Tech support scammer actually caught, gets slap on wrist

A man who helped bilk elderly Americans out of millions as part of a "calling about your Windows" tech support scam must pay $136,000 in fines to the FTC--and may never offer tech support again. Behold the merciless justice of the federal authorities.

Under the settlement, Brar — who operated Genius Technologies and Avangatee Services and does not admit or deny the allegations, according to court documents — “is permanently restrained and enjoined from advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale, or assisting in the advertising, marketing, promoting, or offering for sale of Technical Support Services.”

The settlement was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California in San Francisco, and must still be signed by that court’s judge.

Phone-scamming seniors is and will remain a lucrative line of work in America, for those whose stomach for it. Fortunately for them, they can count the relevant regulators in that group. Read the rest

Just look at Nokia's revived banana phone

Once again offered in black and banana yellow, the new Nokia 8110 has a few upgrades on the original (such as 4G, a better camera, and more than 16 ringtones). But the classic's vaguely erotic curve is left exactly as it was.

It's hitting stores in Asia this month and will surely pop up online shortly thereafter; there doesn't seem to be any word on an official U.S. release. It's being made under license by HMD, which is developing its own operating system and appstore for dumbphones.

[Photo: LutherBlisset] Read the rest

Phone room still running in abandoned building

Exploring a disused and marvelously creepy building, urban spelunker shiey runs into a still-functioning PBX room. The environment isn't so decrepit that it comes across as as impossible or supernatural--the building has power, obviously--but it's definitely weird to find the place between presence and abandonment, where the humans are gone but our footsteps are still talking. Read the rest

Apple "plans giant iPhone"

Bloomberg:

Apple Inc. is preparing to release a trio of new smartphones later this year: the largest iPhone ever, an upgraded handset the same size as the current iPhone X and a less expensive model with some of the flagship phone’s key features

The Munster Coefficient: the number of paragraphs into a news item that announces an exceedingly unlikely Apple product before you realize that Gene Munster is its sole named source.

Photo: vernhart Read the rest

Century-old comic accurately depicts the nightmare of cellphones

Going viral this evening is a marvelous comic strip by the legendary W.K. Haselden, as published in the Daily Mirror on March 5, 1919.

Without formal training his drawings first appeared in a couple of short lived publications but in 1903 he was taken onto the staff of the Daily Mirror, which was then a ‘Ladies’ newspaper, in the true Edwardian sense.

His daily cartoons on the fads, fashions, foibles and follies of the age soon earned him a large following. His style was gentle, subtle and his tone conservative. His targets were the upper middle-class householder and his family, and he was greatly exercised by the advances made by women, their careers, their voting rights and their increasing independence from the corset, both the physical and the metaphorical one of male domination. A viewpoint with which at the time the majority of his readers would have approved.

Each year between 1906 and 1935 around 100 of these cartoons were published in paperback under the title of ‘Daily Mirror Reflections’ and it was a stack of these from 1918 to 1931 that I unearthed. His pioneering work with the large single frame divided into four or more panels connected by a single theme gave him the title, according to his Times Obituary, ‘the father of British strip cartoon’.

Myko Clelland Read the rest

A $10 USB Multimeter for testing cellphones and powerbanks

This PowerJive USB Multimeter measures amps, volts and mAh on all my portable devices.

I wanted to know if my 3 year old 10,000 mAh USB powerbank was still holding anything close to 10,000 mAh. This USB multimeter does exactly what I am looking for. The meter sits in-line between your charging source and whatever device you seek to charge. Simply plugging the dongle in turns it on. The device immediately displays volts and charging amps.

To test capacity of a battery first you need to drain it completely. Reset the meter by plugging in the powered side, and then holding in the units only button for a few seconds. The mAh meter will zero out, and you can plug in whatever you want to charge up. When the device reaches 100% charge, the mAh meter will tell you approximately what your capacity is, at that charging rate.

My 3 year old 10,000 mAh powerbank, that has seen several hundred cycles, still has about 82% of its charge.

PowerJive USB Voltage/Amps Power Meter Tester Multimeter, Test speed of chargers, cables, capacity of power banks via Amazon Read the rest

A fidget spinner with a built-in mobile phone

The core components of a mobile phone are small enough for rectal insertion, so there's really no limit to what shape a phone can take (something you can verify with your own eyes in Shenzhen, where phones are unbelievably cheap (no, cheaper than that), and come in every shape and size). Read the rest

iPhone killer dead in water

The Essential Phone, a $700 premium Android handset launched to much fanfare, has sold only 5,000 handsets.

Essential, the first major startup from Android founder Andy Rubin’s venture capital firm Playground, currently sells the $699 Android-powered Essential Phone through Sprint and promises to release the Essential Home smart-home hub later this year. Essential was named as one of FierceWireless’ top 15 startups to watch in 2017. The relatively low sales figures from BayStreet for the Essential phone can be contrasted with the company’s valuation; Bloomberg columnist Tim Culpan recently calculated that Essential is now valued at roughly $1.2 billion, the Verge reported.

Can $3.5m in sales sustain a billion-dollar unicorn? You betteridge your life it can!

Screengrab courtesy @awhite Read the rest

Vertu, luxury phone maker, bites the dust

Vertu, the "luxury" cellphone maker whose handsets look like drug cartel handguns and are always comically obsolete, went out of business last month, reports the BBC. It is to auction off its inventory. Bids start at $26,000.

Thuy Ong:

The auctioneer, G J Wisdom & Co, says the phones are a mix of concept models to fully functional ones, so some are not operational. The owner of Vertu failed to rescue the company from bankruptcy after offering to pay creditors just £1.9 million ($2.4 million) of the firm’s £128 million debt. Some handsets were sold for $30,000 in the company’s heyday, and offered 24/7 concierge services as part of the handset’s price. Just a year ago, the phone maker released its “cheapest” trio of handsets at $4,200 a pop — though they ran on two-year-old chips.

Vertu was founded as Nokia's prestige marque, sold off by its parent, and is now remembered as a "UK tech jewel." Golden pocket Deloreans with $200 usb cables and no-where to stash the coke.

If you want an example of the delusional esteem in which some British pundits held the company, read The Financial Times' corporate obituary for it. They think they've just witnessed the death of the Leica of cellphones. Read the rest

Tiny flush-fit dual USB adapter for cars

I've been using Aukey's Flush Fit Dual Port USB adapter since early 2016. Once you push it into the car's "cigarette lighter" hole, it's close to a flush fit. It could be a chore to pull it out, but I've never had a reason to. It's regularly $9 but if you use the Amazon code AUKECAR7 it costs $7. Read the rest

Magnetic air vent cell phone car mount, 2 for $6

After trying lots of different phone mounts for cars, the type I've settled on attaches to an air vent and has a magnet on it. You have to stick a thin metal plate on the back of your phone, but it's unobtrusive. Your phone won't slide off. This mount is by far the most convenient kind. Amazon has a sale on air vent magnetic phone mounts. This 2-pack costs $6.39 with free one-day shipping. Read the rest

Saved by a tempered glass screen protector, again

My daughter called me, laughing, to say she'd need another tempered glass screen protector for her iPhone.

These extra layers of glass on your phone really work. $8 every 4 months is a lot better than losing $100 every 2.

OMOTON 2.5D Round Edge 9H Tempered Glass Anti-Scratch Screen Protector for iPhone SE/ 5S/ 5C/ 5 - Clear (2 Pack) via Amazon Read the rest

Will the new Nokia 3310 be the Nokia 3310-killer?

As warned last week, Nokia has relaunched its classic 3310 model candybar phone. The good news: it's a pretty little burner that honors and updates the original's design. The bad news: that's the only connection, and it's otherwise a modern dumbphone with no clear picture yet on how well-designed the interface and hardware is. It's not even made by Nokia, but under license. [via Daneel]

The new device is very cute and looks like a sleeker, updated version of the original. HMD Global retained the keypad buttons and the general shape of the old device. On the back, we see a camera. The new phone also has a color display.

As for details about the phone’s specifications and what HMD has done to update a very rudimentary device for the modern world, we didn’t get much. The company spent less than five minutes on the new device, and only rattled off some battery life details: The new 3310 is going to have 22 hours of talk-time (LOL), and one month of standby battery life. But hey, it has Snake and the classic Nokia ringtone. Take my money!

One worriome portent: you can apparently go diagonally in the new version of Snake.

UPDATE: Reader Brian_McNett writes in to point out that the licencee, despite having the banktastic name HMD Global, is stocked to the gills with former Nokia executives and based in Finland. A good sign! Read the rest

Review: Punkt's MP01 is the ultimate minimalist dumbphone

Punkt's MP01 is a minimal treat for people wanting a simple but flawless phone—and willing to pay top dollar for a few details done very well. Read the rest

The tiniest touchscreen "phone" of them all

VPhone is a wee "phone", surely the most wee of them all. It has a 1.54-inch touchscreen display, Bluetooth, FM radio, pedometer, 128MB (megabytes!) of storage, a heart rate monitor, some social network-monitoring apps, and a choice of "simple and stylish" black or silver trim. The radio's quad-band GSM, so if you can get your hands on one it should work on T-Mobile and ATT in the US.

Yes, there's also a 3.5mm phone jack. The Verge's Ashley Carman:

Some of you might read these stats and think they’re sad. I kind of agree, but I just really love how little this phone is, so it cancels out depressing spec reality. ... The S8 appears to only be available in China, so we, once again, will have to keep dreaming. I’m trying, everyone! I think if we dream hard enough we can force these cool phones to appear in front of us. Will it.

Agreed! It's a curious device that seems more a chunky call-enabled smartwatch than a fully-featured mobile--and the English is a bit ropey on the product page, so it's not really clear if it can make voice calls without a BT connection to another device. Carman points to this 2.45"-screened crapgadget as the smallest bona-fide smartphone on offer; the ancient Sony-Ericsson Xperia X10 Mini, despite its age, is probably a better bet in the 2.5"-ish range. Read the rest

Samsung gives up on exploding cellphone, withdraws Galaxy Note 7 for good

The Wall Street Journal reports that Samsung is to withdraw the Galaxy Note 7 cellphone for good. Subject to recurring reports of fires, even after replacement, the dodgy smartphone's burned through users' pockets to threaten the Korean brand itself.

The New York Times describes it as a "a humbling about-face."

The demise of the Galaxy Note 7 is a major setback for Samsung, the world’s largest maker of smartphones. The premium device — with a 5.7-inch screen, curved contours and comparatively high price — won praise from consumers and reviewers, and was the company’s most ambitious effort yet to take on Apple for the high-end market.

But Samsung has struggled to address reports that the Galaxy Note 7 could overheat and catch fire because of a manufacturing flaw. Last month, the company said it would recall 2.5 million phones to fix the problem. But in recent days, Galaxy Note 7 users emerged with reports that some devices that had supposedly been repaired were overheating, smoking and even bursting into flames. And on Monday, Samsung asked Note 7 customers to power off the phones while it worked on the problem.

Previously: Southwest plane evacuated after Samsung Note 7 catches fire. It was a recall replacement. Read the rest

Air vent magnetic phone mount for $4

This magnetic phone mount is $4 on Amazon when you use code MHE52LAQ. It's usually $9, but occasionally the price drops to $4.

I started using a magnetic phone mount for my car over a year ago, and I think it is the best way to secure my phone to the dashboard. I've tried lots of other kinds of mounts, and this is the most convenient. The only downside is that you have to apply a thin metal plate to the back of your phone or phone case so it will stick to the the magnet on the mount. But the plate is very thin and it's not a bother.

The magnetic mount attaches to an air vent on your car. This could be another downside, but since I live in Los Angeles, I'm almost always running the air conditioning so it keeps my phone from overheating when the sun is on it. That makes the air vent mount an upside for me. (With other mounts, the phone would get so hot that the safety shutdown would sometimes activate to prevent damage to the phone.) Read the rest

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