Some low-cost Android phones shipped with malware built in

Avast has found that many low-cost , non-Google-certifed Android phones shipped with a stres of malware built in that could send users to download apps they didn’t intend to access. The malware, called called Cosiloon, overlays ads over the operating system in order to promote apps or even trick users into downloading apps. Devices effected shipped from ZTE, Archos and myPhone.

The app consists of a dropper and a warhead.” The dropper is a small application with no obfuscation, located on the/ system partition of affected devices. The app is wholly passive, only visible to the user in the list of system applications under’ puts .’ We have watched the dropper with two different names,’ CrashService’ and’ ImeMess, ‘” wrote Avast. The dropper then connects with a website to grab the payloads that the hackers wish to install on the phone.” The XML manifest contains information about what to download, which services to start and contains a whitelist programmed to potentially exclude specific countries and devices from infection. However, we’ve ever seen the country whitelist use, and simply a few devices were whitelisted in early versions. Currently , no countries or devices are whitelisted. The entire Cosiloon URL is hardcoded in the APK .”

The dropper is part of the system’s firmware and is not easily removed.

To summarize 😛 TAGEND

The dropper can install application packages defined by the manifest downloaded via an unencrypted HTTP connection without the user’s permission or knowledge.
The dropper is preinstalled somewhere in the furnish chain, by the manufacturer, OEM or carrier.
The user cannot withdraw existing dropper, because it is a system application, part of the device’s firmware.

Avast can see and remove the warheads and they recommend following these instructions to disable the dropper. If the dropper spots antivirus software on your telephone it will actually stop notifications but it will still recommend downloads as you browse in your default browser, a gateway to grabbing more( and worse) malware. Engadget notes that this vector is similar to the Lenovo ” Superfish” exploit that shipped thousands of computers with malware built in.

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Facebook, Google face first GDPR complaints over forced consent

After two years coming down the pipe at tech giants, Europe’s new privacy framework, the General Data Protection Regulation( GDPR ), is now being applied — and long time Facebook privacy critic, Max Schrems, has wasted no time in filing four grievances relating to( certain) companies” take it or leave it’ posture when it comes to consent.

The complaints have been filed on behalf of( unnamed) individual users — with one filed against Facebook; one against Facebook-owned Instagram; one against Facebook-owned WhatsApp; and one against Google’s Android.

Schrems argues that the companies are using a strategy of” forced consent” to continue processing the individuals’ personal data — when in fact the law requires that users be given a free choice unless a consent is strictly necessary for provision of the service.( And, well, Facebook claims its core product is social networking — rather than farming people’s personal data for ad targeting .)

” It’s simple: Anything strictly necessary for a service does not require consent boxes anymore. For everything else users must have a real option to tell’ yes’ or’ no’ ,” Schrems writes in a statement.

” Facebook has even blocked accounts of users who have not given consent ,” he adds.” In the end users merely had the choice to delete the account or hit the “agree”-button — that’s not a free choice, it more reminds of a North Korean election process .”

We’ve reached out to all the companies involved for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Facebook has now sent the following statement, attributed to its chief privacy policeman, Erin Egan:” We have prepared for the past 18 months to ensure we gratify the requirements of the GDPR. We have induced our policies clearer, our privacy decideds easier to find and introduced better tools for people to access, download, and delete their datum. Our work to improve people’s privacy doesn’t stop on May 25 th. For example, we’re building Clear History: a way for everyone to see the websites and apps that send us datum when you use them, clear this information from your account, and turn off our ability to store it associated with your account going forward .”

Schrems most recently founded a not-for-profit digital rights organization to focus on strategic litigation around the bloc’s updated privacy framework, and the complaints have been filed via this crowdfunded NGO — which is called noyb( aka’ none of your business ‘).

As we pointed out in our GDPR explainer, the provision in the regulation may be required for collective enforcement of individuals’ data rights is an important one, with the health risks to strengthen the implementation of the law by enabling non-profit organisations such as noyb to file complaints on behalf of individuals — thereby helping to redress the power imbalance between corporate giants and consumer rights.

That told, the GDPR’s collective redress provision is a component that Member Country can choose to derogate from, which helps explain why the first four complaints have been filed with data protection bureaux in Austria, Belgium, France and Hamburg in Germany — regions that also have data protection agencies with a strong record of defending privacy rights.

Given that the Facebook companies involved in these complaints have their European headquarters in Ireland it’s likely the Irish data protection bureau will get involved too. And it’s fair to say that, within Europe, Ireland does not have a strong reputation as a data protection rights champion.

But the GDPR allows for DPAs in different jurisdictions to work together in instances where they have joint subjects of concern and where a service crosses perimeters — so noyb’s action seems are aiming to exam this element of the new framework too.

Under the penalty structure of GDPR, major violations of the law can attract penalties as large as 4% of a company’s global revenue which, in the case of Facebook or Google, connotes they could be on the hook for more than a billion euros apiece — if they are deemed to have violated the law, as the complaints argue.

That told, devoted how freshly fixed in place the regulation is, some EU regulators may well tread softly on the enforcement front — at least in the first instances, to give companies some benefit of the doubt and/ or a chance to make amends to come into compliance if they are deemed to be falling short of the new standards.

However, in instances where companies themselves appear to be attempting to deform the law with a willfully self-serving interpretation of the rules, regulators may feel they need to act swiftly to nip any disingenuousness in the bud.

” We likely will not immediately have billions of penalty payments, but the corporations have intentionally contravened the GDPR, so we expect a corresponding penalty under GDPR ,” writes Schrems.

Only yesterday, for example, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg — speaking in an on stage interview at the VivaTech conference in Paris — claimed his company hasn’t had to make any radical changes to comply with GDPR, and further claimed that a “vast majority” of Facebook users are willingly opting in to targeted advertising via its new permission flow.

” We’ve been rolling out the GDPR flows for a number of weeks now in order to make sure that we were doing this in a good way and that we could take into account everyone’s feedback before the May 25 deadline. And one of the things that I’ve found interesting is that the great majority of people choose to opt in to make it so that we can use the data from other apps and websites that they’re using to make ads better. Because the reality is if you’re willing to see ads in a service you want them to be relevant and good ads ,” said Zuckerberg.

He did not mention that the dominant social network does not offer people a free choice on accepting or declining targeted advertising. The new permission flow Facebook uncovered ahead of GDPR only offers the’ choice’ of ceasing Facebook solely if a person does not want to accept targeting advertising. Which, well, isn’t much of a option dedicated how powerful the network is.( Additionally, it’s worth pointing out that Facebook continues tracking non-users — so even deleting a Facebook account does not guarantee that Facebook will stop processing your personal data .)

Asked about how Facebook’s business model will be affected by the new rules, Zuckerberg essentially claimed nothing significant will change –” because dedicating people control of how their data is employed has been a core principle of Facebook since the beginning “.

” The GDPR adds some new controls and then there’s some areas that we need to comply with but overall it isn’t such a massive departure from how we’ve approached this in the past ,” he claimed.” I mean I don’t want to downplay it — there are strong new rules that we’ve needed to set a bunch of work into making sure that we complied with — but as a whole the philosophy behind this is not completely different from how we’ve approached things.

” In order to be able to give people the tools to connect in all the ways they want and build community a lot of doctrine that is encoded in a regulation like GDPR is really how we’ve was just thinking about all this stuff for a long time. So I don’t want to understate the areas where there are new rules that we’ve had to go and enforce but I also don’t want to make it seem like this is a massive deviation in how we’ve was just thinking about this stuff .”

Zuckerberg faced a range of tough questions on these points from the EU parliament earlier this week. But he avoided answering them in any meaningful detail.

So EU regulators are essentially facing a first exam of their mettle — i.e. whether they are willing to step up and defend the line of the law against big tech’s attempts to reshape it in their business model’s image.

Privacy statutes are nothing new in Europe but robust enforcement of them would certainly be a breath of fresh air. And now at the least, thanks to GDPR, there’s a penalties structure in place to provide incentives as well as teeth, and spin up a market around strategic litigation — with Schrems and noyb in the vanguard.

Schrems also stimulates the point that small startups and local companies are less likely to be able to use the kind of strong-arm’ take it or leave it’ tactics on users that big tech is able to unilaterally apply and extract’ consent’ as a consequence of the reach and power of their platforms — arguing there’s an underlying competition concern that GDPR has the potential to help to redress.

” The fight against forced consent ensures that the corporations cannot force users to consent ,” he writes.” This is especially important so that monopolies have no advantage over small and medium-sized companies .”

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8 big announcements from Google I/O 2018

Google kicked off its annual I/ O developer conference at Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View, California. Here are some of the biggest proclamations from the Day 1 keynote. There will be more to come over the next couple of days, so follow along on everything Google I/ O on TechCrunch.

Google goes all in on artificial intelligence, rebranding its research division to Google AI

Just before the keynote, Google announced it is rebranding its Google Research division to Google AI. The move signals how Google has increasingly focused R& D on computer vision, natural language processing, and neural networks.

Google makes talking to the Assistant more natural with “continued conversation”

What Google announced: Google announced a” continued dialogue” update to Google Assistant that stimulates talking to the Assistant feel more natural. Now, instead of having to say “Hey Google” or “OK Google” every time you want to say a command, you’ll merely have to do so the first time. The company also is adding a new feature that allows you to ask multiple questions within the same request. All this will roll out in the coming weeks.

Why it’s important : When you’re having a typical dialogue, odds are you are asking follow-up questions if you didn’t get the answer you wanted. But it is feasible to jarring to have to say ” Hey Google” every single hour, and it violates the whole flowing and makes the process feel pretty unnatural. If Google wants to be a significant player when it comes to voice interfaces, the actual interaction has to feel like a dialogue — not only a series of queries.

Google Photos gets an AI boost

What Google announced: Google Photos already induces it easy for you to correct photos with built-in editing tools and AI-powered features for automatically creating collages, movies and stylized photos. Now, Photos is getting more AI-powered fixes like B& W photo colorization, brightness correction and suggested rotations. A new version of the Google Photos app will suggest quick fix and tweaks like rotations, brightness corrections or adding pops of color.

Why it’s important : Google is working to become a hub for all of your photos, and it’s be permitted to woo potential users by offering powerful tools to edit, kind, and modify those photos. Each additional photo Google gets offers it more data and helps them get better and better at image recognition, which in the end not only improves the user experience for Google, but also constructs its own tools for its services better. Google, at its heart, is a search company — and it needs a lot of data to get visual search right.

Google Assistant and YouTube are coming to Smart Displays

What Google announced : Smart Displays were the talk of Google’s CES push this year, but we haven’t heard much about Google’s Echo Show competitor since. At I/ O, we got a little more insight into the company’s smart showing efforts. Google’s first Smart Displays will launch in July, and of course will be powered by Google Assistant and YouTube. It’s clear that the company’s expended some resources into building a visual-first version of Assistant, justifying the addition of a screen to the experience.

Why it’s important: Users are increasingly getting accustomed to the idea of some smart device sitting in their living room that will answer their questions. But Google is looking to create a system where a user can ask questions and then have an option to have some kind of visual display for actions that only can’t be resolved with a voice interface. Google Assistant handles the voice part of that equation — and having YouTube is a good service that runs alongside that.

Google Assistant is coming to Google Maps

What Google announced : Google Assistant is coming to Google Maps, available on iOS and Android the summer months. The addition is meant to provide better recommendations to users. Google have all along worked to stimulate Maps seem more personalized, but since Maps is now about far more than merely directions, the company is introducing new features to give you better recommendations for local places.

The maps integration also combines the camera, computer vision technology, and Google Maps with Street View. With the camera/ Maps combination, it really looks like you’ve jumped inside Street View. Google Lens can do things like identify houses, or even dog breeds, merely by pointing your camera at the object in question. It will also be able to identify text.

Why it’s important: Maps is one of Google’s biggest and most important products. There’s a lot of exhilaration around augmented reality — you can point to phenomena like Pokemon Go — and companies are just starting to scratch the surface of the best use instances for it. Figuring out directions seems like such a natural use lawsuit for a camera, and while it was a bit of a technical accomplishment, it dedicates Google yet another perk for its Maps users to keep them inside the service and not switch over to alternatives. Again, with Google, everything comes back to the data, and it’s able to capture more data if users stick around in its apps.

Google announces a new generation for its TPU machine learning hardware

What Google announced : As the war for creating customized AI hardware heats up, Google said that it is rolling out its third generation of silicon, the Tensor Processor Unit 3.0. Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the new TPU is 8x more powerful than last year per pod, with up to 100 petaflops in performance. Google joins pretty much every other major company in looking to create custom silicon in order to handle its machine operations.

Why it’s important: There’s a race to create the best machine learning tools for developers. Whether that’s at the framework level with tools like TensorFlow or PyTorch or at the actual hardware level, the company that’s be permitted to lock developers into its ecosystem will have an advantage over the its competitors. It’s especially important as Google appears to construct its cloud platform, GCP, into a massive business while going up against Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft Azure. Devoting developers — who are already adopting TensorFlow en masse — a way to speed up their operations can help Google continue to woo them into Google’s ecosystem.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CA- MAY 08: Google CEO Sundar Pichai delivers the keynote address at the Google I/ O 2018 Conference at Shoreline Amphitheater on May 8, 2018 in Mountain View, California. Google’s two day developer conference operates through Wednesday May 9.( Photo by Justin Sullivan/ Getty Images)

Google News gets an AI-powered redesign

What Google announced : Watch out, Facebook. Google is also planning to leverage AI in a revamped version of Google News. The AI-powered, redesigned news destination app will” allow users to keep up with the news they care about, understand the full narrative, and enjoy and support the publishers they trust .” It will leverage parts found in Google’s digital magazine app, Newsstand and YouTube, and introduces new features like “newscasts” and “full coverage” to help people get a summing-up or a more holistic position of a news story.

Why it’s important : Facebook’s main product is literally called ” News Feed ,” and it serves as a major source of information for a non-trivial section of countries around the world. But Facebook is embroiled in a scandal over personal data of as many as 87 million users ending up in the hands of a political research firm, and there are a lot of questions over Facebook’s algorithms and whether they surface up legitimate information. That’s a huge hole that Google could exploit by offering a better news product and, once again, lock users into its ecosystem.

Google unveils ML Kit, an SDK that constructs it easy to add AI smarts to iOS and Android apps

What Google announced : Google unveiled ML Kit, a new software growth kit for app developers on iOS and Android that allows them to integrate pre-built, Google-provided machine learning models into apps. The models support text recognition, face detecting, barcode scan, image labeling and landmark recognition.

Why it’s important: Machine learning tools have enabled a new wave of use cases that include use examples built on top of image recognition or speech detecting. But even though frameworks like TensorFlow have attained it easier to build applications that tap those tools, it can still take a high level of expertise to get them off the ground and operating. Developers often figure out the best use suits for new tools and devices, and growth kits like ML Kit assist lower the barrier to entry and give developers without a ton of expertise in machine learning a playground to start figuring out interesting use suits for those appliocations.

So when will you be able to actually play with all these new features? The Android P beta is available today, and you can find the upgrade here .

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Android blatantly copies the iPhone X navigation gestures

Google unveiled some of the new features in the next version of Android at its developer seminar. One feature seemed particularly familiar. Android P will get new navigation gestures to switch between apps. And it runs just like the iPhone X.

“As part of Android P, we’re introducing a new system navigation that we’ve been working on for more than a year now, ” VP of Android Engineering Dave Burke told. “And the new design attains Android multitasking more approachable and easier to understand.”

While Google has probably been working on a new multitasking screen for a year, it’s hard to believe that the company didn’t transcript Apple. The iPhone X was unveiled in September 2017.

On Android P, the traditional home, back and multitasking buttons are gone. There’s a single pill-shaped button at the center of the screen. If you swipe up from this button, you get a new multitasking position with your most recent apps. You can swipe left and right and select the app you’re looking for.

If you swipe up one more time, you get the app drawer with suggested apps at the very top. At any time, you can tap on the button to go back to the home screen. These gestures also work when you’re use an app. Android P adds a back button in the bottom left corner if you’re in an app.

But the most shameless inspiration is the left and right gestures. If you swipe left and right on the pill-shaped button, you can switch to the next app, precisely like on the iPhone X. You can scrub through multiple apps. As soon as you release your thumb, you’ll jump to the selected app.

You can get Android P beta for a handful of devices starting today. Aim users will get the new version in the coming months.

It’s hard to blame Google with this one as the iPhone X gestures are unbelievably elegant and efficient — and yes, it looks a lot like the Palm Pre. Employing a phone that runs the current version of Android after using the iPhone X is much slower as it requires multiple taps to switch to the most recent app.

Apple moved the needle and it’s clear that all smartphones should work like the iPhone X. But Google still deserves to be called out.

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Rapchat raises $1.6 million to help you make and share your def jams

The first thing to understand about media-sharing app Rapchat is that co-founder Seth Miller is not a rapper and his other co-founder, Pat Gibson, is. Together they created Rapchat, a service for making and sharing raps, and the conjunction of rapper and nerd seems to be really taking off.

Since we last looked at the app in 2016( you can see Tito’s review below ), a lot has changed. The squad has raised $1.6 million in funding from investors out of Oakland and the Midwest. Their app, which is sort of a musical.ly for rap, is a top 50 music app on iOS and Android and made 100 million listens since launch. In short, their little social network/ sharing platform is a” millionaire in the making, boss of[ its] team, bringin home the bacon .”

The pair’s rap bona fide are genuine. Gibson has opened or performed with Big Sean, Wiz Khalifa and Machine Gun Kelly, and he’s sold beats to MTV.” My music has garnered over 20 M+ plays across YouTube, SoundCloud and more ,” he wrote me, boasting in the semi-churlish manner of a rapper with a “beef.” Miller, on the other hand, likes to freestyle.

” I grew up loving to freestyle with friends at OU and I noticed lots of other millennials did this too( even if most suck lol) … at each of the parties at 3am- there would always be a group of people in the corner freestyling ,” he said.” At the same time Snapchat was blowing up on campus and just thought you should be able to do the same exact thing for rap .”

Gibson, on the other hand, find it as a serious tool to help him with his music.

” I spent a lot of day, energy and resources building music ,” he said.” I was producing the beats, writing the songs, recording/ mixing the vocals, mastering the project, then distributing& promoting the music all by myself. With Rapchat, there’s a library of 1,000+ beats from top producers, an instant recording studio in your pocket, and the network to distribute your music worldwide and be discovered …. all from a free app. Rapchat is interrupting the creation, cooperation, distribution,& discovery of music via mobile .”

” We have a much bigger but also more active community than any other music creation app ,” told Miller.

While it’s clear the world needs another sharing platform like it needs a hole in the head, thanks to a rabid fan base and a great notion, the team has ensured that Rapchat is not, as they say, wicka-wicka-whack. That, in the end, is all that matters.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

Thousands of Android apps potentially violate child protection law

A study conducted on child-directed Android apps from Google Play Store saw over half may transgress US privacy law for under 13 s

Thousands of child-directed Android apps and games are potentially violating US law on the collection and sharing of data on those under 13, research has revealed.

A study conducted on 5,885 child-directed Android apps from the US Play Store, which are included in Google’s Designed for Families programme, found that well over half of the apps potentially contravened the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act( Coppa ).

” We identified several concerning violations and trends ,” wrote the authors of the Proceedings on Privacy Enhancing Technologies, led by researchers at the International Computer Science Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.” Overall, roughly 57% of the 5,855 child-directed apps that we analysed are potentially infringing Coppa .”

Among the apps, 4.8% had” are violations when apps share location or contact information without consent”, 40% shared personal information without applying reasonable security measures, 18% shared persistent identifiers with their parties for prohibited purposes such as ad targeting, and 39% showed” ignorance or neglect for contractual obligations aimed at protecting children’s privacy “.

The researchers found that 28% of the apps accessed sensitive data protected by Android permissions and that 73% of the tested apps transmitted sensitive data over the internet.

” While accessing a sensitive resource or sharing it over the internet does not necessarily mean that an app is in violation of Coppa , none of these apps attained verifiable parental permission: if the[ automated testing] was able to trigger the functionality, then a child would as well ,” the researchers wrote.

” This is an incredibly important examine that clears demonstrates that many apps for children are transgressing Coppa at a massive scale ,” told Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for Commercial Free Childhood.” Many kids’ apps are sharing personal information with third party who do data-driven personalised marketing, the very thing Coppa “re supposed to” guard against .”

The researchers said that Google had taken steps to help enforce Coppa compliance, with the Designed for Families programme that offer developers of children’s apps with information on the law and involves certification that apps comply. But “theyre saying” ” as our results show, there appears to not be any( or only limited) enforcement “.

While the researchers surmised that it is likely that” many privacy violations are unintentional and caused by misunderstandings of third-party Software Development Kitss” that are used to build the apps, they recommended Google to do more active vetting process of apps for Coppa compliance.

The researchers also analysed whether apps with potential Coppa violations were part of the US Federal Trade Commission’s( FTC) Safe Harbor programme, under which developers submit their apps for certification that they are Coppa-compliant. They found that few apps are actually certified under Safe Harbor and of those that are” possible violation are prevalent “.

” Based on our data, it is not clear that industry self-regulation has resulted in higher privacy criteria; some of our data suggest the opposite. Thus, industry self-regulation appears to be ineffective ,” the researchers wrote.

Golin told:” It’s also clear that self-regulation endeavors- both Google’s attempts to ensure Coppa compliance at the app store level and the Safe Harbor certification programme- are failing families. As has been demonstrated time and time again, self-regulation is no substitute for sustained government enforcement .”

Jeffrey Chester, executive director for the Center for Digital Democracy, told:” For years, the FTC has failed to address how both Google and Facebook routinely undermine customer privacy .”

” However, the FTC has just been through[ an] earthquake-like wake up call, given the revelations that Facebook allowed companies like Cambridge Analytica to seize data on 87 million people … Parents are confronted with a nearly impossible task. Dedicated the predominance of the Google App platform and the best interest young children have in apps, it’s not practical for a mother to have to spend time trying to decipher the complex connects that drive the ad supported App industry.

” That’s why we hope the FTC has finally awoken from its long digital privacy slumber .”

Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

YouTube illegally collects data on children, tell child protection groups

Android phone makers skip Google security updates without telling users- analyze

Here are the five things I learned installing a smart mirror

I recently received a review division of the Embrace Smart Mirror. It’s essentially a 24 -inch Android tablet mounted behind a approximately 40 -inch mirror. It works well when third-party software is installed. Here’s what I learned.

It’s impossible to get a good photo of the smart mirror

I tried a tripod, a selfie stick and every possible angle and I couldn’t get a image that does this mirror justice. It looks better in person than these photos prove. When the light in the bathroom is on, the text on the mirror appears to float on the surface. It looks great. The day is nice and big, and the data below it is accessible when standing a few feet away.

When the room is dark, the Android device’s screen’s revealed because it can’t reach real black. The screen behind the mirror glows gray. This isn’t a big deal. The Android device turns off after a period of inactivity and is often triggered when the sun to the bathroom is turned on. More days than not, people strolling into the room will be greeted with a standard mirror until the lighting is turned on.

There are a handful of smart mirror apps, but few are worthwhile

This smart mirror didn’t ship with any software outside of Android. That’s a bummer, but not a deal-breaker. There are several smart mirror Android apps in the Play Store, though I only found one I like.

I settled on Mirror Mirror( get it) because the interface is clean, uses pleasant fonts and there’s just enough customization, though it would be nice to select different locations for the data modules. The app was last updated in July of 2017, so utilize at your own risk.

Another similar option is this software developed by Max Braun, a robotistic at Google’s X. His smart mirror was a hit in 2016, and he included instructions on how to build it here and uploaded the software to GitHub here.

Kids love it

I have great children that grew up around technology. Nothing impresses these jerks, though, and that’s my fault. But they like this smart mirror. They won’t stop touching it, leaving fingerprints all over it. They speedily figured out how to exit the mirror software and download a bunch of games to the device. I’ve strolled in on both kids huddled in the dark bathroom playing games and watching YouTube, instead, of you know, playing games or watching YouTube on the countless other devices in the house.

That’s the point of the device, though. The company that constructs this model advertises it as a style to get YouTube in the bathrooms so a person can apply their makeup while watching beauty YouTubers. It works for that, too. There is just a tiny bit of latency when pressing on the screen through the mirror. This device isn’t as quick to utilize as a new Android tablet, but because it’s sealed in a way to keep out moisture, it’s safe to go in a steamy bathroom.

Adults knows where to find it frivolous

I have a lot of contraptions in my house, and my friends are used to it. Their reaction to this smart mirror has been much different from any other device, though.

“What the hell is this, Matt, ” they’ll say from behind the closed bathroom doorway. I’ll yell back, “It’s a smart mirror.” They flush the lavatory, walk out and gives people the biggest eye roll.

I’ve yet to have an adult say anything nice about this mirror.

It is frivolous

A smart mirror is a silly gadget. To some degree, it’s a crowd-pleaser, but in the end, it’s simply another gadget to tell you the weather. It collects fingerprints like mad, and the Android screen isn’t bright enough to use it as a regular video spectator or incognito TV.

As for this particular smart mirror, the Embrace Smart Mirror, the hardware is solid but doesn’t include any smart mirror software. The Mirror is rather thin and easily hangs on a wall thanks to a VESA port. There are physical controls hidden along the bottom of the unit, including a switch to manually turn off the camera. It’s certified IP65, so it can handle a bathroom. A motion detector does a good job turning the device on. If you don’t have kids, it should stay smudge-free.

The Embrace Smart Mirror does not ship with any smart mirror software. The instructions and videos tell users to add widgets to the Android home screen. This doesn’t work for me, and I expect a product such as this to include at least necessary software. Right now, after this product is taken out of the box, it’s just an Android tablet behind a mirror, and that’s lame. Thankfully there are a couple of free apps on the Play Store to remedy this problem.

At $ 1,299, the Embrace Smart Mirror is a hard sell, but is among the cheapest available smart mirrors on the market. Of course, you can always build one yourself — as The Verge points out, it’s rather easy.

Make sure to visit: CapGeneration.com

Heres the first developer preview of Android P

Just like in the last two years, Google is use the beginning of March to launch the first developer preview of the next version of Android. Android P, as it’s currently called, is still very much a work in progress and Google isn’t releasing it into its public Android beta channel for over-the-air updates just yet. That’ll go later. Developers, however, can now download all the necessary bits to work with the new the characteristics and test their existing apps to make sure they are compatible.

As with Google’s previous early releases, we’re largely talking about under-the-hood updates here. Google isn’t talking about any of the more user-facing design changes in Android P just yet. The new features Google speak of, though, will definitely make it easier for developers to create interesting new apps for modern Android devices.

So what’s new in Android P? Since people were already excited about this a few weeks ago, let’s get this one new feature out of the route: Android P has built-in support for notches, those showing cutouts Apple had the fortitude to pioneer with the iPhone X. Developers will be able to call a new API to check whether a device has a cutout and its dimensions and then request full-screen content to flow around it.

While Google isn’t talking much about user-facing features, the company mentions that it is once again making a modification to Android notifications. This time around, the company is focusing on notifications from messaging apps and it’s giving developers a couple of new tools for highlighting who is contacting you and dedicating developers the ability to attach photos, stickers and smart replies to these notifications.

A couple of new additions to the Android Autofill Framework for developers who write password administrators will also stimulate life a little bit easier for users, though right now, the focus here is on better data set filtering, input sanitization and a compatibility mode that will allow password managers to work with apps that don’t have built-in is supportive of Autofill yet.

While Google isn’t introducing any new power-saving features in Android P( yet ), the company does say that it continues to refine existing features like Doze, App Standby and Background Limits, all of which it introduced in the last few major releases.

What Google is adding, though, is new privacy features. Android P will, for example, restrict access to the microphone, camera and sensors from idle apps. In a future construct, the company will also introduce the ability to encrypt Android backups with a client-side secret and Google will also introduce per-network randomization of associated MAC address, which will make it harder to track users. This last feature is still experimental for now, though.

One of the most interesting new developer is available in Android P is the multi-camera API. Since many modern phones now have dual front or back cameras( with Google’s own Pixel being the exception ), Google decided to make it easier for developers to access both of them with the help of a new API to call a fused camera creek that they are able switch between two or more cameras. Other changes to the camera system are meant to help image stabilization and special effects developers construct their tools and to reduce the lags during initial captures. Chances are, then, that we’ll insure the more Frontback-style apps with the release of Android P.

On the media side, Android P also introduces built-in is supportive of HDR VP9 Profile 2 for playing HDR-enabled movies on devices with the right hardware, as well as support for images in the increasingly popular High Efficiency Image File Format( HEIF ), which may only be the JPEG-killer the internet has been searching for for decades( and which Apple also supports ). Developers now also get new and more efficient tools for managing bitmap images and drawables thanks to ImageDecode, a replacing for the present BitMapFactory object.

Indoor positioning is also get a boost in Android P thanks to support for the IEEE 802.11 mc protocol, which provides information about Wi-Fi round-trip time, which in turn allows for comparatively accurate indoor positioning. Devices that support this protocol will be able to situate a user with an accuracy of one to two meters. That should be more than enough to guide you through a mall or pop up an ad when you are close to a store, but Google also notes that some of the use cases here include disambiguated voice controls.

Once you are in that store in the mall and want to pay, Android P now also supports the GlobalPlatform Open Mobile API. That name may evoke the feeling of green meadows and mountain dew, but it’s basically the standard for house procure NFV-based services like payments solutions.

Developers who want to do machine learning on telephones are also in luck, because Android P will bring a couple of new features to the Neural Networks API that Google first introduced with Android 8.1. Specifically, Android P will add support for nine operations: Pad, BatchToSpaceND, SpaceToBatchND, Transpose, Strided Slice, Mean, Div, Sub and Squeeze.

But wait, there’s more. Now that Kotlin is a first-class language for Android development, Google is patently optimizing its compiler, and for all apps, Google is also promising performance and efficiency improvements in its ART runtime.

Clearly, this is one of the more meaningful Android updates in recent years. It’s no amaze then that Google is only attaining images available to developers right now and that you won’t be allowed to get this version over the air just yet. Like with previous releases, though, Google does plan to bring Android P to the Android beta channel( Google I/ O is about two months ago, so that may be the time for that ). As usual, Google will likely introduce a couple of other new features over the course of the beta period and at some phase, it’ll even announce the final name for Android P…

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Gartner reports first ever global decline in smartphone sales

Global smartphone sales have not been firing on all cylinders for several years now but Gartner’s latest figures record the first ever decline since the analyst began tracking the market all the way back in 2004.( Though it’s not the first analyst to call a deterioration .)

Gartner’s figures peg sales of smartphones to end users in Q4 2017 at virtually 408 million divisions — a 5.6 per cent deterioration over its Q4 2016 figure.

It tells No. 1 ranked smartphone maker Samsung insured a year-on-year unit deterioration of 3.6 per cent in Q4, while sales of Apple’s iPhones fell 5 per cent in the holiday quarter, though it says Cupertino stabilized its second-place marketshare.

Gartner says two main factors led to the Q4 sales fell: A slowing of upgrades from feature phones to smartphones due to a lack of quality “ultra-low-cost” smartphones; and existing smartphone owneds selecting quality models and keeping them for longer, lengthening the replacement cycle.

Apple’s performance in Q4 was also impacted by the later availability of its new top-of-the-range iPhone X, which drove slower upgrades of its other two new smartphones, the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus. While component shortfalls and manufacturing capacity constraints also contributed to a long delivery cycle for the iPhone X.

Gartner tells it’s expecting a delayed sales boost for Apple in the first quarter of 2018 , now that the flagship’s delivery cycle has returned to normal.

It’s also expecting a boost for Samsung in Q1 as it unpacks its successor Galaxy flagships.

For full year 2017, Samsung carved out a 20.9 per cent marketshare to Apple’s 14.0 per cent.

Far East

Last month analyst Canalys reported a first annual decline in smartphone shipments in China — which for years took up the baton on smartphone growth from saturated Western marketplaces. But even Chinese purchasers appear to be getting tapped out.

It’s still a growth narrative for Chinese OEMs, though. And Gartner tells the combined market share of Chinese vendors in the top five increased by 4.2 percentage points in 2017, while the market share of the top two, Samsung and Apple, remained unchanged.

China’s Huawei and Xiaomi were the only smartphone vendors to actively increase their the shares in Q4, according to Gartner, with year-on-year unit growth in the holiday one-quarter of seven. 6 and 79 per cent, respectively.

The analyst credits Huawei’s uplift to broadening the appeal of its portfolio with new handset launchings in the one-quarter. It also says Xiaomi’s “competitive” portfolio accelerating its growth in the emerging APAC market and helped it win back lost share in China.

Huawei remained in third place in the global smartphone vendor rankings, taking a 9.8 per cent share in full year 2017 and shrinking the gap with Apple and Samsung.

Overall, Gartner says total smartphone marketings exceeded 1.5 billion divisions in 2017 — a year-on-year strengthening of 2.7 per cent.

On the OS front, Google’s Android platform extended its lead in 2017, taking an 86 per cent share of the total market, up 1.1 percentage points from a year ago. While iOS took 14 per cent.( The “other OS” category shriveled to a nearly non-existent 0.1 per cent .)

And as the world’s biggest mobile tradeshow, MWC, rolls around again, there will be some fresh Android-powered handsets being unboxed in the coming days — including from Samsung, Nokia-branded HMD and others.

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Sweatcoin lets you earn crypto for working out

Want a route to workout and earn some coin? Sweatcoin has risen to the top of the App Store for helping folks get something more than only a light for taking those daily steps.

The startup says it has accumulated more than 5 million users in the past year and increased revenue by 266 percent in the last one-quarter. There are more than 2 million weekly active users on the app, and growing, inducing it one of the fastest-growing fitness apps in the App Store and second to the top in the free apps, next only to the Google Arts& Culture app that blew up over the weekend.

It works like this: users sign up and then hook up their smartphone’s health and fitness data and GPS location to the app. The app then tracks how many steps you take in a day and rewards you a monetary “sweat” value according to your movements. For every 1,000 steps recorded, the app will pay out. 95 in “sweatcoins.” Users can later trade these coins in for fitness gear, workout classes, gift cards and a number of other offerings.

The app says you can only earn these coins by walking outside so it theoretically doesn’t count if you are walking on a treadmill at the gym, though the app on my phone seems to counting steps inside my apartment, as well. That’s at least something.

Note: I’m in my third trimester of pregnancy so I’m not exactly going the distance( just strolling up the stairs is like I’m trying to climb Mount Everest some days ). That attains it a bit hard to earn my coins — I’ve only earned. 33 in sweatcoins today, for instance, so don’t feel badly if you aren’t hitting that 10,000 step stride.

Another reason you may reached a wall of motive in the app is that the free version restrictions you in how many coins you can earn a day to only five. However, you can earn more if you’re willing to fork over some of those sweatcoins per month to get you in the upper tiers and attain some real sweaty moolah toward that coveted Fitbit or whatever fitness gear you’ve got your eye on.

The startup has now created its own coin to the tune of $5.7 million in seed from Goodwater Capital, which led the round, Greylock, which participated through its Discovery Fund, Rubylight, Seedcamp and SmartHub, as well as a number of angels, including Justin Kan and Rain Lohmus.

Sweatcoin founders say they plan to use the funding to expand outside of the U.S. and U.K. markets to other English-speaking countries, then on to continental Europe and Asia.

Co-founder Anton Derlyatka also told TechCrunch he’d like to “even include the ability to pay taxes with sweatcoin” in the future. Other co-founder Oleg Fomenko also mentioned plans to develop an “open-source blockchain DLT technology that will allow Sweatcoin to be traded like any other major crypto- or fiat currency.”

“We are out to fundamentally change the value ascribed to health and fitness and offer the motivation for people to lead better lives, ” Fomenko said.

Those interested in checking out the app can download it on either iOS or on Google Play and start earning their sweat equity today.

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