FCC Chairman wants Apple to enable FM in iPhones for emergencies (update)

You might think of radio as an archaic form of listening to music, but it’s still one of the more effective ways to get information to people, especially when cell networks go down. Most smartphones already have an FM chip baked right into the chipset, but they tend to be inaccessible, especially in the US. Now FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is asking Apple to activate these FM chips already in iPhones. “Apple is the one major phone manufacturer that has resisted (activating the chips),” said Pai in a statement. “But I hope the company will reconsider its position, given the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.”

This isn’t a new push by Pai to get FM enabled in smartphones, either. “In recent years, I have repeatedly called on the wireless industry to activate the FM chips that are already installed in almost all smartphones sold in the United States,” he said. “And I’ve specifically pointed out the public safety benefits of doing so.” In his first public speech as FCC chairman, Pai notes, he said that “you could make a case for activating chips on public safety grounds alone.”

As The Verge notes, many companies, including Motorola, LG and Samsung (among others), have allowed for FM access in their smartphones. Many are on the list of supported devices provided by NextRadio, a smartphone app that provides FM broadcasts to smartphones. AT&T already asks manufacturers of Android phones to enable the FM systems, too. “I applaud those companies that have done the right thing by activating the FM chips in their phones,” said Pai.

Update: Apple has responded to Pai’s request with the statement below, claiming that its most recent models don’t actually have FM capability which exec Phil Schiller also noted in a tweet. The company didn’t mention older models, but according to John Gruber of Daring Fireball, he’s heard that while they may contain an FM radio chip it isn’t connected or available to be enabled by a software update.

Apple cares deeply about the safety of our users, especially during times of crisis and that’s why we have engineered modern safety solutions into our products. Users can dial emergency services and access Medical ID card information directly from the Lock Screen, and we enable government emergency notifications, ranging from Weather Advisories to AMBER alerts. iPhone 7 and iPhone 8 models do not have FM radio chips in them nor do they have antennas designed to support FM signals, so it is not possible to enable FM reception in these products.


Source: FCC

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Qualcomm wants to ban iPhone imports with new Apple complaint

Qualcomm’s latest move in its rapidly escalating legal battle against Apple is bold. It filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC), saying that the import and sales of some models of iPhones is “unlawful” and is requesting that the commission “bar importation of those iPhones and other products.” According to Qualcomm, those devices “infringe one or more claims of six Qualcomm patents covering key technologies that enable important features and functions,” and constitute “unlawful and unfair use of Qualcomm’s technology.”

On top of that, Qualcomm is seeking a Cease and Desist Order to bar further sales of “infringing Apple products that have already been imported and to halt the marketing, advertising, demonstration, warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of those imported products in the United States.”

In other words, Qualcomm wants to make it impossible for Apple to sell any iPhones that it believes have used its technology without permission. It’s also seeking “damages and injunctive relief” via a complaint filed in the District Court for the Southern District of California.

According to Qualcomm, the six patents in question “enable high performance in a smartphone while extending battery life.” The company even made an infographic to show you how iPhones use these patented technologies.

It’s not yet clear which generations of the iPhone will be affected, or how the US ITC and the respective courts will rule. Just as Qualcomm countersued Apple earlier this year, it’s certain the iPhone maker will respond soon.

Via: CNBC

Source: Qualcomm

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Europe wants iFixit-style product repairability ratings

The European Parliament has approved recommendations for companies to make devices easier to repair and even add labels showing an iFixit-like “score.” They also want batteries, LEDs and other critical parts to be removable and not glued in, “so that we do not have to throw away a phone when the battery breaks down,” wrote Green MP and author Pascal Durand. This is exactly what groups like Greenpeace and iFixit have been demanding for years, but at this point, it’s just a series of recommendations and not law yet.

Some of the specific rules it’s advocating are:

  • “Robust, easily repairable products”
  • Automatic warranty extensions if the repair takes longer than a month
  • Member-state incentives to produce long lasting and easily repairable products
  • Giving consumers the option to go to an independent repairer
  • Cheaper prices for critical spare parts
  • Removable, not glued, batteries, LEDs and other essential parts

The report also recommends that tests and a definition of “planned obsolescence” be developed, along with dissuasive measures for disposable products. It also urges firms to issue software patches for longer periods of time, so that consumers won’t chuck them into landfills when they become obsolete. Finally, it’s calling for a “voluntary European label” that notes a product’s durability, eco features, and upgradeability — something like iFixit’s “repairability score.”

The LG V20 is one of the few high-end smartphones with a removable battery (AOL)

Besides discouraging waste and aiding consumers, the EU does have some selfish reasons for suggesting the measures. Most electronics goods are made outside of Europe, often in Asia or the US, and have little benefit to the EU economy. Making devices easier to fix by consumers and local repair shops, on the other hand, would create jobs in second-hand sales and repairs.

Some of the recommendations would be tough to implement — Apple, for instance, has never made an iPhone with a removable battery and never will. Its reason, which also applies to many other companies and devices, is that gluing the battery into place allows it to make a thinner phone with a longer battery life.

Also, it might be hard to convince consumer-product companies to lower the prices of parts, which are a reliable profit generator. On top of that, without incentives, many tech companies might balk at providing software updates to ten-year-old products.

On the other hand, it’s not impossible to make decent devices with removable batteries, as LG has shown recently. And having replaceable batteries certainly would have made Samsung’s Galaxy Note 7 recall easier to pull off.

Nevertheless, it’s a start. Citing a 2014 Eurobarometer survey, the report notes that “77 percent of EU consumers would rather repair their goods than buy new ones … but they are discouraged by the cost of the repairs and the level of service provided.” As mentioned, the legislation is not yet the law. However, the EU Parliament has now sent a strong signal that it would likely pass such legislation into law if the European Commission were to put it up for a vote. If that happened, the recommendations would become obligations, and companies would have to change their ways.

Via: FrAndroid

Source: European Parliament

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CNBC: Apple wants the iPhone to manage your medical history

Apple has been working on a hush-hush project that would make your whole medical history more accessible, according to CNBC. The tech titan reportedly wants to turn your iPhone into a repository for every diagnosis, lab test result, prescription, health info and doctor’s comment. That way, you don’t have to go through a bunch of emails to find that one test result sent as a PDF attachment or to have your previous doctor send data over to your new one. All you need to do to share any part of your medical history is to look fire up your iPhone.

According to CNBC, Cupertino is attempting to replicate what it did for music: it wants to create sort of an iTunes for health that would serve as a centralized management system for all your medical info. Apple is reportedly already in talks with various hospitals and health IT industry groups to work out the best way to make its vision a reality. One of those groups is “The Argonaut Project,” an initiative promoting the widespread adoption of open standards for health info, while the other is “The Carin Alliance,” an organization that wants to give patients control over their own medical data.

It’s unclear how far into the project Apple is at this point, but it sounds like the tech titan plans to store all your data on the cloud, since it has already started talking to cloud storage startups. If the company succeeds into making your full medical history available on the iPhone, it will solve what the medical industry calls “interoperability crisis.” That’s the lack of data-sharing between health providers that could lead to unnecessary mistakes and missed diagnoses that could be fatal for some patients.

Source: CNBC

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Recommended Reading: iFixit wants to show you how to repair everything


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Apple wants to make app developers less thirsty for reviews

Apple may finally be putting an end to the annoying slew of review requests that often pop up while you’re using an app. According to Recode, the iPhone maker is working on a mechanism that limits the number of times that developers can ask for reviews and ratings to three per year.

Apple is also working on an option within the phone’s settings to disable all such requests, said Recode, as well as adding a way to let users submit ratings and reviews without leaving the apps they’re in. That convenience should encourage more user feedback, which should assuage the concerns of those who might be worried about the potential new feature. Developers depend on positive ratings to get their apps discovered in Apple’s store.

These updates will be part of an upcoming iOS 10.3 release that will also let developers directly reply to reviews within the app store, under what will reportedly be called the Reviews API. The iOS 10.3 developer beta, made available today, will also include a feature to let you use Find My iPhone to search for your missing AirPods.

Source: Recode

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Yelp wants you to add a ‘Yelfie’ to your restaurant reviews

After letting its users virtually queue up for restaurants with a previous update, now Yelp wants them to put a face to the person behind each star-rating. With the service’s amateur reviews shaping restaurant scenes around the globe, the influential platform’s latest update allows its users to attach a selfie, or “Yelfie,” as the site is unfortunately calling them, to their reviews.

When checking-in to a restaurant, reviewers can now pout after being served a poor pastry or smile after tasting a particularly succulent soup. With over 140 million monthly users, these amateur critics now have a chance to gain some notoriety. It will be interesting to see how influential popular “Yelpers” become.

The idea was originally developed by the company at a hackathon conference and they decided that it was too good an idea to waste. Both Android and iPhone Yelp users can download the update today. With spurned restaurant owners now being able to see who’s behind their scathing reviews, be sure to check your Yelfie before you wreck your self(ie).

Source: Yelp

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India wants the tech used to unlock the San Bernardino iPhone

Israeli forensics company Cellebrite helped the FBI access the contents of a suspect’s iPhone 5c following the shooting in San Bernardino last year. Now India is in talks to buy the company’s tech that will allow it to unlock phones and other devices. The Economic Times reports that India’s Forensic Science Laboratory (FSL) is purchasing the tool and should have it in hand within a month. What’s more, the FSL says India will be “a global hub for cases where law enforcement is unable to break into phones.” In other words, the India government will lend a hand to other countries that need to crack encrypted devices.

The Economic Times reports that the Indian government has already enlisted help from Cellebrite in “a few cases,” but now it will have the encryption cracking tech on hand to use as needed. Details are scarce on if the country will be the exclusive owner of the technology or under what circumstances it will make the resource available to other governments around the world. It’s also not a done deal yet, but FSL officials seem confident the government will complete the purchase soon. There’s no word on how much the transaction will cost, but the FBI paid Cellebrite over $ 1 million for its services in the San Bernardino case.

Via: 9to5Mac

Source: The Economic Times

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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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Democrats wants to balance liberty and security in encryption debate

In 2012, the Democratic party platform document (released every four years at the Democratic National Convention) made barely a mention of internet privacy and how it affects US citizens. But that was before Edward Snowden’s revelations. This year, as the DNC kicks off in Philadelphia, the new Democratic Party platform addresses the privacy concerns brought to light in 2013. It also gets into the recent battle over encryption that was highlighted by the FBI trying to force Apple to decrypt an iPhone connected to a murder suspect.

As President Obama said at SXSW this past March, the Democrats will “reject the false choice between privacy interests and keeping Americans safe.” The party’s position is that we can have security while still letting citizens keep a degree of privacy, but we’re still not hearing too much on how it’ll do that. It’s not wildly different than the Republican take on the debate — the party’s platform says it does not want the government to become a “meddlesome monitor” in the tech industry, but it still leaves the door open for accessing encrypted information.

Obama said it’ll take a public discourse to get to a comfortable place on encryption, and the Democratic platform calls for a national dialog on the issue. “We will support a national commission on digital security and encryption to bring together technology and public safety communities to address the needs of law enforcement, protect the privacy of Americans, assess how innovation might point to new policy approaches, and advance our larger national security and global competitiveness interests,” the platform states.

While the platform is light on specifics in regards to the party’s approach to encryption, there are more details on how it’ll keep rolling back the widespread surveillance that came to light thanks to Snowden. The party says it’ll “stand firm against the type of warrantless surveillance of American citizens that flourished during the Bush Administration” and also that it supports “recent reforms to government bulk data collection programs so the government is not collecting and holding millions of files on innocent Americans.” Of course, plenty of these surveillance tactics went on long into Obama’s presidency, but the Democrats aren’t going to mention that here.

Just as in the 2012 platform document, cybersecurity gets a prominent mention. But there’s not a lot of meat in terms of what the party will actually do to make our digital world more secure. The party wants to strengthen cybersecurity, punish those who violate laws and work to build international norms in how we deal with cybersecurity.

That’s not wildly different than the language used in the 2012 platform, but the new document also mentions building on President Obama’s Cybersecurity National Action Plan, which includes the appointment of a federal Chief Information Security Officer. The plan was introduced in February and seems unlikely to pass before the end of Obama’s term, but if elected Hillary Clinton would seek to push it forward.

Some of the plan’s key tenants include modernizing government IT, hiring the aforementioned information security officer, making citizens more aware of the various ways they can protect their online identities (like two-factor authentication) and investing $ 19 billion for cybersecurity in the 2017 budget. That would mark a 35 percent increase over 2016 budget allocation.

Both the 2012 and 2016 platforms make significant mention of the importance of high-speed internet, but the latest document contains a lot more buzzwords of the time: the dreaded Internet of Things and 5G. The platform states the intention to help widely deploy 5G wireless technology that “will not only bring faster internet connections to underserved areas, but will enable the Internet of Things and a host of transformative technologies.”

The party also intends to finish the work done by the Obama administration over the last eight years to “connect every household to high-speed broadband.” 2012’s document state the goal connecting 98 percent of US citizens to high-speed internet; now it seems the Democrats want to close the remaining gap as quickly as possible. These initiatives aren’t radically different than what the Republicans propose, but the Republican platform calls out the current administration for not doing enough to “advance our goal of universal broadband coverage.” That’s not an unreasonable shot: the US has often been criticized for lagging behind other countries in broadband penetration as well as overall speed.

Another place that the 2016 platform differs from the 2012 document is there’s now one lone mention of net neutrality, up from zero four years ago. It’s just one sentence, but at least it’s pretty unequivocal: “Democrats support a free and open internet at home and abroad, and will oppose any effort by Republicans to roll back the historic net neutrality rules that the Federal Communications Commission enacted last year.” Indeed, the Republican platform didn’t mention net neutrality once, not surprising considering the party strongly opposes the protections granted by the FCC under Obama’s watch. If net neutrality is important to you, it’s clear that with one simple sentence the Democrats come out ahead.

Source: 2016 Democratic party platform (PDF)

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