Congressman Wants Longstanding Mobile Security Flaw Investigated

When it comes to our technology, we like to think there might be a hint of privacy in their use. Signaling System 7 is a set of protocols used to help route data, messages, and even phone calls through mobile networks but the problem is that such a widely used system is actually flawed. This flaw led to Ted Lieu, a congressman for  the state of California, calling for an investigation into the longstanding mobile security flaw after it was demonstrated to him by a group of hackers based in Germany.

The mobile security flaw was demonstrated on 60 minutes by german security researcher Karsten Nohl, with it initially being revealed all the way back in 2014. Nohl managed to use the exploit after knowing nothing more than just the congressman’s phone number. With just their number Nohl stated that they could track people’s locations, read their texts and even what was said in their phone calls.

Lieu is coming hard at those who might have known about this issue, saying that any government employee that knew about the SS7 problem should be fired because “this affects so much of daily life to your personal phone”. With everyone using their mobile phones people don’t protect them, often being lulled into a false sense of security and risking their personal lives and data on a daily basis.

Apple Claims ‘Most Effective Security Organization in the World’

In a recent press conference with some of Apple’s engineers, the company stated that they had the ‘most effective security organization in the world’. It wasn’t just an idle statement either, with them revealing a number of the security features that are packed into their iPhone both on the hardware and software levels.

The conference itself was a highly technical affair, with the attending engineers going to great lengths to detail the security protocols they have in place. More than just being a podium for Apple to  grandstand, this conference was a show of clear defiance against the revived effort by the US government to unlock the iPhones of criminals with them restating the point that making the popular smartphone less secure for them would risk compromising the privacy and security of their customers.

Unlike Android and the numerous companies developing Android devices, Apple control all aspects of their phone’s development which allows them to bake security into every level of their device, from hardware to firmware to software. The features employed in order to make the device so secure include a number of both industry-standard and Apple-specific features, which, when employed together secure the device at all levels, making it impossible to even flash the device with a hacked version of iOS or similar super-low-level attacks. They also believe that the chance of a bug occurring at a low enough level to cause a major compromise is small.

Getting users to ensure their phones run the latest version of iOS is another important step to keep devices secure, as each new iteration of the mobile operating system includes new security improvements and bugfixes. Some of the ways that Apple have employed to increase the adoption rate of the newest versions of their software include shrinking the size of the operating system from 4.6GB in iOS 8 to just 1.3GB in iOS 9 and also offering “while you were sleeping” update options, both of which seem to be effectual, with iOS 9 having an adoption rate of 80% so far.

It is plain to see how important Apple believe that security and encryption are to our future by the effort they put into ensuring their devices are secure. Their struggle to convince governments that slackening of security and precedents to force companies to unlock devices would have long-term damage is likely far from over, but we can be assured that Apple (and many other tech firms) will continue to struggle against these demands and ensure a safer and more secure digital future.

Nintendo’s Miitomo App Has Over 4 Million Users Monthly

Nintendo’s first foray into the realm of smartphone apps, Miitomo created a lot of fuss when it was first released last month. Even so, it managed to garner a surprisingly sizable userbase for a simple app based around Nintendo’s “Mii” characters, with SurveyMonkey estimating that over 4 million users who use the app at least once a month and as many as 1 million who use it daily.

Miitomo itself is an unusual experience, seeming more like a Mii-based social interaction platform than something that would truly be considered a game. The main focus of the app centers around the user-created Mii representation of themselves (or in many cases not), being able to answer questions, communicate with friends and take pictures with the Mii overlaid.

Even though at this early stage of its life, such a large amount of monthly users likely includes the curious who may never use it again, Miitomo is continuing to attract more users. Over the last week alone, Miitomo can be estimated to have had as many as 2.6 million downloads, being a constant fixture in the top downloaded lists on both Apple’s app store and the Google Play Store and having an average of 370,000 downloads every day. The demographic is split slightly towards Apple, with 2/3 of users being on Apple’s iOS and the remainder on Android.

Meanwhile, it may not be the most profitable of Nintendo’s ventures, but Miitomo is estimated to be making them $40,000 per day across both platforms, with the majority of this revenue coming from iOS users. This gives it an ARPDAU (Average Revenue Per Daily Active User) of 3-4 cents, which is respectable for a very casual mobile experience.

Whether Miitomo has the power to stay popular remains to be seen, but in coming weeks the true retention rate of the app could be discovered. Only time will tell whether Miitomo was Nintendo’s 15 minutes of mobile fame or a lasting force on the mobile platform, giving them reason to bring fully fledged Nintendo games to mobile.

Reddit Releases Official Smartphone App

Reddit, the self-proclaimed “front page of the internet”, has released its first official app for Android and iOS, and not before time. While reddit-loving mobile users have been well-catered for with a number of solid third-party smartphone apps – including BaconReader, reddit is fun, and Alien Blue, which was adopted by reddit as the de-facto official app since 2014 – waiting 11 years to release your first official app is a little tardy.

“This is the beginning of our journey with you, our app users. For everyone joining us on this ride,” writes Alex Le, reddit’s new Vice President of of Consumer Products, in a reddit announcement, “you can expect a lot of updates and new features that we’ll be rolling out to mobile first. Our first feature releases are getting prepared now and we’ll be updating at least once a month. Of course, if you already have an app you like, you’re free to continue enjoying it. We will continue to support our free public api.”

“Please give our new apps a spin and post love notes, feature requests, roasts, etc., to this thread. We’d love to hear what you think and will be incorporating feedback,” he added. “I will personally read each top comment (using the Speed Read button in our iPhone app!).”

Existing reddit users that download and log into Reddit for Android or Reddit for iPhone receive three free months of reddit Gold.

Fitbit Used to Save Someone’s Life

People these days like using technology for a wide range of abilities, from playing a game to tracking your morning run. Using technology to track your activities has become a big thing, with smart watches and sports wristbands alike offering the ability to track and monitor your actions, a feature that may have just allowed the Fitbit to save someone’s life.

When he was submitted to the emergency ward of Our Lady of Lourdes Medical center in Camden, doctors were alarmed to discover the 42-year old had an irregular and fast heartbeat. These properties are often those which can trigger a stroke, and could have been chronic or caused by a seizure, if it was chronic, the traditional treatment for the fast heartbeat would have triggered a stroke.

Back in the hospital, the staff noticed the man was wearing nothing other than a Fitbit, a device designed to help track people’s health. In this case, it was the heartbeat monitor that helped inform the doctors that the issue wasn’t chronic, allowing the staff to treat the condition safely knowing that the treatment wouldn’t cause a stroke.

While Fitbits and alternative technologies are often used by doctors to help keep track and monitor long-term health conditions, this is the first time we’ve seen the technology directly used to save someone’s life.

Hauwei’s Latest P9 Smartphones Use Dual Leica Cameras

Hauwei might not be the most recognizable smartphone company in western territories due to the likes of Apple, Samsung, LG and other suspects dominating the media headlines. However, Hauwei’s user adoption in China has expanded at an exponential rate and the Honor 7’s launch helped gain a strong foothold in European markets. This is because of superb specification, aluminium unibody design and fingerprint recognition sensor. Hauwei managed to offer a legitimate alternative to the OnePlus 2 and even set up a new vMall store to assist customers with the included 3 year handset guarantee.

The company’s next flagship line is the P9 and P9 Plus featuring a custom Kirin 955 64-Bit octa-core processor (4x 2.5GHz A72 + 4x 1.8GHz A53). The P9 also utilizes a 3000mAh battery, 5.2-inch 1920×1080 IPS display with a pixel density of 423ppi and a choice between 32GB ROM, 3GB RAM or 64GB ROM, 4GB RAM. The P9 Plus has a larger 3400mAh battery and 5.5-inch AMOLED display similar to the ones used on high-end Samsung devices although the resolution remains the same. As a result, the Plus model has a lower pixel density rate of 401ppi.

Both devices will run Android Marshmallow 6.0.1 and the company’s EMUI 4.1 interface. This could be the latest drawback of the P9 and P9 Plus because it’s very different from the vanilla version of Android. Hauwei have partnered with legendary German optics company, Leica to include dual 12-megapixel rear cameras (mono + RGB) and an 8-megapixel front camera. The P9 Plus variant’s front camera also has autofocus. This is the first time Leica has offered their remarkable optics technology on any smartphone and I’m fascinated to see the results. Potentially, this could allow for the best image quality from any handset on the market.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mYaAmhXrNUc

Another incredible feature revolves around the device’s slim profile. The P9 is a mere 6.95mm thick and has a slimmer design than the iPhone 6s and Samsung Galaxy S7. In terms of pricing, the P9 will cost 599 Euros for the 3GB RAM, 32GB ROM model and 649 Euros for the 4GB RAM , 64GB ROM handset. The P9 Plus is set to launch at 749 Euros and both handsets should be available on 20th May.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4TXO49n0P8

Image courtesy of PC Advisor

Blackberry Priv Receives Permanent Price Cut

The current smartphone sector is extremely competitive and it’s a huge challenge to produce something which has widespread mass market appeal. At the higher end, Samsung and Apple remain the dominant force but there is competition from other leading manufacturers. The LG G4 and its predecessor received superb user reviews but didn’t really translate into the sales numbers the company hoped for. On another note, the advent of cheap Chinese handsets offer superb value for users on a budget. Furthermore, many consumers are content with their existing model and see no reason to upgrade.

Despite Blackberry’s strong history in the mobile market, they’ve struggled to adapt and remain relevant due to the rise of other manufacturers. Part of this is down to their own custom operating system which failed to attract app developers and resulted in a low adoption rate. As a result, many developers believe it’s not a worthwhile financial investment to create apps with such a low return. This also applies to Windows phone models. Eventually, Blackberry realized the dominance of Android and iOS and decided to launch a brand new phone without the Blackberry operating system.

The ‘Priv’ is Blackberry’s first high-end Android device with a concealed keyboard. This is quite a novel idea given the popularity of touch screen handsets. Of course, the Priv offers great flexibility to use the touch screen and a membrane keyboard. This makes it easier to compile e-mails or write large documents. Blackberry’s long-term success in the smartphone market heavily relied on the Priv’s performance and initial sales had been “quite positive”. However, figures released by the company last week showed further decline in their hardware division.  This prompted the company’s CEO to suggest Blackberry might pull out of the smartphone sector altogether if they fail to make a profit by September.

To react to this worrying situation, Blackberry have instigated a permanent price cut on the Priv across various regions. For example, in the US, it’s been reduced from $699.99 to $649.99. UK buyers will experience a price cut from £559 to £529 which Europeans can now acquire the handset for €729. In Canada, for some bizarre reason, the price remains unchanged.

Apple to Use Old or Refurbished IPhones to Break Into Indian Market

The Indian market is one notoriously hard to get into for many firms selling devices at a premium, with many Indian customers being incredibly sensitive to high pricing and the import taxes for the country are high. In response to this difficult market, Apple has a new plan to gain a foothold in India: selling older and refurbished iPhones at cheaper prices.

Compared to their strong advance into the Chinese market, Apple’s progress in India has been slow. Despite increasing the number of distribution channels across a number of Indian cities, the Cupertino-based company only managed to sell 1 million phones in the last quarter, making up just a 3 percent share of the Indian smart phone market.

According to Vishal Tripathi, a research director at Gartner, most of Apple’s recent growth in the Indian market has come from sales of their older devices such as the iPhone 4S and that they may be seeking to target the lower-end of the smart phone market with these dated models, a vastly different approach to in the West. Even the new (and cheaper) iPhone SE, with a price tag of 39,000 rupees for a 16 GB model is unlikely to gain much of a foothold in the market amongst price-conscious customers according to Tripathi.

Currently, Samsung leads the Indian smart phone market, possessing a mighty 27 percent share of the 25 million devices shipped in India in the last quarter, trailed by Indian firm Micromax at 14.1 percent. There is no doubt that Apple wants a piece of this potentially lucrative market, which one of their main smartphone competitors currently controls. Whether this strategy will take hold remains to be seen, but Apple looks to have an uphill battle ahead of them in India as many in the country see them as simply dumping old end-of-life models into the market.

HTC May Make Google Nexus Phones for Next Three Years

With Android N making waves in the news cycle, it’s no surprise that some talk inevitably strays towards Google Nexus phones. So far, we are halfway into the lifecycle for the Nexus 5X and 6P but talk is out about the next generation of Nexus phones. According to the latest rumours, HTC may play a major role in future Nexus’s, with the Taiwanese firm set to produce phones for Google for the next three years. This supports earlier reports that LG will not be producing a Nexus phone this year.

HTC and Google have a long history together, with the Nexus One and Nexus 9 both being partnerships. It makes a lot of sense for Google to settle on a single firm to produce a number of Nexus phones as it simplifies development and support as well as providing some sense of design consistency. So far, only Samsung has had back to back Google Nexus phones and along with LG, the only two to have more than one Nexus phone.

The deal also makes sense for HTC and Google as the device firm has been struggling in the hyper-competitive smartphone market. A Nexus device would give HTC a good boost in sales, marketing and revenue it so desperately needs to maintain their business. This makes sense because if HTC is desperate, they may be more willing to comply with Google’s increasingly strict Nexus guidelines. Hopefully, the new HTC Nexus phones will be as sleek as HTC’s own upcoming flagship and won’t have the giant screen Google seems to love.

Google Release Developer Preview of Android N

In a move surprising many, today Google revealed they would be unveiling Android N to the public very, very early as a developer preview. This Android preview build is even easier to install on devices than ever before too, with supported devices allowing users to opt-in to the new Android Beta Program that would allow them to install the Android N preview like a regular update, and receive iterative updates via OTA. Currently, devices supported by the Android Beta Program include the Nexus 6, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, Nexus 9, and Pixel C, with Android N also available on the official Android emulator.

While this brand new build of Android touts an array of new features, the most attractive being the new multi-window mode, allowing users to take better advantage of the screen real-estate that modern devices possess. The function works in both portrait and landscape screen orientations, as well as providing an array of options as to how multi-windows should be handled, including the choice of a TV-like picture-in-picture mode aimed at use with video apps.

Other additions to Android in this version include direct reply notifications, allowing users to respond to messages conveniently from the notification, and the option for all notifications from a single app to be bundled together and viewed individually using gestures. Also included is improved efficiency through a new version of Marshmallow Doze to save battery and numerous tweaks behind the scenes to optimize memory usage and the speed of background processes. Developers will also be able to make use of new Java 8 features from Android N onwards.

This is still a very early build of Android N, so it is obviously not advisable to use this on an everyday device, with Google releasing it so early in order to collect developer feedback earlier than usual and allow for an easier handoff of the full version to device manufacturers by summer. Hopefully, these moves by Google will result in an even better version of Android than ever.

HTC 10/HTC One M10 Renders Leaked

Even as HTC is refocusing their efforts on VR with the HTC Vive, the company is still working on new smartphones. Dubbed either the HTC 10 or HTC One M10 depending on which leak you believe, the new HTC phone has had some of its renders leaked. Taking its design cues from the A8 and A9, the new phones continues the metal unibody trend and 5inch screen.

According to the leaked renders, the new phone features an all new aesthetic with a new bevelled edge and a more subdued curve on the rear. The rear camera remains a circular one that is not overly large and comes with only a small camera hump. The camera is backed up by a laser autofocus and two-tone LED flash.

For the front, the 10/M10 has ditched their monstrous Boomsound speakers for more subdued ones for cleaner front.The bezels are also a bit smaller compared to the M series and more in line with what the A9 had. A fingerprint scanner is also found at the bottom though some may confuse it with a home button, which it might also be. Specifications are pretty competitive with a 5.15-inch 2560×1440 display, Snapdragon 820 SoC, Adreno 530 GPU, 4GB RAM, a 12MP camera, and USB Type-C port.

Overall, the phone looks pretty good and hopefully, HTC will be able to come back strong in the hyper-competitive smartphone market. The expected launch date is April 19th.

Windows 10 Mobile Update Might Finally Arrive This Month

Whether Windows 8 mobile users have waited patiently for the update to Windows 10 or not is something the upgrade numbers will show, but up until now they haven’t had any other choice than wait. At least, if they wanted to keep their current Lumia phones powered by the older operating system. At first the update was promised to arrive in December last year, then it was January before being pushed to February, only to be postponed again.

The newest reports indicate that those were the last delays and that Windows 8 users will get the ability to upgrade to Windows 10 this month, after the monthly service update is completed for the Lumia 950 models. I should, however, point out again, that this isn’t officially confirmed information, at least not yet.

Microsoft plans to roll-out the update as an opt-in upgrade, allowing the users the choice to upgrade or not. At least at first. Once it has been verified that there aren’t any critical bugs or trouble with the upgrade, it will be pushed to compatible phones automatically.

With smartphones being as vital a component in people’s live these days, it is good to see that Microsoft takes its time to polish the operating system and make sure that everyone will get a great experience out of it instead of trying to stick to deadlines and then release a buggy product. It’s not something they can afford to do and the won’t.

It is an update that is well worth waiting for as I can say first hand that Windows 10 is an awesome mobile operating system. It takes a little time to get used to, as any change, but after a day, you won’t be missing any previous system. That is at least if you use your phone for communication where you’ll find all the popular instant messengers and similar things, but you might not find your favourite game on there yet.

Google Cardboard Can Now Be Brought In the Google Store

Google cardboard is a simple, low-tech, virtual reality system. The concept is simple, why buy technology you already have? By using your smartphone, you don’t have to go out and buy expensive hardware a second time around, meaning that the only thing left to do was keep the phone near to your eyes. Google cardboard does just that and now you can even get it through the Google store.

In a unique twist, Google has so far only sold the Cardboard through third parties, meaning that in order to grab the device (does it even count as a device if it’s just cardboard?) you had to find someone else online selling it. This has now changed with Google launching an entire VR section on their website, including the Cardboard for a low price. Costing only $15 for a single unit, or if you wanted to double up it would only cost you $25. At this moment in time, the Cardboard has sold out meaning that you may have to wait a little before enjoying the benefits of low-cost virtual reality.

With virtual reality and even augmented reality solutions being released this year, experiencing the world of VR before you pay out hundreds of pounds may be a good idea. So far the Cardboard has made a large impact, with Doctors even using it to save lives. What do you think? Is it worth buying to mount a phone to your head or is it the start of your journey with VR technology?

Apple Will Unveil iPhone 5SE During Week of March 21st

With each passing week, more and more details about Apple’s new mini iPhone are leaking out. Named both the iPhone 5SE or just the SE, the new phone will be a replacement 4-inch model for the current 5S which is somewhat aged by this point.  Originally rumoured by multiple sources to debut at a March 15th event, it looks like Apple may have postponed the launch a week later to the week of March 21st.

For the iPhone 5SE, the biggest changes are probably going to be an upgrade to either the A8 or A9 SoC and improved LTE. Given what we’ve seen with Apple in the past, the new design is rumoured to be largely based on the iPhone 5S, with some design cues from the 6, all in a likely cheaper and easier to manufacture shell. It will of course probably keep the 4-inch screen of the 5S though it may be updated.

Along with the SoC changes, the iPhone 5SE will also become a lot more secure. As you all know, the US government is demanding Apple compromise their iPhone encryption in several ongoing court cases. With the move to the A8 or A9, Apple will no longer even have the capability to circumvent any security safeguards. This means that the iPhone lineup going forward will have much lower chance of government subversion.

In addition to the important phone announcement, there is some indication that the iPad Air might get a refresh and debut its third iteration. A new A9X processor with more ram, improved speakers, Smart Connector and rear LED flash are all rumoured to be in the works. These new devices will also likely showcase and debut a new version of iOS or even OSX.

Seller of Indian $4 Smartphone Accused of Fraud

Recently an Indian company revealed that they would be selling a smartphone for only $4, however, 30,000 unit sales later, it has turned out that it may just be too good to be true. The company has been accused of fraud by congressman Pramod Tiwari, with another MP, Kirit Somaiya calling the operation a huge Ponzi scam and requested the government launch an investigation into the company. This is hardly the first trouble for the $4 smartphone too, with an early prototype of the device being uncovered as a phone belonging to another company as well as being subject to a government raid making the device seem less and less of a reality.

Set to be launched by a small company named Ringing Bells, the $4 Freedom 251 device originally impressed many by packing a decent set of specifications for the price. A 1.3 GHz quad-core processor, 1,450 mAh battery, 4-inch 960 x 540 qHD display, 1GB of RAM, 8GB of internal storage and a 3.2-megapixel camera was what it was capable of on paper, far from the expensive flagship phones launched by big companies, but for 251 rupees, it seemed incredible. Pankaj Mohindroo, the founder and president of the Indian Cellular Association told CNN that the sum cost of the Freedom 251’s components, even when using the cheapest possible, would cost at least 2700 rupees ($40) to manufacture. The device’s 3.5-inch touchscreen alone would cost more than the $4 that the entire device was to sell for.

Adding to this, at the launch event for the phone, the sample handsets given out by Ringing Bells looked nothing like the previous renders of the phone, which were later revealed to be Chinese Adcom Ikon 4 phones with the branding covered up. Ringing Bells founders Mohit Goel and Ashok Chanda claimed that the branding was present on the devices as the screen components had been sourced from Adcom and the device was a quickly put together prototype to show off.

It doesn’t stop there either, with Ringing Bells having faced a government raid on one of its offices due its lack of credentials and attempting to market a device without having a Bureau of Indian Standards certification. Ringing Bells hadn’t even begun manufacturing the phones by the time they were selling them, with the money raised from pre-orders to be put towards purchasing the manufacturing unit to create them. The final falsehood from the company is their participation in the government run Make in India program, which they were proud to be a part of. Except they were planning to make the devices in India with no subsidies and the Indian Government confirming that the company had nothing to do with the program.

With so many deceptions and inconsistencies floating around, it is hard to consider that this device could really materialize. Even now Ringing Bells has stopped taking orders for the device, reportedly to work on creating the phones already ordered. Whether those who have ordered their devices ever see them materialize, it is hard to tell, but with the release date for the handset targetted for June, we may not have to wait too long.

WhatsApp to End Support For Older Operating Systems

WhatsApp is a cross-platform messaging client which allows users to exchange text messages, images, video content, location details and audio files. As of February 2016, WhatsApp has a user base of up to one billion which makes it the most popular messaging application in the world! Back in February 2014, Facebook acquired the company for an estimated $19.3 billion and clearly sees the application growing at an impressive rate. Recently, Facebook made an announcement regarding its new focus on the latest mobile operating systems to provide a better user experience. The statement reads:

“When we started WhatsApp in 2009, people’s use of mobile devices looked very different from today,”. 

“The Apple App Store was only a few months old. About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time. As we look ahead to our next seven years, we want to focus our efforts on the mobile platforms the vast majority of people use.

“While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future,”

“This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp.”

By the end of 2016, WhatsApp will no longer be supported on:

  • Blackberry, including Blackberry 10
  • Nokia S40
  • Nokia Symbian S60
  • Android 2.1 and Android 2.2
  • Windows Phone 7

This makes sense because Blackberry’s current smart phone position is very weak, and they are trying to encourage handset sales via the Android operating system. On another note, when WhatsApp was first introduced, around 70 percent of smartphones utilized operating systems by Blackberry and Nokia. In today’s market, iOS and Android account for 99.5 percent of sales. This demonstrates the dramatic shift, and struggles faced by anyone trying to gain a foothold in the smart phone sector.

Apple Name Upcoming 4-inch iPhone

Apple has had a new iPhone in the works for a little while now, which is a cut smaller than the current iPhone 6S. This iPhone will be packing a 4-inch screen and in many ways will bear similarities to 2013’s iPhone 5S, with internals upgraded to be competitive with the current models. Originally thought to be named the “iPhone 5SE” due to it being effectively an enhanced version of the 5S, according to 9to5Mac, Apple have decided to drop the ‘5’ from the name and simply name it the “iPhone SE”.

In a time where many manufacturers are moving towards devices with larger and larger screens, as seen on the current iPhone 6S and 6S Plus, naming the new 4-inch iPhone as SE makes a lot of sense, as it positions it separately from its larger screened siblings. Additionally, retaining the ‘5’ in the name at a time when the mainstream devices are ‘6’ may confuse consumers, who may overlook it as an older device and harm its sales.

The SE plans to replace the 5S in Apple’s current iPhone lineup, at the same price-point to boot. Under the hood, the device is far more powerful than its predecessor, packing an A9 processor, the same as used to power the 6S, an 8-megapixel camera, a fingerprint scanner and NFC for Apple Pay, all of which are features shared with the higher-end 6S.

With Apple removing the old 5S from sale to make room for the SE, there may just be room in the market for this new device. Those who are after a smaller form factor device than the more common 5-inch or larger screened devices could just find their match with the SE. The phone is expected to be announced at an upcoming Apple event on March the 15th, debuting alongside a new 9.7 inch iPad Pro and a set of new Apple Watch bands, with its release possibly as soon as March 18th.

Blackberry to Launch Cyber-Security Consulting Service

BlackBerry used to be a major name in the mobile phone industry. They used to be one of the go to companies if you were a business looking for smartphones but with recent reports that BlackBerry is looking to exit the smartphone industry and reports of layoffs looking to confirm this it has come as a surprise that the company has now made a move in a new direction, cybersecurity consulting.

BlackBerry’s were known as secure phones, offering business security and peace of mind when it came to their employees communications and John Chen, the executive chairman and CEO of BlackBerry saying in a statement that:

“We recognize that security vulnerabilities are a top risk concern for public and private sector organizations alike. The creation of our Professional Cybersecurity Services practice and acquisition of Encription reinforces our commitment to providing customers the industry’s most secure mobility solutions and helping them to assess and mitigate risks”

To start the process, which will go by the name of Professional Cybersecurity Services (PCS), the U.K. based cyber security consulting firm Encryption Limited is currently being acquired by the company.

With cyber security being raised by everyone from the agencies and companies like FBI and Apple to children tracking software uKnowKids, the market is screaming out for security specialists and with their history in the industry, this could be the move that puts BlackBerry back into the public eye.

LG G5 Bridges the Gap Between Modular Phones and Reliable Hardware

LG are a company known for many things, such as the 98 inch 8K UHD Television they showed off at CES this year. One of the things many people own that LG does well is their mobile phones, offering reliable and dependable hardware for your everyday use, but even LG are not blind to the latest crazes that are coming along, the most recent one being modular phones like the Ara.

Modular phones like the Ara are said to be the next stage in development because you will be able to pick your favourite parts for the phone and clip them together, just like when you are building a Lego house. It would seem LG wants to help you bridge the change from the brick you hold to the new snap and click design in their LG G5 mobile.

The G5 smartphone looks like any other smartphone at the moment, a large screen and minimal physical buttons on the phone. What’s new about the G5 though is the decision to go with a metal body, something that does nothing but to help you keep the phone alive for longer. The G5 will also feature a 2,800 mAh battery, something that tends to last most phone users through the whole day. If this isn’t the case for some reason though the G5 will bring back the concept of a swappable battery, an idea that should never have left mobile phones in my opinion.

If this wasn’t enough the phone will feature an “expansion slot” an area that means you can quickly add a module to enhance the phone just the way you like it. Going out for a day with the family at the zoo? Take the CAM Plus module, with autofocus, exposure lock and made to feel just like that DSLR everyone is lugging around, all with the added bonus of another 1,200 mAh of battery power for your phone.

Going to a party? Take the Hi-Fi Plus Module, offering support for high-definition audio files, the perfect companion for your latest album. If this wasn’t enough the phone will be joined by several “companion” devices, such as the 360 cam, giving you the ability to capture 360-degree photos and videos using just your phone.

With all these features and a step towards modular upgradable phones, LG could be onto a winner with the G5.

Apple Releases Software Update to Fix ‘Error 53’

Some iPhone users recently encountered a very worrying message which disabled their handset. The ‘Error 53’ code occurs when an unofficial repair shop replaces the connector between the Touch ID sensor and iPhone home button. Usually, it’s quite easy to acquire a replacement handset from Apple if any problems arise. Although, this depends if the phone is within the warranty period and the store might ask for a proof of purchase. In these situations, customers have to resort to repair shops who charge a fee for their services. As you can imagine, this error code caused a great deal of panic and anger among loyal Apple customers.

Thankfully, Apple has released an updated version of iOS 9.2.1 but you can only find this version via iTunes. This will restore the functionality of any iPhone rendered useless by the ‘Error 53’ code. In a statement, Apple said that the

“…error 53 occurs when a device fails a standard security test designed to ensure that the Touch ID fingerprint scanner is working correctly.”

The company also added:

“We apologise for any inconvenience, this was designed to be a factory test and was not intended to affect customers.”

“Customers who paid for an out-of-warranty replacement of their device based on this issue should contact AppleCare about a reimbursement.”

Mobile analyst Ben Wood at CCS Insight provided an insight into the reasons why Apple enforced such as strict security measure:

“To me, there was a lot of logic in what they said around the ‘error 53’ element,”

“If you’re using your fingerprint to unlock sensitive data or make payments and there was the ability for someone to replace the screen and modify the module to take control of your phone – that’s not a good thing at all.”

This makes sense because cyber-criminals might alter the sensor to find any personal information on a stolen handset. Given the amount of online banking and wireless payments, it seems like a logical idea. On the other hand, Apple has a reputation for restricting their devices and trying to keep total control.

Xiaomi Phones to Introduce Song Recognition for Humming

While song recognition apps like Shazam and SoundHound are able to ‘hear’ a piece of music and tell you the name of the song and recording artist, they are not yet able to delve into your brain to tell you just what that earworm that has been bothering you for days is called. Emerging Chinese smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi, though, hopes to bring you the next best thing: recognising a song based purely on your melodic humming.

In partnership with ACRCloud – a Beijing company that provides song recognition software – Xiaomi hopes to introduce the feature to its newest smartphones, and is already testing a beta version with the help of a few thousand users.

SoundHound has recently introduced a similar feature to its app, which requires an existing hum track to be associated with the song in question in order to work, but ACRCloud hopes that its more advanced system will require no such base track.

“To add one song into [SoundHound’s] database, it must look for at least one user to sing or hum the melody without instrumental accompaniment,” Tony Li, a representative with ACRCloud, told Mashable. Instead, ACRCloud’s technology will extract the melodies of songs in its database and compare it directly to the hummed track.

Mashable tested the humming recognition feature, reporting that it accurately detected the majority of songs within 20 seconds.

MazerBOT Targets Android Phones – Unless They’re In Russia

Malware, or malicious software, includes everything from your pop-up ads to opening doors for full-scale hacks to companies. Taking a trip the malware museum shows you how software like Dridex can not only threaten banking systems but also your everyday smartphone. The latest malware on the Net is called MazarBOT and has a unique feature, it won’t install itself if you are in Russia.

MazarBOT has been seen advertised on certain forums for a few months now but was never actually seen in use, until now. MazarBOT is a nasty piece of software that takes control of your android phone, with a specific focus on people who use their phone for online banking. Peter Kurse, IT security expert and founder of CSIS Security Group, did a deep investigation into the problem discovering more about this malware.

By sending a “swarm” of SMS’s to random phone numbers to Denmark, the software has started to spread by sending a message with a link to the android package file, the contents of which are none other than MazarBOT. Able to intercept text messages, including those with two-factor authentication codes, MazarBOT is a nasty piece of work, sending your phone’s location to a number (starting with Iran’s country code) upon successful installation.

Upon detecting that the phone is in Russia though the malware will stop installing, this is initially thought to be in order to avoid drawing the wrath from Russia’s security services.

You Can Help Detect Earthquakes With Your Smartphone!

There is an app for everything these days, from ordering an Uber taxi to messaging through Whatsapp types of services. You can remote control drones, monitor your exercise and even play board games on the little device you keep in your pocket. So why not get an app that can be used to help others without causing you any trouble, such as one to detect earthquakes with your smartphone?

Typically Seismologists study earthquakes, from the warnings weeks before the initial earthquake to the ones that appear out of nowhere. Detecting earthquakes is difficult, requiring expensive pieces of equipment called seismometers around potential hotspots of activity. A group led by University Of California-Berkeley’s have described an android app, that you can even download right now, that will help turn your mobile phone into a seismometer, enabling you to help report and evaluate earthquakes and their impacts.

Using the phone’s built-in accelerometers, the app is able to detect a magnitude 5 earthquake from as far away as 10 kilometers from the center of an earthquake, with the range increasing with the magnitude of the earthquake.

The app’s major breakthrough is breaking through the noise and motion that your smartphone would normally go through, from sitting on a bus or in a car to fighting with your phone while it’s in your pocket. They do this by sending data to a central system, and if you and nearby users are all reporting the same movement they will sound an alarm giving people precious moments to act.

OnePlus 2 to Receive Permanent Price Cut

The original OnePlus handset caused a media storm due to its ability to compete with the likes of Apple, Samsung and LG at a much lower price point. Dubbed the flagship killer, the OnePlus proved to be quite popular and received a positive response from consumers. As you might expect, this meant the successor’s release was eagerly anticipated and people hoped it would offer a legitimate alternative to premium models like the Samsung Galaxy S6. Sadly, the device didn’t live up to expectations and people became extremely frustrated with the invite system. Furthermore, since the initial launch period, OnePlus had to contend with more competition from the Hauwei Honor 7, and Moto X. As a result, it became quite challenging to attract the value-conscience consumers aiming for a high-end phone. On another note, the OnePlus 2 suffered from some fairly major bugs, and didn’t evoke a slick feel.

Thankfully, these issues have now been resolved and the handset has a fairly good reputation. The company also recently announced a price cut via the OnePlus forums. The statement reads:

“Friends,

There’s never a dull moment in our search for new ways to improve our range of ecommerce services. Recently, we introduced free standard shipping for orders over $100. Only a few days later, we made the OnePlus X invite-free faster than any OnePlus device before it. As the cost to produce a OnePlus 2 device has never been lower, we believe this is the right time to introduce a new change. We believe great things should be shared.

We learned a lot from our first flagship phone. The invite system helped get the OnePlus 2 off the ground, and now thanks to both timing and scale, our operations have sized up to the Goldilocks principle of just right. So, why not let our fans join us in celebrating the fruits of our labor? The OnePlus 2 now has a price modification of $349, forever. If you’ve ever needed to give a friend another reason to join Team OnePlus, here you go.

With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, we have prepared a few more offers for your enjoyment. To kick things off, anyone purchasing one of our devices will receive a free StyleSwap Cover or OnePlus X Case. Additionally anyone who purchased the OnePlus 2 within the last fifteen (15) days, will be seeing a refund in price ($40, or the equivalent in your currency) difference coming their way. Keep an eye on your inbox for more details.

Never Settle.”

At the time of writing, you can purchase the OnePlus 2 without an invite for £249.99 in the UK. This might just be what’s required to help shift units, and encourage consumers to give the OnePlus 2 a try.

What do you think of the OnePlus 2?

Google Plans to Tighten Grip On Nexus Hardware

The Nexus lineup from Google is one of the most popular brands for the Android ecosystem, with decent hardware paired with a no-frills OS build. According to the latest rumours, Google is looking to invest more into their Nexus hardware and take greater control over the design and building. Right now, Nexus devices are built-in partnership with OEMs like LG, Motorola, Huawei, HTC and Samsung.

While Google taking on more control to do they feel best with the Nexus brand is no surprise, the rumours suggest that Google will go far as an “Apple-like” approach. In fact, the report suggests that Google wants to bring in all the design work itself and simply issue orders to the OEMs, just like Apple does to Foxconn. This means the OEMs will become glorified hardware partners only there to handle the manufacturing side of things.

Google is understandably conflicted over such a change, as it could alienate their hardware vendors which want their own input and branding associated with the phone. On the other hand, Apple has been steadily growing and Google wants more control over the Android ecosystem in order to better compete. Google already has considerable input into how Nexus devices are designed and built though so this may not be such a drastic change.

For this new Nexus device, Google is reportedly looking get HTC, one of their weaker and likely more desperate OEM partner, to build the device. HTC has recently been struggling to sell phones and probably needs as much help as they can get. Unfortunately, HTC won’t get any branding for the new Nexus and Google will be taking a big cut of the sales price. Whether this works for HTC and Google and how other Android partners react remains to be seen.

Watch Movies Home Alone with the Cardboard Home Cinema

Are you tired of visiting the cinema, only to find that your experience is marred by babbling mouth breathers, rustling sweet wrappers, and lit-up smartphones, and too cheap to buy a home cinema system? Don’t despair, because Firebox has developed a private home cinema, free from extraneous distraction, that will only cost you £24.99.

The Cardboard Home Cinema. It’s a box with a couple of holes cut in it.

As the Firebox product description puts it: “for the paltry cost of a couple of movie tickets this immersive cinematic experience can be yours. Made from super rugged cardboard, it arrives flat-packed and can be quickly assembled in a matter of minutes. Your smartphone/tablet sits atop the box and plays your movie of choice while you lay down beneath it. The height of the box is easily adjusted so that your eyes are a comfortable distance from the screen (e.g. lower for an iPhone, higher for an iPad).”

While the Cardboard Home Cinema is a novel idea, its £24.99 price feels excessive, especially since it’s made from cardboard. I’ve got some old boxes in my spare room that I could use to construct the IMAX equivalent for less than the price of a box of Poppets.

California Moves to Ban Encrypted Phones

The state of California is looking to introduce new legislation that would see encrypted smartphones banned from sale and ownership. The bill, ZDNet reports, was introduced by Democratic California assembly member Jim Cooper and would require any smartphone manufactured “on or after January 1, 2017, and sold in California after that date” to be “capable of being decrypted and unlocked by its manufacturer or its operating system provider.” A phone that could not be decrypted on demand would be deemed illegal and the owner subject to a $2,500 fine.

Under this new legislation, Apple, based in California, would not be able to sell its iPhones on its own turf. Apple CEO has been very vocal in his support of end-to-end encryption in the past, saying that “Nobody should have to decide privacy and security. We should be smart enough to do both,” and that his company has “never worked with any government agency from any country to create a backdoor in any of our products or services […] and we never will.”

The bill still has to pass the California state assembly, and then be signed into law by California’s Democratic Governor Jerry Brown.

A similar bill, with nearly identical wording, was introduced in to the New York Senate last week.