Fingerprint sensors have been in vogue for a while now. Although manufacturers are trying to move on to biometric authentication for smartphones, their lack of accuracy often makes them unreliable. Touch ID, on the other hand, has reached a point of sophistication where it’s almost as reliable as a PIN or a password. Fingerprint sensors have thus become a norm even for mid-range smartphones today. However, the movement for thinner smartphone bezels has forced manufacturers to come up with more innovative ways for incorporating the fingerprint sensor into the device.
One innovative solution is to integrate the sensor within the display, and while this sounds like the perfect answer to all our problems, it’s easier said than done. Synaptics has been able to mass produce commercially viable in-display fingerprint sensor and it is the only one fast and accurate enough for day-to-day use in smartphones. Last year was rife with speculations about whether Samsung or Apple would be the first to come out with an in-display fingerprint sensor. Looks like the Chinese OEM Vivo has beat them to it!
Vivo, at CES 2018, ostentatiously demoed the first smartphone ever to have its fingerprint sensor embedded within the device’s display. It was only a prototype, but it’s still much closer to production than Samsung ever came with the Galaxy S8. The sensor is highlighted on the lock screen, allowing the user to place their finger for authentication. A good move as without it users might not be sure where to tap for authentication. The remaining process for using Touch ID is pretty much identical to a conventional fingerprint sensor embedded in the home button on other phones.
Synaptics has quoted a response time of 0.7 seconds for registering and authenticating your fingerprint, which, as of now is a tad slower than the most capacitive sensors out there, which quote 0.2 seconds. Half a second is not so slow to really make a difference in everyday usage. It does requires you to press your finger a little harder than you’re used to at the moment, and that is what makes for the difference in response time. The Clear ID sensor, as Synaptics is calling it, works by using the little spaces between the pixels of an OLED display, looking through them to scan your unique fingerprint. This technology cannot work with an LCD screen as its backlight would be an obstruction for the sensor.
This sensor doesn’t render any part of the screen unusable and is only visible on the lock screen, when you need to unlock the device. Remainder of the time, it is entirely undetectable on the display, allowing you to use your phone the way you want. Companies can now place this sensor anywhere they want on the display as it only needs a small point of contact with the phone’s circuit board. It does makes the phone uncannily intuitive to use, more so than a fingerprint scanner embedded within the home button or located at the back.
Prior to the Synaptics optical sensor, Vivo was working with Qualcomm on the same technology. The shift to Synaptics suggests that Qualcomm’s sensor might not be ready, fast, or accurate. Vivo hasn’t announced a release date for this unnamed phone yet, however it will definitely be released and Vivo’s innovation is sure to inspire the rest to make the change to an integrated fingerprint sensor as well.
A few manufacturers such as OnePlus and Samsung had moved their fingerprint sensors to the back of the phone to make way for more screen real estate. Apple, on the other hand, bypassed it altogether by introducing facial recognition on the iPhone X. None of these options have a natural usability posture, so an in-display fingerprint sensor seems the most logical answer.
Out of sight, out of mind. Blocks should have really kept that in mind.
Back in October 2015, a new company created a lot of hype by its Kickstarter campaign raising $1.6 million that revolved around the idea of a modular watch. The concept was as interesting as it is now, brimming with potential. The key point to debate now is – has the company made too late an entry into the market that’s already flooded with wearables offering similar or even better features?
Let us introduce the watch for you to take that call.
The device in focus is Blocks Core, a pioneer in the field of modular watch, allowing users to add or remove the elements they want at their discretion. The device was announced three years ago with the promise that it will be shipped to backers by May 2016. The company could not fulfill its promise and tried to undo the damage by opening up pre order to new customers in June 2016, with a new promise that shipment would reach the harbor by October 2016. The promise fell flat and the anxious backers were left high and dry. Finally, Blocks seemed to have figured it all out, and is now ready to sell its product.
The device has got a meta finish to it with a premium flagship look. The Black core comes with a 1.39 inch screen with a 400X400 resolution with the provision for any 22mm strap to be attached to the watch body for the watch to be used as a standard smartwatch. The modules can easily be attached and removed to the top and bottom connectors and four modules can be attached to the strap at a given time. It’s big guys and looks as bulky as it sounds with nothing really fancy about it in the looks department and that is a huge bummer.
At present, six modules have been rolled out with several others already conceptualized and in the development stage. The six available modules include a Heart rate sensor, GPS, an LED torch, Adventure (barometer), an external programmable button and an extra battery (wish my Apple Watch had this module capability). A fingerprint scanner, NFC, Camera and a SIM card slot module are slated to be introduced in the near future.
The makers have not gone for the traditional Android Wear as that did not support the code needed for the modules and chose to run with the latest Android 8.0 Oreo. The use of Oreo allows quick downloads from the Play store onto the watch with the MediaTek Chipset and 512 MB of RAM ensuring lag free performance.
It is powered by a 350mAh battery, the reason for its bulk. It can go for a whole day and some more after a single charge, with is nearly the same as my sleeker Apple Watch. In our opinion, with the additional battery module available, they could have gone with a sleeker design. The watch is available at $259 and comes in two color variants- Silver and black. For purchasing the additional modules of your choice you have to part with $35 for each module. The Blocks Core is available for “pre-order” (dread this term, esp. going by their ability to keep to promised deadlines), with a rough release date of ‘end of Q2’.
Other than offering a unique modular design and concept, it comes with features available on other smartwatches, like the smartphone notification on the wrist, the ability to read and reply to texts, weather notifications, stopwatch, timer and activity tracking. As a bonus the device also comes with an in built Amazon Alexa smart assistant.
The company has got innovative ideas in spades and a lot of potential that could create wearable history. But the concept of modules is not easy to execute and pulling it off in a market viable device is a task, ask Google who had to lay to rest their modular phone. Still in its maiden hood, the device has scope of improvement post user feedback. Does it have the time to do so given the edge-to-edge competition and other devices that come with multiple and unique features at a friendlier price tag?
The start of a bitter spar
Reliance Jio almost seized the Indian telecommunication industry when it rolled out its 4G LTE service network in September 2016. The launch, fastest ramp-up by any mobile network operator anywhere in the world, was disruptive for the telecom market. And the push back was expected from the already established players like Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. Reliance Jio stood strong, proving it is a tried-and-tested ‘tough cookie’.
In the initial phase of network deployment, Jio complained to the TRAI and the Department of Telecom about operators not honoring their commercial agreements to let Jio use their network resources and went on to accuse the operators of sabotaging its entry into the Telecom scene. The incumbent operators stood their ground that they were in no position to entertain Jio’s requests for interconnection points. They blatantly refused to aid Jio’s network stating financial inconveniences as the reason to manage the humongous volumes of asymmetric voice traffic from Jio.
This entire war of words was over providing points of interconnect. These are the “points” that help link networks enabling consumers to make calls between different operators, resulting in a smooth exchange of traffic. Company complained that the “others” aren’t coordinating when it comes to providing a PoI (Points of interconnect) and this ultimately turned into the ugly spat in India’s $50 billion Telecom Industry.
The lack of PoI’s lead to huge call failures and the numbers were much more than the maximum 0.5% call failure rate mandated by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) for Quality of Service among service providers. Following guidance from TRAI, Vodafone India and Idea cellular increased the points of interconnect between the operators thrice, thus increasing the capacity to connect. Airtel entered a contractual obligation to provide extra interconnect points to facilitate the large call volume expected from Jio. This compliance came in after the TRAI slapped a huge fine on Airtel, Vodafone and Idea while accusing them of stifling competition and engaging in anti-consumer behavior.
TRAI has been emphasizing on customer convenience and consumer protection and says that benchmarks pertaining to call drops should be met. TRAI on 2 January issued the Telecom Interconnection Regulations 2018 that comprises rules for crafting network connectivity agreements, provisioning of such connectivity amongst operators at initial stages and augmentation of Points of Interconnect. These rules will come into effect from 1 February 2018.
These latest norms assume significance as inter-connectivity has been the flashing news for Reliance Jio and other operators. After this long-driven war of accusations and defense TRAI has laid down the step-by-step process for provisioning of inter-connectivity ports, directly taking a step towards abolishing call drop enigma. It is expected that the “Quality of Service” will improve in the coming months, moving towards a more optimized network tending to almost zero call failure rate. This has got the telecom giants to rethink their business models while the developments have served the consumers well.
Judging by their slow and innocous start it was difficult to guess how important these wearables will prove to be in future. From waking us up to start our day to experiencing our snores at night, they stay with us, measuring our steps / heart rates and prompting us to be more active throughout the day. Not only have they redefined fitness, but are simultaneously revolutionizing the sphere of healthcare.
Healthcare has managed to gain a lot from these new inventions, changing the doctor patient relationship and increasing our awareness on how certain medical concepts were perceived. These wearables are aiming to track manifestations that often go unnoticed but will prove to be significant triggers or trends to mapping our health.
Who does not hate going to the doctor to get their glucose level monitored? Ask a diabetic patient what a tediously monotonous task it is. Apparently Steve Jobs also felt so and wanted to make it better for us. Apple has been curious to explore this technology and make it work. The seriousness of their intent is visible in the company nurturing a team of biomedical engineers to build sensors which will non-invasively monitor glucose levels. The company has finished with a few clinical trials in the bay area however it will be a few years before we see this technology up and about.
Following the footsteps is Fitbit also working on a similar project to build a wearable that can track the glucose level in a non invasive manner. The company has invested $6 billion in Sano, a glucose monitoring start-up known for creating coin-size patch to track glucose levels helping diabetics manage their condition. Fitbit aims to combine the technology from Sano to their wearables making them an integral part of our fitness.
Ignored and often taken for granted – Sweat, has also garnered the interest of researchers. Other than having a cooling effect, sweat can be analyzed for early signs of health anomalies. It’s the store house of biomarkers like glucose, sodium, lactate, potassium and protein. The analysis of sweat could give you a heads up regarding some disease that you might have or are at a risk of developing, enabling you to take corrective actions.
Folks at Stanford have come up with the wearable that has overcome one major obstacles in the path of analyzing sweat. It does not need the patients to sit down for a long duration of time while they see their sweat getting accumulated in collectors, something which does not sound exactly interesting. A key element that these researchers are looking at is the chloride ions which can be a key to know your cystic fibrosis. A higher cystic fibrosis count targets your lungs, pancreas, liver, kidneys intestine and can prove to be the cause of many lung infections.
The scientist have developed a two part sensor and microprocessor that gets glued to your skin, prompts your sweat glands and then gauges the numerous biomarkers based on the electric signals. If there are more chloride ions in the sweat then more electrical voltage will be generated at the sensors surface. If the blood shows higher count of chloride ions then it indicates more cystic fibrosis. This measure is then compared to the glucose level in blood depending on which you will get your report on diabetes.
Guys at the University of Pennsylvania have also been keeping busy and are also exploring the various facets of sweat by including graphene in their research. Graphene is considered “the best sensor material in existence”, allowing the sweat sensor to be four times more accurate than current sensors and is used to create the SweatSmart by GraphWear.
Now that’s some tough research in motion, but, you know what’s tougher – getting an FDA certificate. Apple has recently had a moment to remember when it received an FDA certification for the first time for Kardia band, an apple watch accessory. The Apple watch would now use AliveCor’s Kardia app to monitor your heart. The device comes in black thermoplastic polyurethane with a stainless steel sensor module lurking beneath the surface of the device. An added bonus is SmartRhythm a feature within the Kardia app that would make use of AI Apple Watch’s heart rate and activity sensors to correctly estimate your heart rate. The effort is to make EKG’s accessible all the time without the use of complex equipments and the need to go to the hospital very often under dire situations.
In this routine bound life where every moment appears to be always already decided and is characterized with various shades of hectic activity, stress is the obvious conclusion. This silent killer creeps on us during the day but also keeps us awake at nights so much so that people have to take pills in order to get sleep.
2Breathe has developed a solution that insomniacs might be looking for. The device used in tandem with the app targets your pre-sleep tension, identified as the primary cause of the sleep troubles. All they want is for you to strap on you wearable device, turn on the proprietary mobile app and start breathing casually. While you breathe, the sensors in the device keep a check on your breathing pattern and then sends the data to your smartphone. Now comes the interesting part. Once the device registers your breathing patterns, it will provide you with guiding tones chosen just for you. Follow the tones to calm down and lower the rate of breathing. Within a matter of minutes the neural activity will reduce giving you that oh-so-needed tranquility.
Occupying a comfortable corner in all the sectors of our life, wearables seem like a friend we always wanna keep for ourselves, and with viable research going on, they manage to keep us curious not to mention fit and healthy.
The Indian telecommunication industry thrives on prepaid services. Airtel has only 16 million postpaid users, while Vodafone and Idea Cellular combined would generate a mere 25 million users and the latest mega player in the market, Reliance Jio was able to generate only about half a million postpaid accounts out of their 120 million users trove. So, it is for sure that the Indians favour Prepaid Service.
Why you ask, well, let us take you down the rabbit hole exploring host of reasons why Post Paid plans may not be the choice of the masses.
1. Post paid plans add Monthly/Hidden Fees and these non-productive costs are forcibly incurred by the customer. When you are on the Prepaid plan, all is well and simple – you recharge and you utilise for the amount you have paid for, nearly no surprises. It should be similar in a post paid plan, however some surprises have been known to flummox the customer. There was a time when VAS (value added services) were pimped aggressively and features like ring tones or caller tunes were added without the customer’s knowledge and authorisation, which left a bad taste in many a customer’s mouth. Then there are costs to have the detailed bill generated, fixed rental costs to name a few that will find their way into your pockets. It was a rule of thumb earlier that “you pay more per minute on a prepaid compared to someone who is using a postpaid plan”, however with the prepaid plans offering unlimited calls – it is a thing of the past.
2. People feel more in control with a Pre-Paid option. For a smaller dent in the pocket, a user can be connected to the world. Prepaid plans are offered starting from really small denomination value, e.g. INR 199, while the Post Paid plans start from upwards of INR 299. For the recently initiated or the young, dependent on their parents for their mobile phone connections find the Pre-Paid plans a good starter pack. Most shy away from a postpaid connection because they are unable to check their daily usage and have to wait for the monthly bill to check our usage of the same.
3. Recharge is available in smaller denominations and you can easily add / delete additional functionalities on your connection. Several add-on packs give you the flexibility to temporarily add Data or make small recharges to get you through the month without giving upon the exotically enticing late night calls. :). With Jio disrupting the market, carriers are now including unlimited calls even in their lowest value plans (Airtel does that starting from their INR 199 plan). So now you are getting unlimited calling starting from INR 199 in a prepaid connection, while it is INR 499 in a post paid connection (you do get additional functionalities).
4. Now, with the electronic e-wallets sprouting, you can schedule your payments like clock work, which adds to your ease in recharging your Prepaid account from any where at any time.
The telecom giants are making the Postpaid connections lucrative by offering data. With the calling minutes and roaming being standardised to being unlimited, Data is the new trigger to prompt customers into spending. The major difference would see was that the data could not be carried forward in a Prepaid connection, unlike in a Postpaid option where you can accrue unused data to be utilised at a later date.
The Prepaid options continue to entice the customers, who feel they are not bound by any carrier in a contract. This could be seen in the mass migration of more than a 100 million customers to Reliance Jio when they launched – leaving the other carriers with non-engaged customers on their balance sheets. When loyalty to a carrier is outdone by sensitivity to the price of a viable service – Prepaid is the option for the masses.
Apple did not start 2018 with the positivity they would have wanted, even after the success of iPhone X. The reason – their deliberate throttling-down the performance of older iPhone models has not gone down well with users and critics alike. iPhone owners are upset and several have filed lawsuits alleging that Apple, by failing to disclose that it would throttle down their phones, has swindled them in a sneaky attempt to buy newer iPhones and some have even claimed monetary loss.
There existed speculations around the performance of the iPhone being throttled down with time, however most of us disregarded them as errant rumors and even sidelined the people who had incessantly insisted that they do, as we were not showed proof and were merely audience to the pelted allegations. One inquisitive user – one small measurement – one statement from Apple and the whole speculation turned on its head to become a dreaded reality. After the grins (I told you so), the sneers (I knew Apple was up-to something), the disbelief (I never thought Apple could do this) and a whole range of emotions having manifested, shared and consumed, let us bring semblance of what actually happened and why.
The entire conflict began with a Reddit user’s innocuous experiment around why his iPhone 6S had slowed down and why it perked up again after a battery replacement. Using the Geekbench app, he realized that the most recent iOS 11.2 update had slackened the performance of his iPhone, which disappeared upon replacing the battery. This led a team at Geekbench to further test this hypothesis and prove with data that the claim – Apple throttles down older iPhones is true. After a few days Apple confirmed the same and issued an apology for erroneously withholding this information from their users along with an explanation of why this was done. By then the damage had been done and the trust that Apple had erstwhile enjoyed had taken a beating, exposing Apple to the wrath of their loyal users amidst the rant of iOS naysayers.
Let us explore the battery to understand its delicate relationship to the device hardware and performance.
Lithium-ion battery is a chosen means for powering your smartphone by OEMs as it is lighter, denser, lasts longer, and charges faster in comparison to the other market viable technologies available for batteries. However, these batteries do come with a “chemical age” driven by your usage (number of charge cycles, frequency of charge cycles) and maintenance, directly affecting the battery performance and lifespan. As these lithium-ion batteries age w.r.t. their chemical constitution, the amount of charge they hold diminishes, resulting in the users having to charge their device more frequently than before. Chemical ageing decreases the ability of an optimally functioning phone to spontaneously draw power from the battery. Another factor affecting the power delivery mechanism is the impedance of a battery, which increases as it ages chemically. Higher impedance equals more resistance and thus lower power delivery. There is a minimum voltage that the electronic components, like the battery, power circuits or internal storage of the device needs to operate and a battery with high impedance is unable to provide power quickly enough to the system that needs it. While sub-optimal temperature, harsh environment and a low charge state can increase the battery impedance for a short amount of time, a battery with a higher chemical age in the same conditions would substantially dither in its voltage delivery.
Modern devices have a power management system responsible for managing delivery and utilization of power to maintain optimal operation. When this power management system feels the conditions are not conducive for operation, it shuts down the device to safeguard the electronic circuitry and components against damage. This shutdown is seen as erroneous and spontaneous by the user when in fact, it is completely intentional and systematic. As the battery gets older, it becomes inefficient with it’s power retention and power delivery allowing for device shutdowns, thereby making the device unreliable. In order to keep up with the ageing battery, the device performance needs to be throttled down to keep pace with the diminishing power management so that the device does not have unexpected shutdowns.
The power management feature takes into account battery impedance, its charge state and the device temperature before managing the performance limit for the device CPU and GPU, thereby allowing for an even distribution of the device workload instead of spontaneous quick bursts of power sapping workload, thus avoiding damage or sudden shutdowns. In terms of how this affects the device in practical usage – it may lead to lower speaker volume out (by up to -3dB), backlight dimming (lowering screen power utilization), lower frame rates while scrolling, longer app launch times, etc. If there are any apps that are refreshing in the background, they will need to be reloaded when you launch them and in extreme cases, the camera flash will be disabled. However, this feature will not effect device sensors, captured audio and video quality, call quality and networking throughput and the GPS performance for location precision along with Apple Pay. These changes are temporary if the battery is in a low charge state or if the device is in operation in sub-optimal temperatures, however these changes could be permanent if the battery has aged chemically and a replacement battery would then be a viable solution to get the device back to its original performance.
In their statement, Apple said that for their older devices, the iOS 10.2.1 update came with a feature to prevent these shutdowns. iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6s Plus, and iPhone SE had received this feature to dynamically manage the sudden performance peaks and stop the device from promptly shutting down. iOS 11.2 extended this feature to iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus models as well. On their page for “iPhone Battery and Performance”, the team at Apple have shared that changing to a new battery could improve the phone performance – “For a low battery state of charge and colder temperatures, power management changes are temporary. If a device battery has chemically aged far enough, power management changes may be more lasting. This is because all rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan, eventually needing to be serviced or recycled. If you are impacted by this and would like to improve your device performance, replacing your device battery can help”.
Apart from offering an explanation around the workings and eroding of lithium-ion batteries powering their devices, Apple has also apologized and followed it up with a remedial action: “We know that some of you feel Apple has let you down. We apologize… we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.” As damage containment, Apple has reduced the battery replacement cost of an out-of-warranty iPhone from $79 to $29 for iPhone 6 or later models. In India, this cost has gone down from INR 6,000 to INR 2,000 plus taxes and should be available through 2018. In addition, the company will be releasing an iOS software update in early 2018 with a feature that will give users better feedback on their iPhone’s battery health.
Geekbench is a paid app that does comprehensive testing of your device’s performance. It has become a standard today for testing smartphone performance in areas such as CPU, GPU, speech recognition, camera, rendering capabilities, etc. For the many of you who might not want to pay for an app, there are free apps like Performance Benchmark and Battery Life to gauge your battery health. These apps won’t test your device like Geekbench 4, but still give battery’s raw data, runtimes, and health status for you to gauge your battery health.
The damage was done due to a lack of proactive communication by Apple. The company had been receiving customer feedback for slow performance of iPhones for months before the whole thing was put out in the open. Consumers consciously pay a higher price to purchase iPhones for the user experience it offers, and to find out that they have been throttling down your device performance while keeping you in the dark constitutes an offensive breach of the trust that the buyers place in Apple. If Apple had addressed their user concerns on diminishing device performance, they could have avoided this scandalous bump in their legacy with their user loyalty and brand image not having to loose lost traction in the market.
Now on their proposed remedial solution – Apple should not be charging for replacement batteries at all considering the cost of the iPhone itself, especially in developing nations. Consumers are willing to pay for the user experience and the durability that Apple products bring. Tarun Pathak, associate director at Counterpoint Research, rightly contends that “A two-year-old iPhone such as the iPhone 6s still costs around INR 37,000 and paying INR 2,000 to get its battery replaced within a year of purchase is asking for a lot, especially in developing markets like India. Ideally, Apple should not have charged for replacement batteries for the affected phones. A large chunk of iPhone buyers in India go for iPhones that are a generation or two older. In such cases, it becomes critical for Apple to be upfront about issues pertaining to older iPhones.” Consumers should know about maintenance costs like that before making the purchase.
Could this mess have been avoided if Apple had simply been upfront with its customers from the beginning?
Users feel that the iOS update around their battery performance status could have been rolled out earlier giving the user choice to continue running the device for performance and risk unexpected shutdowns or consciously throttle it down to keep it functioning modestly. By taking matters into its own hands, the users feel that Apple has kept them in the dark and customers are not taking this lack of choice and breach of transparency lightly.
While the accusation against Apple cannot be denied, there does seem to be some truth in Apple’s explanation. Apple, on its website, mentions that “All rechargeable batteries are consumables and have a limited lifespan—eventually their capacity and performance decline so that they need to be serviced or recycled. As this happens, it can contribute to changes in iPhone performance.”
Too little too late!
Carrying your keycards and hard disks, and remembering all of your passwords can become a real nuisance at times. There are apps to store your passwords, although it’s a risky business, but there’s no other alternative to carrying keycards and hard disks. You could forget them at home, or they could get stolen, or damaged. Can you think of a solution?
You might remember the smart textiles that are coming up in the market these days. Your clothes themselves might become your new passwords. They are made from a combination of conductive thread and electronics, to create a finished outfit, accessory, or stuffed toys that flash light and communicate. This same conductive thread also has magnetic properties that had not been explored by anyone until now.
Computer scientists at the University of Washington have fashioned a smart fabric using a novel approach. They tapped into the formerly uncharted magnetic properties of commercially available conductive thread to create electronic-free smart fabrics that can store data like identification tags and security codes. Justin Chan, lead author of the study, explained that “Conductive threads are typically used in smart-fabric designs as a wire to carry electricity from one point to another. What we discovered was that we could magnetize these threads using a magnet like a fridge magnet. We could then sense the thread’s presence or absence using a magnetometer, a sensor used to measure magnetic fields.”
Researchers used conventional sewing machines to make regular textiles out of these conductive threads. The magnetic poles of these threads are situated in an arbitrary manner. They rubbed a magnet across the fabric to manually align the poles in a single direction, either positive or negative, which would then correspond to the 0s and 1s of digital data.
The data stored in these fabrics can be read by magnetometers, which you will find already embedded in most smartphones today. These devices can determine directions, and are thus used to enable navigation apps such as GPS.
Researchers tested the technology by creating accessories like a wristband, necklace, belt, and tie and waving a smartphone across them to read the data. They also stored an electronic door’s password on a piece of conductive fabric attached to the cuff of a shirt. They were able to unlock the door by swinging the cuff in front of a whole range of magnetometers.
The only limitation these fabrics have is that their magnetic fields lose strength by around 30 percent over a week, much like your typical hotel key cards. But on the other hand, they can also be magnetized and programmed several times, thus rendering them reusable. The biggest plus point they have against electronic-based smart textiles is that they can be washed and dried in a machine without incurring any damage, and ironed at up to 320 degrees Fahrenheit as well. This is made possible by the absence of any electronics whatsoever in these new smart fabrics. Not being water-resistant is the major downside of other smart textiles, making them unsuitable for public use.
The magnetized fabric is also capable of interacting with a smartphone still inside the pocket. The scientists made gestures at the smartphone with a glove which had conductive fabric at its fingertips. Each gesture leads to a particular response from the phone such as playing or pausing music. It was able to identify six different gestures with 90 percent accuracy – back click, click, upward and downward swipe, and left and right flicks. This would provide further convenience to smartphone users, as they would be able to do small things without taking their phones out of their pockets. We would all love that, wouldn’t we?
Chan has 2 main applications in mind for their fabrics. One would make it possible to integrate invisible tags within clothing sold at stores, so that could be minimized and employees would easily be able to scan clothes. Secondly he wants to replace RFID keycards with magnetized cuffs within uniform shirts so that employees can access authorized areas more conveniently.
Turning this vision into reality would require them to store more information in these fabrics, which they will continue to work on. “Doing this would require developing our own customized threads, as well as an automatic and precise method of embedding and retrieving the data,” Chan said. Considering the future potential of these fabrics, we can only hope that they make their way into the market soon.
Unsolicited phone calls asking mobile phone users to either purchase a credit card or a life insurance policy have always been a problem. The users keep receiving spam phone calls and messages at odd timings and the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has been trying to do away with these spam calls and messages, via users registering for “Do Not Disturb” as a popular initiative, however, has not met with success.
As a result of this TRAI has been trying to get in touch with Apple for quite sometime in order to develop a Do-Not-Disturb app for iOS, so that spam calls and messages can be reported. Unlike the Apple devices, the Android devices already have this provision in their Play Store which allows the telephone regulators to report spam calls and messages with the help of the Do-Not-Disturb app.
The TRAI chairman has accused Apple of not co-operating with them and limiting them to just discussing the matter as the TRAI has been trying to get Apple on board for the past two years. The chairman is of the view that Apple has done nothing in this matter and has compared Apple’s inactive attitude with Google’s active attitude, saying that Google’s Android supports the regulators DND app, whereas Apple rejects it stating privacy concerns.
Well Google does have all your data – from your web searches. If you do not believe, try searching something on an e-commerce website and then you will see similar products in ads across your screen, even when you visit unrelated websites.
The situation between the two finally got better when Apple got in touch with TRAI during the month of August and said that the new iOS 11, which is the latest iOS version will allow TRAI to develop their DND apps to regulate the spam messages and calls. However, it is still unclear whether this app would would require the users calls logs for reporting purposes as Android does.
TRAI officials have also come out and shared that Apple executives have agreed to help TRAI find a solution for this however the problem between the two was not about consumer protection and the consumer’s right to their own data.
In order to get their DND app a green signal, TRAI had started a formal consultation in August on the issue of safeguarding a customer’s data and whether any third-party (such as app stores) could gain control over the user’s personal data despite the customer agreeing to sharing their information. TRAI initiated this consultation as a counter act towards Apple’s privacy policies.
Companies like Apple make headlines every year for their innovations. However, of late, they have been in the news for trying to silently register their patents or from accusations of rampant patent infringements against them by smaller firms. Most times the cases are proven baseless, with the ‘patent trolls’ seeking to make big money off the established innovators who settle out of court to negate bad press and long drawn frivolous court battles. However, some of the recent cases filed against the giant show that the “patent trolls“ are adapting a new strategy thereby using a minor flaw in the law to a major advantage.
Prowire LLC, a Texas based company filed a case against Apple in Delaware court claiming that Apple has used its technology in iPad 4. Delaware has got an uncanny reputation of favoring the ‘little guys’ fighting the giants. Apple wanted the case to be transferred to California but before that could happen Prowire turned the table by handing over the patent to MEC Resource, a company in North Dakota owned by North American tribe.
But why are they transferring the patents to native American tribes?
Sovereign immunity is a concept that descends from the idea that you cannot summon a king or other monarch into court. In US law, and is in the 11th Amendment to the US Constitution, preventing states from being sued in federal court without the state’s consent.
It is a trial procedure to check the patentability of one or more claims in a patent to check how valid the patents are and it is a great way out of the long drawn legal battles for the big companies who have to confront numerous patent trolls each year. This law, however, has one shortcoming that came to the forefront when Allergan CEO Brent Saunders struck a $13.75 million deal with the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe to transfer patents of the eye drug Restasis. The loophole of the “sovereign immunity”. People who fall under this category can’t be challenged with Inter Partes Reviews (IPR’s) and as one can guess North American also enjoy “sovereign immunity”. So by transferring the patents to the tribe, Allergan is trying to save the drug from generic competition before its patents run out in 2024.
Of late, not only Apple, Amazon and Microsoft have also been sued by a native American tribe and a small computer company claiming that the giants are violating the patents relating to supercomputer technology. The suits were filed in federal district court in Virginia by the Saint Regis Mohawk Tribe and SRC Labs. SRC has transferred the patents under focus to the tribe in August.
This loophole is becoming a headache for the big companies. The patent trolls are using the yardstick of “sovereign immunity” to save their spurious patents from IPR’s. The shell company holds the patent of the “patent troll” in lieu of monetary benefits, in addition to the licensing fees as long as the patent is valid. Unfortunately this trend is being exported for the wrong reasons, making it difficult for innovation to exist, let alone prolifer as the ‘patent trolls’ taking advantage of the unsuspecting tribes who are now being labeled as “patent aggressors”.
Some counter measures have already been pondered on. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) has introduced a bill to overcome this loophole waiting for the Patent Trial and Appeals Board to approve it. McCaskill’s bill states that “an Indian tribe may not assert sovereign immunity as a defense” in an inter partes review of patents. Hopefully with this the abuse of the patent system may be curbed and the firms can go back to focusing on innovation and not bleed energy in protecting that is rightfully theirs.
OnePlus Includes Qualcomm Engineering App In Phones, Exposes Root Backdoor [Update]
An inadvertent slip-up has left OnePlus Android smartphones with an exposed backdoor through their diagnostics tool which can be exploited by people with malicious intent.
However, One Plus does not seem to be the only device which has this problem. The security researcher, who goes by the pen name Elliot Alderson, shared that the same backdoor concern could be found in other devices which are supported by Qualcomm
A security researcher, Robert Baptiste, indicated that a certain app, EngineerMode APK, which was made by Qualcomm was designed to be used by factory staff to test smartphones for their basic functionality before they hit the markets . The OEMs remove this app once the initial testing processes are over and the devices are up for sale. However, reports have shown otherwise, especially with regard to the One Plus smartphones, where their smartphones One Plus 3, One Plus 3T, One Plus 5 still house the EngineerMode APK. Along with One Plus, Xiaomi, Asus, Motorola and few others also have the same errant code.
You can also launch the complete app via an Android activity launcher or via the command line. The EngineerMode comes to light with “*#808#”, a secret dialer command. This tool allows unauthorized users to take charge of your device by simply using a password ‘angela’, allowing them full control of your smartphone. The EngineerMode is capable of rooting your devices, check your root status, spot your GPS. These are certain checks that engineers undertake on the production line, before a smartphone is ready to be shipped out for sale. The engineers seem to have absentmindedly left this APK on the smartphones and this could give rise to opportunities for malicious actions allowing external invasion to gain access to the devices.
It is yet unclear which other models have been affected with this problem, One Plus has been on the receiving of a lot of heat because a lot of users have confirmed that they have indeed seen the Engineer Mode in the different One Plus smartphones. The company was quick to take action to these issues, but the latest reports still point a finger towards One Plus. One Plus has made a statement that it will remove the toolkit in an over-the-air update.
A Qualcomm spokesperson made a comment on this issue stating that “After an in-depth investigation, we have determined that the EngineerMode app in question was not authored by Qualcomm. Although remnants of some Qualcomm source code is evident, we believe that others built upon a past, similarly named Qualcomm testing app that was limited to displaying device information. EngineerMode no longer resembles the original code we provided.”
The statement made by One Plus mentions that they will remove the toolkit, however, this might take a toll on the release of their latest smartphone One Plus 5T.
Now You Have Access To More Words To Express Yourself On Twitter
Twitter is perhaps the most used social media forum to express ones opinions in brevity – no long rants. People from all walks to life have expressed their diverse opinions on a wide variety of topics, joined together by a #. The topics discussed range from government changing views to roasting someone for their views or actions if not just expressing what one is feeling in a sentence. People, promoters, influencers have effectively used Twitter to share and guide people to their content. All in all – diverse set of users using it to express diverse views / opinions.
Up until recently Twitter offered 140 characters to it users to express themselves. Now that is a thing of the past, as they have 280 characters for the users to express themselves. This new change has been received with mixed reactions by the Twitter users across the globe, as some see this as a boon to express their views more elaborately while some think that this move might hurt the uniqueness that Twitter possessed initially, expression with brevity.
Twitter in their blog reportedly mentioned that the reason they took this step was to simplify their users’ Twitter experience. In simple words, they wanted to make changes to make tweeting easier to attract more users. For example, while using names in replies and media attachments such as photos, GIFs, videos, etc you will no longer use up a lot of characters.
This change was anticipated from a long time, as under the founder Jack Dorsey, Twitter was experimenting with its character limitations as they were lagging behind Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat in terms of competition for users and advertisements. According to recent news Twitter’s sales had fallen and the user growth stonewalled. Twitter team want their users across the world to be able to express their views without any obstruction and thus, this is the reason behind their new word limit of 280 characters.
Furthermore, Twitter product manager Aliza Rosen explains that one of the primary reasons this step was undertaken was because the character count was not equal in all languages. Rosen in a statement mentions that “In languages like Japanese, Korean, and Chinese you can convey about double the amount of information in one character as you can in many other languages, like English, Spanish, Portuguese, or French.”
The New York Daily News tweeted the following message taking full advantage of the 240 characters, their tweet is as follows :
“I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women]—I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. And when you’re a star they let you do it. You can do anything … Grab them by the p—y. You can do anything.” #280characters
People who went “Yah”, appreciate the increase to accommodate more into their tweets. However, some are unhappy with the current increase as they see it as a compromise against intelligence, where you had to choose your words carefully and judiciously. Users got more creative when their was a word limit endowed upon them and an unsaid emphasis was put on brevity, which had only added on to the popularity of Twitter and made it a favorite amongst the users!
“In a world where attention spans are falling, the beauty of Twitter was the short and high impact nature of the content,” Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co. analyst James M. Cakmak said in a report. Cakmak comented on how he does not believe that long tweets will attract new users to the social media site nor does he think that the already existing users will be all too impressed with this new feature.
Several Twitter users have taken to Twitter to rant about the fact that they are in fact not happy with this new update and ironically enough they have very judiciously used the 240 characters to express their frustration to Twitter. But like everything, there are a lot of users who as mentioned earlier have used this limit to talk about the unethical actions of a certain President of the Free World.
Another argument states that ever since the number of characters have increased people might get more eloquent hate tweets or tweets that might result in cyber bullying, people shaming, threatening people, etc. This new change has received both positive and negative change, and it will be interesting to see how this new update serves Twitter’s interests!
The original Glass designers had optimistic visions of people blissfully living their lives in tandem with a wraparound frame and a small display screen hovering over their eye. However, the dream quickly gave way to disillusionment as early adopters found that their device delivered less than promised and the Google Glass was further criticized on concerns of privacy of the people around the user.
Google as a company was very reliant on the search for its massive revenues. Google along the way has launch many products and services, however these are not minting money for the company as Google would have liked. Anything that is not Google’s search, display, and video advertising, seems to be lagging behind. Google, with the formation of Alphabet has sent out a clear signal that all Google products need to become accountable for earning their place in the company’s balance sheet. We should see Google infuse our lives with their presence in more ways in the coming year. One step seems to be the wearable segment getting a brand new lease on life in the enterprise segment. Alphabet’s X, which oversees the development of the Google Glass, has announced that the Glass Enterprise Edition is being rolled out to more businesses, after two years limited trial program.
Glass ‘Enterprise Edition’ first broke cover back in 2015 in a Federal Communications Commission, US government body leak, and the new version has had many upgrades over the consumer variant. With a faster atom processor, a higher-resolution 8MP camera, the Glass is also striving to boost Glass’ battery life, one of the major drawbacks in the Google Glass consumer Edition. The display element of Glass 2 will be both larger than the original and able to move both vertically and horizontally. this would begin to alleviate another popular gripe regarding the original Glass: that the display was just too hard to focus on.
The Google Glass 2, Glass Enterprise Edition project is currently under the supervision of Nest co-founder Tony Fadell. Alphabet worked with over “30 expert partners” to tweak the overall design and functionality of the Glass with the likes of GE, AGCO, Boeing, Volkswagen, and DHL. The team at Alphabet made many enhancements to the design and internal hardware, introducing a lightweight model with increased comfort for prolonged use.
Workers at AGCO, an agricultural machinery manufacturer in Jackson, Minnesota, are using over a hundred Glass Enterprise Edition units. Using Google Glass Enterprise Edition has led to a decrease in machinery production time for AGCO by reducing the amount of time spent on “back and forth” for workers to view instruction manuals or sending photos from laptops and tablets as they assembled machines and accessed checklists. The Glass has reduced machinery production time by 25 percent and inspection times by 30 percent. Alphabet noted that DHL was able to increase its supply chain efficiency by 15% after turning to Glass Enterprise Edition. This Glass wearable also allowed doctors at Dignity Health to increase the interaction time with their patients.
The reason why Google Glass 2 work so well in a business setting vs those in private settings is that in the enterprise world, Glass is not an outgrowth of the distracting smart phone, but a tool for getting work done. The Enterprise Edition runs only the single application which is necessary to do the job. There’s no Tweeting, Snapping, Facebooking, distracting notifications, or rage-generating headlines. The company is making Google Glass Enterprise Edition accessible to more businesses via partners. While it is great to see the Google wearable find its momentum in the enterprise segment, it’s unlikely we’ll see a consumer-facing variant.
Glass in an enterprise setting is not a toy, it’s a tool that enhances our ability to perform as professionals.
Qualcomm Is Trying To Get iPhone Sales Banned In The U.S., Again.
The ongoing legal turmoil between Apple and Qualcomm is escalating every passing month, and both the parties are trying to hit the other where it could hurt the most.
Initially, angling for a ban on the import of iPhones and iPads, Qualcomm has changed tacks to now induce an outright ban on the sale of iPhones that have already been brought into the U.S.
Qualcomm filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) citing their view that these devices infringe on one or more Qualcomm patents that cover key technologies that drive some features and functionalities on Apple’s devices.
Since iPhones and iPads are all manufactured in China, Apple has to import its devices into the U.S. to sell them in its home country, and that’s exactly where Qualcomm wants to hit Apple. Its not entirely clear exactly which devices Qualcomm is seeking to get banned, but it’s likely that Qualcomm has the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus models, and some recent iPads in it’s sights.
What is also most interesting is that Qualcomm has only requested devices running on AT&T and T-Mobile’s networks banned, even though these devices use chips from Intel. So you know, Apple devices on carriers such as Verizon use Qualcomm’s processors, so this move seems like a strike not just against Apple, but also against Qualcomm’s competition, Intel.
Qualcomm has been saying that Apple is in violation of six patents that pertain to extending a device’s battery life while allowing the device to retain certain functionalities.
Interestingly, none of the patents are essential to a standard, which translates as Apple is not required to license these, as it is required to do for other patents the two companies are in dispute about.
The current complaint is being filed in both, the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California (the same place where the previous complaints were logged).
Qualcomm’s General Counsel, Don Rosenberg said “Qualcomm’s inventions are at the heart of every iPhone and extend well beyond modem technologies or cellular standards”.
He added, “Apple continues to use Qualcomm’s technology while refusing to pay for it”.
It is expected that the complaint will start to be investigated in August, with a trial happening towards the end of the year, or early next year. If a ban is imposed (something that is being considered highly unlikely), it will not happen for the next 18 months.
We must also keep in mind that Qualcomm might not necessarily expect the ban to actually be put in place. It could very well just be another feint so as to attack Apple on multiple grounds, and thus gain leverage.
Truth be told, such escalation was expected in the fight between the two partners-turned-adversaries, that commenced at the beginning of the year.
While it started with the Federal Trade Commission suing Qualcomm for anti-competitive trade practices, it soon took on more ominous form when when Apple filed its own suit for the same.
Since then, the fight has only become clumsier, with Apple now withholding all payments due to Qualcomm, and the latter trying to get the iPhones banned from sale as a response.
Apple claims that the chipmaker is charging “disproportionately high” fees for the use of its patents, and abusing its position as the market leader in smartphone modems.
Qualcomm is not just a chipmaker, it is also one of the primary suppliers of LTE modems, along with a lot of what goes into your phones. They hold a considerable chunk of standard essential patents, which means that if a company wants to make and sell phones, it has to pretty much cut a deal with Qualcomm, at least for the use of the standard essential patents.
As I said before, the ongoing dispute between the two giants is likely to result in a new trend for the industry – which could culminate with the licensees having additional stake over the patented tech, while the patent holders will have lesser “pull” over how much they charge and thus how the industry functions.
Sounds good to me, now that I’ve learnt how much Qualcomm charges, unilaterally at that, and simple correlation yields that you and I ultimately end up paying for those self-servingly over-valued patents!
Earth shakes when a big tree falls.
Users were reminded again of this maxim as analysts and researchers scrambled in a tizzy, to contain the attacks of what appears to be a new ransomware that is infecting computers worldwide.
Termed as Petya, the cyber attack is another jolt to the tech ecosystem, that is still reeling from the aftermath of the WannaCry attacks, that had affected over 300,000 computers worldwide.
Security experts are expecting the worst, as they say that no kill switch is possible right now.
The attack has chiefly hit the geographical regions of Ukraine and Russia – although the ‘kill zone’ has rapidly spread to various big firms in the western hemisphere – like the advertising giant WPP, French construction materials company Saint-Gobain and Russian steel and oil firms Evraz and Rosneft .
The brunt of the intrusion was felt closer home too when operations at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust were shut down.
The ransomware locks the user out of her system and asks for a Bitcoin ransom worth USD 300 (approx. INR 19,400) – just like its predecessor WannaCry.
Although Wannacry exploited the vulnerability of the Windows operating system, namely EternalBlue, Petya locks the ‘Master Boot Records’ in the operating system which is supposedly the most important data trove of the system and contains all the information on disk partitions as well as the code that gives way for OS to be booted on the memory system.
The ransomware is also affecting the systems in other variants, although with at ‘lesser’ severity than the original.
When a system gets infected, the malware essentially encrypts the entire file system – sending the user a ransom note that warns her against switching off while rebooting. Unsuspecting victims are then asked to send the ransom to an address along with the confirmation mail of the Bitcoin transaction that is supposed to be made.
According to the Ukrainian police, the attack originated from a seeded file of the software update mechanism of an accounting program that is used by the Ukrainian Government. A second wave of phishing campaign was also used to plant the malware, forcing most of the Ukrainian public facilities to be shut down.
Even the radiation monitoring system of the infamous Chernobyl was shut down, forcing the employees to use manual methods to circumvent the problem.
Despite the severity of the attack, it is highly ambiguous at this moment to ascertain if the intent of the attacker was to gather money. Cyber experts have termed the payment method through just one email address as “amateurish”. The email ID was later shut down. According to available details, the Bitcoin wallet that was attached to the ID was only filled with ten thousand dollars, a meager sum for an attack of such ginormous proportions.
There’s another, more sinister belief that’s doing the rounds – because of its unusual focus on the Crimean peninsula, the attack is being seen as thinly veiled attempt to national sabotage. According to Comae’s Matthieu Suiche, “Pretending to be a ransomware while being, in fact, a nation-state attack, is in our opinion a very subtle way from the attacker to control the narrative of the attack”.
The country’s prime minister acknowledged the severity of the attacks but assured that “IT experts are doing their job and protecting critical infrastructure.The attack will be repelled and the perpetrators will be tracked down”.
The details of the solutions, if any, are still incomplete. Infected users are being implored to not pay the ransom – since there is no guarantee of a fix. Also because there is no current method of decryption of the infected data, users are asked to format the drives and use backups.
Major antivirus companies such as Kaspersky are saying that the most they can do right now is to spot the malware. The fix to the problem is being worked upon, and till that time, the user must update the Windows critical patch to address the EternalBlue vulnerability, at least, so that they can keep WannaCry at bay.
This might come as bad news to some WhatsApp users, but the world’s foremost messenger application, with over one billion users worldwide has decided to withdraw support for some operating systems and devices on 31st December, 2016.
What this means is that the users of these devices will no longer receive any future software updates on the App thereafter, though WhatsApp will not be blocking services to the devices. So, WhatsApp will continue to run, but won’t get any more jazzy upgrades.
Well, since you are obviously going to be curious as to which these operating systems are, here’s the list that WhatsApp has published:
This does not come as a fresh announcement as it is actually a reminder from their earlier announcement made on their blog back in February of 2016 (around the seventh anniversary of the application). The post had stated: “While these mobile devices have been an important part of our story, they don’t offer the kind of capabilities we need to expand our app’s features in the future. This was a tough decision for us to make, but the right one in order to give people better ways to keep in touch with friends, family, and loved ones using WhatsApp”.
The reasons stated for the withdrawal of support for these devices by the Facebook-owned company are simplified into – they believe that the messenger application and its features have grown far beyond the scope of these operating systems, which can no longer incorporate within them the latest features, in general, or those of security.
The technology over the years has obviously improved drastically, and these older operating systems, even logically speaking, would lack the capacity to withstand the changes.
The WhatsApp announcement post goes further, almost nostalgically explaining: “About 70 percent of smartphones sold at the time had operating systems offered by BlackBerry and Nokia. Mobile operating systems offered by Google, Apple and Microsoft – which account for 99.5 percent of sales today – were on less than 25 percent of mobile devices sold at the time”.
Updates to this Article:
In developing news, however, WhatsApp just launched a video calling feature on its application for all its users. Along with this new feature, it also decided to extend the support for Blackberry and Windows operating systems until July 2017, as of now.
This seems like a move planned as per the market, competing with a number of rivals such as Facebook’s own Messenger, Microsoft’s Skype, Apple’s iMessage, Google’s recently launched Duo, and independent similar applications like Viber, Line, and others.
WhatsApp has a dominant hand in the market, so, it would be wrong to state that WhatsApp is playing catch up with other applications, but what is certain is that WhatsApp is gearing up to retain its position in the market. These latest moves only serve to highlight that intent.
While WhatsApp, back in February, politely requested the users of these older operating systems (and of course, devices) to buy devices running on more recent OS before the end of the year, now, with their latest move they are extending the support for a few of these by six months.
But we don’t think they’re going to be providing any further extensions. So if you’re an avid chatter, on one of the devices on the endangered species list, we recommend you begin saving up and move out soon.
Update (on 8th June, 2017):
The six month extension that Facebook-owned Whatsapp had so zealously provided for the operating systems in concern has now come to an end. As of June 30th, the above mentioned operating systems will no longer receive support for the messenger application. The apps won’t die, they just won’t receive any more updates.
Whatsapp has been making a lot of changes to its ecosystem lately, with talk of bringing in unique features that will allow you to ‘recall’, or ‘edit’ a sent text. and with bringing in features like audio and video calls, stories, and working around the idea of a ‘status’. It is quite clear that Whatsapp is moving towards bringing in more and more features for its users in a crowded market. To keep doing that, it is important for them to invest their energy judiciously. The withdrawal of support for these operating systems is precisely that, a move towards judicious investment of energy.
Update (on June 23rd, 2017)
It seems like the end of life date for BlackBerry OS and Nokia S40 platforms has been pushed back again. WhatsApp, on their website, has reportedly confirmed the extension of its services for BlackBerry and Nokia S40 platforms till December 2017 and December 2018, respectively.
As per a report by Netherlands-based fan website WhatsAppen, WhatsApp for BlackBerry 10 and BlackBerry OS7+ recently received an update that extends support for the platforms until December 31, 2017.
As far as support for Nokia S40 platform is concerned, the end-of-life date has been moved from December 31, 2017 to December 31, 2018.
This, however, gives a mixed message, given the extension is not being granted to Nokia Symbian S60 platform. There are very limited number of customers who use the Nokia S40 platform, but the news will be a relief to them nonetheless.
Commuters on Delhi Metro can now pay with a swish of their wrist. Users will be able to wear their smart card on their wrist as the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) has enabled the use of wrist watches launched by Austrian company LAKS, to be used as modes of payment at the gates.
The watches are called Watch2Pay, and are available for purchase through e-commerce platforms such as PayTM, with a starting price of INR 3,000.
“The new facility is expected to provide the commuters a more convenient and fast access to the Delhi Metro network. The commuter will simply have to touch the wrist watch to the screens of the AFC (Automatic Fare Collection) gates at the metro stations to get access”, said a DMRC statement.
The watch works on NFC, or Near Field Communication, which is technology that allows two electronic devices, one of which is usually a portable device such as a smartphone or a watch, to establish communication by bringing them within close proximity of each other.
Watch2Pay uses the same principle to allow the AFC gates to collect the ticket amount from the user.
A watch like this works on the basis of SIM-sized card that is user-inserted, and depending on the card, one can choose what NFC functionality they want the watch to perform.
Amongst other things, the Watch2Pay can also be used for access management to events, for tickets, as company IDs, or as micropayment & loyalty cards. The technology is not much different from that used in sunglasses that Visa had released that could be used to make payments through one’s credit and debit cards.
Other than the NFC abilities, the Watch2Pay is a regular looking watch, that does not come with any other ‘smart’ abilities, as one would suppose. Which is a bit of a downer, however it may just be a function of time (no pun intended), till it evolves to hosting other ‘smartwatch’ capabilities.
For the moment, it comes with the metal dial and tells you the time the same way your Titan does!
The watch in question can be recharged the same way a Metro card is – over the counter or through recharge card terminals. The watch comes from the same company that had joined hands with Hyderabad Metro Rail for something similar back in 2015.
Thinking of getting one? Read our review of the Watch2Pay in our add-on section, to know more about the product, it’s capabilities, and our own assessment of whether it’ll make a worthwhile buy, or not.
Are you using fitness applications to track your run and the path you took? You might just be vulnerable to hackers who are out there steal your data, particularly your PIN and Password.
What do fitness applications have to do with hackers you ask? Well in a nutshell, motion sensors on your phone are operated by the applications you install which in turn can give away information to hackers. Any application that taps into your phone sensors, like the camera, microphone, GPS and a few others, can pick up information by the way your phone tilts or moves as you type.
Researchers, read cyber specialists at UK’s Newcastle University, have deciphered ways by which a malware can decipher data meted out to the sensors. Malware can be sneaked into a device in the form of applications or a web page and the hackers hit payday when these applications or web pages are kept open while accessing ones sensitive data, allowing them access to your private information. The researchers claim the accuracy of hacking these devices being so strong, that 70% of the 4 digit PINs can be deciphered in the first go and they have a 100% accuracy by the 5th try. This is really worrying, given the fact that our world is moving primarily towards a vision which incorporates digital banking that is poised to be accessible through popular chat systems like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
Companies like Apple and Firefox issued patches to block such malware so that such data would not be available to hackers. This decision could only be purported by the ethical hackers these companies have on their payroll. Unfortunately, Google has not paid cognizance to this issue. Despite being the biggest OS provider in smart phones, Android is yet to provide such patches. Google has reportedly known about this issue, but has been quoted as saying that it is still developing its patches. The diversity of the Android versions out there seems to be slowing down their efforts for a secure patch.
The report has recently been posted in the International Journal of Information Security and the team is looking at deciphering how these malware can potentially track wrist movements and when the user, is sitting, walking ,running etc. by hacking the user’s application profiles and the data that follows. The lead author, Dr. Maryam Mehrnezhad, a research scholar at the School of Computer Sciences, when asked about the report shared:
“Most smart phones, tablets, and other wearables are now equipped with a multitude of sensors, from the well-known GPS, camera and microphone to instruments such as the gyroscope, proximity, NFC, and rotation sensors and accelerometer. But because mobile apps and websites don’t need to ask permission to access most of them, malicious programs can covertly ‘listen in’ on your sensor data and use it to discover a wide range of sensitive information about you such as phone call timing, physical activities and even your touch actions, PINs and passwords.More worrying, on some browsers, we found that if you open a page on your phone or tablet which hosts one of these malicious code and then open, for example, your online banking account without closing the previous tab, then they can spy on every personal detail you enter. And worse still, in some cases, unless you close them down completely, they can even spy on you when your phone is locked.Despite the very real risks, when we asked people which sensors they were most concerned about we found a direct correlation between perceived risk and understanding. So people were far more concerned about the camera and GPS than they were about the silent sensors.”
Going by the technique, the wearables are also in the cross hairs – especially your smart watches. Be careful, while the devices may offer limited functionality in your life, they do open you up to fraudulent intent by nefarious hackers. We have looked at securing the main gate (locking the phone with alpha numeric and fingerprint passwords) and dredging the moat around the castle (securing the apps and including encryption on our stored data) however we need to seek out and secure all entry points like the air vent and sewage channels which enable unseen services to the users, just like the sensors on our smart devices.
Stricter Rules and Regulations In Online Advertising Affect Google And Facebook
The world is surely being digitized.
From transactions to socializing, digital is the word that the world is bending to.
Global revenue from advertisements are growing exponentially, creating jobs and employment for artistic, creative individuals who have found ingenious ways to gain user attention and generate traffic. This trend has created wonders for Google (including YouTube) as it is the largest recipient of this global advertisement revenue, with Facebook being stuck in a distant second place.
You may be surprised to learn that Facebook, despite all it’s reach and social graces, receiving only about one third of the revenue received by Google!
Over 77% of Google’s ad revenue is generated from their own websites, thanks to their humungous AdWords platform which covers almost all services used by Google.
To gain the top spot on Google’s Search, companies (and people) bid for the spots – obviously, the higher the bid the higher the spot. And it’s really no surprise that bidders at the bottom of the pile won’t even have their ads displayed due to their dwindling position on the list.
Google operates on a cost per click basis, with the advertisers paying Google anywhere form a few cents to USD 50 per click depending upon the nature and importance of the advertisement.
That’s not all though. Google has another ace tangled up in their web of user-inducement.
Capitalisng on the digital revolution and cementing their earning opportunity, Google AdSense also allows placement of advertisements within blogs and other websites.
Facebook also earns revenue in a similar (but not same) way. While most of Facebook’s revenue is generated from website and mobile advertising, in contrast to AdWords, Facebook advertisers can target users based on information like age, gender and geographic locations to custom tailor their advertisements.
Due to the nature of Facebook’s website, the average session tends to last much longer than the typical Google search, so information collected from Facebook is a better representation of consumer habits.
Given how majority of the developed and developing world, is tuning onto YouTube and Facebook, rather than their TV screens and print media, it is likely that advertisements would be more prevalent in the online sphere rather than the offline content.
But all’s not rosy.
Given that content has generated traffic in some cases where the proponents have resorted to hate-spreading and filth to get views or reads, advertisements placed on those very articles or videos have created enormous wealth for the content providers.
This has called for stricter rules and regulations.
Earlier, the policy had a very narrow range, addressing speech that was threatening against defined groups including religious and ethnic groups, LGBT groups and individuals.
The policy has now been expanded to include more groups like immigrants and refugees and it also applies to discriminatory pages which weren’t covered before.
Google has therefore revised its policy on hate speech and online racism.
This regulation has deterred advertisers from lucrative but malicious content, both on websites and YouTube as Google now allows companies to choose what kind of content, they’d like to advertise upon. For those who choose to not advertise on content that might be ‘mildly offensive’ or ‘politically volatile’, will reduce considerable revenues for the content providers and in the long run, will reduce viewership.
All said and done, Google and Facebook will retain their positions at the top even if they take a marginal hit in their earnings in the present term, yet this change is good and necessary.
Xiaomi, best known for catapulting it’s way into unforeseen success in the smartphone world, and it’s amazingly low prices, experienced rampant growth not just on an Indian scale but in every country it entered.
When Hugo Barra took over the steering wheel a few years ago, the brand was an unknown entity, and Barra, along with a young, hungry team made magic happen, bringing the company global repute, and a place at the top-five brands table. The tide was high!
Then in 2016, Xiaomi hit some breakwaters that stemmed it’s high-tide momentum. The company had a tough year, with their global growth and revenue ebbing into a little bit of a slow pool. But it seems like a bet that Barra made on India might be paying off.
The company spent about USD 500 million on India since its debut in 2015. India was also the country where Xiaomi crossed USD 1 billion in sales revenue in a single year, for the first time.
It’s no surprise thus, that Xiaomi’s doubling the bet on the India!
Xiaomi’s co-founder, Lei Jun recently pledged another investment of the same size over the next three to five years. He also added that he expects to double revenue in India this year to USD 2 billion.
So it seems like Jun is letting India hold the key to rejuvenating and reviving the brand after having been eclipsed by local competition here and even in its own home country of China.
“We faced many challenges. Many negative reports about us,” Jun said, “But it was never as bad as it was made out to be. We have gone back to healthy growth. We will resume rapid growth in the next two years”.
At a time when the global demand for smartphones seems to have stagnated, India has surprisingly been one of the very few markets that is still moving rapidly. This could be owing to the hunger for more and more connectivity in a country that still has a long way to go in that respect, or to the simple arithmetic of the humoungous population of India and that of the neighbors in the subcontinent, that depend upon it for all sorts of advancements.
Regardless of the reason, what is quite clear is that this market is attracting foreign players who are very effortlessly moving Indian brands like Micromax to the side, with their superior quality and customer focus, not to mention superior devices.
Xiaomi’s devices (like Oppo’s) have got the looks, the feel, and the features and the likes of Micromax, Lava, Karbonn are once again being relegated to a quiet, dark corner of the market where only the very basic customers ever venture.
The country is undoubtedly Xiaomi’s most important foreign market, especially given a brand like Xiaomi would be eaten alive for the patent violations if it even tried to step into the Western markets.
With this latest re-doubling investment, Xiaomi joins the growing list brands manufacturing their devices in India, others being Huawei, Lenovo, Samsung, and very recently Apple.
A large part of this investment, would go towards a second manufacturing plant built with partner Foxconn. This would create 20,000 jobs in the next three years, and as Jun says, will manufacture one new phone per second.
There is also talk of a third production plant in the wind.
“In the next two years we want more and more influence in India”, Jun said. “We want to take more risks in India. But we want to take controlled risks”. This would include boosting production closer to projected demand, moving away from its traditional reliance on flash sales to maintain scarcity.
Xiaomi’s bet on India paid off at a time when the global smartphone market seemed to be dipping. It is now expected that the global smartphone market will bounce back from the low it saw in 2016, but however that goes, Xiaomi’s bet on India, counting on the dynamic and growing market, should keep it going – provided the products match up to our ever-increasing expectations!
On the heels of the Flipkart-eBay announcement also came the announcement that Flipkart is now partnering with Micromax, to develop and market mid-range smartphones in the Indian market.
The smartphones will be called Evok, and will cost between INR 6,000 to 12,000. We do not know much about the devices yet, except that they can be expected out quite soon. What is also quite probable is that Flipkart will be the exclusive seller for them, much like it is for the Bharat 2, an INR 3,499 smartphone Micromax recently launched, and for the Dual 5, an INR 24,999 smartphone for the premium mid-range segment with Micromax’s first dual-camera set.
“It’s a long-term agreement with Flipkart where we will be developing products jointly based on the insights and consumer understanding we get,” Shubhajit Sen, Chief Marketing Officer at Micromax said.
The simple way to understand this is that the partnership will benefit both the parties in unique ways, while also giving them a joint front to fight competition. Micromax has been looking to expand its online presence for a while now. The brand, made for the expanding Indian market back in the year 2000, has had quite an amazing offline presence so far; their online presence, however, needs work, and Flipkart might be the key.
As for what’s in it for Flipkart is concerned, the retailer has been looking to sell more phones in tier 2 and tier 3 markets, and Micromax will give it the exact products to sell. Micromax’s already existing popularity in certain segments of the Indian market would only serve to boost sales, and flow more business Flipkart’s way.
The online retailer that just received a fresh round to the tune of $1.4 billion in funding seems to be warming up to the idea of expanding beyond. The move might be a good one at that. The Indian e-commerce market is basically flooded with names, and brands, and it is also at the moment, struggling, to keep up. Flipkart has managed to prove itself to be the bigger of the players in the market, recently also having acquired Myntra, and Jabong, its two biggest competitors in the clothing/fashion e-retail business. However, to maintain its edge now, it’ll have to keep being innovative, and smart.
The same goes for Micromax, the smartphone company that once changed the face of the smartphone market in India by bringing cheaper better budget phones in a time when phones used to be an “investment”. The brand, another Indian baby, of course, became quite popular amongst the populace, but with the advent of the Chinese budget brands like Xiaomi, Huawei, Oppo and the likes into the Indian market, Micromax’s stand started to shake. While Micromax mocked up the better phones in the Indian market, these brands worked on mocking up the international biggies. Microsoft dropped out of the top-5 selling smartphone list last year, and now it’s struggling to climb back up.
In a space where Flipkart is defending itself against Amazon, the American giant that has been only half as old as Flipkart in the Indian market, and where Micromax is defending itself against the Chinese budget brands that are just growing by the day, the partnership might be a key strategic move for the both of them.
Anonymous Indian hackers have claimed to have posted personal details of over 1.7 million Snapchat users on the Deep Web. This purportedly is a repercussion to an allegedly derogatory comment made by the CEO of Snapchat, calling India a “poor country” and unfit for the expansion of the free app.
To the uninitiated, Snapchat is a super-popular photo-sharing messenger that has about 300 million monthly users. Of these, about 4 million monthly users are Indian.
Over 2.5 billion Snaps are reportedly shared on the app every day.
Now, a hack is a serious enough transgression for any brand, but to have customers’ personal data harvested and then flung out to the wind, is a cut that runs much deeper.
Thus it’s no surprise that Snapchat has denied outright that any such hack or breach in user data has taken place.
Further, no known or specific Indian hacker group has come forward claiming responsibility of the purported leak, which, if the news were true, should have happened by now.
On another level, Snapchat continues to deny that any such adverse comments were uttered by Evan Spiegel, their CEO.
They claim that such caustic remarks were made in a lawsuit filed by Anthony Pompliano, a former employee of Snapchat (who had joined Snapchat having jumped ship from Facebook). Interestingly, Snapchat also claims Pompliano was fired within two weeks of joining Snapchat, and the suit he has filed also alleges many other claims (that are currently sub judice).
That, however, has not made much of a difference to the offended Indians. Many of whom have gone out of their way to instigate and veto campaigns like #UninstallSnapchat and #BoycottSnapchat on social media.
Such is their ire that these campaigns have successfully dragged the app’s rating down from five stars to one, on Apple’s App Store.
Coming out in defense of the company, their spokesperson said in a statement: “This is ridiculous. Obviously, Snapchat is for everyone. It’s available worldwide to download for free. Those words were written by a disgruntled former employee. We are grateful for our Snapchat community in India and around the world“.
If the threat of the user accounts having been breached is true though, it won’t be the first time that Snapchat has had its user data compromised. Back in 2013, hackers gained access to 4.6 million Snapchat accounts, posting an edited version of this data on a publicly accessible website, finally forcing the company to make an apology to its users for some earlier indiscretions.
As far as the threat of the current purportedly leak is concerned, we (Chip-Monks) are still on the fence about it being credible. If you do want to be extra careful, we recommend you go ahead and change the password for your account, just to be extra safe.
Commission Alleges Qualcomm Kneecapped Samsung's Exynos Chips' Sales
Qualcomm is super, super, super-huge in it’s domain and even bigger in it’s influence over the smartphone industry. However the one thing it is not, is well-reputed.
The brand seems to be egotistic, almost neurotic when it comes to the control it wants to exert over the industry. I think this perhaps stems from being poor self worth.
Given it’s tech prowess, proprietary advancements and innumerable patents in the world of processors, Qualcomm has become the supplier choice for almost every premium brand out there. But… it’s proclivity to demand and enforce self-serving clauses in the agreements has been noticed by Trade Commission and Courts earlier. Now, it’s in a soup again, for the same self-serving and monopolistic restrictions placed within it’s agreements with Samsung.
Qualcomm has been accused by the Korean Fair Trade Commission of illegally blocking Samsung from selling its Exynos SoCs to third party phone manufacturers. However, no direct action is expected from Samsung against its ‘partner’.
Qualcomm and Samsung have had a symbiotic relationship for a couple of years now. This relationship while beneficial to both, has not really been a friendly one for either of the companies. Yet, given the fact that both these legal entities have leverage over each other, the ‘partnership’ shall remain existent until something of major consequence happens.
To understand why such an accusation has been made by the KFTC, acquainting oneself with a brief history about the relationship between both the companies becomes imperative.
Here is the whole timeline of events leading up to the current relationship –
Qualcomm is currently appealing the fine, and it seems unlikely that Samsung will take any direct action against it for the Exynos sales to third party OEMs.
This might however change, if the regulators bring down the 1993 deal, leaving Samsung with the opportunity to sell Exynos processors to other smartphones without the risk of compensating Qualcomm with a high licensing fee.
Samsung might even turn into a strong competitor, on par with MediaTek, given the fact that it could add other components like memory chips and displays to the SoCs, which Qualcomm would not be able to match.
Why wouldn’t Samsung want to take direct action against Qualcomm?
As mentioned before, Qualcomm had agreed to let Samsung use both the Snapdragon (a Qualcomm product) and Exynos (a Samsung product) SoCs in its devices. In case Samsung decides to stop using Snapdragon processors while using only the Exynos processors, Samsung would be costing its foundry its Snapdragon orders. Both, stock and flow of Snapdragon orders, would instigate unnecessary revenue cuts.
Given the fact that Samsung’s growth in mobile devices has been stagnant, this would be a business blunder.
The relationship remains symbiotic between these two companies, but any aggressive move is unlikely to be made by Samsung unless the 1993 patent deal is struck down. On the contrary Qualcomm’s reputation has been declining significantly given the fact that Apple, a longtime customer is suing it too, for lop-sided licensing agreements, along with many other smaller manufacturers.
There’s no other way to say this – Qualcomm needs to get real. The world today doesn’t suffer autocracy too well – and while Qualcomm may be whistling it’s way to the bank for now, however given that Apple, Samsung, MediaTek and Intel are all investing hugely in devising newer (and often better) chips of their own, Qualcomm may just have to use these agreements as packaging paper in a few years. With the Internet of Things well on it’s way, and Automobile Automation being the big ticket for the next decade, this mayn’t be the best time for Qualcomm to play the my-way-or-the-highway card.
It might just find itself on a rather desolate, lonely and barren stretch of road, with no place to go.
Intruder Alert! Burger King's "Innovative" Advertisement Boomerangs.
The great grump Samuel Johnson once let us on to something. That promise, a large promise, is the soul of an advertisement. Well, Johnson should have seen the new Burger King ad. For it is exactly these kinds of promises, that sometimes encroach upon the entrepreneurial sportsmanship he cited.
Advertising is, and I believe has always been, an exercise in tightrope walking. A good advertisement can be a visual telegram. A bad one hangs like an albatross around your neck. And the worst part is, most of the times you don’t even know how customers would react to it.
The granddaddy of the advertising industry, David Ogilvy remembers Lord Leverhulme in his Confessions of an Advertising Man stating “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, and the trouble is I don’t know which half”.
In their new 15 seconds ad, a geeky Burger King salesman tries to convince you of the richness of their burger by not explaining it himself; instead, he tries to trigger Google Home on your device via voice activation. If your phone is in the hearing range of the television, the innovative one-two punch is supposed to dole out information about Burger King’s famed Whopper Burger, direct from Wikipedia – want it or not.
We don’t doubt that as an advertising method, this was ingenious trick.
Any advertisement is supposed to grab your attention, and this one from Burger King managed to do that, and more. It even grabbed the attention of your phone!
Our point of contention is that the advertisement borders on intrusion. Forcing your way out of television into my phone isn’t exactly what advertisements are supposed to be. That is the job of propaganda.
As usual, the tongues began wagging. Someone with a cruel sense of humour edited the Wikipedia entry of Burger King, adding a long list of richness in the flavours of the burger. “Cancer-causing “, “A chocolate candy“, made up of “toenail clippings” and “rat” were some of the twitterati’s favorites.
Wikipedia later was forced to lock the entry, allowing only authorized editors to manage the text on the page.
But the damage has been done. And the powers that be aren’t exactly happy.
Authorities at Google raised their eyebrows when they saw the company piggybacking (read: misusing) their device’s feature. As of now, Google Home has been tweaked so that it doesn’t respond to the advertisement’s prompt – “What is the Whopper burger?”.
However, if a human user asks this question instead of the advertisement, it responds.
The advertisement predictably found its way to YouTube, where it is clocking more dislikes than likes. Which is a telling verdict of public mood towards this over-zealous promotion.
Burger King later issued another advertisement in lieu of the previous one. The new advertisement had three versions instead of one. Google struck those down too.
Burger King has now stopped airing their ad, and their spokesperson maintains that they haven’t heard from Google.
We understand that this is a bit early, for it is entirely possible that Google is planning to rain legal subpoenas on the companies.
With Burger King scoring a clear win, we are still curious about their response.
You should know, this is not Burger King’s first brush with controversy either.
They’d once sent critics into uproar when they had made depreciatory comments regarding Mexicans in one of their ads. And they were panned for that too.
But it was long back. And it was an ad that went bad.
This here, is uncharted and very unwanted territory. Beginning with this intrusion, one sees the possibility of a pattern emerging – one that is not desirable in the least.
As Norman Douglas had so presciently said. “You can tell the ideals of a nation by its advertisements”. And I love it when dead people are right.
There’s a bigger issue that we all need to recognise now, and Burger King’s boomerang has knocked a lot of people’s heads with something scary.
Eagerness to impress sometimes becomes an intrusion, and Burger King’s misuse of technology gave the world a whiff of what the Internet of Things-enabled integrated life will be like. Technology everywhere, devices always listening, and the potential controllability by some over-intelligent people who see ways to hack into them, to intrude into our personal space.
And people didn’t like it.
Cisco India Inaugurates Cyber Range Lab To Combat New-Age Threats
Cisco India recently inaugurated its Cyber Range Lab, a first-of-its-kind setup in India, aimed at training and build the skills necessary in security staff to combat new-age threats.
In a country like India, still discovering the Internet and Digital Commerce, and where the need for cyber security experts has been growing manifolds, this is an enormously important step towards providing cyber security. Cisco has four other such labs in Australia.
How this will basically work is that the lab will immerse people in simulated real-world cyber-attacks, with the objective of training them on how to properly prepare for, respond to and manage a broad variety of threats.
“The lab will use 200-500 different types of malware, ransomware and 100 attack cases to deliver realistic cyber-attack experiences”, said Dinesh Malkani, President, Cisco in India and SAARC.
Owing to a lack of training and skills required for security jobs worldwide, organisations are facing obstructions in deploying advanced security. It is a direct consequence of that the common man uses any technology – from shopping online, to banking online, to ordering food online – with blind belief and with an assumption that the merchant site is the one responsible to take care of his security.
This common man is met with stark disappointment when he later realizes that the systems in place on the merchant site might actually not be enough, that the internet is a dynamic space that is as vulnerable to manipulation as it is to innovation.
India, as a country, is in a special spot when it comes to cyber security. We’ve rapidly gone from 5th century B.C. to the 21st century A.D., practically overnight.
It wasn’t too long ago, that the only connectivity we had were dial-up connections – that while frustrating, were considerably more secure. Today, we have free Wi-Fi at a lot of places; from restaurants and institutions offering free Wi-Fi on their own behest, to ventures like Google’s program to bring free Wi-Fi to railway stations, and RailTel’s extension on the same. There is also a call for free public Wi-Fi in certain urban areas, especially the hot spots like Connaught Place, or Khan Market, in New Delhi, and similar places in Mumbai and Bengaluru.
When we do hail for free Wi-Fi, what we do not realize is that in exchange for the “free” we are placing our security at risk.
A not-necessarily-similar but equally noteworthy risk comes from the use of e-commerce platforms. While before demonetization, a select few internet savvy Indians used e-commerce platforms like Amazon, Flipkart, Zomato etc. Most of these places also had a cash on delivery (COD) option for the skeptic Indians who preferred not believe in the security of online transactions.
Post demonetization, most Indians seem to choose the option to pay online, rather than pay cash on delivery. Which means that people who are not necessarily tech savvy are making transactions online, placing themselves at risk.
A completely different story is that of Paytm, and other e-wallets, that require a whole different paradigm for security.
Currently, in the country, goods and services, insurance, the banking system, and stock exchanges, face critical security threats. India is a country that has had the onset of technology quite suddenly, and not in a systematic manner. It is a country that does not have the necessary systems in place to deal with cyber crime, nor does it have the necessary system of cyber law in place, or that of cyber security. Whatever India does have, is basically a mish-mash of things that have been patched together in the time of need, when a problem arose and had to be solved.
In a space of this kind then, Cisco’s Cyber Range Lab, a cyber security venture, becomes quite important. If not be functionary in establishing the necessary system in place, this venture at least raises the right questions and concerns.
“With the cyber security framework in place now, the need is for active implementation to better handle the ever-changing threat landscape. An effective implementation of cyber security requires IT infrastructure and technical expertise for which the industry should play a responsible role” said Gulshan Rai, National Cyber Security Coordinator.
Just a few days ago, we’d written about how India was very, very far behind in developing and promoting the use of Electric Vehicles. We’d spoken about costs, poor supporting infrastructure and insufficient governmental focus on this sector as some of the debilitating elements.
Well, one of them, Governmental focus has a new, good story to tell!
Here’s another moment of pride for Indians, thanks to the stupendous people at ISRO.
The Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) under Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) has successfully developed path-breaking lithium-ion batteries that are high-density units, which despite higher charge storage capacity, are actually smaller, lighter and more compact than regular batteries.
ISRO had developed their innovative lithium ion battery technology and used it for their space applications – to power satellites and other space missions. Seeing that done successfully, ISRO and ARAI (Automotive Research Association of India) began working jointly a while ago, to adapt and develop this indigenous lithium ion technology for automotive use.
One of the first things they realised was that the batteries for automotive use would need lower specifications, have different energy densities (compared to the batteries used in space), as well as be made suitable for higher ‘duty cycles’ – the number of the recharge instances and the very life of the battery, would need to be enhanced since automobiles would see more rigorous use across their lifetime.
ISRO’s capability to craft the right chemistry and to translate the technology helped them create compact lithium ion battery systems that could meet the grade set by the ARAI.
Interestingly, during the ‘develop’ phase itself, ISRO was approached by over a dozen automobile manufacturers to partner and launch electric vehicles based on their battery technology. But the government realised the potential for a larger mission and requested ISRO to make the technology available to multiple players instead of looking at a technology partnership.
Thus, ISRO will share this technology with domestic automobile manufacturers and will enable them for mass production. The information will be accessible even to private players in a true innovation-for-mankind move. The sharing of manufacturing technology will aid mass-production of batteries, thus increasing competition and help bring down prices further. That, is the government’s first priority.
So far, manufacturers have had to import lithium-ion batteries, making the final product expensive and accessible only to a few. With the technology available locally, manufacturers will be able to roll out cheaper and more efficient batteries. This will boost production to a scale that may soon enable cheaper and more reliable electric vehicles. Estimates yield that bulk production could lower prices by up to 80%, making batteries feasible for the budget-conscious Indian.
The indigenously manufactured and customised batteries have successfully cleared multiple rounds of tests. And not just lab-tests – earlier in 2017, an electric two-wheeler prototype was rolled out, powered by the indigenous lithium-ion battery.
As per reports, Mahindra Renault, Hyundai, Nissan, Tata Motors, High Energy Batteries, BHEL and Indian Oil are interested in indigenous production and are expected to incorporate the technology into upcoming products and vehicles in the coming years.
Clearly, the government is looking to boost the sale of electric vehicles to solve the problem of air pollution that Indian cities are currently besieged with. Delhi has long been listed among the top 10 most polluted cities worldwide. And while the Indian government has tried various measures to bring down pollution, there’s not been any significant effect.
With the situation not improving, there’s been a rise in sales of air purifiers, with even bottled pure air entering the market!
The government is now relying on the value-for-money appeal of budget-friendly electric vehicles to help tackle the problem of pollution in the country. Here’s a toast to them!
While ISRO had developed and delivered the prototypes to the ARAI for testing at their Pune facility, and the ARAI was expected to clear the batteries by end of 2016, the clearance is running a little behind. Get with it, guys!
BlackBerry Is Getting A Huge Refund From Qualcomm After A Royalty Dispute
Qualcomm, the chipset maker, is set to return nearly USD 815 million to the Canadian smartphone maker BlackBerry. This hard bargain from Qualcomm comes as a return on the royalties overpaid by BlackBerry between 2010 and 2015.
The dispute between the two has been over royalties BlackBerry paid in advance to Qualcomm. These royalties were seemingly for use of Qualcomm parts or patents used in BlackBerry smartphones. While BlackBerry’s argument is that that there was supposed to be a cap on those royalty payments, which was not applied at the time, Qualcomm is saying that BlackBerry’s payments were supposed to be non-refundable. In addition to the base amount, Qualcomm will also be paying BlackBerry an interest and the attorney fee.
The facts of the primary royalty deal between the two are not clear. But what is quite clear is that Qualcomm seems to just be tired of all that is going on with it lately. Qualcomm’s global business has been taking a lot of hits, with lawsuits and allegations, and it finds itself in a position where it is now working on self-preservation.
The decision, for a change, was not made in court but reached upon by the two parties in mutual agreement. While Qualcomm has made it clear that it does not agree with the agreement, it seems to be going ahead anyway, perhaps only to make the matter go away.
There have been a lot of similar matters that Qualcomm has been dealing with recently.
Their much-heated multi-country and multi-lawsuit battle with Apple, of course, deserves a mention. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission is also in binds with Qualcomm for alleged anti-competitive practices involving its licensing agreements. There’s even a matter of a commission finding Qualcomm’s “prenup” agreements to be unfair especially with agreements signed almost 20 years ago with Samsung.
Issues of this kind have lately been turning into a bigger and bigger problem for Qualcomm. While most of us know them for their chipsets in our devices, a major chunk of Qualcomm’s business is licensing patents. If issues of this kind keep creeping up, the latter might keep taking hit, or worse, might be in danger of something bigger.
We are not yet clear on how much of the Apple scene, or the FTC scene, actually feeds into Qualcomm’s battle with BlackBerry, but we can certainly say that this new deal is a hit to their global patents business.
Apple To Explain Why Decrypting iPhones Would Be “Unduly Burdensome”
It does not take much effort to make a legal case interesting and popular. Just add the name ‘Apple’ to it.
You’d recall, in a recent case against Apple, the FBI had demanded Apple provide a backdoor to all encryption. FBI’s Director, James Comey who is clearly in favour to backdoor encryption, now says (and believes) that it can be done “without disregarding safety”.
The administration as well as the Congress decided to go against the move and thus Apple was able to ward off the pressure of being forced to unlock and decrypt the iPhone.
But, Apple is yet to explain why decrypting iPhones is “unduly burdensome”.
Magistrate Judge James Orenstein of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York wants to bring forth the issue of privacy against law enforcement in the domain of debate.
But the judiciary is divided.
“He’s clearly a judge who is interested in opening topics to discussion in the judiciary, but he also thinks the larger public should know about the debate” said Brian Owsley, a former Magistrate Judge in Texas who had issued rulings that heightened privacy protections for the government’s use of cellphone-tracking devices.
The presiding Judge in the case, Judge Gabriel Gorenstein, who’s dealt with a case resembling the current situation (in 2005), is challenging Comey’s desire to use the 1789 All Writs Act so as to emerge victorious in 2015 encryption issue.
Despite such support, Apple is still having a hard time dealing with law enforcement agencies as they are unconvinced with Apple’s plea regarding the inviolability of the iPhone’s security.
The company has gone on record, saying that it literally has no way of getting a hold of the encryption key which is required to access a user’s data.
“If the government laid a subpoena on us to get your iMessages, we can’t provide it. It’s encrypted and we don’t have the key”.
Despite this and other logical arguments, including the right to privacy, FBI’s James Comey continues to maintain his opposition
“The notion that we would market devices that would allow someone to place themselves beyond the law, troubles me a lot. As a country, I don’t know why we would want to put people beyond the law”.
Accusations, arguments are being thrown back and forth. Manhattan’s District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr, suggested that the iPhone would soon be “the terrorists’ communication device of choice”, underlining the danger of the infallible security features like iPhone encryption.
Apple, on the other hand, tries to elucidate the danger of sacrificing such features. Building in a backdoor would mean making it vulnerable to cyber attacks.
The NY Times said it best,
“The Obama administration has backed down in its bitter dispute with Silicon Valley over the encryption of data on iPhones and other digital devices, concluding that it is not possible to give American law enforcement and intelligence agencies access to that information without also creating an opening that China, Russia, cybercriminals and terrorists could exploit”.
All that said and done, if one takes an impartial view of the matter, both sides are correct in their own right – there’s need of privacy, and there’s the threat of mal intent. And America of all countries of the world, faces the maximum acts borne of that malice, year after year.
So while I can’t pretend I don’t see the chance of misuse of backdoors, I (like the rest of the world, including Apple and the FBI) also can’t see a viable middle path – one that I can think of being used conscionably. Oh, NSA, what have you done?!
Microsoft is buying Deis, a small company that specializes in Containers – a modern way to develop and deploy software.
What’s Microsoft going to do with this acquisition? Well that’s the question we’re going to help you answer!
Simply put, this seems to be an act of self-improvement – one that is aimed at “sponsoring one’s weakness“.
The undeniable fact is that when one thinks of cloud computing services, Microsoft’s Azure does not ring up any major recall.
Despite a lot of efforts on the part of the Silicon Valley’s biggest IT giant, towards upgrading their cloud computing services and it’s appeal, Azure hasn’t really become one of the top players. Amazon, Google and even Dropbox have held the podium for a long, long time.
So this acquisition may be one of Microsoft’s steps toward climbing that vaunted podium.
Microsoft, over the time, has bought into many renowned companies and start-ups, so as to either boost its sales or improve its efficiency. This new buy of Microsoft has got to do with the latter, i.e. increased efficiency.
Thanks to Deis’ proprietary technology, Microsoft may now be able to live up to consumers’ expectations by providing Azure with the smoothness and heightened efficiency that they (users) have come to enjoy from Microsoft’s competitors.
Well, Deis is a San Francisco based open-source tool provider that enables teams to create and manage applications on the Google-backed Kubernetes platform. The company also specializes in containers.
Containers can be considered as one unit of cloud computing, and what Google’s Kubernetes does, up until this point, is that it allows many containers to be compartmentalised – to the extent that multiple containers can be managed on a single cloud instance.
While all that jargon is prone to go over your head, all that you need to know is that it means increased efficiency for the Cloud. Deis even claims to take this one step further.
Deis has in the past, claimed that it can make it easier for companies to use Google’s Kubernetes for their own purposes. This is a management specialization which is poised to save space and increase efficiency.
Now that we know what Deis is and what they do, we shall return to our topic at hand: Microsoft buying Deis. How will it help Microsoft?
Well, for starters, the tools provided by Deis will make Azure function better with a better consumer interface. Microsoft is undoubtedly expecting (or is it, hoping) that the acquisition of Deis will help consumers to work better with Microsoft’s existing container portfolio including Linux and Windows Server Containers and Azure Container Service.
Whatever the case be, Microsoft seems to be making a strategic and planned investment here. Software containers, at this point, are pivotal and are touted as the new building blocks of cloud-based applications. Thus, they are somewhat, a necessity as small to big businesses are turning to third-party public clouds – like Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services – to run their applications.
So, in a time where the market is turning to third-party clouds, being able to make them run in the most reliable and efficient manner is critical. This is Microsoft’s next step in precisely that direction.
As far as what Deis is getting out of the equation – well, they get a broader customer base.
Deis has been contributing extensively to the Helm, Workflow and Steward open source projects and intends to continue doing so. But now, working with Microsoft, the company would be able to take their service to a much wider and more heterogeneous audience.
Gabriel Monroy, the CTO of Deis said: “From our new home at Microsoft, you should expect nothing less. We will continue our contributions to Workflow, Helm, and Steward and look forward to maintaining our deep engagement with the Kubernetes community. The future of open source infrastructure at Microsoft is very bright”.
The deal was made behind closed doors and hence no financial information is available except for the name Deis was bought from the parent company, EngineYard.
The deal, however, does mark a change in Microsoft’s approach to the market. Microsoft had for years, established itself as a closed-source proprietor of software and hardly considered the open source market to be a market worth investing in. That felt almost like Microsoft was refusing to move with time.
However, Satya Nadela’s introduction into the company has changed that. From acquiring massive cloud computing exhibitors, to a time when nearly a third of all machines in Azure run Linux (the popular open-source operating system favored by many developers over Windows), it’s quite a change.
It would be interesting and important to see which way the company continues to move.
“At Microsoft, we’ve seen explosive growth in both interest and deployment of containerized workloads on Azure, and we’re committed to ensuring Azure is the best place to run them”, said Microsoft’s Executive VP for its Cloud and Enterprise Group, Scott Guthrie.
With that change of approach in mind, buying Deis is a smart move for Microsoft. “…the Deis team brings a depth of open source technology experience — furthering Microsoft’s commitments to improve developer productivity and to provide choice and flexibility for our customers everywhere”.
Uber Faces A Nationwide Ban In Italy For Its Competitive Edge Over Customary Taxis
What happens when you become really good at what you do? You get banned!
Surprised? Well, so was Uber.
Uber’s super-success as the global leader in the taxi industry, has simplified millions of lives, provided employment to hundreds of thousands of others and revolutionised public transport along the way.
Now, in this thankless, intertwined world, they face new challenges every day for precisely this reason.
The latest in a series of lawsuits against Uber was filed in December 2016, in Italy, by a union of the traditional taxis, stating that they were at a competitive disadvantage against the American ride-summoning service.
Surprisingly, an Italian court, in all it’s intellectual propriety, has ruled in favor of the taxi unions and prohibited the operations of Uber completely in the entire country!
Uber is not allowed to ply any automobiles, make any promotions or advertisements, nor can it continue using its phone applications.
Ever so graciously, the court has granted Uber a grace period of 10 (full) days to observe its ruling and pull out of the country. If they fail to do so, they will have to pay a penalty of 10,000 Euros for each day that they remain active in the nation.
This ban, however, is not applicable to its Eats food delivery service, which is active in many cities in Italy.
All sarcasm aside, not all of us fully grasp how traditional taxis really do face oblivion thanks to disruptive services like Uber. The biggest cause of the inability is the tradition.
Traditionally-regulated taxis report to a nerve center after each ride, while Uber drivers are free from this particular string.
Uber also makes use of a beguiling simple smartphone application to ease communication between part-time drivers and the customers. Conventional taxi systems do not make use of this technology as yet.
They are also heavily regulated in Italy as they need to have operating licenses that are quite expensive. Uber drivers, on the other hand, have the advantage of being able to get those licenses in small towns at a lesser cost.
Their international structure also allows them to override a lot of the regulations and taxes that traditional taxis are subject to.
There is no way that old-fashioned car services can contend with their prices. Considering all of this, it’s not that hard to understand why the customary taxi drivers everywhere are so bent out of shape with Uber’s rise.
Apart from losing various legal battles in Taiwan, Germany, France, Brazil and many other nations, Uber is also facing legal action in its parent country from Alphabet’s Waymo. On top of that, a number of sexual harassment claims have been filed against Uber drivers over the years – an issue they need to take seriously.
Though all this seems like the build-up to hopelessness and frustration, Uber is determined not to give up. A spokesperson said that they “are shocked by the Italian court’s decision and will appeal. Thousands of professional, licensed drivers use the Uber app to make money and provide reliable transportation at the push of a button for Italians”.
Keeping aside competition, it is actually a battle between the old and the new, the customary and the modern, the long-established rules and the upcoming technology. Conventional taxi drivers have no way out of the nexus of taxes and regulations, whereas Uber has circumvented all that from the very beginning. A lot of governments are not ready to accept that, and Uber is paying for that. Not to mention, we the customers also have a stake in this, though there’s not a lot we can do to help.
Not all efforts yield the desired product – and Samsung’s clearly aware of that maxim. It might be feeling a little raw learning of it firsthand, after the discovery of numerous vulnerabilities in it’s proprietary mobile-device operating system, Tizen.
Samsung started working on Tizen around 2013, with visible sincerity. The open source mobile operating system was being created as an alternative to Android, given that Samsung wanted to limit its dependence on Google and also increase profitability by reducing licence costs.
Apparently, this reliance will not end anytime soon, as Tizen has proved to be the embodiment of code-related vulnerabilities, at the behest of amateurish coding.
An Israeli researcher, Amihai Neiderman revealed that he’d discovered as many as 40 vulnerabilities in the code base, which could easily be leveraged to enter into, and control Tizen-powered devices.
He said, “I found 40 bugs, and most of them look exploitable”.
At the Security Analyst Summit, Neiderman threw light on the issue saying, “It feels like 2005 in terms of the vulnerabilities I found”.
He kind of smashed another nail into the coffin when he added, “Tizen is not mature enough to be sent to the public like this. I found a few vulnerabilities in the first few hours of research. A dedicated Tizen researcher could find way more”.
Some of the code of Tizen has been taken from Bada, an older, more basic mobile operating system. Yet, the problematic code seems to have be written over the last two years and bears mistakes that the researcher says one could have expected ages ago.
Some of the issues flung at Tizen are that the communication setup is far from secure, data was found to have been transferred frequently without protection, and even the potential of hackers being able to wrest total control over a Tizen-powered TV via TizenStore.
That’s not the worst of it.
One of the major errors in code could allow an intruder to install malicious code via the inbuilt update mechanism. And this could happen despite a built-in authentication programme (which is supposed to prevent such a thing from happening in the first place).
Neiderman has shown that the authentication system can be overridden.
In an interview with Motherboard, Neiderman said it appears that the code has been written by an undergraduate who has overlooked all the important security features.
The scary part is that Tizen-powered phones Samsung phone have been sold in India since 2015. Not only that, they’ve also reached Bangladesh and Nepal. Neiderman claims that Samsung has already added language support for Sri Lanka, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, Indonesia and Ghana. So there’s clearly a long-tail roll-out plan that Samsung has in mind for this platform.
Worse, Tizen already runs on around 30 million TV’s!
What’s Samsung doing about this?
Well, initially, Neiderman only received an automated email response from Samsung when he wrote to them with his findings. After the report appeared in Motherboard however, Samsung claims it is “fully committed to cooperating with Mr. Neiderman to mitigate any potential vulnerabilities”.
Clearly, Tizen is not ready to be a competition to Android. Until the code is fixed, Tizen is a hacker’s delight.
Not Everyone Wants To Earn Off Your Privacy - ISPs Pledge Not To Sell Browsing History
Everyone was agape when the new rules and regulations regarding internet privacy were announced in the U.S..
As per the new rules, all your browsing history was allowed to be shared with any third party provided it paid the highest dollar to the ISP.
Companies like Comcast, Verizon could earn a stinking amount of profit with an estimated annual pay of UDS 35 billion or above! And that is some serious money!
In the midst of such mess with privacy, companies like Sonic and Monkeybrains are like the silver lining in the dark clouds gathering overhead.
Sonic and Monkeybrains are some of the few companies that have publicly opposed the repealing of internet privacy rules.
Monkeybrains had stated “one of the corner stones of our business is respecting the privacy of the customer”.
Jasper, the CEO of Sonic had gone on record saying, “We have a long history of differentiating ourselves that way”.
Sonic with around 100,000 and Monkeybrains with approximately 9,000 subscribers have assured their customers that they will not put up their subscriber’s information, or usage data in the open market.
Major internet providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T have agreed to play as per the “ISP Privacy Principles” which depend on the guidelines given by the Federal Trade Commission. However, unlike the Obama-era you will not be asked for your consent before the browsing history is put up for sale.
Apparently, the ISP’s do not consider your browsing history as sensitive information and thus are in favour of the older FTC guidelines where your browsing history might be collected and shared without your permission.
So what does your ISP know about you?
Well, a lot. Your name, address, and plethora of other information like your social security number. They even know the websites you visit, how often you visit them, when do you visit them. So, they might not know you on a personal level but then that’s not really necessary.
With the above mentioned information at their disposal, you are more or less an open book with your social, political, sexual inclination in front of their eyes.
And now possibly, in front of a third party too!
“We or our advertising partners may use anonymous information gathered through cookies and similar technologies, as well as other anonymous and aggregate information that either of us may have to help us tailor the ads you see on non-AT&T sites”.
They elucidate the policy in the following manner, “For example, if you see an ad from us on a non-AT&T sports-related website, you may later receive an ad for sporting equipment delivered by us on a different website. This is called Online Behavioral Advertising, which is a type of Relevant Advertising.”
Companies like Comcast are claiming that the new rules will have “zero effect” on the privacy protection offered to the customers.
On the other hand, Consumer Advocates and Democrats’ lawmakers are arguing that the primary protection to the privacy of the customer has been removed.
The Republican lawmakers are justifying their position by underlining the fact that the rules which have been repealed had favoured web giants like Google over ISP’s.
Meanwhile Sonic remains firm on its stand. “We don’t believe that telephone companies should listen to our telephone calls”, Sonic’s Jasper explained how customers perceive their internet providers. “Carriers are in a different position, and that position is a trusted position in the minds of consumers.”
Jasper further added that ISP’s do not share the conditional approach to service like YouTube or Gmail do – where their customers receive a free service in return of the ”implicit” permission to keep track of customer’s online activity.
This isn’t a topic that’s going to go away, and no matter what Trump and his followers extol as reasons, the fact is we’re becoming unwitting pawns in their hands, and it is only through conscionable providers and services like Sonic and Monkeybrains, that we’re going to be able to maintain a modicum of our privacy.
Such a world we’ve suddenly voted ourselves into!
Huawei Smartphones Face A Ban In The U.K. For Patent Infringement
It looks like the dragon might finally be coming home to roost.
After an order by the High Court of the United Kingdom, Huawei, the Chinese megabrand, faces an injunction on the sale of its smartphones in the U.K.
The company has been in a long-running legal battle with Unwired Planet, an American patent owner, over royalty payments related to key networking technology used in Huawei’s devices.
The High Court ruled this week that Huawei must pay Unwired Planet for patent infringement. The ruling also specified that in order to keep their sales going, Huawei must license the patents from the patent holder.
The catch is that Unwired Planet is adamant on issue only a global license, which will obviously cost Huawei more, and Huawei wants one specifically for the U.K. Unwired Planet is clearly working on the premise that the nature of the license is such, that it is by standard, only issued on a global scale.
But on the other hand, the only reason Huawei has even come to the table to talk about the license is because a court is holding a gun to its head; its natural for them to want to cut the cheapest possible deal.
An element of the ruling might, however, also be a relief for Huawei in that regard though. As a part of the ruling, the global royalty rates ordered by the court were much lower than the ones sought by Unwired Planet. This might give Huawei the much-needed nudging to cut a deal.
“We welcome the decision by the Court that Unwired Planet’s royalty rate demands have been found to be unreasonable”, a spokesman said. “Huawei is still evaluating the decision as well as its possible next steps. Huawei does not believe that this decision will adversely affect its global business operations”.
Huawei, currently, is the third largest manufacturer of smartphones in the world. Even though its share of the market in the U.K. is considerably lesser than it’s standing on the global scene, the Chinese megabrand has established itself quite well in this usually-unfriendly Western market.
Unwired Planet, before the suit with Huawei, had also gone to court with Google and Samsung, within the U.K. Both of those companies have successfully reached a deal with Unwired Planet to keep their shops running.
Even though the move of granting an injunction for the sale of a smartphone company’s products is an unprecedented move in the British territory, it comes in the light of what has been quite a hot topic for debate lately – intellectual property right and violations.
The thing about brands like Huawei, most of them incidentally Chinese, is that they are usually quite lax and loose about using technology that already exists in the market. This make their devices cheaper, yes, but technically, the secret sauce is not always theirs.
It is thus that they become the possible hot spots for patent infringements and violations of intellectual property. This is also the reason why Xiaomi has not yet entered the U.S. market, as they are said to be vulnerable to tons of lawsuits the moment their smartphone portfolio sets official foot on U.S. shores.
It is for the same reason (possible patent infringements) that Huawei too, does not sell in the U.S. market. The company has built itself up as a mock-up of Apple, but it can only sell smartphone accessories in the U.S. market for now, for the fear that the country’s patents and intellectual property laws will eat them alive.
Their sale, in the European markets, is also quite selective and cautionary, by the way.
Huawei, however, is not alone the allegations of patent infringements and violations of intellectual property. It is because of the bowl of soup that intellectual property rights have become around the world that smartphone makers have clashed a lot with each other and with specialist patent owners in courts around the world in the last few years.
The claims have always been that the technology in the smartphones has either been unlawfully copied, or someone is not being paid enough for the use of technology, or that someone is demanding too much.
The truth of the matter however is that in most cases, it is a chicken-and-egg situation, where it is impossible to tell what exactly happened historically – hence the correct lens is not usually available to apportion blame for the circumvention.
For now, though, Huawei seems to be stuck. Even though it believes that the impending injunction on the sale of its smartphones in the U.K. might not have an impact on its global sales, Unwired Planet might be ready to file in more courts in other countries where it believes its patents are being infringed upon. And until they do reach a deal, the noose is only going to tighten around Huawei.
So, will Huawei finally come home to roost and cut a deal, or will they go toe-to-toe in court?
Well, they have some strategising and thinking to do on that.
“iPad is the world’s most popular tablet” boasted Philip Schiller, Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing at the launch of 9.7 inch iPad less than two months ago.
Popular it may be, but is Apple’s iPad the most satisfactory tablet anymore?
As per the new J.D. Power study, Apple’s tablet has been relegated to second position in the sphere of customer satisfaction.
So who bagged the gold medal? Microsoft Surface.
2,238 people who have owned a tablet for less than a year were asked for their views, so as to measure their satisfaction with their tablets.
The study evaluates customer satisfaction across five major factors – Performance, Ease of Operation, Features, Styling & Design, and Cost.
Microsoft’s Surface tablets managed to grab top honours with people finding its styling and design factor to be superior to that of Apple’s iPads. Yes, you read that right!
Jony Ive must surely have seen red at that one (got the pun?)
He’s sure to be disheartened as design is one of Apple’s chief strengths. Its like Microsoft has beaten Apple on its home turf with a smashing six (pun intended).
The study also indicates that a number of Surface users are young people who are early adopters of technology – hence once they like a product, they tend to be loyal.
It’s not an easy task to push Apple from the top of any pile, least of all from that of tablets (a line that for the longest time has held iPads as synonymous to Tablets), and for Microsoft to have managed to do that, is quite a strong indicator of the character of the machine that Microsoft has created.
Microsoft must be gloating over its win and it’s new “customers-our-priority” ethos might have a lot to do with the strong performance put out by the Surface lineup. A Microsoft spokesperson put it succinctly, ”Building products that deliver the power, versatility and dependability that allows our customer to create their best work in any setting is fundamental to everything the team does”.
Apple has every right to sulk but it cannot really complain about the results. A lot of people believe Apple has not provided adequate attention to the iPad lineup, and innovation is grinding to a halt. Microsoft on the other hand, won its customers delight when it did away with the ARM-based version of Surface, and moved to Intel hearts. The move worked and Surface has been appreciated by its customers for the improved performance.
It will be interesting to see Apple does anything to change course and revitalises it next few iPads. Meanwhile, kudos to Microsoft.
As we’d hinted, Reliance Jio yet again tried to stand itself on the shaky legs of freebies, with it’s Jio Summer Surprise Offer. But TRAI has instructed it to withdraw the offer, as well as the additional benefits it gave.
There is a catch in that as well – those who have already subscribed for the offer still get to keep it.
The Jio Summer Surprise Offer was basically an extension of the Happy New Year Offer – offering three more months of freebies.
Users could get unlimited mobile data (with 1 GB of Mobile Data, everyday) for free, 100 SMS’ per day, as well as free access to Jio’s suite of apps, such as Jio Cinema and Jio Music – all for three more months.
The catch, this time, however was that this was only available for Jio Prime members, who purchased the 303 (or higher) prepaid recharge or enrolled in the 303 (or higher) postpaid plan.
Perhaps struggling with the low climb-on rate for their Prime membership, Jio had also extended the registration date for their Prime offer by 15 days. They were calling it a grace period, to supposedly allow those who haven’t been able to register for the Prime offer yet.
The move to extend the deadline, was not a shocker, to anyone. Given how Jio Prime seemed to be struggling to garner the same response as Jio itself did initially, it was quite expected.
In a rare execution of power and an even more gratifying industry-first stand, the TRAI asked Jio to withdraw the offer on the grounds that it was no longer feasible for the telecom industry to afford the kind of practices that Jio has been upto.
The Authority observed that any fall in industry revenue would negatively impact investment and loan repayment capacity, which may result in defaults on loans and spectrum purchase charges owed by operators to the government.
“Today, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has advised Jio to withdraw the three months’ complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise”, the company said in a statement. “Jio accepts this decision. Jio is in the process of fully complying with the regulator’s advice, and will be withdrawing the three months’ complimentary benefits of Jio Summer Surprise as soon as operationally feasible, over the next few days”.
So, no more people can register for the Jio Summer Surprise offer, nor for the Prime membership. But those who have already subscribed to it before the mandated withdrawal will still be able to continue on the offer and enjoy it’s promised benefits and discounts. “All customers who subscribed before discontinuation will remain eligible for the offer,” says the Jio announcement.
Moves like these, however, begged the question of how long did Jio plan to run itself on the backbone of freebies?!
Had Jio not extended the Happy New offer, in addition to announcing the Prime freebies, we perhaps would have been less critical of them. But this extension, that got quashed only after TRAI said so, seemed to drive home the matter that Chip-Monks has been stating for a while now – Jio is dangling freebies as candy for people.
It’s claiming that the candy is not free anymore, but the truth is that it’s just dirt cheap. Paying INR 303 for the minimum recharge, plus INR 99 for Prime membership, to get three months of everything-unlimited – Data, calling and texting, in exchange for INR 400, is the definition of dirt cheap candy.
Yes, people would have signed up for it, but not necessarily because they loved, or appreciated Jio’s services. It would have been more because they would’ve found it really pleasant on their pockets, and who in the world minds cheap internet, even if it is not the best?
However, we must give Jio some credit for overhauling the Indian telecom market, with the scramble it unleashed, from which Indian customers certainly benefited.
The question though, remains. For how long will Jio rely on dangling candy?
At the end of the day, there’s something that Jio’s not getting – the network sucks, calls don’t connect, calls are impeded by choppy connectivity so much so, one needs to hang up the call, fish out the other phone, and resume the conversation. If anything, it’s made a lot of us value our existing (primary) telecom operators a wee bit more!
Jio: How about investing some of that candy back into sweetening the services and the service – proving a wholesome meal that nourishes, rather than just offering an after-dinner mint? Or worse, be relegated to being just a topic of conversation around the dinner table?
WhatsApp Might Soon Be Coming Under Governmental Regulatory Framework
We all like our privacy, right? Obviously, we want whatever information and messages we share with friends to remain that way – personal. And don’t you just hate it when anybody checks your phone – because it feels like a violation of personal space.
Well, a lot of that might be about to change.
They had said in their petition:
“It is also the responsibility of the State to guarantee and ensure the protection of the personal and private data and information of these millions of citizens, when they use such modes of communications to engage in conversations and exchange private and confidential data and information.”
The Department of Telecom argued that Over-The-Top services such as Facebook, WeChat, Skype, WhatApp, Viber etc. are not under any kind of regulatory framework, even though they use telecom service providers’ network to access their customers.
They are not subject to the Telegraph Act, nor are they obligated to registration or licensing with DoT.
Licensed operators, on the other hand, operate under proper monitoring and security regulations. They also have to pay a license fee (which OTT services are exempted from).
In order to plug that gap, the DoT has informed the Supreme Court that the TRAI will be coming out with a new regulatory mechanism for online data security by Diwali this year.
WhatsApp’s representatives KK Venugopal and Kapil Sibal argue that all WhatsApp messages are protected by end-to-end encryption – which prevents any third party from reading chats and their content, So, there is no breach of privacy.
The Supreme Court bench has passed on the matter to a Constitutional Bench and fixed April 18 as the hearing date. But a request was made to delay the hearing by a couple months as there may be new privacy laws by then.
Though endless arguments can be made from both sides, it is an important issue and needs to be dealt with as soon as possible. Phat said, privacy is not a matter to be taken lightly. As we step forward in trying to make a Digital India, security issues need to be addressed so that we can all feel safe while using OTT services.
Google's Revised Ad Policy Aims To Disincentivize Hate Speech By Demonetising It
Google’s hate speech policy is undergoing intensive surgery with new areas being added to address concerns of ads promoting and even financially funding inappropriate content online (Basic Economics 101).
Several media outlets in the U.S. joined the clamour triggered by the British government, complaining against the placement of advertisements over videos that are offensive or promoting forms of hate speech.
The changes fulfil the plans that Google had announced back a month ago, in response to the YouTube controversy that arose and then almost spiralled out of control.
This was not the first time a controversy has been seen – just a little while ago, Google got caught up in the furore over Fake News (specifically about Google’s ad network supporting fake news).
The policy additions should over time, address an increasingly toxic online environment that currently harbours content that borders on hate speech.
The policy has now been expanded to include more groups like immigrants and refugees and also applies to discriminatory pages. The language of the policy is such that it covers pages which deny the Holocaust or promote the exclusion of certain groups. Earlier, the policy had a very narrow range, addressing speech that was threatening against defined groups (including religious and ethnic groups, LGBT groups and individuals).
The definition of protected groups and individuals has been expanded as well, to include those who share “any characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination and marginalization”.
The definition implies that harassing and disparaging speech against immigrants or refugees will be in violation of the policy.
Summers, who oversees the development and implementation of Google policies impacting publishers, said in a statement that this status was used as a proxy for attacking people in what is commonly known as a protected group.
The revamped policy will also apply to specific pages with content in violation of the policy meaning that the ads will not need to be removed from an entire site or account.
What this means is for example, an article on Breitbart that uses a derogatory term for transgender won’t get any ad money but will still receive ads on others pages.
Google denied commenting about whether the parent company would be affected or not. Keeping in mind the size of the revamp and understanding that the change is global, the current implementations wouldn’t be noticeable immediately.
In March, Philipp Schindler, Google’s top business executive, in his blog, mentioned how the company was taking a tougher stance on hateful, offensive and derogatory content to remove ads from the inappropriate content more effectively.
The policy enables companies to reject their advertisements being played on content that might have “offensive or malicious intent” as per YouTube’s own standards.
Although it sounds like a decent step, however YouTubers across the spectrum have mentioned that the move is reducing their ad revenues and sometimes for reasons that “don’t make sense“.
While a majority of YouTubers do use curse words in their videos, now companies can stop putting advertisements on such videos too. YouTubers like Pewdiepie have gone outright against YouTube for “pandering” to the press like Wall Street Journal and some other websites who initially caused the stir by doctoring videos of the said stars as supporting the Third Reich.
It remains to be seen how YouTube fares with these decisions and policy changes, and how much of it survives beyond the first few months. Revenue after all, is the lifeblood of all online forums.
Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, and the owner of YouTube, recently announced that it is introducing a new system that will let outside firms verify advertisements’ quality standards on YouTube.
Coming as what Alphabet hopes, will be the remedy to the huge advertising boycott YouTube has been up against lately, this change also embraces wider definitions of “offensive content”.
Over the last few weeks, a whole bunch of companies including AT&T, Verizon, Enterprise and even the British government have pulled their ads off of the YouTube platform following the British government’s vociferous objection to one of their ads being played on top of an extremist video that featured highly provocative and offensive content.
The British Government’s reaction and consternation placed the spotlight on YouTube’s current policies that stated that all ads YouTube carries were overlaid atop videos basis the amount of viewership of the content, but did not consider the content of the video itself; nor did it (YouTube’s algorithm) look for any parity between the video’s content and the ad itself.
YouTube did have some checks in place to ensure sensitive content was flagged, but the definition of “sensitive” or “offensive” that YouTube used so far was very loose and half-hearted.
The cause and the effect combined to made the situation extremely problematic for the brands, YouTube, and Alphabet itself.
Why? Well, YouTube’s erstwhile policies and methods basically meant that videos supporting terrorism, extremism and such morally offensive subjects had ads running atop them from brands of every nature, who had absolutely no support or allegiance to said videos. In fact, none of them would’ve really known of this disparity either, given the randomness driven by the automated algorithm that places ads on the platform.
Miffed and offended, many large brands pulled their ad campaigns off of YouTube, and involuntarily triggered a boycott of the platform by other brands too.
This included brands like PepsiCo., Johnson and Johnson, and WalMart, amongst many others.
Let me diverge for a bit, and state the un-obvious.
Just a few months ago, something of the kind would perhaps not have gained this form of momentum or impetus.
The fact is that there is a rising anxiety in people’s minds regarding the trustability of the “new online” – everyone has become a little extra sensitive to whatever they see online. The entire Fake News incidents and how people could’ve been manipulated by what they read/saw online is still very raw in their minds.
Add to this the fact that Facebook recently admitted flaws in how it reported ad performance to ad buyers.
With all of that in play, digital advertising has come under greater scrutiny lately, and thus Alphabet’s YouTube problem kept snowballing as things rolled downhill.
To be fair to Alphabet, navigating this issue is certainly no cakewalk. Content worth as much as 400 hours is uploaded to YouTube every minute, and navigating through that much content is obviously not an easy job.
To top it all, as per Alphabet’s erstwhile policies, any channel with a certain number of views were seeded with ads running on top of their videos. Alphabet had not implement, so far, any methods to categorise channels basis the nature of the content they doled out, nor had they formulated differential policies towards the ad-overlays.
Amidst all this though, is one undeniable fact – advertisers and brands depend upon Google’s system to get them the best results. So being the customer, brands’ interests and brand image is paramount to YouTube’s existence, even more than it’s revenues.
Quite a good example would be that of Google’s AdWords, the larger ad business that Alphabet runs across the internet. Over the years, it has been Alphabet’s policy to not stand between the publishers, and the advertisers, for fear of becoming too much of an arbiter of what’s appropriate.
But in the process of making the path from advertiser to targeted audience eyeballs as efficient as possible Alphabet does make a lot of money. So it must then, not shrug away from the onus of responsibility when its systems run into issues.
Even after apologies, and statements promising that steps would be taken in this regard, brands are still pulling the plug on their YouTube ad spend, and Alphabet’s shares are doing the frisky dingo on the charts.
All in all, Alphabet has lost about USD 25 billion to this tailspin that YouTube has hit, and even though that number does pale in comparison to the entirety of Alphabet’s income, it is still quite a big number.
The new policies should be of some relief. After the forest caught the fire, Alphabet has improved its ability to flag offending videos and immediately disable ads. This has led to some advertisers circling back.
With these new changes in the policy, we can expect more advertisers to come circling back. But the question will still remain: Is this going to be the solution?
We think not.
Even though the policies have been changed to broaden the definition of sensitive content, there’s not enough information shared by Alphabet to convince the world that there are now enough checks in place to mark sensitive content as such and treat it differently.
Case in point would be that of YouTube channels like Real Women Real Stories.
Run by Israel-based entrepreneur Matan Uziel, the channel features videos of women narrating to the camera their experiences of sexual abuse. Under even the amended policies, this would be marked off as sensitive content (under the unchanged policies it was marked off as sensitive content, and ads were taken off of the channel).
And there are many other channels of this kind that have, and will be, marked off.
So, even though it may be quite clear what content a channel is running, machines and algorithms don’t really yet know to interpret it correctly. The content in Real Women Real Stories is not particularly offensive, not promoting terrorism, extremism, or violence of any kind – but it did get the stick.
What I’m saying is that there is rather a much-needed journalistic approach to real stories that need to be told. Yet, these channels will receive the same treatment as purposefully offensive content made with mal intentions do. That does not seem fair, and neither do the policies enabling such interpretations.
So, while Alphabet has admittedly taken the first baby steps – only after having been kicked in the gut by the advertisers – yet, there is a long way to go for them to actually be able to work this out properly.
With YouTube’s ad revenues hopefully preserved now, Alphabet must surely realize that the task is not yet done.
MediaTek Still In The Line Of Fire For Slowing Down LTE Connections In India
We’d reported about MediaTek based dual 4G SIM smartphones facing degraded 4G connectivity, about a week ago. Set when the issue was first reported, our article covered the why’s and the how’s (of resolution).
Since there’s been a bit of movement on the matter, we thought we’d provide you an update on the matter.
Despite MediaTek’s claims to the contrary, the Cellular Operator’s Association of India (COAI) still maintains that the cause of the problem are faulty MediaTek chips (that come on most budget-smartphones these days).
The COAI reportedly wants to eliminate the MediaTek processors from smartphones in the Indian market and wants to sanction a higher quality of handset testing.
Given such a staunch allegation, the COAI had written off a letter to the Telephone Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and is still awaiting a reply from the Regulator.
The letter which stated “Placing a SIM (which has only 4G LTE capability) in the number 2 slot (2G-only) significantly deteriorates the throughput of any other operator’s 4G SIM present in the main slot, by as much as 40 per cent” is fairly certain in it’s premise.
This explains why some of us face slow network connectivity every time we put in a 4G/LTE SIM in the second slot of our smartphones, and could never figure out as to why our handsets suddenly started functioning at a reduced speeds.
To prove whether the said allegations are true or not, certain smartphones which harbour the specific MediaTek chips were tested for their quality of cellular network connections. Different models from different brands were used – Lenovo A7000, Lenovo K4 Note, Moto G4, Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Redmi Note 3, Oppo A35 and Samsung’s Galaxy J7 – and issues were found on most of them.
The media’s attention then moved to manufacturers and most of them denied any such culpability or even reports of such issues. Xiaomi, too denied the existence of any of such issues with it’s handsets.
“The analysis in the report specifically points out a degradation in network quality of service (QoS) for handsets that have a MediaTek chipset. All our smartphones are shipped with Qualcomm Snapdragon processors in India and are optimised for India-specific bands for the most efficient usage of 4G/LTE,” announced a Xiaomi India spokesperson.
“TRAI is yet to respond to our letter. Neither has Department of Telecommunications (DoT) got back to us. TRAI has informally asked us to submit some additional information on the testing and indicated that they would like to call an industry meeting to discuss the matter”, said Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI.
In a later development, it came to the fore that the COAI assumes that this network degradation problem has more to do with a software malfunction than a flaw in MediaTek’s hardware.
The telecom Regulator has recently been requested to issue an order which calls out all the smartphone brands to roll out their respective Over The Air (OTA) updates within a (suggested) stipulated time frame of 4 weeks to fix the bug.
MediaTek made a statement recently assuring the public, “We recently became aware of these reports and it is of the utmost priority to address. We are already working closely with all the telecom operators to ensure any reported issues are resolved”.
It will be interesting to see how TRAI responds to the COAI’s letter and how MediaTek manages to come out of this fix. India is an important market for MediaTek, and it will undoubtedly be keen to win back the trust of its loyal customers and of course, the brands that use MediaTek wares in their phones.
Russia Wants India's EVM Technology For Its 2018 Presidential Election
Kejriwal’s claims aside, the Electronic Voting Machines (EVM) tech used in India seems to be world-class.
What better evidence of the inviolability of the EVMs could there be, than other countries – especially countries once at the forefront of hardware design and manufacturing than Russia – seeking to use our EVM technology for their upcoming Presidential elections of 2018?
Russia recently sought help from the Election Commission of India to get a first-hand view of the hardware, software, technology and fail-safes of our EVMs.
In fact, Nikolai Levichev, Deputy Chairman of the Russian Election Commission, visited Uttarakhand during the recent Assembly elections to look at the technology in operation first hand.
He also reportedly closely monitored the electioneering process in four other states. Following the first-hand experience, he also held wide-ranging consultations in Delhi with senior officials across ministries, in order to come to the best possible arrangement where the two countries could share the technology and gain from the exchange.
Obviously, Russia and India have had a close relationship in the past, for a variety of interests. And each such exchange has proved beneficial for both the parties involved.
In this case, from the looks of it, Russia is seeking to learn from India’s experience in conducting smooth polls through EVMs.
However, this comes at a peculiar time, when the Opposition in India has raised the possibility of EVMs being tampered with in the recently-concluded Assembly polls in five states.
In exchange for the technology, Russia will reportedly help India in developing state-of-the-art tabulation systems for the counting of votes. A system of the kind would definitely help Indian officials obtain region-wise and grou-wise polling patterns, much faster.
While it may come to you as a surprise, the fact is, this won’t be the first time that India would be aiding a country in its election procedure, either.
Back in 2014, Afghanistan fell short of ballot papers during their elections, and at the time it was India who supplied Kabul’s election body with the ballot papers at an extremely short notice.
The upcoming Presidential election, the one in which Putin (the current President), will be contesting re-election, are expected to be a mammoth task in Russia. While the population makes the task challenging in India, it is the terrain and the geographical diversity that makes it a challenge in Russia.
The election body of the country has been seeking the use of technology in their election process for a while now. By seeking the EVM technology used in elections in India, Russia is trying to make the task more manageable, while increasing the efficiency at the same time.
The question then is: if Russia considers the tech safe and unimpeachable, why doesn’t Mr. Kejriwal? Well, that’s for some other fine folks to answer, not Chip-Monks
Back in 2002 when Elon Musk had founded SpaceX, the company “basically consisted of carpet and a mariachi band” or so he recalls, nostalgically. That was many, many moons ago, and obviously, things have changed since!
The company that just a few days ago was able to bring about the first ever full-reuse orbital rocket booster (the most expensive part of the rocket), seems to now be looking to expand further.
The company that started with a dream to go into space “one day”, has grown to employ hundreds of people. The company has expanded its size, scope, and prowess with growing revenues from government and private contracts.
Now, having crossed the last big milestone, this 15-year long company is looking to chart out more, far-reaching adventures.
We know that because Musk’s SpaceX just announced 473 new job openings!
The jobs are in quite a variety of fields, but most of them have a description that starts with:
“SpaceX was founded under the belief that a future where humanity is out exploring the stars is fundamentally more exciting than one where we are not. Today SpaceX is actively developing the technologies to make this possible, with the ultimate goal of enabling human life on Mars“.
Of the job listings, 49% of the positions call for engineers, 33% for technicians, 5% for machinists, 5% for specialists, 5% for managers, and 1% for directors – and all are based in the U.S.
Impressively, not all jobs require you to be a tech genius – there are job listings for lawyers, cooks, baristas, and even security officers.
So the expansion’s on across the board, and not just on one particular wing.
Basking in the glow of the successful, historic launch a few days ago, Musk said SpaceX is “looking to make it a routine, if not boring, affair to launch, land, and re-launch within 24 hours”. He added: “I’m confident it’s possible to achieve a 100-fold reduction in the cost of getting stuff into space“.
The next goal the company is to build a fleet of 4,425 satellites that will blanket Earth with high-speed internet access. This is in addition to their existing lofty goal of making expendable rockets, and making traveling into space not much different from driving out in your car!
So, SpaceX, with that on your chalkboard, you better get cracking already!
After almost a year long wait, Apple finally opened the door to its App Accelerator in Bangalore this week.
The App Accelerator, as the name suggests, will function as a place to speed up the development of mobile applications for Apple’s iOS ecosystem – by providing weekly training, app reviews, and one-on-one guidance to to developers.
Clearly, the App Accelerator comes with the idea of harnessing the already-bustling app development market in India. It’s a little late though – announced in May 2016, it’s indeed curious that it took the Tech Monolith this long to get set up in one of the world’s foremost software development markets.
“I think what we hope from this accelerator is that we can help the local market create apps for customers in India that better meet the needs of our growing customer base here“, said Apple’s marketing head Phil Schiller. “We also think we can help developers here at the accelerator to make apps that reach further around the world, because there’s an entire world that wants their software too, and having that opportunity is something that’s of benefit to them and now people here can help them learn more about that and take better advantage of it“.
This is not the first place that Apple has opened an App Accelerator – Brazil and Naples have already witnessed similar platforms to boost app development in and around their locales.
What could set India apart, is that while Brazil and Naples’ ecosystems focus on students as new developers, the App Accelerator in India will also focus on India’s existing app development community.
The market in India is strongly dominated by Apple’s competitor, Google’s Android ecosystem. This App Accelerator probably won’t do much in that regard, but what it might do is provide a way for Apple to court developers who are looking to branch out of Google’s ecosystem.
Apple has been showing a lot of interest in the Indian market for a few years now. The reason for their interest is obvious: India, outside of China, is the biggest market a brand can cater to or even hope for.
However, the market also comes with its complexities, and while Apple has diligently been navigating a lot of those in the last year, they might still be a long way to go.
The Lead Designer Of The Original iPhone Is Leaving Apple
Christopher Stringer, the lead designer of the original iPhone, and one of the top two or three dreamers on Apple’s Design team, has decided to leave the Silicon Valley megabrand. Though an official statement of departure is yet to be made by Stringer as well as the company, the news has been confirmed by multiple sources.
Stringer, even before joining Apple, was quite a star in the tech world. He’s is the same creator who helped develop Dell’s design language and won an ID Design Review award for an innovative light switch.
Stringer has been a designer with Apple since 1995, and over the course of his career at Apple, he worked on projects of different sizes and magnitude – including the early PowerBooks and tower computers, the iPhone, or even something as overlooked, but ever-admired as the designs on product packaging. It was not the size of the project that seemed to draw him, but the magnitude of the vision.
Stringer was also the first designer to give testimony at the Apple-Samsung trial where, according to Reuters news service, “Stringer looked every inch the designer with his shoulder-length hair, salt-and-pepper beard, wearing an off-white suit with a narrow black tie”.
Speaking of his work at Apple, Stringer described the role of an industrial designer at Apple as “to imagine objects that don’t exist and to guide the process that brings them to life. And so that includes defining the experience that a customer has when they touch and feel our products. It’s managing the overall form and the materials, the textures, the colors. And it’s also working with engineering groups to, as I say, bring it to life, to bring it to the market and to building the craftsmanship that it absolutely needs to have to have that Apple quality.”
A couple years ago, when Jony Ive (now, Chief Design Officer at Apple), was promoted, Stringer was one of the two people who were contenders to take on the design studio. Even though he did not get to be the top boss back then, he has been the right-hand man for Ive, and the backbone to the Apple design team.
It is unclear at this point if he is joining another company, or if he is looking forward to a well-deserved retirement, but 52-year-old Stringer will definitely be missed at Apple after he is gone.
The departure of a person such as Stringer would ordinarily raise the question of how would it affect the team and the work around it, what would the future Apple designs be like, and would a difference, or ‘something missing’ be felt?
Well, the answer to the last one would mostly be no.
This is so because the designing of a product at Apple is not done by one person alone. The design team at Apple, or any organization of the kind, is a tightly knit team, and each product has designated a design lead, the designer who does most of the actual work, and one or two deputies, who all work on the idea together. The vision, thus, is a shared one.
Even though Stringer’s contributions will be missed, his departure from Apple is not expected to jeopardise the creativity that the world’s come to respect Apple for.
With more and more people becoming environment conscious, electric automobiles are beginning to have their day in the sun.
A lot of manufacturers are focusing on this – and the progress they’re making is helping this new line of automobiles to show promise as a viable mode of transportation.
The market is flooding with new models, and Hyundai (one of the more modern car makers) too has lain forth, its aspirations in this sector.
Apart from being eco-friendly, the main reason for the surge in electric modes of transportation is the tightening noose on emissions and fuel-usage in China, America and Europe. Hyundai is also being pressurized by its investors to plant deeper roots in a market segment that has so far been dominated by Tesla Inc.
Lee Ki-sang, the head of Green Cars Operations of Hyundai-Kia, said at their research center in Yongin, Seoul that “The electric-vehicle platform will require high up-front investments but we are doing this to prepare for the future“.
Hyundai has already begun working on their first dedicated framework for electric automobiles to push itself further into the segment. While that architecture is not going to be realized anytime soon, Hyundai Motor along with its affiliate Kia Motors, is planning to manufacture electric cars from the platforms they already have. They will launch a small electric SUV first, as they have ample demand in the market. It will be followed next year by a sibling model from Kia Motors.
The sub-compact and compact models would be “more competitive” than their rivals, offering a range of more than 300 kilometres per charge. If they don’t start offering long-range models, Hyundai will soon become a mere memory in the electric automobile segment.
The chassis they are building will accommodate the battery in the floor of the car. This will prevent the weight of the battery from disturbing the balance of the car, in addition to increasing the cabin space as well as enabling sufficient battery capacity.
Right now, the global vehicle sales for electric vehicles stands at a mere 1%. Considering that Lee Ki-sang is expecting it to rise to 10% by 2025, he is definitely going to be putting in a lot of effort to be prepared well for that wave, and to lead it from as far ahead as possible.
Go for electric vehicles and you too will be doing your bit for your environment. Who knows, we might even live to see the day when solar powered vehicles are in fashion!
Apple Gains A Win In Australian Courts To Retain Control Over Apple Pay
It really was fun to watch Australia’s four big banks sweating and trying to win a legal battle against Apple for its proprietary payment technology Apple Pay.
They tried every which way to Sunday, to convince the esteemed bench that they ought to have access to Apple Pay, but in turn all they received was a facepalm.
It had to be a tough battle when big names like Commonwealth Bank, Westpac, National Australia Bank and Bendigo & Adelaide are involved. The four banks collectively control two-thirds of Australia’s credit card market!
Now, since the question would be burning in your head – the banks wanted Apple to grant them access to its contactless payment technology so as to avoid paying commission to Apple for charges made through Apple Pay.
However, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has made it clear that banks cannot force the demand of their own digital wallets (integrated within their individual apps) on Apple.
The Near Field Communication (NFC) based technology allows iPhone users to settle their payments from their phones, and the money gets deducted from the bank card which is registered with Apple Pay.
So each time an iPhone user makes a transaction, Apple gets fees for it.
No doubt, the stakes were high for Apple as being on the losing end would have meant severe blow to it’s profit margins. In a way, the banks wanted Apple to function more like Google in terms of its method of payment – Google allows contactless payment from individual apps.
So far the banks have prevented their customers from using Apple Pay until the company agreed to give them access to iPhone payment technology. The threat to Apple was seen as a tool to “reduce or distort competition”, Rod Sims, Chairman of the ACCC explained that “it is a tricky issue for competition regulator to force one competitor to adopt a strategy of other competitor”.
So where do banks stand now?
Let’s be real, the four banks (and thus other Australian banks too) have lost the pressure they had built on Apple. Now they can only individually negotiate with the company.
Plus, if they still refuse their customers to make payments through Apple Pay, then they face the risk of decrease in number of account holders.
It’s not surprising that the banks are “disappointed”.
Palmer Luckey, the co-founder of Oculus VR and creator of the Rift headset, has taken the exit door out of Facebook. This comes just after the first anniversary of the launch of the flagship Rift VR headset.
Luckey had been the face of Oculus and of the Rift headset up until last September, but the road became a little bumpy following the news that he’d donated USD 10,000 to a group spreading pro-Trump memes. Luckey did subsequently apologize for the backlash that this brought his company, but he started to stay a little out of the public eye and even skipped last October’s Oculus Connect event, even though he had the keynote spot at the one before.
The man had almost been a breath of fresh air at a time when almost all big tech companies are formed by people straight out of college, working with their frat bros.
He had been home-schooled, was a college-drop out who frequented message boards asking for help taking apart and rebuilding game consoles in his parents’ garage before expanding to a deep interest in 3D screens and head-mounted displays.
It was when he managed to gain the attention theof legendary game developer John Carmack, his Oculus co-Founder, that the gaming community looked up to him.
He’d showcased one of his VR headset prototypes at a major gaming conference. Thanks to a generous serving of investors such as Andreessen Horowitz, Founders Fund and Formation 8, Oculus had the perfect recipe for a tech unicorn.
Back in 2014 Oculus VR had been purchased by Facebook, which had drawn a huge amount of attention to the future of Virtual Reality (VR), and to Luckey personally.
But all was not rosy. Facebook had to battle legal cases that involving both Luckey and John Carmack, in the last year. The accusations were centered around stolen trade secrets. Accusations against Carmack were rebuffed, but the court did order Facebook to pay Zenimax USD 500 million, as Luckey had failed to comply with a non-disclosure agreement he’d signed with Zenimax.
As a part of the Oculus team, Luckey did receive about USD 2 billion in cash and stock, when Oculus was bought out by Facebook.
“When Facebook first approached us about partnering, I was skeptical“, the then 21-year-old Luckey wrote at the time. “As I learned more about the company and its vision and spoke with [CEO Mark Zuckerberg], the partnership not only made sense but became the clear and obvious path to delivering virtual reality to everyone“.
Luckey’s departure from Facebook comes right after a shakeup at the company’s Oculus wing, leaving the entire Oculus nestled close to Zuckerberg.
Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe too stepped down, not too long ago. Ex-Xiaomi executive Hugo Barra was appointed as Facebook VP of VR just recently. And now this!
It leaves one wondering what exactly is it that Facebook is up to at the moment really, and how much of this is strategic, and how much a business decision.
Oculus VR’s statement regarding the Luckey’s departure is as bland as they come: “Palmer will be dearly missed. Palmer’s legacy extends far beyond Oculus. His inventive spirit helped kickstart the modern VR revolution and build an industry. We’re thankful for everything he did for Oculus and VR, and we wish him all the best“.
China’s TCL Plans To Invest $5 Billion In A Display Panel Production Facility
In the wake of the growing demand of smartphones, TCL plans to invest an estimated amount of 35 billion Yuan (USD 5 billion) in a facility to make display panels for smartphones and tablets.
The China based electronics giant has so far not been able to dip it’s toes in the world’s foremost industry (at the moment). Obviously, it would be loathe to stay away much longer.
As per Reuters, TCL will construct a production facility in the central city of Wuhan to produce display known as LTPS-AMOLED (low temperature poly silicon-active matrix organic light emitting diode).
The Guangdong-based company said that the proposal is yet to receive approval of the government.
With the increase in wealth and advancement in technology, no electronics major would like to stay away from the benefits and revenues accruing from the world’s biggest every industry – or smart devices. There’s more than enough demand out there for all manners of suppliers, and TCL is a proven biggie.
TCL is not going to stop at displays either. There’s so much demand for other parts of the devices too, both on the global and domestic level, that TCL is going to vie to produce a major percentage of the ever-growing demand of all things required in electronic gadgets.
TCL is not the only one to come with such a plan. BOE Technology had announced in November that they plan to invest 46.5 billion Yuan in a project that aims to produce AMOLED display panel in Sichuan province.
Double Trouble: Two 4G SIMs In Your Phone = Lower 4G Performance!
Most people would be happy having one 4G connection, but with the alarming ease with which Indians are getting 4G connections these days – what with Jio, Airtel, Vodafone and Idea all competing for your Data spend, there’s an unexpected issue brewing.
Recently, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) outed a freak observance – in a letter addressed to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) the representative body cited evidence that MediaTek-powered smartphones experienced a significant reduction in Data speeds if 4G-enabled SIMs were simultaneously placed in both the SIM slots of the device.
As per tests conducted by the telecom body, data speeds measured from the primary SIM slot were reduced by almost 40% when a 4G Jio SIM was placed in SIM slot 2 of a MediaTek powered smartphone.
Following up on the issue, Taiwan-based MediaTek has said it’s working out a solution, but it also took the opportunity to deny the assertion that this problem was just specific to handsets using its chipsets.
In an official statement, MediaTek Inc. said, “The COAI report confirmed other chipset providers are having the same reduced data rate issues. Half of the eight devices the COAI cited as causing network degradation are powered by other chipset makers or competitors to MediaTek. Additional testing by MediaTek, also confirmed this network slowing effect in handsets based on non-MediaTek chipsets”.
Indian media reports that the other handsets facing this dual-SIM network loss issue include Qualcomm-powered Xiaomi Redmi 3S, Redmi Note 3, Moto G4, Vivo V5+, Oppo A33 and Samsung Galaxy J7 (2015), while the MediaTek devices tested for the problem include Intex Aqua Craze, Micromax Canvas 5, Lenovo A-7000, Moto E3 Power and Lenovo K5 Note.
The interesting thing is though – while data speeds are reduced by almost 40% on MediaTek devices, COAI’s results show that Qualcomm powered dual-SIM handsets also reduce data speeds by anywhere between 2%-35%, depending on the model of the smartphone. The Redmi 3S apparently lost 35% of Data speeds.
Now, to get out of the line of fire, MediaTek says that it’s designed a software-based optimisation solution which will improve network performance and that this solution is currently being tested with mobile operators.
The company confirmed, “Once the solution is fully tested and approved – expected in the upcoming days – it will be shared with customers to resolve network concerns”.
Further, the chipset maker also said that this dual-SIM device issue is limited to India and is being caused due to the fast maturing networks with their own requirements for SIM cards. MediaTek also pointed out that “carriers provide their own SIM card requirements for their networks and share those with chipset makers. SIM requirements across 2G, 3G, 4G and 4G LTE networks in India have led to some unintentional compatibility challenges for the industry to address”.
So if you’ve been wondering why your dual-powered smartphone’s been acting so dorky lately, you now know. But don’t lose hope, just work with one 4G SIM for a little while, till things sort themselves out.
Microsoft's Docs.com Website Makes Personal Information Totally Public
Microsoft – a name that we all immediately recognize and trust. This reputation has been earned by always making good on customer expectations and upholding customer interests. However, recent findings have brought to light that using Microsoft’s Docs.com service may compromise your sensitive and personal information.
I urge you to immediately ensure that you have no personal data on the website (www.docs.com).
Security researcher Kevin Beaumont was the first one to make the public aware of this worrying information. He posted a message on his Twitter account on March 25 saying, “Microsoft have a website called http://docs.com where Office 365 customers can share anything in public. It has a search function”.
Several researchers have found a lot of documents containing highly private information such as lists of passwords, social security numbers, medical records, contact details, bank account numbers, credit card details and the like, by using very simple search procedures.
It seems that the people were unaware of their documents being publicly available!
Within a few hours, the search bar from the website was removed by Microsoft. The change, however, was only temporary as the search bar is now back up. The information that was leaked out is still available on Bing and Google as it has already been catalogued by the search engines. Until the documents are removed from Docs.com itself, anyone can easily access them.
But we cannot go around believing that Microsoft is the only responsible party here. To their credit, they have always given a privacy warning to users stating that the information they are uploading will be openly accessible. The default setting for any uploaded document was public visibility, which the users did not know. In a statement to Ars Technica, a Microsoft spokesperson said:
“Docs.com lets customers showcase and share their documents with the world. As part of our commitment to protect customers, we’re taking steps to help those who may have inadvertently published documents with sensitive information. Customers can review and update their settings by logging into their account at www.docs.com.”
Now, we all know that online records are always vulnerable to hacking, and it is up to us to protect our personal information by not putting it online to the extent possible. Otherwise, you make yourself susceptible to identity theft, fraud, blackmail, and much more. So we need to be very careful with what we publish and we can all sleep a little better in the future, knowing that our privacy is intact.
Reliance Jio Prime: Is Jio Already Past It's Prime?
Telecom in India (and everywhere else in the world), is a marathon – actually a steeplechase. And like any long-range sport, the rules are simple – keep running, stay in the game, but conserve your resources with the end game in mind.
Only those who pace themselves and stay alive to competition can even hope to be anywhere near the finish line.
But newcomers to the sport often make the mistake of speeding up too early, the trophy looming large in their thoughts. Some even consider the more staid approach as a needlessly pessimistic gameplan.
Consequence? More often than not, they burn out just 10% into the race.
Is that happening in Indian telecom? Seems so.
From the start, Reliance Jio was saddled with three weights around it’s ankles – being the newest entrant in the telecom game, it needed to make a loud splash (to get people’s attention), it needed poach away customers from their current providers since there aren’t too many new customers to be had in the already-overcrowded Indian telecom market. Most importantly, it (Jio) was saddled by it’s own seven-year-long run-up to launch. Behemoths have been built ground-up in lesser time – ask Google, or Facebook!
Anyway, in order to achieve the first two objectives, Reliance did what Reliance does best – appeal to Indian customers through their wallets – freebies are the currency that Reliance often relies on, but this time it seems to be backfiring on them.
When the network launched to the general public a little over six months, it completely rocked the telecom market in India. Offering all it’s wares for free, it created a shockwave in a market that is price-sensitive to a fault.
People switched to Reliance Jio in millions, making it the fastest growing network in the history of the world. Customers flocked to it, to experience the network (but between you and me, most were just happy to get gazillions of bytes of Mobile Data free). Customer acquisition numbers were bandied about, newsrooms aghast, and barrels of newsprint ink spilt toasting the new entrant. Last I heard, over 122 million people had signed up with Jio. That is a staggering number for a market already thriving with eight other operators.
At Chip-Monks, many a water-cooler moment was spent dissecting the reality people had forgotten – most customers had bought additional connections to get onto Jio – they hadn’t transferred out of their original provider’s network! That, by itself, foretold what would happen once the freebies were retracted. People would have to choose whom to spend their dime on.
And in the telecom world, that spend is decided upon three things – network quality, customer service (actually the lack of the need of it) and finally, cost.
The first factor itself became Jio’s stumbling block – as people experienced Jio, they realised that they were sacrificing network quality for the pennies they saved, gaining Data quotas they couldn’t use because the service didn’t always work, speeds were lower at 4G than other providers’ were at 3G. So there wasn’t much in there for customers to appreciate.
Now, as freebies come to an end, so does the novelty.
The question thus became – what would Jio do, to hold onto these 122 million?
Answer: follow Amazon and create a “Prime” club. But instead of customer experience being the calling card for the club, Jio fell back on what it knows best – more freebies.
Launched five weeks back, on the 21st of February, the Jio Prime offer provides a year long supply of Data and calls at extremely subsidised rates. Paying just INR 99 to enrol with Jio’s Prime program and only INR 303 (which is less than US$ 5!) gets the member 28 GB of 4G Data and free calls to anyone in India!
Sounds like a sweet deal, right?!
Well, market response to it does not seem to reflect that – of the current 122+ million Jio customers, only close to about 16 million have signed up for the Jio Prime offer.
That pale number, is then the answer – not many people are interested in Jio when it’s not free.
Embarrassingly, the number is less than half of the target Jio had reportedly set for itself internally.
Just two days from now, Reliance Jio will switch over to being a paid service for the first time and this lukewarm-at-best response, must have Ambani worried – especially after pouring in an additional US$ 4.4 billion into Jio just two months ago.
Has Jio tired itself out already? Did it’s strenuous 400-meter dash cost it a place in the marathon? We’ll only figure that out as time passes, and Jio’s mettle is further tested.
In the meantime, we see this as an opportunity for all the other operators in the market to gain back some of the space and the customer-sovereignty they may have lost during the run. That, however, is also not going to be easy.
The telecom industry in India is struggling, to say the least. The reasons are many and it’s not pleasant for anyone. There is looming debt, over every big wig in the industry, and Jio’s brazen entry only made it worse – the operators that were already struggling to make certain ends meet were forced to drain their resources further, to stay alive in the cut-throat competition.
To combat his new annoying neighbour on the block, who was enticing the world with ‘free service’ coated candy, competitive offers were put out on the market by each operator – Airtel, Vodafone, Idea and even BSNL. While we don’t have numbers yet, however it’s clear – the customer benefited by the turf war. And that’s always a good thing.
Customers saw a hitherto unseen benevolent and generous side of their telecom operator, and speaking from personal experience – it was a good feeling, to be wanted, and to be valued.
Going back to my earlier statement, Indian telecom customers value network quality and customer service more than cost – and each Telco needs to focus on these two critical elements if they are to remain in the marathon. Jio’s mad-dash and how it caused the somewhat-complacent existing operators to up their game, should remain in their minds for some time to come.
Back to Jio – not having achieved the intended numbers that Jio had set for itself, the question arises – will Jio extend the deadline to sign up for Prime? And if it does, will others extend their competitive offers?
Time will tell, but I am forced to recall my closing words on my earlier article about Jio and it’s approach –
“All said and done, Jio has set many ripples in the water, however since it has to wade the same waters itself, one would think it’ll learn to swim instead of splashing around“.
In a recent development, the Chinese mobile giant Xiaomi announced on Monday that they intend to create over 20, 000 job opportunities in India over the next three years!
If this goes through, this will nearly triple the number of jobs created till date by Xiaomi in India.
This would be a major step on the part of the company that has been endeavouring to go global and gain a stronger footing outside of the home domain of China.
Xiaomi’s Founder, Chairman and CEO, Lei Jun, met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his week-long visit to India, to discuss the company’s journey in the country so far. The discussion reportedly also extended to how smartphones are changing the lives of Indian consumers, and what more lies in the future.
The company first stepped into the Indian market in 2014 and in a scant two years, India has emerged as one of the biggest markets for this evolutionary firm. You’d recall, the Chinese brand crossed USD 1 billion in sales in India, within the year 2016.
The budget products that are the backbone of the company have clearly caught India’s imagination. And popularity in the Indian market, is a trump card for any brand hoping to make it big internationally.
Clearly this phenomenal track record, and the fact that there’s still a lot of untapped potential in the dynamic Indian marketplace, that has fuelled Xiaomi’s decision to expand it’s base in India.
The declaration came during The Economic Times global Business Summit 2017, where the founder, Lei Jun acknowledged India’s huge contribution to Xiaomi’s global revenue. In addition, he talked about China’s the Internet Plus policy to integrate the internet with traditional industries and in turn, catapult economic growth.
There’s another fuse waiting to be lit – the expansion of 4G networks in India will ensure easier access to the internet, and create even more appetite for supporting products like smartphones, hotspot equipment and the like.
Xiaomi seems to be counting upon exactly that.
Xiaomi already has an existing plant in Andhra Pradesh, set up in 2015, which currently manufactures (reportedly) 75% of the company’s products sold in the country.
Once the newly announced second plant becomes functional, almost 95% of the smartphones sold by the company in the country will be manufactured in-country!
Quite to the beat of the Prime Minister’s overarching economic initiative, isn’t it?!
The company’s newly-made Vice President, Manu Kumar’s words second Jun’s sentiments.
Last week, at the launch of Redmi 4A, Kumar conveyed that Xiaomi shall be able to manufacture one smartphone every second with the new plant. The plant shall be located in Sri City, Andhra Pradesh.
What might be even more notable, is Xiaomi’s aim – to incorporate 90% women in the workforce. This could be an incredible step towards women empowerment, in a country that quite starkly seems to be struggling with engaging and employing women.
Their first plant, which employed over 5,000 people from the nearby villages, also included 90% women. So the aim might not be far-fetched at all.
More power to Xiaomi!
Samsung Lands Bang In The Middle Of A Legal Wrangle Between Nokia And Apple
Legal battle and Apple – call it a houseful show.
This particular story started a year back, when the good old Cupertino technology giant Apple sued Nokia on the grounds of patent infringement.
Apple accused Nokia of intentionally removing certain patents from an agreement between the two companies. As per Apple, five of the removed patents were transferred to certain third party companies so that Nokia could ‘extort’ an excruciating amount of USD 100 million from Apple.
But then Nokia hit back at Apple with a list of accusations against the company. It alleged various instances of breach of patent by Apple. Nokia claimed that Apple has violated as many as 32 of Nokia’s patents in every iPhone following the iPhone 3GS.
That’s not all, a new twist in the case has made it all the more interesting.
Nokia has requested to be granted access to documents and deposition testimonies from the Samsung-Apple case which pertain to Samsung’s legal allegations against Apple on the issue of patents. Nokia believes these documents will be helpful to it’s patent related legal battle against Apple, and prove Apple’s culpability and repeated violations of patents.
As per Patently Apple, Nokia has requested a motion to be granted access to certain documents that can prove to be highly favorable to its position in the on-going legal conflict against Apple –
“The Letter seeks documents and deposition testimony from Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., based in the Republic of Korea. The evidence sought by Nokia is highly relevant to the Investigation and unobtainable by other means”.
There’s not been a decree on this request yet, though, a favourable decision in this regard may actually prove to be an interesting wildcard in the Nokia-Apple fight.
Bug In OnePlus 3 And OnePlus 3T Allows Hackers To Violate The Smartphone Using Malicious Chargers
OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T have fast become very popular around the globe. However, in light of some recently uncovered information, it looks like these smartphones might have a security flaw – which might cause the trend to spiral a bit. Unless fixed.
Researchers at Aleph Security, a cyber security company, discovered and disclosed a bug on the devices, that poses quite a serious security risk for the users. As per the information uncovered, hackers can infect your device using a malicious charger!
This newly discovered bug, named CVE-2017-5622, allows hackers to take over a device even when it is completely turned off. The flaw leverages existing vulnerabilities and bugs and gains access to the user’s personal data. And all this happens without the user even realising that her device is being usurped!
What makes the situation even more serious is that this new bug works with the support of the already existing older bugs. So they use one vulnerability to enter the device, and another one to eliminate any evidence that the device had been hacked, or its security breached.
Videos demonstrating the effects of the bug have surfaced recently. The first video shows the attack as the device lies charging. The hackers gain gains temporary root access to the violated smartphone, replacing the operating system with an affected one.
In the second video, the same process is used to install an app onto the smartphone which appears to be visible to the smartphone user. The latter can give the hackers much more sensitive information than the former can.
What is also noteworthy is that the same researchers reported to having pointed the bugs out to OnePlus, who subsequently claimed to have fixed it via the OxygenOS 4.0.3 update. Also, the bug only affected the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, and not the OnePlus 2, so some of the users can rest easy there.
That said, OnePlus, get on the horse mates, and cracked the whip on the bugs, before customers bolt from the stable.
Microsoft has finally admitted a bit of a defeat and one can see it finally altering its course in the arena of Connected Cars, via its new agreement with Toyota.
As per the agreement, Microsoft has decided to license a batch of its Connected Car patents to Toyota. This marks Microsoft taking a step back after their failed attempt at including Windows in cars from three years ago.
Rather than thinking of this as Microsoft eating humble pie, we at Chip-Monks actually view this as a sign of a changing Microsoft. Under Nadella, Microsoft is being a more thinking company and is not averse to changing course, if it helps Microsoft conquer barriers or set up new bloodlines… successfully.
As part of this joint endeavour, Microsoft’s new auto licensing program would provide Toyota access to navigation, entertainment, voice recognition and gesture controls.
On the Toyota side, this would enable them to take their cars to the next level of being connected – and they are a smart bunch, they are. Car makers do not understand infotainment or connectivity as well as they do automobile mechanics. So, leveraging existing world-class technology and expertise, will get Toyota over the fence faster, and indeed make their cars more integrable, than if they tried creating the infotainment package from scratch.
As far as the specifics of the deal are concerned, neither company is revealing much, including the monetary value of the deal. However, what might be key to Microsoft, may well be the fact that the agreement between the corporations is not exclusive and Microsoft can offer its technology to other automakers as well.
This is a classic Microsoft move which they played the first time back when the company was still a baby; give your tech to one, but make sure the fine print doesn’t stop you from giving it to others. Exclusivity has never been part of Microsoft’s ballgame.
What’s also noteworthy is that this is not the first time that Toyota and Microsoft have teamed up for a project. The companies have been working together on Toyota’s Data Science Center- Microsoft’s cloud computing platform is currently being used by Toyota Connected which in turn, aims to individualise customer experience. The kinship between the two, one can say, should be quite smooth then, and one that both of them will benefit from.
As far as counting the candies for Microsoft is concerned, well, this comes in tow of Microsoft’s attempts to get car companies to use its tech for their connected cars. Microsoft has been trying to swing that one properly for a while now, and one must admit, it has not been doing all that badly.
At present, Renault-Nissan uses Microsoft’s Azure platforms which include critical services like remote vehicle diagnostics. Microsoft is also working with Volvo, who use it’s Holo Lens augmented reality platform to interact with virtual parts.
Microsoft’s endeavours with Renault-Nissan and Volvo have been going much better than the one they had undertaken about three years ago – the futile efforts to emulate and create something along the lines of Apple’s CarPlay system. They’d called it the Windows In The Car concept, and that ambitious project couldn’t really be transformed into anything close to a real entertainment system.
This deal with Toyota, which we can assume would include more and more components of a connected car, would only take Microsoft’s efforts a few steps further.
As to where they are headed is concerned, to be honest, Microsoft, unlike the other Silicon Valley bigwigs Apple and Google, is not a company that would really consider making their own cars. They have always been software oriented, and have revelled in knowing that their software gives life to the world’s most advanced hardware.
That’s what they did with computers, successfully, and phones, unsuccessfully. To make their stand on this clearer, Microsoft executive, Erich Endersen stated, “Microsoft doesn’t make cars. We are working closely with today’s car companies to help them meet customer demands”.
That said, the tech giant is certainly working on increasing its sphere of influence across telematics, infotainment and other related systems in connected cars. Harman revealed not too long ago that it is working to integrate Microsoft’s Office 365 into its infotainment systems.
Nissan and BMW, too, are working on bringing Microsoft’s Cortana personal assistant to their cars. With this new deal, we might see other car companies hopping onto the bandwagon soon, if all goes well.
Google Pummelling Symantec To Ensure Better Internet Encryption
For all that world may consider Google to be, it is definitely the Dean of the Internet, in many ways.
In that role, and to drive better user privacy and internet security, Google has taken on Symantec over it’s (Symantec’s) role in ensuring the sanctity of the encrypted portions of the internet.
Google, who had previously accused Symantec and its partners of mis-issuing tens of thousands of certificates that certified encrypted web connections, quietly announced this week that it (Google) is downgrading the level and length of trust that Chrome will place in certificates issued by Symantec.
Before we delve into this further, let us pause for a moment and help you understand the kinds of certificates we’re referring to, what Symantec does and what are the implications of mis-issuing certificates for encrypted web connections.
Well, there are two kinds of sites usually, the ones with HTTP, and the ones with HTTPS prefixes. First up, the same site can have two different versions or just one, depending on their own motives.
HTTPS connections are usually found on banking sites, login pages, and sites which need an extra layer of security. This ‘S’ in the address, the extra layer of security is certified by deputed Certificate Authorities, who verify the identity of the website’s owner and check for some mandatory security protocols having been adhered to by the website, and only then, issue the site a certificate authenticating that they are who they say they are and that the necessary protocols are in place.
Think of this like a passport issuing authority.
Once a passport is issued by a legit authority, everyone in the world considers it valid and thus deems the information on the passport as being valid. The onus of checking the information lies upon the authority in the equation.
Similarly, once a certificate has been issued, everyone in the world is expected to trust it. But there is a catch.
The onus of the verification, in the Internet world also lies on the certificate issuing authority. Without their authentication of a website owner’s identity, users can’t trust that the site on the other end of their HTTPS connection is really who they think it is. Makes sense, up until here?!
Well, Symantec is a giant in the world of these certificate authorities. It’s certificates vouched for about 30% of the entire internet, in 2015! So we must believe that they have been doing their job properly and they are trustable.
Google, however, does not think so.
Google claims that Symantec has issued at least 30,000 certificates without properly verifying the websites that received the certificates. The allegation is thus quite grave. Not only does it undermine the trust users can place in the encrypted web, it also leaves the user in a limbo, not knowing if the sites they have been relying on owing to the HTTPS tag, can really after all be trusted, or not.
Google has been claiming that Symantec’s behavior failed to meet the baseline requirements for a Certificate Authority, creating what it termed as “significant risk for Google Chrome users“.
To add to this, Ryan Sleevi, a Software Engineer at Google, said, “Symantec allowed at least four parties access to their infrastructure in a way to cause certificate issuance, did not sufficiently oversee these capabilities as required and expected, and when presented with evidence of these organizations’ failure to abide to the appropriate standard of care, failed to disclose such information in a timely manner or to identify the significance of the issues reported to them. These issues, and the corresponding failure of appropriate oversight spanned a period of several years, and were trivially identifiable from the information publicly available or that Symantec shared“.
Google also pointed out that Symantec partnered with other CAs, like CrossCert (Korea’s Electronic Certificate Authority), Certisign Certificatadora Digital, Certsuperior S. de R. L. de C.V., and Certisur S.A., and did not follow proper verification procedures. This allegedly led to the mis-issuance of 30,000 certificates.
This is not the first time that Symantec and Google have gone head to head. The spat has been on for over a year now.
Back in October 2015, Google discovered that Symantec has mis-issued certificates for Google itself and for Opera Software. “Our investigation uncovered no evidence of malicious intent, nor harm to anyone”, Symantec had stated back then. But that did not allay Google’s concerns.
Google, has now taken steps to mitigate possible impacts to users. It stated that it will begin the process of distrusting Symantec-issued certificates in its Chrome browser.
It is said that Google will update Chrome’s code, which would reduce the length of time the browser trusts a Symantec-issued certificate. This would then also over time, require sites to replace old Symantec certificates with newer, trusted ones.
“Since January 19, the Google Chrome team has been investigating a series of failures by Symantec Corporation to properly validate certificates. Over the course of this investigation, the explanations provided by Symantec have revealed a continually increasing scope of misissuance with each set of questions from members of the Google Chrome team; an initial set of reportedly 127 certificates has expanded to include at least 30,000 certificates, issued over a period spanning several years,” Sleevi wrote in a forum post outlining the case against Symantec. “This is also coupled with a series of failures following the previous set of misissued certificates from Symantec, causing us to no longer have confidence in the certificate issuance policies and practices of Symantec over the past several years.”
Symantec’s response so far has been: “Google’s statements about our issuance practices and the scope of our past mis-issuances are exaggerated and misleading. For example, Google’s claim that we have mis-issued 30,000 SSL/TLS certificates is not true. In the event Google is referring to, 127 certificates — not 30,000 — were identified as mis-issued, and they resulted in no consumer harm. While all major CAs have experienced SSL/TLS certificate mis-issuance events, Google has singled out the Symantec Certificate Authority in its proposal even though the mis-issuance event identified in Google’s blog post involved several CAs”.
Symantec has also stated that they are open to discussion with Google, to try to resolve the situation. Symantec has purportedly cut ties with four of the firms associated with the mis-issued certificates. That might help them save some face with Google when they do come to a discussion table.
“Symantec will vigorously defend the safe and productive use of the Internet, including minimizing any potential disruption caused by the proposal in Google’s blog post”, the company said.
For website owners who currently use Symantec to verify their HTTPS connections: You should, in the meantime, start taking steps to ensure Chrome users can access your sites without getting hit with security warnings!
After so very long, Apple has done a “… One more thing”!!
Unexpectedly, out of the blue, well… red, there now is a new iPhone in town – and it’s Red!
It’s not a tinge of red, not metallic pink, it is all red. The back, the buttons, the fiddly little nano-SIM tray – all red!
There’s so much red on it, that you almost don’t notice that the front is white. The thing I love most about it? The silver Apple logo around the back. It just shimmers and pops against the gorgeous red!
Why am I gushing? Well, time to be honest – there’s never been any other exciting colour on iPhones, since… well, forever.
They created Rose Gold (and every other brand suddenly followed suit) – I know, I know. But for some reason, the pinkish phone never really struck my fancy. It was too, well pale and subtle. There’s never been a stand out, “look at me” colour, on an iPhone. Nor a cheerful one.
Part of the (RED) campaign to help fight HIV/AIDS, this phone puts the focus right back on the noble cause, and how much some of the largest people and brands are committing to it.
A portion of the proceeds from every sale go toward the Global Fund, a group committed to fighting AIDS around the world.
I don’t know if you know this or not, Apple has been working with PRODUCT(RED) for about ten years now.
“For 10 years, our partnership with (RED) has supported HIV/AIDS programmes that provide counselling, testing and medicine that prevents the transmission of HIV from a mother to her unborn child. So far, we’ve raised over US$130 million through the sale of our (RED) products. Now we’re introducing iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED Special Edition. Every purchase brings us a step closer to an AIDS‑free generation“, (RED)’s website states.
So, all the iPhone 7 (PRODUCT)RED bang is for a good cause in a way.
If you’re still in the dark about the changes on this newest iPhone – well there aren’t any others. Except for the exterior colour, nothing else has changed on the devices. All the interior hardware and functionality remain the same – which is alright, because we’re sure they already have the iPhone 8 (or whatever it’ll finally be called) in the pipeline, and most Apple users would be expecting the real changes there. I don’t think the world would’ve settled for just this novelty on the iPhone 8.
Who all got this treatment? Well, only the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 7 Plus. All the other iPhones bear only the existing livery – clearly Apple’s giving you yet another reason to ditch that old iPhone!
Speaking of which – will folks ditch their current phone? Well, to be honest, I and my boss, almost did. Instantly.
Realistically though, we do not have a clear answer to how many people would trade in their current devices for a ‘novelty’. We do have some speculation though – much like the iPhone SE last year filled in the gap in the 12 month product cycle, this novelty iPhone too, is kind of filling in the blank pause, till September 2017.
A lot of smartphone brands launch multiple models through the course of the year, but Apple doesn’t like to satiate demand that’s building up during summer. They let it simmer till Fall. But with mid-term product launches two years running, maybe, just maybe, they’re tentatively agreeing to the notion that 12 months becomes to long a period of silence.
Further, while the new Red iPhone may be more a product of vanity than a product of genius, it sure does fill in another void nicely – that left behind by the Note7 crash-and-burn. In fact putting out a ‘new’ variant just before the Samsung Galaxy S8 has even been formally announced, may be another show of genius on Mr. Cook’s part.
He is known to be a shrewd operator, no matter what, who says!
Moving on, also released alongside the iPhone 7 PRODUCT(RED) was a 9.7 inch iPad that comes with an upgraded processor, and a dramatic price cut. The new iPad starts at USD 330 (for 32 GB), down from USD 400 previously.
Apple also increased the minimum storage on the iPhone SE to 32 GB (up from the previous lowest of 16 GB), without increasing the price.
There’s more. The new iPad Mini will only come in a 128 GB model, and that certainly is a lot of memory capacity for a tiny tablet!
You can get the iPhone RED starting March 24th, at USD 750 for the 128 GB iPhone model and at USD 870 for the 128 GB iPhone 7 Plus model. If memory’s failing you, these are the exact same prices of the non-RED models. Sweet!
Last, and I particularly love this part – for the first time ever, the new model launches in India, on the very same day as it does in the U.S. Now, that makes me proud! Apple finally proves that India’s just as important as the Dollar economy!!
In a move that looks straight from a chewed out heist film, authorities at Apple yesterday awoke to an unknown entity’s claims that they’d broken into almost 300 million iCloud and Apple email accounts.
The hackers are demanding ransom from Apple, threatening to wipe out all the accounts’ data if not paid. Most of the accounts supposedly compromised are of Apple’s @icloud and @me domains.
The hackers, quaintly naming themselves as the “Turkish Crime Family” first asked for 75,000 in Bitcoin or Ethereum (which is another form of online cryptic currency like Bitcoin).
Alternatively, they have asked for USD 100,000 worth of iTunes gift cards in exchange of leaving the data intact. The deadline for providing the demanded ransom is April 7.
The threat came to light, when Motherboard published the incident and it’s contact with one of the hackers. The hacker supposedly told Motherboard “I just want my money and thought this would be an interesting report that a lot of Apple customers would be interested in reading and hearing”.
To prove the veracity of their claims, hackers provided Motherboard with screenshots of the alleged email exchange between them and Apple’s security team. Later, they also provided Motherboard access to one of the accounts that was used to contact the security team.
According to the chats contained in the email account provided to Motherboard, a week ago, Apple’s security team asked the hackers to share a sample of the data set. The contact seems authentic, as the return path of the email address bore routes via an @apple.com domain server.
They also uploaded a YouTube video, where one can see a hacker controlling a senior citizen’s iCloud account, including her backed-up images, along with access to the remote-wipe ability.
Despite the alleged gravity of the events, security agencies are considering the evidence as “inconclusive”, at best.
One wonders that this might be just an elaborate bluff to extort money from the company. The name of the group sounds amateurish at best, the ransom amount seems disproportionate and the evidence of break-in is quite flimsy.
But most tellingly, the claim of hacking these many accounts on their own, seems braggadocios, at best. One of the major inconsistencies in their stories is that one of them claims 559 million compromised accounts, another, a mere 300 million.
Last, they’ve not provided any further evidences to back up to their rather lofty claims, except for the aforementioned YouTube video.
To quote Lee Munson, security researcher at Comparitech.com, “Whether the group has the means to do as it claims is debatable – supposed correspondence with Apple and a YouTube video showing the takeover of an account may well have been faked – but what is not up for debate is Apple’s resolve to not pay a ransom to make the group back down. While Apple’s stance that it will ‘not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law‘ is the right one to take, I cannot help but wonder if the option to pay $100,000 in iTunes gift cards, rather than $75,000 in untraceable crypto-currency, could have been explored in association with law enforcement”.
Even more interesting is Apple’s response to the ransom request – Apple itself threatened to send the archived communication data to the authorities and retorted, “We firstly kindly request you to remove the video that you have uploaded on your YouTube channel as it’s seeking unwanted attention, second of all we would like you to know that we do not reward cyber criminals for breaking the law”.
These type of break-ins are not new, nor are their ways novel.
Reading the email-exchange on the account provided to Motherboard, it is plain to see, that the hackers approached multiple media outlets shopping around for any one of them to listen to, and take the hackers’ threat seriously. Finally, one of them agreed to publish the story.
Clearly, This is one of those attempts to put pressure on Apple using someone’s journalistic integrity.
Apple has told Fortune magazine that there was no evidence of a break-in into their systems, including iCloud and Apple ID’s.
“The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services”, the company said.
One of the security analysts who had access to the sample data shared by the hackers found that most of the accounts being claimed as hacked actually contained data that matched information obtained during the LinkedIn breach.
For those of you who don’t know about this, last year it became know that LinkedIn was gradually hacked into since 2012 and almost 100 million accounts’ data was stolen. This was a huge blow not only to LinkedIn but to other platforms too.
Here’s why. Most of us use the same password(s) across most of our online accounts. Now, in any case of any of your accounts being breached, your common password can easily be used to access your other personas and accounts online, and your data can be stealthily stolen, long after the breach comes to light.
Assuring the customers of their safety, Apple’s spokesperson has assured that the usual methods and standard procedures of safety have been taken.
“The company is actively monitoring to prevent unauthorised access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”
Till now, there has been no further news of any progress, one way or another. We’ll keep our ear to the ground and let you know what we hear. Meanwhile, we highly, highly recommend you immediately trigger two-factor authentication on all your iCloud, Me and Google/Gmail accounts!
Takes only a minute, but you’ll sleep better.
Sony Xperia L1 With 5.5 inch 720p Screen And Android 7.0, Launched
Sony recently took the world by surprise as it unexpectedly launched a new entry-level smartphone dubbed the Xperia L1 as the successor to the original Xperia L that was launched way back in 2013.
For those who follow the rumour mills though, the launch of this device isn’t completely out of the blue, as a Russian certification listing had pointed towards the release of this new device, a week before the launch of the Xperia L1, .
This new device keeps with the tradition of Sony’s design language of bezel-less displays and thus the Xperia L1 too, sports an almost edge-to-edge 5.5 inch 720p IPS LCD display.
Disappointingly though, it also means that Sony’s continued with the tradition of having pretty thick bezels at the top and bottom, much like in the newly launched Xperia XZ Premium and Xperia XA Ultra smartphones that were released last month, at the MWC.
Under the hood, the Xperia L1 is powered by a 1.45 GHz quad-core MediaTek MT6737T processor coupled with a Mali T720 MP2 graphics processor and 2 GB of RAM.
On the storage front, there is 16 GB of inbuilt memory which is expandable. The Xperia L1 runs on the latest Android Nougat software. What’s more, Sony has also added – to the budget smartphone, which adapts the device to your surrounding and predicts what you’d want to do or which app you’d like to use at that particular time.
For shutterbugs, the Xperia L1 carries a decent 13 megapixel rear camera with f/2.2 aperture and a 5 megapixel front-facing camera. Connectivity options on this dual-sim smartphone include, 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, A-GPS, GLONASS, and USB Type-C for charging and data syncing.
The Xperia L1 packs Android Nougat but at the same time, disappointingly, is driven by just a 2,620 mAh battery. This battery is also supported by Sony’s proprietary Qnovo Adaptive Charging and for times when you are on the go and running low on battery, you can always switch to Sony’s STAMINA mode to make the most of your dying battery.
The interesting part on this recently-launched phablet is that while it shares it’s name etymology with a four year old model, it is not very similar as its predecessor. This of course is a win-win situation for users as no one would really want their 2017 device to have specs reminiscent from such an old model.
The Xperia L which came in with a 4.30 inch display size, was powered by 1 GHz dual-core MSM8230 processor coupled with 1 GB of RAM and 8 GB of internal storage. It was powered by a 1750 mAh battery (my garage door opener has more battery nowadays).
Well now you must be thankful that the Xperia L1 is a huge upgrade to the Xperia L and hasn’t really inherited any of the features from its predecessor!
Target segment wise, the Xperia L1 has been launched only in select markets in Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia, North America and Latin America, at the moment. Whether Sony decides to roll out Xperia L1 in Indian market is something which is uncertain presently and might also depend on the performance of this device in other markets.
The price bracket for this smartphone hasn’t been pinned down as yet, though the company has made it clear that the device will be an affordable one, saying the phablet will be available from mid-April at an “accessible price point”.
Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service conducted a rigorous seven month long investigation into Apple’s trade and pricing practices, for it’s products being sold in the region.
The investigation found Apple’s Russian unit guilty of fixing prices for a variety of its iPhone models across retailing enterprises within the country.
The agency implied that Apple’s indigenous unit in the country had reportedly told retailers to ‘hold the prices’ of their iPhones; in the event that Apple’s demanded prices were not met or if the prices were ‘inappropriate’, the company had the discretionary power to terminate key contracts with the aforementioned retailers for not conforming to its pricing guidelines.
As ascertained from the report, the prices were fixed for a period of three months, which worked significantly in Apple’s favour. The models that were affected include notable iPhone versions including that of the iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. However, the agency is reported to not have found any signs of price manipulation and coordination for the current iPhone 7 model.
Apple has been granted three months to appeal the ruling, if at all. And on the occasion that the company does contest the ruling but loses the appeal, it could be fined around 15% on the sales that were attributed to the Russian market.
The value of the fine might not be something that would worry Apple’s executives and hence, the production and supply cycles are not likely to experience any notable changes. That said, the report and it’s conclusions will definitely be a slur on the brand’s normally-whistle-clean image.
There’s some good news on this matter though.
The Federal Antimonopoly Service has already appreciated the level of cooperation it received from the multinational technology company, and has also stated that Apple has confirmed it’s cessation of these practices with immediate effect.
Apple has also instrumented a set of training protocols and regulatory antitrust compliance norms to prevent the company from indulging in similar activities in the future.
Now, let me attempt to explain why Apple enlisted such practices in the first place.
Perhaps the reason why Apple exercised such practices is because it has consistently positioned itself as a luxury brand producing premium products, and could hence charge a premium price for them.
This market strategy has found itself to be successful almost everywhere, but revenue-hungry retailers deliberately selling their products at prices lower than the MSRP tend to undercut those efforts and hence damage the company’s goals to promote itself as a luxury brand.
On the other side of the spectrum, this isn’t the first time the Russian authorities, especially the, FAS has held a top smartphone company accountable.
Google had been fined just a year back, for stopping phone manufacturers from installing rival search engines on their phone’s home page. The fine amounted to about 438 million roubles which amounts to around USD 7.4 million. This penalty ended up allowing other competitors to enter the market and stopped the multinational firm from exercising a monopoly over it.
Back to Apple. In August, when the company was initially being investigated, it had maintained that it was innocent and that the retailers were free to set their own prices. However, the stance had changed recently. An Apple spokesperson speaking to the Times said that Apple has “worked closely with FAS during their investigation” and is “glad to put this matter behind us.”
Apple will surely move forward while giving fairly less weightage to this as a problem.
A lot of us, when buying a new smartphone, look for one with a Qualcomm processor in it.
Recognised as a hallmark of a great device, what most people do not realise is that Qualcomm, in addition to the processor, also makes and provides a lot of other vital components of your phone. The System on Chip (SoC) also hosts the memory controllers, modems, and other parts of the chipsets.
There’s more, Qualcomm’s proffer also include features like RF front-ends, Quick Charge capabilities, its digital-to-analog audio converters, Wi-Fi products, touchscreen controllers, and fingerprint readers, and the software and drivers used to make all of this stuff work.
Despite doing so much for of the heavy lifting in smartphones and tablets, Qualcomm seems to only be getting credit for a minuscule portion of it’s arsenal. It is precisely to drive this point home that Qualcomm had decided to rebrand it’s wares, and is asking the world to stop calling its processors “processors”.
All considered, Qualcomm’s band of products truly are “platforms” now. A that’s the moniker that Qualcomm would like you to use too.
So basically when you refer to “Snapdragon”, you’re actually going to be referring to the entire hardware and software platform that ships in a device with a Snapdragon SoC in it.
Qualcomm said it best: “…the word is an inadequate representation of what the technology actually is, and the solutions that tens of thousands of Qualcomm Technologies innovators have worked on. In truth, Snapdragon is more than a single component, a piece of silicon, or what many would misinterpret as the CPU; it’s an anthology of technology, comprising hardware, software, and services that are not fully captured in a word like “processor.” That is why Qualcomm Technologies is refining our terminology by referring to Snapdragon as a “platform” instead of a processor.”
Just to clarify, again, it is not that Qualcomm just added these to its list of products; they have been making and putting these in our phones for more than a while now, now they would just like for us to remember it!
This is not the first time Qualcomm is rebranding itself. What they are doing now is only an extreme version of what they did back in 2015, when they got rid of “Gobi” modem branding and started using the all-hailed “Snapdragon“.
Another thing they are doing is repositioning the branding to refer only to their premium processor. Oh, sorry! Premium platforms!
The Snapdragon 200-series, which is already quite rare and is used only in very low-end devices, would no longer have the Snapdragon name associated taking it. It would now be called Qualcomm Mobile.
As far as the midrange Snapdragon 400 and 600 tiers and the high-end Snapdragon 800 tier are concerned, there’s been no particular rechristening announced for those. So it is safe to assume that the only rebranding they are getting is not being called “processors” anymore.
Truth be told, whether this will make any difference to the consumers in general, is highly questionable. Perhaps for the tech-savvy who like to dig into the information about their devices might find this interesting, and remember it; a phone with a Snapdragon processor already has the weight of the branding for a generic consumer of devices.
What it might do is make Qualcomm’s tech easier to sell to the OEMs, the ones making the phones, and actually buying the tech; it doesn’t really do anything for the kinds of features Qualcomm has already been offering alongside the Snapdragon chips.
Class-Action Lawsuit Targets LG Over G4 & V10 Boot-Loop Issues
To recap, this issue caused the phones to reboot repeatedly, rendering them useless. Apparently, users who got defective units of the phones were refused replacements as their devices were out of warranty, or in some cases, LG replaced them with other faulty ones!
In January last year, LG acknowledge the problem with the G4 and attempted to address the boot loop mishap (after much prodding), claiming that it was the result of “[a] loose contact between components“, and started offering replacements and fixes officially.
The lawsuit highlights that LG undertook a rather meek recall by offering faulty replacements, or denying replacement altogether for out of warranty devices.
Furthermore, the lawsuit alleges that “LG continued to manufacture LG phones with the boot loop defect” even after admission of a hardware defect. The lawsuit also claims that several V10 users also faced the same issue as its “hardware closely resembles the LG G4 with only a few adjustments, such as expanded storage and an additional camera“.
One of the plaintiffs complained in the lawsuit that LG replaced his defective G4 unit twice with faulty units, and his third one also constantly freezes. The suit demands “damages in an amount to be determined at trial” and hopes that the federal judge order a “comprehensive program to repair all LG phones containing the boot loop defect“, in addition to some compensation for harassing the customer.
LG is yet to respond to this lawsuit.
Tech giant Intel recently announced that it would purchase Mobileye, the Israeli automotive technology company for a sum of USD 15.3 billion. The deal which is expected to take roughly nine months to close, is not a real surprise for the market.
Intel and Mobileye have been working together since 2016 in a bid to provide the world with an efficient solution for technology for self-driven vehicles. Once the acquisition deal is finalized, Intel’s subsidiary, the Automated Driving Group will be integrated into Mobileye and will function from Jerusalem.
Mobileye, has been a marquee in the automated technology industry. It entered the U.S. stock market, Nasdaq, in 2014 and now commands a market cap of USD 10.5 billion.
The company today specializes in technology and services ranging from mapping, sensor fusion, crowd-sourced high definition maps (expected to start from 2018), front and rear facing camera technology.
In addition, Mobileye has strong relationships with a vast number of automakers which includes a tally of 27 marquee car manufacturers like Audi and BMW with whom 10 production programs have already been initiated respectively.
Clearly, the company is a strategic and significant buy for Intel.
In a statement, Brian Krzanich, the CEO of Intel suggested that the acquisition was a great step forward for its consumers, the automotive industry as well as their shareholders. He also elaborated the functioning relationship between the two companies and said, “Intel provides critical foundational technologies for autonomous driving including plotting the car’s path and making real-time driving decisions. Mobileye brings the industry’s best automotive-grade computer vision and strong momentum with automakers and suppliers. Together, we can accelerate the future of autonomous driving with improved performance in a cloud-to-car solution at a lower cost for automakers”.
The deal also deems that Prof. Amnon Shashua, the CTO and co-Founder would head Intel’s autonomous driving division and the acquired organization, being a part of Intel shall be based in Israel, which would also assist Intel in working easily with the other acquisitions it has in mind.
They intend to acquire Omek Interactive for its gesture-based specialized technology and Replay Technologies for its 3D video capabilities, both of which are based in Israel. It is also said to be interested in acquiring Ginger Softwares, a personal assistant software.
Mobileye’s co-founder, President and CEO, said that this move would benefit their consumers with a technology that would be safer, reliable and less costly. He also added that it would do so by “pooling together our infrastructure and resources, we can enhance and accelerate our combined know-how in the areas of mapping, virtual driving, simulators, development tool chains, hardware, data centers and high-performance computing platforms. Together, we will provide an attractive value proposition for the automotive industry”.
The industry itself is booming over the course of the last few years as it has seen major acquisitions and partnerships like that of Samsung’s announcement to acquire Harman, last year, and Intel’s announcement of acquiring 15% stake in the mapping company HERE.
Intel is also in the process of acquiring Yogitech and Itseez for integrating their specialized technical knowhow for the betterment of safety and navigational functionalities in their automated cars.
Intel itself has dedicated a sum of USD 250 million for the automated vehicle space. Like Intel, Valeo, the automotive parts giant, announced that it’s acquiring Germany based startup Gestigon,that develops in-car 3D image processing software that will make communication between the driver and the vehicle easier and efficient.
Therefore, it’s safe to say that the autonomous automobile is in for an extremely interesting few years!
Samsung Commits To Monthly Security Updates - Only For U.S. Phones
Following the reveal of some frightening security vulnerabilities in Android, a lot of smartphone manufacturers were quick to announce that they would be issuing monthly security updates to their devices, to ensure that their phones are constantly up to date against threats discovered in the interim.
The good news for Samsung owners is that if you live in the U.S. and you own an unlocked Galaxy handset, Samsung is committing to issue monthly security updates to your devices.
This isn’t to say that Samsung never cared about security, it’s just that their updates weren’t particularly frequent.
In a statement obtained by the folks at ZDNet, Samsung said, “Due to various circumstances, we have been releasing security updates for unlocked (open) Galaxy devices in the U.S. on a quarterly basis. However, we have now resolved the challenges; and we are committed to releasing security updates for those devices on a monthly basis.”
Clearly this is good news and for some Galaxy handset owners; further Samsung has also revealed that it’s March security update should be coming soon for unlocked handsets like the Galaxy S7 and S7 edge – though it remains to be seen if it will include the Nougat update with it.
It also remains to be seen if Samsung will really be able to keep to this schedule for real.
Apple Hires Respected iPhone Security Researcher To Enhance iOS Security
Privacy has become an issue-paramount, in today’s digital world.
Not only are privacy advocates driving attendance to potential concerns, now privacy issues also rest at the center of concern for everyday users of all things digital.
Be it smartphones, laptops, email, social media or even app-security – the risks are manifold.
So it’s no surprise that tech brands are starting to pay increasing attention to privacy and security in all that they do. This reflects best in Apple’s latest hiring of Jonathan Zdziarski.
Zdziarski is an iOS security researcher who has spent several years independently researching security and privacy hacks in Apple’s operating systems.
Known as NerveGas in the hacker community, Zdziarski is the person who pointed out security backdoors to Apple’s iOS, back in 2014.
He also provided technical expertise during Apple’s clash with the FBI last year, following the San Bernardino shooting – by taking apart aspects of FBI’s case.
He”s so good at what he does, that he’s even published his findings in full-scale books; like one book on forensic analysis and recovering data on the smartphones and another book that explains how to write software for smart devices.
The news of his employment with Apple came through via his personal blog, where he announced:
“I’m pleased to announce that I’ve accepted a position with Apple’s Security Engineering and Architecture team, and am very excited to be working with a group of like-minded individuals so passionate about protecting the security and privacy of others.
This decision marks the conclusion of what I feel has been a matter of conscience for me over time. Privacy is sacred; our digital lives can reveal so much about us – our interests, our deepest thoughts, and even who we love. I am thrilled to be working with such an exceptional group of people who share a passion to protect that“.
We aren’t yet sure what capacity he will be joining the tech megabrand at, but one can safely assume that he’ll be working on making the already quite secure iOS ecosystem, even more so.
Apple’s stance on user privacy and security became quite clear last year when their tiff with FBI was dragged to court in a prolonged proceeding. They refused to help FBI crack into the phone, and they took the stand until the last bit, until FBI managed to get an external source to crack the phone for them.
Zdziarski’s hiring could very well be to ensure that if another such situation were ever to arise, no external source whatsoever would be able to crack into the phone again.
Apple has long been boasting of their phones being so secure that even they (Apple themselves) can’t crack into them, or so is their claim on the latest devices and with iOS 10’s security capabilities. So, if some external source has been able to crack into an iPhone, that’s quite an egg on Apple’s face and could impact their device sales and most definitely, iOS’ image in the marketplace.
Zdziarski would be just the right person to make things better and even more inviolable.
Apple has, for now, declined to comment on the hire. But it certainly makes sense for them to bring in-house one of the world’s foremost experts on their technology who has proven his grain time and again, especially by pointing out things that Apple got wrong in the first place.
Exploding Headphones Reignite Fears About Batteries On Planes
Not many people have forgotten the fear caused by the Samsung Galaxy Note7’s unpredictable and explosive nature. In fact, I am aware of many, many people who no longer charge their phones by their bedside, and others who absolutely abhor the idea of charging their phones at night.
I recently learnt something interesting – as per mandates from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), logistics companies are restricted from carrying any merchandise/packages that contain Lithium-Ion batteries out of India. Let me clarify – Individuals cannot ship out phones, powerbanks or even battery-powered hard-disks etc.; while corporates with due licenses and documentation provided by relevant ministries can export such products, but after much paperwork and disclaimers.
The point is, that the risks of unexpected behaviour by batteries within portable devices (most of which tend to be Lithium-Ion based concoctions) has shaken people’s and authorities’ confidence.
Barely had the Note7 fiasco settled, fears were recently renewed after a pair of headphones exploded on a flight to Australia.
A lady was badly burned by a pair of battery-powered headphones that exploded while she was sleeping.
“As I went to turn around I felt burning on my face“, she told the ATSB. “I just grabbed my face which caused the headphones to go around my neck. I continued to feel burning so I grabbed them off and threw them on the floor. They were sparking and had small amounts of fire“.
The poor lady received burns across her face, neck, lips and hand as the headphones caught fire.
The Australia Transport Safety Bureau (ATSB) reported that the explosion was caused by the batteries in the headphones. It further went on to describe that the battery and cover had melted and were stuck to the floor of the aircraft!
The ATSB has however refrained from mentioning the brand of the headphones in question.
Do we know what exactly happened?
Not exactly. But were we to go with the best guess, we’d surmise the following:
Since we do not know what brand the headphones were, we’d think that the headphones used Lithium-Ion batteries, which are susceptible to what’s known as thermal runaway.
What basically happens is that any increase in the temperature of the batteries, regardless of the source being internal or external, causes the electrolytes to react with the battery’s other chemicals. This creates a gas, which in turn further increases the heat. The situation can escalate to the point of it turning into an explosion and fire.
We can’t be certain that this is what happened in this case, but the description from the authority and the victim does lead us to believe that our guess is viable.
This is what reportedly happened with the Samsung Galaxy Note7 too, as well as in an earlier case of exploding hoverboards (that were also banned on flights some time ago due to the spontaneous, unprovoked explosions and fire incidents).
The Samsung Galaxy Note7 has the dubious distinction of being the trigger for airlines to have banned it, and they remain on high alert and low-tolerance in this regard.
With this new report, concerns regarding the same happening with other battery powered devices have resurfaced and are causing a fair bit of consternation – in fact, the Australia Transport Safety Bureau has issued a general warning to the public at large.
So the question is, will your headphones catch fire? Well, most likely not! But do watch out for anomalies, especially if it starts to head up significantly. You should be more or less good to go otherwise.
I’m curious to see if this sets the fuse off and if other countries and authorities take similar decisions and impose restrictions. We’ll let you know as we hear more
With Mobile Data wars reaching an all new zenith, Airtel has been advertising a ‘surprise’ for its users whereby under a new ‘Free Internet’ offer, postpaid users could get up to 30 GB of Data free across three months. Starting March 13, customers can utilise 10 GB Data per month for three months.
This is the ‘surprise’ offer that Airtel has been teasing rather loudly for quite some time now.
This offer can only be availed using their ‘MyAirtel’ app, which can be easily downloaded from Google Play Store or Apple’s App Store in case you don’t have the app.
The homepage of the app is dominated by a clickable tagline saying, ‘Enjoy India’s fastest network with free Internet. Claim now’.
In order to avail the benefit of this offer you can simply click on ‘Claim Now’, but all of this has to be done before March 31 – yeah, just like the Reliance Jio Prime Membership.
However, as happens with every “free” offer in this world, there is a little asterisk attached with this one as well. We say this because not all users are reportedly getting the whole 30 GB – some users have gotten less data. In some cases, the users don’t get a message notifying them about the free data, at all!
The best-fit solution to all this is to reach out to Airtel’s customer support team if you get stuck with a offer not percolating into your account correctly. Airtel tends to be a fairly good with their customer experience (provided you take the initiative of reaching out to them!).
If you think you’ve seen this earlier, you’re probably right. This offer is identical to Vodafone’s data plans from late last year. Vodafone was offering 10 GB of data free for 30 days at the regular price they’d charge for 1 GB of Mobile Data. The major difference here being that Airtel is offering these 10 Gigs of data for free.
Not only this, Airtel has also announced that it will be offering free incoming calls and SMS when you travel around the country, and are also going to stop charging any “premium charges” on outgoing calls starting April 1. Data consumption too, will be at the usual “home” i.e. your residential area’s rate as you roam across India.
Airtel, in order to retain its existing customers and to lure new ones, had earlier doubled monthly Data under their ‘My Infinity’ plan. In fact, prepaid recharge packs were also rolled out that offered 1 GB bundled Data every day!
Take for instance, a plan by Airtel that at INR 345 offers free local and STD calls to any network coupled with 1 GB of data which comes with its own set of terms and conditions, as the plan constrains you to consume 500 MB data during the day and the balance 500 MB data between 12 a.m. and 6 a.m.
While the INR 345 plan inhibits your data usage to some extent, the INR 549 pack comes with 1 GB of data per day without any cap on timings.
Not just Airtel, other network providers like Vodafone and Idea have also slashed their data tariffs to stave off competition which has escalated since Reliance Jio entered the scene in September 2016. However, it seems that Jio’s Prime membership plan looks invincible when compared to either prepaid or postpaid plans by other network providers.
Under Jio’s Prime Programme, by spending INR 303, users can get access to unlimited Data, while 28 GB is available at 4G speeds. The Fair Usage Policy trigger under this programme is set to 1 GB per day, beyond which the surfing experience will get throttled to a much lower speed
Another plan offers 2 GB data daily for a month at INR 499. This plan is of course the cheapest plan available presently, with its free voice calling and unlimited SMS’ atop the Data offer.
Reliance Jio has also assured the customers that it will keep designing its data plans in such a manner that the users can always get 20% more value as opposed to other service providers.
Vodafone’s INR 1,299 plan that offers 3,000 minutes of local + STD calling and around 8 GB of data. Idea, though, doesn’t have any ‘awesome’ 4G data plans up their sleeve, as of now. It has announced free incoming calls on domestic roaming and unveiled international roaming value packs, though.
In case you are wondering why this ‘surprise’ by Airtel suddenly, then as per Gopal Vittal, CEO of Bharti Airtel, this offer is a celebration of the fact that Airtel was adjudged as India’s fastest mobile network by Ookla. So now you know this is Airtel’s way of sharing their happiness with you.
“You know our celebrations would be incomplete without you. And we want to thank our valued postpaid customer, you, for being part of our journey. Because words don’t suffice, we would like to give you an Airtel Surprise” said Vittal.
Game Of Lawsuits: Oculus' John Carmack Sues ZeniMax For $22.5 Million
The feud between Oculus and ZeniMax Media seems to be heating up once again, with Oculus’ CTO, John Carmack, having sued his former employer for earnings that he claims are still owed to him.
Looking at things in the larger picture, this suit might appear to be an act of contrition on the part of Oculus after having lost the USD 500 million lawsuit to ZeniMax last month, however it appears that that is not quite so.
Carmack’s suit against ZeniMax Media is for USD 22.5 million, which he states is the amount that is due to be paid to him for his portion of the 2009 sale of his game studio id Software, known for such pioneering video game classics as Doom and Quake.
The lawsuit also reveals that ZeniMax paid USD 150 million for the game studio.
Carmack worked for ZeniMax Media, a game publisher behind such titles as Skyrim, until late 2013 when his contract expired. It was then that he got on to Oculus VR, a virtual reality development firm, which has now been acquired by Facebook.
Carmack claims ZeniMax Media has not paid the remaining sum due to, what the suit calls, “a series of allegations regarding claimed violations of Mr. Carmack’s Employment Agreement”, this assumedly relates to ZeniMax’s suit against Oculus regarding the theft of trade secrets.
It is this part that makes it seemingly linked to the ZeniMax lawsuit against Oculus, which ZeniMax recently won in court.
At the center of the trade secret’s lawsuit, was ZeniMax Media’s assertion that the Virtual Reality technology they had created was used illegally by Oculus founder Palmer Luckey to create the Rift headset (and which subsequently became one of the primary reasons for the acquisition of Oculus by Facebook for USD 2 billion).
While ZeniMax was demanding USD 6 billion as compensation in the case, they were awarded USD 500 million, mostly for copyright infringement.
One assumes that Facebook saw the ruling as not much more than a slap on the wrist.
So, while it is tempting to see Carmack’s lawsuit in this series of events, it actually has an individual standing of its own.
Carmack’s lawsuit goes on to detail that Carmack was set to earn USD 45 million from the sale. Of this amount, half was to be given in monetary payment, and the other half as half a million shares of the common stock of ZeniMax Media.
Carmack’s suit states that though he has received the latter, he is yet to receive the former USD 22.5 million in any form, despite having made multiple formal and informal requests.
What’s ahead for now is that ZeniMax is suing Facebook to stop it from selling Oculus Rift VR headsets, and Facebook is all set to appeal the USD 500 million judgment against them.
Back when ZeniMax had tried to loop Carmack in on the trade secrets lawsuit, he was found to not be guilty of having leaked any trade secrets. He, however, was found to be guilty of having violated ZeniMax’s copyrights.
With that hanging in the background, it would be interesting to see this case unfold.
Will Carmack be paid the money he was promised? Does he even need it, or is this lawsuit the lynchpin on another game of lawsuits between the two companies? Dunno, but we’ll be watching out for you!
Some make their presence felt in their absence.
Microsoft SO.CL has been one of those things in the tech universe – forgotten in plain sight, until its departure.
Back in 2011, when Facebook was a relatively new, wet-behind the ears social network, everyone seemed to be launching its competitors. In fact, Google Plus was launched with that aim in mind. But unlike Google Plus, So.Cl was never meant to be a competitor.
Launched in 2011 by Microsoft Research’s FUSE Labs division as a social community (rather than platform), where the objective was “collaborative consumption, not communication”, it was initially for university students.
Later, So.cl opened up to anyone once it had gotten going and subsequently added support for mobile devices, too.
During the initial days and prior to its public launch, many had assumed it to be a Facebook competitor. But it actually used a Facebook log-in to sign up or sign-in to the service. So, in a way, it was just a Facebook app.
If you’re looking for a comparison, the focus on image collages and video made So.cl a little like a Pinterest-style service for visual content. It also carried a tiled look to match the “Metro” design used for Windows 8 on mobile and desktop.
Much like Metro, everybody left So.cl after trying it at a lark, perhaps because it was never really clear what it was for. It ended up mostly being a site to share and discuss random stuff you found on the internet, something you can already do on Facebook. Unlike Facebook, though, it lacked basic features including the ability to simply upload a photo.
Also now that Microsoft also has Linkedin in it’s arsenal, it makes even lesser sense for So.cl to continue to exist.
Anyway, after living a lacklustre existence for almost five years, So.Cl is exiting the arena. In a brief research blog, it informed the users that the site will be shut down on March 15.
“Socl has been a wonderful outlet for creative expression, as well as a place to enjoy a supportive community of like-minded people, sharing and learning together. In supporting you, Socl’s unique community of creators, we have learned invaluable lessons in what it takes to establish and maintain community as well as introduce novel new ways to make, share and collect digital stuff we love”.
Ten years later, when Facebook would be an even bigger giant than it is now, this would be stuff of technological anecdotes. How the world attempted to slow down Facebook by putting competition, and how Facebook decimated them.
So long So.Cl. You were never meant to end with a bang, it was always going to be a whimper.
Lenovo Backtracks 'Moto By Lenovo' Branding, Puts Smartwatches On Hold
It was just last year that Lenovo had announced that it planned to completely re-brand the ‘Moto’ line of devices that they’d acquired a couple years ago from Google, to ‘Moto by Lenovo’, completely dissolving Motorola name.
But with a change in leadership at Lenovo, there is word that the company might be planning to backtrack this branding strategy and let Moto remain pinned with Motorola, and retaining the “bat wing” M logo that has become the face of Moto over the years.
Additionally, word is that Lenovo might also be putting the smartwatches line (subsequent to the second-gen Moto 360) on hold for a while.
In a more surprising (but imminently intelligent) move, the Chinese smartphone manufacturer is also said to be contemplating a switch of all of its subsidiary brands to Moto’s branding. This would also include the sub-brands like Zuk. The switchover, however, is expected to be gradual.
This news comes in the back of other market decisions the company is making under the new leadership. This also includes plans of doubling down on Moto Mods, as well as bringing the Moto Z to more carriers in the US.
Coming back to rumour of Lenovo’s decision to halt any smartwatches for the time being, this ‘decision’ is said to be based on the fact that they did not sell enough smartwatches to justify the existence of the business, and in the highly dynamic smartwatch market, it indeed is hard to survive.
“I don’t want to be in the business doing a product for the sake of doing a product because we need to do a follow-up”, said Motorola Chairman and President, Aymar de Lencquesaing.
But one must be clear that this halt on smartwatches is only towards bringing out new smartwatches to the market. The company will continue to work on the device, with the hope of coming up with something that could be brought to the market at some time in the future.
Lenovo seems to be acting on the instinct to tap into the legacy of the Motorola brand, for starters. Motorola was one of the pioneers of smartphones in the last decade, and their flip phones are an image that most of us can not get out of our heads. Then things went downhill thanks to some poor decisions. Subsequently bought by Google for primarily its patents, Motorola sold off to Lenovo in 2014.
With this decision, the brand might again gain some stability, which it well deserves after having given the market the famed Moto G series of mid-range smartphones that have been rocking the market for many years.
Welcome back, Motorola!
The much beloved Nokia recently rose like a phoenix with a slew of Android phones, some of which have been announced, and some of which are still under wraps.
These phones, while not top-drawer devices, still caught the fancy of millions of fans the world over. Built on Android (given that Windows Mobile is a dying platform), these smartphones are from the budget-range of the smartphone spectrum – but built solidly, priced well, and enabled with decent processing capabilities, they may just reestablish Nokia.
The news comes from HMD Global’s India VP Ajey Mehta, who has reportedly said that the smartphones will be manufactured through Foxconn in India.
One could see this as a smart move to get the complete tax benefits in a country that already has quite a big audience for the said phones.
The phones are expected to be in the market by June, and if they are manufactured within the country then the company can avail the tax benefits for the same, and gain itself more return on each buck. “By June, these products will be launched globally and India will serve as a key market for us again. Our attempt is to source 100 per cent from the country because of tax benefits“, said Mehta.
Nokia, the brand, is now run by HMD Global. Constituted by ex-Nokia employees, HMD basically possesses the rights to use the brand name, while being an entirely different company.
Reading some of the assessments post the announcement of this trio from Nokia, one could believe that the trio has not received a very positive feedback from critics. They say that the market has moved on to bigger and better phones, while Nokia is grappling at the basics n all respects – but critics have been wrong before.
There are three facts no one can deny:
So, while Chip-Monks believes there’s a huge market for simpler phones like those that Nokia is trying to remind people of (and it would succeed over time), there is also an undeniable fact that competition in the market is brutal. So, for Nokia’s overly simplified phones to survive, they do, absolutely, need to be priced right and be able to meet the fundamental expectations of the masses.
In such a competitive space then, what might work out well for Nokia, is the nostalgia that is attached to the brand name. HMD has been smart is playing on to that, especially with the announcement that they will be bringing back to the market the quite beloved Nokia 3310.
Now that HMD Global has confirmed that the phones will be manufactured in India, one can be certain that their prices will be proportional to (if not lesser than), those announced for the European markets. One can also be certain that it is not only the brand that will enjoy the benefits of manufacturing in India, but the market as well – seeing how the additional costs of bringing the phone to an international market can be spared.
The devices will be hitting the stores in June this year, and we can be hopeful that Nokia-HMD play this one out intelligently!
Samsung’s Oscars Ads Are Basically A Promise That Its Phones Won't Explode Anymore
Samsung’s Galaxy Note7 debacle and the legal woes that have befallen some of Samsung’s executive management are something that will not be erased from the media’s or the users’ memory for a long time. But, it’s not impossible.
Samsung disappeared into it’s shell a long time after the debacle, with hardly any new releases over the last few months, and even the few that did get released rolled out to the public, did so with nary any fanfare.
Now, Samsung is starting to walk out to the sunshine again. It seems to be doing a lot of small and big things to explain last year’s disaster taking a vow of sorts, to never let that happen again. Clearly, it’s efforts are aimed at re-instilling a sense of faith among its users.
Part of this ‘disaster management’ effort, Samsung spent a lot of money advertising its products at the recent Oscars ceremony. In fact, three commercials were run during the Oscars.
Two 30-second advertisements focus on Samsung’s promise of quality and the fact that its devices undergo rigorous security checks.
The first ad emphasised on the point that quality devices is something that Samsung has a reputation for, and that the company is all set to stake its reputation, promising that forthcoming Samsung devices will not explode in users’ pockets.
“Our phones are extensively tested, retested, and then, tested again,” the first ad claimed. “Innovation is our legacy. Quality is our priority.”
To drive home those words, the commercial sported images of Samsung handsets being exposed to various torture tests. The battery seemed to be a sturdy unit as it was able to tolerate majority of it as the phone was shown being baked in an oven, pierced, dropped and prodded by several contraptions that replicate all sorts of abuse.
The ad sure must have sent home the right message to all the audience present at the Oscars.
The second ad, on the other hand, showcased Samsung’s eight-point battery safety check, which Samsung terms as its harshest safety check ever.
The short commercial though didn’t let out any specific details about the process or the kind of cutting edge technology Samsung has employed, to make all new Galaxy handsets explosion proof.
But the tests indicated in the commercial do speak a lot about Samsung’s priorities in it’s recently revised manufacturing processes.
The sad part of it all is that neither of these two ads include even a minute sneak peak of the much-anticipated Galaxy S8. The ad featuring the eight-point battery test used Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 edge as illustrations, which still sport a Home button unlike the Galaxy S8 which is rumoured to have embedded fingerprint sensor under the screen itself, instead of a physical home button.
Greedy me – I kept scouting for any form of a sneak peek at the upcoming S8!
A third ad was also aired, but it was slightly different – starring filmmaker Casey Neistat, one of the most popular YouTubers ever.
It showed Neistat standing in a tux as he narrates “The Rest Of Us”, clearly an ode to remind us that most YouTubers don’t have fancy professional cameras or big money to cover production costs, yet they manage to create video content just because they want the world to know their ideas.
“We don’t have big awards shows or fancy cameras, but what we do have are our phones“, Neistat says.
Once again, we got a lot of shots of devices like Samsung Galaxy S7 edge and the Gear 360, but still no Galaxy S8
The aim here seemed to be to strike a chord with the youth who thrive on neo-platforms especially social-media based ones, to present their creative content.
Neistat had played a major role in Samsung’s Oscars presence last year as he walked the red carpet with a prototype of the Gear 360 to demonstrate Samsung’s handheld VR camera to the world.
“Casey has been a partner of ours for some time“, said Samsung CMO Marc Mathieu in an email. Further, “he exemplifies our brand belief, which is ‘Do What You Can’t’. Today, empowered by technology and a can-do attitude, you can accomplish anything“, said Mathieu.
Samsung has lost a lot of goodwill (which is an even bigger hit than it’s USD 5.3 billion bleed) due to the Note7’s explosive demeanour – not many phones (or any other such consumer-level devices) have been banned on airlines, nor can I recall another incident of this magnitude that caused the eventual scrapping of a product altogether.
Samsung is recovering from a big hit to the solar plexus, and it’s recovery efforts seem will keep pecking at the subliminal message that Samsung devices can be trusted.
Mathieu says it best – “[There will also] be a focus on regaining consumers’ trust, reinforcing the role of our technology in their lives and successfully launching our next flagship devices, all anchored in placing the human—not just the product—first“.
Samsung will also place an increased impetus on customer care to “reinforce its emotional investment and commitment to consumers“.
“We are targeting this generation of doers, people who go out and make things happen“, Mathieu said. “Our goal is to ultimately empower consumers to realize their ambitions. If the phone in your pocket can do anything, so can you“.
Perhaps it is time to let Samsung out of the dog-house. Everybody makes mistakes, don’t they?