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Android

Google Renames Messenger To Android Messages as the Company Pushes RCS (betanews.com) 83

We have come a long way from the age of flip phones and nine-key texting. Even as if group messaging and instant messengers took over, the SMS has largely retained its core standard over the years. Google wants to change that, and for this, it has been working with hundreds of carriers and manufacturers around the world to bring the text message into the 21st century. Using a standard called Rich Communications Services, the group plans to make a texting app that comes with your phone and is every bit as powerful as those dedicated messaging apps. This would make all the best features available to everyone with an Android phone. From a report on BetaNews: Just last week we were talking about Google's championing of RCS (Rich Communication Services), the successor to SMS. Now the company has renamed its Messenger app to Android Messages as it aims to become not just the default SMS app, but the default RCS app for Android users. Part of the reason for the name change is to convey the idea that the app is now about more than just one type of message. Google is betting big on RCS and this is hinted at in the app update description which says it adds "Simpler sign-up for enhanced features on supported carriers."
Android

LG's Latest Battery Is Also a Phone (engadget.com) 78

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: The problem with having a smartphone that you want to use all the damn time is that you'll spend a big chunk of your day wedded to an outlet. LG believes that nobody should have to suffer such an indignity, and has launched the X power2 as a remedy. The smartphone is designed to operate for an entire weekend on a single charge thanks to the 4,500mAh battery tucked inside. It'll also recharge nice and quick, too, taking just two hours to go from flat all the way back up to 100 percent. Unfortunately, like the first-generation LG X power phone, the capacious battery is the only noteworthy thing about it. The 5.5-inch display has a HD resolution, and is using an off-brand 1.5Ghz octa-core chip that we're guessing is made by MediaTek. In addition, there's either 1.5GB or 2GB RAM paired with 16GB storage, which will hardly pull up any trees when most flagships are packing twice that amount.
The Courts

Founder of India's $4 Smartphone Firm Arrested on Allegations of Fraud (reuters.com) 24

Remember the $4 smartphone from India? Yeah, things haven't really materialized. Reuters reports: The founder of an Indian tech firm that shot to prominence by offering a $4 smartphone has been arrested on allegations of fraud, after a handset dealer accused the company of not refunding him for an unfulfilled order, the police said. Mohit Goel, the founder of Ringing Bells, was arrested Thursday afternoon in Uttar Pradesh and will be produced in court later on Friday, said Rahul Srivastav, a police spokesman from the northern Indian state. Goel and his company made headlines last year with the "Freedom" smartphone, which was priced at 251 rupees ($3.77), attracting strong demand but also widespread scepticism and scrutiny from regulators even in price-conscious India, where cheap smartphones are big sellers. The founder was arrested after a dealer said he had paid 3 million Indian rupees for an order of handsets but had received only a fraction of the order. He further said some of the phones received were defective, according to the police.
Iphone

Cellebrite Can Now Unlock Apple iPhone 6, 6 Plus (cyberscoop.com) 102

Patrick O'Neill writes: A year after the battle between the FBI and Apple over unlocking an iPhone 5c used by a shooter in the San Bernardino terrorist attack, smartphone cracking company Cellebrite announced it can now unlock the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus for customers at rates ranging from $1,500 to $250,000. The company's newest products also extract and analyze data from a wide range of popular apps including all of the most popular secure messengers around. From the Cyberscoop report: "Cellebrite's ability to break into the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus comes in their latest line of product releases. The newest Cellebrite product, UFED 6.0, boasts dozens of new and improved features including the ability to extract data from 51 Samsung Android devices including the Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge, the latest flagship models for Android's most popular brand, as well as the new high-end Google Pixel Android devices."
Microsoft

Microsoft Creates Skype Lite Especially For India (cnet.com) 43

There's a new Skype app in town, and it is made just for India. According to a report on CNET: Microsoft is the latest US tech giant to help keep Indians connected. Skype Lite is a new version of the company's popular video and voice-calling app that's "built in India." Skype Lite functions much like its big brother Skype, but it's designed to work well on low-speed, 2G networks, which are still prevalent in India and many developing nations. It uses less data and battery power than the fully fledged app, and at 13MB it's around a third of the download size. Skype Lite, available for Android, also uses India's controversial Aadhaar biometric authentication.
Cellphones

Samsung To Sell Refurbished Galaxy Note 7 With a Smaller Battery, Says Report (androidauthority.com) 73

According to a report via The Korean Economic Daily, Samsung is said to be putting refurbished Galaxy Note 7 handsets on sale with new batteries following the cancellation of the device late last year. The speculation suggests the smartphones could be relaunched this June. Android Authority reports: Samsung is said to be swapping the Note 7's 3,500 mAh batteries with a "3,000 to 3,200 mAh" batteries, according to The Korean Economic Daily's sources, predominately for sale in emerging markets such as India and Vietnam. The move is said to be part of Samsung's plan to recover costs from the initial device recall and avoid environmental penalties from the estimated 2.5 million or so Galaxy Note 7s it would have to dispose of. Samsung hasn't made any official announcements in this vein, but before the battery investigation concluded, a spokesperson did tell us that the company was: "Reviewing possible options that can minimize the environmental impact of the recall." Shifting refurbished units would certainly be one way to achieve that.
Android

ZDNet: Linux 'Takes The World' While Windows Dominates The Desktop (zdnet.com) 224

ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today's cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now "just one computing platform among many." An anonymous reader quotes his report: Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use... That's probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.

There's a four-in-five chance that there's a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don't necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

Android

Congressman Calls For Probe Into Trump's Unsecured Android Phone (cnet.com) 507

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: President Donald Trump regularly makes news because of his tweets. Now a congressman is making news because of the device the president reportedly uses to tweet. On Friday, Congressman Ted Lieu, a Democrat from Los Angeles, wrote a letter to the House Oversight Committee requesting an investigation into Trump's cybersecurity practices. In particular, he calls out Trump's apparent decision to keep using his personal Android phone instead of a secured phone the Secret Service issued him for his inauguration. The letter is also signed by 14 other members of Congress and calls for a public hearing to discuss the issues. "The device President Trump insists on using -- most likely the Samsung Galaxy S3 -- has particularly well documented vulnerabilities," the letter says. "The use of an unsecured phone risks the president of the United States being monitored by foreign or domestic adversaries, many of whom would be happy to hijack the president's prized Twitter account causing disastrous consequences for global security. Cybersecurity experts universally agree that an ordinary Android smartphone, which the president is reportedly using despite repeated warnings from the Secret Service, can be easily hacked."
Encryption

Researchers Discover Security Problems Under the Hood of Automobile Apps (arstechnica.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Malware researchers Victor Chebyshev and Mikhail Kuzin examined seven Android apps for connected vehicles and found that the apps were ripe for malicious exploitation. Six of the applications had unencrypted user credentials, and all of them had little in the way of protection against reverse-engineering or the insertion of malware into apps. The vulnerabilities looked at by the Kaspersky researchers focused not on vehicle communication, but on the Android apps associated with the services and the potential for their credentials to be hijacked by malware if a car owner's smartphone is compromised. All seven of the applications allowed the user to remotely unlock their vehicle; six made remote engine start possible (though whether it's possible for someone to drive off with the vehicle without having a key or RFID-equipped key fob present is unclear). Two of the seven apps used unencrypted user logins and passwords, making theft of credentials much easier. And none of the applications performed any sort of integrity check or detection of root permissions to the app's data and events -- making it much easier for someone to create an "evil" version of the app to provide an avenue for attack. While malware versions of these apps would require getting a car owner to install them on their device in order to succeed, Chebyshev and Kuzin suggested that would be possible through a spear-phishing attack warning the owner of a need to do an emergency app update. Other malware might also be able to perform the installation.
Android

HTC To Stop Making Budget Android Phones This Year (neowin.net) 40

An anonymous reader shares a report: During HTC's quarterly earnings call for Q4 2016, the company confirmed that it will not be producing new budget Android phones beginning this year. Instead, the company will focus on premium devices, which have a higher profit margin. On revenue of NT $22.2bn, the firm posted an operating loss of NT $3.6bn, and it's been some time since HTC showed a profit. Clearly, it's time to trim some of the fat. And that fat is producing a number of entry-level phones, many of which are nearly identical. For example, the Desire 530, which came to the US in July, had virtually no distinction from the Desire 626, which was introduced a year before.
Android

99.6 Percent of New Smartphones Run Android or iOS (theverge.com) 91

The latest smartphone figures from Gartner show how much iOS and Android are dominating the smartphone market. According to the report, Android and iOS accounted for 99.6 percent of all smartphone sales in the fourth quarter of 2016. For comparison, this figure was 96.8 percent in the second quarter of 2015. The Verge reports: Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter, 352 million ran Android (81.7 percent) and 77 million ran iOS (17.9 percent), but what happened to the other players? Well, in the same quarter, Windows Phone managed to round up 0.3 percent of the market, while BlackBerry was reduced to a rounding error. The once-great firm sold just over 200,000 units, amounting to 0.0 percent market share. It's worth noting that although, in retrospect, this state of affairs seems inescapable, for years analysts were predicting otherwise. Three years ago, Gartner said that Microsoft's mobile OS would overtake iOS for market share in 2017, while BlackBerry would still be hanging around as sizable (if small) player.
Network

Now Get Weather Alerts Even When Your Mobile Networks Are Down, Thanks To IBM's Mesh Networking (cnet.com) 75

Communicating news of severe weather events or natural disasters is something mobile phones are well suited to, but if there's limited or disrupted network coverage the message may fail to get through. But not anymore. From a CNET report: A new Weather Channel app, though, can get the message through even during earthquakes, tornadoes, and terrorist attacks when mobile networks can be overwhelmed and may not work. The Android app, geared specifically for developing countries, uses IBM-developed technology called mesh networking that sends messages directly from one phone to another. The result is that information can propagate even when centralized networks fail. Using Bluetooth and Wi-Fi networks, the app can send data from phone to phone across distances between 200 to 500 feet, IBM Research staff member Nirmit Desai said. It doesn't add any more battery burden than an ordinary app, and the mesh network can be used without having to reconfigure the phone's network settings.
Android

China's Huawei Catching Up With Apple, Samsung Smartphone Sales (livemint.com) 62

From a report: Chinese smartphone maker Huawei managed to gain ground on Samsung and Apple in terms of global market share last year, following the problems encountered by the two giants, the Gartner consultancy group said on Wednesday. Over the year as a whole, the Chinese maker saw its sales leap by 26.7 percent, while the South Korean and US rivals both saw their sales decline by 4.3 percent, Gartner said in a study. As result, Huawei was able to increase its share of the smartphone sector to 8.9 percent in 2016 from 7.3 percent a year earlier, while Samsung saw its market share shrink by two full percentage points to 20.5 percent and Apple's contracted to 14.4 percent from 15.9 percent. "Chinese makers succeeded in winning market share over last year and Huawei now seems to be the main rival to the two giants, even if the gap remains large," Gartner analyst Annette Zimmermann told AFP.
Android

Google's Not-so-secret New OS (techspecs.blog) 128

According to reports late last year, Google is working on a new operating system called Andromeda. Much about it is still unknown, but according to the documentations Google has provided on its website, it's clear that the Fuchsia is the actual name of the operating system, and the kernel is called Magenta. A tech enthusiast dug around the documentations to share the followings: To my naive eyes, rather than saying Chrome OS is being merged into Android, it looks more like Android and Chrome OS are both being merged into Fuchsia. It's worth noting that these operating systems had previously already begun to merge together to an extent, such as when the Android team worked with the Chrome OS team in order to bring Update Engine to Nougat, which introduced A/B updates to the platform. Google is unsurprisingly bringing up Andromeda on a number of platforms, including the humble Intel NUC. ARM, x86, and MIPS bring-up is exactly what you would expect for an Android successor, and it also seems clear that this platform will run on Intel laptops. My best guess is that Android as an API and runtime will live on as a legacy environment within Andromeda. That's not to say that all development of Android would immediately stop, which seems extremely unlikely. But Google can't push two UI APIs as equal app frameworks over the long term: Mojo is clearly the future. Ah, but what is Mojo? Well it's the new API for writing Andromeda apps, and it comes from Chromium. Mojo was originally created to "extract a common platform out of Chrome's renderer and plugin processes that can support multiple types of sandboxed content."
Security

Russian Cyberspies Blamed For US Election Hacks Are Now Targeting Macs (computerworld.com) 251

You may recall "APT28", the Russian hacking group which was tied to last year's interference in the presidential election. It has long been known for its advanced range of tools for penetrating Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux devices. Now, researchers have uncovered an equally sophisticated malware package the group used to compromise Macs. From a report on ComputerWorld: The group -- known in the security industry under different names including Fancy Bear, Pawn Storm, and APT28 -- has been operating for almost a decade. It is believed to be the sole user and likely developer of a Trojan program called Sofacy or X-Agent. X-Agent variants for Windows, Linux, Android, and iOS have been found in the wild in the past, but researchers from Bitdefender have now come across what appears to be the first macOS version of the Trojan. It's not entirely clear how the malware is being distributed because the Bitdefender researchers obtained only the malware sample, not the full attack chain. However, it's possible a macOS malware downloader dubbed Komplex, found in September, might be involved. Komplex infected Macs by exploiting a known vulnerability in the MacKeeper antivirus software, according to researchers from Palo Alto Networks who investigated the malware at the time. The vulnerability allowed attackers to execute remote commands on a Mac when users visited specially crafted web pages.Further reading on ArsTechnica.
Facebook

Facebook To Autoplay Videos With Sound On By Default (androidandme.com) 116

Currently, Facebook videos autoplay on your News Feed as you scroll up and down. While they eat data and various resources, the saving grace is that they are silent -- that is, until now. Facebook has announced several new changes to its video platform today, including a setting that will autoplay videos with sound turned on by default. Android and Me reports: The audio of videos will fade in and out as you're scrolling through your feed. Fortunately, Facebook will at least make it so that audio won't autoplay if your phone is set to silent. If you're not a fan of this change, there will be a setting to turn audio autoplay off. The change is that it will now be on by default for everyone. Other feature introductions are larger previews for vertical videos, a picture-in-picture mode for videos so you can watch and continue scrolling (and even exit the app without interrupting the video on Android), and a Facebook Video app coming to smart TVs.
Businesses

Angry Birds Is the Most-Banned Mobile App By Businesses (fortune.com) 47

Barb Darrow, writing for Fortune: Corporate IT pros face the unenviable task of trying to protect valuable data from threats that change all the time. One vector of attack is clearly smartphones and tablets that employees use both for work and pleasure. To that end, mobile device management firm MobileIron just came out with its latest tally of the ten most blacklisted apps, based on a survey of 7,800 companies worldwide. Angry Birds tops the list of most-banned apps at companies worldwide, as well as in Australia, the U.S., and government sectors tracked by MobileIron in its twice-yearly Mobile Security and Risk Review. The survey covers the use of Android, iOS, and Windows devices from Oct. 1, 2016 and Dec. 31, 2016.
Open Source

LinuxQuestions Users Choose Their Favorite Distro: Slackware (zdnet.com) 145

ZDNet summarizes some of the surprises in this year's poll on LinuxQuestions, "one of the largest Linux groups with 550,000 member". An anonymous reader quotes their report: The winner for the most popular desktop distribution? Slackware...! Yes, one of the oldest of Linux distributions won with just over 16% of the vote. If that sounds a little odd, it is. On DistroWatch, a site that covers Linux distributions like paint, the top Linux desktop distros are Mint, Debian, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Manjaro. Slackware comes in 28th place... With more than double the votes for any category, it appears there was vote-stuffing by Slackware fans... The mobile operating system race was a runaway for Android, with over 68% of the vote. Second place went to CyanogenMod, an Android clone, which recently went out of business...

Linux users love to debate about desktop environments. KDE Plasma Desktop took first by a hair's breadth over the popular lightweight Xfce desktop. Other well-regarded desktop environments, such as Cinnamon and MATE, got surprisingly few votes. The once popular GNOME still hasn't recovered from the blowback from its disliked design change from GNOME 2 to GNOME 3.

Firefox may struggle as a web browser in the larger world, but on Linux it's still popular. Firefox took first place with 51.7 percent of the vote. Chrome came in a distant second place, with the rest of the vote being divided between a multitude of obscure browsers.

LibreOffice won a whopping 89.6% of the vote for "best office suite" -- and Vim beat Emacs.
Android

Oracle Refuses To Accept Android's 'Fair Use' Verdict, Files Appeal (wsj.com) 155

An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal: The seven-year legal battle between tech giants Google and Oracle just got new life. Oracle on Friday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury's decision last year... The case has now gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the U.S. Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.

In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google's use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under "fair use" provisions in federal copyright law. In Oracle's 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google's "copying...classic unfair use" and said "Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle's Java business in tatters."

Oracle's brief also argues that "When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the 'classic' unfair use."
Google

Google Might Be Gearing Up To Remove Millions of Play Store Apps Next Month (pcworld.com) 53

An anonymous reader shares a PCWorld report: Take a look at the digital shelves of the Google Play Store and you're likely to come across a bevy of so-called zombie apps. These apps typically take the form of a knock-off of a popular game or a sloppy utility that doesn't quite match its description, and they strategically turn up alongside legitimate apps, which makes them hard to spot if you're not doing a forensic analysis of reviews while you shop. Now it looks like something is finally being done about them. In a letter uncovered by The Next Web, Google has begun warning some developers that one or more of their apps has been flagged for a lack of an adequate privacy policy, a common problem among these sort of hastily published and subsequently ignored apps. In the message, Google reiterates its policy, which "requires developers to provide a valid privacy policy when the app requests or handles sensitive user information." Such permissions include camera, microphone, account, contacts, or phone access, which requires a transparent disclosure of how user data is handled, according to Google's requirements. It's unclear how many letters were sent out, but The Next Web estimates it could affect millions of apps.

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