Mihaita Bamburic

Google: Android L turns data encryption on by default

photo by Slavoljub Pantelic, Shutterstock

Turning on data encryption can make a huge difference in case your Android device is lost or stolen, as it will make it extremely difficult -- if not impossible -- for a third-party to access your files. It also gives you quite a bit of time to remotely wipe your device, which means that your photos, videos, texts and whatnot have a better chance of remaining private.

And if the local authorities want to take a peek, they are also out of luck -- it's good news for those involved in criminal enterprises, and others as well. All this sounds great from a privacy and security standpoint, except that encryption has never been enabled by default in Android. But that is soon about to change.

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T-Mobile reveals Samsung Galaxy Note 4's US availability and price

Samsung Galaxy Note 4 N910 Black

When it announced Galaxy Note 4 in early-September, Samsung revealed everything we wanted to know about its new phablet, except the date of availability and price. The two missing pieces of information would tell prospective buyers when to prepare for its arrival and how much they should expect to shell out for it, and help paint the full picture about how Galaxy Note 4 stacks up against its biggest rival, Apple's new iPhone 6 Plus, which goes on sale tomorrow.

Those who were hoping to find out what Samsung left out weeks ago are in luck, as US mobile operator T-Mobile has announced when Galaxy Note 4 will officially hit its store shelves, and, just as importantly, also at what price.

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Apple: iOS 8 will keep your private data safe from the US Government

Wilson's Weekend Whine: Snowden's call for online encryption is sad but necessary

It's very important for us to know that the things we store on our mobile devices are safe from prying eyes. It gives us a sense of security knowing that our private thoughts, photos, videos and whatnot will only be seen by us and the people we share them with. But what if it is the US Government that wants to take a look? If the authorities get hold of our devices, what's to stop them from using search warrants to see what's in there?

If we are talking about iOS 8 devices, then its security design is standing in the government's way. Apple has updated its Legal Process Guidelines to reflect that it will be unable to extract data that its customers store on devices running its latest mobile operating system, as the key which unlocks the treasure trove is solely in its users' control.

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MediaTek and Opera put the squeeze on mobile data consumption

iPhone smartphone hand finger

It is no secret that mobile data is still very expensive. Going overboard with audio and video streaming, browsing or app downloads will unavoidably lead to throttling, a pretty steep bill from the mobile operator or a brisk run through the remaining credit. But there is one way of giving mobile device users more breathing room, and that is through data compression. It offers obvious advantages, and comes with no major downsides. What's not to like about that?

That is the selling point that Norwegian browser maker Opera Software and Taiwanese processor maker MediaTek hope will impress new customers, as they announce their new partnership, which will see the former's Opera Max data-savings app being built-into the latter's 4G LTE-enabled offerings. The first fruits of this partnership are two 64-bit chips. The touted data savings are rather impressive.

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SwiftKey: Top Android keyboard reaches iPads and iPhones

SwiftKey iOS

Stock mobile keyboards tend to suck. There's always a deal-breaker somewhere that offsets all their strengths. There is friction when typing in multiple languages, the language support is limited, abbreviations and the like are a no-go, the layout can be unintuitive, there is a limited amount of customization options, or the touch vibrations are too harsh. Take your pick. I have ran into all of them. But, fret not, there are some solid keyboards out there.

The one keyboard which I am a huge fan of is SwiftKey. It shames every stock keyboard and it's generally better than any other third-party offering. With Google being the only mobile operating system maker to allow third-party keyboards, it has only been available on Android. But, now that Apple has followed suit, you can get your hands on SwiftKey on an iPad or iPhone too. And you should, first of all because it's free!

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Flipboard for Windows Phone: It's coming, damn it!

Flipboard

I remember it like it was yesterday: when Lumia 1020 was unveiled, Microsoft and Nokia were very happy to announce that Flipboard would "soon" be coming to Windows Phone. That was in mid-July 2013. Fast forward to today and the app is still not available. "Soon" has a certain urgency to it, which, for some strange reason, always seems to be missing in its association with Windows Phone.

Microsoft and Nokia could have jumped the gun more than a year ago by touting that the app would arrive shortly after Lumia 1020's announcement, and Flipboard could have inadvertently delayed the launch since. No matter, "soon" sure ain't soon. Regardless, Flipboard is still on its way as its public listing on Windows Phone Store implies. This is one of the major missing titles; the sooner it is available the better for the platform.

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Google steps up its game in India with Android One

Android One Smartphones

The increasing popularity of smartphones in emerging markets coupled with Google's desire to gain control over its open-source mobile operating system have resulted in Android One. It's a new program, designed with low-end devices in mind, that will see more consumers enjoying the benefits of a close-to-stock Android experience on inexpensive handsets. It's also Google's way of making sure that billions of first-time smartphone users will be exposed to its services and become long-term customers.

"If we look at how people are getting online and accessing information today, increasingly it’s through a smartphone", says Android and Chrome & Apps SVP Sundar Pichai. "While 1.75 billion people around the world already have a smartphone, the vast majority of the world’s population -- over five billion more -- do not. That means most people are only able to make simple voice calls, rather than connect with family through a live video chat, use mapping apps to find the closest hospital, or simply search the web. We want to bring these experiences to more people".

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iPhone 6 vs iPhone 6 Plus: Which one is best for you?

Apple iPhone 6 Plus

Small displays are passé nowadays, as consumers increasingly prefer large screens. There are obvious benefits to it. Even Apple has finally acknowledged it with iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, which dwarf all previous iPhones when it comes to display size. But, now that we have bigger iPhones, we find ourselves in the unusual position of having to choose which one to buy.

That was not a problem before, because, since the original iPhone was introduced, Apple only had a single flagship in its lineup. In late-2013, it tried to shake things up a bit with iPhone 5c, but it was actually designed as a mid-range offering. With iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, there are more similarities. Nonetheless, figuring out which new iPhone is best for you is easy.

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Android smartphones are too far ahead for iPhones to ever catch up

Loser man head sign

Apple has finally conceded that big screens are better, as its new iPhones offer 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays. It has also finally conceded that a mobile operating system is better when it's more open, as iOS 8 supports third-party keyboards and inter-app communication. It's almost like Apple is saying that Steve Jobs was wrong while rival Android manufacturers and Google were right all along. Oh, the horror. How will Apple fanbois be able to explain this?

But, even as Apple is doing all these things, that some of us have already been enjoying for too many years to count, iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus are still outclassed by rival Android flagships. In fact, the new iPhones are not much different than Samsung Galaxy S3 or Galaxy Note 3, and, as you may know, neither of the two is the latest incarnation in their respective series. Ouch!

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Cirqle gives you more control over sharing photos and videos

Cirqle

We all have photos and videos that we want to share with other folks. We do it all too often on Facebook, sometimes without even considering that it's a broad audience we are sharing them with, who may not want to, or should not, see all our intimate moments on display.

And let's be real for a minute: not all of us are in awe about someone drunk dancing on video, baby pictures, or mirror selfies (sorry that you had to hear that now) -- some of us may be, sure, but others may be more interested in, just as a totally and completely random example, seeing photos of fast cars (guilty as charged!). For those who want to fully control who can see their photos and videos, there is new app to consider, and it's called Cirqle.

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Nokia Lumia 830 will be available through AT&T

Lumia-830_group1

When Microsoft announced Lumia 830 earlier this month, it made no specific mention of the so-called "first affordable flagship" arriving in US stores. The price was also listed in Euros (€330, before taxes and subsidies) from the get-go, reinforcing the idea that, like many other Nokia-branded devices before it, Lumia 830 was destined for other markets.

However, that does not appear to be the case, as US mobile operator AT&T has revealed that it will offer Lumia 830. But it remains to be seen whether the new Windows Phone will also make its way to Verizon, T-Mobile or Sprint.

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iPhone 6, the past called and it wants you back!

Apple iPhone 6 Plus Annotation

And I so hoped Apple would have a winner on its hands this year, a new iPhone that would woo me like no other smartphone has done before. And it does. Kind of. But, it's not the 4.7-inch iPhone 6, it's the 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus. Yes, it's the darn new phablet on the block! And that's a problem. Having to go for a phablet to get the best iPhone is extremely limiting and stupid. Where's the normal-sized iPhone 6 that everyone can call the best iPhone yet? This one? I'm not feeling it. It's rubbish. What have you done, Apple?

This has got everything to do with the specs. I am not the first person to call Apple out for using hardware which someone had to raid a parts trash bin to find. The iPhone 6 that I've been waiting for does not feel like an iPhone with sub-par hardware. It just doesn't. The important bits are clearly inferior to Android flagships (heck, even top Windows Phones, which were known for using lesser hardware in the past) and iPhone 6 Plus, and, as you can well tell by now, I am one step away from using curse words to describe it. I'm trying not to go there. No promises that won't happen before the last period.

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Opera Mini launches on Windows Phone

Nokia Opera Windows Phone

A week ago, Norwegian browser maker Opera revealed that it will bring the popular Opera Mini to Windows Phone. Not long after, the app was made available as a private beta to a few lucky testers. Now though, everyone with a Windows Phone can check out Opera Mini.

Opera Mini is the first well-known third-party browser to be available on Windows Phone. This gives it the opportunity to quickly attract the attention of those looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer, which comes on board the tiled operating system. The latter, at least so far, has proved to be a reliable and, more recently, powerful option. So does Opera Mini have what it takes to steal users away from its Microsoft-made rival?

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The Home Depot acknowledges payment systems breach

hacker-credit-card

The Home Depot is the latest US retailer to fall victim to a major payment systems hack, which may have exposed its customers' credit card data since April of this year. The security breach is linked to its US and Canadian retail locations, but not its online store or Mexican chain.

The breach is publicly acknowledged by The Home Depot, with the company's CEO apologizing for what is yet another security disaster. "We apologize for the frustration and anxiety this causes our customers, and I want to thank them for their patience and support as we work through this issue", says Frank Blake. "We owe it to our customers to alert them that we now have enough evidence to confirm that a breach has indeed occurred. It's important to emphasize that no customers will be responsible for fraudulent charges to their accounts".

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Microsoft saves MSN from oblivion

New-MSN-2

Do you know what MSN is? Yes, it is that online portal opened by Microsoft nearly two decades ago. Yes, it is also that default Internet Explorer webpage which you change more quickly than a race car driver can shift. But, fret not if you are not familiar with MSN, as almost no one cares about it anymore. To save it from oblivion, Microsoft has decided that the first thing that MSN needs to make a splash again is a nice revamp.

For many years, MSN was a product Microsoft cared little about. Instead, the software giant has pushed products with more potential and consumer appeal, like Office, Windows and Windows Phone. Now though, Microsoft wants to tie MSN in with its newfound strategy, recreating the online portal "from the ground up for a mobile-first, cloud-first world", and using many Bing-powered services (News, Sports and Travel, just to name a few) to boost its appeal.

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