Topic mobile

Samsung's Note 5 gets good reviews despite shortcomings

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in mobile on (#JJ6H)
story imageIt's hard not to look at one of Samsung's flagship phablets without feeling a pang of nostalgia for Palm's products back in the day, stylus and graffiti handwriting recognition and all. Samsung bucked the trend as Steve Jobs defiantly maintained, "if your device has a stylus, you have failed." Instead, Samsung's Note line of devices use an integrated, touch-sensitive stylus to permit new applications and unlock new ways of interacting with software.

The Note is in its 5th incarnation in 2016. Engadget has taken a look at it and finds it pretty compelling overall, despite changes that will turn off many: no microSD support, no swappable battery, a wimpy single speaker, and only 32GB and 64GB options.
Let's cut to the chase: This is the most attractive, most comfortable-feeling Galaxy Note that Samsung has ever made. ... The generous curve of the backplate and the trimmed-down bezels surrounding the 5.7-inch, Quad HD, Super AMOLED screen make the Note 5 much easier to hold than any of the previous-gen Notes, ... More importantly, the screen is an absolute champ under the sweltering summer sun. With brightness cranked up all the way, I had no trouble ... If you've fiddled with a Galaxy S6, you know exactly what to expect here. The Note 5 comes with a TouchWiz-ified version of Android 5.1.1, and once again, I appreciate the lighter touch Samsung has been taking with its software. It's not my favorite skin and I still think it pales in comparison to the stock Google Now Launcher, but I'm pleasantly surprised by how much less obnoxious TouchWiz is these days. All of Samsung's mainstay features are here, and they all work as well as you'd expect them to.
Other reviews are similar. Check them out at Gizmodo and Tech Times. Forbes has discovered you can screw up your device by sticking the stylus in its receptacle the wrong way. So, don't do that then, dummy.

"Bring your own device" failing to live up to its promise

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in mobile on (#JJ6G)
With the rise of mobile computing came a swell of frustration by people who preferred their fancy, personal devices to the locked-down devices (if any) provided for them at work. Eventually, corporations relented, opening the door to a plethora of "bring your own device" policies that IT staff detest owing to increased security risk and the unacceptable co-mingling of personal and private data.

We've been working in this environment for a few years now, and increasingly, tech directors are willing to speak out about this model's deficiencies. But users aren't unanimously happy with the compromises made either. One small example:
In an interesting test case in California, a worker is reported to be suing her former employer for invasion of privacy and wrongful termination of employment.

The person claimed they were sacked after deleting an app (Xora iPhone app) from her company-issued handset that she believed allowed her employer to spy on her. She claims the app tracked where she was – using the device GPS – including how fast she was driving, even when she wasn’t working.
The Register takes a look at the pros and cons of what has become a pre-selection of pre-approved devices, i.e. "CYOD" or "choose your own device."

What about |.ers? Are you bringing your own device, or saddled with the corporate choice, or avoiding pocket computing all together? Which model worked the best for you?

Blackberry "Venice" Android slider phone rumors grow louder

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in mobile on (#HVW4)
story imageFamed phone leaker @evleaks is at it again, this time with a few more shots of BlackBerry's forthcoming Venice handset. Venice is a slider phone that sports a large touchscreen display and runs Android instead of Blackberry's proprietary BB10 operating system. It slides up to reveal a physical QWERTY keyboard in portrait mode, giving owners of the device the best of both worlds, or so BlackBerry hopes. The Canadian outfit has been struggling for the past several years, and is hoping Venice will change that. The company built a reputation that was based in part on excellent hardware keyboards, and though the mobile market has moved to touchscreens, there are still many users who prefer the feel of a physical plank. Venice will give users a choice between the two input methods. Venice has been "confirmed" to launch in November on all four national U.S. wireless carriers -- Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint.

As one who loves BlackBerry hardware but not the software, I’m excited about the potential of a proper QWERTY phone with Android apps. Because these are leaks, the details are still up in the air. Nonetheless, it’s looking more and more likely that BlackBerry will be launching an Android phone sometime this year. It’s also becoming increasingly clear that the device will probably be a slider, and that it will possibly run Google Play services.

Return of the flip phone

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in mobile on (#GF7K)
Flip phones were all the rage in the 1990s - they were the ultimate fashion accessory. And despite being overtaken by smartphones the world over, the flip phone paradoxically remains very popular in technology-obsessed Japan. Flip-phone shipments rose 5.7 percent in 2014, while smartphone shipments fell 5.3 percent, down for a second year. The handsets have been dubbed 'Galapagos' phones because they have evolved to meet unique Japanese standards and tastes. This may also be attributable to users in Japan paying some of the highest smartphone fees among developed nations, while flip-phone rates are among the lowest. Many Japanese, accustomed to years of deflation, are content with old-style flip-phones offering voice calling, email and basic Internet services. Also, Japanese electronics companies Panasonic Corp and NEC Corp have pulled out of the consumer smartphone business, unable to compete with Apple and Samsung, but they still make flip-phones, competing in a crowded competitive market.

Though it may be easy to mock such a low-tech choice of phone, a recent trend observed by MailOnline has seen classic 1990s models by Nokia, Ericsson and Motorola commanding four-figure sums on eBay and other resale sites. While they may lack features, these retro phones are simple to use, have batteries that last the week and are practically indestructible compared to their smartphone equivalents. And now, LG has decided to join the party.

LG has launched a new model of flip phone, branded the "LG Gentle". Despite the 90s design, chunky physical buttons and 3MP camera, it comes with numerous modern features and the budget handset can perform many more tricks than flip phones from the 90s. The handset has a 3.2-inch colour touch screen and runs Android Lollipop 5.1, a modern 1.1GHz quad-core Snapdragon 2010 processor and 1GB of RAM, supports 4G LTE, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS... The phone has launched in Korea, but there is no news as to whether it will be rolled out elsewhere.

Google Tone lets computers talk to each other, literally

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in mobile on (#9H2E)
Reinventing the acoustic coupled modem of the 1970s, Google engineers have found a way for computers to share data through their speakers. Dubbed Tone, the Chrome app broadcasts the URL of the current tab to any machine within earshot that also has the extension installed. The extension is available now in Chrome's web store. "Tone grew out of the idea that while digital communication methods like email and chat have made it infinitely easier, cheaper, and faster to share things with people across the globe, they've actually made it more complicated to share things with the people standing right next to you. Tone aims to make sharing digital things with nearby people as easy as talking to them," Kauffman and Smus said in a blog post.

"Many groups at Google have found that the tradeoffs between ease and reliability worthwhile—it is our hope that small teams, students in classrooms, and families with multiple computers will too," they said. In Mashable's testing, the extension worked surprisingly well — the extension was able to detect the beeps from a nearby laptop even when the sound was coming through headphones. The extension is also able to share to multiple computers at once, provided each one has the extension installed.

Aircraft fire-suppression systems can't prevent lithium-ion battery fire and explosions

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in mobile on (#898V)
story imageInternational aviation officials are trying to quickly come up with safer packaging for cargo shipments of lithium-ion batteries on passenger planes after U.S. testing confirmed that aircraft fire suppression systems put out the initial flames but can't prevent thermal runaway from causing powerful explosions and fires. Such an explosion could blow a hole in a plane and cause depressurization for passengers. If the working group cannot come up with such packaging, officials said they consider it likely that a formal proposal to ban bulk battery shipments from passenger planes will be offered in October. The global battery industry has been lobbying heavily against restrictions on battery shipments. A growing number of airlines have said they will no longer accept bulk battery shipments, including Delta, United, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Qantas, British Airways and Cargolux. All three US airlines will continue to accept shipments when the batteries are packed inside or with equipment such as laptops or power tools. The increasing focus on battery safety will put pressure on other airlines to follow suit.

Aviation officials believe lithium-ion batteries contributed to fires that destroyed two Boeing 747 cargo planes, killing all four crew members. Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was also reported to have been carrying 440lb of lithium-ion batteries in its cargo, adding yet another theory to the mystery surrounding its disappearance last year. Shipments are supposed to be limited to no more than a handful of batteries in a single box, under safety standards set by the UN's International Civil Aviation Organization. But a loophole permits many small boxes to be packed into one shipment. It's not unusual for as many as 80,000 batteries to be carried on board a plane.

On Jan. 7, 2013, ground workers discovered smoke and flames coming from an auxiliary power unit lithium-ion battery in a Japan Airlines 787 that was parked at the gate at Boston Logan International Airport after flying from Tokyo. NTSB investigators said Boeing's safety assessment of the 787's lithuim-ion battery was insufficient because Boeing had ruled out cell-to-cell propagation of thermal runaway (which is what occurred in this incident) but did not provide the corresponding analysis and justification in the safety assessment. As a result, the potential for cell-to-cell propagation of thermal runaway was not thoroughly scrutinized by Boeing and FAA engineers, ultimately allowing this safety hazard to go undetected by the certification process. As a result of the investigation, the NTSB made 15 safety recommendations to the FAA, two to Boeing, and one to GS Yuasa.

Project Fi - Google's take on mobile phone service

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in mobile on (#7M46)
Today, Google unveiled it's long anticipated mobile phone service, called Project Fi. However, Google is not building their own network, but relying on the existing Sprint and T-Mobile networks. Because the service can intelligently switch from one LTE network to the other, depending on signal strength, access is initially limited to Nexus 6 owners. Project Fi phones will need a cellular radio that can work with different network types and support a unique SIM that grants access to multiple networks.

The new service will cost $20 a month for unlimited voice and text, plus $10 a month per GB of data used. Interestingly, any unused fraction of data transfer per month is refunded at the same flat rate. For example, if you only use 200 MB of your $10/month data plan, you get an $8 refund.

Another interesting tidbit is how the service uses Wi-Fi. They claim voice calls can transition seamlessly between Wi-Fi hotspots and cell networks. Google has apparently cataloged over a million access points and will automatically connect you to verified hot spots. Also, all data transferred while using an open Wi-Fi hotspot is automatically encrypted through a built-in VPN-like service.

Kill switches reducing smartphone thefts

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in mobile on (#5YDS)
Smartphone thefts are down 40% in London, 22% in San Francisco and 16% in New York, while iPhone thefts are down even further, since the implementation of "kill switches," which allow owners to completely deactivate a phone that has been lost, making a stolen device worthless.

Major smartphone companies were reluctant. Gascón said he had met with Apple executives and been "rebuffed." Frankly, the carriers don't gain anything from this service, and actually add customers when someone signs up with them using a stolen phone. As for the phone companies, every stolen phone is a potential new sale. Companies would never want to admit that stolen phones are good for their bottom line, but they don't have any good excuse for why they wouldn't voluntarily implement something. They only said that a kill switch had serious risks, including vulnerability to hackers who could disable others' phones. Meanwhile, Australian phone carriers have been doing it successfully since 2003.

"The significant decrease in smartphone thefts since the implementation of kill-switch technology is no coincidence," New York Police Commissioner William Bratton said in the press release. "Restricting the marketability of stolen cell phones and electronic devices has a direct correlation to a reduction of associated crimes and violence." Soon, all smartphones in the United States will have these features, as a California law passed in August will require all smartphones sold in the state to include kill switch technology, effectively requiring manufacturers to include the feature on all smartphones.

Blackphone 2: improved focus on security

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in mobile on (#47JJ)
story image"Blackphone 2 caters to the enterprise, the security-minded and the paranoid" they say, and these days, that is a slogan that just might catch your attention. It caught mine.
While much of the news coming out of MWC 2015 has been dominated by Microsoft's Lumia 640, the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge, and tablets from Sony, there's always room for something a little different. Following on from the security-focused Blackphone, Silent Circle used the Barcelona event to announce the follow-up -- the Blackphone 2. The privacy-centric company has been working on the "world's first enterprise privacy platform" for some time now and the second generation Blackphone. As you would expect, there's a faster processor than before -- an 8-core beast -- as well as an upgraded 3GB RAM, a larger 5.5 inch screen and a bigger battery than before. Blackphone 2 has a $600 price tag and will be unleashed in July.
I might not be the only one frustrated with the Android-vs-Apple smartphone duopoly, and I'm sure I'm not the only one annoyed with the feeling that my phone was rooted since the moment I took it out of the box. Here's wishing good fortune to an alternative that makes security and privacy paramount.

Late lament on the death of slide-out keyboards

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in mobile on (#3NZG)
story imageIsn't it strange how all the high-end smartphones with keyboards have disappeared? There isn't a desirable smartphone with a keyboard on the horizon. The original Motorola Droid was the phone that started the Android phenomenon, yet the Droid 5 never materialized.

For years, buying a smartphone with a keyboard has meant settling for less than the latest and greatest technology on the market. There hasn't been a top-tier smartphone with keyboard since the Samsung Epic 4G set the bar in August, 2010. The carriers treat sliders as messaging phones for teens rather than tools of pros, and adjusted their asks and advertising respectively. There’s also the myth that there’s an Android phone out there for everyone. The differences in Android phones were huge. Slide-out keyboard, small screen, large screen, slim or bulky. Now it seems like phones are all merging into the same basic design principle; slim with a huge screen, leaving a market gap that any competitor could jump into, much the way Android did when the one-size-fits-all iPhone dominated.

When Android came along and smartphones began to take off, handsets with keyboards did very well for Sprint. The Samsung Moment, the EVO Shift, the Epic 4G: "We sold multimillions of those," said Kaufman. When Sprint asked customers whether they'd buy a physical keyboard the next time around — not so long ago — 75 percent of existing QWERTY users said they would. "We went out and built the LG Mach and the Photon Q. It was a big party and nobody came." So much for surveys. "Half of your customers buy the iPhone [...] boom, take them out of the equation." In addition, "the market has moved to everyone buying iconic phones... people see the advertising, they walk in, they want to buy a Galaxy S III."

You might be thinking a slide-out keyboard is old technology, but there are advantages. People can type much faster and error-free on hardware keyboards. Being able to see everything on screen is a huge plus, and playing games is infinitely more enjoyable with tactile, mechanical buttons.

As a devout user of physical QWERTY keyboards, I'm pretty sure I'm screwed.
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