strong numbers to be able to tout, and Google’s sure to keep it in their back pocket should they ever face strong resistance from road regulators due to questions of safety.

Other choice statistics from Urmson’s latest blog post:

  • Google self-driving cars have traveled a combined 1.7 million miles in testing combined
  • Of the 1.7 million miles, nearly 1 million were autonomous, the rest being manually controlled by the test drivers
  • Google is averaging 10,000 self-driven miles per week, which is just less than a typical American drives in a year
  • Driver error causes 94% of road crashes
  • In America, 660,000 people at any given moment have their attention split while behind the wheel (texting, calling, eating, etc)
  • Meanwhile, Google’s self-driving cars have 100% of their attention focused over all 360 degrees of their surroundings

You can read Urmson’s full post over at Medium right now if you’re interested in a deeper look at how their self-driving car project has evolved to become one of the most safe driving experiences on the road today.

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In a strange turn of events, Verizon buys AOL for $4.4 billion Tue, 12 May 2015 13:02:50 +0000 AOL_promotional_CDs_in_Canada

We’re not sure why Verizon would want to buy a company that was once considered a dial-up king and has since turned into a multimedia conglomerate, but they did. Verizon and AOL have entered into an agreement for the former to buy the latter for a whopping $4.4 billion.

We may joke about being surprised AOL exists and fall back on our nostalgia of “You’ve Got Mail”, instant messages and late night chat rooms, but AOL is still a significantly relevant company in today’s internet. The company commands the likes of TechCrunch, the Huffington Post, Engadget and Joystiq — in case you haven’t realized, these are some of the biggest names in online media, and the entire lot of them combine to drive over $600 million annually.

With Verizon, AOL hopes to strengthen their already potent video, news and advertising platform to drive company growth to new heights. Perhaps not the same heights they enjoyed during the good ol’ dial-up days, mind you, but potent enough for them to be able to pay the bills and then some.

AOL CEO Tim Armstrong made remarks about the acquisition in an internal letter to employees obtained by The Verge. Thankfully none of the fine folks associated with the company will have to worry about losing any jobs. In fact, he expects a vast majority of the company’s employees will see better benefits and compensation than they ever have. He also gave a quick spiel on how the deal would help both them and Verizon in the future:tim armstrong

The decision to enter into an agreement with Verizon was made over a long and thoughtful time period and both companies see significant opportunity to service consumers and customers in a differentiated and exciting way.

On a personal level, the decision to go forward with an agreement was predicated on giving our talent the best opportunity to build a multi-decade business that would be deeply growth oriented and aimed directly at the platform shift that video and mobile are offering the world – today and 20 years from now.

We can’t argue with that. Verizon is as well-positioned as anyone to capitalize on a world that’s going increasingly mobile, and adding AOL to their ranks will give them solid footing to tackle this new age of internet going forward. AOL will remain as its own entity as a division of Verizon and run its current properties and business as they always have. They will also take the reigns on managing and evolving Verizon’s existing video and multimedia properties such as NFL Mobile.

It’ll be a while yet before we see tangible results of the joining of these two companies, but there’s no reason to suggest it won’t bring anything but goodness from both sides.

[via CNN]

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AT&T Trek HD tablet announced, and GoPhone plans get Rollover Data Mon, 11 May 2015 19:10:50 +0000 att trek hd

AT&T today announced their very first own-branded Android tablet. It’s called the AT&T Trek HD, a 4G LTE tablet with an 8-inch HD display. It’s positioned as an affordable option for those who require a tablet but don’t have the funds for something on the high-end. Here’s a quick highlight of some of the other specs you’ll care about:

  • Camera: 5 megapixel auto focus rear facing camera and 2 megapixel front facing camera
  • Operating System: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Processor: 1.6 GHz Quad-core Qualcomm® Snapdragon 400
  • Battery: 4060 mAh Lithium Ion battery for up to 8 hours3 of power
  • Storage: 16 GB (microSD up to 32 GB sold separately)
  • Weight: 12 ounces

The tablet is just $50 on-contract, or $10 per month for 20 months if you grab it through AT&T’s tablet installment program. That figures to be about $200 if you were to buy this thing with no commitments.

Not a bad deal, though for $200 we’d just as soon use something like the NVIDIA SHIELD Tablet with your AT&T phone’s hotspot feature. The tablet will be available tomorrow online, and will head to store shelves starting May 15th.

To add to that news, AT&T has announced that folks on their $45 and $60 GoPhone plans will now get Rollover Data at no extra cost. Rollover Data works as Rollover Minutes did years ago — the data you don’t use is available for you to use next month. It’s not quite as good as T-Mobile’s Data Stash as the rollover data expires after 1 month, but at no added cost it’s better than nothing.

[via AT&T 1, 2]

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Cyanogen OS to get caller ID integration thanks to Truecaller partnership Thu, 07 May 2015 18:36:13 +0000 Cyanogen Inc new logo

Cyanogen Inc today announced a new partnership. They’ve teamed up with Truecaller, the makers of a caller ID app that’ll show you unknown callers or identify phone numbers known to be spam. The integration will come at the OS level, says Cyanogen, so there will be no need to download a separate app if caller ID is something you fancy.

That deep integration will also allow the company to integrate the information you’re looking for in a way that makes sense. Whereas a standalone caller ID app might require going into their app to see information about calls that were already placed, you will be able to see that information right from Cyanogen’s built-in dialer.

Contact Card - Business Contact Card - Spam TrueCaller - Incomiing Call - Unknown Business V1 copy TrueCaller - Incomiing Call - Spam Caller TrueCaller - First Time User Dialog Opt Out TrueCaller - First Time User Headsup Opt Out TrueCaller - Incoming Call - Headsup - Spam Caller Copy TrueCaller - Incomiing Call - Spam Caller - Block Caller

Cyanogen says the deal will apply to all future mobile devices that ship with Cyanogen OS globally, and will also be available to tens of millions of existing users via an over-the-air update. We don’t have an exact timeline on when to expect these features to arrive to existing customers, but we imagine it shouldn’t be long if they’re already promising it to be ready for all future Cyanogen devices.

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Straight Talk Unlimited Data throttling now begins at 5GB for customers who bring their own phone Thu, 07 May 2015 12:36:40 +0000 straight talk 5gb offer

It’s no secret by now that Straight Talk begins throttling customers’ unlimited data once they reach a certain point. The cap used to be a hard 2.5GB until they increased it by 500MB a couple of years ago. Now it’s possible to get even more.

A new promotion for folks who bring their own phone to the company nets them 5GB of 4G LTE data, after which you’ll be slowed down to the less exciting world of 2G/3G. The change goes into effect for all their unlimited plans, though the baseline $30 “All You Need” plan (where you only get 100MB of data period) is obviously left out.

Straight Talk’s website bills this as a “special offer,” so we’re not sure how long it will last or if it’s a permanent promotion. For what it’s worth, the change applies to both new and existing customers so if you’re already going on one of the company’s unlimited plans and you’re using a device you bought independently from Straight Talk you should automatically reap the benefits. We’ll be looking to find out more about the change in the moments to come.

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Oculus Rift consumer launch confirmed for Q1 2016, pre-sale later this year Wed, 06 May 2015 18:50:20 +0000 oculus rift protoype

The folks at Oculus Rift have confirmed a final shipping window for the consumer edition of their virtual reality headset. It’ll be out at some point in Q1 2016, with pre-sales for the device commencing this Wednesday, they’ve announced.

With that, the company released some final renders of what the consumer product will look like once it touches ground next year. You’ll find that it’s a refined version of the Crescent Bay prototype that they’ve been worked on largely throughout its entire development, which is great considering that design was already pretty slick.

Developers have had their hands dipped in the Oculus Rift SDK for quite some time now, and the company has assured us that the earliest efforts will be showcased at their big E3 showing next month.

While other companies have already started introducing viable virtual reality solutions — either through the use of smartphone-augmented units like the Samsung Gear VR or standalone goodness such as HTC’s Re Vive — but Oculus Rift still seems poised to present one of the most ambitious consumer-ready virtual reality experiences to date. We’ll have to wait until June to find out what, exactly, they’re looking to do to make that happen.

[via Oculus Rift]

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Check your inboxes: Project Fi invites are starting to roll out Wed, 06 May 2015 13:08:55 +0000 google-project-fi

If you signed up to be notified about Project Fi’s availability and wanted to sign up as soon as the service was ready, you’ll want to check your inbox — Google is starting to send out the first batch of invites.

If you aren’t aware, Project Fi is the company’s new wireless service built on the backs of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks. It features a simplified and sensible data plan, a flat rate for talk and text, and cellular technology that’ll automatically and seamlessly make sure you’re on the best available network. You can find out more in our original post about the official launch right here.

project fi signup 2

So what’s it like to be whisked into this new program? Things are as Google announced for the most part — they ask you how much data you want (after reminding you that any unused data will be refunded to you) and ask you if you want to buy a Nexus 6 or use an existing one. You sign up with all your relevant details and once you receive your phone and / or SIM card you’ll be good to go.

project fi signup 1

There is one unfortunate caveat that we didn’t foresee, though — porting your Google Voice number over to Project Fi will essentially nuke your Google Voice account. There’s a long list of features that won’t be supported if you port your number:

  • Making and receiving calls using Google Talk, Google Voice apps, or Obihai devices
  • You won’t be able to use Google Voice for texting or visual voicemail
  • Text, voicemail and call history is no longer saved in Google Voice
  • If you’ve already turned on Google Voice text messages and voicemails in Hangouts, they’ll continue to be available only in Hangouts
  • These Google Voice settings aren’t available: spam filtering, call recording, call switch, conference calling on the fly,  caller ID (incoming), and outgoing caller ID (anonymous Caller ID).
  • As part of signing up for Project Fi, Google Voice apps and the website won’t be available.

That’s a pretty long list. What it does come with are the absolute basics you’d expect, which is an archive of your prior calls, texts, voicemails and voicemail greeting.

That said, you aren’t required to port your Google Voice number over to sign up for Project Fi so you’re just as free to choose a new phone number while continuing to use Google Voice as you always have. It’s important to remember that many of the aforementioned features are standard features of Project Fi so you’re not actually losing much functionality — you just won’t have the functionality within the Google Voice bubble.

We’re not sure why Google had to make so many sacrifices to make this happen — and you can be certain we’ll ask — but be sure to consider everything carefully before you make any sudden moves. Knowing all that, if you have an invite and have every intention of giving Project Fi a spin let us know in the comments below!

[via Reddit]

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T-Mobile releases 8 new ads attacking Verizon and offers their customers a risk-free trial [VIDEO] Tue, 05 May 2015 12:54:17 +0000 T-Mobile_US_Retail_Store_in_Waterbury,_CT

The gloves just came off, folks. T-Mobile has a bone to pick with Verizon and they want the whole world to know about it. The company has just released new ad campaign called #NeverSettle (OnePlus, anyone?), and they kicked things off with a whopping 8 videos to server no other purpose than to show people what they do much better than Verizon ever has.

The talking points cover the usual areas of unlimited data, no contracts, early upgrades and other perks T-Mobile can tout. The company even swears they have the network to take Big Red on, noting that they deliver the fastest LTE speed of any of the nation’s major carriers. Of course, actual coverage of said network is a whole different issue that they took care not to harp on, though they reminded us they’re on track to cover 300 million Americans by the end of this year.

As part of the campaign the company is offering up a free no-risk test drive to any current Big Red customers. Here’s how it’s going to work:

  • Port your phone number to T-Mobile and get a T-Mobile smartphone (all the while keeping your Verizon device)
  • After the trial, if you decide to switch T-Mobile will pay any early termination fees or device payments up to $650
  • If you decide you want to go back with Verizon, simply trade your T-Mobile phone within 14 days, and once you’re back they will even pay the costs associated with reactivation.

The trial starts May 13th, and signups will be taken through the end of the month. T-Mobile didn’t give us an idea on how long the trial would last once you’ve started, but we’ll do our darndest to find out. Be sure to take advantage if you’re truly on the fence, and look straight ahead of the rest of the advertisements T-Mobile dropped today if you’re interested.

[via T-Mobile]

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It’s official: Windows 10 can run Android apps… sort of Wed, 29 Apr 2015 19:41:23 +0000 windows 10 wallpaper

Yesterday, we heard about Microsoft’s plans to get Android apps to run on Windows 10. We likened the idea to Blackberry’s Android runtime used on their latest devices that allows Android developers to easily port their apps over.

Well, the news was true, but only to a degree. Microsoft has equipped developers with tools to easily port their Android and iOS apps to Windows 10, only this is no mere emulation or runtime. Instead, it’s a custom platform called Astoria that opens up Windows 10 development to a number of new languages.

For Android, developers can now code directly in C++ and Java to make sure they don’t have to write entirely new code bases from scratch. iOS developers will also be treated to support for Objective-C. Microsoft will make it extremely easy for developers to get comfortable developing for Windows using this SDK.

There are a couple of hurdles to consider, though you can be sure Microsoft was mindful about them. Namely, they recognize that not all developers can fully port their code base to Windows 10 without the help of some of Google’s proprietary services and APIs.

Microsoft says it’s their goal to build many of these types of services and tools themselves to fill in some of those gaps. It’s not all that dissimilar to Amazon and their Kindle Fire devices. While apps can be ported over to those devices in native fashion, Amazon still had to create their own APIs and platforms to fill in for the missing Google bits.

Whether this is going to be enough to fix Microsoft’s apps problem is still up in the air, but at least they’ve gone about trying to fix it it in a very creative, sensible and — honestly — exciting way. We hope to learn more soon.

[via The Verge]

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