The Galaxy Note 8 vs. the competition: More than just a stylus

With phone screens getting bigger and bigger, the Galaxy Note doesn’t quite stand out the way it used to. The Note 8’s 6.3-inch screen is only a tad larger than the 6.2 inches boasted by the Galaxy S8+, and both devices share the same Snapdragon 835 processor. Still, the Note 8 has a few things to set itself apart, including a new dual camera setup like the one on the soon-to-replaced iPhone 7 Plus. Check out the table below to see what Samsung’s latest large-screen handset is packing under the hood versus other notable flagships, and check back for our full review of the Galaxy Note 8 in a few weeks.


Galaxy Note 8 Galaxy S8+ HTC U11 iPhone 7 Plus
Pricing Starts at $ 930 (off-contract) $ 675 (off-contract) $ 649, $ 729 (off-contract) $ 769, $ 869, $ 969 (off-contract)
Known dimensions 162.5 x 74.8 x 8.6mm (6.40 x 2.94 x 0.34 inches) 159.5 x 73.4 x 8.1mm (6.28 x 2.89 x 0.32 inches) 153.9 x 75.9 x 7.9mm (6.06 x 2.89 x 0.31 inches) 158.2 x 77.9 x 7.3mm (6.23 x 3.07 x 0.29 inches)
Weight 195g (6.9 ounces) 173g (6.1 ounces) 169g (5.96 ounces) 188g (6.63 ounces)
Screen size 6.3 inches (160.02mm) 6.2 inches (158.1mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm) 5.5 inches (139.7mm)
Screen resolution 2,960 x 1,440 (521ppi) 2,960 x 1,440 (529 ppi) 2,560 x 1,440 (534ppi) 1,920 x 1,080 (401 ppi)
Screen type Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD+ Super AMOLED Quad HD Super LCD 5 Retina HD
Battery 3,300mAh 3,500mAh 3,000mAh 2,900mAh
Internal storage 64/125/256GB 64GB 64/128GB 32/128/256GB
External storage microSD microSD microSD None
Rear camera Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.7 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.4 (telephoto)
12MP, f/1.7 12MP, f/1.7, 1.4μm pixel size Dual cameras:
12MP, f/1.8 (wide angle)
12MP, f/2.8 (telephoto)
Front-facing camera 8MP, f/1.7 8MP 16MP, f/2.0 7MP, f/2.2
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K at 30fps
NFC Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bluetooth v5.0 v5.0 v4.2 v4.2
SoC Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Apple A10 Fusion
CPU 2.3GHz octa-core 2.3GHz octa-core 2.45GHz octa-core 2.34GHz quad-core
GPU Adreno 540 Adreno 540 Adreno 540 PowerVR Series 7XT GT7600 Plus
RAM 6GB 4GB 4/6GB 3GB
WiFi Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac Dual band, 802.11ac
Operating system Android 7.1.1 Android 7.0 Android 7.1 iOS 10
Notable features Iris scanner, fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C Iris scanning, fingerprint sensor, IP68 certified, USB Type-C Fingerprint sensor, IP67 certified, USB Type-C Touch ID, IP67 certified, Lightning connector


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AccuWeather’s iPhone app may track you even if you opt out (update)

AccuWeather on iOS might be deceiving users and violating Apple’s developer terms of service, security expert Will Strafach has discovered. If you deny it access to location info, the popular app reportedly still sends WiFi data, namely your router name and BSSID, to a third-party ad firm called Reveal Mobile. Furthermore, the app can even track you when it’s not open by using Bluetooth beacon data.

Strafach, well known for his early iOS jailbreak hacks, notes that he was actually researching a separate security problem on Accuweather’s iOS app. However, during testing he discovered that the app sent data 16 times to Reveal Mobile, installed as a third-party SDK on AccuWeather. According to the company’s own PR, it works as a way “to help app publishers and media companies extract the maximum value from their location data.” That can generate a lot of money both for Reveal Mobile and AccuWeather, he notes.

Furthermore, Reveal Mobile’s SDK may also collect user location data via Bluetooth beacons, Strafach believes. According to Reveal Mobile’s own product description, when you’re near one, it can figure out your location and turn the info into data it can sell. “While traditional lat/long audiences require the app to be open and running, detecting or ‘bumping’ beacons can occur when apps are not in use,” the company writes. “This allows Reveal Mobile to build larger, and more accurate, location-based audiences.”

Obviously, the company can generate more revenue if an app collects data even when users opt out. However, that “violate[s] user trust,” Strafach notes, and seemingly Apple’s developer agreement as well.

You may not track an end-user’s WiFi network usage to determine their location if they have disabled location services for your application. –Apple developer agreement.

Though tracking WiFi BSSID names may seem innocuous, the FTC is investigating a company called InMobi about that same thing, he adds. “By collecting the BSSID (i.e., a unique identifier) of the WiFi networks that a consumer’s device connected to or was in-range of, and feeding this information into its geocoder database, InMobi could then infer the consumer’s location,” the FTC says, adding that InMobi also did this when users opted out of geolocalization.

On Twitter, Strafach replied to users who say that app tracking is expected nowadays. “Most app analytics are usually quite tame … this case goes further than what most apps do.” Tracking such information doesn’t appear to be possible on Android, as Google has been aware of the potential for WiFi tracking abuse for a while now. Since version 6.0 (Marshmallow), applications must obtain user permission before they can access a network’s BSSID. We’ve reached out to Apple and AccuWeather for more information.

Update: Reveal has provided an emailed statement to Engadget and said that it “honors all operating system level ‘limit ad tracking’ and ‘do not track’ permissions.” At the same time, it said that “in looking at our current SDK’s behavior, we see how that can be misconstrued.” Its full statement to Engadget is below, and they expanded on it in a blog post. On Twitter, Strafach noted the statement and said “I do not personally agree with their logic, but feel free to read and decide.”

We don’t attempt to reverse engineer a device’s location if someone opts out of location services, regardless of the data signal it comes from. In looking at our current SDK’s behavior, we see how that can be misconstrued. In response to that, we’re releasing a new version of our SDK today which will no longer send any data points which could be used to infer location when someone opts out of location sharing.

Via: 9 to 5 Mac

Source: Will Strafach (Medium)

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Google Docs version tracking makes collaboration easier

Since adopting the G Suite moniker in September, Google has been steadily beefing up Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Whereas, in the past its updates have targeted select sets of users (like one-tap citations for researchers) its latest crop of tools are all-encompassing. And, they’re all about tracking changes on collaborative docs — even from mobile devices.

Google seems to be fond of rebrands, because starting today “revision history” is dubbed “version history.” This is the place where you can track your team’s changes. The new title also brings with it the ability to assign custom names to versions of a doc, sheet, or slide. That way you can keep on top of things by maintaining a historical record of your squad’s progress. It can also be used to indicate that a doc is actually final (as in completed).

If you’re someone that likes to review documents on the go, Google has you covered. Now, you can suggest edits to a doc from an iPhone or Android handset, and an iPad. Just click the three dots menu at the bottom right of your screen, turn on the “suggest changes” toggle, and input your thoughts in the new “suggestion mode.”

Docs is also receiving a couple of quick-action prompts, including a new preview option that scrubs out comments and suggested edits to show a clean version of your draft. Or, you can skip the review stage altogether by instantly accepting or rejecting all changes. Both options can be accessed via the tools drop-down menu.

Rounding out the updates are a bunch of new templates and add-ons for businesses. And, G Suite is also integrating Google Cloud Search (which uses machine learning to find relevant info from across Google’s productivity apps) for business and enterprise customers.

Source: Google Blog

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Google Allo finally offers web chat, but it’s only for Android users

Allo, Google’s beleaguered chat app that arrived on the iPhone and Android devices last year, finally has a web counterpart. Just a few minutes ago, Amit Fulay (head of product for Allo and video chat app Duo) tweeted that Allo for the web was available, but only for Android phones. To give it a go, you’ll need to open the Allo app on your device and use that to scan a QR code you can generate at this link.

Once you’ve scanned the code, Allo pulls up your chat history and mirrors all the conversations you have on your phone. Most of Allo’s key features, including smart replies, emoji, stickers and most importantly the Google Assistant are all intact here. In fact, this is the first time you can really get the full Google Assistant experience through the web; it’s been limited to phones and Google Home thus far.

There are a few things that didn’t work so well in my quick test. Pictures from earlier in a chat with one of my co-workers failed to translate to the web — instead, I was told I had to view them on my phone. Allo’s little “slider” feature that lets you increase or decrease the size of text in chats is also unavailable, and you can’t make your own emoji like you can on Android.

But the good news is that the most important features are all here and conversations sync quickly between multiple devices. That alone is enough to make Allo worth recommending, perhaps for the first time ever. I just couldn’t go back to a world where my chats weren’t synced across computer and phone, but that’s no longer a problem, at least for Android users. Google says that Allo for the web will be available for iPhone users before long.

Source: Amit Fulay (Twitter), Allo for web

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Facebook adds a link to Trending News in the app’s main menu

The redesigned Trending Topics section of Facebook is now called Trending News and the updates to this feature — which were announced in May — are now available to most US users on both iOS and Android devices. For iPhone users, Trending News also has its own direct link in the Facebook app’s main navigation menu — a feature that’s in testing for Android, according to TechCrunch.

In May, Facebook announced an overhaul of its Trending Topics feature, which it was beginning to roll out to iPhone users. With that update, clicking a topic would bring you to a carousel of publications that had written about that particular subject rather that just one news source. In a statement, Facebook said, “By making it easier to see what other news outlets are saying about each topic, we hope that people will feel more informed about the news in their region.” And the update was meant to get around the news “filter bubble” effect wherein feeds are sometimes limited in scope due to having Facebook friends that all have similar interests.

Along with the news source carousel, Trending News also features actual headlines rather than just a topic — which was hinted at in the May announcement, but not described in detail. With the headlines come a photo, the name of the outlet that published the headline and how many other sources have written on the subject. Each story is also ranked. For example, while writing this, the 17th headline in my Trending News section was this article of ours and the tab noted that 26 other sources had written on the topic.

The revamped Trending section is now available for most US Facebook users on mobile and the direct navigational tab should be coming to Android users sometime soon.

Source: TechCrunch

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ZTE’s latest big-screen phone packs dual cameras for $129

While the rest of the tech world gets ready for the return of Samsung’s Galaxy Note line, ZTE continues its quiet takeover of the budget phablet market. Every year since 2014, the company has released a low-cost handset with a large screen, generous battery and surprisingly modern features (think: fingerprint sensors and USB-C ports). This time is no different. The 6-inch Blade ZMax is now available for pre-order via MetroPCS, and will be in stores on August 28th, starting at $ 129.

What stands out about this year’s model is that it has dual cameras — an unusual feature at this price. A slew of $ 200 phones unveiled at CES all featured the same iPhone 7 Plus–like setup, but the Blade ZMax is the first to offer it for less than $ 150. With the pair of sensors on the back, you can take pictures with artificially blurred backgrounds to highlight your subject. The Blade ZMax’s 16-megapixel RGB sensor captures color information, while its 2-megapixel monochrome counterpart takes care of details. During my brief time with the new handset, this system worked, blurring out chairs and desks in the background while keeping the man in the foreground crisp.

The Blade ZMax’s images fall short of those taken with iPhone 7 Plus, though. Apple’s software delivers cleaner, sharper pictures with better-defined edges between the subject and the background. Upon closer inspection, I also noticed a halo effect around the subject in shots taken with the Blade ZMax. It could be because I was using a defective unit, although ZTE hasn’t responded to my question as to whether this was the case. Still, the artifact was minor enough to overlook, and I’m not going to nitpick about a device that costs less than a night out with friends.

There’s really not much else to say about the Blade ZMax. Its rear is covered with a grippier dotted texture than its predecessor’s matte cover, while its battery is now 4,080mAh, up from 3,400mAh on last year’s model. Impressively, the phone is ever so slightly (0.03 inch) slimmer than its predecessor, despite that larger cell inside. But I still prefer the older handset’s aesthetic, which featured a blue rear with rose gold accents. The new rubbery cover feels comfortable, but it looks dull.

ZTE also opted for Japanese company Asahi’s Dragontail glass on its display instead of Corning’s Gorilla Glass. We’d seen this material on the Neo Reloaded as well, but Dragontail hasn’t shown up in other phones yet. From my time with the Blade ZMax, the different glass had no noticeable impact on the screen’s quality; colors and text on the 6-inch full HD display looked about as rich and sharp as on competing devices I’ve tested.

Although it has a more rugged aesthetic than its predecessor, the Blade ZMax is a well-rounded device for the price. In fact, it’s the only 6-inch phone around with relatively modern features for less than $ 150. There are some compromises you’ll have to tolerate in exchange for the savings, but people looking for a new handset with a large screen will find the Blade ZMax a promising option.

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A silent, 10-minute song is climbing the iTunes charts

If you’ve ever plugged your phone into your car stereo, only to have the same song start playing every single time, I have some good news for you. Yesterday, a true internet hero named Samir Rezhami released a song on iTunes that’s just 10 minutes of silence — and he named it “A a a a a Very Good Song.” Since the iPhone starts playing music alphabetically when you plug it in to many car stereos, that usually means there’s one song that you hear whether you want to or not. Many songs starting with the letter A have probably been ruined thanks to this quirk — but if you download Rezhami’s creation, you’ll instead have plenty of time to queue up the songs you want to hear.


In less than a day, it’s become clear that Rezhami’s trick is resonating with a lot of people — his tweet announcing the track has over 12,000 likes. More amazingly, his “song” is climbing rapidly up the iTunes charts. Right now it sits at #67, ahead of tunes by artists like Kendrick Lamar, Kesha, Selena Gomez, The Chainsmokers and a number of other popular, well-established acts. (It’s worth noting that Rezhami’s silent song is hardly the first to gain notoriety, though I don’t think that John Cage’s composition ever made a run up the iTunes charts.)


The question now is whether or not Apple will remove the track from the iTunes Store. On the one hand, it’s clearly a joke, but on the other Apple benefits from every sale. Of course, Rezhami is also laughing his way to the bank, but you can’t blame a man for having a good idea. Many will surely point out that this hack could be done by manually making your own blank song and adding it to your phone, but the convenience of spending 99 cents on this to make the problem go away is a tradeoff that seems worth it.

If you’re an Apple Music user, we have even better news for you — you can just add the song to your library there as part of your subscription. But it might be more fun to pay the buck and see if the world can get a blank track of silence to the top of the iTunes charts.

Via: Twitter

Source: iTunes

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One of Apple’s display suppliers is in dire financial trouble

Japan Display’s reluctance to embrace OLED manufacturing has cost it dearly. The firm took a net loss of ¥31.5 billion ($ 287,185,500) from April to June. “We have decided to make a strategic change as we would have no future in the smartphone business without OLED,” CEO Nobuhiro Higasgiiriki (above) said. The iPhone screen supplier has shed 30 percent of its employees (3,700 people according to Phys.org) and is reorganizing for what it says is the last time.

“We find ourselves in a very regrettable situation,” Higasgiiriki said. “Our biggest task is to build a management system that generates profits by keeping in mind that this is our last chance to restructure.” Its current OLED prototype won’t go into full production until 2019 — a year later than previous estimates.

According to Reuters‘ sources, the display supergroup was hoping to raise 100 million yen ($ 911,400) to pay for the restructuring. The company started in 2012 as a joint venture between Hitachi, Sony and Toshiba, with a focus on making small to mid-sized LCD screens.

Japan’s Innovation Network Corp helped fund the venture back then, and could come to its rescue once again with a ¥75 billion ($ 683,147,250) investment, Reuters reports. That should cover the restructuring costs. But, if the rumors are true, Apple needs OLED screens now, not in two year’s time.

Source: Phys.org, Reuters

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Your modern car might be as vulnerable as the first iPhone

Over 10 years ago, the first iPhone burst on the scene and changed mobile computing forever. But it had a flaw: The baseband (the part that manages all the radios) on the installed Infineon chip could be exploited to run the phone on networks other than AT&T — which was, at the time, the exclusive provider. Fast-forward to 2017 and that same chip was recently found in various Nissan Leafs built between 2011 and 2015.

While such chips are typically used in multiple devices across different markets, the problem is that the Infineon chip with the same vulnerability was found in a modern car so many years later. But it’s not just one car with this issue; BMWs and Fords were found to have the same vulnerable silicon that would allow someone to remotely access and control memory. At Def Con recently, McAfee researchers Mickey Shkatov, Jesse Michael and Oleksandr Bazhaniuk warned that the chip could be used to send ransomware to the car. However, they decided that a good old-fashion Rick Roll would suffice for their presentation.

“We just randomly picked a car at the wrecking yard and happened to find this and our jaws kinda dropped,” said Michael.

The actual flaw was discovered in the telematics control units (TCU) of the vehicle supplied by Continental AG. It was a vendor-supplied component that housed the Infineon chip. That piece of hardware found its way into BMWs, Fords and Inifinitis (the luxury arm of Nissan), according to an ICS-CERT (Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team) advisory issued on July 27th this year.

Fortunately, Intel (which purchased Infineon back in 2011) and Nissan worked with the researchers to help identify and figure out a way to fix the issue for current owners. Also, Nissan, BMW and Ford have all delivered system updates to fix or disable the affected modems. But that doesn’t get at the larger issue of potentially vulnerable hardware permeating multiple, unrelated devices. While the iPhone was a huge target for hackers, other lesser-known devices with the same chipset just don’t register with people looking for vulnerabilities. At least not initially.

Car hacking has only recently become something automakers and their suppliers have to worry about. But even in a world where all devices are fair game to bad actors, even the most security-minded company will find it difficult to vet all the hardware that goes into a car that’s teaming with thousands of pieces of silicon.

It’s not only the automotive world that should be concerned. Hardware with known exploits could be in just about anything. Boats, security systems and infrastructure components could potentially have hardware that’s not up to snuff.

It’s not just vulnerable silicon that’s used over and over again. In 2014, researchers Lior Oppenheim and Shahar Tal found routers running old versions of software for embedded devices that let folks bypass the device’s security. The old version of the software had been used over and over again, even though the original vendor issued an update seven years earlier.

“The problem is that the notion of managing your supply chain when it comes to computer technology and software is not there,” Veracode founder and researcher Chris Wysopal told Engadget. Wysopal noted that when it comes to hardware and software, no one seems to be tracking down to the component level.

So who is responsible when something like this happens? In this case is it the automaker, the vendor or the chipmaker? To Wysopal, all parties involved are responsible, and if (for example) a chip is found with a vulnerability, it’s up to the company that built it to recall those pieces of silicon from resellers.

Plus, companies should be tracking updates to the components put into their products. It’s going to be costly, but it needs to happen or the next exploit might not be found by researchers, meaning one morning the owners of certain car models could wake up to a vehicle that’s locked them out unless they are willing to pay a ransom.

When that happens, no amount of PR spin or free fixes from the dealer is going to repair an automaker’s — or any company’s — image.

Wysopal said, “It’s a new world out there. We just need to build some new processes. We need standard industry processes for this solution so people can sort of rely on these things being able to get updated.”

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Apple joins Instagram just to show off iPhone photos

Back in 2015, Apple wanted to show off the camera chops of its then-flagship iPhone 6 and 6 Plus smartphones, so it decided to tell the world the old fashioned way. A new ad campaign plastered gorgeous photos of natural and human beauty up on posters and in television commercials, all with the subtle tagline at the bottom: Shot on iPhone 6. Now, three years later, Apple has made a permanent showcase for pics taken with its smartphones…on Instagram.


A look through the lens of iPhone users around the world. Tag #ShotoniPhone to take part. – Words and images by @koci, @itsreuben, @danilo, @_xst, @subwayhands, @marcelonava, @brockdavis, @lanadeathray, @thesdcowgirl, @inomad, @_yaisyusman_, @dawn_denfeld, @pauloctavious, @jeremysnell, @laurazazanis, @ryanpernofski, @abstractconformity, @mirafilm, @joez19, @daniil, @oli_op, @fotombo, @j9ryl, @tertiusalio, @maggiefortsonphoto, @trevorpaulhus, @rodrigomartinezfotos, @louiegraphy, @vmiura, @lfleischer, @vasjenkatro, @stevenxuex, @ianteraoka, @easonhsiung, @omidscheybani, @tamon_, @jaywilliamsphotography, @holephoto, @bigheadtaco, @mamacaxx

A post shared by apple (@apple) on

Not that Apple’s a stranger to the platform’s usefulness, since it’s had an account dedicated to its Music service for awhile now, with matching ones on Twitter and Facebook. As Adweek points out, the company saw the value of having a presence on all three social media platforms for its audio subscription service, but is infamously miserly with any other social promotion (though they have main profiles on Twitter and Facebook, both are blank).

But for whatever reason, Apple’s chosen now to showcase photos taken from its smartphones. So far, eight mini-collections of photos have been posted with attribution to the photographers.

Source: Apple (Instagram account)

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