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Input Devices

Google's New Camera App Simulates Shallow Depth of Field 109

Posted by timothy
from the give-your-mom-an-easter-bokeh dept.
New submitter katiewilliam (3621675) writes with a story at Hardware Zone about a new feature that Google's working on for Android phones' built-in cameras: the illusion of shallow depth of field in phone snapshots, which typically err on the side of too much in focus, rather than too little. Excerpting: "The Google Research Blog [note: here's a direct link] revealed that there's quite a fair bit of algorithms running to achieve this effect; to put it in a nutshell, computer vision algorithms create a 3D model of the world based on the shots you have taken, and estimate the depth to every point in the scene."
Cellphones

Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality 137

Posted by samzenpus
from the blow-it-up dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."
Cellphones

Inside the Stolen Smartphone Black Market In London 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the pre-owned-like dept.
First time accepted submitter WebAgeCaveman (3615807) writes in with news about just how big the stolen smartphone black market is. "A black market of shops and traders willing to deal in stolen smartphones has been exposed by a BBC London undercover investigation. Intelligence was received that some shops across a swathe of east London were happy to buy phones from thieves. Two traders were filmed buying Samsung S3 and iPhone 4 devices from a researcher posing as a thief - despite him making it clear they were stolen. The shops involved have declined to comment."
Cellphones

The Case For a Safer Smartphone 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the everyone's-dangerous-behind-the-wheel-except-me dept.
itwbennett writes: "According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, people who text and drive increase their chances of 'safety-critical events' by a multiple of 23.2. And new research is constantly rolling out, showing the same thing: 'We can't handle the visual, manual, and cognitive commitment of using a phone while driving,' writes blogger Kevin Purdy. What's needed, Purdy suggests, isn't more laws that will go ignored, but phones that know enough to stop giving us the distractions we ask them for: 'I think the next good phone, the next phone that makes some variant of the claim that it "Fits the way you live," needs to know that we don't know what is good for us when it comes to driving. We want to be entertained and shown new things while doing the often mundane or stressful task of driving. More specifically, those phones should know when we are driving, quiet or otherwise obscure updates from most apps, and be able to offer their most basic functions without needing to turn on a screen or type a single letter.'"
Cellphones

Amazon Reportedly Launching Smartphone This Year 38

Posted by Soulskill
from the bookstores-building-gadgets dept.
According to a report in the Wall Street Journal, Amazon is working on a smartphone for release in the second half of the year. They're currently aiming to announce it by July and launch the end of September. One of the differentiating features of the phone is its capability to display 3-D images. "..the phone would employ retina-tracking technology embedded in four front-facing cameras, or sensors, to make some images appear to be 3-D, similar to a hologram." However, it may not be just a gimmick for 3-D movies and TV shows: "Sources tell Re/code that one advantage of this display will supposedly be that the phone can be moved from right to left to navigate, so a user can interact with the interface with only one hand." The report's sources say Amazon has been demonstrating the phone for developers in San Francisco and Seattle, but they're likely to have difficulty luring developers away from established platforms.
Microsoft

China Approves Microsoft-Nokia Deal, Gets Patent Concessions In Return 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
itwbennett writes: "On Tuesday, China's Ministry of Commerce gave conditional regulatory approval to Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's Devices & Services business. The $7.2 billion deal means that Microsoft could very soon produce its own smartphones using the Windows Phone operating system. In return, China is requiring Microsoft and Nokia to make promises on fair patent use, fearing that the proposed acquisition between the two companies could spell trouble for the nation's Android device makers."
Power

Nanodot-Based Smartphone Battery Recharges In 30 Seconds 227

Posted by samzenpus
from the greased-lightning dept.
Zothecula (1870348) writes "At Microsoft's Think Next symposium in Tel Aviv, Israeli startup StoreDot has demonstrated the prototype of a nanodot-based smartphone battery it claims can fully charge in just under 30 seconds. With the company having plans for mass production, this technology could change the way we interact with portable electronics, and perhaps even help realize the dream of a fast-charging electric car."
Encryption

CryptoPhone Sales Jump To 100,000+, Even at $3500 68

Posted by timothy
from the when-envelopes-are-outlawed dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Since Edward Snowden started making NSA files public last year, GSMK has seen a jump in sales. There are more than 100,000 CryptoPhones in use today. How secure they really are will be determined in the future. But I'm sure that some government agencies, not just in the U.S., are very interested in getting a list of users." For the price the company's charging for a modified Galaxy S3, it had better be as secure as they claim; otherwise, the free and open source RedPhone from Moxie Marlinspike's Whisper Systems seems like something to think about first.
Cellphones

Google Project Ara Design Will Use Electro-Permanent Magnets To Lock In Modules 62

Posted by Soulskill
from the magnets-how-the-heck-to-they-work dept.
MojoKid writes: "Google's Project Ara, an effort to develop a modular smartphone platform, sounded at first as much like vaporware, but Google is actually making it happen. In an upbeat video, Dave Hakkens (the guy who created the Phonebloks design that appears to be the conceptual basis for Project Ara) visited the Google campus to see what progress is being made on the project. The teams working on Project Ara have figured out a key solution to one of the first problems they encountered, which was how to keep all the modules stuck together. They decided to use electro-permanent magnets. In terms of design, they've decided not to cover up the modules, instead making their very modularity part of the aesthetic appeal. 3D Systems is involved on campus, as they're delivering the 3D printing technology to make covers for the modules."
Software

App Developers, It's Time For a Reality Check 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the attack-of-the-clones dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: "An article in the Harvard Business Review does its best to punch a small hole in the startup-hype balloon. 'Encouraging kids to blow off schoolwork to write apps, or skip college to become entrepreneurs, is like advising them to take their college money and invest it in PowerBall,' Jerry Davis, Wilbur K. Pierpont professor of management at the Ross School of Business and the editor of Administrative Science Quarterly, wrote in that column. 'A few may win big; many or most will end up living with their moms.' Whether or not the unfortunate developer ends up back in the childhood bedroom, it's true that, with millions of apps available across all mobile platforms, it's increasingly difficult for independent developers to stand out. Compounding the problem, some of the hottest companies out there for developers and programmers don't have nearly enough job openings to absorb the flood of graduates from the world's universities. So what's a developer to do? Continue to plow forward, with adjusted expectations: the prospect of becoming the next Mark Zuckerberg is just too tantalizing for many people to pass up, even if the chances of wild success are smaller than anyone rational would like to admit."
The Almighty Buck

Smartphone Kill-Switch Could Save Consumers $2.6 Billion 218

Posted by samzenpus
from the kill-it dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Creighton University professor William Duckworth has released a report finding that kill-switch technology that remotely makes a stolen smartphone useless could save American consumers up to $2.6 billion per year — mostly from reduced insurance premiums. Duckworth estimated that Americans currently spend around $580 million replacing stolen phones each year and $4.8 billion paying for handset insurance. If a kill-switch led to a sharp reduction in theft of phones, most of the $580 million spent on replacing stolen phones would be saved. And a further $2 billion in savings could be realized by switching to cheaper insurance plans that don't cover theft."
Cellphones

Ubuntu Phone Isn't Important Enough To Demand an Open Source Baseband 137

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the pick-your-battles dept.
colinneagle (2544914) writes "Canonical is producing a version of the Ubuntu Linux distribution specifically for smartphones, but Richard Tynan, writing for PrivacyInternational.org, recently pointed out that the baseband in Ubuntu-powered phones will remain proprietary. ... Some have criticized Canonical for missing an opportunity to push for a fully Open Source smartphone, but in order to fix this problem (and open up the code for this super-critical bit of software), we need companies that have a large amount of clout, in the smartphone market, to make it a priority. Canonical (with Ubuntu) just doesn't have that clout yet. They're just now dipping their toes into the smartphone waters. But you know who does have that clout? Google.

Google has made a point of touting Open Source (at least sometimes), and they are the undisputed king of the smartphone operating system world. And yet I hear no big moves by Google to encourage phone manufacturers to utilize Open Source baseband firmware, such as OsmocomBB. So has Canonical missed an opportunity? No. Not yet. If (some may say 'when') Ubuntu gains a critical amount of market share in the phone world, that will be their chance to pressure manufacturers to produce a truly Open Source phone. Until then, Canonical needs to continue to work within the world we have today."
Cellphones

Oppo's New Phone Hits 538 PPI 217

Posted by timothy
from the how's-your-vision? dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Oppo Electronics has taken off the wraps on its first LTE phone, and it packs more technology than most if not all laptops. The Find 7 is a 5.5" phone and is the first to support 2560 x 1440 resolution [538 PPI] (by comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S5 has 441 PPI). 'Another striking and unique feature of the phone is its 2.5GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor,' writes blogger Andy Patrizio. 'This is Qualcomm's first chip to feature its Gobi True 4G LTE World Mode, supporting LTE FDD, LTE TDD, WCDMA, CDMA1x, EV-DO, TD-SCDMA and GSM4. Translation: this phone will work on LTE all over the world.'"
Space

Google's Project Tango Headed To International Space Station 22

Posted by Soulskill
from the much-cheaper-than-testing-in-somebody's-basement dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "A pair of Google's Project Tango phones, the prototype smartphone packed with sensors so it can learn and sense the world around it, is heading to the International Space Station on the upcoming Orbital 2 mission where they will be used to help develop autonomous flying robots. Work on the robots is already going on at NASA's Ames Research Center in Silicon Valley, and this week the space agency let a small group of reporters visit its lab and see some of the research."
Cellphones

Brazil Blocks Foreign Mobile Phones 97

Posted by timothy
from the taxation-failing-to-buy-civilization dept.
First time accepted submitter fabrica64 writes "The Brazilian government has today started blocking mobile phones not sold in Brazil (Portuguese-language original), i.e. not having paid sales taxes here. The blocking is based on IMEI, and if you come to Brazil for the World Cup in June and think of buying a Brazilian SIM card to call locally at lower rates, then it won't work because your mobile's IMEI will be blacklisted as not sold in Brazil. This is not a joke, it's true!"
Cellphones

EU Votes For Universal Phone Charger 358

Posted by Soulskill
from the guilty-as-charged dept.
SmartAboutThings writes "The European Union has voted in favor of a draft legislation which lists among the 'essential requirements' of electrical devices approved by the EU a compatibility with 'universal' chargers. According to a German MEP, this move will eliminate 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste. The draft law was approved by an overwhelming majority: 550 votes to 12. At the moment, according to estimates, there are around 30 different types of charger on the market, but manufacturers have two years at their disposal to get ready for the new restriction."
Android

Replicant OS Developers Find Backdoor In Samsung Galaxy Devices 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the caught-out dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Developers of the Free Software Foundation-endorsed Replicant OS have uncovered a backdoor through Android on Samsung Galaxy devices and the Nexus S. The research indicates the proprietary Android versions have a blob handling communication with the modem using Samsung's IPC protocol and in turn there's a set of commands that allow the modem to do remote I/O operations on the phone's storage. Replicant's open-source version of Android does away with the Samsung library to fend off the potential backdoor issue."
Android

Ask Slashdot: How Can I Prepare For the Theft of My Android Phone? 374

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the self-destruct-fuse dept.
New submitter Adam Jorgensen writes "Last week my 4-week old Moto G phone was stolen while getting onto the train at Salt River in Cape Town, South Africa. That in itself is no big deal. Cellphone theft is a huge problem here in South Africa and I've had at least two previous cellphones stolen. The big deal this time, for me at least, was that this was the first time I've lost an Android phone to theft. When I actually sat down and thought about it, losing a fully configured Android phone is actually a big deal as it provides ready access to all kinds of accounts, including ones Google account. This could potentially allow the thief to engage in all kinds of malicious behavior, some of which could have major implications beyond the scope of the theft.

Luckily for me it seems that the thief did the usual thing: Dumped the SIM card, wiped the phone, and switched it off. It's probably had its IMEI changed by now and been sold on to some oblivious punter, possibly some oblivious punter in another country. Still, the potential for serious issue is making me have second thoughts about replacing the phone with anything capable of doing much more than calling. My question is this: Are there any serious solutions out there for Android that secure against theft?"
Cellphones

Second Federal 'Kill-switch' Bill Introduced Targeting Smartphone Theft 158

Posted by timothy
from the there's-a-downside-to-this dept.
alphadogg writes "A second federal bill that proposes 'kill-switch' technology be made mandatory in smartphones as a means to reduce theft of the devices was introduced Monday. The kill switch would allow consumers to remotely wipe and disable a stolen smartphone and is considered by proponents to be a key tool in combating the increasing number of smartphone robberies. The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act was introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives as H.R. 4065 by Jose Serrano, a New York Democrat, as a companion to a Senate bill that was introduced Feb. 13. The two follow a similar law proposed by officials in California last month."
Open Source

Open Source Tech Providing Mobile Communications In Developing Nations 20

Posted by Soulskill
from the ingenuity-plus-free-tools-equals-ubiquitous-communication dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A village in the West Papua central highlands runs a telecom network out of a box latched to a tree. The network runs on open source. 'OpenBTS, an all-software cellular transceiver, is at the heart of the network running on that box attached to a treetop. Someday, if those working with the technology have their way, it could do for mobile networks what TCP/IP and open source did for the Internet. The dream is to help mobile break free from the confines of telephone providers' locked-down spectrum, turning it into a platform for the development of a whole new range of applications that use spectrum "white space" to connect mobile devices of every kind. It could also democratize telecommunications around the world in unexpected ways. ... It is a 2G GSM system with two operating channels (GSM absolute radio-frequency channel numbers, or ARFCNs) in the 900MHz range, putting out 10 watts of signal power from an omnidirectional antenna. That gives the system a range of about five kilometers under ideal conditions, but in reality it averages about a three kilometer range because of vegetation and terrain (1.86 miles to 3.10 miles). The whole system is installed in a weatherproof box up a tree and draws less than 80 watts of power.'"

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