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schwit1 sends this report from the Washington Post: Cellphones didn't just arrive in Pakistan. But someone could be fooled into thinking otherwise, considering the tens of millions of Pakistanis pouring into mobile phone stores these days. In one of the world's largest — and fastest — efforts to collect biometric information, Pakistan has ordered cellphone users to verify their identities through fingerprints for a national database being compiled to curb terrorism. If they don't, their service will be shut off, an unthinkable option for many after a dozen years of explosive growth in cellphone usage here.
Prompted by concerns about a proliferation of illegal and untraceable SIM cards, the directive is the most visible step so far in Pakistan's efforts to restore law and order after Taliban militants killed 150 students and teachers at a school in December. Officials said the six terrorists who stormed the school in Peshawar were using cellphones registered to one woman who had no obvious connection to the attackers.
132 comments | 2 days ago
An anonymous reader writes The phenomenon of 'distracted walking' — pedestrians who walk while using smartphones — has raised civic attention in the last few years, with Utah issuing fines and cities in China creating dedicated 'smartphone lanes' for walkers who need to keep up with Whatsapp on the move. This article argues that smartphone users have become so accustomed to other people getting out of their way that they will no longer negotiate for sidewalk space even when not using their phones.
288 comments | 4 days ago
9to5 Mac reports that In an effort to eliminate bugs from upcoming iOS versions ahead of their general releases, Apple plans to launch the first-ever public beta program for the iOS operating system, according to multiple people briefed on the plans. Following the successful launch of the OS X Public Beta program with OS X Yosemite last year, Apple intends to release the upcoming iOS 8.3 as a public beta via the company’s existing AppleSeed program in mid-March, according to the sources. The article goes on to say Like the early iOS 8 developers builds, the public betas will include a dedicated app that allows users to report bugs to Apple. The main goal of the iOS beta program will be a more reliable and widely tested operating system by the time of the wider consumer launch, as Apple has come under fire for lack of quality control in iOS 8. Launching public beta versions of iOS will also reduce the demand for unauthorized sales of beta downloads from developer accounts, which enabled some consumers to test-drive future iOS features.
54 comments | 5 days ago
HughPickens.com writes Brian Chen writes in the NYT that two companies, Republic Wireless and FreedomPop, that reduce cellphone costs by relying on strategically placed Wi-Fi routers are at the forefront of a tantalizing communications concept that has proved hard to produce on a big scale, The concept championed by the two little companies in their nationwide services is surprisingly simple. They offer services that rely primarily on Wi-Fi networks, and in areas without Wi-Fi, customers can pull a signal from regular cell towers. "Wi-Fi first is a massive disrupter to the current cost structure of the industry," says Stephen Stokols. "That's going to be a big shock to the carriers." For $5 a month, customers of Republic Wireless can make calls or connect to the Internet solely over Wi-Fi. For $10 a month, they can use both Wi-Fi and a cellular connection from Sprint in Republic's most popular option. Republic Wireless's parent company, Bandwidth.com, a telecommunications provider with about 400 employees, developed a technique to move calls seamlessly between different Wi-Fi networks and cell towers. "You can't pretend these companies are major players by any stretch. But I think their real importance is proof of concept," says Craig Moffett. "They demonstrate just how disruptive a Wi-Fi-first operator can be, and just how much cost they can take out."
In major cities, the Wi-Fi-first network makes sense. People use smartphones frequently while sitting around their offices and apartments, and Wi-Fi can handle the job just fine. But once people start moving around, it is not so simple. The benefit of a cell service is that your phone can switch among multiple towers while you are on the go which wi-fi is not designed to handle. Google may be experimenting with a hybrid approach similar to the small companies'. A person briefed on Google's plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the conversations were private, says the company wants to make use of the fiber network it has installed in various cities to create an enormous network of Wi-Fi connections that phones could use to place calls and use apps over the Internet. In areas out of reach, Google's network would switch over to cell towers leased by T-Mobile USA and Sprint. Still many wonder if even the biggest companies could make a Wi-Fi-based phone network work. "There are just so many places where Wi-Fi doesn't reach," says Jan Dawson "and the quality of Wi-Fi that you can find is often subpar."
73 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: SamMobile is reporting that the next major revision of Samsung's Galaxy S line of phones is going to have some major changes. According to insider sources, Samsung has gotten rid of many of their pre-loaded apps, making them optional downloads. What's interesting is that they're replacing these apps with software from Microsoft — apps like Skype, Office Mobile, and OneDrive. "With Windows Phone failing to make a dent on the smartphone market, Microsoft has recently shifted focus to its software services, and having them pre-installed on one of the bestselling Android smartphone lineups might just give the Redmond giant the exposure it needs to court consumers into switching from Google's massively more popular services that come preloaded on all Android devices."
148 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: The Iowa Department of Motor Vehicles is busily developing software that will allow users to store the information from their driver's license on their smartphone. It would also add features like a simple barcode to scan for information transfer, and two-factor authentication to access it. "At first thought, the idea seems rife with potential security and privacy issues. It is well known at this point that nothing is unhackable; and if a project is made on a government contracting schedule, the likelihood of a breach is only greater. ... Questions of security, however, must take into account context – and there, it can be argued that our current regimes of physical documents have been an enormous failure. Having every state choose their own approach for issuing IDs has led to patchwork regulations and glaring weak points in the system that criminals have repeatedly taken advantage of. Driver's licenses today are regularly forged, stolen, and compromised – it’s far from a secure situation."
232 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft has launched Windows 10 preview for phones. To get started, you'll need to download the Windows Insider app from the Windows Phone Store. Microsoft has already released multiple new Windows 10 preview builds, but those were limited to just PCs. The new preview for smartphones comes with a slew of new features. Until now, the Windows Insider app only worked for Microsoft employees. Now, users who are part of the Insider program can install the first Windows 10 preview build, as long as they have one of the six compatible devices. The Windows 10 preview works on the Lumia 630, Lumia 635, Lumia 636, Lumia 638, Lumia 730, and Lumia 830.
85 comments | about two weeks ago
jfruh writes While dedicated fitness trackers that you wear around your wrist have any number of functions, many people are focused on a single metric: counting steps, which serves as a proxy for determining how active you are. But a recent study from the University of Pennsylvania showed that if that's mainly what you want out of a fitness tracker, then you almost certainly have a device in your pocket that can do the same thing as well if not better: your smartphone.
128 comments | about two weeks ago
First time accepted submitter Zotonian writes My wife is epileptic. Her seizures have been well controlled by medication until recently. My concern is that we have a toddler and infant at home. I've set up cameras so I can monitor the house, but I'm looking for a solution that my 2 year old daughter can hit a button to tell me to look at them if necessary. Most of the options I'm finding off the shelf notify first responders and I'm concerned of the number of false positives a toddler might initiate. Other solutions like cellphones or wearables for kids are too overloaded with unnecessary options like GPS, phone, games, etc. I'd rather have a simple 'push button' solution I can wire into my router that would send me a text or chat message that alerts me to check the cameras. Then if there is an actually emergency I can take the steps from there. I'm looking for cheap and simple. Any suggestions from the Slashdot community?
327 comments | about two weeks ago
alphadogg writes "Thefts involving smartphones have declined dramatically in three major cities since manufacturers began implementing 'kill switches' that allow the phones to be turned off remotely if they are stolen, authorities said on Tuesday. The number of stolen iPhones dropped by 40 percent in San Francisco and 25 percent in New York in the 12 months after Apple added a kill switch to its devices in September 2013. In London, smartphone theft dropped by half, according to an announcement by officials in the three cities.
190 comments | about two weeks ago
Ever since the public became aware that law enforcement is making use of StingRay devices — hardware that imitates a cellular tower so that nearby mobile
devices connect to it — transparency advocates have been filing Freedom of Information Act requests to see just how these devices are being used. But these
advocates have now found that such requests relating to local police are being shunted to the FBI, who then acts to prevent disclosure.
ACLU lawyer Nathan Wessler says, "What is most egregious about this is that, in order for local police to use and purchase stingrays, they have to get approval from the FBI, then the FBI knows that dozens of police departments are using them around the country. And yet when members of the press or the public seek basic information about how people in local communities are being surveilled, the FBI invokes these very serious national security concerns to try to keep that information private."
85 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader was one of many to note that Alibaba has bought a $590 million minority stake in Chinese smartphone manufacturer Meizu. "China's Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is taking a $590 million stake in an obscure domestic smartphone maker as the e-commerce giant tests ways to expand its mobile operating system in a shrinking, cut-throat handset market. Extending a previously muted push into hardware, Alibaba said on Monday it will buy an unspecified minority stake in smartphone maker Meizu Technology Co. Dwarfed by rivals like Xiaomi Inc, privately owned Meizu's slice of China's smartphone market is estimated by analysts at below 2 percent. The deal, unlike U.S. rival Amazon.com Inc's foray into smartphones with its own-brand Fire Phone, is designed to help Alibaba push its mobile operating system within China through Meizu's handsets. In return, Zhuhai, Guangdong-based Meizu will get access to Alibaba's e-commerce sales channels and other resources, the companies said in a joint statement."
50 comments | about two weeks ago
Iddo Genuth writes 2013 was the worst year for the photography industry in decades — but what happened in 2014 and will the upcoming blitz of cameras (including the super resolution Canon 5D S with 50MP sensor to be announced tomorrow) change everything in 2015? The official numbers published by CIPA (the Camera & Imaging Products Association) are out and they tell a story of a struggling photography industry trying to stay afloat in a sea of smartphones. Will it survive? This is the big question all of the photography manufacturers are facing over the past two years, and eventually what does it all mean for us as consumers? One thing that tiny phones lack, no matter their megapixel count, is the space for heavy glass or large sensors, which seems to leave a lot of room in the market even for small(ish) but dedicated cameras.
422 comments | about three weeks ago
MojoKid writes ARM's Cortex-A57 is just now starting to break stride with design wins and full-ramp production in new mobile products. However, ARM is releasing a wealth of information on its successor: the Cortex-A72. ARM is targeting a core clock of 2.5GHz for the Cortex-A72 and it will be built using a 14nm/16nm FinFET+ process. Using the Cortex-A15 (NVIDIA Tegra 4, Tegra K1) as a baseline, ARM says that the Cortex-A57 (Qualcomm Snapdragon 810, Samsung Exynos 5433) offers 1.9x the performance. Stepping up to the Cortex-A72, which will begin shipping in next year's flagship smartphones, offers 3.5x the baseline performance of the Cortex-A15. These performance increases are being made within the same power envelope across all three architectures. So in turn, the Cortex-A72 can perform the same workload as the Cortex-A15 while consuming 75 percent less power. Much like the Snapdragon 810, which uses a big.LITTLE configuration (four low-power Cortex-A53 cores paired with four high performance Cortex-A57 cores), future SoCs using the Cortex-A72 will also be capable of big.LITTLE pairings with the Cortex-A53. ARM has also announced its new Mali-T880 GPU, which offers 1.8x the performance of the current generation Mali-T760. Under identical workloads, the Mali-T880 offers a 40 percent reduction in power consumption compared to its predecessor. ARM again also points to optimizations in the Mali-T880 to efficiently support 4K video playback.
85 comments | about three weeks ago
alphadogg writes: A deadly air crash that killed a pilot and passenger in Colorado last year was likely due to a loss of spatial awareness brought on in part by taking of selfies while in flight, the National Transportation Safety Board has concluded. An examination of the aircraft revealed no apparent problems that would have caused the accident so, based on the previous patterns of behavior, the NTSB concluded that "it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control."
113 comments | about three weeks ago
dkatana writes: Samsung will introduce the Galaxy S6 on Sunday, March 1st, at the Barcelona Forum, one day before the Mobile World Congress officially starts. Serious rumors from different sources indicate that the Korean giant will also introduce its version of a global mobile payment system, which will likely have the moniker "Samsung Pay." Samsung can't afford to give away its position in the smartphone market, and a payments system tailored to customers is a key factor.
82 comments | about three weeks ago
mask.of.sanity sends this report from El Reg: The maker of BlackPhone – a mobile marketed as offering unusually high levels of security – has patched a critical vulnerability that allows hackers to run malicious code on the handsets. Attackers need little more than a phone number to send a message that can compromise the devices via the Silent Text application.
The impact of the flaw is troubling because BlackPhone attracts what hackers see as high-value victims: those willing to invest AU$765 (£415, $630) in a phone that claims to put security above form and features may well have valuable calls and texts to hide from eavesdroppers.
46 comments | about a month ago
itwbennett writes The promise of modular smartphones like Google's Project Ara is that buyers will be able to upgrade components at will — and now Finnish company Circular Devices has come up with a use for discarded computing modules, which they're calling Puzzlecluster. Drawings of the Puzzlecluster architecture show a chassis with slots for the reused modules, which can then be interconnected with others to create the cluster. Just one unit could also be used as a desktop computer."
82 comments | about 1 month ago
MojoKid writes If you're running Android 4.3 or earlier, you're pretty much out of luck when it comes to a baked-in defense against a WebView vulnerability that was discovered earlier this month by security analyst Tod Beardsley. The vulnerability leaves millions of users open to attack from hackers that choose to exploit the security hole. WebView is a core component of the Android operating system that renders web pages. The good news is that the version of WebView included in Android 4.4 KitKat and Android 5.0 Lollipop is based on Chromium and is not affected by the vulnerability. The bad news is that those running Android 4.3 and earlier are wide open, which means that 60 percent of Android users (or nearly one billion customers) are affected. What's most interesting is that Google has no trouble tossing grenades at the feet of Microsoft and Apple courtesy of its Project Zero program, but doesn't seem to have the resources to fix a vulnerability that affects a substantial portion of the Android user base.
579 comments | about 1 month ago
The New York Times reports that Cablevision Systems plans to announce on Monday the start of a low-cost mobile phone service that will use Wi-Fi for connectivity rather than standard cellular networks, the first such service to be introduced by a cable operator. Called Freewheel, the service will offer unlimited data, talking and texting worldwide for $29.95 a month, or $9.95 a month for Cablevision’s Optimum Online customers — a steep discount compared with standard offerings from traditional cellular carriers. Freewheel customers initially must use a specific Motorola Moto G smartphone, which is being sold for $99.95. The service goes on sale next month, and no annual contract is required. (Reuters carries a similar story.)
43 comments | about 1 month ago