Dropbox for iOS lets you sign PDFs, adds iMessage app

Dropbox isn’t a company that makes flashy, high-profile changes to its products. Instead, they’re all about refinement, making small changes over time that end up making things faster and easier for customers. That’s happening today with the Dropbox iOS app: the company is rolling out five new features, with another important one, iPad split-screen multitasking, coming soon. None of the new features are groundbreaking on their own, but they take advantage of some new iOS 10 features and add up to a Dropbox experience that makes it easier for the company’s customers to Get Things Done.

First up is the ability to add your signature to PDFs stored in Dropbox — you can drop a text field anywhere in a document that you want to type in, and you can also open up a window to trace your signature on your device’s touchscreen. Much like the document scanning feature Dropbox added in June, this isn’t something you’ll use every day, but it could be a lifesaver when you need it. It’s certainly a lot easier than printing out, signing, scanning and then emailing a document like a lease or school permission slip. I’ve done that dance far too often lately and would be happy to try Dropbox’s workflow.

The next set of new features relies on iOS 10’s new capabilities. You can now share files through iMessage — the app shows up in the iMessage app area, and tapping it brings up a list of your most recent files. When you send them through iMessage, the recipient will get a little preview of the document. That’s an improvement on how things worked before; you could send files through iMessage by using the share panel inside the Dropbox app, but the recipient would only get an unwieldy link, with no info on what the file they were going to receive was.

Dropbox’s “today” screen widget is also more useful now. Instead of just showing a list of your recently edited files, there are three shortcuts that let you scan a document, upload a photo or create a new Microsoft Office file. The scanner shortcut seems particularly useful; a swipe and a tap will let you capture that receipt you need for expenses before you forget about it and lose it forever.

There’s also a new version control feature for mobile: if you’re in a shared file, you’ll receive a little notification if someone else has made changes to the document. You can then just tap to refresh and see what’s changed. Given that staying in sync across shared documents remains one of the trickiest things to do, this is a most welcome change — although we don’t imagine that most people do so much work on their phones that they’ll need to be alerted of changes in real time. It’s still helpful for those doing a lot of work on their mobile devices, though.

The last few updates are for the iPad. If you’re watching a video stored in your Dropbox, you can now view it in the picture-in-picture mode Apple added to iOS 9 last year. The other, more useful update is “coming soon” — that’s full split-screen support. That’s one of the most important things a good iPad app can offer at this point, and it’s a little surprising that it took Dropbox a year to get there. But if you have documents stored in Dropbox that you want to keep an eye on while writing or browsing the web or doing anything else, this feature will finally make that possible.

Matt Pan from Dropbox told me that these features were the latest efforts to both bring the full desktop functionality of the program to mobile as well as continue the company’s mission to offer its tools to users inside software they’re already using. That latter case is what Dropbox is doing with iMessage and what it has already done with Microsoft Office. Not everyone will automatically find a use for each new tool — but if you use Dropbox, probably at least one of these new features will be handy, and it’s entirely possible you’ll find a few others come in handy down the line. The update rolls out for iPhone and iPad today, and split-screen view on the iPad will arrive “in the coming weeks.”

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Our fingerprints, eyes and faces will replace passwords

Passwords are a pain in the ass. They’re either easy to crack or hard to remember, and when breaches occur you have to come up with a whole new one. So people are trying to do away with passwords altogether, and so far, fingerprint scanners are doing the job nicely.

Still, fingerprints alone are not enough. Online security has become increasingly important, forcing service providers to come up with better measures such as two-factor authentication to defend user information. Companies are turning to other parts of our bodies to find biometric complements that are up to the task, and our faces and eyes are at the top of the list. Although facial and eye-based recognition appear gimmicky for now (the Galaxy Note 7’s iris scanner, anyone?), they may soon become as prevalent and popular as fingerprint scanners. That pairing could eradicate passwords and clunky text-message two-factor verification altogether, making it a completely biometric process.

Before you brush the notion aside, think about the history of fingerprint scanners on smartphones. After Apple first put Touch ID on the iPhone 5s in 2013, people pointed out that it didn’t work very well and that it wasn’t secure. But Apple soldiered on, improving the hardware and implementing more useful features. Since then, many other tech giants have followed suit. Today, they’re basically a given feature on flagship Samsung, Nexus (or Pixel), LG and HTC phones, and are even spreading to more affordable handsets such as the $ 99 ZMax Pro, the $ 200 Huawei Honor 5X, the $ 400 OnePlus 3 and the $ 400 ZTE Axon 7. We can expect to see them everywhere soon, said Sayeed Choudhury, Qualcomm’s senior director of product management.

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Despite the proliferation of fingerprint sensors, companies continue to chase convenience and novelty by introducing new biometric methods of logging in. We started seeing facial recognition as a method of identification when Google first revealed Face Unlock on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich. Years later, eye-print authentication started popping up on phones such as the ZTE Grand S3 and the Alcatel Idol 3. The latter two used a retinal scan to match the user by looking at the full eye and veins.

The good thing about this method, said Choudhury, was that it didn’t require additional hardware — you could just use the selfie camera. The challenge in retinal scanning is in its computation and algorithms, which Choudhury said is “very heavyweight” and “almost always uses the GPU in addition to the CPU.” This means it takes longer to detect and recognize your prints. Indeed, in my experience reviewing the Eyeverify system on ZTE and Eye-D on the Alcatel Idol 3, snapping a pic of my eyes to unlock the phones was always excruciatingly slow.

In contrast, iris scanning, which was one of the highlights of the Galaxy Note 7 when it launched (and before all that exploding hoopla), uses more compact algorithms, said Choudhury. That means faster detection and a shorter wait time. Plus, iris scanning has been around for a long time. People have been using it to get into secure labs, buildings and even through airport security (Global Entry), so the technology is pretty mature. It’s also more secure than fingerprints. According to Choudhury, “Iris-recognition technologies found in devices today identify three to five times more ‘feature markers’ to classify a specific iris versus what today’s fingerprint technologies can do.” The bad news with iris scanning, though, is it requires an infrared (IR) camera, which isn’t on many phones. But Samsung isn’t alone in looking to implement it — other brands will likely follow suit.

One of the biggest forces pushing the move toward eye-based authentication is the payments industry, said Choudhury. “What we’re seeing, driven by the mobile payments industry, is that both iris and retina biometrics are going to be incorporated in many more devices,” he said. Mobile payments are a “killer-use case,” according to him, and it certainly has a history of forcing even the most stubborn companies to adopt new technologies. The most obvious example of this would be Apple finally incorporating NFC into the iPhone 6 to enable its payment system, after years of resisting the tech that’s proliferated in Android phones.

Payments giant Mastercard is one of the proponents of the biometric security bandwagon, which encompasses fingerprints, eyes and faces. “We want to remove passwords,” said Ajay Bhalla, president of global enterprise risk and security at Mastercard. “Passwords are a big problem for people — they keep forgetting it or they use passwords which are very simple and dumb,” said Bhalla.

The company has been researching biometric-authentication methods using facial recognition, eye-based tech, fingerprints, heartbeats and voice, because these are unique to the user and don’t require memorizing or guesswork. It found fingerprints and face detection to be the most easily scalable. “We feel it’s reached a stage where it can become mainstream — it’s on devices, and consumers understand it,” said Bhalla.

Mastercard recently launched its “selfie pay” authentication method in Europe via its Identity Check Mobile app. The feature lets you authorize transactions by taking a portrait of yourself and blinking to prove it’s you and not a picture some wannabe hacker printed.

While it may sound cheesy to hold up your phone and pose for a picture each time you want to buy something, the company claims it is well-received. According to research from its 2015 trials, 90 percent of respondents found the Identity Check app more convenient than what they had been using. Seventy-one percent rated facial recognition as “highly convenient,” while 93 percent rated fingerprint recognition the same.

The popularity, prevalence and convenience of fingerprint scanning means it is here to stay, and by no means are face- and eye-recognition meant to replace it. Both Choudhury and Bhalla see the newer method as a complement to fingerprints, providing a more convenient second-factor authentication as opposed to entering a text code sent to your phone. While the tech we have right now may not be fast or secure enough to be truly convenient and helpful, we’re getting close. Using the adoption of fingerprint scanners as a model, Choudhury estimated that we are five years away from iris scanners and face detection becoming just as widespread. Until then, we’ll have to deal with changing our crappy passwords every so often and hope we don’t forget them.

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Olloclip’s new lenses attach quickly to your iPhone 7

Now that there are new iPhones with revised cameras, many smartphone photographers are going to want new Olloclip lenses. Thankfully, they’ve arrived… and Olloclip didn’t just tweak the connectors and call it a day. Its new Core, Active and Macro Pro lens sets not only have improved optics (“premium multi-element coated glass,” Olloclip says), but an improved interchangeable lens system. Called Connect, it separates the frame on your phone from the lens housings. This lets them quickly attach to and align with your iPhone’s camera, even if you have a screen protector. You should spend less time swapping lenses and more time shooting, in other words.

The lenses themselves aren’t a revolution, but they’ll cover most of your photographic needs. The $ 100 Core Lens kit includes fisheye, 120-degree wide-angle and 15X macro lenses that prioritize flexibility above all else. You can get it with a protective case for $ 120. The $ 80 Macro Pro set includes 7X, 15X and 21X lenses for extreme close-ups, while the $ 120 Active Lens bundle includes both a 2X telephoto lens and a 155-degree ultra-wide lens to capture those outdoor adventures.

You can pre-order all of the lens kits today ahead of the planned early November launch. You may want to choose your lenses carefully if you have an iPhone 7 Plus, however. There’s no mention of taking advantage of the Plus’ longer-range secondary camera — you’re not going to combine that extra zoom with Olloclip’s other optical tricks.

Via: Mashable

Source: Olloclip (PR Newswire)

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Bloomberg: AT&T considering a halt on Galaxy Note 7 sales

Reports that a Galaxy Note 7 issued as a replacement caught fire on an airplane may be too much for at least one carrier. Bloomberg cites a single unnamed source claiming that AT&T is “considering” stopping sales of the troubled phone based on that incident. Although AT&T (along with Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon) have already issued statements indicating that customers can return or exchange their replacement phones, this would go a step further. The rumored deadline for the decision is Friday, which would put pressure on Samsung to figure out what’s going here.

While phones that weren’t recalled have caught fire on flights before, like this iPhone that grounded an Alaska Airlines flight in March, the spate of problems with the Galaxy Note 7 and subsequent recall have everyone, understandably, on high alert.

Tonight, Samsung issued a statement indicating it’s continuing to look into this latest incident, we’ll see what happens next.

Samsung understands the concern our carriers and consumers must be feeling after recent reports have raised questions about our newly released replacement Note7 devices.

We continue to move quickly to investigate the reported case to determine the cause and will share findings as soon as possible.

We remain in close contact with the CPSC throughout this process.

If we conclude a safety issue exists, we will work with the CPSC to take immediate steps to address the situation.

We want to reassure our customers that we take every report seriously and we appreciate their patience as we work diligently through this process.”

Source: Bloomberg

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The FBI wants to crack another iPhone after Minnesota stabbings

The FBI and Apple might be headed for another fight over the case of a locked phone. Last night, FBI special agent Rich Thorton confirmed that the agency is trying to crack an iPhone belonging to Dahir Adan, a 20-year-old Somali immigrant who stabbed 10 people in a Minnesota mall last month. Per Wired, Thorton said the bureau was already sifting through some “780 gigabytes of data from multiple computers and other electronic devices,” but unlocking Adan’s phone could shed valuable light on why he did what he did and help figure out who (if anyone) helped him on his path.

But cracking the phone isn’t a matter of course — the FBI’s currently weighing its “legal and technical” options to get inside the unspecified device. A lot of the FBI’s work here depends on what kind of iPhone they recovered, too — the introduction of iOS 8 two years ago meant not even Apple could decrypt the contents of a locked device running that software.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” the company wrote in 2014, referring to photos, messages, contacts and more. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

Still, that didn’t stop the FBI cracking from iPhone 5c owned by Rizwan Farook, one of the San Bernardino shooters who killed 14 people in late 2015. The road to that crack was a winding one — the FBI originally pushed Apple for support to unlock the iOS 9-powered device, and got court orders compelling the company to assist. Apple resisted, but the FBI ultimately found a way to crack Farook’s iPhone without Apple’s assistance, a move that apparently cost the bureau a tidy sum. At the time, FBI director James Comey said he hadn’t decided if the bureau would reveal that crucial backdoor to Apple out of concerns it would be closed.

While the FBI might still have that particular ace up its sleeve, the process of sifting through Adan’s data might be way more difficult. Farook’s iPhone 5c lacked the secure enclave that was baked into newer models with the A7 chipset and beyond. It’s unclear at this point how much progress the FBI has made — only time will tell if it’ll try to force Apple to help somehow, or how Apple will response if the government comes knocking.

Source: Wired

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Prisma’s art filters can turn your videos into moving paintings

A Prisma for videos doesn’t sound so enticing now that Prisma itself has begun supporting the format. The popular app can now apply filters to videos and spit out 15-second snippets that look much more artistic than their source. Even better, it can process files even if you’re offline, which the team made possible by optimizing the algorithm. The bad news? Only the iOS version of the app supports videos for now, but the team is working on bringing the feature (along with offline processing) to Android.

If you’ve ever used the app, you know that it can take some time to pass images through its filters, so you may be wondering how much longer videos take. It all depends on your device: it will take iPhone 7 up to 30 seconds, iPhone 6s a full minute and iPhone 6 two minutes to reveal your 15-second masterpiece.

At the moment, videos only work with nine filters, but the developers plan to add more until all their filters can be applied to both photos and videos. While the app sounds more useful now, this still isn’t Prisma’s final form: the company promises to add support for GIFs “very soon,” so you can give those reaction GIFs the artistic touch they deserve.

Source: iTunes

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Learn a new language with Duolingo’s chatbots

Duolingo has been offering language learning tools for a while now, but today the company debuted a new tool inside its iPhone app that could make the task a bit easier. Thanks to AI-powered chatbots, the language-learning app offers a way to have conversations while you’re trying to learn French, German and Spanish. That’s a short list of languages for now, but Duolingo says more options are on the way.

Right now, you can only interact with the chatbots via text, but the company does have plans to add spoken conversations in the future. Duolingo gave these bots a bit of personality to make them more like real people and created them to be flexible with the answers they’ll accept when there’s multiple ways for you to respond. For the times when you can’t think of the words you need to say, the app has a “Help My Reply” button that offers a few suggestions.

The new feature gives users of the free iOS app a way to learn through conversations without the anxiety of making mistakes when speaking with a real person. The chatbots are available now via the latest update, but just be sure your iPhone has an internet connection before you try to use them.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Duolingo (iTunes)

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Kohl’s is the latest retailer to roll out its own mobile payments

If you like to shop at Kohl’s and need an alternative to Apple Pay, Android Pay or Samsung Pay, you’re in luck. The retailer announced today that its own mobile payments platform, Kohl’s Pay, is now available to all customers nationwide. The company revealed last month that its take on payments would complement its existing mobile wallet app that gave customers a way to store payment info, organize rewards and collect promotions in the same spot.

Unlike retail mobile payment platforms from Walmart and CVS, Kohl’s Pay doesn’t allow customers to add their credit and debit cards to the app for use in stores. Instead, you’ll have to sign up for one of the company’s own Kohl’s Charge cards. While that might seem like an odd choice, TechCrunch reports that the retailer has 25 million customers actively using its credit cards with 60 percent of in-store purchases being paid for with Kohl’s Charge. That’s a substantial number of people you could bring to the mobile platform even if they can’t add any payment method they want.

The payments system is available inside the store’s existing mobile apps for Android and iOS. The Kohl’s app also doesn’t support NFC or tap-to-pay like Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay. Instead, it displays a QR code that’s scanned by the cashier at checkout. That code is used to not only handle payment, but to apply any savings a customer has stored in the app, too. When you combine the ability to pay to for items, organize discounts/promotions and track returns, exchanges and regular purchases, Kohl’s is giving its customers a handy shopping companion. And that’s on top of using the app to browse items, save gift cards to the mobile wallet and scan barcodes will looking around in stores.

Kohl’s still supports Apple Pay, including the ability to earn loyalty points when using that payment method on an iPhone or Apple Watch. It was the first retailer to do so and it was also the first store to allow customers to use its own credit cards with Apple’s payment platform.

Via: TechCrunch

Source: Kohl’s

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GOP website outed its response to the VP debate a bit early

Today the Republican National Committee showed tech companies aren’t the only ones to get a little jumpy with the publish button. Following Apple’s early Twitter leak of the iPhone 7, the GOP website pushed up blog posts declaring its VP candidate, Mike Pence, the “clear winner” of a debate against Democratic candidate Tim Kaine, before the debate actually began. The content has since been pulled but lives on in screenshots as the debate goes on live. Of course, a CMS timing error can happen to the best of us, but maybe this is one election data leak that won’t be attributed to emails or foreign hackers.


Source: CBS, Deadline, The Atlantic

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Google Pixel tools help you switch from an iPhone

We’ve seen many attempts at helping you switch from one smartphone platform to another, but Google is kicking things up a notch with its Pixel smartphones. The lineup will include software to bring over contacts, media and messages from other phones, including iPhones. It’ll even bring over your iMessages, in case you’re worried that all those blue chat bubbles will disappear while moving to Android. To that end, Google bundles an adapter to help iPhone owners make the leap. These tools aren’t that necessary if you store a lot of your data in the cloud, but it’s evident that Google wants to remove as many pain points as possible — it wants Pixel to appeal to everyone.

Click here to catch all the latest news from Google’s fall event.

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