TAG Heuer made a modular $1,650 smartwatch

When TAG Heuer released its first smartwatch two years ago, it had an $ 1,800 asking price and was dubbed the most expensive Android Wear device on the market. Still, more than 56,000 people bought it, which is certainly enough reason for the Swiss watchmaker to give smartwatches another shot. And so it has. Say hello to the TAG Heuer Connected Modular 45, the company’s second Android Wear collaboration with Intel and Google. The starting price is still pretty high at $ 1,650 (£1,400), but the cost might be worth it this time. The reason: The Modular 45 comes with interchangeable parts, making the watch a lot more versatile than its predecessor.

What’s more, it’s the watch’s modular nature that makes this the “First Swiss-Made Connected Watch.” That’s because the 45mm smartwatch module can be swapped out with a purely Swiss-Made mechanical option that transforms it into an “ordinary” luxury timepiece. (Your options include either the Calibre 5 or the much more premium Heuer 02T Tourbillon, which TAG Heuer claims has “the most accurate mechanical movements around.”) So even if the connected module part of it gets outdated eventually (as it likely will), you’ll still be able to have a high-end TAG Heuer on your wrist just by swapping that module out. And, who knows, maybe TAG Heuer will make future connected watch modules for the same system, making the whole thing wonderfully future-proof.

As mentioned, it’s not just the watch modules that are interchangeable. It’s pretty much every part of the watch, including the straps, buckles and lugs. The core Connected Modular 45 range consists of 11 different designs; the watch module comes in either silver or black, while the straps are available in rubber, leather, titanium or ceramic, and in a slew of different colors. If that’s not enough, TAG Heuer offers 45 additional options, some of which include premium materials like patent leather, rose gold and even diamonds. That amounts to a grand total of 56 different designs and, according to the company, over 500 different design combinations.

Swapping out the different parts of the watch isn’t too difficult, but it does require a bit of finesse. During a hands-on event in San Francisco, I tried assembling and reassembling the watch a few times and it definitely took me several attempts before I finally got it right. The lugs and the central module connect to each other via a couple of pins that snap together, and a push button underneath releases them. The trick was aligning the parts correctly, which is harder to do than it looks. Still, after some trial and error, I eventually learned how to do it. The cool part is that the parts are all interchangeable without the need for a screwdriver; just use your own two hands.

The Connected Modular 45 watch module is quite a stunner. It has a 1.39-inch AMOLED touchscreen display, which is a lot sharper than the transflective LCD on its predecessor. It’s covered in 2.5mm sapphire crystal glass and the entire thing is encased in titanium. And, of course, it also comes with a few different TAG Heuer designed watchfaces. Yet, those with smaller wrists might not like it so much. The 45mm watch is really quite bulky on slender arms, and goes against the rumors that it would be more female-friendly. Of course, something like that could come out some time in the future, but for now, the Connected 45 is undeniably on the chunky side.

As for the internals, the watch is comparable to most modern smartwatches. It has an Intel Atom Z34XX processor, 4GB of memory, WiFi, GPS, more than 24 hours of battery life and water resistance to 50 meters. It also ships with the newly released Android Wear 2.0, which means simpler navigation, NFC support so you can use it with Android Pay, third-party complications and a standalone app store, so you can use it with an iPhone as well.

As mentioned earlier, the Connected Modular 45 will start at $ 1,650, but of course, additional options will cost extra. If you opt for the top-of-the-line accessories and add-ons, it’s very likely you’ll be spending thousands more. Still, the cost is very much on par with other non-connected luxury timepieces, and even those aren’t as modular as the Modular 45. So if you think of it as a modern Android Wear wearable disguised as a versatile Swiss-made watch, that might make the price easier to swallow.

We’ll have more thoughts on the watch once we get our review unit, but for now, you can get your own in the following regions: the US, the UK, Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, Australia, Malaysia and Singapore.

Update: CEO Jean-Claude Biver has confirmed that Android Wear 2.0 will be coming to the original Connected watch at the end of the month as well.

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This iPhone case is basically an Android phone

iPhones have a reputation for being user friendly, but ultimately, Android can do a lot of things iOS can’t. Aspects of Android could be useful to all phone users, but straying from the Apple ecosystem can be intimidating. Now, there’s a new way for iPhone users to easily access Android features like expandable storage and multiple SIM cards. Entrepreneur Joseph Savion and his company ESTI Inc. decided to (almost literally) strap an Android phone to the back of an iPhone. That sounds like a strange idea, but that’s basically what ESTI’s Eye phone case does.

The case, which is currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, adds a 5-inch AMOLED display, a 2.3GHz quad-core ARM Cortex-A53 CPU, a 2800mAh battery, up to 256GB of microSD storage, dual SIM slots, a headphone jack and wireless charging, among other features. There are two versions of the case: one with cellular connectivity and one without. A comment from Savion on the Kickstarter page says that the Android device can make use of the iPhone’s internet connection. While there is some other integration between the devices — they share the iPhone’s speaker, microphone and cameras — they pretty much function as their own machines.

The case runs Android 7.1 Nougat, and if Eye is starting to sound more like a standalone phone than an iPhone case, well, it’s priced like one too. It’s expected to retail for $ 189 (or $ 229 for the 4G version), although early Kickstarter backers can get theirs for $ 95 ($ 129 for 4G). That said, $ 95 for a phone is pretty cheap.

The main question is, who this product is even for? Most iPhone users seem happy with their devices, and probably don’t need a product like this to “improve” it. Even for users wanting to test the Android waters, there are plenty of non-Apple devices available for under $ 100 that could satisfy their curiosity without adding bulk to their current phone.

Ultimately, Eye seems a lot more interesting than it does practical. As of this writing, the case has raised over $ 84,000 of its $ 95,000 goal with 32 days to go. So, it might not be necessary, but it will probably come to market anyway.

Via: The Verge, 9to5Google

Source: Kickstarter

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Google’s Uptime is all about snarky YouTube parties

Last year, Google created Area 120, an incubator where employees with (approved) ideas can spend their “20 percent time” on side projects. One of the groups has just released Uptime, an app that lets you meet friends, share YouTube videos and add stickers, “sparkles,” hearts and snarky comments. You can search for video content within the app, which can also will help you find friends “based on common connections within Uptime,” according to the FAQ. Ironically, it’s only available on iOS and not Google’s Android, at least for now.

The app is not unlike a feature called “Video Party” that we first saw on Microsoft’s now-defunct So.cl. Like that app, Uptime lets you watch YouTube videos together with others and make comments, but not to record or stream your own videos. It’s also a way to get daily video recommendations from friends so that you won’t miss the cat or kid video du jour. Other apps like Sean Parker’s Airtime give you similar YouTube party features but also let you chat over video.

It would make a lot of sense for Google to integrate the app into YouTube, rather than having it work as a standalone product. If it is planning to do that, running it in a limited way on iOS only would let the Area 120 group develop the features in a controlled way. If you have an iPhone and want to try it out, you can now grab it here.

Source: Uptime

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WikiLeaks CIA cache: Fool me once

This week’s poorly conceived distraction from Trump and Putin sittin’ in a tree was brought to us by WikiLeaks, which dumped 8,761 documents of the CIA’s hacking arsenal online for all to see. The leak factory didn’t even bother trying to play coy — it actually made the “Vault 7” password an anti-CIA JFK quote about destroying the agency.

Hilarity ensued. Well, if you think it’s funny when the press parrots WikiLeaks’ misleading claims wrapped in PR spin.

What sort of misleading claims? How about the suggestion that the safest encryption apps, Signal and WhatsApp (neither of which actually appear in the document dump), are broken. Or that the CIA bugs everyone’s phones. That our government is spying on us through our TVs with the flick of a switch. And that the CIA, which is providing evidence to Congress in the Trump-Russia probe, is part of a conspiracy to damage … Russia.

When the news hit Tuesday morning, the bigger outlets ran wild, uncritically repeating the WikiLeaks press statement, and reporting on the documents without having them verified. If only being first was better than being correct.


WikiLeaks framed the whole media-attention sideshow as a giant embarrassment for an out-of-control CIA. Breitbart loved it. Especially the bit about how the CIA is trying to frame those completely innocent Russian government hackers. Hey, at least it was a break from WikiLeaks lending support to Trump’s ravings that Obama wiretapped him.

By Tuesday afternoon, people were starting to get over the shock of learning that the CIA is a spy agency. A few news outlets started to correct their shit. They might’ve even felt a bit swindled by having regurgitated that crucial first round of PR from WikiLeaks, casting the dump as some sort of Snowden 2.0. (Snowden, for his part, has done his very best to make it a Snowden 2.0.)

Many in hacking and security weren’t taking the bait to begin with. Many hackers were less interested this time by what was in the drop than by who it was from, and why it was being released now.

By now the press has started to sort things out — but only after the misinformation had spread. But as Zeynep Tufekci writes, this is just a page from the WikiLeaks playbook. This time, she said, “there are widespread claims on social media that these leaked documents show that it was the C.I.A. that hacked the Democratic National Committee, and that it framed Russia for the hack. (The documents in the cache reveal nothing of the sort.)”

In an unusual turn, the CIA made a statement. Intelligence officials told press the agency was aware of a breach leading to this very dump, and is looking at contractors as the likeliest source. A formal criminal probe has been opened.

Thanks to the disinformation, lots of people are concerned about what was in the dump and how it affects their privacy and security. The contents haven’t been confirmed by the CIA but it looks like it’s shaping up to be the real deal. It mostly contains a lot of attack tools, and lots of clues that CIA operatives love Dr. Who, Nyan Cat, and hoard cheesy memes.

The files consist mostly of notes and documentation on the CIA’s hack attack tools — very specific tools used when the agency focuses on a very specific target. These aren’t just hoovering up everyone’s data like the lazy old NSA — this is what a modern Bond’s “Q” would use to go after a special someone, or someones.

As in, probably not you.

The attacks focus on operating systems, not on apps themselves. That bit you read about the CIA cracking Signal and WhatsApp was false. What this all shows, interestingly, is that encryption on those apps is tight enough that even the CIA hasn’t been able to break them and needs to pop old versions of iOS just to read some ambassador’s uncreative sexts.

There is literally no surprise here. The ubiquity of large systems having exploitable bugs, and the implications of this, have been reported on for decades.

Perhaps the nonstop cycle of social-media outrage has given us collective amnesia. What’s old is new, and suddenly everyone is shocked to hear that there are 0-days in Windows and Android, and people are taking advantage of exploits. We all jump on a chair and lift our skirts and cry “rat!” because someone, somewhere, hasn’t taken our advice about what to do with vulnerabilities.

So what’s vulnerable, according to the CIA’s hack attack tools circa 2013-2016? That would be Windows (Exchange 7 and 10 especially), OS X El Capitan, some Apple iPhone operating systems, and as we’d expect, a range of Android system exploits. The documents indicate that antivirus products like F-Secure, Bitdefender and Comodo are a pain in the ass to deal with, which makes them look pretty good.

The irony is that the best way to avoid these kinds of attacks is to update your system software when you’re supposed to, don’t get phished and try not to become a CIA target by, say, committing treason. Oh, and don’t stop using reputable encrypted apps. Especially not because some guy with a hard-on for the CIA told the press the apps were compromised.

The docs do reveal that the CIA is well into hacking Internet of Things devices to use for surveillance with its Embedded Development Branch. According to journalists who are actually reading the documents, meeting notes from 2014 show that the CIA’s analysts “are looking at self-driving cars, customized consumer hardware, Linux-based embedded systems and whatever else they can get their hands on.”

This is to be expected, because spies gotta spy. Of course, because we live in a time when companies are using connected teddy bears to surveil kids and then getting owned by malicious hackers, we should expect spy agencies to roll IoT into their bespoke little government-funded “Q” laboratories.

It should make you uncomfortable — and angry — as hell that the CIA can use your smart toaster to spy on you. But, what’s really troubling is that it’s just piggybacking on data that companies are already collecting. Truth is, the US government isn’t the early adopter here; Amazon, Google and Facebook are really the front-line developers of the surveillance state.

Image: REUTERS/Rick Wilking (Samsung TV)

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VSCO brings GIFs to its main iPhone app

In October, Giphy reported that it has over 100 million users every day. Yes, GIFs are huge, and camera app VSCO wants in. That’s why, back in 2015, it introduced DSCO. The iOS-only spin-off app allows users to create looping images and share them on the company’s own portal or their favorite social networks. Today, VSCO announced that it’s reducing phone clutter by bringing DSCO’s GIF-making capabilities to its main app.

The new feature appears to function very much like DSCO does: Open the in-app camera, switch to DSCO mode, hold the rainbow-colored circle to record a few seconds of video, then swipe to choose preset filters and post away. The company didn’t say whether this means the standalone DSCO app will be discontinued. What it did make clear in its blog post introducing the feature is that like DSCO, GIF creation will remain exclusive to iOS.

With the update, which VSCO says is rolling out in the next couple weeks, the app will also add some meat to its community features. The option to favorite an image will be added, although VSCO calls it “a private acknowledgment between two people,” since only an image’s creator will be able to see if their photos have been starred. Users will also soon be able to block annoying people, but not entirely: Blocked users will still be able to see a person’s images, but will be unable to follow them or interact with their posts.

VSCO’s devotion to Apple devices is clear: DSCO was introduced in late 2015 but has yet to make its way to Android. The company has previously addressed this preference, saying on its support website that “due to some device limitations found while developing for Android, there are some key features that are available for the iOS version that are not available in the Android version of VSCO.” With that in mind, non-iPhone users shouldn’t expect to see GIF capabilities on their VSCO apps any time soon, if ever.

Source: VSCO

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Apple says it’s already patched ‘many’ Wikileaks iOS exploits

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.

Source: TechCrunch

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How a joke tweet brought 911 to its knees

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 claimed the attack was a joke gone wrong, telling police he only meant for the link to cause annoying pop-ups, The Wall Street Journal reports. However, he posted the wrong code. It started when, from his @SundayGavin Twitter account, he tweeted the link and wrote, “I CANT BELIEVE PEOPLE ARE THIS STUPID.” When clicked, the URL, which was condensed by Google’s link shortener, launched an iOS-based JavaScript attack that caused iPhones to dial 911 repeatedly. When users hung up, the phone would keep redialing until it was restarted.

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.

Via: Select All

Source: The Wall Street Journal

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Adobe Lightroom mobile now captures RAW images in HDR mode

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.

Source: Adobe

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Line is building its own digital assistant called Clova

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.

Via: The Verge

Source: Financial Times

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LG G6’s dual cameras are good, but far from perfect

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.

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