Headlines

2 years ago

Google-Motorola deal set to be approved by U.S. Justice Department, says WSJ

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Google's aquisition of Motorola Mobility is set to be approved by the U.S. Justice Department as early as next week, according to the Wall Street Journal and people "familiar with the matter." These sort of deals are never a given, as the various governments across the world always have the final say on matters of commerce. This deal would arm Google with very desirable hardware patents for mobile devices, which really is the reason for the entire investigation.

The Justice Department, as well as European Union legislators, are very concerned that Google allows other companies to use these patents under FRAND (fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory) rules, which prohibit things like overcharging for licenses or blocking access to the patents outright.  They should be -- look at all the legal mess smartphone manufacturers are in now, then muddy that picture further by changing license requirements for the things that make a cell phone work. We're not talking lock screens or rounded corners here, Motorola owns IP that all cell phones need and use to operate. Taking away licenses for core technology would benefit nobody, and Google has pledged not to do it. 

Instead, Google has sent letters to to numerous standards organizations, stating that it would offer FRAND licensing for patents in Motorola's portfolio. They didn't promise not to seek damages or injunctions from potential violators, though. Google stated that it "reserves its right to seek any and all appropriate judicial remedies against counterparties that refuse to license its FRAND patents."  Mutual destruction tactics at their finest.

We tend to take things like this from the Wall Street Journal at face value, and this is no exception.  Their track record stands on it's own.  If this is true, and the EU (whose own deadline for a decision is Feb. 13) gives a green light we should know more next week.  We'll keep you posted.

Source (paid content): WSJ

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2 years ago

Google Wallet PIN security cracked - here's what you need to know

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Google Wallet's PIN security has been cracked, but there's a caveat -- this currently only is an issue if your phone is rooted. Not rooted? No worries. And with that said and done, here's the deal:

Your Google Wallet PIN (Personal Identification Number) is stored encrypted on your device, and a brute-force method was found to expose the SHA256 hex-encoded PIN information inside the database. This method, which was irresponsibly released to the public, can find the PIN without any incorrect attempts in the Wallet app itself, negating the five-try rule the application has for PIN entry.  (See it in action after the break.)

Now here's the not so sexy way to describe it all.  You'll need to have a phone with Google Wallet, AND have rooted your device, AND have not set a secure lock screen, AND then lose your phone. The person who finds it THEN can use the app the fellows at zvleo have made and since distributed to brute-force the PIN and THEN can use your phone to make payments, just like they could if they found your credit card, which likely would be quicker and easier than any of this.

Google has been notified and already knows how to fix the issue, but there's a problem. To make it more secure, Google will have to move the PIN information to be controlled and maintained by your bank. This not only will require some changes to the terms of service, but then we're relying on corporate banking institutions to keep our information safe. I'd wager that Citigroup's servers are easier to break into than Google's, and then you have the same issue all over again.

A better way to fix the problem would be to force users to use a better password. PIN information can be cracked so easy because it only uses four numbers. This means that there are only 10,000 possible combinations, and even a portable computer like your Android phone can pull off that sort of brute-force attack. Change the passcode to something like Fgtr5400&d77 -- using a combination of letters, numbers and symbols -- and it's far less likely to be broken, and even less likely to even be used because it's not convenient.  It's a Catch-22 -- a PIN is easy to use and remember, but it's also more easy to crack.

I'm not going to tell you to stop using Google Wallet, nor am I going to tell you to stop rooting your phone. I am going to tell you to pick it up, and put a passcode on the lock screen now, before you lose it.  

Source: zvelo

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2 years ago

Google+ app updated with 'massive performance improvements' and some UI tweaks

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If you're a Google+ fan and have an Android phone, you'll want to hit the Android Market because there's an update for Google+ that promises (among other things) "massive performance improvements" across the app.  The full changelog:

  • Massive performance improvements across the app
  • What's Hot!
  • View who +1'd a post or comment
  • Stream posts shortened to fit more per scroll
  • Infinite photos feed in 'From your circles'
  • Stream no longer jumps to the top for an automatic refresh

I never really noticed any poor performance from the app to start with, so I'm not yet ready to judge these massive improvements, but the rest of the list has a bunch of welcome changes.  The addition of What's Hot! and ability to see who +1'd a post or comment are things many have been asking for, and UI improvements like better formatting of posts and no longer bouncing to the top and losing your place when you refresh are always welcome.  Now let's focus on a tablet optimized version, shall we Google?  Maybe walk over and visit the cubes of the folks working on Currents.

Download link is after the break.

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2 years ago

HTC, Vodafone Germany to launch first 4G LTE phone -- the HTC Velocity

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Vodafone Germany customers will soon be able to pick up the network's first 4G LTE smartphone, the HTC Velocity, according to reports from German site Computer Woche. The device will be familiar to readers in the U.S., as stateside it's known as the AT&T HTC Vivid. As well as supporting the insane speeds we've come to expect from LTE networks, the Velocity also sports HSPA+ connectivity up to 42.2 Mb/sec, alongside good old-fashioned 2G and 3G.

Internally, the device is similar to many of HTC's other high-end smartphones. There's a 1.5GHz dual-core chip inside, along with a full gigabyte of RAM, a 4.5-inch qHD (960x540) screen and Android 2.3 Gingerbread, backed up by HTC Sense 3.5. Frequency-wise, the HTC Velocity supports LTE on 800/2600MHz in addition to UMTS/HSPA on 900/2100MHz, meaning it should work on other LTE networks across Europe once they start rolling out.

So it's an HTC Vivid for Europe. Speaking of which, you can check out our review of that device to get an idea of what you'll be dealing with if you pick up an HTC Velocity in the future. We'll keep you posted with any release date or pricing info as it becomes available.

Source: Computer Woche; via: Engadget Mobile

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2 years ago

Galaxy Nexus now available on Videotron, C$150 on contract

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Just as planned, Quebec-centric carrier Videotron has today launched the Samsung Galaxy Nexus on its network. Canadians wanting to use Samsung and Google's flagship smartphone on Videotron can now pick one up for the subsidized price of C$149.95, with a qualifying service plan of C$40 or more per month. Or if you don't fancy paying 40 dollars per month for the next three years, Videotron's also selling it on its own at the retail price of C$599.95.

Videtron is the latest in a long list of Canadian networks currently offering the Galaxy Nexus. This includes the big three -- Bell, TELUS and Rogers -- as well as smaller players like Fido, Mobilicity and WIND. Hit the source link for more on Videotron's Galaxy Nexus deals, and check out our review of the thing if for some reason you're still on the fence.

Source: Videotron

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2 years ago

White HTC Sensation XE revealed, due Feb. 20 in the UK

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Last week we saw that HTC's planning to launch a white HTC Sensation in parts of Europe from the beginning of next month, and now it seems its big brother, the Sensation XE, will also be getting a fresh coat of paint.

UK retailer Clove Technology sends word that it'll be stocking a white version of the Sensation XE from Feb. 20, with SIM-free prices coming in at £408 (~$640). The Sensation XE, which first launched towards the end of 2011, is a refresh of the original Sensation. It's got a faster 1.5GHz dual-core CPU (up from 1.2 in the original), a larger battery and Beats Audio support, complete with bundled earphones. While the dimensions are the same, the XE comes with red accents and Beats branding, which we have to admit looks a lot better on the white version than it did on the original grey model.

With HTC expected to launch a range of new handsets just a week later, we're not sure whether too many people will be lining up to part with £400 for Sensation XE. But if you do, you'll be getting a pretty powerful dual-core phone, with an ICS update on the way in the months ahead.

Source: Clove Technology

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2 years ago

Motorola confirms UK Motoluxe launch for late February

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Motorola has confirmed its UK launch plans for the Motoluxe, a new Android smartphone that aims to deliver an attractive, lightweight design at an affordable price point. In line with what we heard at the device's CES unveiling (and later from retailers), Moto is planning to bring the Motoluxe to British shores from late February. There's no official price point provided alongside today's announcement, but earlier reports indicate it'll set you back around £260 (~$400) SIM-free. As such, we're sure to see it it offered for free on-contract when it eventually hits the carriers.

Under the hood, the Motoluxe provides a modest hardware package -- an 800MHz CPU, 4-inch screen, 8MP camera and Android 2.3.7 Gingerbread backed up by Motorola's MotoSwitch UI (which seems to be the new name for PhilBlur MotoBlur in Europe). As we saw at CES, the device incorporates a unique grid-shaped widget that provides links to your most-used apps and contacts. All in all, it's not going to knock your socks off, but it looks like a decent mid-range Android smartphone.

For more on the Motoluxe, be sure to check our CES hands-on feature from the show floor.

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2 years ago

LG Optimus Vu teases a 5-inch display with 4:3 aspect ratio

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The first half of 2011 was all about 3D displays for Korean manufacturer LG, with the likes of the Optimus 3D and the Optimus Pad. Looks like LG has something new cooked up for 2012. The LG Optimus Vu has bade an early appearance on LG's Youtube channel. And, yeah. It looks a little squat there. That's a 5-inch display you're looking at with a 4:3 aspect ration. Not something you see every day. 

Other hardware features we've been able to glean from the video are a couple buttons (or maybe screws?) on the top bezel (perhaps three, actually), along with a USB port that appears to be hidden behind a door, and a headphone jack. The volume rocker appears to be on the right-hand side.

Other unofficial specs are said to be a 1024x768 display, a dual-core Qualcomm WPQ8060 processor running at 1.5GHz, 1GB or RAM, 8GB of ROM, and an 8MP camera.

Interesting here is that most of the phones we've seen leaked for the first half of the year have gone to three capacitive buttons -- including the already released LG Spectrum on Verizon -- presumably in preparation for an Ice Cream Sandwich update. We've got no idea when an Ice Cream Sandwich update might be in store for the Optimus Vu (though it's said to be destined for one), nor if it's intended for any markets outside Korea.

Check out the video for yourself after the break, and stay tuned, as we're willing to put money down that we'll see this guy at Mobile World Congress in a few weeks.

Source: LG Blog (Korea); via Datacider (translated), The Verge

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2 years ago

What is a widget? [Android A to Z]

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What is a widget?  In Android, the word widget is a generic term for a bit of self-contained code that displays a program, or a piece of a program, that is also (usually) a shortcut to a larger application. We see them every day on web pages, on our computer desktop and on our smartphones, but we never give too much thought into how great they are. Widgets first appeared in Android in version 1.5, and really gained traction thanks to HTC's Sense-flavored version of the operating system. Prior to the release of the HTC Hero and our first taste of Sense, widgets were functional, but pretty bland in appearance. Since then, OEMs and independent developers alike have done some marvelous things with widgets, and it's hard to imagine using Android without them.

Android widgets come in all shapes and sizes and range from the utilitarian 1-by-1 shortcut style to full-page widgets that blow us away with the eye-candy.  Both types are very useful, and it's pretty common to see a widget or two on the home screen of any Android phone. A full-page widget, like HTC's weather widget for late-model Android phones, tells you everything you need to know about the current conditions, and is also a quick gateway to the weather application where you can see things like forecasts and weather data for other cities.  At the other end of the spectrum, the Google Reader 1x1 widget watches a folder in your Google Reader account and tells you how many unread items there are, and opens the full application when pressed.  Both are very handy, and add a lot to the Android experience.  

Most Android phones come with a handful of built-in widgets.  Some manufacturer versions of Android offer more than others, but the basics like a clock, calendar, or bookmarks widget are usually well represented.  This is just the tip of the iceberg though.  A quick trip into the Android Market will dazzle you with the huge catalog of third-party widgets available, with something that suits almost every taste.  With Ice Cream Sandwich supporting things like higher resolution screens and re-sizable widgets, it's going to be an exciting year seeing what developers can come up with.

Previously on Android A to Z: What  is USB?; Find more in the Android Dictionary

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2 years ago

T-Mobile celebrates Valentine's Day with free 4G devices

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T-Mobile announced today that it will be celebrating Valentine's Day with a blow-out sale on all of its 4G smartphones. On Saturday, February 11, a respectable lot of devices will be free after mail-in rebate both in stores and online. Below is the list in its entirety, which includes some heavyweights such as the Galaxy S II, the Amaze 4G, and T-Mobile's Springboard tablet:

If you've got a sweetie that's still carrying around a G1, now might be the time to show him or her how much you love them. Hit the source link for the sale page, and remember, phones are the new box of chocolates.

Source: T-Mobile

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