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Android

Samsung Answers Burning Note 7 Questions, Vows Better Batteries (cnet.com) 16

From a report on CNET: During a press conference Sunday, Samsung said two separate battery defects caused both the original batch of Galaxy Note 7 phones and the replacement units to overheat. The first battery, it said, suffered from a design flaw. The battery's external casing was too small for the components inside, causing it to short-circuit and ignite. The second battery, which came from another supplier, didn't have the same flaw, Justin Denison, head of product strategy and marketing for Samsung's US arm, said in an interview ahead of the press conference. In the rush to pump out enough batteries for the replacement units, though, the supplier introduced a manufacturing defect that led to the same result, he said. The explanation puts to rest the mystery behind the exploding Note 7, but it kicks off a new challenge for the embattled company: winning back your trust after a disastrous several months that included two recalls and the decision to kill the critically acclaimed phone. The Sunday press conference marked the start of a Samsung campaign to rebuild company credibility, which will include the upcoming launch of the flagship Galaxy S8 phone, as well as another Note later in the year.
Programming

Slashdot's Interview With Swift Creator Chris Lattner 40

You asked, he answered! The creator of Apple's Swift programming language (and a self-described "long-time reader/fan of Slashdot") stopped by on his way to a new job at Tesla just to field questions from Slashdot readers. Read on for Chris's answers...
Android

Do Android Users Still Use Custom Roms? (androidauthority.com) 169

"With all of the drama at CyanogenMod, Android Authority takes a look at the current state of custom ROM development," writes Slashdot reader Thelasko. From the article: The future of CyanogenMod appears uncertain, after the open source ROM was forced to fork under the name Lineage OS. Fortunately there are already other remixed versions of Android available, with some of the most popular being Paranoid Android, Resurrection Remix, and Dirty Unicorns... [But] with each new version of Android, the gap between Android and popular custom ROMs has shrunk, which begs an interesting question: Are custom ROMs even necessary anymore? To answer this, let's take a quick look at the state of custom ROM development as it exists today.
The article points out that mobile virtual reality is "on the verge of becoming mainstream and the wearable market has grown tremendously," asking whether custom firmware will also integrate these newer technologies. But the original submission also asks a question that's closer to home. What custom ROMs do Slashdot users have installed?
Open Source

Free Software Foundation Shakes Up Its List of Priority Projects (networkworld.com) 91

alphadogg quotes Network World: The Free Software Foundation Tuesday announced a major rethinking of the software projects that it supports, putting top priority on a free mobile operating system, accessibility, and driver development, among other areas. The foundation has maintained the High Priority Projects list since 2005, when it contained just four free software projects. [That rose to 12 projects by 2008, though the changelog shows at least seven projects have since been removed.] Today's version mostly identifies priority areas, along with a few specific projects in key areas.
The new list shows the FSF will continue financially supporting Replicant, their free version of Android, and they're also still supporting projects to create a free software replacement for Skype with real-time voice and video capabilities. But they're now also prioritizing various projects to replace Siri, Google Now, Alexa, and Cortana with a free-software personal assistant, which they view as "crucial to preserving users' control over their technology and data while still giving them the benefits such software has for many."

And other priorities now include internationalization, accessibility, decentralization and self-hosting, and encouraging governments to adopt free software.
Google

Google Pressured 90,000 Android Developers Over Insecure Apps (pcworld.com) 48

An anonymous reader quotes PCWorld: Over the past two years, Google has pressured developers to patch security issues in more than 275,000 Android apps hosted on its official app store. In many cases this was done under the threat of blocking future updates to the insecure apps...

In the early days of the App Security Improvement program, developers only received notifications, but were under no pressure to do anything. That changed in 2015 when Google expanded the types of issues it scanned for and also started enforcing deadlines for fixing many of them... Google added checks for six new vulnerabilities in 2015, all of them with a patching deadline, and 17 in 2016, 12 of which had a time limit for fixes. These issues ranged from security flaws in third-party libraries, development frameworks and advertising SDKs to insecure implementations of Android Java classes and interfaces.

100,000 applications had been patched by April of 2016, but that number tripled over the next nine months, with 90,000 developers fixing flaws in over 275,000 apps.
Android

Galaxy S7 Display Defaults To Full HD After Nougat Update, But You Can Switch Back (androidcentral.com) 21

An anonymous reader writes: Samsung's new display scaling options change the default resolution of the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge. The Nougat update to the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge introduces a new display scaling option that lets you reduce the screen resolution as a way to conserve battery life. With the update, you can now choose between three modes -- WQHD (2560x1440), FHD (1920x1080), and HD (1280x720). While it's a nifty feature to have, the display on the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge is automatically defaulting to Full HD for those that have installed the update. Fortunately, you can easily switch back to the native Quad HD resolution by navigating to Settings -> Display.
China

Viral Chinese Selfie App Meitu, Valued at Over $5 Billion, Phones Home With Personal Data (theregister.co.uk) 79

The Meitu selfie horrorshow app going viral through Western audiences is a privacy nightmare, researchers say. The app, which has been featured on several popular outlets including the NYTimes, USA Today, and NYMag, harvests information about the devices on which it runs, includes invasive advertising tracking features and is just badly coded. From a report: But worst of all, the free app appears to be phoning some to share personal data with its makers. Meitu, a Chinese production, includes in its code up to three checks to determine if an iPhone handset is jailbroken, according to respected forensics man Jonathan Zdziarski, a function to grab mobile provider information, and various analytics capabilities. Zdziarski says the app also appears to build a unique device profile based in part on a handset's MAC address. "Meitu is a throw-together of multiple analytics and marketing/ad tracking packages, with something cute to get people to use it," Zdziarski says. Unique phone IMEI numbers are shipped to dozens of Chinese servers, malware researcher FourOctets found. The app, which was valued at over $5 billion last year due its popularity, seeks access to device and app history; accurate location; phone status; USB, photos, and files storage read and write; camera; Wifi connections; device ID & call information; full network access, run at startup, and prevent device from sleeping on Android phones.
Android

Trump Trades in Android Phone For Secret Service-Approved Device (cnet.com) 205

Who's got two thumbs and a Secret Service-approved phone to tweet from? On arriving in Washington on Thursday ahead of his inauguration, Donald Trump has handed in his Android device in exchange for an unidentified locked-down phone, according to Associated Press. From a report: The phone comes with a new number that is known only to a limited number of people. This marks a big change for Trump, who's frequently on the line with friends, business contacts, reporters, foreign leaders and politicians. Barack Obama was the first president to use a mobile device approved by security agencies because of hacking concerns. Initially he had a heavily modified BlackBerry and later switched to another phone that had most features totally disabled. He was not known to use it for making or receiving calls, but it was one of few devices that had access to the @POTUS Twitter account.
United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 62

Ads for Google and related companies were found in the top spot in 91% of 25,000 searches related to items, according to a report on WSJ. For example, a search for "phones" would produce ads for Google Pixel, which the company launched last year. From a report: Similar results were found for searches on "Watches" or "smoke detector," which produced ads for Android smartwatches and Nest devices, respectively. In a statement, Google says their marketing programs are "carefully designed" to not impact outside advertisers. "All our bids are excluded from the auction when determining the price paid by other advertisers, and we have strict rules and processes -- set to tougher levels than our customers -- to govern the use of our own ads products." The auction is a process deciding which ads will appear for users when they type in certain search queries. Strategies such as using relevant keywords give advertisers a better shot at their ad appearing on a search results page.
Microsoft

Microsoft is Bringing Cortana To Android Lock Screen (mspoweruser.com) 94

Microsoft is testing out a new way to access Cortana, its digital assistant, from the Android lock screen, with just a swipe. It's a new feature that's clearly designed to replace Google's own quick access, and to convince Android users to switch to Cortana. According to MSPowerUser, Cortana on the lock screen doesn't replace existing lock screens, so you can still use a custom one or the default experience that ships with your Android device. Cortana is activated simply by swiping left or right on the floating logo. Microsoft is currently testing this new feature, and any Android users can opt-in to trial the new beta features over at the Google Play Store.
Android

Thousands of Note 7 Phones Still in Use On Verizon, All Non-911 Calls To Be Rerouted To Customer Service (cnet.com) 139

Thousands of Verizon customers continue to use the Galaxy Note 7 smartphone, the carrier said. This despite the widely publicized recalls spurred by battery fire concerns and a software upgrade designed to kill the phone by preventing it from recharging. From a report: "In spite of our best efforts, there are still customers using the recalled phones who have not returned or exchanged their Note 7 to the point of purchase," a Verizon spokeswoman said. "The recalled Note 7s pose a safety risk to our customers and those around them." So now Verizon is fighting fire with fire, so to speak. The carrier plans to reroute all non-911 outgoing calls to its customer service line, and it might bill the holdouts for the full retail cost of the phone.
Android

Android Will Now Store Google Searches Offline and Deliver Them When You Get Signal (theverge.com) 35

Google is rolling out an update for its Android app that makes it easier to search on the web with an inconsistent internet connection. Users can make searches when offline and the Google app will store them, delivering the results later (with an optional notification) when the devices get signal again. From a report: As Google product manager Shekhar Sharad writes in a blog post: "So the next time you lose service, feel free to queue up your searches, put your phone away and carry on with your day. The Google app will work behind-the-scenes to detect when a connection is available again and deliver your search results once completed."
Android

Low-Cost Android One Phones Coming To The US, Says Report (theverge.com) 91

The Android One platform is a program designed by Google to provide budget-friendly Android smartphones to developing markets. The phones are attractive because they contain no bloatware, competing services, and a lack of software and security updates -- the stuff that most low-end smartphones contain. According to a report from The Information, the program is about to make its way to the U.S. market. The Verge reports: Android One phones have historically been produced by companies you probably haven't heard of, like Micromax, Cherry, and QMobile. Originally Google had a direct hand in detailing what components would go into the phone, but apparently became more flexible over time and eventually expanded the program beyond India to parts of Africa, Spain, and Portugal. Android One may not have been the rousing worldwide success Google was hoping for, but it's still an important initiative for the company. Especially at the low end, there's a lot of incentive for manufacturers to pile on extra software in a bid to make those devices more profitable -- but that could cut against Google's efforts to make its own services more pervasive and popular. If Google really does put some real effort behind Android One, it could make its plans for Android a little clearer. Google itself has taken a stand that it wants to make its own hardware at the high-end of the smartphone market with the Pixel, and if The Information's report is accurate, it wants to ensure that its services are not cut out from the low end.
China

China Orders App Stores To Join Register (bbc.com) 23

China's internet regulator has ordered mobile app stores to register themselves with it immediately. The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said the move would help "promote the healthy and orderly development of the mobile internet." From a report on BBC: Most smartphones in the country run Android, but Google does not operate its Play Store locally, meaning users go elsewhere to add software. A report last year linked this to the spread of malware. Cheetah Mobile Security -- a Beijing-based firm -- reported that more than 1.4 million Chinese users' mobile devices had been struck by infections as of January 2016, making it the worst afflicted nation. India and Indonesia were in second and third place. This follows previous efforts to censor what appears online, including a recent demand that Apple remove the New York Times from the Chinese version of its iOS App Store. The US newspaper was the first to report the watchdog's move outside of China itself. Because of the Play store's absence, Android users in China typically go to stores operated by local tech giants including Tencent, Xiaomi, Baidu and Huawei.
Android

Headphone Users Rejoice: Samsung Reportedly Not Killing the Galaxy S8's Headphone Jack (thenextweb.com) 79

An anonymous reader writes: Contrary to previous reports, Samsung's upcoming flagship Galaxy S8 smartphone will come with a headphone jack, unlike the new iPhone 7 and 7 Plus and several other Android smartphones. The news comes from both Sammobile and Android Police. The Next Web reports: "Both Sammobile and Android Police are today reporting that Samsung is not actually killing the headphone jack. Sammobile, appears to be retracting its own report last month suggesting the jack would be dropped thanks to recent case renders, while Android Police has independently confirmed that the S8 will maintain the 3.5mm jack through its own source. In related news, Samsung's display unit may have also just given us our first good look at the S8. While there's a good chance the phone in the video is a generic model (it appears to be a render, rather than a physical object), as CNET points out, it looks an awful lot like the leaks we've seen from the S8 so far. There are also a few curious touches for a something that's supposed to be just a render, including what might be a faint visible antenna line (on the upper left corner) and a couple of LEDs or sensors to the left of the earpiece grill. By the way, there's also a definitely a headphone jack in this render."
Android

Creator of Android Andy Rubin Nears His Comeback, Complete With an 'Essential' Phone (bloomberg.com) 77

From a report on Bloomberg: Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, is planning to marry his background in software with artificial intelligence in a risky business: consumer hardware. Armed with about a 40-person team, filled with recruits from Apple and Google, Rubin is preparing to announce a new company called Essential and serve as its Chief Executive Officer, according to people familiar with the matter. A platform company designed to tie multiple devices together, Essential is working on a suite of consumer hardware products, including ones for the mobile and smart home markets, one of the people said. The centerpiece of the system is a high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel. At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas in early January, Rubin discussed the smartphone with mobile carrier executives, including some from Sprint Corp., people familiar with the talks said. The smartphone, according to the report, would go on sale around the middle of this year and will cost nearly as much as iPhone 7 ($649, off contract).
AI

HTC's New Flagship Phone Has AI and a Second Screen, But No Headphone Jack (theverge.com) 205

An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: HTC is getting 2017 off to a flying start with an unseasonably early announcement of its next flagship phone: the U Ultra. This 5.7-inch device inaugurates a new U series of smartphones and is joined by a smaller and lesser U Play, which scales things down to 5.2 inches and a humbler camera and processor spec. HTC is touting a new Sense Companion, which is its take on the growing trend for putting AI assistants into phones, plus the addition of a second screen at the top of the U Ultra. As with Apple's latest iPhones, Lenovo's Moto Z, and the HTC Bolt, neither of HTC's new handsets has a headphone jack. The other big change on the outside is the U Ultra's second screen, which is a thin 2-inch strip residing to the right of the front-facing camera and immediately above the Super LCD 5 screen.
China

WeChat Beats Google in Releasing Apps That Don't Need Downloading or Installing (mashable.com) 73

An anonymous reader shares a Mashable report: Click on a link in China's top messaging app, WeChat, and you'll be taken to a rich app-like experience, but without needing to download or install anything. Tencent, WeChat's maker, on Monday released "mini programs." The new mini programs work within the messaging app, and the early crop at launch include a Prisma-like photo editing app, a Pomodoro Timer productivity app, a flight search engine, and one for recipe searches. With the mini programs, the already-dominant WeChat continues its march to become practically ubiquitous on Chinese handsets, where people already use the messenger for real-life tasks like paying at restaurants, to hailing a Didi Chuxing ride. Last year, Google too announced that it would soon allow users to check out apps without downloading or installing them. The feature is yet to go live.
Toys

Ask Slashdot: What's The Most Useful 'Nerd Watch' Today? 232

He's worn the same watch for two decades, but now Slashdot reader students wants a new one. For about 20 years I've used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They required very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I don't even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!) They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date).
Today's watches include everything from heart rate monitors to TV remote controls, and Casio even plans to release a new version of their Android Wear watch with a low-power GPS chip and mapping software. But what's your best suggestion? "I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer," adds the original submission -- so leave your best answers in the comments. What's the most useful nerd watch today?
Cellphones

Nokia Finally Returns To The Smartphone Market (In China) (mashable.com) 23

An anonymous reader quotes Mashable: To little fanfare, the Finnish technology company HMD Global Sunday unveiled the Nokia 6, a mid-range Android smartphone for the Chinese market. HMD owns the rights to use Nokia's brand on mobile phones. The Nokia 6, which runs the newest version of Google's mobile operating system, Android Nougat, sports a 5.5-inch full HD (1920x1080 pixels) display. With metal on the sides and a rounded rectangular fingerprint scanner housed on the front, the Nokia 6 seems reminiscent of the Samsung Galaxy S7.

The new Nokia smartphone is powered by a mid-range Qualcomm Snapdragon 430 processor and will compete with the likes of Samsung's Galaxy A series models and other mid-end smartphones... The smartphone is priced at 1,699 Chinese Yuan (roughly $250).

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