Computers Are Supposed to Help Us Solve Our Problems

August 7, 2018 · 10:08

Sameer Samat details the new Android Pie on Google’s blog:

The latest release of Android is here! And it comes with a heaping helping of artificial intelligence baked in to make your phone smarter, simpler and more tailored to you. Today we’re officially introducing Android 9 Pie […]

I wanted to comment on two of the new features…

That’s why Android 9 comes with features like […] Adaptive Brightness, which learns how you like to set the brightness in different settings, and does it for you.

I have been using iPhones and iPads since 2008, and always relied on Automatic Brightness. I don’t know what Apple did, but I never had an Android phone which handled this function, as well as iOS does — I’ve always had stuttering or sudden brightness shifts, including flickering while it’s been adjusted. All this on many flagship phones, including older Nexus devices and more recent ones like the Galaxy S8.

At-a-Glance on Always-on-Display: See things like calendar events and weather on your Lock Screen and Always-on Display.

I have always found it curious that Apple chose not to use the Lock Screen in a more productive fashion (widgets do not count). Just weather information could be easily included and it’s something I miss every day. And since we have a OLED screen on the iPhone X, that could be taken advantage of even further. Burn-in could present a problem and perhaps that is why Apple isn’t in on this, but I can imagine a scenario where one tap on a screen shows upcoming calendar events and the weather, while two taps wake the screen.


Computers are (partly) supposed to help us solve our problems. This isn’t being pursued as I had hoped it would be. We’re 11 years in and iOS still can’t do things that my simple Nokia could, such as setting it to Do Not Disturb mode for a precisely set amount of time. iOS 12 will introduce a few new features that help in this regard but there’s so much more that could be done. My iPhone know’s my daily schedule and how I use it — it should adapt automatically. When I walk into the gym, it should suggest launching Overcast and Workouts (on my Apple Watch). When I leave, it should suggest that I text my wife, informing her that I am on my way and share my ETA. When I get into my car in the parking lot beneath the gym, it should launch Waze and guide me to where she is. I do this every single day and I should not have to manually repeat these steps every time — the OS should have learned by now. It has my location, it knows my routine; it should help automate repetitive tasks automatically.


Google Is Quietly Working on a Successor to Android — Project Fuchsia →

July 20, 2018 · 12:05

Mark Bergen, for Bloomberg:

For more than two years, a small and stealthy group of engineers within Google has been working on software that they hope will eventually replace Android, the world’s dominant mobile operating system. As the team grows, it will have to overcome some fierce internal debate about how the software will work […]

The company must also settle some internal feuds. Some of the principles that Fuchsia creators are pursuing have already run up against Google’s business model. Google’s ads business relies on an ability to target users based on their location and activity, and Fuchsia’s nascent privacy features would, if implemented, hamstring this important business. There’s already been at least one clash between advertising and engineering over security and privacy features of the fledgling operating system, according to a person familiar with the matter. The ad team prevailed, this person said.

This sounds very disappointing. I really hope they decide to change course and focus on security and privacy instead.


Not-so-Essential →

May 25, 2018 · 10:41

Mark Gurman and Alex Barinka, for Bloomberg:

Essential Products Inc., a startup co-founded by Android creator Andy Rubin that launched last year to great fanfare, is considering selling itself and has canceled development of a new smartphone, according to people familiar with the matter.

Too bad. I am still looking forward to an Android manufacturer gaining ground in the market, who is at least as privacy-focused as Apple.


Google Collects Android Users’ Locations Even When Location Services Are Disabled →

December 7, 2017 · 08:27

Keith Collins:

Since the beginning of 2017, Android phones have been collecting the addresses of nearby cellular towers—even when location services are disabled—and sending that data back to Google. The result is that Google, the unit of Alphabet behind Android, has access to data about individuals’ locations and their movements that go far beyond a reasonable consumer expectation of privacy.

Quartz observed the data collection occur and contacted Google, which confirmed the practice.

I wonder what would have happened had they not been caught, and I mean that with all the sarcasm in the world.

What scares me most is that people stopped caring about companies doing things like this. Sure, I care. Maybe even you care. But most people don’t.


OnePlus Logs A Lot of Personal User Data →

October 11, 2017 · 10:48

Chris Moore:

OK, so it looks like they’re collecting timestamped (the ts field is the event time in milliseconds since unix epoch, which we’ll be seeing more of) metrics on certain events, some of which I understand – from a development point of view, wanting to know about abnormal reboots seems legitimate – but the screen on/off and unlock activities feel excessive. At least these are anonymised, right? Well, not really – taking a closer look at the ID field, it seems familiar; this is my phone’s serial number. This I’m less enthusiastic about, as this can be used by OnePlus to tie these events back to me personally (but only because I bought the handset directly from them, I suppose) […]

Amongst other things, this time we have the phone’s IMEI(s), phone numbers, MAC addresses, mobile network(s) names and IMSI prefixes, as well as my wireless network ESSID and BSSID and, of course, the phone’s serial number. Wow, that’s quite a bit of information about my device, even more of which can be tied directly back to me by OnePlus and other entities.

It gets worse.

This is one of the reasons I go iPhone. Apple isn’t perfect, but there’s less shit to worry about.


RED is Making a $1,200 Smartphone With a ‘Holographic Display’ →

July 7, 2017 · 08:25

Sean O’Kane:

High-end cameramaker RED has just announced a premium smartphone called Hydrogen One, and the headlining feature is something the company is referring to as a “holographic display.” A buzzword-filled press release for Hydrogen One says that the 5.7-inch display somehow uses nanotechnology to “seamlessly [switch] between traditional 2D content, holographic multi-view content, 3D content, and interactive games.”

The teaser image paints it as hideously ugly. That design might work on RED’s cameras, but it sure doesn’t look good on a smartphone. Waiting to see the finished product, but there’s no way I’d put down $1200-1500 on that without seeing the whole picture.


Budget Android Phones Are Secretly Sending Users’ Text Messages to China →

November 16, 2016 · 09:17

Colin Lecher:

Software installed on some Android phones secretly monitored users, and even sent keyword-searchable, full text message archives to a Chinese server every 72 hours, according to research from security firm Kryptowire (…)

Adups claims to have software running on more than 700 million, mostly low-end devices, and says it has partnered with some major manufacturers like Huawei and ZTE, but the scope of the installed software is also unclear. (Huawei and ZTE did not immediately respond to a request for comment.) At least one US manufacturer, BLU Products, was affected, with 120,000 phones reportedly running the tracking software.

How the hell did any manufacturer agree to this?!?


The ‘Nougat’ in Android Is Silent →

September 2, 2016 · 20:43

Vlad Savov:

If we don’t talk about Android, how can we address the failure to release devices with the latest version of Android? I haven’t heard the word “Nougat” uttered anywhere outside of Berlin’s confectionery shops this week. Google’s latest and best software is a complete absentee from this most important of tech exhibitions. I find myself gazing across a wide landscape of future technology and seeing no mention of the most essential piece of future software.

Speaking of which, I still haven’t received my Nougat update on my Nexus 6.


Lack of Android Updates — Enough Blame to Go Around →

September 1, 2016 · 08:11

Andrew Cunningham:

After doing some digging and talking to some people, we can say that it will be either very difficult if not completely impossible for any phone that uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 800 or 801 to get an official, Google-sanctioned Nougat update (including the Z3). And that’s a pretty big deal, since those two chips powered practically every single Android flagship sold from late 2013 until late 2014 and a few more recent devices to boot.

This situation has far-reaching implications for the Android ecosystem. And while it can be tempting to lay the blame at the feet of any one company—Google for creating this update mess in the first place, Qualcomm for failing to support older chipsets, and the phone makers for failing to keep up with new software—it’s really kind of everybody’s fault.

This is such a cluster-fuck. Still.


How to Crack Android Full Disk Encryption on Qualcomm Devices →

July 25, 2016 · 09:39

Mohit Kumar:

Android users are at severe risk when it comes to encryption of their personal and sensitive data.

Android’s full-disk encryption can be cracked much more easily than expected with brute force attack and some patience, affecting potentially hundreds of millions of mobile devices.

And the worst part: There may not be a full fix available for current Android handsets in the market.


Nexus, iPhone or Bust →

July 1, 2016 · 12:31

David Ruddock:

So, am I sitting here telling you buy a Samsung, or a Xiaomi? I mean, I’m not telling you not to. Both companies make good products. But of all the world’s smartphone makers, there’s only one that I truly know of that is all but wholly disinterested in selling you a phone: Google. Google wants to sell you a portal to advertisements. And cellular service (in America). And cloud storage. And email (with ads). And they want the experience upon the phone which you are served those ads to be good. Fast, simple, uncluttered, and enjoyable. Because if I hate my phone, I’m less likely to use it to consume those ads, and that would obviously be bad. Nexus phones have transformed from the developer and enthusiast bleeding-edge into pretty usable consumer devices. In fact, I pretty much exclusively suggest the 6P today, because it’s the only phone I can suggest in good conscience that is produced by a company that isn’t out to make money selling you a phone. Google even publishes end of life support dates for Nexus phones now – what other smartphone manufacturer does that?

Perhaps it’s cynical of me, perhaps it’s just me being risk-averse and boring, and perhaps it’s simply that I’m drinking the Nexus kool-aid. But I’m tired of reading about phones that don’t get updates, that are bogged down with sponsored bloatware, or that have all the customer support of a plastic spoon. I’m tired of having freaking trust issues with a smartphone. I want a decent phone with a decent warranty with decent software and support. And I’m willing to pay for that. I don’t want the best value at the expense of support. I don’t want the best support at the expense of affordability. I don’t even want the best phone at the expense of either of the previous two things. I just don’t want to feel like I’m getting screwed for the sake of a low price tag or a specification sheet. Increasingly, it feels like I don’t have many options that aren’t a Nexus.

Personally, I don’t have the time nor the desire to waste my time looking for a smartphone that might not frustrate me. That is the main reason I go with the iPhone — because it’s one less thing that I have to worry about.


The LG G5 and AT&T’s Bloatware →

April 1, 2016 · 10:21

Phil Nickinson:

Here we go again. If you caught the saga of AT&T’s Galaxy S7, you probably know what’s coming. Fire up the operator’s version of the LG G5 and marvel in the amount of bloatware packed into a single phone.

Wow. This is obnoxiously bad.


Duplicate Software on Samsung Galaxy S7 →

March 9, 2016 · 12:42

Walt Mossberg:

I agree that the S7’s have the cleanest software build of any Galaxy I’ve tested, and that Samsung’s TouchWiz interface has been toned down. But there’s still too much duplicate software for my taste. For instance, out of the box, there are still two email apps, two music services, two photo-viewing apps, two messaging apps, and, except on Verizon, two browsers and dueling wireless payment services.

I still don’t understand this.


A $4 iPhone Smartphone Just Launched in India →

February 20, 2016 · 21:23

Pranav Dixit for the Hindustan Times:

Most built-in app icons on the Freedom 251 are a direct copy of icons on Apple’s iPhone. Take a look at the screenshot below for a side-by-side comparison of the icons on the Freedom 251 and the iPhone. Even the web browser app is a rip-off of Apple’s Safari browser that only exists on iPhones, iPads, and the Mac.

Oh, sorry! It’s not an iPhone after all — those icons had me completely fooled.