Huawei CarFi: Mobile hotspot especially for cars

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The Huawei CarFi being showcased at Mobile World Congress.

Barcelona — If for some reason you’re looking for another gadget to take advantage of your car’s cigarette lighter, Huawei has something for you. The company unveiled at Mobile World Congress today the CarFi, a mobile hotspot made specifically for cars.

Huawei says the CarFi quickly “converts vehicles into Wi-Fi hotspots on wheels for added convenience in daily life.” Clearly, you don’t need to CarFi for this convenience since putting any other mobile hotspot (including the dual-band E5786 4G-LTE mobile hotspot Huawei introduced last year) in a car would have the same result. However, the CarFi itself also works as a standard car charger, allowing you to plug another mobile device to it, and since it’s plugged in, it doesn’t require a battery to work.

According to Huawei, the CarFi is “inspired by the elegant lines of a golf club” and therefore boasts premium materials, including wood and carbon fiber for better durability, which is useful if you often move it between vehicles. Supporting LTE Cat4, it has the top download cellular speeds of up to 150Mbps down and 50Mbps up and can provide Internet to up to 10 Wi-Fi devices at a time. As a charger, it can provide 5V/1A power to a mobile device.

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The mobile hotspot is just about the size of a standard car charger. Sarah Tew/CNET

Feature-wise, the Huawei CarFi automatically turn off when there’s no Wi-Fi device connected to it for a period of time (though it still works as a charger.) It works both with the cigarette lighter and an in-car charger outlet of a vehicle. The device can be turned on or off via a long press on its top power button and can also be controlled remotely via Android and iOS smartphones using the Huawei Hilink mobile app.

The Huawei CarFi is available now in the European market in three colors including black, brown and red. It’s unclear how much it costs or when it will be available in other markets.

By: Sarah Tew

Samsung’s Galaxy S6 hard to build and extremely expensive, report says

Six Appeal

Earlier this week, an image leaked from T-Mobile of the upcoming Galaxy S6 with a curved screen. As shown above, the leaked “Six Appeal” shows a modestly curved screen and a device that looks broadly similar to previous Samsung Galaxy products. A new leak suggests that the Galaxy S6’s edged screen is difficult to manufacture — and that the device will be far more expensive than previous models.

According to Ars Technica, an unnamed contact at a European mobile partner has told them that the Galaxy S6 will launch in both curved and normal variants, with the curved variant carrying a premium. European prices can’t be easily compared to US ones (Ars has the full details on specific pricing), but the entry level prices will reportedly be €749 and €849 for the non-curved and curved products. Compare that to the S5’s launch price of $650, and the gain is significant.

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Samsung is reportedly putting its technical push behind the curved display version of the phone despite having trouble stocking it, and early rumors have suggested that the S6 doesn’t fix most of the design features that Android users tend to dislike about Samsung devices. The new phone is expected to pack Samsung’s 14nm SoC Exynos 7420 as opposed to the 20nm version of that chip that’s already shipping in devices like the Galaxy Note 4.

If these pricing rumors carry over to the US, they could kick a hole in the device’s uptake. It’s a puzzling move for Samsung — the Galaxy S5 might be the company’s premium handset, but it looks and feels like a cheap plastic device. Consumers have been calling for the company to create upmarket versions of its products for years, but the Korean manufacturer has resisted doing so. After the Samsung Galaxy S5 sold 40% fewer units than anticipated, many predicted that company would respond by retooling the S6 to meet more of its customers’ demands. Apparently that hasn’t happened — unless, of course, consumers were secretly demanding higher prices.

With Apple now tying it in terms of total phones shipped and low-cost manufacturers surging in China and India, this is the wrong time to lead with the launch of a luxury platform built around an edged screen gimmick. While we do expect good things from Samsung’s 14nm hardware, the company’s bog-standard Cortex-A57 design will have to offer extraordinary performance to justify such a large premium over other Android handsets or the Apple iPhone 6. That’s to say nothing of the disaster that’ll ensue if the customers opt for a curved version that isn’t widely available.

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Oral-B Toothbrush App Shows Weather and News While You Clean

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We all know we’re supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes or so, but how do you pass that time? Staring yourself in the mirror? Counting the seconds internally? Toothbrush maker Oral-B thinks you can make better use of that two minutes while still getting your teeth nice and clean. The new Pro 7000 SmartSeries electric toothbrush uses Bluetooth to connect with a smartphone app, which shows you the latest news and weather while you brush, making those two minutes fly.

It’s not just for entertainment, though: The app (for iOS and Android) also tracks usage, allowing you to “monitor and chart your brushing performance like never before.” That sounds a bit serious for any but the most diligent of dental caretakers, but it could help you identify how often you forget to brush after lunch or rush the process before going to work. The $220 price puts it firmly in the high-end range of electric brushes, along with its customizable modes and interchangeable heads, but gadget fiends might love the novelty of this ultra-smart hygiene appliance.

Microsoft will soon help you find friends with Windows phones

It’s fairly easy to locate friends and family if you have an Android or iOS device, but finding your pals with a Windows phone? Not so much, unless you come across the right third-party apps. That may not be a big challenge for much longer. Spanish site Microsoft Place has detailed an as yet unreleased service, People Sense, that will let you share and track locations with other Windows phone owners. The basic concept is familiar if you’ve seen Apple’s Find My Friends, but there’s a stronger emphasis on reaching out — you can call or message contacts in-app, and even get directions if you’d like to meet face to face. People Sense is still in private beta testing (it’s listed as “Buddy Aware” at the moment) and has no clear release date, but it won’t be surprising if the software plays a role in Windows 10.

Microsoft Buddy Aware (People Sense)

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YouTube Is Launching A Kid-Friendly Video App

YouTube is launching a new app (initially on Android phones and tablets) that will run only kid-friendly content. YouTube Kids — home run right there — will field age-appropriate videos of cats, Minecraft, Thomas the Tank Engine and other things wholesome/hilarious — the app launches on February 23. The viewer opens up into eight large tiles, and videos are available in four main categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. Curated third-party content will be provided by partners that include Jim Henson TV, DreamWorks TV and Mother Goose Club.

Notably, the new app strips out a lot of the complications of classic YouTube: comments are gone and the interface is tiny finger friendly. “The images are big as are the tap targets for small fingers, and since most younger children can’t type, they can search with voice,” says Shimrit Ben-Yair, the project’s group product manager. Parents can also set a viewing timer: once that runs out the password needs to be reentered before more video can be watched. Or the kid will probably just open the standard YouTube app — they’re tricky like that.

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Infected Android Apps From Google Play Affect Millions

Infected Android Apps From Google Play Affect Millions

Google’s app scanning process may have missed the malware because “they rely mostly on static code analysis and the app in question may have used a ‘time bomb’ method — waiting a period of time before downloading and executing the malware,” said Patrick Murray, vice president of products at Zimperium.

Millions of Android users have been hit by malware posing as games on Google Play, according to Avast security researcher Flip Chytry.

The malware harbors fake ads that pop up when users unlock their devices, to warn them about nonexistent infections, or that their devices are out of date or have porn.

Victims are then asked to take action. If they agree, they are redirected to poisoned Web pages that contain dubious app stores, or apps that try to send premium SMS messages — which are expensive — without their knowledge, or apps that collect scads of personal information on the sly.

Sometimes users were directed to legitimate companies’ websites, or to security apps on Google Play, but even if they install these security apps, the unwanted ads keep on popping up.

“Some of the malware lies quiet for up to 30 days before activating,” Chytry said.

Google spokesperson Elizabeth Markman did not confirm how many devices had been hit.

“Our techniques for protecting Google Play users continue to improve, and are reflected in the low numbers of users who install potential malware from the Google Play Store,” Markman stated.

About the Apps Breaking Bad

The Durak card game app was the most widely downloaded of the malicious apps, Chytry said, adding that Google Play’s statistics showed it had been installed between 5 million and 10 million times.

All the apps mentioned by Avast had been suspended, Markman told TechNewsWorld.

The Durak app had been removed from Google Play when TechNewsWorld checked at 8:43 a.m. PT today, but was available when checked at 12:06 p.m. PT.

Google Protection

“We scan apps as they are uploaded to Google Play, running each app to detect and remove malware, spyware and Trojans from Google Play,” Markman told TechNewsWorld.

That scanning is done by Bouncer, a service Google implemented in 2012.

Google can then disable developer apps and accounts if they violate its terms and content policies.

“Our goal is to provide people with an extra layer of protection while still maintaining Android’s openness and developers’ workflow,” Markman remarked.

What Went Wrong?

Google’s app scanning process may have missed the malware because “they rely mostly on static code analysis and the app in question may have used a ‘time bomb’ method — waiting a period of time before downloading and executing the malware,” Patrick Murray, vice president of products at Zimperium, told TechNewsWorld.

This is a core vulnerability when it comes to apps, Murray pointed out, because all mobile apps must communicate frequently with a server to complete updates, receive instructions and perform other tasks.

Additionally, Google’s scanning services are not adequate because scanning “is only as good as the signature database it has from the service provider,” Andrew Blaich, lead security analyst at Bluebox Labs, said. “It takes several different malware scanning programs to catch all known malware on a device since they all scan for different things.”

Google’s policy of openness is the problem because the resulting business model and architecture “make Android very difficult for them to secure,” Murray said.

Anatomy of a Takedown

In April 2014, Google enhanced its “Verify” apps to continually check devices to make sure all apps are behaving in a safe manner even after they’re installed.

However, this service “only works after an app is identified as bad,” Blaich told TechNewsWorld.

Google’s “Bouncer” service “works more along the lines of risk management,” Blaich remarked. “If enough red flags show up, then an app becomes a candidate for takedown.”

Protecting The Enterprise

Malware downloaded onto BYOD devices “can easily compromise the enterprise network by stealing corporate credentials or simply bringing the compromised device back onto the network,” Zimperium’s Murray warned.

Businesses “need to think about expanding their BYOD initiatives to go beyond simple management of devices, and employ solutions on the device that prevent these types of cyberattacks,” Murray suggested. For example, they could monitor devices continuously so malware “is caught whenever it is delivered, even if it tries to lie and wait for a period of time before detonation.”

By Richard Adhikari

What Is Android TV, and Why Was Google TV Killed?

Long live the king, sneered Android TV as it threw Google TV off the cliff and into a herd of stampeding wildebeests.

Well, not exactly, but Android TV is replacing the now-five-year-old Google TV. And it’s not just an update — it’s a complete remake. Only a tiny fraction of Google TV devices will be updated to Android TV.

For all intents and purposes, Android TV is a new beast. Google is, once again, coming for your living room. So what exactly is this new technology, and how can you get your hands on it?

What Is Android TV?

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It’s an operating system (OS). It’s a version of Android 5.0 Lollipop made just for TVs. But what that means for the average consumer is a much more cohesive relationship between all their smart devices.

This OS will come built-in to some TVs in 2015, and also in the form of set-top boxes to magically transform your normal TV into a smart TV. The set-top box arena is already pretty crowded, with options like the Roku (our review), Apple TV (our review), and Amazon Fire TV (our review) all offering compelling products. Some TVs by Hisense and TCL already ship with Roku TV built-in, just like what Google is trying to get manufacturers to do with Android TV.

As for a set-top box already running Android TV, look no further than the Nexus Player. It has received mostly lukewarm reviews since its release in November 2014, mostly due to a lack of apps and lack of TV pass-through — but as the OS matures and more hardware manufacturers get on board, those problems will surely fade away.

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Android TV, in fact, supports the Google Play Store and the wealth of apps there. The biggest problem is that developers have to design a 10-foot user interface version of their apps if they want them to be usable and enjoyable on the big screen.

The good news is that since Android TV is linked so closely to standard Android 5.0 Lollipop that developers can use the Android SDK to easily develop both for the smartphone/tablet and TV operating systems.

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Assuming that Android TV gets the kinks worked out of it in the coming months, users can expect a few major features.

  1. Voice control. Using a microphone built in to your remote, gaming controller, or smartphone, you can ask Google anything you want and the intelligence behind Google Now will respond well.
  2. Gaming. Google is really working on improving the gaming experience here, so expect a larger push of Android TV-compatible games and controllers.
  3. Screen-mirroring and content sharing. Have a photo or video on your phone that you want on the TV? No big deal.
  4. Consistent interface. Google TV was hounded for its inconsistent, clunky interface, but Android TV is built on Material Design principles and should fit right in with your phone’s OS and all those Material Design-inspired apps.

Want to see some of that in action? Sony has produced some of the cheesiest commercials on this planet, but they also happen to demonstrate Android TV’s features pretty well.

Above, you can see the most awkward family ever using the Voice Search and Google Cast features.

In this video, Sony shows off the gaming aspect of Android TV with what looks to be a group of teenagers forced to sit around and pretend to like each other. Hopefully your gaming experience on Android TV won’t be quite like this — but you get the idea.

Basically, if all turns out as Google says, Android TV should allow your TV to become an extension of your phone or tablet that is integrated into all the same Google services you’re already using.

It looks pretty awesome, but as we said before, it is entering a crowded playing field.

The Smart TV Battleground

Think of Android TV as the OS for TVs in the same way that Android is the OS for phones.

However, in the smartphone realm, tons of hardware manufacturers have adopted Android as their OS without a problem, but the TV market is looking to be much more fragmented than that.

Samsung, a leader in smartphones and TVs, won’t be using Android TV in their newest Smart TVs. Instead, they use a proprietary software developed by Samsung, and they’re calling their products simply Samsung Smart TVs. They’ve actually been in production for a few years now, and they have a few apps available for them like YouTube, Netflix, Pandora, Amazon Instant Video, and Hulu Plus.

Some models even have a camera for Skype video calling. The OS itself is pretty crowded. There are separate screens you can rotate to access, all trying to get you to buy and use Samsung products, which often feels like bloatware — something anyone with a Samsung phone can attest to.

LG, another big name, is using their own webOS software to power their TVs. They’re eloquently calling them Smart TV with webOS. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn’t it? This OS was sold to LG by HP (after they acquired Palm, who originally developed it).

Maybe you remember HP’s failed TouchPad, which ran webOS. This OS look simpler than Samsung’s crowded OS, but without a large app store or the power of Google Now behind it, it’s difficult to say how long it can stick around. Though it’s mascot, BeanBird, is pretty cute, and its design philosophy is simpler and looks more enjoyable than most of its competitors.

Vizio also has their own OS, which they’ve managed to name VIZIO Internet Apps Plus, which they sometimes shorten to VIA Plus. (Seriously, who is naming these companies’ products?)

It has a basic-looking interface, but most importantly, it has apps from Netflix, Amazon Instant Video, Spotify, Pandora, Hulu Plus, and more.

Panasonic has what they’re calling Smart Viera, Philips is using Net TV, and Toshiba is using Toshiba SmartTV. There really is just a ridiculous amount of TV operating systems out there right now.

Fortunately, Sony, Sharp, and TPVision (a subsidiary of Philips) have all said they’re making Android TV-powered televisions. Sony’s line of BRAVIA TVs, as well as the products from Sharp and TPVision, should be hitting the market sometime this spring or summer at the latest.

At that point, which OSes will win out the Smart TV battle is anyone’s guess.

Goodbye, Google TV

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Introduced all the way back in Fall 2010, Google TV is now dead and gone as of January 2015.

It had a solid four years, but few will be sad to see it go. It was mostly received as a half-baked OS that wasn’t given enough attention by Google. That should be over now as Android TV is being treated as a major product intrinsically connected to other Android products.

A small subset of Google TV devices will get an upgrade to Android TV, but most will not (though Google didn’t say which products would get the update).

If you have a TV or set-top box running Google TV, it will continue to function as normal, just don’t expect any major updates or changes to the platform.

Google TV devices were actually manufactured by a variety of different companies including LG, Sony, Logitech, Vizio, ASUS, HiSense, and Netgear. It took the form of TVs as well as set-top boxes, but ultimately it didn’t take off in the way Google had planned.

So, Google TV is gone, but I think we can all agree that Android TV is a worthy replacement.

Where Can I Get Android TV?

You could buy the already available Nexus Player direct from Google for $99, though it might not be the bastion of Android TV’s abilities that many would like. With limited internal storage, no TV pass-through, and a general lack of ports on the device, it’s certainly not for everybody.

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Interested in gaming? Then you might want to try the Razer Forge TV, which was announced at CES 2015 and should be hitting the market this quarter. This set-top box costs $99 alone or $149 with a gaming controller.

It has better specs than the Nexus Player, an ethernet port, and it can stream PC games from your computer. It’s a gaming powerhouse meant to show off everything that Android TV can do in that department — and for that, it’s pretty cheap.

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Sony’s line of BRAVIA TVs running Android TV should be arriving sometime this Spring, though you can sign up to be notified when one of their new 2015 TVs becomes available. Keep in mind, these likely won’t come cheap as they are high-end, top-of-the-line models.

Also keep an eye out for TVs from Sharp and TPVision (though it’s possible TPVision could release TVs under the Philips brand name). They should be coming by the summer, but you can check back every once and a while at the official Android TV website: Android.com/TV.

The AndroidTV.com Controversy Explained

You might notice that Google’s official website for Android TV is Android.com/TV and not AndroidTV.com; there’s a reason for that. Back when Google was looking at the possibility of creating Android TV, they tried to get that domain name, only to find that it was already taken by a company called Exo Level. The folks of at Android Police did some great investigating, and what they found is interesting.

Google actually had an ICANN hearing back in March to contest the domain, but their case was denied. It’s easy to see how someone could be misled, though, since the site markets an “AndroidTV” that is actually just a set-top box from Exo Level running an older version of Android. At the time of this writing, however, the product doesn’t seem to be available on the website anymore.

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Android set-top boxes have been around for a while; in fact, we’ve reviewed some like the ProBox2 EX. These things hit the market from lots of unknown third-parties and had quality control issues across the board, but some worked out well and people loved them. They even made them in stick form called “Android TV Sticks” to compete against the Chromecast — and we examined the differences between those devices while also reviewing some like the BiggiFi Android TV Stick.

The problem with these Android set-top boxes and TV sticks, though, is that they’re not designed for TVs. You’re running a phone software on a TV, and that’s just awkward no matter how you slice it. It’s treated as a completely different Android device, meaning it’s not even easy to share your screen or content from one to the other. The official Android TV platform solves all that by being built specifically for TV usage.

So don’t fall for the fakers. Visit Android.com/TV to learn more about Android TV, and avoid the sketchy AndroidTV.com.

Are You A Fan Of Android TV?

For Google, a lot is riding on the success of this new platform. What do you think of it?

Will you be picking up an Android TV set-top box or TV when they become available? Are you holding out for something else? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Justin Dennis