Less than 24 hours ago, Wikileaks published a large cache of documents detailing top secret CIA operations conducted by its Center for Cyber Intelligence. Included in the 8,761 documents and files, referred to was Vault 7, are references to zero-day exploits that were reportedly being used to track and control iPhones but also Android phones and Samsung smart TVs.
While the authenticity of some of Wikileaks’ claims are still in question, Apple has confirmed that some of the threats towards its mobile operating system are very real. In a move to reassure customers, the company issued a statement noting that it has already taken steps to patch “many” of the 14 iOS vulnerabilities listed and is working to “rapidly address” the rest.
An Apple spokesperson told TechCrunch: “Apple is deeply committed to safeguarding our customers’ privacy and security. The technology built into today’s iPhone represents the best data security available to consumers, and we’re constantly working to keep it that way. Our products and software are designed to quickly get security updates into the hands of our customers, with nearly 80 percent of users running the latest version of our operating system. While our initial analysis indicates that many of the issues leaked today were already patched in the latest iOS, we will continue work to rapidly address any identified vulnerabilities. We always urge customers to download the latest iOS to make sure they have the most recent security updates.”
Apple hasn’t specified which exploits it has patched or when it expects the remainder to be fixed, but the statement does stress the importance of keeping your devices updated. Apple has reiterated time and again that it values the privacy of its customers, so it’s likely that upcoming software updates could be expedited to ensure iPhone and iPad users are protected.
For over 12 hours in late October, 911 lines across the country were ringing so much that they nearly went down. Nobody knew why this was happening, until Phoenix police discovered that 18-year-old Meetkumar Hitesbhai Desai tweeted a link that caused iPhones to repeatedly dial 911. Now, more details have emerged about how the Twitter prank spiraled out of control.
Desai has fewer than 1,200 Twitter followers, but the attack spread as other users reposted it, saying it was a link to new Drake music or other trolly things like that. The malware received its biggest exposure when it was posted by @duhitzmark, a social media celebrity with 463,000 Twitter followers. More than a few of his fans fell for the trap: Investigators say the link was clicked 117,502 times.
Since most emergency call centers are landline-based, they’re not as vulnerable to technological attacks as the VoIP systems that many large businesses use. However, even this type of attack could be dangerous if there’s malicious intent behind it. “If this was a nation-state actor that wanted to damage or disable 911 systems during an attack, they could have succeeded spectacularly,” Trey Forgety, director of government affairs at the National Emergency Number Association, told the Journal. “This was a serious wake-up call.”
Apple isn’t taking the issue lightly: It’s already implementing measures to make sure this type of attack can’t happen again on its platform. A forthcoming iOS update will cause a window with the options “cancel” and “call” to pop up on the iPhone screen when calls are made, Apple told the Journal. In order to initiate a call, users will have to tap the “call” button before the number is dialed. It’s also working with third-party developers to bring similar security standards to their apps.
Desai claimed he wanted to submit the iOS vulnerability to Apple as part of its bug bounty program, but Apple said he was not part of it. Regardless of his intent, Desai has been charged with four felony counts of computer tampering and faces up to 12 and a half years in prison.
If you enjoy capturing high dynamic range (HDR) images with your phone, Adobe just added a new feature to Lightroom mobile that might come in handy. Starting today on both Android and iOS versions of the app, you can capture those HDR scenes as RAW files. The software automatically scans your subject to determine the ideal exposure range before snapping three photos in Adobe’s DNG RAW format. Lightroom mobile will then employ algorithms to do all the aligning, merging, tone mapping and more to build the final 32-bit RAW image.
Adobe says the tech at work in Lightroom mobile is the same quality as what you’d encounter when using Adobe Camera Raw and Lightroom on the desktop. HDR photography has certainly come along way from the days of manually editing together a few photos taken at different exposures to produced the desired effect. The company isn’t the first to offer an HDR tool on a mobile device, but it does offer the convenience of being able to sync those RAW snapshots across devices if you’re a Creative Cloud subscriber.
Unfortunately, there are some device restrictions on the new RAW HDR capture tool. On iOS, you’ll need to have an iPhone 7/7 Plus, iPhone 6s/6S Plus, iPhone SE or iPad Pro 9.7. Those are the Apple mobile devices capable of capturing DNG photos. For Android users, the update only supports Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge, Google Pixel and Pixel XL. Adobe says the reason for this is that it needed to ensure stability and high quality output from those algorithms. Galaxy S7/S7 Edge and Pixel handsets have the processing power under the hood to make that happen. The company is working on adding more devices to the fold “as soon as possible.”
In terms of other updates to Lightroom mobile, iOS users can now export original files imported through Lightroom mobile and Lightroom on the web. Yes, that includes those DNG RAW images. You can also now use swipe gestures to rate and review photos and there’s a new Notification Center widget that offers quick access to in-app camera. On Android, Lightroom mobile’s linear and radial selection tools that debuted on the iOS version last year are now available.
Japanese-based messaging app Line is wildly popular in other parts of the world and the company has even expanded from a simple chat app to a full-service mobile carrier. According to a new report from the Financial Times, Line is branching out again and developing its own digital assistant called Clova to compete with the likes of Alexa and Google Assistant, complete with its own line of smart speakers.
Clova isn’t scheduled for release until sometime in “early summer” of this year, but Line views the platform, which is being developed with help from Sony and LG, as the next logical step for its messaging service. The platform will include the sort of features you might expect from a digital assistance in 2017 — like easy access to news, weather, calendars and online purchases — but Line is also promising Clova will be able to handle “complicated questions” and include a facial recognition aspect similar to Apple’s rumored iPhone features.
Outside of phones, Clova is designed to work in third-party apps and hardware, but the first devices to support it will be a standalone Clova app, a smart speaker called Wave and a “smart display” called Face. Although Wave looks like a direct knockoff of Google Home, Line didn’t offer any information about what sets Face apart except from its small, cartoonish face display. According to the Financial Times, Clova could eventually find its way into headsets and other third-party hardware.
Given Line’s target markets in Asia, the company hopes to beat Google, Apple and Amazon on its home turf. The Clova app and Wave speaker will see a release in Japan and South Korea this summer, followed by a roll out to Line’s other major markets in Thailand and Indonesia next.
Dual cameras are now the standard option when it comes to flagship phones and LG has already put the setup to work in previous models. With the G6, the company opted for two 13-megapixel Sony cameras instead of one larger and one smaller like it did with the modular G5. The combination of the dual lenses, Qualcomm’s Snapdragon zoom technology and LG’s existing camera features help the G6 make a compelling case, especially in terms of imagery.
Sure, the main attraction on the G6 may be its unique 18:9 display, but the dual cameras and the ability to transition smoothly between regular and wide-angle shots is also a big selling point. As a refresher, the phone’s rear-facing cameras can capture 71-degree field of view photos while employing optical stabilization and f/1.8 aperture. Those wide-angle images bump to 125-degree field of view — an increase that works best when capturing things like landmarks and landscapes. The front-facing camera also features a similar wide-angle option capable of 100-degree field of view shots. For all three sensors, LG chose a 1.12um pixel size, the same used on both the G4 and G5.
While we’ve seen them before, LG brought back handy photography tools inside the stock camera app. These include a Food Mode with it’s own white balance slider so you can ensure that your colors are accurate. There are also skin tone, lighting and filters for the front-facing 5-megapixel f/2.2 camera to help you fine-tune those selfies. Meanwhile, a new app just for Square photos lends a hand to Instagramers for previews, compositions and collages. It’s useful, but we’re not convinced it will become a staple just yet.
In good lighting and outdoors during the day, the G6 performs on par with some of the best phone cameras we’ve seen. Overall, colors really pop and the images are crisp and clean. Performance does suffer in low-light situations, though, as the photos are noticeably grainy outside at night or in other environments where lighting isn’t stellar. Even though we were already familiar with the selfie features, those software tools help the front-facing camera capture images of your face that also crisp and feature vibrant colors.
One place LG where has improved camera performance from its previous phones is the transition between regular and wide-angle shots. There used to be a bit of a stutter when you switched back and forth, but that change is much smoother now. While the G6 doesn’t pack a Snapdragon 835, LG did work with Qualcomm to bring the chip’s camera zoom transition feature to the new flagship. It certainly makes a difference, and the switch between views doesn’t have a noticeable stutter like it does on the iPhone 7 Plus and other devices.
To take advantage of that extra screen real estate, LG has added a handy photo gallery along the side of the camera UI. It offers easy access to your last few shots and if you used a setting like Food Mode, the photo will be labeled with a tiny icon to remind you. Unfortunately, the G6 we tested wasn’t running final software, so tapping on that in-camera gallery sometimes caused the app to crash. That’s the only big issue we experienced and it’s one the company will likely remedy before final devices launch.
The LG G6’s dual cameras make a great first impression. Of course, we’ll need to spend more than a few hours with the handset before we can make a final call, but we’re planning to do just that during our full review. You can bet we’ll put the dual cameras through their paces in a full day’s worth of capturing photos in the near future.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.
MWC — the world’s biggest phone show — is happening all around me. Nearly every new phone that’s been announced here in Barcelona is Android-powered, while the ever-influential iPhone keeps other halls filled with cases, add-ons and every color of Lightning cable imaginable. But where is Windows Phone? We know it still exists, somewhere between dead and living. If you browse through Microsoft’s Windows Phone store online, you’ll see HP’s Elite X3 take pride of place (with a tiny Lumia footnote) … but that’s about it. A Microsoft spokesperson told me that the company “remain[s] committed to our universal Windows platform. We will continue to support and invest in these types of mobile experiences for Windows 10.” But c’mon, this is MWC. There must be something here, right? Here’s what I could find.
Nokia has nothing to do with Windows Phone now
Yes, the return of the 3310 as nostalgia-bait scored some early headlines at MWC, but the company’s return as a global smartphone maker made one thing clear: It’s all-Android now. When I talked to Nokia and HMD execs about its new smartphones, they were careful to be diplomatic, saying that Android “is a brilliant mobile platform for us” and that it would be focusing on Google’s mobile OS at this time. Also, alternative options are scarce when it comes to phone operating systems. Just ask BlackBerry.
Niche phone makers are distancing themselves from Windows Phone
One of the last Windows Phones to appear, NuAns’ Neo came from Japan, a country with a strong tradition of businesses buying into enterprise hardware. The device was also one of the prettiest Windows Phones ever to surface, with interchangeable backs of various materials, textures and colors. Sure, it was a little chunky, but it also handled Continuum, one of Microsoft’s mobile trump cards. The phone is apparently still on sale, but its Kickstarter campaign failed to reach its funding target for an international launch last year.
That brings us to MWC 2017 and the company’s new phone: the NuAns Neo Reloaded. It sounds like a Matrix sequel, and it looks just as charming. The team behind the Neo has upgraded almost everything: There’s a faster Snapdragon processor, a 1080p 5.2-inch display, and dustproofing and water resistance as well as a faster, Sony-made camera sensor. The biggest “upgrade,” however, is Android 7.1. It also keeps the quaint recess under the two-tone covers for your contactless payment (or metro) card of choice.
It’s not for you
Late Monday afternoon, I got a lead. HP’s Elite x3 was the last big Windows Phone launch, built for power users and those tempted by Continuum. It launched at last year’s MWC, and this year it’s back. Well, kind of. HP has added a companion bump for its Windows Phone: a chunky high-end bar code scanner for … scanning bar codes. It’s an enterprise accessory aimed at health care workers and retail. HP teamed up with Honeywell to make a bar code scanner that, while useful, is unlikely to interest mainstream shoppers.
Windows 10 is an increasingly mobile OS
Here’s the rub: MWC had plenty of tablets running full-fat Windows 10. There were convertible, detachable Windows devices, and many of them had LTE radios built in (including the 12-inch Samsung Galaxy Book and Lenovo Miix). This is Windows 10’s current mobile form — even if the resulting devices don’t generally fit in your pocket.
The irony, of course, is that this new wave of devices reduces the need for the Microsoft faithful to invest in a dedicated Windows Phone. You’ll have less desire for Continuum and a completely portable desktop experience when your ultraportable notebook is thin and light enough to carry around everywhere anyway. Windows Phone as we know it is gone. What comes after this? Only Microsoft knows, but for its sake, it will have to stick the landing.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.
The dual-camera craze is real at Mobile World Congress, but Oppo decided to break from the pack with its own, very clever implementation. Long story short: the company managed to build a 5x “lossless” zoom system for smartphones using two sensors and a zoom mechanism inspired by periscopes. The latter part is nothing new, of course: ’tis a feature which was once common on compact digital cameras, and ASUS even applied this to its ZenFone Zoom last year. Oppo’s implementation, however, takes things up a notch.
See, Oppo’s telephoto lens is actually mounted horizontally inside the camera module and moves sideways through the top of a phone’s body. When you’re taking a photo, light enters the module and gets reflected by a prism into that waiting lens. Oppo’s optical image stabilization is similarly impressive, the prism and the telephoto lens move around to compensate for shaky hands on the fly.
Just keep this in mind: much like the ZenFone Zoom’s camera, the telephoto lens itself is capable of 3x optical zoom, and Oppo blends the images from the telephoto lens and a wide-angle lens next to it between 1x and 5x zoom. After 5x, it’s just the telephoto lens and digital zoom kicks in at some point between 5x and 10x. One wouldn’t normally associate digital zoom with “lossless” quality, but Oppo swears up and down that the system works like a charm. We’ll be the judges of that, thanks very much.
(Update: I just tried a demo version of the 5x camera in a tester phone, and it was pretty damned great. Oppo had a blind taste test going on, and while the disguised iPhone 7 Pluses had the edge in colors, the 5x camera produced much clearer results throughout the test.)
Anyway, Oppo’s design — which it licensed from another company and worked on independently for more than a year — makes for a camera module that’s only 5.7mm thick. It takes up a decent chunk of space in modern, super-slim smartphones, but we’re told many other 2x optical zoom lens setups are slightly thicker anyway. If Oppo’s photographic results are as good as the company claims, smartphone junkies in the company’s native China will probably go nuts. (Don’t forget: Oppo currently holds the number one spot in Chinese mobile market share and fourth worldwide.)
Chances to such a camera making it to parts of the world Oppo doesn’t service — like, say, the United States — aren’t nil. After all, the company licensed the original design from someone else, so it’s possible a more globally minded smartphone maker could take the same route. Then again, Oppo has filed about 50 patents to keep this particular approach locked down, so who knows. Hopefully we’ll get lucky someday.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.
LG’s handful of recent teasers for its new G6 flagship left us wondering if there’d be any surprises left for us at its launch event today. Back in early January, the company was rather frank about moving away from the G5’s modular design due to a lack of interest, followed by a promise of increased safety measures after the Samsung Note 7 mishap. While it may seem as if LG has taken a more conservative approach this time, it used three teasers to emphasize the G6’s unique 18:9 (or 2:1, if you prefer) “FullVision” display.
Upon seeing the G6 for the first time, I was impressed by how much cleaner and more premium it looked than its predecessor. What used to be a metallic back is now a shiny slab of Gorilla Glass 5, which gently curves down to meet a smooth aluminum frame on all sides. You’ll spot LG’s signature setup of a dual-camera module plus fingerprint reader, but unlike on the G5, these are now flush with the back plate. LG mainly achieved this by using slimmer camera sensors, but more on that later. The launch colors are “Ice Platinum” (like Samsung’s “Coral Blue” but with brushed metal finish under glass, silver frame), “Astro Black” (black glass, space grey frame) and “Mystic White” (white glass, champagne gold frame), with more options to follow in the future.
On the front, the 5.7-inch IPS screen packs a resolution of 2,880 x 1,440, along with a pixel density of 564 ppi plus support for Dolby Vision and HDR10 content. That panel is covered by a flat sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 which sits flush with the metallic frame — a design choice made to protect the display from scratches and drops. Despite the taller screen, its reduced bezel along the top and bottom sides has enabled a smaller body footprint than, say, the G5, S7 Edge and OnePlus 3T, thus letting the G6 fit a tad more comfortably in one’s hand.
Another notable feature here is that the display panel has rounded corners, a decision made for both aesthetic reasons and to offer better protection against corner drops — LG’s data claims a rounded corner allows for stress dispersion upon impact, as opposed to a sharp corner taking the full blow.
In terms of core specs, the G6 is largely on par with other recent flagships. It runs Android 7.0 (pre-loaded with Google Assistant) and packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 chipset (MSM8996AC), 4GB of LPDDR4 RAM, 32GB of UFS 2.0 storage, microSD expansion, dual microphones, USB 3.1, NFC and LTE downlink of up to 600 Mbps. The surprise here is that the G6 has a dustproof and waterproof rating of IP68, meaning it’s completely protected against dust ingression, and has been tested for continuous immersion under at least one meter of water. (Amazingly, LG said it tested its phone in salt water as well.) As such, the Nano SIM + microSD tray is the only removable part, and it uses a rubber gasket to seal properly.
For some, the trade-off here is that the battery is no longer removable, but you do get a much larger 3,300 mAh lithium polymer cell. With the bundled Quick Charge 3.0 power adapter and USB-C cable, I managed to go from a depleted battery to 34 percent charge in just half an hour, and then to full charge 72 minutes after that. But it isn’t just about a larger battery this time. Following the Note 7 fiasco, LG began testing batteries at higher voltages and with more recharging cycles as well. And, just to be safe, it also increased the thickness of the separators inside the G6’s battery, so that it’s better protected against short circuiting due to external forces.
On a recent trip to LG’s factory in Korea, the lab technicians proved their batteries’ durability by showing me a couple of crazy torture tests. The first one threw a thick steel rod right onto a fully-charged G6 battery right in front of me but nothing happened, whereas a non-LG battery blew up in the same test, but that was only shown in a video for safety reasons. The second test was rather painful to watch: An apparatus slowly pushed a large needle into another fully-charged G6 battery, but again, no boom. And yes, I also watched a video of a non-LG battery quickly exploding in the same test.
LG has a flame test as well, which the battery can supposedly withstand, but I didn’t have the opportunity to observe it in action. Just to be doubly safe, LG added a heat pipe to help lower the chipset’s heat, and it seemed to do its job well during my 20-minute N.O.V.A. 3 gameplay.
Now, this is where things get a little confusing: Some of G6’s special features will only be available in select markets. For instance, built-in wireless charging is only available on the US models, whereas the 32-bit Quad DAC previously seen on the V20 is only available in the Asian variants — bad news for audiophiles elsewhere in the world. Similarly, only some Asian markets will offer a 64GB model as well as a dual-SIM variant. Simply put, you won’t find a “perfect” model anywhere, which is a real shame.
On the software side, LG’s new “UX 6.0” takes full advantage of the G6’s 18:9 screen aspect ratio. Many of its native apps — namely Gallery, Contacts, Calendar, E-mail and Music — are designed with a dual-square grid in mind, making them more practical and aesthetically pleasing, to boot. The same applies to Android 7.0’s multi-window view, in which you can set a square window for both apps if you want. The feature-packed Camera app goes even further by offering a scrollable thumbnail bar, so that you don’t have to go into the gallery to browse recent photos.
Most of the major third-party apps I tried rendered just fine on the G6’s taller screen; the issues I came across were relatively minor and should be easy to fix. For example, the top bar in the Facebook app would double in height after a while for some reason. Then in Netflix and VLC, the full-screen videos were forced to one side as the hidden Android navigation bar left a blank space behind. YouTube and the native video player don’t have this problem, but only the latter offers a “zoom” mode to enable a true full-screen playback.
In case you’re wondering, yes, the G6 is intentionally skipping the Snapdragon 835, and for good reason. LG’s product planning team pointed out that due to the chip’s new 10nm process plus additional circuitry, it would take some time before production quality reaches a satisfactory level, and that’s on top of the time needed for LG to test the chip for the sake of reliability. Even though LG never said as much on record, it’s clear that it wants to beat Samsung’s Galaxy S8 to market by a wide margin, so it makes sense to stick with a chip that’s a known entity.
But not all is lost, as LG worked with Qualcomm to port the Snapdragon 835’s camera zoom transition feature to the G6 for both stills and video. This enables a smoother switch between the two cameras while zooming, and indeed, the switch delay is less noticeable than what I’ve seen on the iPhone 7 Plus.
Speaking of, the G6’s dual-camera module is powered by Sony’s 13-megapixel IMX258, with the f/1.8 main camera featuring optical stabilization plus a 71-degree field of view, and the f/2.4 wide camera looking at 125 degrees. On the other side, the 5-megapixel selfie camera has an f/2.2 aperture and 100-degree field of view. As with the G5 and the G4, LG is still sticking with the 1.12um pixel size for all three sensors, but the lower resolutions are inevitable given LG’s insistence on removing the camera bump. What’s more concerning is the lack of laser autofocus and color spectrum sensor this time, but LG believes its software optimization makes up for it. We shall see.
Based on my brief experience with the G6 so far, it’s safe to say that LG has taken a sensible approach. Here we have a solid device that’s tougher, more practical and better-looking than its predecessor, and its FullVision display is a much-welcome feature in a market where phones tend to struggle to stand out. It can perhaps be a little frustrating knowing that no matter where you get your G6 from, you’re still missing out on certain features, so it’ll be interesting to see how the consumers respond when the regional prices come out. There’s no word on availability yet, so until then, we’ll continue to fiddle with our G6 and let you know how we get on with it.
Click here to catch up on the latest news from MWC 2017.
If your phone was stolen or got lost somewhere, keep an eye out for any suspicious texts or emails: thieves and muggers could have a high-tech trick up their sleeves. A Brazilian woman who got robbed began receiving phishing attempts not long after the event. Her husband told Krebs on Security that he located the device using Find my iPhone and sent it text messages asking if he could buy it back. After that, he began receiving texts telling him that his iPhone had been found — all he needed to do was click on a link to retrieve it.
Further, the link leads to exact replicas of Apple’s and Find my iPhone’s log-in pages. The couple even got a call from a Siri-like robotic voice asking them to look for the text message for more info about their “recovered” phone. Clearly, it’s a well-thought-out scheme by tech-savvy muggers: rob people and then phish them to get their passwords.
The victim’s husband wanted to get the word out, since the scheme can definitely dupe anyone who’s not that familiar with phishing attempts. It’s also a good reminder to switch on Find My iPhone, so you can lock or erase it remotely if anything like this happens.
Some iPhone 6 and 6s devices have been randomly shutting down over the past several months. iOS 10.2.1 was designed to fix the issue, and Apple says it has successfully solved the problem for most people who’ve already installed it. Cupertino told TechCrunch that 10.2.1, which has already been downloaded by roughly half of all iOS users, has led to an 80 percent reduction of unexpected shutdowns in iPhone 6s and 70 percent reduction in iPhone 6. TC says the affected phones unexpectedly shut down due to sudden spikes of activity in older iOS versions that cause older batteries to malfunction.
A spokesperson told the publication:
“With iOS 10.2.1, Apple made improvements to reduce occurrences of unexpected shutdowns that a small number of users were experiencing with their iPhone. iOS 10.2.1 already has over 50% of active iOS devices upgraded and the diagnostic data we’ve received from upgraders shows that for this small percentage of users experiencing the issue, we’re seeing a more than 80% reduction in iPhone 6s and over 70% reduction on iPhone 6 of devices unexpectedly shutting down.”
Apple also told TechCrunch that it has given the older iPhones the ability to restart without needing to be plugged in. Before the fix came out, people had no choice but to plug in their phones whenever an unexpected shutdown happens. In addition, the tech titan will roll out another feature in the next few days. If the latest version of iOS deems your battery to be too old and worn down, you’ll see a notice in settings telling you that “your battery needs service.”
Apple didn’t give an advice on what to do if version 10.2.1 doesn’t fix the problem for you. But if you’ve been experiencing the same issue, try installing the platform update first before getting your battery replaced.