Moment is offering a new telephoto smartphone lens and I'm so there for it

I'm a big fan of Moment's lens system for Android and iOS smartphones. The company is staffed by folks who are just as passionate about mobile photography as I am. More importantly, they seem to understand that having to buy entirely new lenses every time you land a new handset is twelve different kinds of Bullshit. With Moment's second generation lens system, all you need to do when you invest in a new smartphone is plunk down some new cash for a new photo case and you're in business. Their business model makes me feel comfortable with fielding the relatively steep cost of their high quality smartphone accessory lenses and other kit.

Today, Moment announced that they're releasing a new 58mm telephoto lens. If you're using it with a single lens smartphone like the Google Pixel 3, it'll provide you with 2X optical zoom. Have a dual camera lensed phone like my iPhone 7 Plus? You can expect 4X optical telephoto zoom. That means better photos of far away subjects, portraits and landscapes without having to deal with the pixilation that comes from using digital zoom. Having this option makes me feel much less obligated, in many cases, to bring along an actual camera with me.

I've got one on the way to me and can't wait to try it out. I'm curious to see how it performs versus the last incarnation of their tele lens. I'll post a review with a few choice shots of the lens in action just as soon as I can. Read the rest

200+ Googlers plan company-wide walkout Thu. Nov 1 over alleged sexual harasser protection

More than 200 engineers at Google are said to be preparing a 'women's walk', in which people walk out of work, after claims that the company protected sexual harasser executives, and offered them generous payouts. Read the rest

Review: The Oneplus 6T is almost as nice as a flagship handset for a fraction of the price

When I need to futz with an Android device, OnePlus is the company that I typically turn to. For the money, you won't find a more capable handset in North America. The OnePlus 6, thanks largely to its zippy performance and Android Oreo's being a joy to use, was the first Android device I was able to live with as my daily driver. The OnePlus 6T is, with the exception of a few minor tweaks, very much the same handset as its predecessor. I'm very OK with this.

Under the hood, there's not much to see: OnePlus has used the same Snapdragon 845 processor. The version of the 6T that I took for a spin comes packing 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage. It's a speedy-feeling set of specs that served me well with the OnePlus 6 and now, the 6T. Apps, fly open, I've yet to see any interface lag and I've no complaints about how quickly either smartphone does anything.

With the OnePlus 6T, users get a 3,700mAh battery. Given that I've grown accustomed to the low level of battery that my aging iPhone 7 Plus leaves me with at the end of the day, I was pretty pleased with how much juice was still left in the 6T when I set it down for the night. While it might not come with wireless charging baked into it, the OnePlus 6T's Dash quick charging technology more than made up for its absence. I'll take a rapid charge over the simplicity of not having to plug a cord into my hardware any day. Read the rest

The new Pixel phone has a bizarre, obscure "opt out" arbitration waiver

Binding arbitration is corporate America's favorite dirty trick: to use a product, you are forced to give up your right to sue if the company hurts you, cheats you, or even kills you. Read the rest

Google to charge hardware makers up to $40 per device for Android mobile apps

Google [Alphabet Inc.] will soon charge hardware companies up to $40 per device to use Google apps, under a new licensing plan that will replace one struck down by the EU earlier this year as anti-competitive, reports Reuters. Read the rest

Google releases Android encrypted DNS app that will help beat censorship

Google sister-company Jigsaw (previously) has released an Android app called Intra that encrypts DNS queries, which allows Android users to bypass one of the most common forms of internet censorship. Read the rest

Google changed the settings on Android phones without their owners' permission

A decade ago, Steve Jobs admitted in an interview that Apple had the means to remotely kill core functionalities and apps on iOS devices. Apple purportedly made this possible to ensure that their hardware could not be taken over with malicious apps. I remember being very not OK with this, at the time. But over the years, I completely forgot about it.

Until this week.

From The Verge:

Yesterday a mix of people who own Google Pixel phones and other devices running Android 9 Pie noticed that the software’s Battery Saver feature had been switched on — seemingly all by itself. And oddly, this was happening when the phones were near a full charge, not when the battery was low. As reported by Android Police, initially it was assumed that this was some kind of minor bug in the latest version of Android, which was only released a few weeks ago. Some users thought they might’ve just enabled Battery Saver without realizing.

But it was actually Google at fault.

The company posted a message on Reddit last night acknowledging “an internal experiment to test battery saving features that was mistakenly rolled out to more users than intended.” So Google had remotely — and accidentally — changed a phone setting for a bunch of real-world customers.

Not cool.

Sure, you can argue that it was an honest mistake made by Google's OS development team: they hadn't meant to screw with Android Pie users' handsets. Hell, as soon as it happened, Google hit the interwebz to admit to the mistake. Read the rest

Google to add Xbox One controller compatibility to Android

Given a choice of which controller I’d rather use to play games, my response is always Xbox One. I like how beefy it feels run my hands. I bought one for playing Steam games with a while back and have never regretted the decision. I’ve never felt the urge to use it with my smartphone—I do my gaming on the go with a PS Vita or Nintendo Switch. But I totally get the appeal: Being able to rock emulators using physical controls or play games developed for Android without being driven mad by how lousy an input device a display can be at times, could be pretty sweet. Up until now, gaming on an Android device with an Xbox One controller was a wonky experience as there were mapping problems galore. Thanks to Google, that’s all about to change:

From The Verge:

Google is now officially supporting Xbox One controllers with Bluetooth in its latest Android Pie release. XDA-Developers reports that a Google engineer has closed a long standing bug report on the Xbox One controller mapping issues, noting that they’re fixed in Android Pie.

“This bug should be fixed in P… therefore, marking this as fixed,” says the unnamed Google engineer. The fix has been placed into the core of Android Pie, so all releases of it will include it. A variety of games support Bluetooth controllers in Android, and CNET reports that even Fortnite will be getting support soon. That will make playing Fortnite on Android a lot more interesting on the go, especially if other game developers start to see mobile as more of an opportunity to include controller support. Read the rest

Smartphones enlisted in the war against tuberculosis

Tuberculosis was a disease that Doc Holliday died from; in old-timey novels, it’s often called consumption: a disease that sees those afflicted with it coughing delicately into hankies and later dying peacefully in bed. The truth is, the disease doesn’t afford a peaceful death, nor is it a relic of centuries past.

In 2016, 1.6 million people died after contracting tuberculosis – a disease that causes the cells of an infected individual to burst. It can take hold of multiple sites in your body, but most often it affects the lungs. As the cells in an infected individual's lungs burst, the walls of the lungs destabilize, replacing the space where air’s supposed to go. As the victim’s lungs slowly collapse, the body believes itself to be drowning, because it is. As a result, the infected individual hacks and coughs, trying to clear the obstruction and, in the process, coughing up wee bits of flesh, blood and particles small enough to go airborne in a sneeze or cough. When someone else breathes those airborne particles in? They get infected.

It’s scary shit, but it’s also treatable shit.

To handle the symptoms that come with a case of tuberculosis, it’s necessary to take medication on a daily basis. Doing so isn’t just necessary for someone infected with tuberculosis to live a relatively normal life: given how infectious the disease is, it’s also vital for keeping everyone around them safe from contracting the illness themselves. Because of this, those undergoing treatment for TB are closely monitored by healthcare professionals, to ensure that they’re taking their pills as required. Read the rest

Tweaks made to Android OS are causing massive security holes

Last month, I used up a good chunk of text talking about how much I’ve come to enjoy using Android-powered smartphones. Unfortunately, a story I ran across over at Wired has convinced me that, at least for the time being, spending significantly more time with my iPhone 6 Plus might be a good idea.

According to the report, for many Android users, it’s not necessary to download an altered .APK file from a shady torrenting website or click an email link that’ll fill your handset up with malware in order to compromise your smartphone’s security. Twenty-five different Android smartphone models, made by well-known manufacturers and available across North America, have been found to be full of security flaws and other exploitable nightmares baked into them. The most frustrating part of it all: none of the exploits detailed in the story would be there if the manufacturers had their shit together

From Wired:

The potential outcomes of the vulnerabilities range in severity, from being able to lock someone out of their device to gaining surreptitious access to its microphone and other functions. They all share one common trait, though: They didn’t have to be there.

Instead, they’re a byproduct of an open Android operating system that lets third-party companies modify code to their own liking. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that; it allows for differentiation, which gives people more choice. Google will release a vanilla version of Android Pie this fall, but it’ll eventually come in all kinds of flavors.

Those modifications lead to headaches, though, including the well-established problem of delays in shipping security updates.

Read the rest

Fortnite welcomes Android users

Google fans no longer get an automatic L, Epic Games has opened pre-registration for Fortnite Android.

Fortnite Battle Royale is Epic Games 100 player, last player standing megahit. Cartoon-y as heck, with Wile E. Coyote like antics, eliminated players are sent back to the lobby while their opponents dance and celebrate their wins.

Fortnite for Android will be available on some devices. I'll post the list below. Purchase a new Samsung Note 9 or Galaxy Tab S4 and you get an awful looking skin to play with that other folks won't have.

Epic has some confusing partnership with Samsung but the game is available on other manufacturers handhelds as well. Epic is NOT partnering with Google, and has elected not to distribute the game via the Google Play store. Survive the storm, beware the malware. Downloads will be direct from Epic.

Sign up here.

Android Beta initially will work on the following devices:

Samsung Galaxy: S7 / S7 Edge, S8 / S8+, S9 / S9+, Note 8, Note 9, Tab S3, Tab S4 Google: Pixel / Pixel XL, Pixel 2 / Pixel 2 XL, Asus: ROG Phone, Zenfone 4 Pro, 5Z, V Essential: PH-1 Huawei: Honor 10, Honor Play, Mate 10 / Pro, Mate RS, Nova 3, P20 / Pro, V10 LG: G5, G6, G7 ThinQ, V20, V30 / V30+ Nokia: 8 OnePlus: 5 / 5T, 6 Razer: Phone Xiaomi: Blackshark, Mi 5 / 5S / 5S Plus, 6 / 6 Plus, Mi 8 / 8 Explorer / 8SE, Mi Mix, Mi Mix 2, Mi Mix 2S, Mi Note 2 ZTE: Axon 7 / 7s, Axon M, Nubia / Z17 / Z17s, Nubia Z11

See the FAQ for the list of more compatible devices.

Read the rest

I'm an Android loving iPhone user

Hardware reviews are a big part of how I put bread on the table. In order to do my job properly, I’ve got to be something of a platform agnostic.

While I do most of my writing using Apple devices, I also have to consider other platforms in my coverage: software that works well on a laptop running Windows 10 may be a dog’s breakfast on a MacBook once it’s been ported.

A bluetooth speaker that sound great when paired with my iPhone 7 Plus, for example, might sound like hot garbage when linked to another audio source. So I invest in other hardware that may not be used as part of my day-to-day life, but which I still need to think about when doing my job.

About six months ago, I came to the conclusion that maybe hauling the hardware out when it came time to test something and then throwing it back in a box when I’m done with it wasn’t enough: to really understand whether, say a pair of headphones that comes with an app to control their EQ or noise cancellation, without seeing how it fits into my day-to-day life using a given platform. So, I upped the amount of time that I spend working in Windows 10, I now read books on both Kobo and Amazon e-readers and, in a real shift in how I live my lift, I’ve spent more than half a year using Android-powered smartphones as my daily drivers. In the time since I last used an Android device as my go-to, things have improved so much, I was taken aback. Read the rest

Android's keyboard will no longer autocomplete "sit" with "on my face" thanks to me

Last week, I sent an SMS to our babysitter that said, "Hey, are you free to sit on," and rather than offering autocomplete suggestions like "Saturday" or "Friday," the default Android keyboard suggested "on my face and." Read the rest

Redditor claims Chinese border guards installed malware on his phone

BigTyPB: "I saw the installation process, an icon appear on the home screen, the police ran the application and then the icon hid itself. Not sure if it rooted my phone or what. I know something was running on my phone because they used a handheld device to confirm our phones were communicating with their system before letting us go." Read the rest

Fortnite is coming to Android to kill your productivity

It's still a few months down the road but, if you're an Android user, like I am more and more, these days, there's reason for celebration: Fortnite is finally coming to the platform.

Fortnight has been at the top of the hot game dog pile in the iOS App Store for some time now. And no wonder: it's accessible, fun, looks great and, at least on more recent iPhone handsets, plays like a dream. According to TechCrunch, prior to bringing the game to iOS, Epic Games was making $126 million in revenue off the title. With this being the case, it makes sense that they'd throw all of the resources possible to make Fortnight playable on every single platform on the planet. That Android users would soon be able to crush any hope they have of being productive throughout their day wasn't the only thing that Epic had to say about the game, either.

From TechCrunch:

That news comes amid a flurry of other Fornite related announcements this week. Earlier this morning, Epic unveiled a Battle Royale competition with a large in-game cash prize. This morning, the company also laid out plans to bring voice chat and improved gameplay and controls to the mobile side of things. Stats are coming to mobile, as well, along with a reduced install size.

While I prefer playing shooters, survival games and other twitchy fare that requires a fine touch with a keyboard, mouse or gamepad (I know you can can use all of that with Android, but it feels gross to haul those around with a smartphone,) Having the option to play a huge title like this on the go, no matter whether I'm rocking an iPhone or my OnePlus handset at the time, is pretty great.

Read the rest

I've been using my $120 Amazon 10" Fire HD Tablet for 5 months and love it

I use my Amazon Fire HD 10 every day. At $120 it is the bargain tablet I wanted.

My bright red Amazon Fire HD 10" tablet is amazingly darn useful. Compared to the Apple equivalent I've saved $100s of dollars on features I didn't want to use. I bought this tablet as soon as it was announced, and it has become a pretty constant companion. Read the rest

Amazon doesn't like how Signal circumvents censorship

Signal is an encrypted messaging app for smartphones and desktops that I and a lot of other folks use on a daily basis to communicate with discretion and security. I like it so much that I've moved away from using other services on my iOS and Android phones to using Signal for all of the texting I do, even with those who don't use the app. Unfortunately, according to The Verge, the Signal team is having a difficult time trying to provide its services to users in the UAE, Egypt and Oman, where the app has been banned by the government. Considering the fact that these states aren't known for treating political dissidents and minorities none too well, that's a big deal. For some people, encrypted comms are essential to avoiding incarceration or worse.

The crux of Signal's issues with providing services to users in these countries is that Amazon, whose CloudFront web services Signal's parent company, Open Whisper System, uses, has banned domain-fronting. Domain-fronting, put simply, is a technique for making traffic from one site look like it's from another site. In an email received by Open Whisper System's founder, Moxie Marlinspike (best damn name in the business,) the General Manager of Amazon CloudFront called Open Whisper Systems' domain-fronting out, telling Marlinspike that Amazon would love to have their business, but not his company refuses to comply with their no domain-fronting policies.

From the email:

When access to Signal was originally censored in Egypt, Oman, Qatar, and UAE, we responded by through Google App Engine.

Read the rest

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