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News, Information and Updates on Hardware and IT Tools to help improve your Medical practice
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Samsung Touts Video Chops With Two More Big Screen Phones

Samsung Touts Video Chops With Two More Big Screen Phones | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

As expected (and amply leaked), Samsung has today whipped back the curtain on a pair of new flagship smartphones, announcing two new phablets: the Galaxy Note 5 (pictured above) and the Galaxy S6 Edge+ at press events in New York and London.


The focus for Samsung here is bigger handsets that can do more with multimedia content, letting the user make use of additional screen real-estate for video editing or livestreaming, or multitasking with multiple content windows on screen.


The Korean giant doesn’t normally drop flagship smartphones in August but is presumably hoping to hog the limelight by announcing new kit in what is typically a fallow month for tech news — before the hype cycle spins up again come September, when Apple typically unboxes new iPhones. (In the event, Chinese mobile maker Xiaomi stole a march on Samsung’s phablet new by announcing its own pair of newbies earlier today.)


Here’s a quick rundown of the new additions to Samsung’s handset Galaxy, which will be landing in some 7,000 retail stores in the U.S. for preview starting from tomorrow (but on sale globally later this month):


Galaxy Note 5


The Galaxy Note 5 is the sequel to the 5.7-inch display Note 4, which launched back in September 2014. The display remains the same size (and same quad-HD res), but RAM has been beefed up to 4GB.


The design has also been tweaked to be thinner and slimmer, with a narrower bezel and curved back. The rear camera is still 16MP, but there’s now 5MP on the front. Both are f1.9.


The S-Pen stylus has also had an update — with an “all new” design, and, says Samsung, improved writing capabilities (albeit it said that at the last Note update…), including the ability to jot down info even when the screen is off.


Users can also now annotate PDF files using the S-Pen, and capture a whole website from top to bottom using a Scroll Capture feature. And the pen is easier to extract from its kennel inside the Note, thanks to a “one click” extraction mechanism.


Available colorways for the Note 5 are “Black Sapphire” and “White Pearl”. There are 32GB and 64GB variants (but no microSD card slot — a factor that’s going to continue to grate on long-time Samsung fans).


Galaxy S6 Edge+


The Galaxy S6 Edge+ updates one of two new flagships Samsung unboxed back in March at the Mobile World Congress trade show — namely the S6 Edge.

The flagship feature of that handset was a screen with curved edges. Those curves spill over now to the S6 Edge+ but the overall size of the screen has also been increased to phablet size — so it’s been bumped up from 5.1 inches to 5.7 inches. As with the S6 Edge, the curved edges can be used as a shortcut from any screen to access top contacts and apps, by swiping along the edge.


As with the Note 5, RAM has also been increased to 4GB. And the rear camera is 16MP, with a 5MP lens on the front.


Available colorways for the S6 Edge+ are “Black Sapphire” and “Gold Platinum” (below). And there are also 32GB and 64GB variants (but again no microSD card slot).


 

Multimedia focus


Both devices sport improved video stabilization when shooting from the front or rear camera, according to Samsung.  There’s also a new video collage mode that allows users to shoot and edit short videos more easily, adding various frames and effects. And a 4K Video filming feature to record content for 4K TVs.


A full HD Live Broadcast option lets users instantly stream video straight from the phone to any individual, group of contacts, or through YouTube Live — a la live streaming apps like Meerkat and Periscope. While Samsung touts other camera and audio improvements such as a quick launch feature (by double clicking the home button from any screen to jump into the camera), and support for UHQA for richer audio quality.


Both handsets also support Samsung Pay — the company’s forthcoming NFC and magnetic secure transmission mobile payment tech which it’s lining up as an Apple Pay rival.


There’s also embedded wireless charging on both, but wireless charger pads aren’t included — so that’s an additional accessory you’d have to have or buy yourself.

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What Apple has learned from ResearchKit so far

What Apple has learned from ResearchKit so far | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Apple operations chief Jeff Williams says that ResearchKit — the suite of medical research tools for the iPhone that Apple launched in March — has already helped researchers make a lot of interesting discoveries.


Apple originally partnered with five different companies and research centers to create apps that study Parkinson's, diabetes, asthma, breast cancer, and heart disease.


With the assurance that Apple itself will never see their data, iPhone owners can use the apps, letting researchers collect huge amounts of data "at a fraction of the cost." 


William's said on stage at Re/code's Code Conference on Wednesday that data from the Parkinson's app in particular has already surfaced some valuable insight for researchers. 

The Parkinson's app, called Parkinson mPower (which stands for Mobile Parkinson Observatory for Worldwide, Evidenced-based Research), was developed by the non-profit research organization Sage Bionetworks in partnership with two University of Rochester physicians, Dorsey and Karl Kieburtz, and Aston University mathematics professor Max Little.


For example, comparing the tests of people who have Parkinson's and who use the app to the results of people who decided to join the app as part of the control group, Williams says that researchers made a startling observation:


Amongst the people who signed up as part of the control group, some of them exhibited symptoms similar to those who have Parkinson's. This could mean several things, including — potentially — that some of the people in the "control" group may have the disease as well. Since ResearchKit isn't a legal diagnostic tool yet, these results are still very preliminary. Plus, the study was only observational, meaning the researchers have no direct control over the experiment (they can't assign some people to develop Parkinson's and others to not develop it) and simply observe the way participants use the app.


Another valuable data point comes from looking at how people's medication affects their test results. After someone with Parkinson's takes their medicine, for example, that person should ideally have an easier time completing the app's tests, which include recording their voice and tapping their phone's screen as fast as they can. Subtle voice changes in tremor and volume as well as changes in dexterity have been shown to be a good way to measure the severity of Parkinson's symptoms, according to the University of Rochester Medical Center


For many of the app's recent users who reported taking their medicine regularly, however, their test results did not appear to improve significantly, said Williams.


That's incredibly useful data for patients and doctors who want to see what effect — if any — their medication is having. 


"If we only got these two learnings out of this app, it would already be worth it," Williams says.


In addition to its data on Parkison's, said Williams, another app called the asthma app is helping researchers at Mount Sinai pinpoint different triggers for asthma.


In Texas, for example, heat came up as one of the main possible triggers for asthma in people who use the app. In New York, on the other hand, the most popular trigger amongst users appeared to be anger. 


Getting that information only took researchers weeks and months instead of years, like it usually would, Williams said. 

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Samsung proposes an Android phone that transforms into a Windows laptop

Samsung has been thinking up new ways to transform smartphones into laptops. In a patent application filed last week, first spotted by Patently Mobile, Samsung describes a mobile device that runs Android and is able to switch over to Windows when inserted into a dock. Individually, these ideas aren't new — dual-OS devices and docking smartphones have been tried a number of times over the past several years — but they haven't been put together in a particularly straightforward way. Of course, this is only a patent application, so there's no guarantee that Samsung will actually make it.


IMAGINE HOW SICK THIS THING WOULD BE RUNNING TIZEN AND LINUX


Even so, Samsung actually goes into quite a bit of detail on how such a device would work. The core would be a smartphone or a tablet, which would hold everything needed to run both Android and Windows. The dock would have a keyboard, a large display, and possibly a trackpad. Those final two items are where it gets interesting. The dock may not need a trackpad because the smartphone's touchscreen could be used instead (given the state of Windows trackpads, this could even be a benefit). Alternatively, if the dock includes a trackpad, the smartphone could be used as a second display. Samsung proposes that it could display Android at the same time that the dock displays Windows, or that it could be an extension of the Windows desktop.



The patent application notes that other operating systems could be used in place of Windows and Android, but those are the two that it focuses on. That's not really a surprise: they're the dominant mobile and desktop operating systems, and Samsung has even played around with transitioning between the two of them before. In 2013, it introduced the Ativ Q, which could switch between functioning as a Windows notebook and an Android tablet. Of course, making both form factors actually good to use is difficult, especially when all of their power is coming from a mobile device. Still, the idea that a single device could eventually serve as the core of all our computing isn't unreasonable, and it's clearly something that Samsung is thinking about.

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Don't expect much change in the smartphone market

Don't expect much change in the smartphone market | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The worldwide smartphone market in 2019 is expected to look awfully similar to today's smartphone market.


By the end of 2015, total smartphone shipments will hit 1.4 billion, according to new data from research firm IDC.


Google's Android operating system will account for 1.15 billion shipments, nabbing 79.4 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Apple's iOS will come in second place at 237 million shipments and 16.4 percent market share. Microsoft's Windows Phone will only muster 46.8 million shipments and 3.2 percent market, said IDC .

Although iOS and Windows Phone will see their shipments jump considerably this year -- 23 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively -- not much is going to change in the marketplace over the next four years. By the end of 2019, Android will still own 79 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, followed by 14.2 percent for iOS and 5.4 percent for Windows Phone, said IDC.


The data shows how difficult it can be for any company to compete with Google's Android platform. A slew of vendors around the world, including HTC, Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi and countless others, all use Android to power their devices. The benefits to Android vendors are myriad, but chief among them is the ability to focus on hardware design and leave Google to worry about software updates, managing an operating system and attracting developers to an application marketplace.


Google will take on that charge at its I/O developer conference later this week. While the company isexpected to use the event to showcase the next version of Android, code named Android M, Google will also hold sessions for its developers to learn more about creating apps for its many platforms, including Android and Chrome OS. For Android handset vendors, there's also an ancillary benefit to the conference: Google shines a light on Android, boosting interest in the operating system and thus, devices running it. There's a possibility that some new Android devices could be shown off at I/O later this week.

For Apple, competing with Android for operating system dominance means little to nothing. While Google tries to woo vendors and get Android on as many devices as possible, Apple keeps its operating system to its line of iPhones and iPads. For Apple, the value is in selling hardware.


Apple's decision to debut larger-screen iPhones last September proved to be a good idea for its hardware business, according to IDC. Apple's 23 percent year-over-year shipment gain will be due in large part to the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens on its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, IDC said. What's more, if Apple continues to offer devices with larger screen sizes, the research firm believes Apple's year-over-year sales gains will outpace the entire market.


"IDC believes a sizable portion of the Android installed base were those who migrated over to the platform from iOS with the desire for a larger screen smartphone," IDC program director Ryan Reith said in a statement. "This is an opportunity Apple is no question focusing on."

While Apple's shipments will grow over the next four years, the worldwide smartphone market will start to see shipments slow. IDC reported that total smartphone shipments will be up 11.3 percent in 2015, down from a 27.6 percent growth rate in 2014. By 2019, the market's growth rate will hit just 5.1 percent, and over a five-year period, the average growth rate will be 8.2 percent.


IDC said the slowdown is due in part to China. The market was, over the last few years, a major driver for smartphone growth as consumers were buying their first devices. As smartphones have started to saturate the market, shipments will start to fall. Indeed, IDC predicts that China's smartphone shipments will be up just 2.5 percent this year, adding that "the largest market in the world has reached a level of maturity where rapid growth will be harder to achieve."


Those issues in China are expected to have negative implications on Android, IDC said. Google's platform has relied on China to be a major growth driver for shipments. As China slows down, Android shipments will follow.


"This has implications for Android because China has been a critical market for Android smartphone shipments in recent years, accounting for 36 percent of total volume in 2014," Reith said.


Regardless, better times appear to be ahead for hardware vendors. By 2019, IDC said worldwide smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.9 billion. That breaks down to 1.5 billion Android devices, 274.5 million iOS devices, and 103.5 Windows Phone devices, according to IDC.


Neither Apple nor Google immediately responded to a request for comment.


The worldwide smartphone market in 2019 is expected to look awfully similar to today's smartphone market.


By the end of 2015, total smartphone shipments will hit 1.4 billion, according to new data from research firm IDC.


Google's Android operating system will account for 1.15 billion shipments, nabbing 79.4 percent of the worldwide smartphone market. Apple's iOS will come in second place at 237 million shipments and 16.4 percent market share. Microsoft's Windows Phone will only muster 46.8 million shipments and 3.2 percent market, said IDC .

Although iOS and Windows Phone will see their shipments jump considerably this year -- 23 percent and 34.1 percent, respectively -- not much is going to change in the marketplace over the next four years. By the end of 2019, Android will still own 79 percent of the worldwide smartphone market, followed by 14.2 percent for iOS and 5.4 percent for Windows Phone, said IDC.


The data shows how difficult it can be for any company to compete with Google's Android platform. A slew of vendors around the world, including HTC, Samsung, LG, Huawei, Xiaomi and countless others, all use Android to power their devices. The benefits to Android vendors are myriad, but chief among them is the ability to focus on hardware design and leave Google to worry about software updates, managing an operating system and attracting developers to an application marketplace.


Google will take on that charge at its I/O developer conference later this week. While the company isexpected to use the event to showcase the next version of Android, code named Android M, Google will also hold sessions for its developers to learn more about creating apps for its many platforms, including Android and Chrome OS. For Android handset vendors, there's also an ancillary benefit to the conference: Google shines a light on Android, boosting interest in the operating system and thus, devices running it. There's a possibility that some new Android devices could be shown off at I/O later this week.


For Apple, competing with Android for operating system dominance means little to nothing. While Google tries to woo vendors and get Android on as many devices as possible, Apple keeps its operating system to its line of iPhones and iPads. For Apple, the value is in selling hardware.


Apple's decision to debut larger-screen iPhones last September proved to be a good idea for its hardware business, according to IDC. Apple's 23 percent year-over-year shipment gain will be due in large part to the 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch screens on its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, IDC said. What's more, if Apple continues to offer devices with larger screen sizes, the research firm believes Apple's year-over-year sales gains will outpace the entire market.


"IDC believes a sizable portion of the Android installed base were those who migrated over to the platform from iOS with the desire for a larger screen smartphone," IDC program director Ryan Reith said in a statement. "This is an opportunity Apple is no question focusing on."

While Apple's shipments will grow over the next four years, the worldwide smartphone market will start to see shipments slow. IDC reported that total smartphone shipments will be up 11.3 percent in 2015, down from a 27.6 percent growth rate in 2014. By 2019, the market's growth rate will hit just 5.1 percent, and over a five-year period, the average growth rate will be 8.2 percent.


IDC said the slowdown is due in part to China. The market was, over the last few years, a major driver for smartphone growth as consumers were buying their first devices. As smartphones have started to saturate the market, shipments will start to fall. Indeed, IDC predicts that China's smartphone shipments will be up just 2.5 percent this year, adding that "the largest market in the world has reached a level of maturity where rapid growth will be harder to achieve."


Those issues in China are expected to have negative implications on Android, IDC said. Google's platform has relied on China to be a major growth driver for shipments. As China slows down, Android shipments will follow.


"This has implications for Android because China has been a critical market for Android smartphone shipments in recent years, accounting for 36 percent of total volume in 2014," Reith said.


Regardless, better times appear to be ahead for hardware vendors. By 2019, IDC said worldwide smartphone shipments are forecast to reach 1.9 billion. That breaks down to 1.5 billion Android devices, 274.5 million iOS devices, and 103.5 Windows Phone devices, according to IDC.

Neither Apple nor Google immediately responded to a request for comment.

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Before Windows 10, Microsoft offers Lumia 635 with more memory

Before Windows 10, Microsoft offers Lumia 635 with more memory | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

In a somewhat surprising twist, Microsoft has added a new version of its Lumia 635 handset in some regions. Don’t get too excited though; it appears there’s only one change: A doubling of the phone’s system memory.

Microsoft‘s official Lumia 635 page confirms the change, which was spotted by the AllAboutWindowsPhone blog. The original model launched with 512MB of memory while 1GB is now available in select markets. The updated model, along with prior comments from the company suggests that Windows 10, Microsoft’s upcoming software for its phones, is best suited for devices that have 1GB of memory.

That doesn’t mean that phones with less RAM won’t see the Windows 10 upgrade. However, Microsoft’s Corporate VP, Operating Systems Group, Joe Belfiore has already said that the company is working to get Windows 10 on phones with 512MB of memory; they just may not have all of the new software features available to them. If you haven’t seen them yet, here’s an overview from the currently available early preview of Windows 10.

As much as I’d like to see Windows 10 arrive for the complete line of Lumia handsets, I can understand the challenge Microsoft faces with limited memory on low-cost phones. Unfortunately, the best selling Lumias have been the ones with 512MB of memory so the company will be challenged to get these handset owners on its new software which unifies the experience across phones, tablets and computers.


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Samsung Wants To Kill Your Charging Cables

Samsung Wants To Kill Your Charging Cables | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Wireless charging technology goes back a long, long way—all the way back to 1891, when Nicola Tesla successfully transferred power wirelessly. More than 100 years later, the tech still remains a non-starter.

Samsung wants to change all that. A post by its top engineer for IT and mobile, Seho Park, suggests that the company’s upcoming Galaxy S6 may offer built-in support for the technology, which would be a first for the company.

Samsung, of course, has dabbled in wireless charging before. Typically, those efforts required accessories like swappable backplates and charge mats. Park writes that his company’s first commercial wireless charging mat launched in the U.S. in 2011 as the Droid Charge. Since then, the tech giant has continued to look for ways to squeeze all that tech into the phone itself.

Shoot Out At The Wireless Corral 

Back in 2009, when Palm still had a horse in the mobile race, its Pre phone line and its wireless Touchstone charging dock grabbed the public's attention. Now Palm is dead in the water—though not done for quite yet—and the state of wireless charging has come to resemble a Mexican standoff. Three major, but incompatible, standards have been jockeying for the top spot.

All three essentially do the same thing: They use electromagnetic fields to charge a battery from a (usually short) distance, allowing you to ditch the charging cable. None have emerged victorious, although consumers have clearly been the losers.

According to Park, Samsung—which belongs to all three organizations—has had enough. It's been working on integrated components that can work with all the wireless-charging standards. Park writes:

We also discovered new ways to merge and combine components in a more efficient way, which allowed our technology to generate more power and take up less space.... We also focused on finding new ways to make the components themselves smaller and thinner. 

If that effort works, one day you might toss a Samsung device on a charging mat and it would just charge, without you giving a moment's thought as to whether your phone works with that particular brand of mat (or transmitter table or charging bowl).

It is, of course, possible that the warring standards might have eventually gotten their act together on their own. Last year, two of them joined forces, agreeing to support each other’s technology. One of those groups also partnered with Starbucks, whose cafés now feature charging tables and bars.


Promising steps. Too bad they still leave out the the third, and arguably most popular, wireless-charging standard, known as Qi. (It's a lot like being the biggest ant in the hill.) Currently, Qi technology is available in hundreds of consumer products, and if you hunt for them, you can find charging locations at a few dozen McDonald's joints in Europe.

Instead of waiting for a miracle to occur, Samsung looks ready to take matters into its own hands.

Smartphones Are Just The Start 

The timing of Park’s meditation on wireless charging is no coincidence. He strongly implies the new Galaxy phone will have built-in support, but he stops short of promising that—perhaps to preserve "the wow factor" for Samsung’s Unpacked media event in Barcelona in a couple of weeks.

Portable power and charging has been a vexing matter for the whole mobile industry, with players like Motorola, Apple and Samsung (of course) offering fast-charging technology to take some of the irritation out of juicing up. If the cable finally goes away and charging installations become more publicly available, it could go a long way toward easing the long wait for bigger and better batteries.

Park explains that Samsung has been working on the wire-free charging conundrum for the last five years. Apparently, the company figures the time is ripe now to stuff wireless charging directly into its phones, to drive adoption of the technology—and, of course, its own devices. 

Those efforts could have even greater significance beyond phones.

In addition to IT companies, leading brands from a wide range of industries, such as consumer electronics, semiconductors, mobile services, automotive, furniture, software and others have joined the effort and are working closely together.

Samsung, of course, has its fingers in several of those pies—including smartwatches and fitness bands, home theater equipment and kitchen appliances. With its SmartThings acquisition last year, it has a stake in smart homes and the broader movement dubbed the "Internet of Things." 

The Samsung global conglomerate has its hand in even more than that, from hospital-grade medical equipment to industrial machines, and many of the gadgets that hook into them. Anything not nailed down by a power cable could get a boost from streamlined charging technology.

But Phones Are a Crucial Start For Samsung

Support for the various industries could be Samsung's long game. For now, however, its focus is on phones, where it has been struggling recently.

For mobile consumers to flock to wireless charging, the process needs to be fast and convenient. Given that, there’s one curious tidbit in Park’s post:

Two or three years ago, wireless charging was only twenty to thirty percent as efficient as wired charging. But since then, we have been able to double the charging speed.

It’s tough to tell if Park is referring to Samsung’s work or wireless charging as a whole. If it’s the latter, then Daniel Schreiber, president of Powermat Technologies, might take some exception to this. He told me last November, when his group’s Starbucks initiative launched, that those wireless charging speeds rival cabled connections. I didn’t clock the action when I tried it, but at the time, the charging seemed pretty speedy.

If Park is talking about Samsung’s development, then the tech—slow as it seems to be—still has a ways to go. Because by my math, if the cable-free version is 30% as efficient as traditional charging, and the company can achieve twice that speed, it’s still much slower than physically plugging in. 

So it may be a bit too early for Galaxy customers to completely ditch the cord. Samsung's wire-free tech could be somewhat handy, since it may come built into those Galaxy S6 phones. But it might not be the shot of power needed to really juice up Samsung’s mobile business.


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Apple’s Activation Lock Leads To Big Drops In Smartphone Theft Worldwide

Apple’s Activation Lock Leads To Big Drops In Smartphone Theft Worldwide | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The temptation of a smartphone for a thief is dropping, thanks to Apple’s decision to implement a remote kill switch via Find My Phone that can erase and disable a phone once it’s been stolen or gone missing. A new report from Reuters found that iPhone theft dropped by 50 percent in London, 40 percent in San Francisco and 25 percent in New York. The drops represent theft activity as measured during the 12 months following Apple’s introduction of the remote locking feature in September 2013 as part of iOS 7. With iOS 8, Apple made its so-called said “kill switch” active by default, in accordance with California regulation, and that should help the rates of theft continue to trend downwards.

Apple’s Activation Lock requires a user to authorize a wipe or fresh install using the existing iCloud credentials on record, ensuring that a thief can’t go ahead and just wipe the device easily to use it themselves or prepare it for sale on the secondary market. Apple is one of the first major manufacturers to switch to implementing the system by default, rather than through user opt-in, which means it should be present on far more devices. All new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus units, for instance, will have it on be default given that they shipped with iOS 8 pre-installed.

Stats from last year indicated that Apple’s implementation of the Activation Lock were having a significant effect, but Apple’s combined iOS 8 adoption rate (currently at over 70 percent) and the fact that it’s now on by default means that the risk associated with stealing a modern iOS device is even greater. The aim is to make smartphone theft ultimately as futile as stealing a credit card, whereby a user ‘cancelling’ their hardware renders it ultimately useless.

Smartphone theft is often theft of opportunity, meaning a thief weighs reward vs. risk, including factors like how difficult it is to recoup an investment on something they’ve taken. Activation Lock doesn’t automatically render smartphones using it worthless to thieves, but it skews the value proposition considerably, and reduces reward (an iPhone sold for parts is worth far less than a fully functional unity, for instance).

Apple seems committed to coming up with new ways to protect user devices and data when it comes to theft, given its early pioneering of phone tracking tech via Find My iPhone. Patents awarded Apple have also described systems whereby the phone requires positive ID of the user to even display an unlock prompt, and tech which can monitor and report on unidentified users in the background.


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Report: Windows 10 for phones will debut on Lumia flagships, including the 1020

Report: Windows 10 for phones will debut on Lumia flagships, including the 1020 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Good news, Windows Phone fans: Windows 10 for phones will reportedly be available on several popular smartphones—including the iconic Lumia 1020.

However, don’t expect the first build of Windows 10 for phones to have the same sort of spit and polish as Windows 10 for desktops, according to Windows Central, which reported the story using both its own sources as well as tweets from Jesse Leskinen, a Java and PHP developer.  

Leskinen’s information, however, remains unconfirmed by Microsoft—and, to be fair, it may all be wishful thinking at this point.

Why this matters: It’s almost certain that Windows 10 is being tested against the massive Lumia 1520, as well as the HTC One—both solid smartphones that have been embraced by Windows Phone fans. What’s less certain is how deep Microsoft plans to dig into its back catalog to support the upcoming Windows 10. Microsoft’s Lumia Denim/Lumia Camera update would seem ideally suited for the 41MP that the Lumia 1020’s camera packs, but Microsoft has disappointed customers by skipping over it. We can’t say for certain which phones Microsoft will support with Windows 10, but it would be in Microsoft’s best interests to include as many as possible.

What we know about Windows 10 for phones

Microsoft showed off several aspects of Windows 10 for phones at its Windows 10 event last month in Redmond. There, Microsoft demonstrated how information will sync between desktop Windows 10 PCs and phones running the new operating system, as well as a sneak peek at some of the new “universal” apps that will debut on the phones themselves. We haven’t yet seen the new versions of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel that will launch on Windows 10 phones, but they have been released for Windows 10 PCs

At this point, the only concrete information we have about which existing Windows phones will receive the Windows 10 Technical Preview comes from Joe Belfiore, corporate vice president of Microsoft’s Operating Systems Group, who tweeted over the weekend that Windows 10 will be available for a broad swath of phones:

Microsoft has recently pushed to expand the Windows Phone lineup by adding a number of lower-cost phones, some of which have scrimped on available memory in an attempt to cut costs. In addition to the most popular Windows Phone, the Lumia 520, last year’s Lumia 530, 630 and 635 all have 512MB. 

As Belfiore noted, however, “features may vary” on these lower-memory phones. That sounds very similar to the language Microsoft used when describing the upgrades that owners of the Surface and other Windows RT tablets would receive when upgrading to Windows 10: specifically, they’ll receive "some of the functionality" of Windows 10, but not all of it.

Windows Central also seems to have obtained concrete information that, at least at this stage, the technical preview of Windows 10 for phones seems... well, like a technical preview. Windows Central said that the latest build contains numerous bugs, including a battery-draining bug that makes the phone run hot. Other issues include poorly optimized animations, and a non-functioning glance screen. Windows Central notes that the glance-screen bug is specific to the HTC One, however, apparently confirming that the phone is being tested against Windows Phone 10.


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Samsung-made chips reportedly power Apple's next iPhone

Samsung-made chips reportedly power Apple's next iPhone | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Samsung will reportedly power the majority of the next-generation iPhone according to Korea's Maeil Business Newspaper. The report says that the Korean company will claim 75 percent of processor chip production for Apple's next smartphone: Samsung one of a few companies that have the scale to provide high-end processors in the numbers that Apple needs for its iPhones. The Korean company was the one responsible for crafting the A7 SoC powering the iPhone 5S two years ago, although an apparent exclusive deal with TSMC meant that wasn't involved in Apple's two new phones in 2014. It's unlikely that Samsung and Apple are all-of-a-sudden BFFs, but, well, business is business. We've reached out to both companies for a response.response.

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Samsung Could Make More Windows Phones in 2015

Samsung Could Make More Windows Phones in 2015 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The last time Samsung made a Windows Phone it was the Windows 8 Samsung ATIV SE, a Verizon Wireless exclusive back in the spring of last year. Samsung hasn't even bothered with an out-of-the-box 8.1 device since. But the smartphone maker is interested in making more Windows Phone handsets. Only that pesky Android royalties legal battles stands in its way.

The Korea Times says that official sources can confirm that Samsung has been running "pilot programs" to test the stability of Windows 8.1 on current devices. But the companies won't do anything until the two come to some agreement over the now colossal battle regarding Android royalties.

If the two mega-companies are able to come to terms, we could see more Windows-powered devices from Samsung as early as this fall, possibly running Microsoft's new Windows 10 mobile platform.

Whether Samsung would outfit existing phones with Windows, much like the HTC One for Windows, or create completely new devices is uncertain, but right now the focuses does seem on "cheaper" handsets, whatever that means. Either way, it would further their plan to slowly ween off Android but not be solely dependent on its nascent Tizen OS.

It's a lot of business-y mumbo jumbo at this point, but would Samsung hardware running new and improved Windows get you to jump your current OS ship?

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Microsoft prepares to preview Windows 10 for phones

Microsoft is preparing to preview its latest version of Windows Phone later this month. The software giant released a "Phone Insider" app over the weekend, ahead of a January 21st press event where the company will reveal its plans for Windows 10 across phones and tablets. Sources familiar with Microsoft’s plans tell The Verge that the company will demo a number of features aimed at Windows 10 on phones, including some user interface changes designed to more closely align its mobile operating system with its desktop counterpart and the Xbox One games console.

Microsoft is also making changes to Windows 10 on the desktop to include light and dark themes that match the phone and tablet editions. Currently referred to as Windows Mobile and Windows 10 Mobile internally at Microsoft, the next mobile OS will be a combination of the Windows Phone and Windows RT operating systems. Microsoft is aiming to take advantage of its universal applications model to align its tablet and phone software to run the same apps across tablets and phones. While the company will detail its developer and app plans further at Build, the January 21st event will focus more on the consumer features of both the desktop and phone / tablet operating system. Microsoft may even choose to name its new combined Windows RT and Windows Phone OS at the event.

Windows 10 for phones preview expected by end of January

The recently released "Phone Insider" app provides similar access to the Windows 10 insider program, allowing enthusiasts and partners to test an early version of Windows 10 for phones. While the app only works for Microsoft employees at present, we understand Microsoft will be expanding its use to allow anyone to sign up and install Windows 10 on modern Windows Phones. Like the Windows 10 insider program, the initial preview for phones will be limited in features as the company seeks feedback on changes ahead of a release later this year. Microsoft is expected to release the Windows 10 for phones preview by the end of January, following the press event on January 21st. The Verge will be live from Microsoft's press event next week, stay tuned for more details on our live blog plans.


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The top five smartphone disappointments of 2014

The top five smartphone disappointments of 2014 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

The poor design of two different smartphones, a low-resolution front camera with the new iPhone, the Moto G’s lack of LTE, and the hefty price tag of the Amazon Fire led to disappointment this year when it came to smartphone releases.

The design of the Samsung Galaxy S5

I almost feel sorry for Samsung Electronics and the year the company has had. For example, while the overall smartphone market grew during the third quarter, Samsung’s sales dropped by about 9 percent to 73.2 million units, according to Gartner. And there is no getting around the fact the all-plastic design of the Galaxy S5 was a huge miscalculation and put a damper on the company’s most important product. Samsung has started to make some changes with the use of metal on smartphones like the Galaxy Note 4, but it remains to be seen if that is enough to turn around its high-end fortunes.

The front camera on the iPhone 6

One of the big smartphone trends this year was the addition of high-resolution front cameras for better selfies. But this trend was unfortunately ignored by Tim Cook and his colleagues at Apple. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus only have a 1.2-megapixel front camera, which simply isn’t good enough for products that are as expensive as the new iPhones.

Apple has always been good at knowing how much it has to upgrade the iPhone and still have fans line up to buy one. With their larger screens, the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus were always going to be big hits, irrespective of other changes. But now Apple has at least one thing it can easily improve on next year’s new models.

The lack of LTE on the Motorola Moto G

When I went to the launch of the new Moto G in September, I didn’t even think to ask if the it smartphone had LTE. To me, that was a given after the company had launched the 4G version of the original model. But the product planners had decided against that. An LTE version of the new Moto G is likely on the way, but Motorola hasn’t reveled any official plans.

Luckily for smartphone buyers, next year LTE will become a standard feature on smartphones priced just below $200 without a contract, thanks to cheaper components. I’ll even bet that the next version of the less expensive Moto E will have LTE.

The screen on the Nokia Lumia 530

One of the main reasons Windows Phone is still around is the success of the Lumia 520, which offered good design and performance for not much money. But when Nokia finally got around to developing a successor things didn’t go well. The Lumia 530 may be cheap at less than $100, but the sacrifices the company felt it had to make to get there were too big. The screen is especially disappointing, and I am not alone in thinking that.

“We hate the Lumia 530’s display. Even though its pixel density is better than that of the Lumia 520, we can honestly say we found that phone’s display more satisfying. And the Lumia 530 can’t compete with the Moto E in this regard. It really is a poor-looking display, in our view. And we can’t really fathom why,” PC Advisor wrote in its review.

The Amazon Fire Phone’s original price tag

Amazon finally launched its first smartphone, the Fire Phone, in July. While the company can be forgiven for not getting everything right on the first try, the decision to charge $199 with a contact, or $649 without one, was delusional. The smartphone didn’t have the features or hardware specifications to justify the price. Amazon quickly realized its mistake, and lowered the price. But it still missed the buzz that comes with a product launch.

Even though Amazon has struggled to sell the Fire Phone, the company shouldn’t give up. The contextual menus and gesture navigation are promising, and the smartphone market needs companies that dare to do something different. So I am looking forward to what Amazon has in store for next year.




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Vibin PhotoNotes's curator insight, December 18, 2014 2:37 AM

Not everything in mobile tech of 2014 was good. We had the #bendgate, the LTE-less new Moto G and the recent unveiling of the new Samsung smartphone. To continue our countdown to 2015, here are the top 5 smartphone disappointments of 2014.

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Smartphone thefts drop as kill switch usage grows

Smartphone thefts drop as kill switch usage grows | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Phone theft used to be a growth industry. The snatch-and-run stealing of iPhones even had its own clever moniker: Apple picking. But such thefts might be in decline. Last year, 2.1 million Americans had phones stolen, according to a nationally representative survey conducted by the Consumer Reports National Research Center. (Another 3.1 million smartphones were lost.) In 2013, about 3.1 million phones were stolen, according to our previous survey.

The two Consumer Reports surveys employed slightly different methodology, which could account for some of the drop, but there is other evidence of a decline—and the trend might accelerate now that Android devices seem poised to embrace kill switches, which allow you to deactivate your stolen or lost phone. 

Smartphones have allowed users to remotely wipe their data for years. But in 2013 prosecutors across the country started calling for technologies that disable, or “brick,” stolen phones to deter thieves from stealing them for resale overseas. Minnesota and California both passed laws requiring manufacturers to make progress on installing anti-theft features by July 1, 2015.

Apple is well ahead of the deadline. After the company added a kill switch to its Find My iPhone app in 2013, police departments around the country reported that iPhone thefts dropped. Then, Activation Lock became a default feature last fall with the launch of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Samsung also added a kill switch—called Reactivation Lock—to a few phone models in 2013. But, in general, Android phones haven’t had the technology. To protect their devices, consumers had to download aftermarket security apps.


Many expected Android Lollipop 5.0 to resolve that problem in late 2014, but manufacturers didn’t implement the kill switch, presumably because of performance issues. Now, all eyes are trained on Lollipop 5.1, due to roll out this summer. Given the helter-skelter, one-off approach phone companies take to their mobile operating systems, however, it will be a long time before a kill switch comes to all Android models.

The technology could eventually save U.S. consumers $3.4 billion,according to calculations by William Duckworth, a statistics and data science professor at Creighton University. (His 2014 study included the costs of replacing handsets and a portion of the money consumers spend on phone insurance.)

Kill switches aside, many phone owners do an abysmal job of protecting their mobile devices, the new Consumer Reports survey found. Among survey respondents, only 46 percent set a screen lock using a four-digit PIN or a stronger method such as a lengthy password or fingerprint. Just 33 percent backed up their data, including photos and contacts, to a computer or online service. Built-in security technology can only get a consumer so far—to reap the benefits, you actually have to use it.

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Microsoft's Cortana Is Coming to Android and iPhone

Microsoft's Cortana Is Coming to Android and iPhone | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Starting in June, you’ll be able to download Cortana as an app on your Galaxy or iPhone even if you’d rather die than use Windows. The rumors are true: Microsoft is giving the non-Windows crowd a taste of its powerful voice assistant, bringing Cortana to Android and iOS.

People love Cortana so much, some developers have already created a ported version for Android called “Portaña.” This switch to multi-platform availability will make Cortana seem more like a standalone product than a Windows feature. And Cortana has been getting increasingly sophisticated, so this could be a real threat to Siri and Google Now.

There is a catch, though: The Android and iOS versions of Cortana will be limited. You won’t be able to say “Hey, Cortana” to activate the voice assistant hands-free, and you won’t be able to open apps or toggle settings, since there won’t be the same level of integration.

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Microsoft Doubles Down On Office For Android Tablets

Microsoft Doubles Down On Office For Android Tablets | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Call it the robot bear hug. Microsoft announced today that its Android hardware manufacturer (OEM) program that sees Office apps pre-installed on new hardware has been expanded to 20 new companies. According to the software company, there are now 31 “partners” in the program.


The play is simple: Microsoft wants its apps and services to win on every platform, and to do so, it wants space on every device’s home screen. If you don’t control the platform that is quickly becoming the most important platform ever, you have to play. But if one of your key competitors owns the platform in question, you might need new friends. Say, the firms that actually distribute the platform via their tablet hardware. Voilà, access.

Here’s the official statement:

These 31 partners will offer Android tablets pre-installed with Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, OneDrive and Skype in the near future. They will be available on a new LG tablet, and Sony will include them on their Xperia Z4 tablet in the next 90 days.

The new partnerships will continue the early success of the company’s push to bring Office to iOS and Android. Microsoft is pushing Office onto every major platform, ensuring that one of the key cash sources has the largest potential market to sell into.

Microsoft is, of course, planning similar work for its own Windows 10 platform, an operating system that is still the crux of its corporate soul. Office and Windows remain as Microsoft as apple pie, even as Azure, Skype for Business, Office 365 and other service offerings take on larger roles at the company.


The new deals are global in scale, targeting Asian, Latin American and European markets. That implies that Microsoft will pick up new users across the globe.

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Our SIM cards are secure despite alleged hack

Our SIM cards are secure despite alleged hack | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Gemalto's SIM cards for mobile phones are secure despite purported hacks by US and UK spy agencies, the company announced Monday.

A report released Thursday by online publication The Intercept claims that the US National Security Agency and the UK's Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, hacked into Gemalto's internal network and stole the encryption keys used to secure the company's SIM cards. The Amsterdam-based company said last week it would fully investigate the claim.

On Monday, the company said that "initial conclusions" indicate that its SIM cards and other products are "secure" and that it doesn't expect any "significant financial prejudice." Gemalto added that it plans to host a press conference and issue a statement on Wednesday to reveal more information about results of its investigation.

Gemalto sells its SIM cards to 450 carriers around the world, including AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile and Sprint. The cards contain personal information, including your phone number, billing information, contacts and text messages and are supposed to be protected by encryption keys to thwart hacking attempts.

The Intercept was founded by journalist Glenn Greenwald and is the means through which NSA contractor-turned-whistleblower Edward Snowden's revelations about government spying were first released. Citing documents from Snowden, The Intercept's report last week charges that a joint unit of the NSA and GCHQ hacked the SIM card encryption keys used by Gemalto and possibly other vendors.

The report of the hack, which allegedly occurred in 2010 and 2011, has raised red flags because it would mean that the spy agencies have the ability to access personal data and tap into mobile phone voice and data communications around the world.

Using stolen keys, the NSA and GCHQ could intercept mobile communications without getting approval from telecom providers or foreign governments, The Intercept's report alleges. Having those keys basically would mean there's no need to get a legal warrant.

Gemalto's security team started its investigation on Wednesday after the company was contacted by The Intercept. Gemalto's team attempted to determine how its network could have been compromised but could find no trace of any hacks, The Intercept reported. Paul Beverly, a Gemalto executive vice president, was also asked by The Intercept if the NSA or GCHQ had ever requested access to the SIM card encryption keys.

"I am totally unaware," Beverly told the publication. "To the best of my knowledge, no."


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New Android Trojan fakes device shut down, spies on users

New Android Trojan fakes device shut down, spies on users | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

A new Android Trojan that tricks users into believing they have shut their device down while it continues working, and is able to silently make calls, send messages, take photos and perform many other tasks, has been discovered and analyzed by AVG researchers.

They dubbed it, and AVG's security solutions detect it as PowerOffHijack.

PowerOffHijack has been discovered in China, where it has already infected over 10,000 devices. It is apparently being propagated via third-party online app stores, but the researchers haven't mentioned what apps it masquerades as.

The Trojan is capable of infecting Android versions below v5.0 (Lollipop).

How does it work?

"After pressing the power button, you will see the real shutdown animation, and the phone appears off. Although the screen is black, it is still on," the researchers explained.

That's because the malware, after having previously obtained root access, is capable of injecting the system_server process that hooks the mWindowManagerFuncs object, and ultimately prevents the mWindowManagerFuncs.shutdown function to do its job, which is to first shut down radio service and then invoke the power manager service to turn the power off.

After keeping the power button pressed long enough to initiate the shut down procedure, the victims are presented with a fake pop-up that asks confirmation of the process, and see a fake shut down animation. The malware and the phone will continued working, but the screen will be black.


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Samsung Could Roll Back Its Own Software And Embrace Microsoft For Galaxy S6

Samsung Could Roll Back Its Own Software And Embrace Microsoft For Galaxy S6 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

We’ve already heard reports that Samsung could be pumping the breaks on TouchWiz with its next flagship, but a new report from the generally accurate SamMobile today says that it will also be removing most of its in-house pre-loaded software from the Galaxy S6, and instead offering a host of Microsoft’s smartphone apps pre-installed. If true, this is one of the surest signs yet that Samsung is rethinking its mobile strategy in a way that truly plays to its strengths and minimizes its weaknesses.

Per the report, Samsung will be reducing the performance impact of TouchWiz, as well as sticking closer to stock Lollipop in some regards. But the big news is that it will remove “all” of its pre-installed apps, which presumably means things like S Voice, S Health, S Note and others. These will still be available, and will offer more colourful redesigns, but they’ll reside in the Samsung Galaxy Apps store as optional downloads, instead of something you get on the device out of the box (and can never truly remove).

Samsung won’t be stripping pre-installed software altogether, though: Instead, it’ll offer Microsoft’s revamped suite of productivity apps, including OneNote, OneDrive, Office Mobile (complete with a free 365 subscription of indeterminate duration) and Skype. Given Microsoft’s success in reinventing its software offerings for the mobile platforms of its ostensible competitors, this should prove far more beneficial to users than offering them Samsung’s generally unimpressive equivalents.

For Microsoft, it’s a way to instantly gain the kind of reach that Windows Phone could never hope to achieve, at least not in the near future. As the company refocuses with special attention to its software and services division, doing this kind of thing will allow it to raise awareness among a whole new generation of users. Even if, ultimately, it wants to route users back to Windows Phone as a platform, appealing to users where they already are serves its short-term goals. And if its mobile OS ends up going nowhere, at least they have a relationship in place with users upon which they can build an alternate revenue strategy.

Samsung reveals all in just a few weeks at a special March 1 event in Barcelona before Mobile World Congress kicks off, and we’ll have all the details as soon as they become available.



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Samsung Galaxy S6 display to reach onto 3 sides, report says - CNET

Samsung Galaxy S6 display to reach onto 3 sides, report says - CNET | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it
Samsung may offer a Galaxy S6 with a display that you can view from three sides -- the front, left and right.

The mobile phone maker plans to unveil two versions of its next Galaxy S phone -- one with the standard front-facing display and one with a display that extends to three sides, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing "people with direct knowledge of the matter." Expected to take the stage at Mobile World Congress in early March, both phones would have all-metal bodies, come with 5.1-inch screens and use Samsung's most advanced processors, the sources said.

Samsung has been hit by greater competition in the smartphone arena -- on both the high end and the low end. Thanks in large part to demand for the new big-screened iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, Apple's global share of the smartphone market rose to 20 percent in the fourth quarter from 18 percent a year prior, according to research firm Strategy Analytics. Over the same time, Samsung's slice dropped to 20 percent from 30 percent. On the lower end, Samsung has lost sales in emerging markets to Chinese vendors such as Xiaomi and Huawei. As such, Samsung's Galaxy S6 phone needs to provide a compelling reason to draw in buyers.

The report from Bloomberg of two Galaxy S6 phone models echoes a similar story from Business Insider published last month. The main difference is that BI's story claimed that only one model would come with a metal body while the other would stick with the traditional plastic.

Samsung already offers a phone with an edge display -- namely the Galaxy Note Edge, outfitted with a 5.6-inch screen that curves onto the right side to display various icons and notifications. Assuming Bloomberg's sources are on the money, the Galaxy S6 would extend that concept by bending the display to both the right and left sides.

Earlier this month, Samsung sent out invitations to a March 1 event at Mobile World Congress. The all-black invitation said "What's Next" and displayed an image that seemed to hint at a curved device.

One feature that Samsung is touting for its 2015 Galaxy S phone is the camera. In a post on its Samsung Tomorrow site, the company took us through the history of its smartphone camera with details on how the picture-taking quality has improved with each new generation. The front-facing camera is now considered a necessity, prompting Samsung to promise even greater quality for the camera for its next Galaxy S phone.

"We meticulously evaluate every single facet of our smartphone cameras by taking over 10,000 photos in every imaginable lighting environment for analysis," Samsung said. "The same passion and dedication has been put into building the cameras for the release of our 2015 flagship model. It will be intelligent and do all the thinking for users, allowing them to take amazing pictures under any conditions, without having to worry about anything more than just pressing the shutter button."
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Microsoft's new wireless phone charger will bathe your desk in neon light

My Nexus 6 usually rests on a Tylt wireless charger here at The Verge office. I paid Verizon $60 for the thing. It's got a black, soft matte finish; it's the opposite of flashy, but works perfectly with any Qi-compatible smartphone I've placed on it — even with a bulky case on. Microsoft's taking the opposite approach with its new Nokia-branded Qi wireless charger. It's available in three bright colors: white, green, or orange (the model we tested).

This thing defines flashy. Drop a Lumia smartphone onto the plastic pad, and a ring of light instantly illuminates your desk, nightstand, or whatever it might be resting on. And it's incredibly bright, though you can thankfully choose between three brightness settings if the charger proves an unwelcome distraction to your coworkers. At night, you can also set the light to shut off completely so you can actually get some sleep instead of being kept awake by the intense neon glow.

Unsurprisingly, those options are available to Windows Phone users only. The charger will technically top off anything that supports the Qi standard, though it proved super finicky with my Nexus 6. But night mode and other perks are only accessible through Windows Phone's settings menu. You can configure the charger to display light patterns indicating app notifications or missed calls, too. Sadly these patterns can't (yet) be customized on a per-app basis. And if your nearby Windows Phone — linked over Bluetooth — is running low on power, the light will pulse to signal that you should really think about charging it. The new Nokia DT-903 charging plate (we're a bit surprised the brand is still being used here) is available now from the Microsoft Store for $59.99. It's powered over USB; an empty laptop USB port will work just fine.

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930 Million Android Devices at Risk?

930 Million Android Devices at Risk? | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Information security experts are calling on Google to rethink its patch priorities after it confirmed that it will no longer update a critical component that runs on Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean" and older devices. As a result, 61 percent of all Android smart phones and tablets - or about 930 million devices - will be running a version of Android that contains known vulnerabilities that an attacker could remotely exploit to seize control of the device or steal the data it stores, according to data security firm Rapid7.


At issue are the versions of WebView, which is used by Android to render Web pages, that are present in pre-Android 4.4 devices. Rapid7 researchers say that after finding and reporting a newly discovered vulnerability in older versions of WebView to Google's security@android.com team, Google responded that it was not going to issue a related patch.

Google says that if it receives a patch for older versions of WebView from a third party, it will distribute it to anyone who develops Android distributions. But Google says it no longer plans to create and distribute its own patches for such flaws. "If the affected version [of WebView] is before 4.4 [KitKat], we generally do not develop the patches ourselves but do notify partners of the issue," Google's e-mail to Rapid7 says. "If patches are provided with the report [from a third party] or put into AOSP [Android Open Source Project] we are happy to provide them to partners as well."

But Rapid7, citing data published by market researchers Gartner and Strategy Analytics, says Google's policy will leave the estimated 930 million mobile devices that run pre-KitKat versions of Google's open source Android operating system at risk, because they will be stuck running outdated - and vulnerable - versions of WebView. Device manufacturers could, theoretically, issue related patches themselves, but to date they have not done so.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment on Rapid7's report.

Numerous hardware and software developers stop issuing updates for their products after they have been on the market for a specified period of time. But today, only 37 percent of in-use Android devices run version 4.4 of the operating system - introduced in November 2013 - and just 1.5 percent run the most recent version 5 - code-named Lollipop - according to market research firm Net Market Share.

In other words, 61 percent of still-in-use Android devices won't be receiving WebView updates from Google, and thus could be at risk from "mass-market exploits" designed to seize control of millions of devices at once, says Tod Beardsley, who's the technical lead for the Metasploit open source penetration testing framework, which is maintained by Rapid7.

"This is great news for penetration testers, of course; picking company data off of Android phones is going to be drop-dead easy," Beardsley says in a blog post. "Unfortunately, this is great news for criminals," because it gives them potential new ways to penetrate devices, implant malware, steal data or intercept communications.

Beardsley says that in the past year, two researchers have discovered nearly a dozen exploits in WebView - most of which affect versions of the component that run on Android 4.3 "Jelly Bean" and earlier devices - and that Metasploit currently ships with 11 exploits for known WebView flaws.

Newer WebView Auto-Updates

WebView is a widely used Android component. Indeed, Google's developer guide encourages Android developers to use WebView "to deliver a Web application - or just a Web page - as a part of a client application." Google's developer documentation further outlines a number of scenarios in which it might be employed, ranging from retrieving an end-user agreement or user guide from inside an app, to accessing any type of information that requires an Internet connection, such as retrieving e-mails.

When Google introduced Android 4.4 KitKat, it debuted a new, stand-alone WebView component, based on its Chromium open source project, that was decoupled from the Android operating system. "The new WebView includes an updated version of the V8 JavaScript engine and support for modern Web standards that were missing in the old WebView," Google's developer documentation states.

From a security standpoint, the big-impact change was the ability - now found in all modern browsers - for WebView to be automatically updated by Google. In other words, thanks to Google uncoupling WebView from the innards of the Android operating system, WebView updates can be piped directly to all users of Android 4.4 and newer, just as Google does with any other app that's available via the Play Store and Google Play services, news site Android Police reports.

Here is why that change is good: Many Android devices run a version of the operating system that's customized by whichever OEM produces the device. As a result, every time Google releases an Android operating system update, the OEM has to test the update, then create a customized version for its devices. Thanks to the newer version of WebView, however, Google can now directly update that component on all Android 4.4 and newer devices, without the OEM having to build the patch into their version of Android and then distribute it to their users.

Android Is Open Source

But the question of whether it's right for Google to cease updating older versions of WebView, an important component that still runs on nearly 1 billion Android devices, remains. Rapid7's Beardsey notes that Android is technically an open source project, and that OEMs could, in theory, obtain patches for newly discovered flaws in older versions of WebView from third parties. But he says that to date, the OEMs that do patch Android have relied on updates issued directly from Google. "The update chain for Android already requires the handset manufacturers and service carriers to sign off on updates that are originated from Google, and I cannot imagine this process will be improved once Google itself has opted out of the patching business," he says. "After all, is AT&T or Motorola really more likely to incorporate a patch that comes from some guy on the Internet?"

Some OEMs have a relatively good track record at keeping customers' Android devices updated with the latest security fixes. But others rarely - if ever - release security patches for devices.

With Google ceasing to update a core component of Android that runs on pre-4.4 versions, the risks to users will only increase, Beardsley warns. "Please reconsider, Google," he says. "As a software developer, I know that supporting old versions of my software is a huge hassle. I empathize with their decision to cut legacy software loose. However, a billion people don't rely on old versions of my software to manage and safeguard the most personal details of their lives."


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Google's Real-time Voice Translation Service is on the Way

Google's Real-time Voice Translation Service is on the Way | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Following the launch of Microsoft’s Skype Translator service, Google will soon update its mobile translation app to recognize speech in a range of languages and turn it into text, reports The New York Times.

Google will announce the update to its Android app soon, according to the report. The new feature should make it easier for language learners, travelers and businesses to communicate more easily when conversing with foreign language speakers.

The New York Times also says that Google will launch a service to automatically translate foreign text into your native language on your smartphone, simply by pointing your device’s camera at, say, a street sign.

That technology actually exists in the form of an Android, Google Glass and iOS app called Word Lens. Google acquired Quest Visual, the startup behind the app last May — so it’s likely that the aforementioned service will be a revamped and rebranded effort that ties into Google’s ecosystem.

We’ve contacted Google for more details and will update this post when we hear back.


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Samsung Just Announced A New Metal Galaxy Phone That's Thinner Than The iPhone 6

Samsung Just Announced A New Metal Galaxy Phone That's Thinner Than The iPhone 6 | IT Support and Hardware for Clinics | Scoop.it

Samsung just unveiled its newest smartphone, the Galaxy A7, which is its thinnest phone to date.

The 6.3mm Galaxy A7 is also thinner than the iPhone 6, which measures 6.9mm, and the device comes with metal edges just like the other phones Samsung has announced in recent months.

As a point of comparison, Samsung's flagship Galaxy S5 measures about 8.1mm, which is almost two full millimeters thicker than the new A7. 

The Galaxy A7 is a higher-end version of the Galaxy A3 and Galaxy A5 phones Samsung announced in October. The A7 has a larger 5.5-inch screen, making it about the same size as the Galaxy Note 2 and iPhone 6 Plus. It comes with a 13-megapixel camera and a 5-megapixel front camera like the Galaxy A5, too.

It'll be available in black, white, and gold when it launches, but Samsung hasn't specified exactly when it will be released.

There's also no word on how much it will cost, although the company says it will be "competitive." 

We've been hearing rumors about the Galaxy A7 for months, but Samsung hasn't confirmed any information about the device until now. It's the fourth phone in Samsung's line of A-series smartphones with chamfered metal edges similar to those of the iPhone 5 and 5s.

SamsungThe Galaxy A7.

Samsung first introduced this design element with its Galaxy Alpha in August, but a report from the Korean news source ET News suggests it may discontinue that device in favor of its new Galaxy A3, A5, and A7 phones.

There's a chance the A7 will be released in select markets at first, such as China or South Korea, but we won't know for sure until Samsung makes more announcements about availability. 


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ahmedyousef's curator insight, January 13, 2015 5:20 AM

WOW

Tom Bryon's curator insight, March 25, 2015 11:25 PM

This mobile phone is a great example of how much power we can fit into such little space. At just 6.3mm thick, the Samsung A7 is the slimmest phone ever. In five to ten years, how little will our tech be able to be?