The New Screen Savers 119: Back to School Tech

Leo Laporte and Fr. Robert Ballecer, SJ take a look at Back to School accessories for both students and parents. Leo reviews the GPD Pocket computer; a tiny Windows computer that’s not much larger than a smartphone. Megan Morrone continues her #DigitalCleanse series. In part 3, are you an “app-rat” and is your desktop a disaster? She’ll show you how to clean up your apps. In Call for Help, we’ll try to solve a WiFi problem in India. Jason Howell has a review of the Asus Zenfone AR phone with Project Tango built in.

– Samsung heir gets five years in jail
– Amazon cuts some prices at Whole Foods
– The eclipse from 35,000 feet.

Apple takes almost all of the smartphone industry’s profits

With the release of the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus last September, Apple finally decided to cater to a myriad of customer demands, such as NFC payments and larger screens, that it had neglected over the past years, allowing smartphone manufacturers like Samsung to enjoy high sales in those niches. With the inclusion of these features, however, Apple experienced formidable growth, with 43% more sales year over year compared to last year.

While these sales figures alone are staggering, what is even more dumbfounding is how much Apple makes off each phone. According to a recent report by The Wall Street Journal, with only 20% of the smartphone market, Apple rakes in over 90% of all the industry profits; among a 1,000 companies in the industry, Cupertino takes almost all the money. That’s almost 30% of growth, compared to its share of 65% just last year.

The only other company coming anywhere close is Samsung, which accounted for 15% of industry, a sharp decline from almost 50% in 2013. Most of the other players actually made significant losses, which is why Apple and Samsung’s cumulative profit share actually exceeds 100%. Blackberry barely broke even, while Microsoft was able to scrounge together 4%. The report was unable to account for the profits of privately owned companies like Xiaomi but given their tradition of selling at cost, it’s unlikely that their inclusion would shift the balance significantly.

Apart from a thaw in the sales of the Apple Watch, Apple is experiencing success across all its products, with the iPad still reigning supreme among tablets and the company’s notebook line spurring growth across the industry. This trend is unlikely to stop either; Apple is already expecting sales of its iPhone 6S to break previous records and has already ordered over 90 million phones.

Source: The Wall Street Journal (needs subscription)

via Apple takes almost all of the smartphone industry’s profits.

Nokia will not be re-entering the smartphone market

Last week, a rumor appeared that suggested Nokia was working to re-enter the smartphone market as early as next year, thanks to the efforts of a small team within the company’s Technologies division. Considering mobile phones are a big part of Nokia’s history, it wasn’t hugely surprising to read that the company was thinking of returning to its roots.

However it looks like the report, which originated from Recode based on information from two unnamed sources, wasn’t accurate after all. Nokia has since publicly denied that it will re-enter the phone market, releasing a short statement on the weekend that said the company “reiterates it currently has no plans to manufacture or sell consumer handsets.”

Nokia said that the “false” report included “comments incorrectly attributed to a Nokia Networks executive,” firmly ending any further discussion about the company’s future in the consumer phone market.

It has been well over a year since Microsoft purchased Nokia’s Devices and Services unit, responsible for the design and manufacturing of their smartphones, for 5.4 billion Euros. Although Nokia has released an Android tablet since the sale, the company is barred from releasing Nokia-branded phones until the fourth quarter of 2016.

Of course Nokia may change their mind and might still end up returning to the smartphone market after they are allowed to do so, but for now, the company is adamant that nothing is in the works.

via Nokia will not be re-entering the smartphone market – TechSpot.

Forget flash sales: The first Ubuntu Phone is now available to buy all the time

When the first Ubuntu phone launched, it was only available via limited-time “flash sales.” If you missed them, rejoice! You can now purchase an Ubuntu phone like you would any other product—if you live in the European Union, at least.

The phone in question here is the BQ Aquarius E4.5 Ubuntu Edition. It’s now available for purchase on BQ’s website for €169.90, or about $181 US. This is the same price the phone was offered in via flash sales, but those are done. Want an Ubuntu phone and live in the EU? You can get one for less than two hundred euros.

Make no mistake: BQ’s Ubuntu phone is a low-to-mid-range model. It offers a 540×960 resolution display, 8GB of internal storage, and 1 GB of RAM. But that’s to be expected. After all, it’s only 170 euros. You’d pay more than four times that price for a new, unlocked iPhone 6.

With this announcement, Ubuntu Phone just became much more available. We’ve gone from no phones, to one phone you could maybe get in one region, to—finally!—the first Ubuntu phone that you can always get in one region.

But don’t worry if you’re not in Europe. The BQ Aquarius E4.5 Ubuntu Edition is just the tip of the iceberg.

Want to stay up to date on Linux, BSD, Chrome OS, and the rest of the World Beyond Windows? Bookmark the World Beyond Windows column page or follow our RSS feed.

Don’t live in the EU? A more powerful phone is coming

Canonical’s own website says there are “more Ubuntu phones coming soon.” And we know that Canonical is working with China’s Meizu on a Ubuntu smartphone. Canonical showed off Ubuntu running on a Meizu MX4 LTE phone at Mobile World Congress in March. Meizu’s phones should go on sale soon.

Forget flash sales: The first Ubuntu Phone is now available to buy all the time | PCWorld

Canonical’s Ubuntu Phone OS running on the Meizu MX4 LTE.

Previous rumors have suggested that Canonical might have the rights to sell these Meizu MX4 phones worldwide through their own online store. This would mean the rest of us could finally get our hands on a proper Ubuntu phone—not just Ubuntu running on not-officially-supported Nexus devices —and try it for ourselves.

The wait isn’t all bad. It may actually be for the best. The Meizu MX4 will be more of a “flagship” device, with a 1920×1152 display, at least 16 GB of internal storage, and 2 GB RAM. Ubuntu Phone should perform even better on this device, and it seems like this is the phone Canonical wants to present Ubuntu to the world on.

This flagship phone should be more expensive, though. Given the price of the equivalent Android model, I’d expect to see it retail somewhere around $350-$400 off-contract.

So, is it time to buy an Ubuntu phone if you live in the EU? Well, maybe—if you just can’t wait, or you’d rather get a more inexpensive Ubuntu phone.

Linux geeks looking forward to Canonical’s vision of convergence don’t need to rush, though. Ubuntu phone doesn’t yet offer the convergence features we’re all looking forward to, like the ability to plug them into a larger display and have your phone power a full Linux desktop. We might have to wait a few years to see that up and running. For now, the big selling point of Ubuntu phone is its unique interface.

via Forget flash sales: The first Ubuntu Phone is now available to buy all the time | PCWorld.

HTC says it’s ‘working closely’ with Microsoft on a Windows 10 phone

While many regional manufacturers have launched their first Windows Phones in recent months, it’s been a while since a major brand with a worldwide presence unveiled a new device running Microsoft’s mobile OS.

But it seems that HTC may be among the first global brands to offer a Windows 10 phone when the OS finally launches this summer.

At the launch of the premium HTC One M9+ in India today, Chia-Lin Chang (the company’s Chief Financial Officer and President of Global Sales) was asked if a Windows version of the handset might be on the way. Such a device would follow in the footsteps of the HTC One M8 for Windows, which the firm recently confirmed will be upgraded to Windows 10.

Chang apparently did not confirm or deny that a ‘One M9+ for Windows’ might eventually be released, but according to Windows Central, he did say that the company is ‘working closely’ with Microsoft on a Windows 10 device.

He also didn’t specify whether it will be a high-end flagship-class phone, saying instead: “We’ll see how the new version of the Windows operating system shapes up and where it fits in the HTC lineup.”

He added that HTC will share more details on its new Windows 10 handset towards the end of this quarter, or in early Q3, which suggests that the device may be unveiled sometime before the end of August.

Another major manufacturer that’s planning to launch Windows 10 phones is Lenovo. Microsoft confirmed that Lenovo’s first handset running its next-generation OS will go on sale this summer.

via HTC says it’s ‘working closely’ with Microsoft on a Windows 10 phone.

New studies show that 7% of Americans can only access the internet through a phone

A new study courtesy of the Pew Research Center is giving us a better idea of how Americans are using the internet. While we previously knew from past studies that around 89% of all adult Americans use the internet regularly, new data says that around 7% of those in the US rely on a mobile device for access.

While most have more than one device whether it be a laptop, tablet, smartphone or desktop computer to access the net, there is apparently a small portion of the population in the US that can only access it via their phone. The study says that this small percentage is mainly made up of poorer minorities that are less educated. About 15% of Americans between the age of 18 and 29 are completely dependent on a phone for web access, according to Pew.

The study clearly points at lower income households being more likely to only access the web on mobile, as only 1% of homes that brought in more than $75K fell in this bracket.

The data also showed that those making less than $30,000 a year were about 4 times more likely to submit a job application using a smartphone than those with higher yearly earnings. The 7% in question also “frequently” reached data limits and nearly 25% of them have had their service suspended at some point or other because they couldn’t afford it.

The data from the research was gathered from October through December of last year. You can get more details and a full break down of the findings here.

via New studies show that 7% of Americans can only access the internet through a phone – TechSpot.

Why your next phone might be a refurb

It wasn’t all that long ago that savvy consumers were reluctant to buy refurbished electronics. As recently as 2012, MacWorld called the world of refurbed iPhones “potentially shady,” while one Lifehacker writer cautioned readers that her “personal experience buying refurbished gadgets has been a horror story.”

But recently, there’s been a surge in people buying refurbished smartphones. And tech experts have changed their tune: CNET’s Rick Broida famously declared that shoppers should opt for a refurb Apple product over a new item “every time.”

Factory-refurbs with manufacturer warranties can be an affordable, reliable option — and demand is growing.

Our friends at DealNews have long been fans of the noble refurb. When backed by a proper warranty and a return policy, a refurbished smartphone can save you a ton of cash over a brand-new model. But even knowing what a great deal a refurb phone can be, we’re still a little surprised at just how popular refurbished smartphones have gotten recently. So what’s behind this shopping trend?

Refurb demand to double by 2017

A recent Gartner survey found that the demand for refurbished phones will grow to 120 million units by 2017, a business that will be worth about $14 billion. This is up from 56 million units in 2014. In essence, the refurb market is expected to just about double in only a few years’ time. According to Gartner, over half the people buying refurbs are getting a new phone because they want access to new features, or they “just want” that new device feel.

Those figures are in line with trends that resale services like Gazelle are seeing. According to Gazelle’s Kevin Walther, market research has found that about 40 million U.S. consumers would consider purchasing a used smartphone. Since Gazelle launched its certified pre-owned smartphone store in October, the company has seen month-over-month growth of about 20%.

Read more: Why your next phone might be a refurb – TechSpot.

Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers

The growing number of smart devices that interoperates with smartphones could leave text messages, calendar entries, biometric data, and other sensitive user information wide open to hackers, security researchers warn.

That’s because most smart watches rely on a six-digit PIN to secure information traveling to and from connected Android smartphones. With only one million possible keys securing the Bluetooth connection between the handset and the smart device, the PINs are susceptible to brute-force attacks, in which a nearby hacker attempts every possible combination until finding the right one.

Researchers from security firm Bitdefender mounted a proof-of-concept hack against a Samsung Gear Live smartwatch that was paired with a Google Nexus 4 running Android L Preview. Using readily available hacking tools, they found that the PIN obfuscating the Bluetooth connection between the two devices was easily brute forced. From that point on, they were able to monitor the information passing between the watch and the phone.

The findings aren’t particularly surprising. Six-digit PINs have always contained one million possible combinations. Security engineers have long known that’s hardly enough entropy to prevent a determined hacker from arriving at the right sequence of numbers. Still, the research is important because it comes at an important time. With the explosion of relatively new smartwatches and other wearable smart devices, the data traveling over Bluetooth connections is growing ever more sensitive. Smart device manufacturers would do well to create more secure communications channels now, before the devices become ubiquitous.

Unfortunately, some of the most obvious fixes may come at the cost of user convenience, making them a bitter pill for manufacturers to swallow. The most obvious remedy, for instance, would be to require a password be entered into a smart device before it is paired, something that users almost certainly would resent, given the limited keyboards most devices offer. Another potential remedy would be to rely on NFC to transmit a PIN code to a smartwatch during pairing, but that would likely raise the price and complexity of the devices. A third option is to augment Bluetooth encryption with a second layer of encryption that’s implemented by the app running on the phone and watch. There are almost certainly other potential fixes. Here’s hoping engineers get cracking.

via Data sent between phones and smartwatches wide open to hackers | Ars Technica.

Sony launches the Xperia Z2 with “world’s best mobile camera”

At Mobile World Congress 2014, Sony has announced their new flagship Android smartphone, the Xperia Z2, which is a small update to the Xperia Z1 but packs what the company claims is “the world’s best mobile camera”.

The design of the Xperia Z2 is similar to the Z1, although Sony has bumped the screen real-estate up to 5.2-inches (from 5.0-inches) through the inclusion of an all-new display. The company has ditched the eIPS LCD in favor of a traditional 1080p IPS panel, which reportedly fixes issues such as poor viewing angles and color accuracy that we alluded to in our Xperia Z1 review.

Internally the SoC used has seen a minor bump up to a Snapdragon 801, complete with a 2.45 GHz quad-core Krait 400 CPU and a faster-clocked Adreno 330 GPU. There’s also 3 GB of RAM, 16 GB of storage, a microSD card slot, LTE and a 12.16 Wh (3,200 mAh) battery inside.

The camera on the Z2 which Sony calls the “world’s best” is physically identical to the Xperia Z1: a Sony-made 1/2.3″ 20.7-megapixel sensor combined with an f/2.0 27mm-effective lens. There doesn’t appear to be OIS, which may affect low-light images, although increased processing power now allows the sensor to capture 4K video at 30 frames per second.

Other features include full IP55 and IP58 water resistance, and digital noise cancelation built into the phone as well as the supplied earphones. The Xperia Z2 is 8.2mm thick, 158 grams heavy and will launch globally in March 2014.

via Sony launches the Xperia Z2 with “world’s best mobile camera” – TechSpot.