Senators propose smartphone antitheft ‘kill switch’ bill

On the heels of proposed California legislation, federal lawmakers also get on board with a bill requiring security features on all cell phones.

 

 

If the proposed bill passes, this Galaxy Note 3 would need to come with a kill switch.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Lawmakers’ bids to require a smartphone “kill switch” seem to be gaining momentum.

Following the proposal of a California bill, a handful of senators have now proposed federal legislation to require carriers to provide a security feature on all cell phones that would render the devices inoperable if stolen.

The Smartphone Theft Prevention Act is being led by Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), along with three other senators, Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). The idea is for users to be able to de-activate and remotely wipe their personal information from their phones if lost or stolen. This kill switch would be free to users.

“Cell phone theft has become a big business for thieves looking to cash in on these devices and any valuable information they contain, costing consumers more than $30 billion every year and endangering countless theft victims,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “This legislation will help eliminate the incentives for criminals to target smartphones by empowering victims to take steps to keep their information private; protect their identity and finances; and render the phone inoperable to the thieves.”

Nearly one in three robberies in the US involves cell phone theft, according to the Federal Communications Commission. And major cities have it even worse. In both New York City and San Francisco, more than 50 percent of the robberies involve the theft of a smartphone — what’s referred to as “Apple Picking.” In Oakland, an estimated 75 percent of street robberies involve a cell phone.

California’s kill switch bill was introduced last week – the point of this bill is to ensure the security feature is preloaded on all phones. Both the California and federal proposals build on the Secure Our Smartphones initiative founded by New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón.

While lawmakers are working to get kill switches installed on smartphones, they’ve met resistance from carriers and the cellular industry trade group CTIA. The CTIA says kill switches carry too many risks in regard to hacking and privacy. Instead, the group says, criminalizing smartphone tampering and creating a national database of stolen cell phones should be sufficient in deterring smartphone robberies.

“Rather than impose technology mandates, a better approach would be to enact Senator Schumer’s legislation to criminalize tampering with mobile device identifiers,” CTIA Vice President of Government Affairs Jot Carpenter said in a statement, according to Re/code. “This would build on the industry’s efforts to create the stolen device databases; give law enforcement another tool to combat criminal behavior; and leave carriers, manufacturers, and software developers free to create new, innovative loss and theft prevention tools for consumers who want them.”

 

Despite CTIA’s suggestions, lawmakers and other officials still believe the best way to cut down on smartphone theft is the kill switch.

“In major cities across the Nation, cell phone theft has rapidly become the most common robbery and most frequent street crime,” Commissioner Chuck Ramsey, president of the Major Cities Chiefs, said. “So long as these devices are still operable, this crime trend will continue to escalate. That’s why the proposed kill switch is the only way to get the job done. We look forward to the swift passage of legislation that will ensure stolen devices no longer have any value to criminals on the street.”

full story: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57618891-94/senators-propose-smartphone-antitheft-kill-switch-bill/

Mozilla reveals an adaptive Android home screen built around Firefox

BY JON FINGAS

Firefox Launcher for Android

We hope you haven’t had your fill of adaptive Android home screens, because Mozilla is throwing its hat into the increasingly crowded ring. The company has just offered a sneak peek at Firefox Launcher for Android, a front end that revolves around its mobile browser. The upcoming software mates Firefox withEverythingMe’s context-sensitive app search, personalizing both your web surfing and your software in one shot. Unfortunately, you’ll have to wait a while to know exactly how this combination works; Mozilla doesn’t plan to reveal more details about Firefox Launcher until it’s ready to start beta testing at an unspecified point in the future.

SOURCE: Mozilla

full story: http://www.engadget.com/2014/02/06/firefox-launcher-for-android/

Moment’s Mobile Camera Lenses Make The Smartphone The New Interchangeable Lens System

by  (@drizzled)

A few people have come up with add-on lens solutions for the iPhone and other smartphones, and now the Moment Kickstarter project wants to take that concept further with a bayonet-mounted lens system that focus on optical quality above all else.

“We need Moment to capture better pictures with our phones. Despite their convenience, phones lack the creativity that high quality lenses can provide,” explained co-founder Marc Barros. “With Moment we put the finest of photography back in your product with beautiful lenses that capture the best images on the market.”

Barros acknowledges that there were many other options on the market already, but says that the founding team was frustrated by the “clunky design and poor image quality” of those existing solutions. Moment is compact, and provides either a case or a small adhesive attachment to provide the thin bayonet mount needed to attach its lenses to your case. The lenses themselves will come in two varieties at launch: a wide-angle and a telephoto zoom that captures pics at twice the magnification of your smartphone’s standard camera.

Backers can choose between the two at the $49 backer level, or pick up both starting at $99. The team hopes to ship the device by June, 2014 if all goes according to plan. And things should go fairly smoothly, given the founding team’s pedigree: Barros previously founded Contour cameras, which manufacturers the wearable action cam and GoPro competitor that’s sold in retail and online around the world.

Moment isn’t just coming out of nowhere, either: Barros and his team, which also includes top-flight optical engineers Michael Thomas and Russ Hudyma; as well as Richard Tait, co-founder of the board game Cranium; and Contour Chief Product Designer Erik Hedberg, have been working on the project for the past five months ahead of launching this campaign.

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Of course, once the system is in people’s hands, there’s plenty of opportunity for expanding the line of lenses further. Smartphones may never be able to fully replace complicated and expensive DSLR rigs, but if Moment is successful in building a lasting company out of the idea of interchangeable lenses for the cameras we have in our pocket, they could replace pretty much everything else.

full story: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/24/moments-mobile-camera-lenses-make-the-smartphone-the-new-interchangeable-lens-system/

Korean report: LG G3 to launch in May, to pack a QHD display?

by 

LG Brand Closeup  AA 2014

According to sources in the Korean media, the flagship LG G3 smartphone will be released sooner than you may have expect- pencil May 17th into your diary LG fans.

The latest news from Korea also reveals a new important detail about the LG G3, the inclusion of a QHD display. QHD is a massive resolution of 1440×2560, that’s four times as many pixels as a 720p display, matching something you might find in a large PC monitor. It seems like overkill for a device that’s speculated to be sized at 5.5 inches, especially when you compare it with the fantastic 1080p screen in the 5.2 inch LG G2. Even so, a QHD G3 seems quite likely, the LG G Pro 2 is also expected to be heading our way a little sooner, possibly as early as February, with an equally high display resolution.

Interestingly, a May release shortens the refresh cycle for LG’s flagship smartphones, the G2 was only released in September of last year. This is probably an attempt to avoid being caught in the dust trail of Samsung’s upcoming Galaxy S5, which is also rumoured to be sporting a QHD display and could be heading our way anytime around April or May.

We should be able to confirm, or deny, these details during February’s MWC, where LG is expected to officially announce the G3 alongside some new wearable technology.

full story: http://www.androidauthority.com/lg-g3-qhd-display-336512/

HTC Said To Be Planning Larger Screen Version Of HTC One Flagship Smartphone For March

by  (@drizzled)

HTC is said to be readying the next generation of the HTC One, which will keep the same simple moniker but offer up a larger display and a camera with a so-called “twin-sensor” rear-facing camera, according to Bloomberg (via Verge). The screen will be at least 5-inches diagonally, which is slightly larger than the existing 4.7-inch HTC One, but overall the design will resemble that of its predecessor.

I’m feeling conflicted about this new device: On the one hand, the HTC One is easily one of the top three best Android phones of 2013; on the other, it’s clear that the HTC One didn’t do much to turn around HTC’s flagging fortunes, despite the extremely positive reception it had among press and the few people who did buy one.

Still, maybe a year of positive press and hype associated with the HTC One name will help the Taiwanese company move more units this time around, paired with a bigger screen (which seems to be high on customer want lists) as well as this improved camera, which is said to offer better focus performance, improved depth of field and better image quality overall, according to Bloomberg’s source.

As sad is it to say, HTC doesn’t need another smartphone that appeals to the connoisseur crowd: It needs a runaway mass-market success. They did great work with the HTC One, but sticking close to the original design in this case does mean they run the risk of shipping another beloved but mostly ignored device.

full story: http://techcrunch.com/2014/01/17/htc-said-to-be-planning-larger-screen-version-htc-one-flagship-smartphone-for-march/

Facebook Backdoor Gives Clues To Private Email Addresses

by Adam Tanner, Contributor

If you forget your Facebook profile name, you can enter your name, email or phone number into a page called Find Your Account to find your Facebook profile and some alternative email addresses, which are partially obscured such as j*******s@yahoo.com.

The same technique works if you type in other people’s details. Then Facebook can act as a Caller ID and produce a photo, name or clues about a private email. That could help if someone telephones but does not leave a message, or if you want to find a private email address from a company email.

As a test I looked up Gary King, one of two dozen who hold Harvard’s prestigious title of University Professor. His email address is listed on his public webpage. A search of Find Your Account leads to his Facebook profile photo and revealing clues to his alternative email addresses.

I repeated the process for several other people. It did not find everyone– perhaps the telephone numbers or email addresses were not linked with Facebook — but in many cases it did, including for a well-known private detective in Las Vegas whose photo I was able to see.

“This is an interesting case where a feature aimed at giving users a better service actually exposes their private data,” said Michael Bar-Sinai, a software engineer at Harvard’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science where King serves as director.

He pointed out his privacy settings allowed only friends of friends – not everyone – to look him up with his email address or his phone number. Yet a search finds his photo, name and partial email addresses.

In many cases, “Find Your Address” would not reveal any startling information. However, often a little bit of personal information here and there allows outsiders to gain a far 

facebook2

more intimate portrait of us than we imagine. One chapter in my upcoming book tries to find a woman whose thumbnail-size image is posted on a Yelppage. Tiny clues in obscure places help reveal her double life on the steamier side of the Internet.

Asked about the information shown by Find Your Account, a Facebook spokesman who did not want to be named said: “Certain information on Facebook—such as your name, profile photo, and networks (if you choose to add any)—is treated as public because it plays a crucial role in helping your friends and family connect with you. In this case, showing a profile photo helps people avoid accidentally initiating a password reset for the wrong account.”

This page describes what Facebook considers public information. Users can adjust their privacy settings with details given here to mask the name and photo from being visible in the password recovery process.

“If you use the password recovery feature to search for someone who has modified these settings such that you can’t look them up using this information, you will see only ‘Facebook User’ and will not be able to view their name, profile photo, or networks,” the spokesman said.

Still, the partial email address remains visible. So using his phone number, I looked up the spokesman via Find Your Account. His name and photo were not given, but I could easily guess what his private Gmail address is from the partially masked information. It showed the first letter of his first name, stars, and the last letter of his uncommon surname followed by @gmail.com.

“We show obscured email addresses in the password reset flow because our experience with helping many people recover their accounts over the years suggests that this information is important for helping people find the account recovery message we send,” he said. “Many people have multiple email addresses and don’t always remember which one is registered with Facebook.”

In the case of Professor King, his photo is available elsewhere and he posts his university email on his web page. His private email addresses – for which Facebook provided some clues — would be harder to locate. But he is relaxed about this information being visible.

King cited outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer as someone who has made his email address public and referred to that fact in interviews. Ballmer “said he does the same and has no problems.  I get a lot of email, but just like he said, people tend to be respectful,” King said. “I sign out of every automated mailing, which cuts things down some.”

full story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/adamtanner/2014/01/17/facebook-backdoor-gives-clues-to-private-email-addresses/

LG’s curved smartphone is coming to Sprint January 31st for $299.99

By Aaron Souppouris

LG G Flex 1024px

LG’s curved smartphone, the G Flex, is launching on Sprint this January 31st for $299.99. Earlier this month, the Korean company announced that the phone, which can be bent and flexed, would be coming to AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile “this winter,” and Sprint is the first of the carriers to announce a release date.

The phone received middling reviews; while its 6-inch flexible display is undoubtably impressive, LG’s custom software presents very few reasons for its curvature. Nonetheless, it’s a good performer and has excellent battery life, so if you’re interested in the G Flex, you can register for pre-order now.

full story: http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/17/5318470/lg-g-flex-sprint-release-date-price

SOURCE SPRINT (BUSINESSWIRE)

Apple and Samsung make up two-thirds of the U.S. smartphone market

Apple and Samsung make up two-thirds of the U.S. smartphone market

Shutterstock

Motorola, LG, and HTC are getting left in the dust, according to new data from research outfit NDP Group.

According to a study, Apple and Samsung account for a huge 68 percent of the smartphone market in the United States — and that’s a trend that’s only being magnified as time goes by.

You want a chart? We got a chart:

SmartphoneOEMShareOwnership1-16-14

As you can see above, wins for Apple and Samsung add up to losses for exactly everyone else.

iPhones alone captured 42 percent of the market, up from 35 percent in 2012. Samsung bumped up 4 percent year over year from 22 percent to 26 percent.

In terms of OS market share around the globe, however, Android is still the clear winner, capturing a whopping 81 percent.

HTC saw the biggest losses in terms of market share, and the all-time loser of 2013 was — drum roll — BlackBerry.

The report also shows a correlating spike in data usage from 5.5 GB to 6.6 GB per person a month between 2012 and 2013.

Also, more smartphones and more data usage mean one more big increase: streaming media. For streaming music alone, the percentage of people who stream media on their smartphones rose from 41 percent at the end of 2012 to 52 percent at the end of 2013.

“It’s not surprising that hardware manufacturers such as Beats are leveraging partnerships with carriers like AT&T to break into the streaming music market,” said John Buffone, an executive director, industry analyst, for connected intelligence, in a statement on the results.

“This allows AT&T to offer subscribers more of what they want in the way of innovative music apps and provides Beats a partner capable of driving trial in a market where consumers already have an affinity for the music services they use.”

full story: http://venturebeat.com/2014/01/16/apple-and-samsung-make-up-23-of-the-u-s-smartphone-market/

Moment lenses are the latest attempt to make your smartphone’s camera better

By Dan Seifert

Moment lens for smartphones

Smartphone have essentially changed photography as we know it. The always-with-us devices have enabled more people to take more photos than ever before. The top four most popular cameras on Flickr bear this out: they are all iPhones. But as popular as smartphones are for taking pictures, they are saddled with a variety of limitations, including fixed focal length lenses. Subsequently, an entire industry of accessory lenses has cropped up, all of which aim to expand upon or improve your smartphone’s camera.

Moment is the latest company to attempt this feat, and its wide-angle and telephoto lenses are designed to complement an iPhone’s, iPad’s, or Samsung Galaxy’s built-in camera lens. Launching on Kickstarter today, the company has the backing of Marc Barros, formerly of Contour Camera, a company that produced GoPro-like action cameras.

 

The wide-angle Moment lens offers an 18mm field of view, while the telephoto version provides a 70mm field of view (an iPhone’s typical field of view is about 32mm). Both are constructed of machined metal and glass, as opposed to plastic, and are designed to feel like the premium lenses you might use with a high-end still camera. Moment promises that the lenses are made to exacting standards that minimize distortion and chromatic aberration.

Moment_platforms3

To get the lenses attached to your phone, Moment is providing mounts compatible with the Apple iPhone 4S, iPhone 5, iPhone 5S, iPhone 5C, iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4, and Samsung Galaxy S2, Galaxy S3, and Galaxy S4. The mount is a thin metal plate, which lets you screw the lens onto the back of the phone, much like you would mount a lens onto a DSLR. Moment says that the mount works with or without a case, and emphasizes that the lenses are fast to attach and easy to use.

Moment isn’t the only third-party lens you can get for your smartphone — Olloclip has been making similar accessories for years. But the company hopes that its emphasis on build quality and image quality will enable it to win over some of the more dedicated smartphone shooters. Interested buyers can back the project on Kickstarter starting today, with shipments expected to begin in May or June of this year. The company is looking to raise $50,000 to support its efforts, and backers that pledge $49 or more will receive either a wide-angle or telephoto lens, while a $99 pledge earns both versions.

SOURCE MOMENT
full story: http://www.theverge.com/2014/1/14/5305940/moment-lenses-smartphone-camera-iphone-galaxy-kickstarter

LG G2 next to join the gold smartphone craze — report

A product listing on ePrice shows a gold G2 for sale, following similar options from Apple, Samsung, and HTC.

 

 

Picture this in gold.
(Credit: Sarah Tew/CNET)

Yet another company is offering a gold-colored smartphone, according to a sales listing on e-commerce site ePrice.

The online-shopping site on Tuesday published images of a gold-colored LG G2. According to Android Headlines, which was first to discover the listing, ePrice is selling a 16GB model for approximately $500, while the 32GB version goes for about $560.

LG hasn’t announced plans for a gold-colored G2, but that the company has apparently made that move isn’t all that surprising. After Apple showed off its champagne-colored iPhone 5S last year, several other companies joined the fray, including HTC and Samsung.

CNET has contacted LG for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.

full story: http://news.cnet.com/8301-1035_3-57617193-94/lg-g2-next-to-join-the-gold-smartphone-craze-report/