Articles about Smartphones

The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week March 23 -- 29

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Microsoft has flirted with Apple's iPad on a couple of occasions this week. Early on in the week there was the case of a 12-year-old girl who wanted nothing more than an iPad Mini. Microsoft stepped in and managed to convince her that the Surface 2 was the way ahead. Way to spin! But this was not the big Microsoft-iPad news. In a move that many saw as almost sacrilegious -- but one that was welcomed by just about the same number -- Microsoft Office, finally, made its way onto iPad. This wasn't the only release from Microsoft this week -- the source code for early versions of MS-DOS and Word for Windows was made publicly available. Having faced criticism for the way it approached a recent investigation, Microsoft pledged that it would no longer read customer emails during the course of an investigation without getting law enforcement involved.

Windows XP may be in its death throes, but this isn't going to stop people from using it. To help keep these hardy fellows safe, Malwarebytes announced that it would keep its users protected for life. It's not just XP that Microsoft is lowering into the grave, Office 2003 also finds itself six feet under. As the door on XP closes, another one opens -- or closes, depending on how you look at it. The purchase of Nokia's Devices and Services division is due to close in April after initially facing some delays.

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South Korean mobile operators jump the gun on Samsung Galaxy S5 launch

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Mobile operators in Samsung's home country of South Korea have decided to give themselves a head start on the Galaxy S5 launch, by making the smartphone available starting March 27. Its official worldwide launch is slated for next month, on April 11.

SK Telecom, KT and LG UPlus are the local mobile operators in question, with SK Telecom being the largest one in South Korea. Two weeks ahead of the official launch, the smartphone is on sale for ₩866,800 (roughly $809 or €587).

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HTC is (too) confident reviewers like One (M8)

HTC One (M8) first video ad

The first ad a company releases for its new product reveals the marketing strategy it pursues. In HTC's case, the first video advert for the new One (M8) tells us nothing concrete about the smartphone.

The ad features actor Gary Oldman, who, while saying "blah" countless times as if he has got nothing interesting to tell us, refers us to the good old Internet to make up our own minds about the One (M8), a smartphone which, per the man's words, "is designed for people who form their own opinions". No wonder the ad is called "Blah Blah Blah - Go Ahead, Ask The Internet".

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Initial thoughts and impressions from the HTC One (M8) launch event

HTC M8

Earlier today, Mihaita Bamburic wrote about HTC's new smartphone, the One (M8). Here, I am going to convey my initial thoughts and impressions after some hands-on time with the device.

With all the leaked specs, photos, and videos of the HTC One (M8) preceding the announcement, I was worried, before coming to the London launch event, that I would not be too impressed when I finally got the chance to see the phone for real. Thankfully, I was wrong.

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Watch HTC's new One unveiling live

HTC One

HTC is set to show off its new One smartphone at 11 AM ET in NYC today, although thanks to various leaks, we already know a fair bit about it, including that it will have a larger 5-inch display, be powered by a 2.3GHz Snapdragon processor, and sport a brushed stainless finish. The company also accidentally revealed that the smartphone will be available in a Google Play edition.

We’ll obviously post all of the details regarding the new device as soon as it’s officially revealed, but if you want to follow the announcement as it happens, HTC is kindly live streaming the full event.

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HTC confirms new One, will be available in a Google Play Edition

Shouting Screaming Man Suit Businessman Megaphone

HTC might have jumped the gun today, ahead of the official unveiling of the new One flagship. The Taiwanese maker just released a number of branded apps on Google Play, meant to bring new features quicker to its Android devices, one of which confirms the soon-to-be-announced smartphone and the availability of a Google Play Edition.

The app in question is called HTC Gallery. According to its description, it "provides you with a range of fast and easy ways to locate your photos", and looks like a replacement for Android's built-in Gallery app.

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UK digital download tax will cripple sales and damage the industry

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Last week in the UK, the announcement of the new budget for the country was closely watched as citizens kept an eye on whether they'll be paying more for beer and whether taxes are going up or down. There's a lot to talk about in George Osborne's 2014 budget, but this is not the place to discuss most of what it involves. One thing is of interest for technology enthusiasts, though. The cost of digital downloads -- meaning ebooks, music and apps -- could be set to rise as the chancellor (the guy holding the purse strings) closes a tax loophole.

At the moment, companies offering digital downloads are able to avoid paying taxes in the UK by routing them through another country where taxes are lower. This is not a new technique, and there is nothing illegal about it. It is a loophole that has been exploited for many years, but now plans are afoot to close it off. What is this likely to mean? Well, it should come as no surprise that, ultimately, it's probably going to lead to higher prices for people in the UK.

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Microsoft's purchase of Nokia's Devices & Services arm to close next month

Delay Businessman Business Clepsydra Sand Glass

When the sale of Nokia's Devices & Services, the company's phone-making arm, to Microsoft was announced in September last year, the process was expected to complete by the end of Q1 2014. As the initial deadline is rapidly approaching, the Finnish manufacturer reveals the software giant will have to wait a little more to get control of the business.

"Nokia today announced that it now expects the transaction whereby the company will sell substantially all of its Devices & Services business and license its patents to Microsoft to close in April 2014", says Nokia. "This compares with Nokia's previous expectation on the transaction closing in the first quarter of 2014, which Nokia communicated when the company first announced the transaction on September 3, 2013. Nokia and Microsoft remain committed to the transaction".

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The most popular stories on BetaNews this past week March 16 -- 22

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Not a good week for Microsoft this week. Things kicked off as Mozilla shunned the Windows Store by opting to stop development of a modern version of Firefox and then things got a little awkward following the investigation of an employee involved in leaking information about Windows. The company then came under fire for accessing the email account of an individual, despite its claims that "Outlook and Hotmail email are and should be private".

There was better news as an LTE version of Surface 2 went on sale opening up a new income stream for the company and new mobile computing opportunities for customers. More good news for users came when OneNote was not only released for Mac, but also made free for all platforms. Mihaita wasn't overly impressed with the Mac version, though.

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Smartwatches -- the harsh truth is that no one cares

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OK, maybe that's a slight exaggeration. But wearable devices are really struggling to get off the ground, at least in the UK. All of the excitement that surrounds smartwatches that can be used to read email, VPN into a home computer, check vital stats, set off The Bomb, or tell the time (imagine!) -- maybe a couple of these are a little far-fetched -- seems to be little more than manufacturers' fluff and guff. The wheels of the marketing machine have been whirring away furiously, but it has had very little effect. With a population of approaching 65 million people, only a very tiny proportion of the nation has seen the need to invest in a smartwatch -- below 1 percent in fact.

Figures from Kantar World Panel show that a lowly 0.9 percent of UK consumers have put their hard-earned money towards a smartwatch. Other statistics to come from the research are of little surprise. Almost three quarters (72 percent) of smartwatch owners are male, and 56 percent are aged under 35. There are a small number of names associated with smartwatches, and the spread is fairly evenly distributed. At the top of the heap is Samsung with a 32 percent share, followed by Sony with 21 percent and Pebble with 18 percent. There is obviously a leader, but with the numbers being so low, percentages are very easily swayed.

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Sony rolls out Android 4.4 KitKat for flagship Xperia smartphones

Google starts the KitKat rollout for Nexus 7 and 10 owners

Most Android smartphones and tablets do not run the latest-available version of Android, as vendors choose older iterations, even for their flagship products. As a result, it can take many months -- or it may never even happen -- for a software upgrade to finally close the gap.

One of the vendors that finds itself in this situation quite often is Japanese maker Sony, which cannot seem to release a high-end device, like the Xperia Z, Xperia Z1, Xperia Z Ultra or Xperia Z Compact, without shipping it with a dated version of Android. Luckily, KitKat commences its much-awaited roll-out for the company's most-recent flagship smartphones and tablets.

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European Union moves forward with universal phone charger initiative

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The European Parliament announced last year that the Internal Market Committee plans to impose a universal charger for mobile phones sold in local markets, that will replace the custom designs that are adopted by manufacturers and accessory makers. This initiative is meant to "cut costs and waste for users", according to the announcement.

The European Parliament just revealed that it is moving forward with this initiative, as the draft law has been approved by virtually every voter. "The modernized Radio Equipment Directive is an efficient tool to prevent interference between different radio equipment devices", says rapporteur Barbara Weiler. "I am especially pleased that we agreed on the introduction of a common charger. This serves the interests both of consumers and the environment. It will put an end to charger clutter and 51,000 tonnes of electronic waste annually".

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Nokia Refocus is now available for all Windows Phone 8 Lumias

Nokia Refocus Color Pop

Refocus is one of Nokia's exclusive photography apps for PureView-branded Windows Phone 8 Lumias. Its party trick is shifting the focus point to a different location or showing everything in focus, after snapping the photo. Refocus is akin to the Lytro camera, albeit at a lesser scale.

Like Nokia Camera, which has also launched with a similar availability, Refocus has broken the flagship bond and is now available for the Finnish maker's entire Windows Phone 8 lineup. This opens up the app to much more popular handsets, like the Lumia 520, which make up the bulk of Nokia's Windows Phone sales. The reason for the change is customer feedback.

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Eek! Android WhatsApp database can be stolen and shared by other apps

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The Android version of WhatsApp, the cross-platform messaging tool recently snapped up for $19 billion by Facebook, contains a security flaw that means its chat database could be accessed by any app and uploaded to a web server without user knowledge or intervention. It's not clear whether this vulnerability has yet been exploited, but a proof-of-concept attack by Bas Bosschert (consultant, sysadmin and entrepreneur) shows that it is not only possible, but also incredibly simple. To cut to the chase, the answer to the question posed by Bas' brother, "is it possible to upload and read the WhatsApp chats from another Android application?", is "yes, that is possible".

In order for an "attack" to be successful, a user must have granted the app access to the SD card. As Bas points out, "since [a] majority of the people allow everything on their Android device, this is not much of a problem" for an attacker to overcome. Assuming this setting has been enabled, there really is very little work to be done. With a webserver at hand, it is quite easy to create an app that seeks out WhatsApp's database and uploads it ready for perusal.

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iOS 7.1 makes the iPhone 4 run faster

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Apple's policy of updating older iPhones to the latest iOS version has its perks. Users are better protected against security exploits, get access to new features (but not all of them), and Apple can tout low fragmentation levels. However, there is also a downside. Newer iOS releases often make older iPhones sluggish.

I have first-hand experience with this, as my iPhone 3G ran slower after updating it to iOS 4.0, than it did before. The same thing has also happened with the iPhone 4, which Apple had vetted to receive the iOS 7.0 update, even though the mobile operating system was designed to work best with beefier hardware. Luckily, it looks like iOS 7.1, that was released yesterday, attempts to solve this problem, albeit not entirely.

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