Samsung's Find My Mobile device-tracking service was revealed last month to be vulnerable to a denial of service attack, which would allow hackers to lock and wipe enrolled handsets. The media quickly jumped on this, with some pundits suggesting that users should stop using Find My Mobile as soon as possible, due to the apparent risks involved.
Samsung today finally decided to chime in, telling its customers that they actually have nothing to worry about. The vulnerability in question, Samsung says, was fixed more than a week before it went public, resulting in no user data being compromised. Well, it sure took Samsung a long time to come forward with this information, seeing as news about it started to surface a week ago.
NFC payments are all the rage nowadays, in no small part thanks to the support that Apple Pay is receiving from financial institutions and iPhone users, and raving reviews from the media. Naturally, this may tempt you to give NFC payments a go, to see what all the fuss is about. But what if you have a Windows Phone? Apple Pay is obviously out of the question. What can you do then?
As you may know, Windows Phone supports NFC payments out-of-the-box, thanks to a feature known as Tap to Pay. Like Apple Pay it leverages the built-in NFC chip in your device. The only thing standing between you and paying through it is its lack of support. However, there is another way you can make NFC payments with your Windows Phone, and that is by using the Softcard app, which just arrived on the platform. Here is what you need to know about it.
It will not be long before AT&T and T-Mobile customers will also be able to get their hands on HTC One (M8) for Windows, as both US mobile operators are now listing the Windows Phone as "coming soon" to their stores.
One (M8) for Windows launched in August as a Verizon-exclusive version of One (M8) running Android. The smartphone, which costs $99.99 on a two-year contract with big red, is the first to ship with Windows Phone 8.1 Update 1 out-of-the-box.
After a long wait, Microsoft announced today that the next version of Office for Mac will finally see the light of day in 2015. Mac users will be able to get their hands on a public beta in the first half of next year, with the final version to arrive before the end of 2015. The latest official version of Office for Mac, Office for Mac 2011, launched more than four years ago.
Microsoft does not reveal what the upcoming Office for Mac will be called, but, seeing as it launches in 2015, it is possible that the software giant will stick to the current naming scheme and call it Office for Mac 2015. What we do know is that it will include Excel, OneNote, PowerPoint and Word, which will make it less feature-rich than Office 2013, which has been available on Windows for nearly two years.
Samsung is slowly moving away from its oft-maligned, all-plastic smartphone designs of the past, in an attempt to convince consumers that it too can make premium-looking and feeling devices. The first smartphone to reveal what the future holds was Galaxy Alpha, announced just a few months ago. Then Galaxy Note 4 came along, stepping things up even further in the high-end segment.
And now we see how Samsung's vision will impact its less expensive Galaxy devices, as the company just took the wraps off Galaxy A5 and Galaxy A3 today, two mid-range to low-end smartphones featuring "refined full metal unibody designs" that happen to be very, very thin (for whatever reason): 6.7 and 6.9 mm, respectively.
For a manufacturer that has only been selling smartphones for a couple of years now, Xiaomi is doing better than expected. The Chinese company, founded in 2012, became the third-largest smartphone vendor in Q3 2013, surpassing the likes of Lenovo, LG and Huawei. Xiaomi is also closing in fast on Apple, which has enjoyed a comfortable lead, in volumes, over its immediate competition.
Xiaomi's shipments have increased by 211.3 percent year-over-year, to 17.3 million units in the past quarter from just 5.6 million units in Q3 2013. That is more than eight times higher than the market average, of 25.2 percent. Meanwhile, Apple's shipments only grew by a mere 16.1 percent, which is well below the market average, to 39.3 million units from 33.8 million units.
Microsoft is getting into the wearables business, but not with a smartwatch as the rumors have suggested for more than a week. The software giant is actually approaching this market with a smart activity tracker called Band, and a dedicated platform called Health.
Like the rumored smartwatch, which could have competed with Android Wear devices and Apple Watch, Band works on all three major mobile platforms, Android, iOS and Windows Phone. It is designed for both fitness junkies as well as average folks who wish to keep track of their daily activity.
Europeans are a conservative bunch when it comes to the form factor of their beloved iPhones, as most of those who purchase one of Apple's new handsets opt for the smaller model. In fact, iPhone 6 is so popular among consumers on the old continent that it outsells the iPhone 6 Plus phablet by a whopping five to one.
The difference in sales is to be expected, given that phablets are still somewhat part of a niche today, and the majority of those who buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus -- that would be existing iPhone users -- are more accustomed to less intimidating dimensions, like those of iPhone 6. However, Apple is right to jump on the phablet bandwagon, considering how big of a role such devices are expected to play in smartphone sales just a few years down the road, and the hit iPhone's market share is taking from Android handsets.
No one can deny that making handsets thinner and thinner is a persistent trend in the mobile device market. Rarely do we see a new, prominent smartphone or tablet being thicker than its predecessor. Manufacturers love to be able to tout during announcements and in ads just how insanely slim their new products are, like this is a feature that us, consumers, are dying to get. (Sadly, sometimes that may be the only thing that such handsets have got going for them.)
Still, if you are one of those who prefer insanely-thin smartphones, Oppo has just the thing for you. The Chinese manufacturer just unveiled "the slimmest phone in the world", called R5, measuring just 4.85 mm thick. To give you an idea of just how thin it is, it shames Apple's new iPhone 6, which comes in at 6.9 mm thick.
One of the main reasons why smartwatches are a tough sell today is battery life. Consumers expect them to work for a very long period of time on a single charge when, in reality, they only last for a day or two. It is no surprise then that, coupled with other issues related to the user experience, most people could not care less about them.
Not even the long-awaited Apple Watch looks like it will be able to match our expectations. When Tim Cook unveiled the device last month he left out details regarding battery life, which we took as a sign that we should not get our hopes up. A statement that Apple's CEO just made at the WSJ.D conference confirms our concerns.
Anyone who has ever used a modern-day Mac will tell you that Apple gets its trackpads right. Sure, they look nice and feel great to the touch, but, most importantly, they are also properly supported in OS X. It offers myriad gestures to help users navigate as efficiently as if they were using a mouse. In fact, the trackpad is designed to feel like an integral part of the system, not as a bolt-on, as there are lots of things that can be done faster with it, like locating a window or opening the notifications panel.
The same cannot be said about Windows PC trackpads. They truly feel like bolt-ons. And it is not because they are poorly put together, but rather because the drivers never seem to be good enough to reveal the trackpads' true potential. Microsoft, however, wants to change that in Windows 10, as the upcoming operating system will support Mac-like trackpad gestures. Finally.
OnePlus One has attracted lots of attention from the media and consumers without even being generally available, as virtually every other flagship smartphone is today. Many have chosen to play by the company's rules, asking and waiting for the invites which give them the option to purchase the device. It's a pretty unusual way of selling and buying smartphones, but it seems to have only boosted One's appeal.
If you have not yet had the chance to buy One, you should know that today OnePlus is making it generally available to pre-order, as it temporarily drops its invite-only system to get One in the hands of more consumers.
The mobile device market is extremely diverse judging by the number of companies which sell smartphones and tablets today. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of vendors worldwide. On the other hand, when it comes to mobile processors, there are only a handful of companies which make them. Of those, even fewer are also handset vendors and even fewer still are well known by the average consumers: Apple and Samsung.
It is tough to make a splash in the mobile processor market, as top players such as Qualcomm and Apple are so far ahead in the game that it is very difficult for a new player to catch up and compete on equal footing with the leaders. LG, however, is not afraid to give it a try, as it just unveiled its first in-house mobile processor. And the South Korean maker is not wasting any time as it has already put it to use in its new G3 Screen phablet.
Microsoft officially announced today that the Nokia branding will not be used in conjunction with its future Windows Phones. The software giant will sell its upcoming smartphones as Microsoft Lumias. However, it will continue to make use of Nokia's name for dumb phones.
The tech media may act surprised, but, in fact, we have known that this was bound to happen for more than a year. In early-September 2013, when the sale of Nokia's Devices & Services to Microsoft was announced, the terms revealed that the software giant would eventually have to drop the Nokia branding.
Microsoft app launches are usually predictable. Most are offerings which aim to get us hooked on the software giant's most-prominent products, like Office, OneDrive, Outlook.com and Xbox. But, every once in a while, Microsoft does something out of the ordinary, like it wants to tell the world that, much like startups, it too is capable of intriguing and exciting things.
After launching a lovely keyboard for Android Wear, Microsoft just released a whole bunch of apps for Android, iOS and Windows Phone, made by an in-house team of "hackers, makers, artists, tinkerers, musicians, inventors" called Microsoft Garage. The most interesting offerings are Torque, which my colleague Brian Fagioli just covered, and two lockscreen apps, for Android and Windows Phone.