News – iDrop News Apple News, How Tos and Culture. Sat, 17 Feb 2018 01:10:00 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News – iDrop News 32 32 Top 10 Epic Legal Battles That Cost Apple a Fortune Fri, 16 Feb 2018 22:30:38 +0000 Apple has found itself entwined in a number of legal battles over the years. While some were meritless from the get-go, lodged by so-called “patent only” firms merely out looking for their own slice of the big Apple — others ultimately rendered sweet justice in the company’s favor. Of course, we also can’t forget about the many legal battles Apple has fought, lost, and paid for, handsomely, and in some cases, perpetually, to this very day. Use the Right Arrow to Learn About 10 Epic Legal Battles That Cost Apple a Fortune.

12 of Apple’s Most Iconic Patents and Recent Trademarks Fri, 16 Feb 2018 21:00:14 +0000 Love them or hate them, patents make up an important part of the business world. And Apple owns a lot of patents. In 2016, the company was granted more than 2,000 patents, placing them in the number 11 spot for most patents awarded.

With so many patents being granted every year, sometimes it can be hard to know who owns what. Often times companies take each other to court over patents, such as the infamous court battles between Samsung and Apple. Because of this, it’s hard to know which patents are the most valuable until they’ve been defended in court. In fact, often times a technology is covered by multiple patents, not just one.

To convolute matters further, there are patents and then there are trademarks. Unlike patents, trademarks are mainly used to register a term or phrase (i.e. iPhone, Red Vines, Wendy’s). However, they can also be very valuable to how a service is perceived. Apple gives unique names to many of its proprietary services (such as iMessage) to help make them unique. Use the Right Arrow to Browse 12 of Apple’s Most Iconic Patents and Recent Trademarks.

People Keep Running into Glass Walls and Doors at Apple Park Fri, 16 Feb 2018 19:17:34 +0000 At Apple headquarters in California, employees are running into glass walls. That’s not a metaphor, either. People keep literally walking into walls and doors made of glass at the stunning Apple Park campus.

That’s according to a new report by MarketWatch, which cited documents and sources within Apple. True to Apple’s building aesthetic, much of the interior at Apple Park is made of glass panes, including walls and doors. While that design may look stunning and clean, employees at the Cupertino campus keep running into the glass architecture.

The problem becomes even worse because, reportedly, many Apple employees are glued to their iPhone’s screens while walking around. In fact, the first day that Apple Park opened, as many as seven people injured themselves by walking into glass doors.

And in the early days of the campus’ operations, at least two incidents of people walking into walls were severe enough to warrant calling 911, according to documents obtained by MarketWatch. Luckily, while minor cuts were sustained, neither injury required hospitalization.

To mitigate the accidents, many staff members took to sticking Post-It notes onto the glass doors to make their existence more apparent. But the notes were apparently removed because they “distracted” from the building’s design, sources familiar with the situation told Time.

While the situation may seem pretty amusing and humorous, Apple may actually be violating California workplace regulations. State law specifically requires staff members to be “protected against the hazard of walking through glass by barriers or by conspicuous durable markings.”

Despite the reported incidents, there have apparently been no complaints thus far filed with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). In addition, another source within Apple told Time that there actually are markings on some of the glass panes. So the issue may actually just be a result of people staring at their phones constantly.

Apple Park officially opened last year, but employees did not begin moving into the building en masse until early this year. The campus has been touted as a significant architectural achievement, Time reported. The vision for the “spaceship” campus was dreamt up by Apple co-founder Steve Jobs much earlier, but the futuristic headquarters wasn’t completed until recently.

“While it is a technical marvel to make glass at this scale, that’s not the achievement,” Apple design chief Jony Ive said of the building in a 2017 interview with Wired. “The achievement is to make a building where so many people can connect and collaborate and walk and talk.”

App Crashing Indian Character Bug Fix to Come Before iOS 11.3 Fri, 16 Feb 2018 16:47:23 +0000 Apple has confirmed that it’s working on a software update to fix a glitch that’s causing some iOS and macOS devices to crash.

It appears that the Indian language (Telugu) is making some devices crash. Italian technology blog Mobile World broke the news about the dangerous new bug at the start of the week.

Many users have noticed that when they use this language or are sent documents containing it, apps begin closing down and becoming unresponsive.

According to The Verge, engineers at Apple are rushing to roll out a bug fix by spring. However, the firm hasn’t unveiled any information about the release date.

Affected Apps

It’s thought that the bug predominantly affects messaging apps, including Apple’s own iMessage, WhatsApp, Facebook and Gmail. The Verge reports that they’re all affected when the Indian language is used. But there are many other apps, including Skype, that haven’t been impacted by the problem.

Apple told Tom Warren, a reporter at The Verge, that users should receive an update before iO1 11.3 is made available. The latter is expected to come out in the spring.

Trouble Behind the Scenes

This news comes as Apple reports claim that the firm’s bug fix development and release cycle is going through something of a rough patch.

Bloomberg reported that because the tech giant’s programmers work so quickly to address security problems, they could end up missing hidden flaws in the code.

As a result of this, the firm will allegedly delay major releases – including a redesigned home screen and new photos app – until it addresses this problem.

Sources familiar with the situation told Bloomberg: “This change is Apple beginning to realise that schedules are not being hit, stuff is being released with bugs – which previously would not have happened.”

Bloomberg explained that this is “an admission of what many customers have already come to notice”. It added: “Some Apple software has become prone to bugs and underdeveloped features.”

HomePod’s High-Quality Reflected By Slim Profit Margins Thu, 15 Feb 2018 21:43:23 +0000 Apple’s profit margins for HomePod are actually slimmer than the margins generated by its other products — and slimmer than similar devices on the market.

HomePod costs an estimated $216 for Apple to build, according to an analysis report by TechInsights. With its $349 retail price, that means Apple generates a profit margin of just about 38 percent on each device.

For comparison’s sake, Amazon makes a margin of about 56 percent for its Amazon Echo speaker. Google, on the other hand, generates a margin of 66 percent. Those are higher margins despite those products’ lower sound quality, according to TechInsights. In other words, Apple is making less per HomePod (percentage-wise) than Google and Amazon are making on respective devices speakers.

The iPhone X, for example, generates margins of about 64 percent for Cupertino, while the iPhone 8 sells for a 59 percent profit margin, according to cost analysis reports by IHS Markit. That’s pretty typical for Apple devices and products.

Suffice to say, it’s uncommon for Apple to have slimmer margins than similar products on the market. But HomePod’s higher-quality audio components and internals are likely driving up its cost — and Apple may be intentionally reducing the cost of HomePod to make the device more competitive in its saturated smart speaker market.

TechInsights’ Costing Manager, Al Cowsky, speculates that Apple may be “compressing” its margins on HomePod. In other words, Apple has reduced the price from its typical margins in order to sell more smart speakers, Cowsky told Bloomberg.

As far as how HomePod’s production costs break down, TechInsights estimates the following.

  • $58 for the device’s array of speaker tech, including microphones, tweeters, woofer and power management components.
  • $60 for miscellaneous components, such as the LED system for HomePod’s top display.
  • $25.50 for HomePod’s A8 chipset.
  • $25 for external housing and “other items.”
  • $17.50 for the actual manufacturing costs, testing and HomePod’s packaging.

HomePod has been widely lauded by critics and media outlets for its high-quality audio — many publications praised the device as the best-sounding smart home speaker currently on the market. On the other hand, Apple’s first smart home speaker has attracted some criticism for Siri’s lack of refinement and HomePod’s relatively poor support for third-party streaming services like Spotify.

Expect a Hint of ‘Apple’ in Volkswagen’s Upcoming Electric Cars Thu, 15 Feb 2018 21:10:49 +0000 With its iconic innovations like the iPhone and iPad, Apple continues to stretch the boundaries of beautiful design, creating generation after generation of products admired and adorned (and even counterfeited) by people the world over.

Apple’s design language is so impactful, in fact, that according to a Reuters report published on Thursday, we could even see hints of it in Volkswagen’s next-generation of fully Electric Vehicles (EVs) — as the German automaker reportedly looks to turn a profit on its upcoming line of battery-powered cars while redefining its image in the process.

“We are currently redefining the Volkswagen values for the age of electrification,” said the company’s veteran design boss, Klaus Bischoff, in the interview. He added that “What’s at stake is to be as significant, purist and clear as possible and also to visualize a completely new architecture.”

The Age of Electrification

Bischoff — who joined Volkswagen over 25 years ago and has served as head of VW brand design for the last decade — described wanting to adopt a “purist,” clear, articulate, yet distinctive design, such as Apple’s, to serve as the “guiding principle” for how he and his team will go about styling VW’s new line of EVs, which are expected sometime in 2020.

Europe’s biggest automaker may be trying to “redefine” its image, but, even on the surface, it’s clear they’re hoping to also shift any lingering focus away from the massive, 2015 “Dieselgate” emissions scandal as well.

VW’s New Direction

“Dieselgate” scandal notwithstanding, Reuters noted that Volkswagen knows full well the importance of electric vehicles. They’ll be a literal driving force (no pun intended) in the company’s bid to compete moving forward — especially in large, developed markets like China, where it currently reigns supreme as demand for EVs continues to rise.

Citing how Volkswagen was “previously a laggard on electrification,” the paper also pointed out how VW has so far pledged to invest as much as $42.45 billion towards the development of its next generation EVs, self-driving technology/software, and associated “digital mobility” ventures by 2022.

“The core namesake brand alone will spend 6 billion euros on a new modular platform dubbed MEB designed to underpin over 20 purely battery-powered models,” Reuters noted, citing the automaker’s previously accounted EV plans, including an “I.D. hatchback,” “I.D. Crozz” [a crossover style hatchback] as well as a modern take on the grooviest VW of all-time, the “I.D. Buzz” microbus.

Though he declined to elaborate further, Bischoff said his company plans to use the upcoming 88th annual Geneva auto show, running between March 8 and 18, 2018, as a venue to offer early insight into what Volkswagen’s “post-I.D. generation” of EVs might look like.

Facebook Rumored to Launch Two Advanced Smart Speakers in July Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:42:59 +0000 Facebook is not known for producing consumer devices. But, apparently, Facebook has plans to change that in the future.

A new report this week suggests that the Menlo Park firm will launch two smart home speakers by July 2018. The two devices, codenamed “Aloha” and “Fiona,” are both rumored to sport 15-inch touchscreens and will focus on video chatting and social-based features, according to industry sources cited by DigiTimes.

Make no mistake, the two devices are likely Facebook’s answer to the growing smart home market — already crowded with competitors like Amazon Echo, Google Home and Apple’s HomePod. The addition of touchscreens and video calling abilities seem to suggest that the speakers will go toe-to-toe with Amazon’s Echo Show.

DigiTimes reported that the “Aloha” device would be more advanced than “Fiona,” and would likely launch under the brand name Portal. The publication added that Aloha would use voice commands, but could also sport facial recognition technology to automatically log users into their respective Facebook accounts.

We can assume that the social-related functions will be tied to Facebook’s flagship social media platform, but the company is also rumored to have signed music licensing contracts with both Sony and Universal Music.

While DigiTimes doesn’t have a perfect track record of predicting launch timelines, rumors of Facebook smart home speakers have been circling the tech industry for some time.

In August 2017, Bloomberg reported that the tech juggernaut was developing at least two separate smart home speaker products with a digital assistant. Bloomberg noted that at least one would have a touchscreen. Similarly, Business Insider reported that Facebook was working on a mysterious video chatting device codenamed “Aloha.”

These reports seem to suggest that Facebook is becoming serious about edging into the consumer hardware sphere. Notably, “Aloha” and “Fiona” would be the first two products to officially come out of Facebook’s secretive Building 8 — the company’s mysterious hardware development lab.

Reportedly, Facebook was originally planning on unveiling the devices in May, but held off to perfect the “acoustic quality” and “software modification” of the devices, DigiTimes reported.

This Character Can Crash iOS and Prevent Apps from Re-opening Thu, 15 Feb 2018 19:20:57 +0000 A new text-related bug has been discovered in iOS and macOS, and it’s significant enough to crash iPhones and Macs and prevent access to core or popular applications.

The bug involves a specific Indian language character (the Telugu language, specifically) in iOS 11.2.5 and macOS 10.13.3, as well as older software versions. When this character is sent to a device, it can cause the recipient’s messaging app to crash.

Reports also indicate that users hit with the bug aren’t able to re-open the respective messaging app — it will continue to crash. The bug afflicts both the iOS and macOS versions of Messages.

According to The Verge, the bug doesn’t just affect native Apple apps, either. The publication was able to reproduce the crashing effect on iOS 11.2.5 versions of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Microsoft Outlook and Gmail. Similarly, the character can cause an iOS or macOS web browser like Safari to crash if it’s pasted into the address bar.

Though we’re not entirely sure what causes the crash, it’s likely tied to an inability in iOS and macOS to render the Telugu character. That’s corroborated by the fact that the character will crash a large range of apps with a text field. (Though there are exceptions. The Verge noted that Skype and Telegram for iOS seem to be unaffected).

Worse still, the bug can even crash more core systems depending on where iOS or macOS is trying to display it. If the Telugu character appears in a Notification, for example, it can cause crashing issues with iOS SpringBoard — the built-in application that manages an iPhone’s or iPad’s home screen.

Though it’s not strictly a “text bomb,” because of the way the bug works, the Telugu character can essentially function as one. People could maliciously send the character to ruin someone’s day, or at least bug them a little.

While news of the bug first started circulating widely on Thursday, its existence was first spotted by developer Peter Steinberger on Monday. Also on Monday, another developer, Igor Bulyga, posted a report to Open Radar about the bug.

How to Fix It

Luckily, Apple seems to have squashed the bug in the most recent iOS 11.3 and macOS 10.13.4 betas. That means a widely available fix should be right around the corner.

If you don’t have access to the iOS 11.3 or macOS 10.13.4 betas, there is a workaround for re-opening crashed applications. Specifically, it involves receiving another message without that character.

In many cases, this will allow users to re-open their messaging app. From there, users can delete the message with the Telugu character to stop further crashing.

So, essentially, if you’ve been hit with the bug:

  • Have a friend message you.
  • Attempt to re-open the application.
  • If you can re-open, delete the entire message thread with the afflicting character.
6 Reasons Not to Buy the Latest iPhones Thu, 15 Feb 2018 18:46:17 +0000 There’s no denying the fact that the iPhone is one of the most popular technology products on the market, and it’s certainly driving up profits for Apple. Last year, the company shipped 216 million smartphones, according the most recent estimates from Statista.

Although the iPhone retails for a hefty price tag, consumers are drawn to the handset because it offers a sophisticated yet easy-to-use operating system and the best possible hardware available on the market. And every year, the Cupertino-based firm increases its grip on the smartphone sector by announcing a new batch of iPhones.

Last year, the technology giant unveiled three new iPhones. The flagship is the “revolutionary” iPhone X, followed by cheaper iPhone 8 models. They’re all great handsets for different reasons, and if your contract is due for an upgrade or your current handset is beginning to age, you may well be thinking about upgrading to one of these handsets.

While the iPhone X and iPhone 8 are popular among the masses, there are plenty of reasons why you should hold off purchasing one of them. From ways to beef up your current iPhone’s performance to rumours claiming that Apple already has new phones in the pipeline, here are a few things that will make you think twice about switching to the X or 8. Use the Right Arrow to Browse 6 Reasons Not to Buy the Latest iPhones.

Apple HomePod Has Damaged Some Owners’ Wooden Furniture Thu, 15 Feb 2018 17:17:51 +0000 When Apple announced its much anticipated smart speaker last year, consumers were left disappointed when the firm delayed its release date. The HomePod is finally on sale around the world, and although it’s gathered mostly positive reviews so far, owners are complaining about annoying new flaw.

After placing the smart speaker on wooden surfaces, some users have noticed that it leaves behind a strange white mark – even damaging expensive furniture.

People have taken to social media platforms such as Twitter to discuss the problem. One user called the situation “unfortunate”, suggesting that the firm should have noticed the fault in the design stage.

“After all a designer does, there are some unforeseen issues that always arise…. but this is something that could easily have been caught in the design process,” they wrote.

Apple has since confirmed that its new speaker may cause damage to wooden furniture and has created a dedicated help page to support customers who are experiencing this issue. 

On the page, the company claims that it is not “unusual for any speaker with a vibration-dampening silicone base to leave mild marks when placed on some wooden surfaces”.

It attributed the problem to “oils diffusing between the silicone base and the table surface. However, Apple has reassured customers that they “often go away after several days when the speaker is removed from the wooden surface”.

The company added: “If not, wiping the surface gently with a soft damp or dry cloth may remove the marks. If marks persist, clean the surface with the furniture manufacturer’s recommended cleaning process.”

Wirecutter and PocketLint are among the tech websites that have produced reviews of the speaker, but they too have noticed this flaw.

Stuart Miles, founder of PocketLint, told the BBC that he had to “sand the wood down and then re-oil it” in order to eradicate the damage.

He said: “It wasn’t the end of the world for us. But if you’ve bought an expensive Scandinavian sideboard or some beautiful piece of wooden furniture and then got a mark on it from the speaker, you can imagine the horror.”

Google Chrome to Begin Blocking Annoying Ads Automatically Wed, 14 Feb 2018 23:44:27 +0000 Google’s built-in ad-blocking initiative for its popular Chrome browser arrives tomorrow. Here’s everything you need to know.

What Is It?

This ad-blocking technology has been in the works for nearly a year, and it’ll finally launch across Google Chrome browsers on Thursday, Feb. 15. It is not, however, an “ad-pocalypse.” At least, not necessarily.

Basically, Google Chrome will begin automatically filtering out ads that don’t meet certain criteria or quality standards. Before today, we didn’t have much idea of what those “quality standards” would be.

In June 2017, Google first announced that it would implement some sort of ad-blocking technology into its proprietary browser. Gradually, the Mountain View company integrated ad-blocking-related features to its platform.

But now, Google has officially announced the full spectrum of blocked ads in a blog post on Wednesday.

Which Ads Will Be Blocked?

Google isn’t seeking to kill ads in their entirety. In fact, the company is arguably an advertising firm as much as it is a technology company. What Google seems to be hoping to do is to increase the quality of online advertising.

Google, along with Facebook and other juggernauts in the tech sphere, is a member of the Coalition for Better Ads. In the simplest terms, the group wants to mitigate advertising that annoys internet users — and it’s done research to identify those types of ads.

With this new initiative, Google actually seems to be taking an “ad enforcement” role across its own platform.

Beginning tomorrow, ads that will be blocked by Google’s built-in technology might include full-page ads, pop-up ads, ads with countdowns, and autoplaying-sound video ads, among others.

The initiative is notable because it’s built-in to the Chrome browser, and it’ll be enabled by default. Chrome is also the world’s most popular browser by most accounts.

Users will be able to switch “annoying ad mode” back on, in a way. But, presumably, most users won’t.

The Long-Term

You’ll undoubtedly see a different browsing experience if you’re a Chrome user. You’ll see fewer — if any — of the ads Google deems “annoying” or unqualified. But, beyond that, we’re not sure of the long-term implications of the move.

For one, we might see less use of third-party ad blockers. That’ll be good for all of the websites and online publications that you love to browse and read — the vast majority of which survive on ad revenue.

But, hopefully, the most positive outcome of Chrome ad policy is a “raising of the bar,” so to speak, for ad quality across the board. If annoying ads are being automatically blocked, it might push advertisers to stop relying on them — and to improve them for the future.

Samsung Releases 3 Cryptic Videos Teasing New Galaxy S9 Features Wed, 14 Feb 2018 21:41:44 +0000 We’ve got just a few weeks left to go until Samsung unveils its highly-anticipated Galaxy S9 and S9+ — which we’ve been seeing an abundance of in the news lately.

In addition to the S9’s core specifications, we recently learned that the duo will feature some sort of advanced, next-generation camera set-up — thanks in part to actual photos of the device which leaked recently courtesy of Evan Blass.

Apparently, Samsung wants to whet our interest in its Galaxy S9 to peak potential, as the company has posted a series of strange new teaser videos to the Samsung Mobile Korea’s official YouTube channel this morning, which subliminally hint at some of the many features S9 buyers have to look forward to..

While the features, themselves, are not listed in print, just watching the videos closely and analyzing beyond the prominent “9,” featured front and center in each of them, should reveal the underlying hints..

In the first video, Samsung has weaved together a compilation of high-speed, high-endurance, and otherwise super-fast, thrilling activities — lending credence to the possibility that Galaxy S9 will be fast (unsurprisingly). Meanwhile, the short clip concludes to the backdrop of a painfully slow-motion shot of someone gliding through the air in a winged suit.

Were can’t be sure, of course, but the slow-motion shot could potentially be a hint of all the new camera upgrades rumored for this year’s Galaxy — which will, according to rumors, include an advanced new slow-motion setting, though standard slo-mo has been a staple of Galaxy phones for years.

The second clip, meanwhile, shows two people casually walking through an increasingly dark wooded area. Short, brief, and to the point, the clip closes to the dark backdrop of a deer, appearing with the large “9” plastered across the screen, as Samsung’s actors unmistakably showcase the Galaxy S9’s anticipated low light camera settings.

Finally, in the third clip, we follow a single man as he jubilantly goes about his day. Interestingly, we see the man in a variety of settings, expressing a wide range of facial gestures along the way. It’s right at the end of the clip, however, when we see the man’s face “transform” into what appears to be a 3D emoji or avatar.

Samsung, we found out earlier this week, ultimately decided to copy Apple’s Animoji feature by incorporating a “next generation camera sensor” on Galaxy S9, which is not only “more advanced” than Apple’s TrueDepth camera, according to Samsung, but will be capable of carrying out similar, Animoji-style 3D animation features using emoticons as filters.

Samsung is expected to unveil its Galaxy S9 duo just ahead of Mobile World Congress, 2018, on February 25, while the handsets should go up for sale by March 16.

Samsung Releases 3 Cryptic Videos Teasing New Galaxy S9 Features We’ve got just a few weeks left to go until Samsung unveils its highly-anticipated Galaxy S9 and S9+ — which we’ve been seeing an abundance of in the news Fast Tech,Galaxy S9,Samsung
Facebook VPN ‘Onavo Protect’ Collects User Data Spawning Privacy Concerns Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:48:49 +0000 Internet privacy is a big concern for many, but it’s not just governments and spy agencies that are snooping on the things you’re doing online.

Technology companies are also tracking website users in a bid to improve their products and services. And they’re constantly becoming more powerful.

Social media giant Facebook is just one example of a company that keeps tabs on your internet activities. And it’s just released its own virtual private network (VPN) service, which is called Protect.

Facebook hasn’t been hugely vocal about the service, but according to TechCrunch, it’s now available as a free download iOS users.

Essentially, Facebook uses the service to gather data from its users. It will then analyse this information in a bid to “improve Facebook products and services”.

In 2013, Facebook acquired Onavo, which developed the popular VPN and data security service. However, it’s now available as part of the Facebook app.

You’re able to access the feature by clicking onto the navigation menu and choosing “Protect”. When you do this, you’re sent sent to the Onavo app.

As well as using the app to improve its products and user interface, Facebook has also implemented it to give users peace of mind when it comes to security.

Currently, it’s unknown how many users have actually come across the feature within the Facebook iOS app, or if the company plans to unveil other security features.

This isn’t the first time that the feature has popped up, though. In 2016, UK-based users discovered Protect in the Facebook app, although it’s unclear if the app will be launched overseas officially.

Another reason why Facebook may be doing this is to market the service. Users are being encouraged to download it from the App Store.

In the App Store description of the app, the company writes: Onavo Protect helps keep you and your data safe when you browse and share information on the web.

“This powerful app helps keep you safe by understanding when you visit potentially malicious or harmful websites and giving you a warning.”

“It also helps keep your details secure when you login to websites or enter personal information such as bank accounts and credit card numbers.”

Onavo has since confirmed that the service has come to  iOS users in America. Speaking to TechCrunch, product manager Erez Naveh said: “We recently began letting people in the U.S. access Onavo Protect from the Facebook app on their iOS devices.”

“Like other VPNs, it acts as a secure connection to protect people from potentially harmful sites. The app may collect your mobile data traffic to help us recognize tactics that bad actors use.”

“Over time, this helps the tool work better for you and others. We let people know about this activity and other ways that Onavo uses and analyses data before they download it.”

Learn More: Why VPNs Are Incredibly Important for iOS 11 Users

NSA, FBI and CIA Warn Americans Not to Buy Huawei, ZTE Smartphones Wed, 14 Feb 2018 20:29:00 +0000 A handful of U.S. intelligence agencies have advised American citizens not to buy smartphones made by Chinese tech firms.

Six top intelligence officials, including the directors of the FBI, CIA, NSA and Defense intelligence Agency, gave the stern warning when testifying to the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, CNBC reported.

The officials suggested that devices manufactured by firms such as Huawei or ZTE may pose a security threat to U.S. citizens who purchase them. Reportedly, a senator asked the agency chiefs to raise their hands if they recommended U.S. customers buy or use these products. None of them did, according to CNN Tech.

There’s a risk when letting any firm “beholden to foreign governments” into U.S. telecom networks, FBI Director Chris Wray explained during his testimony.

“That provides the capacity to exert pressure or control over our telecommunications infrastructure,” Wray added. “It provides the capacity to maliciously modify or steal information. And it provides the capacity to conduct undetected espionage.”

Huawei is the largest telecommunications equipment maker in the world, and more recently, it surpassed Apple as the world’s second-largest smartphone brand.

But while Huawei and other Chinese OEMs are dominant forces in their home market, they’ve mostly failed to gain any sort of traction in the U.S. Earlier this year, a plan to sell Huawei devices via AT&T fell through.

Largely, that’s because of U.S. government suspicion that the Chinese government could use smartphones and other devices made in China as espionage tools.

Congress has both introduced and passed legislation preventing government and federal agencies from buying from Chinese firms, or contracting them for other services. In 2012, Congress released a report saying Huawei and ZTE should be “viewed with suspicion,” CNN reported

For its part, Huawei said in a statement to CNBC that it “poses no greater cybersecurity risk” than any other tech vendor. Huawei CEO Richard Yu has also criticized American carriers and their “measured resistance” to Chinese firms, accusing them of diminishing customer choice.

It’s only the latest push by lawmakers to restrict foreign-made services or products due to intelligence concerns. Russia-based cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab, for example, has been banned from federal systems, CNN Tech reported.

[Update: ZTE has supplied an official statement to iDrop News 2/15/18] “ZTE is proud of the innovation and security of our products in the US market. As a publicly traded company, we are committed to adhering to all applicable laws and regulations of the United States, work with carriers to pass strict testing protocols, and adhere to the highest business standards. Our mobile phones and other devices incorporate US-made chipsets, US-made operating systems and other components. ZTE takes cybersecurity and privacy seriously and remains a trusted partner to our US suppliers, US customers and the people who use our high quality and affordable products for their communications needs.”

Is HomePod Actually the Best-Sounding Smart Home Speaker? Wed, 14 Feb 2018 00:00:21 +0000 HomePod has been consistently rated as the best sounding smart home speaker since its announcement and its release. But you might not know that if you’ve only read Consumer Reports’ review — which rated HomePod’s audio quality lower than competitors like the Sonos One and Google Home Max..

CR wrote that HomePod’s sound was, overall, a “bit muddy compared with what the Sonos One and Google Home Max delivered.” That’s because, as CR puts it, HomePod overemphasized the low-end of music, calling it “boomy,” and added that the mid-range and treble elements weren’t as clear.

But that conclusion is in sharp contrast to most professional critical reviews of HomePod. So what’s going on?

Difference of Opinion (or Bias?)

To be clear, most media outlets and tech sites have rated HomePod very favorably. That includes Mashable, The Guardian, Recode, Pocket-Lint, Engadget, The Verge, TechCrunch, and What Hi-Fi, among others. Most of these tout HomePod as the best-sounding smart home speaker. By a long shot.

But, of course, there are exceptions. Along with CR, BuzzFeed and the Wall Street Journal didn’t concur with other reviews.

And David Pogue, a writer for Yahoo! Finance, conducted his own blind test and found the results inconclusive. Different listeners rated HomePod as the best for different songs, but they did not rate it the best across the board.

Interestingly, Pogue also noted that, to the best of his knowledge, no other publication had conducted a blind listening test of HomePod and other speakers. Looking over early reports, Pogue seems to be right.

Bias could certainly be a factor in how HomePod is being rated compared to other speakers — and it’s hard to account for that. And on that note, keep in mind Consumer Reports’ history of allegedly being biased against Apple products, as can be seen in a recent AppleInsider editorial.

The Bottom Line

It’s important to preface any discussion about audio quality the fact that audio hardware testing results can be contentious. Even if a speaker is rated consistently as “the best,” there will always be outliers. Any speaker is going to handle music differently, and music is also incredibly diverse. That goes for music listeners, too. Audio preferences are inherently subjective.

That was the general conclusion of Pogue’s review and blind test. And despite the inconclusive results of his testing, Pogue did note that HomePod “generally sounds better than any other smart speaker — but only somewhat.”

The truth of the matter is that, unless you were directly comparing HomePod to other speakers side-by-side, you’d be hard-pressed to declare a clear winner.

What that means for consumers is this: HomePod is going to be one of — if not the — best sounding smart home speaker on the market. Any difference between it and other comparable, excellent-sounding speakers is going to be nominal.

Frankly, audio quality is secondary compared to other concerns about HomePod’s features (and lack thereof). So, if it makes sense for you and your ecosystem, get a HomePod. Rest assured that you’d have to split hairs to find one that actually sounds better than it.

Verizon Will Stop Selling Unlocked iPhones to ‘Combat Theft’ Tue, 13 Feb 2018 23:16:16 +0000 Calling it an “extra step” in helping to prevent fraud and the theft of its valuable hardware, Verizon announced Monday that it plans to begin locking the phones it sells online and via its retails stores, CNET reports.

America’s largest wireless carrier has opted to implement the policy change as a way to deter criminals from stealing phones, noting how stolen devices are often “on route to retail stores, or from the stores themselves” at the time they’re stolen.

“We’re taking steps to combat this theft and reduce fraud,” said Tami Erwin, Verizon’s executive vice president of wireless operations. “These steps will make our phones exponentially less desirable to criminals.”

What Does This Mean for Verizon Customers?

Essentially, Verizon’s decision to lock its new phones means they won’t be compatible with any other carrier’s SIM card (unless Verizon authorizes your unlock request).

It’s worth noting that, at least for the time being, any new phone purchased directly from Verizon will automatically be unlocked just as soon as the customer signs up for and activates Verizon service for it.

“Later in the spring” Verizon will shift its policy back in line with the mobile industry’s general protocol, which in most cases involves maintaining that new phones stay locked to their host carrier for “a period of time” after they’ve been purchased.

Such is the case with AT&T who requires its customers to not only pay off their phone entirely, but also be active on the carrier’s network for at least 60 days prior to being eligible for an unlock. Sprint and T-Mobile have similar terms and “wait periods” of 50 and 40 days, respectively, following device payoff.

Will I Ever Be Able to Unlock My Verizon Phone?

To be clear, under its new policy, Verizon will not be doing away with unlocked phones in their entirety.. Rather, customers who purchase a new device — including any of Apple’s iPhone models, present and future — through Verizon, will simply have to wait for this “period of time.”

Unfortunately, Verizon stopped short of providing guidance of how long its customers will have to wait, after purchasing their new device, before it’s eligible to be unlocked, saying only that the company will provide an official update ahead of the policy going live.

So, starting [sometime] this spring, if you own a locked Verizon phone, you’ll have to contact the carrier or visit a retail store to have it unlocked — assuming Big Red will grant you its blessing, of course — before trying to swap out your SIM card.

Verizon assures its customers that “a wait period” is necessary to help “deter scammers from signing up for service using stolen identities” — in a fraudulent bid to obtain a new phone, turn around, and sell it for personal gain, for example. It’s also possible, however, that Verizon is merely trying to protect its cushy position amid the ever-competitive U.S. carrier wars..

Man Claims to Be Time Traveler from 2030, Passes Polygraph Test Tue, 13 Feb 2018 20:19:50 +0000 A man who claims to be a time traveler from the year 2030 has apparently passed a lie detector test when giving a handful of predictions about the future.

The man, known only as “Noah,” insists that he must remain anonymous and that his face must be blurred. Noah also claims that he is 50-years-old, but has taken an “age rejuvenating drug” to make himself appear 25.

Noah has previously given some predictions about the future in an interview with YouTube channel Paranormal Elite. But this time around, another YouTube channel, Apex TV, has subjected Noah to a lie detector test while he gave many of the same predictions.

Among them are forecasts about Trump being re-elected president, humans reaching Mars in 2028, and the introduction of robots that can independently operate a home. Noah added that artificial intelligence will be “huge,” phones will only get bigger, and that a Google Glass-like device will “take over” within the next decade.

Interestingly, Noah also said that time travel has already been invented but is being kept secret — and will only be made public in the year 2028. Also, someone named Ilana Remikee is apparently going to be president in 2030.

Noah claims to have hard evidence proving all of these predictions, but can’t give us it because of “paradoxes.”

Is It Fake?

The general scientific consensus is that time travel into the past isn’t possible. But suspending disbelief, there are other issues with these predictions.

Polygraph (or “lie detector”) tests are notoriously easy to beat, and their value as instruments capable of catching untruths is becoming increasingly weaker. According to the American Psychological Association, “most psychologists agree that there is little evidence that polygraphs can accurately detect lies.”

Similarly, Noah’s predictions are actually pretty boring. Apple is working on a Google Glass-like device, consumer demand is shifting toward bigger phones, smart home products are becoming increasingly mainstream, and Elon Musk seems pretty committed to sending people to Mars within the next few decades. One doesn’t need to be a time traveler to make similar predictions.

It’s also a bit suspicious that “Ilana Remikee” doesn’t show up in any Google queries or vital record searches. To be president in 2030, one would have to have been born in the U.S. (natural-born-citizen clause) in 1993 in order to be 35 (the minimum age) in 2028 (the closest election year to 2030). That person would be 24- or 25-years-old currently.

Man Claims to Be Time Traveler from 2030, Passes Polygraph Test He predicts Trump will be re-elected president, humans will reach Mars in 2028, and robots will independently operate a home. But is it fake, and who is Ilana Remikee? Apex TV,Fast Tech,Ilana Remikee,Polygraph Test,Time Travel
Politicians Hope to Kill Plans for New Apple Megastore in Melbourne Tue, 13 Feb 2018 17:50:39 +0000 Apple has been working with architecture firm Foster + Partners to build a new flagship retail store in Melbourne, but Australian politicians are allegedly not happy with the plans.

According to a report from Architect’s Journal, they have called on the Victoria state parliament to abandon a motion to allow the firm to build a megastore in the city.

The state government had provided the firms with planning permission to build a new store in the city. However, the Future Melbourne Committee wants the mayor to shelve the plans.

Foster + Partners has been working on ambitious plans to build a massive Apple store in Federation Square, which is an iconic part of the city.

Under these plans, the design company wants to create a two-level pavilion that sports glass frames, metal panels, stone floors and balconies. They were detailed over Christmas.

Lawmakers and members of the public have slammed the idea, though. Not only have there been countless  petitions, but the Citizens for Melbourne group has launched a campaign to kill the plans.

Although the state government has already given Foster + Partners the go-head to conduct the redesign work, opposing parties believe that the plans would not match the square’s current architecture.

The Future Melbourne Committee is calling on the government “to avoid pavilion or temple-like design that is out of context in Federation Square and poorly integrated with the square’s existing architecture.”

Speaking to Architects journal, Citizens for Melbourne secretary James Lesh revealed that the motion has so far gathered more than 850 submissions.

Ellen Sandell, member of parliament for Melbourne, is among the people calling for the plans to be scrapped. On Twitter, she said: “We have just moved a motion to revoke the planning approval for the Apple megastore at Fed Square.”

“The Labor Govt must now go back to drawing board and consult the community on alternate location for Apple, or Parliament can block their bad plan in two weeks time.”

11 Most Common and Dangerous Apple Scams in Circulation Tue, 13 Feb 2018 00:02:37 +0000 Apple is well-known for its commitment to user privacy, and its devices have a reputation for being incredibly secure and resistant to viruses. Across the board, that’s a reputation that’s well-earned.

But despite that, users of Apple devices and platforms can still be prone to scams — malicious attacks that prey on user trust to solicit sensitive information, login credentials or even financial details.

This isn’t strictly an Apple problem; scams exist across all tech platforms, but they’re notable because they can affect users of Apple’s normally secure platforms.

Use the right arrow to browse 11 of the most common Apple-related scams — and what you can do to protect yourself.

AT&T Offers Incredible BOGO Deal on iPhone X (and More) Mon, 12 Feb 2018 22:26:04 +0000 AT&T this week launched its latest in a string of buy one get one (BOGO) offers on some of the hottest flagship devices currently available — including Apple’s high-end iPhone X.

Eligible customers will for a limited time be able to snatch up a [heavily discounted] iPhone X when they purchase another and both devices are financed for their entire value on an AT&T Next installment plan.

“Buy an iPhone X and get an iPhone X on us when you buy both on AT&T Next* with eligible wireless service, including the first line at $45/mo. and the second line at $20/mo., after discounts*,” the large print reads, before launching into all the fine print details as outlined below.

Fine Print

  • The current promo is, as always, a limited time offering. And while devices like the 64 GB and 256 GB iPhone X (at $1,000 and $1,150, respectively) are by far the best deals to be had, customers can alternatively choose any combination of iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X to meet their needs.
  • Under the terms of AT&T’s Next monthly installment plan, the retail price of both devices would be divided into monthly installments, with taxes on the full retail price of both handsets due at the time of purchase.
  • Well qualified customers are required to buy both devices on AT&T’s 0% interest monthly installment plan, for which the carrier quotes the following monthly prices:
    • iPhone X — up to $47.92/mo. for 24 months, or $38.34/mo. for 30 months
    • iPhone 8 Plus — up to $39.59/mo. for 24 months, or $31.67/mo. for 30 months
    • iPhone 8 — up to $35.42/mo. for 24 months, or $28.34/mo. for 30 months
  • Both handsets will require postpaid voice and data service provided by AT&T — with plans starting as low as $65/mo. for new customers who also opt into autopay and paperless billing.
  • AT&T’s terms additionally require that customers pay $75/mo. on their first two bills. The discount supposedly goes into effect only by the third billing cycle.
  • Existing AT&T customers, meanwhile, can also take part in this promo by adding onto or reconfiguring their eligible wireless plan.

For more information about this promotion and to see if you qualify, be sure to head over to AT&T’s website and get the full scoop.