Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone 8 Plus tie for top spot in camera test

Like it or not, DxOMark is currently the go-to tester for smartphone camera quality. Companies will even base their marketing around its scores. As such, it’s a big deal when the outfit declares a new winner… and it just declared two. DxOMark has given Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 an overall score of 94, putting it in a tie for the lead with the iPhone 8 Plus. No, that’s not going to trigger endless fan wars, is it? Of course, diving into the scores reveals that the devices reached their scores through different means.

The Note 8’s advantages chiefly come through its secondary camera, relatively noiseless low-light photography and lightning-quick autofocus. Of the two, Samsung’s phone is the one you’d want for portraits or capturing a fast-moving scene. The iPhone, on the other hand, has exceptional high dynamic range performance, accurate face exposure and great overall video performance, particularly with stabilization. And both have their weak points, as you might imagine. The Note 8 has a fairly limited dynamic range that results in lost detail in extreme situations, and has white balance problems in bright lighting or indoors. Apple’s device occasionally struggles with autofocus, doesn’t always nail the color cast in low lighting and has visible noise in low-light video.

The question is: how much does this influence your choice of device? Frankly, it’s complicated. Some of it clearly depends on personal preference based on your photography habits: you may pick the iPhone if you prefer a more accurate color range, or the Note 8 if you enjoy low-light shooting. This also assumes you treat DxOMark’s scores as canonical — it can’t account for every situation with tests, and it may downplay factors that you consider crucial. And of course, there’s the simple matter of liking the rest of the phone. If you’re a hardcore Android or iOS fan, even the best camera in history probably wouldn’t convince you to switch sides.

Source: DxOMark (Note 8), (iPhone 8 Plus)

Engadget RSS Feed

Augmented reality teddy bear teaches kids about being a doctor

Kids frequently don’t need much more than their imagination to bring a teddy bear to life, but what if they had a little boost? That’s what Seedling hopes to do with Parker. The teddy by itself is the same sort of fluffy companion you likely had as a child, but an augmented reality app for iOS turns the bear into something much more. If you want to play doctor, you can look at Parker’s insides to cure a stomach bug or ease a sore throat. You can create magic forests and sea gardens using the AR camera. And importantly you’re rewarded for being kind: the more you take care of Parker, the more the bear uses AR to ‘transform’ the world around you.

Parker is available now for $ 60 with all the accessories you need to get started (besides an iPhone or iPad), including an interactive toy thermometer. That’s not a trivial amount for a stuffed toy, but Seedling is betting that the AR element will be worth it as it teaches empathy and problem solving in addition to whatever your young ones imagine. The catch? You’ll have to visit an Apple store (online or retail) in “select countries,” and the use of ARKit for Parker’s magic puts a damper on the possibility of Android support in the immediate future.

Source: Seedling

Engadget RSS Feed

WhatsApp’s new universal emoji set looks very familiar

A few months ago, WhatsApp announced that a billion users send messages on it daily — which is apparently the right time to introduce its own line of emojis. If you’re an iOS user, you might find them familiar, as the messenger’s set looks very similar to Apple’s tiny cartoon images.

The new set of emojis is available in WhatsApp’s beta version on Android that was released today, according to a post on Emojipedia. As Google’s Gboard gets Bitmoji and Apple’s iPhone X turns user facial expressions into their own custom emojis, the Facebook-owned WhatsApp seems to be playing it slow releasing its own. Maybe the messenger app is just weaning its massive userbase away from the iOS versions, one subtly-changed set at a time?

Source: Emojipedia

Engadget RSS Feed

DribbleUp’s ‘smart’ soccer ball helps you train with an app

We live in a time when even the most conventional things around us, like balls to play sports, are becoming smart in some way. Over the past few years, brands such as Adidas and Wilson have introduced sensor-laden balls designed to track performance data, including shot accuracy and trajectory. But those products have been far from perfect: they’re not always precise and, in the case of Adidas’ miCoach Smart Ball, having to charge it is a tedious process. Here’s where DribbleUp, a startup based out Brooklyn, hopes to shine with its new app-enabled soccer ball.

One of the most interesting parts about DribbleUp’s ball is that doesn’t have any sensors inside of it. Rather than pairing it to an iOS or Android device via Bluetooth, that step is done when you scan a QR code-like optical marker on the ball’s design with your smartphone or tablet’s camera. I was actually quite surprised by how efficiently this worked during our demo, as the setup only took about a second or two. Once you’ve done that, DribbleUp says its proprietary computer vision and machine learning takes care of tracking the ball in real-time and uses that information to grade your footwork.

I’ll admit that it can be a little odd to practice your skills in front of a screen, but the virtual trainer does a great job of not being obtrusive. All you see is the ball, your feet and, depending on the lesson, a set of digital cones and a speed bar that show how well (or not) you’re doing. The companion application gives you access to more than 100 drills, ranging from juggling tutorials to side taps, ball steps and alternating sole flicks challenges — moves you’d practice in a typical soccer training session. At the end of each workout, you’ll get graded based on your efficiency: “A+” means you’ve done exceptionally well, “F” would suggest you should probably find another sport to play.

There are also playlists within the app that provide daily lessons, featuring different drill combinations that you can filter based on your level of expertise or how old you are. DribbleUp says the system is designed for all types of players, from someone who plays recreationally to pros and even kids who are just getting into the sport. I can see this as a great tool for people to practice indoors, since the reflection of the iPhone and iPad displays we were using don’t really make for a pleasant experience outdoors — especially if the sun is out.

The good news is that since the ball doesn’t come with sensors built in, you don’t have to worry about charging it or depend on the app for it to be useful. As is the case with most high-end soccer balls, DribbleUp’s own is hand-stitched and made out of synthetic leather and water-resistant materials. It’s worth noting that this isn’t the first time DribbleUp has created a “smart” ball. It has an app-enabled basketball, too, which it claims is one of the best-selling on Amazon — we checked and it has a 4.5-star rating, so it seems like most buyers are happy with their purchase.

At $ 90, DribbleUp’s soccer ball is worth a look when it launches on November 1st, especially since most high-quality ones cost between $ 100 and $ 150. And you need to remember that none of those come with a virtual trainer. Yes, that may be a bit gimmicky (because who really wants to train in front of an iPhone or iPad), but at least you have the option to see if the AR-esque drills can help improve your skills. Worst case scenario, you take it out with you and treat is as you would any other dumb ball.


Engadget RSS Feed

Apple releases kernel source code tuned for mobile chips

Ever since the first version of OS X, Apple has regularly released the kernel source code for Macs. In theory, you could learn from it or even build your own projects from it. For iOS, though? Not so simple. Even if you had source code, it wouldn’t matter much unless it was optimized for the ARM-based chips that you see in most phones and mobile tablets. However, Apple is shaking things up a bit. The company has quietly posted ARM-friendly source code for the XNU kernels used in iOS and macOS. That’s particularly relevant if you’re interested in iOS, since you now have code that would theoretically run on an iPhone or iPad. However, it’s not quite the breakthrough move it seems at first blush.

To start: this is just the kernel, the low-level code that governs the most critical functions. It doesn’t cover the interface, developer frameworks or apps… that is, the parts that truly define iOS or macOS. Those elements are still closed off, so you would have to build most of the platform from scratch. You won’t see iOS on a Galaxy S8 any time soon. Apple also offers a relatively limited source code license that isn’t as flexible as, say, the GPL license used for Linux.

Moreover, while the presence of ARM-based Mac code is bound to raise eyebrows, this doesn’t mean that you’re about to see a MacBook with an A11 Bionic chip inside. Apple has a long history of writing code for other architectures “just in case” (the PowerPC-to-Intel transition happened quickly because Apple already had code waiting in the wings), so it might never make the switch. You certainly aren’t about to install macOS on your ARM-based Chromebook. And besides, there are rumors of Apple developing ARM-based companion chips for Macs. It may need ARM code even if it has no intention of ditching Intel for CPUs.

All the same, it’s a welcome move. This gives app and OS developers a better sense of how Apple tackles basic system tasks, particularly on iOS. And yes, anyone ambitious enough to write a full operating system could use XNU as a starting point. It’s just not going to change the status quo for Apple.

Via: Reddit

Source: GitHub, Apple Open Source

Engadget RSS Feed

FBI won’t be forced to reveal San Bernardino iPhone hacking tool

The Associated Press, USA Today and Vice News have failed in their attempt to reveal the hacking tool the FBI used to access San Bernardino terrorist Syed Farook’s iPhone. Judge Tanya Chutkan denied their request in a summary judgment ruling issued late on September 30th, arguing that the risks involved in naming the vendor (and thus the tool) or the price paid are too serious to honor a Freedom of Information Act request. It would make the company a target for retaliatory hacks and exploits that it likely couldn’t withstand, Judge Chutkan said, while the price would tell “adversaries” how readily the FBI can use the tool in the future.

She also rejected the argument that former FBI director James Comey’s mention of a “very high” price equated to official disclosure that compelled a wider release. The information had to be more specific than that, according to the ruling. And while Comey noted that the tool was only effective against an iPhone 5c running iOS 9, the FBI could theoretically find a way to expand its usefulness or ask the developer to build a similar implementation. If the vendor is exposed, Judge Chutkan said, this could “hurt the FBI’s future efforts to protect national security.”

This isn’t going to please privacy advocates concerned that the FBI has such power, especially as it might be maintaining this power solely through obscurity — it might get into your phone only because an outside security researcher hasn’t discovered the flaw yet. And is the theoretical future usefulness of the tool a good enough excuse to keep it under wraps? At the same time, it’s hard to ignore the likelihood that any public disclosure would likely invite some kind of retaliation. The judge had to strike a difficult balance, and it’s not necessarily clear that it’s the right balance.

Source: ZDNet, DocumentCloud

Engadget RSS Feed

Apple Watch Series 3 review: A good watch, a so-so phone replacement

With each generation, the Apple Watch’s purpose has seemed to shift. The first one demonstrated what Apple thought a wearable should be, and the second tried to be the perfect workout companion. When it came time to build the Series 3, though, Apple took everything it got right with the fitness-friendly Series 2, polished it up, and threw an LTE radio inside.

And lo, the $ 399 Apple Watch Series 3 became the first of a new breed of Apple devices — it straddles the line between smartwatch and phone, with a dash of iPod thrown in for good measure. For those who’d rather play it safe, Apple also built a $ 329 Series 3 with just GPS and no cellular connection. In fact, that safe bet will probably pay off for most people — the cellular Series 3 is a little too inconsistent for my taste.

Hardware and design

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Despite what some redesign rumors suggested ahead of the big event, this year’s Apple Watch looks… just like an Apple Watch. Shocking, I know. As ever, the Series 3 comes in 38mm and 42mm sizes, so earlier bands will continue to fit just fine. And, as with the Series 2, all versions feature a built-in GPS radio and 50-meter water resistance. Don’t let that classification fool you, though — you can take the Watch for a swim, but you almost certainly shouldn’t take it 50 meters underwater. (Why the watch industry continues to use such counterintuitive terminology is beyond me.)

Not much has changed with the display either — we’re still working with a tiny OLED screen running at 390 x 312, covered by a plate of Ion-X glass. (The stainless-steel and ceramic models instead use tougher sapphire crystal, but this Watch’s glass face was very good at resisting nicks as I accidentally banged my hands into walls and fixtures.) Max brightness still tops out at 1,000 nits, which is more than enough to keep notifications and apps readable under bright sunlight. More interesting is the way the screen doubles as the Watch’s wireless antenna; it’s a nifty feat of engineering that seems to get the job done well.

In any case, I’ve been wearing a 42mm Apple Watch on and off since the first version launched in 2015, and the fit and finish of my 42mm cellular review unit is first-rate, as always. It’s impossible to tell that the Series 3 is slightly thicker than the models that came before it, and thankfully, it’s just as hard to feel the difference when it’s strapped to your wrist. That’s because the Watch’s aluminum squircle of a body hasn’t changed — the ceramic hump around back housing the heart rate sensor is, according to Apple, two sheets of paper thicker than it was before. The 42mm body’s weight hasn’t changed either, which is pretty impressive considering the extra stuff needed to turn this wearable into a tiny, functional phone. Throw in an improved, dual-core S3 chipset and a slightly bigger battery, and we’ve got a remarkably snappy little package.

Until you start talking into your wrist, there’s only one way to tell if a Watch is LTE-enabled or not: You need to spot the red dot. This red highlight serves no technical purpose; it’s purely for looks, and if you’re the type who likes visual metaphors, you’ll notice a certain symmetry with the Watch’s red notification dot. I get the need for some sort of visual signifier, but fashionistas, beware: That red flourish clashes with a lot of Apple Watch bands out there.

As a traditional smartwatch

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The original Apple Watch gave shape to the company’s vision for wearable computing, but, man, it was frustratingly slow sometimes. Fast-forward two years, and we finally have an Apple Watch that feels as fast as it should. Swiping between watch faces is smoother than before, and launching apps seems to take considerably less time, all thanks to Apple’s updated S3 chipset. Series 1 and 2 owners might not find the difference that pronounced, since both devices have dual-core processors of their own, but the fractions of a second I’m saving every time an action works more smoothly becomes time I get to spend doing something else that matters to me.

One of the best ways to see all this power in action is by talking to Siri — and, for once, the experience won’t make you want to tear your hair out. Siri can finally speak to you on the Series 3, and it uses the same natural-sounding voice you’d hear it use on an iOS device running iOS 11. I never really used Siri on the Series 2, because it required me to glance down at my wrist all the time. This year, Siri’s audible responses and generally spot-on voice transcription meant I could ask it to send a message or email for me and not worry too much about what happened next. Yes, this eventually bit me in the ass, but never too badly. Beyond handling messages and tasks, Siri has also been helpful for navigating to hole-in-the-wall restaurants and answering various random questions.

As useful as Siri is now, it still has its limits. For one, you need to be careful with how you ask for things — “open News” does what you’d expect it to, but “show me the news” kicked me out to external search results. Oh, and don’t forget that the Watch’s screen has to be on to get Siri’s attention with a voice command. A version of Siri that constantly listens for commands would be ideal, but that’d probably wreak as much havoc on battery life as, well, a cellular radio would.

The Series 3’s new watch faces sure are… interesting.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Beyond just Siri, Apple’s new watchOS 4 offers a few other new features as well. There are new customizable kaleidoscope watch faces, along with a handful of faces starring characters from Toy Story. The music app has been updated with a new look and slightly more seamless syncing — some playlists, like “New Music” and “Favorites,” are transferred over by default while the Watch charges for the first time. Individual tracks and playlists can be moved over easily enough too, but literally any support for podcasts would’ve been nice. To make the most of the Watch’s music player, though, you need to be an Apple Music subscriber; the Watch still offers media controls for whatever audio is playing on the iPhone, but you’re out of luck if you’d prefer to interact with Spotify’s superior playlists.

The Series 3 technically works as a standalone device, but let’s be real: We’re so attached to our phones that the Watch will spend most of its time connected to an iPhone anyway. I’m not complaining either, mostly because the Watch has very good battery life as a result. I usually pull my Watch off its charger at around 8AM, and I’ve routinely seen it chug along until midafternoon the next day if I didn’t make many voice calls on it. Over the weekend, when my phone was gloriously quiet, I got nearly two full days of screen-on time before needing to charge the Watch again. Apple bumped up the Series 3’s battery capacity to maximize cellular usage time, so while I’m pleased that tethered battery life has improved, I’m not surprised.

As a standalone device

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The connection between the Apple Watch and an iPhone is the core of Apple’s wearable experience, and for the first time, the company gave the Watch the tools to function independently. Seeing the Watch hop onto an LTE network and use your same phone number is undeniably neat, but honestly, it’s not something I’d want to do very often.

First off, yes, you’re going to have to pay your carrier $ 10 a month for the privilege, not to mention an activation fee once this first wave of promotions dies down. Setting up the Watch with my AT&T phone plan was mostly a breeze, but some reviewers have experienced issues getting everything squared away, especially when older rate plans were involved. Your mileage may vary, but I suspect most of you won’t need to worry much.

Actually using the phone is easier than expected — you can either punch in a number or select one of your contacts — and call quality was generally very good. In a majority of conversations I had, the people on the other end couldn’t even tell I was talking into a watch. That can change suddenly, though. Earlier this week, I parked myself outside the office to take a few phone calls, and the signal indicator bounced between two and four dots of coverage while I was just sitting there.

As a result, call quality got really strange — I could hear the other party just fine, but I sounded like a mess to them. This happened only one other time, in a completely different location, and I’m at a loss as to why. In any case, if you’re interested in taking calls on a Series 3, a Bluetooth headset is a must. It’ll also help in situations where the Watch’s speaker just isn’t loud enough, which is most of the time, frankly.

Messages rolled in quickly too, but here’s the thing: Not all messages are treated equally. As long as you have some kind of wireless signal, iMessages will be delivered just fine. Text messages are usually subject to a delay, since they’re routed through your iPhone, but this also means that SMSes won’t come through at all if your iPhone is dead. Emails running through Apple’s Mail app worked fine but took longer than usual to pop up on my wrist, so I wouldn’t advise going watch-only when urgent business is in the offing. And most of the Watch apps I installed worked normally, though a few — like Slack and Twitter — either did nothing or force-quit when I tried to use them.

Early review models also seemed prone to connectivity issues stemming from a Wi-Fi bug — in a bid to conserve battery life, the Series 3 tries to latch onto wireless networks your other Apple devices have flagged as being suitable for use. The problem was, not every network was flagged correctly, so captive portals (like those used at, say, Starbucks) would get the OK and the Watch would try to connect, with no way of getting past whatever interstitial screen popped up. It’s not that the Watch was going out of its way to jump onto unfamiliar networks — it’s that some of the networks it thinks are kosher actually aren’t.

This is a major goof, but I can see why it might have escaped detection — I have had precisely zero issues with my Series 3 attempting to latch onto bum networks. Then again, I’m one person, and I find it hard to believe that not a single engineer testing the Series 3 prior to launch ran into this. I’m fairly sure you won’t run into this very specific kind of trouble, but it remains a risk; Apple promised a fix after catching some well-deserved flak, but it still hadn’t materialized when we published this review.

Really, my biggest concern is much more mundane: Going completely iPhone-free means the Watch’s battery life will take a huge hit. After an early-morning run while listening to music and using the GPS, followed by a couple of test calls, the Series 3 was on its last legs by early afternoon. Apple has always been clear that the Series 3 is more of a temporary phone substitute than an actual replacement, so this probably won’t seem shocking to you. Still, if this morning routine sounds like your idea of a good time, remember to have a charger handy.

I don’t mean to make the Series 3 sound terrible at this stuff — when everything works properly, it makes for an adequate untethered companion. It’s just too bad that those moments weren’t as common as I expected.

As a fitness tracker

Chris Velazco/Engadget

With the Series 2, Apple decided the Watch should be a serious fitness wearable, and its focus on getting people out of their chairs clearly isn’t going away. Thankfully, the Series 3’s blend of capable hardware and thoughtful software make it a great choice for people who take their workouts seriously, but not that seriously.

The Series 3’s step counts were in line with other wearables I tested it against, though accuracy is a weird thing to look for in cases like these. Every fitness tracker I’ve ever worn seemed to interpret my steps a little differently, but the Series 3 was consistently within +/- 10 steps of my own counts (in my head, up to 250). Strangely, I guess I define “a flight of stairs” differently from how the Watch’s new barometer does, since it consistently underestimated me on days when I decided to avoid the office’s elevators. Meanwhile, the updated Workout app packs support for new workout types (perfect for you crazy high-intensity interval people) and easier controls for setting time or calorie burn goals for your swim, walk or run.

Speaking of running, I’ve had no issue with GPS accuracy either — I run the same route a few times a week, and the distance was basically bang-on every time. Granted, I don’t precisely know how long that makeshift course is, so hardcore runners (like Engadget marathoner-in-residence Dana Wollman) may be better served by more purpose-built wearables that can more accurately measure one’s pace. Now, once I get moving, I don’t have too much trouble powering through to the end; the real trouble comes in getting off my ass to start with. For better or worse, Apple’s three-ringed activity app now offers more proactive notifications, the most effective of which tells me roughly how much longer I’d need to walk to hit my goals at the end of the day. It’s just enough of a push to get me where I want to be, and I’m surprised Apple didn’t implement this sooner.

Your author really needs to chill out.

Chris Velazco/Engadget

Even though I’m not the exercise nut I used to be, I appreciated Apple’s enhanced focus on your heart. The Watch tries to get more accurate readings of your resting heart rate by checking it when it knows you haven’t been moving, and it plots your heart rate readings on handy graphs to show you changes over time.

It’s especially helpful for tracking your recovery after intense exercises, but that’s one of the few areas where the Watch offers a little more data than casual users are probably interested in. All told, this a wearable best suited for generalists. Good thing for Apple, then, that there are a lot of them out there. Hardcore athletes may get more mileage out of a wearable that measures even more, like blood oxygenation. (Curiously, the Apple Watch’s heart rate sensor works in such a way that it could also function as a pulse oximeter, but the feature has never been activated.) What’s more unfortunate is that two features that should be great for exercise buffs — Apple Music streaming over LTE and integration with gym equipment through GymKit — won’t be ready for a few more weeks.

The competition

Chris Velazco/Engadget

There haven’t been too many Android Wear 2.0 watches released this year, which leaves the LG Watch Sport at the top of the proverbial pack. Chatting with Google Assistant is mostly a pleasure, and it uses a rotating crown button for navigation, just like the Series 3. One of Android Wear’s biggest assets has always been its visual flexibility, and I’ve spent more time than I care to admit sifting through watch faces in the Play Store in hopes of finding the perfect look for my wrist. The Sport can also jump onto cellular networks, but LG’s approach is problematic: There’s an actual SIM card inside, so the watch’s body is huge, and the antennas extend into the watch’s unremovable bands. It’s a solid option if you’re a smartwatch shopper who doesn’t care for Apple, but beware of its compromises.

Samsung’s Gear S3 Frontier comes to mind too, since it also packs an eSIM and an LTE radio for truly phone-free use. It’s a bigger, more masculine-looking watch than the Series 3, and it’s a little less comfortable, but its rotating bezel remains one of the most inspired interaction methods I’ve ever used on a smartwatch. It’s effing excellent, and so is its Spotify streaming support. The Frontier can also tell when you’ve started to work out and will track your movements accordingly, an intelligent touch that (sadly) doesn’t always work as well as it should. The biggest knock against the S3 Frontier, however, is its Tizen OS. Who cares if you can install apps in the woods if they’re mostly apps no one cares about?

Wrap-up

Chris Velazco/Engadget

The Apple Watch Series 3 often feels like two devices in one. When it’s connected to a phone, it’s an improvement over its predecessors in just about every way that matters. More important, the tight integration of improved hardware and more thoughtful software give the Series 3 a very notable edge over its smartwatch competition. It’s that good. As a standalone device, though, the Series 3 can be maddeningly limited. Over time, I’m sure apps will grow to take advantage of persistent data connections, and still other kinks will be worked out entirely. For now, though, the kinks remain and the overall experience suffers as a result. Apple’s vision of a wearable that remains forever connected to the things that matter to you is an enticing one, and the Series 3 is an important first step down that path. Here’s hoping Apple’s next step is as consistently good on its own as it is when connected to a phone.

Engadget RSS Feed

Americans are horrified by DHS plan to track immigrants on social media

Starting October 18th, the Department of Homeland Security will collect and store “social-media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information and search results” in the permanent files of all immigrants. This will include new immigrants, in addition to permanent residents and naturalized citizens.

There are around 43 million foreign-born people living in the US right now. And even if you don’t personally know someone who’ll be made into a terrifying dossier for Trump’s anti-immigrant foot soldiers, you’ll most certainly show up in those millions of files somewhere as a “like” or other piece of tangential social metadata.

USA-IMMIGRATION/WALL

People who have commented on the act are comparing it to round-up lists and internment-camp dossier-building. Considering the Trump administration’s plans for using data to hunt immigrants at our borders, those commenters might not be too far off. And what they don’t know is that non-immigrants are going to be collateral damage.

The “Modified Privacy Act System of Records” will also include: “publicly available information obtained from the internet, public records, public institutions, interviewees, commercial data providers and information obtained and disclosed pursuant to information sharing agreements.” Commercial data suppliers are companies like Equifax, and “people search” vendors like Intelius and Axicom.

That “people search” websites are involved in the data collection should make us worry for many reasons. With a quick search of your name on any “people search” website like Intelius or WhitePages, you’ll see your name, date of birth, names of family members, current and past addresses, your phone number — and much more.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Office (USCIS)

People-search sites get their data from public records and corporations selling your information to them (including third-party fine-print agreements you agree to by using businesses such as eBay). The information they collect sometimes depends on the site’s Terms of Use regarding sharing information with third parties, as well as your privacy selections on that site (e.g., your Facebook likes and interests, your friends, your tweets, the work information you provide to LinkedIn).

The new dossiers on immigrants will include all kinds of information gleaned both directly and indirectly from social-media profiles. And worse yet, much of the information might not even be accurate. In a now-removed post from Intelius’ blog, the company stated:

In a new age of modern permanent records, popular sites like Facebook and Twitter are the face of a hidden world of commercial data brokers. Moreover, not all information is accurate, and even if consumers are aware, they are unable to erase or correct their personal records.

Intelius conceded in a 2009 SEC filing that the information that it and similar companies sell is often inaccurate and out of date. For example, when I reviewed my people-search files before deletion, my first-ever roommates were listed in multiple places as my nearest relatives.

César Cuauhtémoc García Hernández, assistant professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, told press, “The fact that information gleaned from Facebook or Instagram or other social-media networks might not be reliable doesn’t mean that it will preclude DHS from using it as a basis for excluding people from the United States.”

If you’re still wondering what might be in these dossiers, go check out an article in The Guardian in which a woman gets a copy of all 800 (!) pages of her Tinder history (an option available only to EU citizens). It’s not what’s in her Tinder history that applies here; rather it’s what that history contains about a person’s activity around that one account that will sober you up.

In addition to her Tinder activity, the company collected her Facebook “likes,” her photos from Instagram (even after she deleted the associated account) and much more.

MATCH GROUP-RESULTS/

The act itself avoids detailing both the method of collection and security of storage for these expanded dossiers. Perhaps we can expect the DHS and US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to protect these records, which will undoubtedly include plenty of US citizens, as thoroughly as it safeguards its other precious data stores.

The US government tried for a while to convince the public that the “metadata” in its hoovering up of our records was no big deal. At RSA in 2015, Congressman Mike Rogers told the giant security conference’s attendees more than once that metadata in bulk-surveillance collection “is just the ‘To: From:’ like the front of an envelope.” I suspect we can expect the same kind of run-around (or worse) if this administration is put on the spot.

It’s going to be messy, and make no mistake: It will affect all of us. Chances are good that you have friend, co-worker or family member born outside of the US. Attorney Adam Schwartz told BuzzFeed that this will also affect all US citizens who communicate with immigrants. A close read of the document shows that finding out what is in one’s file will be incredibly difficult, and correcting any bad info nigh impossible.

It’s kind of like they’re leveraging Facebook, and all the others, into policing our borders in a wholly different way than a blunt-force “Muslim ban.” It’s far, far more insidious.

The “Modified Privacy Act System of Records” is set to go into effect on October 18th, though it’s in an open comment period until then. The comments so far are overwhelmingly opposed to the changes; the words “horrified,” “shocked” and “appalled” are frequent.

Some commenters openly state fears about how this affects their children; others talk about where this is leading us as citizens at the mercy of a data-grabbing government. And there are more than a few mentions of 1930s Germany and Japanese internment.

This is happening. Americans and those who want to be Americans are scared. Those affected by the DHS plan to gather social media aren’t stereotypes: They’re people, and they’re us. It’s easy to feel disempowered by this disgusting system, and the overwhelming juggernaut of greedy data-dealers like Facebook — at whose feet I believe we can squarely lay blame for way too many aspects of our current situation.

But I hope that we’ll all look at this hideous and contorted future together and fight it.

Images: BoJorge Duenes / Reuters (border wall), Getty Images (USCIS), Mike Blake / Reuters (Tinder icon)

Engadget RSS Feed

What to expect at Google’s Pixel 2 event

Almost exactly a year ago, Google unveiled a host of new products, a veritable “Made by Google” ecosystem, as the company called it. The most notable devices were the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones and Google Home smart speaker, but Google also launched the Daydream View VR headset, a mesh-WiFi system and a 4K-capable Chromecast.

It was easily the company’s biggest push yet into Google-branded hardware. But one year later, the Pixel and Pixel XL have been lapped by new devices from Samsung, Apple and LG, among others. We’re due for a refresh, and we’ll almost certainly get that in San Francisco on Wednesday, October 4th, when the company hosts its next big product launch. New phones are basically a shoo-in, but there’s a bunch of other hardware that Google will likely show off. Here’s what to expect.

Google Pixel 2 and Pixel XL

From left to right: Leaked images of the Google Home Mini, Pixel XL 2 and DayDream View. Image credit: Droid Life

Sure, the smartphone may be a commodity at this point, but it’s still exciting to see what Google has cooked up to take on increasingly strong competition in the Android space. The Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL have been leaked pretty extensively at this point (as happens with almost every major smartphone these days), so we largely know what to expect here.

VentureBeat believes that the smaller Pixel 2 will be made by HTC (don’t forget that Google just bought HTC’s phone division), just like both of last year’s models. In a lot of ways, this phone is expected to be a minor physical upgrade over the original — it’ll keep the large top and bottom bezels, something that many flagship phones are moving away from. The screen will stay in the same 5-inch range. Like most other phones in its size class, the Pixel 2 won’t feature a dual-camera setup either.

That’s not to say that the Pixel 2 won’t offer some new features. It looks like HTC’s “squeezable” frame (found in the U Ultra and U11) will show up in the Pixel 2. Additionally, it should include front-facing stereo speakers, but it may not have a headphone jack this time around.

Image credit: Android Police

Considerably more interesting is the Pixel 2 XL, which is said to be made by LG. While last year’s two Pixel phones were basically identical aside from screen size, Android Police reported that the Pixel 2 XL will have a number of new features and design flourishes that set it apart. Most notably, the XL 2 should have a nearly bezel-less, edge-to-edge screen, similar to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Galaxy Note 8, the LG V30 and the new iPhone X. Thanks to the lack of bezels, the XL 2 should be able to fit a 6-inch AMOLED panel into a frame that’s about the same size as the original Pixel XL. That screen is expected to have a Quad HD, 1440p resolution, the same as last year’s screen.

Just like the smaller Pixel 2, the Pixel 2 XL is expected to ditch the headphone jack in favor of a stereo speaker array. And even though it’s made by LG and not HTC, the XL 2 should also have a squeezable frame. As for the internals, both phones reportedly have Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor, 4GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage.

Pricing comes in about where you’d expect for flagship phones: the Pixel 2 is rumored to cost $ 649 for 64GB of storage or $ 749 for 128GB, while the XL 2 would go for $ 849 or $ 949. Thanks to its entirely new design and lack of bezels, the larger phone is pushing into the same expensive territory as the Galaxy Note 8 and iPhone X.

Home Mini

Last year’s voice-activated Google Home speaker represented the company’s big push to bring the Google Assistant off phones and into people’s houses. While it looks like the original isn’t going anywhere, Google is also readying a smaller, cheaper sequel meant to compete with the Echo Dot. Droid Life says that the Home Mini will cost $ 49 and give you unfettered access to the Google Assistant; it just won’t have the larger speaker found on the regular Home. As such, you’re not going to want to play music through this device, but if you already own decent speakers the Home Mini might be worth looking at.

Home Max

While we’ve been hearing about the Home Mini for a while now, a new report from 9to5Google suggests that Google will reveal yet another smart speaker next week. This larger device, reportedly dubbed the Home Max, is designed to better compete with Apple’s forthcoming HomePod, along with Amazon’s newly announced Echo and whatever voice-activated speakers Sonos is getting ready to unveil. Details on this new speaker are minimal right now, so it’s a bit of a toss-up as to whether we’ll actually see this next week or further down the line. But given how many speakers Amazon is now offering, diversifying the Google Home lineup isn’t the worst idea.

Daydream View

Google’s VR headset is also apparently in line for an update, according again to Droid Life, but it’s unclear what’ll be different here, aside from some new color choices. It’s rumored to cost $ 99 this time around, $ 20 more than the original. At the very least, it looks like Google is moving away from the cloth-like finish of the original for something more closely resembling nylon (though it’s hard to say for sure without trying it out for ourselves). Whatever the case, we can count on this headset working with Google’s new phones.

Pixelbook

Image credit: Droid Life

It’s been a while since Google has had much to say about Chromebooks and Chrome OS. Last year’s event skipped over the platform entirely, and Google has seen it fit to let partners like Samsung and ASUS show off their vision for Chromebooks. Google also hasn’t dipped its foot into the ill-fated world of Android tablets in some time, either — not since introducing the Pixel C two years ago. But it looks like Google may jump back into both categories with one product: the Pixelbook.

Droid Life believes that the Pixelbook will be a 2-in-1 laptop powered by Chrome OS that can fold back into tablet mode. It’s essentially a successor to the two previous Chromebook Pixel laptops, but it’ll have an entirely new hardware design compared to its successors. It’ll also be the first to officially include stylus support — in fact, Google will be selling its own “Pixelbook Pen” alongside it.

Since Chrome OS can now run Android apps, the Pixelbook will have access to the wealth of software in the Google Play Store (though, to be fair, most of those apps aren’t optimized for larger screens). It’ll still be a step up over your average Android tablet, though, as running the full desktop version of Chrome is significantly better than using its mobile counterpart.

As with Google’s previous Pixel laptops, it appears the giant caveat will be price. Reports indicate this device will start at a steep $ 1,200 — that’s $ 200 more than the 2015 Pixel. That’ll net you 128GB of storage, and Google is supposedly also selling versions with 256GB and 512GB at $ 1,400 and $ 1,750, respectively. While it wouldn’t be surprising to see Google deliver new Chrome OS hardware, it would be pretty unusual to offer these storage options. Chrome OS has never been a platform dependent on large amounts of local storage — as things are now, there’d be essentially no benefit to getting those higher-priced options.

Google Assistant headphones

The Google Assistant has been popping up in all manner of hardware lately, including headphones, so it’s logical for Google to make its own pair. Some sleuthing by 9to5Google a few months back revealed some references to Google Assistant headphones inside the Google Android app. And with the new Pixel phones expected to drop the headphone jack, having a wireless solution would be an important part of Google’s hardware ecosystem. Perhaps the strangest part of this rumor is that these headphones appear to be an over-the-head model rather than earbuds.

ARCore details

Late in August, Google announced ARCore, the company’s answer to Apple’s ARKit. It’s a set of developer tools that’ll make it easier to bring augmented reality apps to a huge variety of Android phones. Rather than use the more advanced but far less commonplace Tango hardware, ARCore will strive to bring AR to the masses. As this will be Google’s first public event since announcing ARCore, it wouldn’t surprise us if the company shows how it works with the new Pixel phones. We have our fingers crossed we’ll be able to try it out for ourselves following Google’s presentation — but regardless of what Google announces next week, we’ll be there bringing you the news live as it happens.

SaveSave

SaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSaveSave

Engadget RSS Feed