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United States

Google Uses Search To Push Its Products: WSJ (usatoday.com) 46

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) 80

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) 138

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) 73

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) 69

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).

AI

Huawei Snubs Google, Ships An Android Phone With Alexa (reuters.com) 63

Huawei announced its flagship handset will gives users access to Amazon's Alexa assistant in the U.S., suggesting a new worry for Google, according to Reuters. An anonymous reader writes: "The adoption of Alexa by a prominent Android manufacturer indicates that Amazon may have opened up an early lead over Google as the companies race to present their digital assistants to as many people as possible, analysts said." Analyst Jan Dawson at Jackdaw Research even told Reuters that if Google's personal assistant lags in popularity when voice becomes the most popular interface, "that's a huge loss for Google in terms of data gathering, training its AI, and ultimately the ability to drive advertising revenue."

Tension may have started when Google decided to debut Google Assistant on their own Pixel smartphones. "While Google has expressed an interest in bringing its assistant to other Android smartphones, the decision to debut the feature on its own hardware may have strained relations with manufacturers, Dawson said. 'It highlights just what a strategic mistake it can be for services companies to make their own hardware and give it preferential access to new services.'"

Nvidia announced this week at CES that they'd be using Google Assistant for their Shield TVs, while Whirlpool and Ford both announced Alexa-enabled products. But this article argues Google Assistant has one thing that Alexa doesn't have: a search engine.
Operating Systems

Apple Could Finally Sell More Devices Than Microsoft In 2017 (computerworld.com) 97

Gartner predicts Apple will ship more iOS and macOS devices in 2017 than Windows-powered devices "for the first time this century," and then increase their lead over the next two years. An anonymous reader quotes Computerworld: Gartner predicted that iOS + macOS, unlike Windows, will recover in 2017. Apple's OSes will climb 8% to 268 million this year, add 3% in 2018 to reach 276 million, then increase another 3% in 2019, with that year's device shipment forecast at 285 million. Windows will dip this year, then stagnate for the following two years... The gap between Microsoft and Apple -- 12 million last year, with Microsoft atop -- will widen to 27 million by 2019, advantage Apple.

"The global devices market is stagnating," said Gartner analyst Ranjit Atwal in a statement Wednesday. Mobile phone shipments are growing only in emerging markets in the Asia and Pacific markets, Atwal added, and noted that "The PC market is just reaching the bottom of its decline." The PC industry's troubles have affected Microsoft most of all; Windows is almost entirely dependent on PC shipments, which have been stuck in a protracted slump. Future shipments were further hit when Microsoft walked away from the smartphone business last year.

The article also points out that even in 2016, Windows devices came in second, and "accounted for approximately 11.2% of the total devices, which overwhelmingly ran Google's Android."
Android

Fake Malware-Filled Super Mario Run Apps Take Advantage of Android Absence (silicon.co.uk) 34

Mickeycaskill writes: Nintendo's Super Mario Run was downloaded more than 40 million times in the first four days it was available. But an Android version has yet to materialize. An official release is on the way, but cybercriminals are taking advantage of this vacuum by spreading malicious apps masquerading as the real thing. The "Android Marcher trojan" appears as a fake landing page advertising the release of the game, where it can be downloaded onto users' devices. It then targets financial and banking apps and can modify your settings and read your contacts. The popularity of Pokemon GO last year saw similar scams emerge as users waited for the game.
Android

Google CEO Says Next Wave Of Affordable Smartphones Should Cost $30 (phandroid.com) 181

An anonymous reader writes: Google started the Android One program to get affordable smartphones into all corners of the globe. Those devices cost around $100, which is very good for an up-to-date device. However, Google CEO Sundar Pichai doesn't think $100 is good enough. Even $50 is too much. His goal is $30. "The right price point for smartphones in India is $30, and pursuing high-quality smartphones at the price point will unlock it even more." ndia currently has the largest base of Android users, and most of those users have phones that cost less than $150. Pichai went on to say that cheaper devices are only part of the solution. They also need services that can run reliably on "flaky" networks. He says Google is working on making more services adapt to slow internet.
Android

LG Is Abandoning the Modular Smartphone Idea (theverge.com) 78

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: LG's modular phone accessory strategy that served as the primary differentiator for last year's G5 smartphone appears to be no more. The Wall Street Journal reports that the South Korean company is pivoting away from the plug-in "Friends" modules for the upcoming G6 device after lackluster sales for the G5. Per The Wall Street Journal, an LG spokesperson commented that consumers aren't interested in modular phones. The company instead is planning to focus on functionality and design aspects for the upcoming G6, which Chief Technologist Skott Ahn says will be released "in the very near future." According to the WSJ, the LG G6 will arrive "in the very near future," which suggests the phone will launch at Mobile World Congress next month.
Android

Asus Unveils ZenFone AR With Google's Daydream and Tango Support, Coming In Q2 (venturebeat.com) 24

Krystalo quotes a report from VentureBeat: Probably the most-leaked device at CES 2017 so far has been the Asus ZenFone AR, through no fault of the Taiwanese company. Partner Qualcomm revealed much of the details in a blog post touting the use of its Snapdragon 821 chipset, and infamous leaker Evan Blass (evleaks) added front and back press renders of the phone. The key part that was missing was a release timeframe, which we now have: Q2 2017. The ZenFone AR stands out as the first smartphone that will support both of Google's Daydream and Tango platforms, and is only the second to support the latter (Lenovo's Phab 2 Pro was the first). Daydream is a virtual reality (VR) platform built into Android 7.0 Nougat and above. Tango is an augmented reality (AR) platform that detects users' positions relative to places and objects around them without using GPS or other external signals.
Google

Android Was 2016's Most Vulnerable Product, Oracle the (bleepingcomputer.com) 147

An anonymous reader writes: According to CVE Details, a website that aggregates historical data on security bugs that have received a CVE identifier, during 2016, security researchers have discovered and reported 523 security bugs in Google's Android OS, winner by far of this "award." The rest of the top 10 is made up by Debian (319 bugs), Ubuntu (278 bugs), Adobe Flash Player (266 bugs), openSUSE Leap (259 bugs), openSUSE (228 bugs), Adobe Acrobat DC (227 bugs), Adobe Acrobat Reader DC (227 bugs), Adobe Acrobat (224 bugs), and the Linux Kernel (216 bugs).

When it comes to software vendors, the company for which the largest number of new CVE numbers have been assigned was Oracle, with a whopping 798 CVEs, who edged out Google (698 bugs), Adobe (548 bugs), Microsoft (492 bugs), Novell (394), IBM (382 bugs), Cisco (353 bugs), Apple (324 bugs), Debian Project (320 bugs), and Canonical (280 bugs).

Android

Qualcomm Details Snapdragon 835 Processor (pcmag.com) 42

Qualcomm has detailed the Snapdragon 835 processor, which will power most of the leading Android smartphones this year. It's designed to grab information from the air at gigabit speeds and turn it into rich virtual and augmented reality experiences, according to several executives at a pre-CES briefing. Qualcomm SVP Keith Kressin said, "The 835 is going to be one of the key devices that propels the VR use case." PC Magazine reports: The hardest thing to understand about the Snapdragon 835, especially if you're thinking from a desktop CPU space, is how much Qualcomm has been prioritizing elements of the system-on-chip other than the CPU. This has been coming for years, and it can be tricky because it relies on firmware and the Android OS to properly distribute work to non-CPU components of the chip. During the briefing, it was striking how little Qualcomm talked about its Kryo 280 CPU, as compared to other components. Qualcomm tries to counter that by pointing out that this is the first 10nm mobile processor, which will improve efficiency, and also by saying the CPU is "tightly integrated" with other components using the new Symphony system manager, which operates automatically yet can be customized by application developers. This distributes work across the CPU, GPU, DSP, and more exotic components, letting the Snapdragon 835 work better than it would with CPU alone. How that will combine with Qualcomm's recent announcement that it will support Windows 10 on mobile PCs, including legacy Win32 apps, is yet to be seen. The Snapdragon 835 consumes 25 percent less power than the 820, according to Qualcomm. That means seven hours of 4K streaming video and two hours of VR gaming on a typical device, the company said. These new uses are really power hungry. Since Qualcomm can only do so much on power efficiency, it's also introducing Quick Charge 4, which supposedly charges a phone to five hours of use in five minutes and is USB-C power delivery compliant. The new Adreno 540 graphics chip improves 3D performance by 25 percent over the previous generation, Qualcomm said. But it also enables features like HDR10, which improves colors; foveated rendering, which most clearly renders what you're looking at rather than elements in the periphery of a scene; and low latency, which allows you to move your head smoothly around VR scenes. With one 32MP or two 16MP cameras running at the same time, the Snapdragon 835 supports various dual-camera functions. The Snapdragon 835 will feature the X16 modem, which Qualcomm announced earlier this year and will be able to boost LTE to gigabit speeds. The keys to gigabit LTE are triple 20MHz carrier aggregation with 256-QAM encoding and 4x4 MIMO antennas, said Qualcomm's senior director of marketing, Peter Carson. That's going to be first introduced with a Netgear hotspot in Australia this January, but Sprint and T-Mobile have said they're trying to assemble this set of technologies.

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