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Google just fixed one of Android’s biggest problems • BGR
Chris Smith:
<p>Backing up data on a smartphone shouldn’t be a chore, regardless of operating systems, and you should perform regular backups to protect yourself against accidents. Just because a phone is lost, stolen, or destroyed, doesn’t mean your data has to be. Also, regular backups will make it a lot easier to switch to a new device.

The easiest way to do this is by using a cloud service of your choosing. Apple has given iPhone and iPad users the ability to back up their files, contacts, messages, and photos with the help of a full device backup in iCloud. Google, meanwhile, took its time to come up with an iCloud-like solution. But, going forward, Android users will be able to perform full device backups with the help of Google’s One cloud storage.

Announced in a blog post, the new Google One phone backup comes with each Google One account, with memberships starting at $1.99 per month for 100GB of storage.</p>


Jeepers. Even Apple doesn't charge for the first 5GB, and it introduced iCloud in 2011. Has Google honestly taken eight years to come up with something less good than Apple relating to cloud storage?
google  android  backup 
9 days ago by charlesarthur
Comment: Apple could kill Wear OS with a pull of the Apple Watch lever • 9to5Google
Stephen Hall:
<p>It’s a sad reality, but if Apple made the Watch compatible with Android, it would be bar-none the best smartwatch for Android phones. It already is the fastest, most useful, and most technically impressive wearable you can buy. The problem for Android users is that — outside of hacky methods of using the LTE model — it’s only compatible with the iPhone.

As it is, Android users are limited to Samsung’s Tizen-running watches (arguably the best Apple Watch alternatives) and the countless Wear OS options from Fossil Group, Mobvoi, and others.

Of all these watches, the Apple Watch is already in a distant first place in market share as a recent report highlights. Apple Watch has a massive 47% of the market, Samsung is in second place with around 16%, Fitbit sits around 10%, and all others — every single smartwatch from every other maker, Wear OS or not — share the remaining 28%. Wear OS is only a slice of that slice.

Wear OS makers are not only struggling to grow, they’re dropping. Counterpoint says that Fossil’s 3.2% worldwide market share in 2018 dropped to a measly 2.5% in 2019. And, again, that’s for one of the biggest and best makers of Wear OS devices. Even they are in the low single-digits. Fossil makes the most Wear OS watches, and they also make the best. Fossil Sport is one of many examples.

All of this is happening while the Apple Watch continues to grow in dominance. Counterpoint earlier this year put Apple at more than 1 in 3 smartwatch purchases worldwide, while Strategy Analytics says that number is closer to being a full half. There’s no way around it: Apple Watch is killing the game.</p>


Maybe Android compatibility will be the next-year thing. Or, more possibly, Apple feels that it's gaining enough distance through the integration of Watch and Airpods that it's becoming a reason for some to switch. With the smartphone market essentially static, holding on to a reason to make people buy an iPhone rather than an Android phone has far greater value than just a single phone sale.
apple  applewatch  wearos  android 
9 days ago by charlesarthur
Apple takes flak for disputing iOS security bombshell dropped by Google • Ars Technica
:
<p>Apple seems to be saying that evidence suggests that the sites that Google found indiscriminately exploiting the iOS vulnerabilities were operational for only two months. Additionally, as reported by ZDNet, a researcher from security firm RiskIQ claims to have uncovered evidence that the websites didn't attack iOS users indiscriminately, but rather only visitors from certain countries and communities.

If either of those points are true then it’s worth taking note, since virtually all media reports (including the one from Ars) have said sites indiscriminately did so for at least two years. Apple had an opportunity to clarify this point and say precisely what it knows about active use of the five iPhone exploit chains Project Zero found. But <a href="https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/09/a-message-about-ios-security/">Friday’s statement [from Apple about the hacks]</a> said nothing about any of this, and Apple representatives didn’t respond to a request to comment for this post. A Google spokesman said he didn’t know precisely how long the small collection of websites identified in the report were operational. He said he’d try to find out, but didn’t respond further.

In a statement, Google officials wrote: “Project Zero posts technical research that is designed to advance the understanding of security vulnerabilities, which leads to better defensive strategies. We stand by our in-depth research which was written to focus on the technical aspects of these vulnerabilities. We will continue to work with Apple and other leading companies to help keep people safe online.”

Former NSA hacker and founder of the firm Rendition Infosec Jake Williams told Ars that ultimately, the time the exploit sites were active is immaterial. “I don’t know that these other 22 months matter,” he explained. “It feels like their statement is more of a straw man to deflect away from the human rights abuses.”

Also missing from Apple’s statement is any response to the blistering criticism the Project Zero report made of Apple’s development process, which the report alleges missed vulnerabilities that in many cases should have been easy to catch with standard quality-assurance processes.</p>


Also worth reading: <a href="https://www.volexity.com/blog/2019/09/02/digital-crackdown-large-scale-surveillance-and-exploitation-of-uyghurs/">Volexity's report on how Android devices were targeted</a>, and OAuth for Google Applications and Gmail, along with "doppelganger domains" that look like Google, the Turkistan Times and the Uyghur Academy.
apple  security  china  uyghur  android  hacking 
13 days ago by charlesarthur
Trusted Face smart unlock method has been removed from Android devices • Android Police
Rita el Khoury:
<p>Face unlock is more widely available on smartphones nowadays, but many of us seem to forget that Android has always had a barebones — albeit easily fooled — equivalent of the feature for years. Android Smart Lock's Trusted face was added in 2014 and has been accessible to users on all Android devices until recently. Now, it's completely gone from stock and OEM devices, running Android 10 or below.

The feature was accessible under Settings -> Security -> Smart Lock -> Trusted face. It didn't use any biometric data for security, instead just relying on your face to unlock your device. A photo could easily fool it. The writing was on the wall for its removal: It was broken on Android Q Beta 6 and we know Google has been working on a more secure face authentication method.

But it's not only Android 10 that no longer has the Trusted face option. We've verified that the option is gone from the OnePlus 6T, Samsung Galaxy S9 and S10, Nokia 3.2, all of which are running Android Pie stable. That's because Smart Lock was never really part of the firmware, but was always controlled by Google Play Services…</p>


And Google Play Services gets updated, and it goes away. Strange that after five years Google has only now decided that it's not secure enough.
google  facerecognition  security  android 
18 days ago by charlesarthur
Exploit sellers say there are more iPhone hacks on the market than they’ve ever seen • VICE
Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai and Joseph Cox:
<p>On Tuesday, vulnerability broker Zerodium announced new prices for Android zero-days, which are bugs and exploits that are unknown to the companies that make the software or hardware, and coveted by sophisticated attackers such as law enforcement and intelligence agencies. Zerodium will pay $2.5m to security researchers who provide exploits that allow for the complete takeover of Android phones without requiring the target to click on anything, while the same type of exploits for iOS are still worth $2m.

“The zero-day market is flooded by iOS exploits, mostly Safari and iMessage chains, mainly due [to] a lot of security researchers having turned their focus into full time iOS exploitation," Chaouki Bekrar, the founder of Zerodium, said in an online chat. "They’ve absolutely destroyed iOS security and mitigations. There are so many iOS exploits that we’re starting to refuse some of them.”

Andrea Zapparoli Manzoni, director of Crowdfense, a company that buys zero-day exploits and sells them to governments, also said that there are more iOS exploit chains on the market, but with a caveat.

"There are more iOS chains on the market but not all of them are 'intelligence-grade,'" he wrote in an email.</p>


Interesting article; worth also looking at <a href="https://twitter.com/thegrugq/status/1168981940462149644">this thread from "The Grugq"</a>, a security researcher who sells secured Android smartphones, and says that "a secured Android phone is safer than an iOS device." Note the use of "secured" as a qualifier there; the "average" Android device, he says, "can trivially be infested with malware". Even so, this unwelcome (from Apple's POV) attention is surely why Apple has started giving security researchers specially unlocked phones so they can find flaws. (Thanks #stormyparis for the link.)
apple  android  security  hacking  ios 
19 days ago by charlesarthur
iPhone hackers caught by Google also targeted Android and Microsoft Windows, say sources • Forbes
Thomas Brewster:
<p>The unprecedented attack on Apple iPhones <a href="https://googleprojectzero.blogspot.com/2019/08/a-very-deep-dive-into-ios-exploit.html">revealed by Google this week</a> was broader than first thought. Multiple sources with knowledge of the situation said that Google’s own Android operating system and Microsoft Windows PCs were also targeted in a campaign that <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2019/08/31/china-google-iphone-uyghur/">sought to infect the computers and smartphones of the Uighur ethnic group in China</a>. That community has long been targeted by the Chinese government, in particular in the Xinjiang region, where surveillance is pervasive.

Google’s and Microsoft’s operating systems were targeted via the same websites that launched the iPhone hacks, according to the sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

That Android and Windows were targeted is a sign that the hacks were part of a broad, two-year effort that went beyond Apple phones and infected many more than first suspected. One source suggested that the attacks were updated over time for different operating systems as the tech usage of the Uighur community changed. Android and Windows are still the most widely used operating systems in the world. They both remain hugely attractive targets for hackers, be they government-sponsored or criminal.</p>


This puts something of a different cast onto the Google Project Zero blogpost, which gives the strong impression that only iOS was targeted. If Google knew about attacks on Android and Windows, why didn't it blog those? If it didn't, how did it miss them, since they must have been on the same sites, at the same time?
google  ios  android  hacking  china 
21 days ago by charlesarthur
How Android paved the way for the smartphone revolution • Bloomberg
Shira Ovide with a rundown of what you're probably familiar with; but this is different:
<p>for Google parent Alphabet, Android’s legacy has grown messy. Last year, after a long investigation, European Union regulators declared that Google’s offering Android for free but with strings attached was a violation of EU anti-monopoly laws. The EU also fined Google for favoring its web shopping service ahead of rivals and for hurting competition in internet search ads. The company is appealing all three actions.

The smartphone is now middle-aged by the sped-up standards of the tech world. IDC estimates that sales of the devices will decline in 2019 for the third straight year. There remains a big gap between the 50% of the world that uses the mobile internet and the 80% to 90% where analysts predict adoption will top out. But reaching the next 3.5 billion to 4 billion people gets progressively harder. Even Android can’t drive phone prices down low enough for some people and places where the smartphone hasn’t spread widely.

And as technologists bet on what lies beyond the smartphone, the odds are that Android or an Android-esque system won’t have a major role. In a future in which wireless connections are so fast and cheap that the internet can be built into every car, desk chair, thermostat, virtual-reality device, and pair of glasses, a single gadget that acts as an access point for the digital world may be much less important. And the biggest platforms for cloud computing, driverless cars, and voice-activated digital assistants are proprietary systems, not open coalitions like Android. The key developers, such as Alphabet, are wagering it’s better for them to act alone.</p>


Then again, what's ever going to surpass the smartphone?
android  smartphone 
6 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google to ask rivals to bid to be default search on Android phones • Bloomberg
Natalia Drozdiak:
<p>Alphabet’s Google will require rivals to bid in order to become listed as alternative search providers on Android smartphones, a move to try to keep additional antitrust scrutiny at bay.

Starting next year, Google will prompt users to make a choice between Google and three other rival options as their default search provider. Google <a href="https://blog.google/around-the-globe/google-europe/update-android-search-providers-europe/">invited search providers to bid as part of an auction</a> on the new choice screen, which will appear when a user sets up a new Android smartphone or tablet in Europe for the first time.

The European Commission, the bloc’s antitrust body, last year fined Google €4.3bn ($4.8bn) for strong-arming device makers into pre-installing its Google search and Chrome browser, giving it a leg up because users are unlikely to look for alternatives if a default is already preloaded. The EU ordered Google to change that behavior and threatened additional fines if it failed to comply.

Eric Leandri, chief executive of Paris-based search engine Qwant, called Google’s move "a total abuse of the dominant position" to "ask for cash just for showing a proposal of alternatives."

…A European Commission spokeswoman said the EU would be "closely monitoring the implementation of the choice screen mechanism" and noted that the changes allow rival search engines the possibility to strike deals with smartphone and tablet manufacturers to pre-install their services.</p>


Seems fair, as long as Google is obliged to bid, and its losing bid price goes to the winner, or distributed to the other bidders if Google has the highest bid. If the EU says it got its dominant position through monopoly abuse, why should it be allowed to continue monetising it?
google  antitrust  search  android  auction 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google is quietly testing 'Play Pass' app and game subscription, taking on Apple Arcade • Android Police
Corbin Davenport:
<p>Earlier this year, Apple announced Apple Arcade, a monthly subscription service that gives you access to a library of mobile games (including some exclusive titles) on iOS devices. Apple Arcade isn't live yet, but Google is already testing its own competing service, named Play Pass.

XDA Developers found evidence last year that Google was working on the Play Pass service, but now the company is starting to test it. We received screenshots from a reader [shown in the story], which show the signup page for Play Pass and the $4.99 monthly cost. Of course, the price could change before the final rollout.

An info page reads, "Explore a curated catalog spanning puzzle games to premium music apps and everything in between. From action hits to puzzles and fitness trackers, with Google Play Pass you unlock access to hundreds of premium apps and games without ads, download fees or in-app purchases." Another screen shows Stardew Valley and Marvel Pinball as some of the included games.</p>


Our reader stormyparis <a href="http://theoverspill.blog/2019/08/01/greenland-global-heating-melt-start-up-1123/comment-page-1/#comment-41026">reckons</a> that if it could target 1 billion users, and get 5% of them, it could generate $3bn, but then you have to look at what people wouldn't spend as a result of their subscription, so..

It's probably only going to appeal to the whales who spend way more than $5 per month, though. And it doesn't "take on" Apple Arcade. It's entirely parallel and separate, and won't mean Android gets the games sooner than iOS.
google  apps  arcade  android  ios 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Samsung’s Galaxy Tab S6 is its latest volley against the iPad Pro • The Verge
Dan Seifert:
<p>For software, the Tab S6 runs Android 9 Pie with version 1.5 of Samsung’s OneUI interface. It also has support for Samsung’s DeX interface, which provides a more desktop-like experience when using the tablet with a keyboard. The new keyboard attachment has a function key to launch DeX quickly. DeX can also be outputted to an external display using the Tab S6’s USB Type-C port.

In terms of size and features, the Tab S6 compares closer to Apple’s most recent iPad Air than the more expensive iPad Pro. But the Air starts at a lower price and has a much more developed operating system and app ecosystem than the Tab S6. As with most of Samsung’s high-end tablet efforts for the past few years, it’s hard to see why anyone would choose the Tab S6 over Apple’s options. We’ll have a better idea of how well the Tab S6 stacks up against Apple and Microsoft’s tablets once we’ve had a chance to put it through a full review, so stay tuned for that.</p>

External display likely coming to the iPad Pro in September with iOS 13, and filesystem access certainly, so not an advantage for long.
iPad  samsung  android  tablet 
7 weeks ago by charlesarthur
I wish Google's Smart Displays were the kitchen companions they promised to be • Android Police
David Ruddock:
<p>The first fundamental flaw of using a smart display as a recipe canvas is that the display can only access a limited subset of recipes available online. These recipes must either have schema formatting that Google recognizes in its search platform and then displays in a cookie cutter style on the display, or algorithmically be flagged as a recipe and render as a desktop web page (often in barely readable, tiny font). For now, only the largest recipe repositories online use the dedicated markup formatting, and mostly because they received early access to this tool from Google. Ordinary sites are able to do it as well, but many simply haven't - and some websites have such heavily customized recipe formatting that Google's one-size-fits-all approach simply wouldn't make sense for them.

This means that when you search for a recipe, you're only getting a curated selection of the total search results for that recipe on the web. And oftentimes, I dig through a half dozen or more recipes before deciding on the one that sounds best or provides the most information on the processes and techniques involved. Searching "red pepper soup" on a smart display will yield results, but it won't yield the one I settled on after doing a search on my phone last week, because apparently Google doesn't think that page contains a recipe.

When I do find a recipe I want, I should be able to just push that recipe from my laptop, phone, or tablet to the smart display - at the very least it could give me a web browser view. But it can't. There is no way to push web content to the smart display, it can only show you pages in the results of a voice search query. This, frankly, makes no sense: the screen is clearly capable of and does display web pages, it just won't let you display any page you want.</p>


So he says it ends up being what most people use these devices for - a music player, and a timer.
design  android  google  recipe 
9 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Malicious apps infect 25 million Android devices with 'Agent Smith' malware • Phys.org
Cat Ferguson:
<p>The apps, most of them games, were distributed through third-party app stores by a Chinese group with a legitimate business helping Chinese developers promote their apps on outside platforms. Check Point is not identifying the company, because they are working with local law enforcement. About 300,000 devices were infected in the US.

The malware was able to copy popular apps on the phone, including WhatsApp and the web browser Opera, inject its own malicious code and replace the original app with the weaponized version, using a vulnerability in the way Google apps are updated. The hijacked apps would still work just fine, which hid the malware from users.

Armed with all the permissions users had granted to the real apps, "Agent Smith" was able to hijack other apps on the phone to display unwanted ads to users. That might not seem like a significant problem, but the same security flaws could be used to hijack banking, shopping and other sensitive apps, according to Aviran Hazum, head of Check Point's analysis and response team for mobile devices.

"Hypothetically, nothing is stopping them from targeting bank apps, changing the functionality to send your bank credentials" to a third party, Hazum said. "The user wouldn't be able to see any difference, but the attacker could connect to your bank account remotely."</p>
security  android  hacking  counterfeit 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Huawei founder says his new OS is faster than Android, but that’s still not good enough • BGR
Chris Smith:
<p>Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said in an interview that the new operating system, which is based on Android, is even faster than Google’s mobile OS. He also confirmed what previous reports noted about the new platform, codenamed Hongmeng for the time being: that it’ll work on a variety of devices including laptops. In fact, he said it might be even faster than macOS. That said, it doesn’t matter how fast Hongmeng will be, because Huawei will have a tough time selling it in western countries.

In an interview with French periodical Le Point (via Sina Technology), Ren said that Hongmeng is meant to also work on network switches, routers, servers, smartphones, and other internet-connected devices. If that sounds familiar, that’s because Google’s new Fuchsia OS is also meant to run on a plethora of devices, not just smartphones and tablets.

Ren also said that Huawei’s OS has a processing delay of just five milliseconds, which makes it faster than both Android and macOS, with particular emphasis on the former. The inclusion of macOS here is an indication that Hongmeng will be an alternative to desktop operating systems like macOS and Windows 10.

The exec admitted that Huawei’s main problem with this product is the lack of an application store, so competing against the iPhone and Android will be difficult. But the company is developing its own app store, which is what Amazon does for its Android fork. But that’s still the main reason why hardcore Android users won’t care that Huawei has an Android-based OS that’s faster than Google’s.</p>


Most of this is nonsense - being "fast" is nice but isn't a specific necessity for a mobile OS. It's the app store that matters, as we all know.
android  huawei 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
The lifetime of an Android API vulnerability • Light Blue Touchpaper
Daniel Carter, Daniel Thomas, and Alastair Beresford:
<p>The specific vulnerability (CVE-2012-6636) affected Android devices and allowed JavaScript running inside a WebView of an app (e.g. an advert) to run arbitrary code inside the app itself, with all the permissions of app. The vulnerability could be exploited remotely by an attacker who bought ads which supported JavaScript. In addition, since most ads at the time were served over HTTP, the vulnerability could also be exploited if an attacker controlled a network used by the Android device (e.g. WiFi in a coffee shop). The fix required both the Android operating system, and all apps installed on the handset, to support at least Android API Level 17. Thus, the deployment of an effective solution for users was especially challenging.

When we published our paper in 2015, we predicted that this vulnerability would not be patched on 95% of devices in the Android ecosystem until January 2018 (plus or minus a standard deviation of 1.23 years). Since this date has now passed, we decided to check whether our prediction was correct.</p>


LBT is the security team at Cambridge University's computer lab. This vulnerability seems quite serious, doesn't it? Took a while - as in years - to get fixed, though.
android  vulnerability  api 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Over 1,300 Android apps scrape personal data regardless of permissions • TechRadar
David Lumb:
<p>Researchers at the International Computer Science Institute (ICSI) created a controlled environment to test 88,000 apps downloaded from the US Google Play Store. They peeked at what data the apps were sending back, compared it to what users were permitting and - surprise - <a href="https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/documents/public_events/1415032/privacycon2019_serge_egelman.pdf">1,325 apps were forking over specific user data they shouldn’t have</a>.

Among the test pool were “popular apps from all categories,” according to ICSI’s report. 

The researchers disclosed their findings to both the US Federal Trade Commission and Google (receiving a bug bounty for their efforts), though the latter stated a fix would only be coming in the full release of Android Q, according to CNET.

Before you get annoyed at yet another unforeseen loophole, those 1,325 apps didn’t exploit a lone security vulnerability - they used a variety of angles to circumvent permissions and get access to user data, including geolocation, emails, phone numbers, and device-identifying IMEI numbers.

One way apps determined user locations was to get the MAC addresses of connected WiFi base stations from the ARP cache, while another used picture metadata to discover specific location info even if a user didn’t grant the app location permissions. The latter is what the ICSI researchers described as a “side channel” - using a circuitous method to get data.

They also noticed apps using “covert channels” to snag info: third-party code libraries developed by a pair of Chinese companies secretly used the SD card as a storage point for the user’s IMEI number. If a user allowed a single app using either of those libraries access to the IMEI, it was automatically shared with other apps.</p>


Android Q isn't going to be universally adopted by any means. Data leaks are going to go on.
android  data  privacy  security 
10 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google begins showing British Android users rival search engines to appease EU regulators
Margi Murphy:
<p>Google has begun asking British smartphone users whether they would like to switch to rival search engines in a bid to appease European regulators.

Android users will now have the option to go online using search engines such as Microsoft’s Bing, Yahoo or privacy-focused Google critic DuckDuckGo.

Google hopes the tactic will brush off any further advances from the European Commission, which delivered it a record €4.34bn fine (£3.9 bn) for being anticompetitive in July 2018. 

The European Commission’s competition chief Margrethe Vestager said it was wrong for Google to require Android manufacturers to install Google’s search app and Chrome browser app as a condition for licensing Google’s app store.

 While she acknowledged that Google didn’t prevent customers from using other search engines, she said that only 1pc of Android users chose to do so…

…“Once you have it, it is working, very few are curious enough to look for another search app or browser,” said Vestager.

At the time, Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said the decision rejected “the business model that supports Android, which has created more choice for everyone, not less”.

Google’s web browser Chrome has always appeared as the default. Now, Android users are being asked whether they would like to download one different apps offering the same service instead.</p>


Hang on, though. Other browsers offer Google as the default search engine. What if people were assigned a search engine randomly?
google  android  browser  default 
11 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Kudlow: US sales to Huawei won't imperil national security • The New York Times
Associated Press:
<p>[White House economics adviser Larry] Kudlow told "Fox News Sunday" and CBS' "Face the Nation" that Huawei will remain on an American blacklist as a potential security threat. He stressed that additional US licensing "will be for what we call general merchandise, not national security sensitive," such as chips and software generally available around the world.

"What's happening now is simply a loosening up for general merchandise," Kudlow said. "This is not a general amnesty."

Trump made the announcement Saturday after meeting with China's Xi Jinping at the Group of 20 summit in Japan. Trump said US companies could make the sales if the transactions don't present a "great, national emergency problem."

Several Republican senators immediately expressed concerns. In a tweet Saturday, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida called the decision a "catastrophic mistake." Sen. Lindsey Graham [Republican, South Carolina], told CBS that Trump's agreement was "clearly a concession," and also said it would be a mistake if sales to Huawei involved "major technology."

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., described the Chinese company as a clear threat to US national security. "To me, Huawei in the United States would be like a Trojan horse ready to steal more information from us," he told NBC's "Meet the Press."</p>


The reversal on Huawei was predictable enough - Trump doesn't do anything on principle, even when everyone around him knows that something should be done on principle - but this is just baffling. American companies were banned from selling to Huawei, and it looked like it would cripple the Chinese company. So is Google still on the banned list, given that its products aren't generally available?
huawei  google  android  ban 
12 weeks ago by charlesarthur
Google says it’s done making tablets and cancels two unreleased products • The Verge
Chris Welch:
<p>Google went so far as to reveal that it has axed two in-development tablet products, moving the employees who had been working on them to other areas of the company. (Most have apparently joined the Pixelbook team.) The tablets were both smaller in size than the Pixel Slate and were planned for release “sometime after 2019.” But disappointing quality assurance testing results led Google to completely abandon both devices. Google informed employees of its decision on Wednesday.

The Pixel Slate received largely mediocre reviews when it went on sale last year. Google earned praise for the device’s hardware design, but the software felt unfinished — Chrome OS has yet to really feel at home on a tablet — and lower-priced versions of the Slate suffered from extremely sluggish performance and lag. Google has resolved some of those issues with updates, but more than anything else, the company might have realized that taking on Apple’s iPad was going to be a losing battle. The iPad is offered at multiple price points, has an enormous selection of apps, and is set to gain productivity enhancements this fall with the rollout of iPadOS.

The Pixelbook, meanwhile, has been met with much better feedback from customers since its release in 2017 owing to its fantastic keyboard, nice screen, lightweight design, and unique style. And it’s now clear that a new model is on the way. A Google spokesperson told Computer World, which also reported on this news, that it’s “very likely” a Pixelbook 2 will see release before the end of 2019.</p>


Google's saying Android slates have reached the end of their evolution (and zero profitability - note that's not the case for iPads). It's going to focus "solely on laptops" for ChromeOS - which also implies that ChromeOS (or a fusion, or Fuchsia) isn't going to come to Android tablets either.
android  tablets  google 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Inside Huawei’s secretive plans to develop an operating system to rival Google’s Android • South China Morning Post
:
<p>Huawei’s self-developed OS would be able to support a range of products and systems within its ecosystem, including smartphones, computers, tablets, TVs, automobiles and smart wear, which would also be compatible with all Android applications and existing web applications, Yu was quoted as saying in a Securities Times report published on May 21.

“The Huawei OS is likely to hit the market as soon as this fall, and no later than spring next year,” Yu said in a WeChat group discussion. Although the screenshot of the conversation has been widely circulated on Chinese media, Huawei has declined to verify the information.

“I am not able to reveal more information beyond Yu’s remarks,” Zhao Ming, president of Honor, one of Huawei’s two smartphone brands, told reporters in Shanghai last month, when asked for an update on the proprietary OS.

Questions remain though over potential user experience issues and whether overseas customers will actually want a phone without popular Google apps.

Google’s Android and Apple’s proprietary iOS have a stranglehold on smartphone operating systems, accounting for 99.9% of the global market [outside China], according to Gartner estimates last year.

Huawei was confident of its OS prospects in China as it believed developers and local consumers would support and build up the ecosystem quickly, the sources said. Huawei’s sales have continued to rise in the country as the Android system used on the mainland has never carried Google services, to comply with government restrictions.

But Bloomberg reported on June 5 that consumer fear in Europe that Huawei phones would quickly become out of date has meant demand for its devices has “dropped off a cliff” in some markets there, according to analysts.

“It is not the best time to introduce an OS as Huawei would have liked to try it when they have an even bigger market share,” one analyst said. “Domestically it may be OK, but the company remains concerned about the international response.”</p>
huawei  os  android  google 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
25 things Apple announced for iOS 13 that we want on Android • Android Police
Rita El Khoury:
<p>While the dominating rhetoric over many years has been Apple's uncanny ability to announce an Android feature that has existed for years as innovative and ground-breaking, things have changed recently. 2019 was one of the most interesting thanks to plenty of both small and big additions to iOS 13 that leave us a little doe-eyed and jealous. So here are twenty five new iOS features we'd really like to see on Android.</p>


Top thing: sign in with Apple. The list is quite surprising. (The comments are.. comments.)
apple  ios13  android 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Google warns of US national security risks from Huawei ban • Financial Times
Kiran Stacey and James Politi:
<p>Google in particular is concerned it would not be allowed to update its Android operating system on Huawei’s smartphones, which it argues would prompt the Chinese company to develop its own version of the software.

Google argues a Huawei-modified version of Android would be more susceptible to being hacked, according to people briefed on its lobbying efforts. Huawei has said it would be able to develop its own operating system “very quickly”.

One person with knowledge of the conversations said: “Google has been arguing that by stopping it from dealing with Huawei, the US risks creating two kinds of Android operating system: the genuine version and a hybrid one. The hybrid one is likely to have more bugs in it than the Google one, and so could put Huawei phones more at risk of being hacked, not least by China.”

Washington has been concerned for years that telecoms equipment sold by Huawei could be used by Beijing for hacking. But since Donald Trump entered office, these concerns have come to the fore.</p>


Seems a bit of a stretch. The obvious retort from the US admin side would be "so tell everyone not to buy from Huawei. Get a logo like 'Intel Inside' but saying 'Google Inside' - 'Good To Google'? - and rely on that."
google  huawei  android 
june 2019 by charlesarthur
Huawei considers rivals to Google's Android after US ban • Bloomberg
Natalia Drozdiak:
<p>Huawei Technologies said it’s working on its own operating system for its mobile handsets and will consider rivals to Google’s Android, after the US blacklisted the company, threatening its partnerships with chip, component and software suppliers.

The Chinese telecom equipment giant said Tuesday it was in talks with the Alphabet unit about how to proceed after Google confirmed it would cut access to some of Huawei’s operating system features for the company’s new devices in response to the announcement.

Should Google’s system no longer be available, "then the alternative option will naturally come out - either from Huawei or someone else," Abraham Liu, Huawei’s representative to the European Union institutions, said at an event in Brussels on Tuesday.

Liu said Huawei had been working on its own operating system but that he didn’t have the details about when this would be ready. Huawei would do everything in its power to mitigate the impact of the US decisions, Liu said.</p>

The effects of this are going to ripple on and on, but it's clear that Huawei took notice from ZTE being banned a year ago. After all, it had been dealing with Iran in breach of US sanctions too. Remember there's a Huawei CFO facing a US trial for breaching sanctions.
Huawei  smartphone  android 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Exclusive: Google suspends some business with Huawei after Trump blacklist - source • Reuters
Angela Moon:
<p>Alphabet Inc’s Google has suspended business with Huawei that requires the transfer of hardware and software products except those covered by open source licenses, a source close to the matter told Reuters on Sunday, in a blow to the Chinese technology company that the U.S. government has sought to blacklist around the world.

Huawei Technologies Co Ltd will immediately lose access to updates to the Android operating system, and the next version of its smartphones outside of China will also lose access to popular applications and services including the Google Play Store and Gmail app.

Details of the specific services were still being discussed internally at Google, according to the source. Huawei attorneys are also studying the impact of the U.S. Commerce Department’s actions, a Huawei spokesman said on Friday. Huawei was not immediately reachable for further comment.</p>


If this is continued, it's calamitous for Huawei; without Google apps and the Google Play Store, it can't serve customers. (It's unclear whether existing Huawei phones will lose access.) In Q1 2019 it shipped a total of 59m smartphones; of those, <a href="https://www.macrumors.com/2019/04/30/iphone-sales-china-30-percent-drop-q1-2019/">29.9m were in China</a>, so half were outside. This decision affects the half outside China.

Bear in mind though that this may be a negotiating ploy - just as Trump's ban on China's ZTE, which could have razed it, was imposed in April 2018 and lifted a month later, apparently amid some trade bargaining. At least with ZTE there was a clear reason - its breach of technology embargoes with Iran. For Huawei, there's no such smoking gun.
huawei  google  android 
may 2019 by charlesarthur
Presenting search app and browser options to Android users in Europe
Paul Gennai, product management director at Google:
<p><a href="https://www.blog.google/around-the-globe/google-europe/complying-ecs-android-decision/">Following the changes we made</a> to comply with the European Commission's ruling last year, we’ll start presenting new screens to Android users in Europe with an option to download search apps and browsers.  

These new screens will be displayed the first time a user opens Google Play after receiving an upcoming update. Two screens will surface: one for search apps and another for browsers, each containing a total of five apps, including any that are already installed. Apps that are not already installed on the device will be included based on their popularity and shown in a random order.

<img src="https://storage.googleapis.com/gweb-uniblog-publish-prod/images/android_choice_app_screen.max-1000x1000.png" width="100%" />
<em>An illustration of how the screens will look. The apps shown will vary by country.</em>

Users can tap to install as many apps as they want. If an additional search app or browser is installed, the user will be shown an additional screen with instructions on how to set up the new app (e.g., placing app icons and widgets or setting defaults). Where a user downloads a search app from the screen, we’ll also ask them whether they want to change Chrome's default search engine the next time they open Chrome.</p>


Do we really think this is going to make any difference? I suspect it will be about as (in)effective as the Microsoft Browser Choice screen was.
google  android  eu  ruling 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Samsung fights back in EU as iPhone XR tops UK charts • Kantar Worldpanel
<p>The latest smartphone OS data from Kantar, for the three months ending March 2019, shows Android accounted for 79.3% of all smartphone sales across the five major European markets.  Android’s strong performance was primarily thanks to Samsung holding share steady and solid gains from Huawei and Xiaomi.  iOS saw its share fall by two percentage points to 20.1% in Europe. However, the American market proved a brighter spot for Apple, as it boosted its US share in the quarter to 45.5%, an increase of 6.5 percentage points on the year.   

Dominic Sunnebo, Global Director for Kantar, comments, “Samsung’s share of the big five European markets held firm in the latest quarter, aided by something of a renaissance in Italy and Spain.  The launch of its flagship Galaxy S10 series also helped the manufacturer to consolidate its number one position in Europe, and it should expect sales to continue well into the next quarter. </p>

The XR as bestseller, and the increase in share, somewhat puts the line that Apple's finished to light. But note that Kantar doesn't indicate sales volume, only share.
Iphone  samsung  android 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Android TV update puts home-screen ads on multi-thousand-dollar Sony Smart TVs • Ars Technica
Ron Amadeo:
<p>The advertising is a "Sponsored Channel" part of the "Android TV Core Services" app that ships with all Android TV devices. A "Channel" in Android TV parlance means an entire row of thumbnails in the UI will be dedicated to "sponsored" content. Google provided XDA Developers with a statement saying that yes, this is on purpose, but for now it's a "pilot program."

Sony has tersely worded a support page detailing the "Sponsored channel," too. There's no mention here of it being a pilot program. Sony's page, titled "A sponsored channel has suddenly appeared on my TV Home menu," says, "This change is included in the latest Android TV Launcher app (Home app) update. The purpose is to help you discover new apps and contents for your TV."

Sony goes on to say, "This channel is managed by Google" and "the Sponsored channel cannot be customized." Sony basically could replace the entire page with a "Deal with it" sunglasses gif, and it would send the same message.

Buying a product knowing it has ads in it is one thing, but users on Reddit and elsewhere are understandably angry about ads suddenly being patched into their devices—especially in cases when these devices are multi-thousand-dollar 4K Sony televisions. There is an option to disable the ads if you dig into the settings but users are reporting the ads aren't staying disabled. For now, uninstalling updates for the "Android TV Core Services" app is the best way to remove the ads.</p>


"But that's my nature," said the scorpion.
google  android  advertising  tv 
april 2019 by charlesarthur
Two-thirds of all Android antivirus apps are frauds • ZDNet
Catalin Cimpanu:
<p>An organization specialized in testing antivirus products concluded in a report published this week that roughly two-thirds of all Android antivirus apps are a sham and don't work as advertised.

The report, published by Austrian antivirus testing outfit AV-Comparatives, was the result of a grueling testing process that took place in January this year and during which the organization's staff looked at 250 Android antivirus apps available on the official Google Play Store.

The report's results are tragicomical - with antivirus apps detecting themselves as malware - and come to show the sorry state of Android antivirus industry, which appears to be filled with more snake-oilers than actual cyber-security vendors.</p>


Only two-thirds? Though I think you can say that 100% of iOS "antivirus" apps won't be able to detect if something bad is going on, because they wouldn't be allowed out of their sandbox. I leave it to readers to decide how to describe that.
android  antivirus 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Android Q features: The top features we know so far • Android Authority
Hadlee Simons:
<p>Many of us are still waiting for Android Pie to hit our phones, but Google doesn’t wait for anybody. The Mountain View company is already hard at work on Android Q, the next iteration of its mobile platform. But what will Google be bringing to the table in terms of new Android Q features?</p>


TL;DR: dark mode, permissions granted only when the app is active, "desktop mode", more lockability, some support for facial recognition, native screen recording, perhaps no Back button, and a couple more. Not thrilling, unless you're going to go big on desktop mode. (And "permissions only when the app is active" has been on iOS since, what, 2014? 2015?)

Mobile OSs have essentially reached the point where there's little useful left to improve.
android 
march 2019 by charlesarthur
Five reasons foldable phones are a bad idea • ExtremeTech
Ryan Whitwam:
<p>Smartphones used to come in all shapes and sizes — there were phones with keyboards, phones with rotating cameras, and phones with 3D screens. Smartphone design has standardized around the flat, glass slab in recent years, but things are starting to get weird again. Multiple smartphone makers seem to think 2019 is the time to make science-fictional folding phones a reality.

Devices like the Samsung Galaxy Fold and Huawei Mate X look cool in demos, but foldable phones are probably a long, long way from being any good. Here are five reasons the current crop of devices is going to be bad.</p>


Briefly: plastic is plastic ("You encounter a lot of things throughout the day that are harder than plastic, but few that are harder than Gorilla Glass. While your flat smartphone can ride around in your pocket or bag with keys, pens, and coins, a foldable phone might come out looking likes a scuffed mess. Oh, your phone folds inward like the Galaxy Fold? Good luck never getting dust trapped in there when you close it."); they will break; the designs are still clunky; they're too pricey; app support will never arrive.

Of the five, the last one - app support - is what's probably going to make these "meh" on Android. As Whitwam says, "Android apps didn’t work well on tablets, and there’s no reason to think it’ll be any better with foldables."

If Apple does a foldable, on the other hand, you know developers will be falling over themselves to support it in surprising ways. The potential for games where the fold is the horizon is huge, for example.
foldable  samsung  huawei  apps  android 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
Google may kill Android's Back button for Android Q's new gestures • XDA Developers
Mishaal Rahman:
<p>Since Apple removed the iconic home button in favor of gesture navigation on the iPhone X, we’ve seen companies roll out their own implementations of gesture controls. Some gesture control systems like the one from OnePlus and Xiaomi are widely praised for their intuitiveness and eye-catching animations, while others like the one from Google in Android Pie have been met with mixed reviews. Just as Google accidentally leaked Android P’s gestures before Google I/O 2018, we have found evidence of a prototype revamp of navigation gestures from a leaked build of Android Q that we obtained last month.

<img src="https://www.xda-developers.com/files/2019/02/Android-Pie-Gestures.gif" width="100%" />

In Android 9 Pie, the 3 button navigation system was replaced by a two-button system. Although the recent apps button was removed, the back button stayed. The home button, however, turned into a gesture pill.

Most of the complaints that people have towards Android Pie’s gestures focus on the presence of the dedicated back button and the difficulty of performing the long swipe up of the pill to open the app drawer. While I don’t know if the latter gesture will be changed in Android Q, there’s a really good chance that Google may kill the dedicated back button.</p>


It's had a good run.
google  android  gesture  ui  ux 
february 2019 by charlesarthur
We broke into a bunch of Android phones with a 3D-printed head • Forbes
Thomas Brewster:
<p>For our tests, we used my own real-life head to register for facial recognition across five phones. An iPhone X and four Android devices: an LG G7 ThinQ, a Samsung S9, a Samsung Note 8 and a OnePlus 6. I then held up my fake head to the devices to see if the device would unlock. For all four Android phones, the spoof face was able to open the phone, though with differing degrees of ease. The iPhone X was the only one to never be fooled.

There were some disparities between the Android devices' security against the hack. For instance, when first turning on a brand new G7, LG actually warns the user against turning facial recognition on at all. "Face recognition is a secondary unlock method that results in your phone being less secure," it says, noting that a similar face can unlock your phone. No surprise then that, on initial testing, the 3D-printed head opened it straightaway.

Yet during filming, it appeared the LG had been updated with improved facial recognition, making it considerably more difficult to open. As an LG spokesperson told Forbes, "The facial recognition function can be improved on the device through a second recognition step and advanced recognition which LG advises through setup. LG constantly seeks to make improvements to its handsets on a regular basis through updates for device stability and security." They added that facial recognition was seen as "a secondary unlock feature" to others like a PIN or fingerprint.

There’s a similar warning on the Samsung S9 on sign up. "Your phone could be unlocked by someone or something that looks like you," it notes. "If you use facial recognition only, this will be less secure than using a pattern, PIN or password." Oddly, though, on setting up the device the first presented option for unlocking was facial and iris recognition.</p>


Windows Hello didn't let him in either. An absurd spinoff of this story (not by Brewster) suggests police might now use 3D printed heads to break into suspects' phones. Duh. You just show the phone to them. (Assuming you've got them before the unlock timeout.)
apple  iphone  faceid  android 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Google keeps failing to understand tablets • The Verge
Vlad Savov:
<p>Tablets, despite being proximate to both phones and laptops, are unique. To have a good tablet experience, you need an OS that is made specifically for that task. It must offer an intuitive touchscreen interface, like a phone, but it should also make full use of its greater screen real estate and higher spec ceiling. Apple’s iPad is, of course, the role model for how this is done. Apple has developed custom X editions of its iPhone chips for use in the iPad, taking advantage of the larger battery and better cooling of the tablet. The company has also dedicated major iOS releases to improving iPad functionality, even while the iPhone remains its most important product. That, together with a historic willingness among app developers to create iPad-specific apps, generates a distinct iPad-only user experience.

So long as Google keeps trying to cram its software for other platforms onto a tablet, it will continue to suffer the ignominy of failure. Android Wear on smartwatches, now renamed Wear OS, has been another instructive example of what should be a very simple concept: if you want to build the best possible version of any gadget, the software for it has to be designed for it. Someone at Google really ought to consult Microsoft’s long, abortive history of trying to slim Windows down just enough to make it fit onto mobile devices. (The Surface Pro 2-in-1s of today are good, but they’re still more laptop than tablet.) There’s also Intel’s spectacularly profligate run of pseudo-mobile chips that were just trimmed-down laptop and desktop processors.

The future of technology will be defined by more software specialization, not less.</p>


Google's problem is that Android tablets have been second in its priorities after phones (and then third, after WearOS), which has put them a long way down the pecking order for developers considering what to develop for. As Savov points out elsewhere in the article, too many Android tablet apps are poorly resized versions of the phone app - rather than being rethought for the bigger real estate of the large screen.
google  android  tablet 
december 2018 by charlesarthur
Working on an Android tablet, 2017 edition • Henri Bergius
Bergius is a startup worker and programmer, and uses a Google Pixel C tablet with its keyboard for all his daily work:
<p>So, why work on Android instead of getting an iPad Pro? I’ve actually worked on both, and here are my reasons:

• Communications between apps: while iOS has extensions now, the ability to send data from an app to another is still a hit-or-miss. Android had intents from day one, meaning pretty much any app can talk to any other app<br />• Standard charging: all of my other devices charge with the same USB-C chargers and cables. iPads still use the proprietary Lightnight plug, requiring custom dongles for everything <br />• Standard accessories: this boils down to USB-C just like charging. With Android I can plug in a network adapter or even a mouse, and it’ll just work <br />• Ecosystem lock-in: we’re moving to a world where everything — from household electronics to cars — is either locked to the Apple ecosystem or following standards. I don’t want to be locked to a single vendor for everything digital <br />• Browser choice: with iOS you only get one web renderer, the rather dated Safari. On Android I can choose between Chrome, Firefox, or any other browser that has been ported to the platform

Of course, iOS has its own benefits. Apple has a stronger stance on privacy than Google. And there is more well-made tablet software available for iPads than Android. But when almost everything I use is available on the web, this doesn’t matter that much.</p>
Android  tablet  work 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Android apps with more than 2bn total downloads are committing ad fraud • Buzzfeed News
Craig Silverman:
<p>Eight apps with a total of more than 2 billion downloads in the Google Play store have been exploiting user permissions as part of an ad fraud scheme that could have stolen millions of dollars, according to research from Kochava, an app analytics and attribution company that detected the scheme and shared its findings with BuzzFeed News.

Seven of the apps Kochava found engaging in this behavior are owned by Cheetah Mobile, a Chinese company listed on the New York Stock Exchange that last year was accused of fraudulent business practices by a short-seller investment firm — a charge that Cheetah vigorously denied. The other app is owned by Kika Tech, a Chinese company now headquartered in Silicon Valley that received a significant investment from Cheetah in 2016. The companies claim more than 700 million active users per month for their mobile apps.

The allegations are the latest shock to a vast digital ad tech industry that remains dogged by a multibillion-dollar fraud problem and a mobile ecosystem rife with malicious ads and fraudulent practices. BuzzFeed News reported last month on an ad fraud scheme that tracked user behavior in dozens of Android apps to generate fake traffic and steal advertisers’ money. Google estimated close to $10m was stolen from it and its partners, and subsequently removed many of the apps from its Play store.

While the most immediate victims are brands who lose ad dollars to bots and other schemes, ad fraud also diverts revenue away from legitimate publishers and developers. In the case of mobile apps, it can cause frustration for users who may see their phone battery drained and data usage spike as a result of illegitimate ad transactions taking place without their knowledge.

This particular scheme exploits the fact that many app developers pay a fee, or bounty, that typically ranges from 50 cents to $3 to partners that help drive new installations of their apps. Kochava found that the Cheetah and Kika apps tracked when users downloaded new apps and used this data to inappropriately claim credit for having caused the download.</p>


$10m sounds like a low estimate. The accused apps: Clean Master, CM File Manager, CM Launcher 3D, Security Master, Battery Doctor, CM Locker, and Cheetah Keyboard.
google  fraud  android  ads 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
These secret settings instantly make any Android phone feel twice as fast • BGR
Zach Epstein:
<p>When you switch apps or top around through pop-ups, the speed of the animations that transition you from one screen to the next actually have a huge impact on the speed of the user interface. They already seem to move so quickly that you barely notice them. But believe it or not, doubling the speed of these animations actually has a massive impact on how fast your Android phone feels. And as you might have surmised by now, that’s exactly what we’re going to teach you how to do in this post.

As we mentioned, each time you open an app, close an app, open or tap out of pop-ups, or switch between apps, your phone plays a transition animation. This way there’s a smooth transition from one screen to the next, rather than just an abrupt image change. Those animations might seem fast, but there’s an easy way to speed them up even more and the end result is a phone that feel much faster with a UI that seems much more fluid. And the best part is that it couldn’t be easier to adjust these settings.

There’s a secret Settings menu inside Android’s Settings app called “Developer options” and it’s filled with a wide range of advanced options. It’s hidden by default — it is a secret, after all — but it’s simple to gain access to it on your phone.</p>


Including this because some people might not know it.
android  usability 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Never mind the iPad — where are the full-time Android tablet users? • Medium
I wrote a thing over at Medium:
<p> It is absolutely true that Android-powered tablets sell in greater numbers than iPads. You can see that in this graph, sourced from IDC and Strategy Analytics (IDC for the total tablet numbers, Strategy Analytics for the Windows tablet figures):

<img src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*enJeQLSVI_z5CfbGsj1GDQ.png" width="100%" />

If you go strictly on the number of tablets sold, then Androids have sold plenty more than iPads or Windows tablets (same sources as before):

<img src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/1600/1*pcmz_UiCoXYbHTymkfqIuQ.png" width="100%" />

They also tend to be cheaper than iPads (though that’s not necessarily true since Apple cut the price on the entry-level iPad earlier this year).

So given all that, here’s my question: why aren’t we talking about full-time Android tablet users, rather than discussing whether the iPad Pro can replace/supplant your laptop? After all, Android tablets have pretty much the same apps as iOS, and you can even access a file system if you want.</p>


I also asked the folks over at Android Police for their input - which is in the piece too. It's quite surprising.
android  tablets 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Mark Zuckerberg reportedly ordered all Facebook executives to use Android phones • The Verge
Shannon Liao, given the task of filleting the NYT's blockbuster article about Facebook from yesterday:
<p>Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ordered his management team to only use Android phones, according to The New York Times. The decision reportedly occurred after Apple CEO Tim Cook criticized Facebook in an MSNBC interview for being a service that traffics “in your personal life.”

In those comments made back in March, Cook dismissed a question asking him what he would do if he were in Zuckerberg’s shoes dealing with the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica scandal by saying, “I wouldn’t be in this situation.” Cook’s comments “infuriated” Zuckerberg, according to the NYT. In an interview with Recode, Zuck said he found Cook’s comments to be “extremely glib,” and that “I think it’s important that we don’t all get Stockholm syndrome and let the companies that work hard to charge you more convince you that they actually care more about you. Because that sounds ridiculous to me.”

“We’ve long encouraged our employees and executives to use Android because it is the most popular operating system in the world,” said Facebook in response to the New York Times article.

While it’s not clear from the NYT’s reporting that Cook’s aggressive comments directly provoked Zuckerberg into issuing his Android-only order, it’s still a rational decision to make American executives use Android. Android is the dominant operating system in many regions outside of the US, including South America, Europe, Russia, South Asia, and parts of the Middle East.</p>


Narrator's voice: a number of Facebook executives ignored Zuckerberg's order.
apple  facebook  android 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Fixing Wear OS: how Google could fight back against the Apple Watch • Wareable
David Nield:
<p>Both our developers were adamant: Wear OS needs a flagship wearable to compete with the Apple Watch. "When people buy an Apple watch, they buy the Apple Watch," says Jason. "When people buy an Wear OS device, they buy… what? The release of a Google Pixel Watch could change that as it would give users one device to focus on."

"The platform really needs a flagship watch," agrees Kris. "No Wear OS watch comes close to the Apple or even Samsung Galaxy watches. Google is clear it wants its partners to focus on the hardware while they focus on the software but neither is doing a good job. Maybe the problem is fashion companies aren't good at building tech hardware."

While we'd say there are in fact some very good Wear OS smartwatches on the market, we can see the point – while earlier models had their flaws, the Apple Watch Series 4 really brings hardware and software together impressively well. It's particularly adept at health and fitness tracking, something Wear OS is still struggling to excel at.

The Wear OS users we spoke to had different ideas about how to push Wear OS forward. Aaron Gumbs wants to see more user customisation options and less of a reliance on Google's apps and services, while Iwan van Ee would like tighter and more useful integrations with the apps already on his phone.

For Juhani Lehtimäki though, less is more. He points to the Google Chromecast and the Google Home smart speaker as devices that are brilliant in their simplicity.

"Google needs to bring Wear back to being extension of our phones," says Juhani. "The amount of standalone apps available for a watch doesn’t matter… how well it extends my Google Fit, Android notification system and others is what matters. Take out the Play Store, take out the keyboard support, and focus on being helpful." </p>

That "keyboard support" even exists tells you exactly who Wear OS's audience tends to be: geeks who want to noodle. Nobody sensible tries to type anything harder than a passcode on a watch. (Wear OS is apparently 7% of smartwatch sales.) The point about too much choice is a good one too.
Android  wearos  apple  smartwatch  applewatch 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Android security auditing (investigating unauthorized screenshots) • Michael Altfield's Tech Blog
<p>About six months ago, I discovered something on my smartphone that horrified me: I went to undelete a file in DiskDigger, and I stumbled upon a plethora of unexpected jpegs: screenshots of my activity. Screenshots that I didn’t take. Screenshots of my conversations within my encrypted-messaging-app-of-choice. Screenshots of my news feed. Screenshots showing my GPS position in my open source map app. And screnshots of my bitcoin wallet.

I was perplexed. I was astonished. And, to be honest, I was scared. How did this happen? Was it a vulnerability shipped with LineageOS? Could it be some malicious binary embedded into AOSP? Or is it some exploit in one of those damned closed-source apps that I was forced to install through social pressure (*cough* whatsapp).

This week I was honored to be accepted into a 1-week mini batch at the Recurse Center (formerly “Hacker School”) in Brooklyn, NY. And, finally, I decided to roll-up my sleeves and dig into Android Security Auditing with the ultimate goal of finding out what was responsible for creating (and then deleting) all these screenshots. Well, with no thanks to Google, I did find the source. And the codebase is integrated into AOSP. But (spoiler), it’s not something to sweat about. Though it is a fun journey.</p>


The answer - as he says, nothing to sweat about - is surprising.
android  screenshot 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
Google is adding native foldable device support to Android • Neowin
Rich Woods:
<p>Google today announced that it will be adding native support for "foldables" into Android. These are devices with foldable displays, the first of which will come from companies like LG and Samsung.

The way it works is that when devices are folded, they look like regular smartphones, but when you open them up, there's a larger screen. The idea is to seamlessly transfer the contents of the smaller screen onto the larger one.

The good news is that most Android apps are already optimized for different screen sizes, resolutions, and aspect ratios. After all, Android is a very diverse ecosystem that ranges from low-end phones with low screen resolutions to flagship phones that are QHD. There are aspect ratios from 4:3 to 19.5:9, and screen sizes that go from a few inches to the size of a desktop PC.

But native support is something that's meant to prevent fragmentation. If this doesn't happen, then OEMs will have to create their own implementations, which could result in different experiences across the board. We've seen this before, with fingerprint sensors and screen notches, both of which started appearing before there was native support in the OS.</p>
google  android  foldable 
november 2018 by charlesarthur
‘Stalkerware’ website let anyone intercept texts of tens of thousands of people • Motherboard
Joseph Cox and Lorenzo Franceschi-Bicchierai:
<p>A website and app designed to let users monitor their children, employees, or illegally spy on their spouse inadvertently allowed anyone who was using the service to obtain information contained within other peoples’ accounts and intercept the communications of around 28,000 users, Motherboard has confirmed following a tip from a hacker.

The app, called Xnore, can be installed on Android, iPhone, and BlackBerry devices, and collects Facebook and WhatsApp messages, GPS coordinates, emails, photos, browsing histories as well as records phone calls. Customer accounts were exposed by a map feature on Xnore’s website. The flaw allowed anyone who viewed the HTML code of the page to see the mobile identifier used by Xnore to view any collected data. This identifier could then be used to add the intercepted data of someone else’s account to your own.

This new breach of a consumer spyware company—sometimes dubbed ‘stalkerware’ or ‘spouseware’ due to its common target audience of abusive partners—shows how truly lax the security of many of these companies really is. Regardless of whether customers use these apps for legal purposes, they’re putting the intercepted data of their victims—be them their children, employees, or spouses—in serious jeopardy…

…When users download the Xnore app, they are provided a mobile identifier; a string of characters and numbers unique to their device. Xnore offers a free trial so anyone can download the software and start intercepting communications.

The hacker pointed Motherboard to a section of Xnore’s website containing a map. Although the map itself appeared to be non-functional at the time of viewing, a dropdown menu let users select from a slew of mobile identifiers. Viewing the HTML source for that page reveals the identifiers of Xnore users. Motherboard ran a script to extract all of the mobile identifiers included in the exposed data, and found over 28,000 in total. That number matches the total number of Xnore targets the hacker says they found.</p>


Couldn't one effectively disable this simply by turning off its permissions on the phone? And wouldn't kids figure that out?
xnore  android  hack 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
This ad fraud scheme stole millions, but almost no one in the advertising industry wants to own up to it • Buzzfeed News
Craig Silverman:
<p>A massive ad fraud scheme that Google acknowledged stole close to $10m from its ad networks and partners has been shut down after BuzzFeed News revealed its existence last week. But as of today more than 30 companies that unwittingly helped the fraudsters earn money won’t comment on how many fraudulent ads they sold, or say the amount is small or nonexistent.

The fraud operation exposed by BuzzFeed News last week involved more than 125 Android apps and websites that tracked real human users and used this data to program bots to mimic their behavior as a way to evade fraud detection systems. These bots opened apps and loaded webpages in order to generate fake ad views, and therefore revenue for the fraudsters. The affected apps and websites were distributed among a web of shell and front companies to hide their true owners and obscure the scale of the operation.

BuzzFeed News contacted 36 companies that carried ad inventory for the affected apps and sites, or otherwise helped them monetize at some point. Almost none shared specifics about how much money was stolen via their platforms, or whether they will be issuing refunds. Ultimately, the money is stolen from the brands and other companies who bought ads on the affected websites or in apps.

Experts say this lack of transparency is endemic in the digital ad industry, which has a large and growing fraud problem that sees criminals steal billions of dollars a year from advertisers. Many brands now grudgingly accept that a certain amount of the money they spend on digital will be lost to fraud. But when fraud is discovered, as in this scheme or in multiple BuzzFeed News exposés published in the past 12 months, almost no one wants to talk about where the money went, or who stole it.</p>


Smart followup by Silverman to his own story; he's contacted 22 of 36 companies involved, and it only accounts for $300,000. Estimates of how much might have been funnelled away are in the hundreds of millions.

"Nothing to see here, move along" is the story in ad fraud land.
android  ad  theft  advertising 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Portugal courts rule Google can't remove Aptoide from users' Android phones • Pocketnow
Jules Wang:
<p>Portugese third-party Android app store Aptoide has claimed a major legal victory against the maker of said OS — this coming on top of Google’s recent compliance measures to the European Commission’s ruling against the bundling of its search and web clients with popular apps.

The verdict is said to ban Google’s Play Protect software, the security suite associated with the Play Store, from identifyting Aptoide as malware and removing it, occasionally without users’ consent. Aptoide must be downloaded from its site. Play Protect would show prompts urging the user to uninstall the app because it is unsafe and would prevent users from downloading any apps from the store.

Aptoide says the ruling is applicable to 82 countries including the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and India. It hopes to recover some of the more than 2.2 million daily active users it has lost in the past 60 days. For reference, it boasts 250 million users with 6 billion total downloads.</p>


OK, so Google can't ban it, even if it thinks it's malware. Got that? Now read on...
google  android  appstore 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Apps installed on millions of Android phones tracked user behavior to execute a multimillion dollar ad fraud scheme • Buzzfeed News
Craig Silverman:
<p>Last April, Steven Schoen received an email from someone named Natalie Andrea who said she worked for a company called We Purchase Apps. She wanted to buy his Android app, Emoji Switcher. But right away, something seemed off.

“I did a little bit of digging because I was a little sketched out because I couldn’t really find even that the company existed,” Schoen told BuzzFeed News.

The We Purchase Apps website listed a location in New York, but the address appeared to be a residence. “And their phone number was British. It was just all over the place,” Schoen said…

…an investigation by BuzzFeed News reveals that these seemingly separate apps and companies are today part of a massive, sophisticated digital advertising fraud scheme involving more than 125 Android apps and websites connected to a network of front and shell companies in Cyprus, Malta, British Virgin Islands, Croatia, Bulgaria, and elsewhere. More than a dozen of the affected apps are targeted at kids or teens, and a person involved in the scheme estimates it has stolen hundreds of millions of dollars from brands whose ads were shown to bots instead of actual humans. (A full list of the apps, the websites, and their associated companies connected to the scheme can be found in <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1BMJAHOASdeOOYgomSva9URZnPZ4ZdPbnyxdpqQH9KgI/edit?usp=sharing">this spreadsheet</a>.)

One way the fraudsters find apps for their scheme is to acquire legitimate apps through We Purchase Apps and transfer them to shell companies. They then capture the behavior of the app’s human users and program a vast network of bots to mimic it, according to analysis from Protected Media, a cybersecurity and fraud detection firm that analyzed the apps and websites at BuzzFeed News' request.

This means a significant portion of the millions of Android phone owners who downloaded these apps were secretly tracked as they scrolled and clicked inside the application. By copying actual user behavior in the apps, the fraudsters were able to generate fake traffic that bypassed major fraud detection systems.</p>


Worth how much? Perhaps $750 million. Targeting Android because it's a bigger user base and has less rigorous app review. Google has taken down a ton of apps as a result.
fraud  android  cybercrime 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
How China rips off the iPhone and reinvents Android • The Verge
Sam Byford has a deep dive on the many big Chinese companies aiming to copy Apple as fast as possible, and also attract its users in China:
<p>As for the camera apps, it’s really incredible how similar the vast majority are — both to each other and to Apple. Judging by the accuracy and specificity of the rip-offs, the camera app from iOS 7 has a serious claim to being one of the most influential software designs of the past decade. Just look at the picture below. Xiaomi wins an extremely low number of points for putting the modes in a lowercase blue font. But otherwise, only Huawei has succeeded in creating a genuinely new camera app design, which happens to be very good. I consider it penance for the company’s egregious and barely functional rip-off of the iOS share sheet.

<img src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/zrTJoHJOx6y3smOf8W8cDNmn3kE=/0x0:2040x1360/1720x0/filters:focal(0x0:2040x1360):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13285027/apps_2.jpg" width="100%" />

“Vivo’s performance in the global market so far is the result of great effort to understand consumer behavior, and our camera UI is designed with consumers’ habits in mind,” the Vivo product manager told me. “The swipe across navigation feature allows for users to keep their current habits to access different photography mode. This is supported by our usability tests which indicated that this method has the highest efficiency and best user experience.”

This backs up the idea that attracting iPhone switchers is a serious objective for Chinese software designers. “I definitely see that there’s evidence of a number of different companies that could be seen as following Apple or trying to create a UI that’s very much iOS-like,” says Pete Lau, CEO of phone company OnePlus. “And maybe they’re doing it for reasons of thinking that it makes it easier for users to transition to their products from Apple, and find the experience to be similar.”</p>
china  android  design  iphone 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Android Creator’s startup Essential Products cuts about 30% of staff • Bloomberg
Mark Gurman:
<p>The reductions affect staff in the company’s hardware, marketing, and sales divisions, the people said. They asked not to be identified discussing private moves. The company has about 120 employees, according to its website.

The cuts come several months after the company canceled plans for a second version of its smartphone and paused development of a home smart device that would compete with Amazon.com Inc. and Google.

"This has been a difficult decision to make. We are very sorry for the impact on our colleagues who are leaving the company and are doing everything we can to help them with their future careers," an Essential spokeswoman wrote in an email. "We are confident that our sharpened product focus will help us deliver a truly game changing consumer product."</p>


There's confidence, and there's being wrong.
android  rubin 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Google to charge phonemakers for Google Play app store in EU • Financial Times
Rochelle Toplensky:
<p>With more than 80% of the world’s smartphones running on the Android operating system, the product is vital to Google’s future revenues and profitability.

Google denied any wrongdoing and has appealed against the EU’s decision to the European Court of Justice. But on Tuesday a company spokesperson said that from October 29, Android phonemakers “wishing to distribute Google apps” would also be able to build “non-compatible, or forked, smartphones and tablets for the EEA”.

The spokesperson added that phonemakers would also be able to able to license Google Play separately from Google’s search engine and Chrome for an unspecified fee.

With Tuesday’s announcement, Google addressed each of the practices that Ms Vestager deemed illegal. However, critics say the changes are unlikely to upend the global smartphone industry.

Thomas Vinje, a lawyer at Clifford Chance whose clients have raised competition concerns over Google’s Android contracts, said: “The bottom line is that Google’s so-called remedies would mean that both Android and Google’s other dominant mobile products will remain immune from effective competition.

“No manufacturer will produce a device based on a forked version of Android only for Europe,” he added.</p>


Vinje is probably correct.
google  android  store 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
App Store generated 93% more revenue than Google Play in Q3 • TechCrunch
Sarah Perez:
<p>Based on <a href="https://sensortower.com/blog/app-revenue-and-downloads-q3-2018">Sensor Tower’s chart of top-grossing apps</a> across both stores, subscriptions are continuing to aid in this revenue growth. Netflix remained the top-grossing non-game app for the third quarter in a row, bringing in an estimated $243.7m across both platforms. Tinder and Tencent Video remained in the second and third spots, respectively.

Mobile game spending also helped fuel the revenue growth, with spending up 14.9% year-over-year during the quarter to reach $13.8bn. In fact, it accounted for 76% of all app revenue across both platforms in the quarter, with $8.5bn coming from the App Store and $5.3bn from Google Play.

<img src="https://techcrunch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/q3-2018-app-revenue-worldwide.png" width="100%" />

In terms of app downloads, however, Google Play still has the edge thanks to rapid adoption of lower-cost Android devices in emerging markets, the report said. App installs grew 10.9% across both stores, reaching 27.1 billion, up 24.4% from Q3 2017.</p>


I recall, some years ago when I used to write this story every quarter, people - well, commenters - assuring me that it wouldn't be long before revenues from Google Play would overhaul those in the App Store. (<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/appsblog/2012/dec/04/ios-android-revenues-downloads-country">Here's a classic example</a>, right from the very first comment.) And yet six years on, hasn't happened.

Probably the key point is that Sensor Tower (and others) can't see the revenues that developers and Google get from in-app advertising. However, that's very much the smallest part - maybe 12%? - of the three monetisation strategies (paid-for, in-app, advertising), <a href="http://www.businessofapps.com/data/app-revenues/">according to this report which covers 2011-2017</a>. Any more recent data welcome.
apple  android  stats  apps 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Google will soon give you greater control of your call logs and SMS data • Android Police
C Scott Brown:
<p>what if an app wants to do things related to making phone calls and sending text messages? Should that app have the ability to access your potentially sensitive call logs and SMS data simply through a normal permissions request notification?

Google thinks that is too open-ended, which is why it is specifying a new policy which will prevent applications from even asking for access to your call logs and/or SMS data unless you choose to make that app the default service for making phone calls or sending texts.

This will hopefully prevent apps you’ve downloaded but don’t use often from continuing to monitor your call logs and SMS data after you’ve installed them and given them permission to do so.

Granted, there are still ways rogue developers could abuse this policy, but it will at least make things a little more difficult…

…right now a developer could create an app which uses SMS in some way but doesn’t need to be set as the default service. The app can ask for access to SMS data, the user can agree, and even though the user may never use that app again, it will continuously have access to their data.

In other words, this new policy isn’t 100 percent secure, but it’s certainly better than the current policy. And, either way, it’s the user’s responsibility to only grant permissions to trustworthy apps.</p>

Typically terrible writeup. "Hopefully"? And no, it's Google's responsibility to write an OS which treats call and SMS data as something that shouldn't be accessible to other apps. Android is ten years old now. This shouldn't be something it's just discovering.
google  android  sms  privacy 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
Microsoft is embracing Android as the mobile version of Windows • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Android app mirroring will be part of Microsoft’s new Your Phone app for Windows 10. This app debuts this week as part of the Windows 10 October 2018 Update, but the app mirroring part won’t likely appear until next year. Microsoft briefly demonstrated how it will work, though; You’ll be able to simply mirror your phone screen straight onto Windows 10 through the Your Phone app, which will have a list of your Android apps. You can tap to access them and have them appear in the remote session of your phone.

<img src="https://cdn.vox-cdn.com/thumbor/hD7oEmU-h94jcCPFF7gDglWkr9U=/0x0:2500x1667/1720x0/filters:focal(0x0:2500x1667):no_upscale()/cdn.vox-cdn.com/uploads/chorus_asset/file/13208165/androidwindows10.JPG" width="100%" />

We’ve seen a variety of ways of bringing Android apps to Windows in recent years, including Bluestacks and even Dell’s Mobile Connect software. This app mirroring is certainly easier to do with Android, as it’s less restricted than iOS. Still, Microsoft’s welcoming embrace of Android in Windows 10 with this app mirroring is just the latest in a number of steps the company has taken recently to really help align Android as the mobile equivalent of Windows.

Microsoft Launcher is designed to replace the default Google experience on Android phones, and bring Microsoft’s own services and Office connectivity to the home screen. It’s a popular launcher that Microsoft keeps updating, and it’s even getting support for the Windows 10 Timeline feature that lets you resume apps and sites across devices.

All of this just reminds me of Windows Phone.</p>


Yeah, Tom, let it go now. But Microsoft trying to ju-jitsu Android by getting Windows connectivity? Seems smart.
android  microsoft  windows 
october 2018 by charlesarthur
How game apps that captivate kids have been collecting their data • NY Times
Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, Natasha Singer, Aaron Krolik and Michael Keller:
<p>Before Kim Slingerland downloaded the Fun Kid Racing app for her then-5-year-old son, Shane, she checked to make sure it was in the family section of the Google Play store and rated as age-appropriate. The game, which lets children race cartoon cars with animal drivers, has been downloaded millions of times.

Until last month, the app also shared users’ data, sometimes including the precise location of devices, with more than a half-dozen advertising and online tracking companies. On Tuesday evening, New Mexico’s attorney general filed a lawsuit claiming that the maker of Fun Kid Racing had violated a federal children’s privacy law through dozens of Android apps that shared children’s data.

“I don’t think it’s right,” said Ms. Slingerland, a mother of three in Alberta, Canada. “I don’t think that’s any of their business, location or anything like that.”

The suit accuses the app maker, Tiny Lab Productions, along with online ad businesses run by Google, Twitter and three other companies, of flouting a law intended to prevent the personal data of children under 13 from falling into the hands of predators, hackers and manipulative marketers. The suit also contends that Google misled consumers by including the apps in the family section of its store.

An analysis by The New York Times found that children’s apps by other developers were also collecting data. The review of 20 children’s apps — 10 each on Google Android and Apple iOS — found examples on both platforms that sent data to tracking companies, potentially violating children’s privacy law; the iOS apps sent less data over all.

These findings are consistent with those published this spring by academic researchers who analyzed nearly 6,000 free children’s Android apps. They reported that more than half of the apps, including those by Tiny Lab, shared details with outside companies in ways that may have violated the law.</p>
apps  google  data  privacy  android 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Fortnite on Android launch • Epic Games technical blog
<p>In the first 21 days since the Fortnite’s launch on Android, interest has been extremely high, with over 23 million players entering our Android beta and over 15 million players installing our APK.  While we are in an invite-only phase for Android, our conversion from players being invited to playing is similar to that of the iOS beta. 
 
Shipping the same game across all platforms while supporting cross-play presented a unique challenge. Usually, when trying to scale a game down for mobile devices, you simplify the content and even design, in order to fit within the performance constraints of the platform. For instance, you might cull objects closer to the camera to reduce draw calls. In Fortnite, Android players can be in the same match with their friends on PC and console, so we must render everything that affects gameplay.

Since January 2018 we have been hard at work with a significant team on the Android version of FNBR. While much of our work to make this possible was spent on rendering performance, stability and memory, the sheer number and variety of Android hardware, OS versions, and driver versions was the major hurdle we had to overcome.

Working with partners has been crucial to bringing Fortnite to Android. Without their knowledge, expertise, and hard work it would not have been possible…

…When we first shipped Fortnite on Android, our internal testing indicated that we were fitting within the memory constraints of our target devices. We ran tests where we turned on navigation in Google maps, streamed music, and made sure we could play Fortnite without any problems. Yet once we launched we found that many players were either crashing or experiencing poor performance due to running out of memory.

When an Android phone is running low on memory, it will try to free up resources by closing applications not in use. However, it turns out that there are a number of poor behaving background applications and services out there that simply restart when the OS closes them. This actually makes the situation worse! Android closed the application to regain memory but it restarts and begins consuming just as much memory as before. Even worse, starting and stopping applications consumes CPU time so not only have we not freed up any memory, we are using a lot of unnecessary CPU resources. </p>

And that's one of tons of problems. Fragmentation really bites when you're trying to build a game that millions of people want to play, but the hardware for the platform is hugely variable - as is the case on Android.
android  Fortnite 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
From Android to iPhone: Some things were good, but I'll never switch • Android Authority
C. Scott Brown:
<p>With this experiment, I wanted to take away the safety net. I wanted to dive into the Apple ecosystem head-first and see if it’s as clunky and bad as I thought it was.

Here are the rules I placed on myself:

• I used an iPhone 8 Plus (Rose Gold, if it matters) on the latest version of iOS (11.4.1) from Sunday morning to the following Sunday morning — a full seven days.<br />• During that time, I could not even touch my Android daily driver: a OnePlus 5. I had to touch some other Android phones here and there because I work for Android Authority, so it’d be hard not to.<br />• Anything I could do on the iPhone I did on the iPhone. That means texting, messaging, phone calls, music, internet searches, and more.<br />• I relied on Apple apps as much as possible and only used the default settings and setup whenever I could.

Over the course of the week, I installed third-party apps like Facebook, Starbucks, Amazon, Slack, and so on. I tried my best to use every basic feature of the phone at least once, including things like Apple Pay, the Apple App Store, Apple Maps, and Apple News.

Be forewarned: both Apple and Android criticism is coming your way.</p>


It's a fair and interesting comparison. But his principal complaint - his real showstopper complaint - is about notification grouping (which is what Android users have disliked about iOS for years). Strange to test iOS less than two weeks before Apple will release a version which will change notification grouping. Sure, who'd expect him to know that? Except he mentions it.
android  ios11  ios  iphone 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
AI camera shootout: LG V30S vs Huawei P20 Pro vs Google Pixel 2 • Android Authority
Robert Triggs tries out the "AI" photo tweaks for colour profiles and post-processing (and has lots of photos to prove it):
<p>it’s a mixed bag across all of the devices we tested. LG and Huawei’s tweaks ranged from subtle to overbearing. Most of the time, it’s preferable to leave the AI setting off. Many of the changes could be imitated at leisure afterwards if you really want them. Google’s HDR+ implementation is very different and clearly helps to compensate for the rare occasions when the camera’s exposure is a little off. It also offers improved dynamic range over other cameras, but this sometimes comes at the cost of drab colors. Overall, it’s the most subtle and consistent of the technologies.

LG definitely offers the most basic AI camera technology of the three. It does little more than color profile and filter switching. Google’s HDR+ is much more useful for general image enhancements. Huawei’s P20 Pro appears to do a bit of both.

Getting an AI camera to even detect the desired scene can be tricky, as there is only a limited range of options to pick from. LG’s software spits out plenty of words for what it’s looking at, but often this won’t result in a change of settings. Huawei’s is similarly finicky, struggling to tell the difference between Flowers and Greenery settings, and constantly switching in and out of the Blue Sky option. Google’s tech is better in this regard because it’s always available should you need it, but often subtle enough not to be missed if it doesn’t trigger.</p>


To me, the AI photos look worse in pretty much every case.
ai  camera  android 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
The broken promise of Android Treble • BirchTree
Matt Birchler:
<p>Google surprised everyone when they announced the Android Pie (then just Android P) beta would be on more than just Google’s own phones this year. The full list was:

• Sony Xperia XZ2<br />• Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S<br />• Nokia 7 Plus<br />• Oppo R15 Pro<br />• Vivo X21<br />• OnePlus 6<br />• Essential PH‑1<br />Not a bad list! I mean it would be nice for Samsung, Motorola, LG, or HTC to be on the list, as these are all very niche phones in the US, but it’s certainly progress.

So here were are a month after Android Pie was released, so let’s look at how many of these beta phones have been updated to Pie. After all, they were running the beta all summer, so they should be ready to go, right?

<table><tr><td>Phone</td><td> Status</td><tr>
<tr><td>Sony Xperia XZ2</td><td> Coming in November 2018</td></tr>
<tr><td>Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S</td><td> Unknown, but alpha build leaked online</td></tr>
<tr><td>Nokia 7 Plus</td><td> Coming in September 2018</td></tr>
<tr><td>Oppo R15 Pro</td><td> Unknown, no announcements</td></tr>
<tr><td>Vivo X21</td><td> ”Q4 2018” so likely close to the end of the year</td></tr>
<tr><td>OnePlus 6</td><td> Q4 2018, so likely also by December</td></tr>
<tr><td>Essential PH‑1</td><td> Released same day as Pixel devices</td></tr>
</table>

I have 2 things to say about this:

One, this is a sad showing by these companies who were involved in the official Android Pie beta. They’ve had Pie in beta since May and they were not able to have it ready when Google released Pie to the world. A month after launch and we’re still looking at October through “someday” on most of these phones.</p>


Android OS updating is still like hunting the snark.
android  os  updates 
september 2018 by charlesarthur
Global smartwatch shipments grew 37%yoy in q2 2018, apple watch series 1 the most popular model.
<p><img src="https://www.counterpointresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Picture4.png" width="100%" /><br />Looking at the different smartwatch platforms, Research Analyst, Flora Tang, added, “Proprietary platforms continue to dominate the smartwatch market. The smartwatch engine is mostly powered by Apple’s watchOS or Fitbit OS or Samsung’s lone adoption of Tizen OS and different flavors of RTOS implementations and all are closed platforms. Hybrid watches which are mostly non-touch smartwatches based on proprietary platforms and sensors, mostly from Swiss watchmakers declined 22% YoY.

The shift to Androidwear OS still hasn’t happened like we have seen in Android for smartphones. This is partly due to lesser focus, less intuitive UI and selective smartwatch OEM partnerships by Google over the last few years for Androidwear OS. Google hopes to change this with the upcoming launch of wear OS 2.0 based watches but will need a complete overhaul of the UI, powerful integration of key Android experiences and by striking key partnerships.”

<img src="https://www.counterpointresearch.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Picture2.png" width="100%" /></p>

But look at Android's share. That's tiny. Of course its problem is, and remains, that most Android phone OEMs have tried and given up on watches because they lack the scale and expertise to make them profitably, while traditional high-end watch makers are a bit wary.
wearos  applewatch  smartwatch  android 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Huge Wear OS redesign is coming, check out how it works in these GIFs • Android Authority
C. Scott Brown:
<p>The updated Wear OS will put more of an emphasis on getting to important information at the time it matters most to you. It also brings smarter health tracking and coaching (in tandem with the newly updated Google Fit) and more proactive help from Google Assistant.

Google hopes that these new features will help you get the most out of every minute of every day.

In the Wear OS redesign, you can easily see your notifications as well as quickly get to settings and functions that you use often. By swiping up on the screen you’ll see a stream of notifications along with Google Assistant-powered smart replies you can easily send with a quick tap.

Swiping down from the top of your watch face will bring up handy shortcuts to most important apps, like Google Pay, Find my Phone, and more.</p>


<img src="https://cdn57.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Wear-OS-Redesign-2018-GIF-4.gif" width="49%" /><img src="https://cdn57.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Wear-OS-Redesign-2018-GIF-1.gif" width="49%" />

<img src="https://cdn57.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Wear-OS-Redesign-2018-GIF-2.gif" width="49%" /><img src="https://cdn57.androidauthority.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Wear-OS-Redesign-2018-GIF-3.gif" width="49%" />

So, basically, a lot closer to Apple's WatchOS.
wearos  android 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
With expectations of a positive second half of 2018 and beyond, smartphone volumes poised to return to growth • IDC
<p>Android's smartphone share will hover around 85% share throughout the forecast. Volumes are expected to grow at a five-year CAGR of 2.4%, with shipments approaching 1.41bn in 2022. Among the more interesting trends happening with Android shipments is that average selling prices (ASPs) are growing at a double-digit pace. IDC expects Android ASPs to grow 11.4% in 2018 to $262, up from $235 in 2017.

IDC expects this upward trajectory to continue through the forecast, but at a more tempered low single-digit rate from 2019 and beyond. This is a sign of many OEMs slowly migrating their user base upstream to the slightly more expensive handsets. Overall this is a positive sign that consumers are seeing the benefits of moving to a slightly more premium device than they likely previously owned. The broad range of colors, screen sizes, features, and brands are a large catalyst for this movement.

For iOS, iPhone volumes are expected to grow by 2.1% in 2018 to 220.4m in total. IDC is forecasting iPhones to grow at a five-year CAGR of 2.0%, reaching volumes of 238.5m by 2022. With larger screen iOS smartphones coming up for launch in the second half of 2018, IDC has shifted greater volumes into the 6in to sub-7in screen size forecast for iOS. Products are on schedule to begin shipping in the third quarter and ramping up into the fourth quarter of 2018, with volumes growing to account for half of all iPhones shipped by 2022. </p>


The OS market is a complete duopoly; 85% Android, 15% iOS. And IDC sees it continuing that way. Apple gets the money, Android gets the volume.
apple  android  ios  iphone  idc  smartphone 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Epic's first Fortnite Installer allowed hackers to download and install anything on your Android phone silently • Android Central
Andrew Martonik:
<p>Google has <a href="https://issuetracker.google.com/issues/112630336">just publicly disclosed</a> that it discovered an extremely serious vulnerability in Epic's first Fortnite installer for Android that allowed any app on your phone to download and install anything in the background, including apps with full permissions granted, without the user's knowledge. Google's security team first disclosed the vulnerability privately to Epic Games on August 15, and has since released the information publicly following confirmation from Epic that the vulnerability was patched.

In short, this was exactly the kind of exploit that Android Central, and others, had feared would occur with this sort of installation system…

…The problem, as Google's security team discovered, was that the Fortnite Installer was very easily exploitable to hijack the request to download Fortnite from Epic and instead download anything when you tap the button to download the game. It's what's known as a "man-in-the-disk" attack: an app on your phone looks for requests to download something from the internet and intercepts that request to download something else instead, unbeknownst to the original downloading app. This is possible purely because the Fortnite Installer was designed improperly — the Fortnite Installer has no idea that it just facilitated the malware download, and tapping "launch" even launches the malware.</p>


Ben Thompson had a good rundown about this on <a href="https://stratechery.com/2018/fortnites-bad-bug-epics-complaint-the-downside-of-open/">his Stratechery newsletter</a> (subscribers only) where he points out that this is both the downside of Android's openness (vulnerability) and its upside (you can install anything from anywhere). Epic Games, Fortnite's maker, wasn't too pleased about this.
google  android  fortnite 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Android users and men far less likely to make in-app mobile gaming purchases than iOS users and women • Android Police
Rose Behar:
<p>iOS users and women are much more likely to make in-app purchases than Android users and men. Liftoff reports that the 21% IAP conversion rates for iOS users are nearly double that of Android users, which rest at 10.8%. While it acknowledges that its own data, drawn from 350 gaming apps (58% iOS and 42% Android), may overemphasize the disconnect, the findings are backed up by evidence from other sources, as well.

<img src="https://www.androidpolice.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/app-downloads-verus-app-spend.png" width="100%" />

App market data provider App Annie reports that Android users accounted for 70% of total app downloads in 2017, but generated only 34% of total consumer app spend. Still, the sheer size of the Android market — in 2017, Google reported over 2 billion monthly active devices — means mobile game marketers aren't going to give up on the platform any time soon.

As for the gender split, Liftoff's data showed that IAP conversion rates for women are 26% higher than for men, and that the install-to-purchase rate for women is an impressive 79% higher than for men.</p>


In many ways, not a surprise; this has been a consistent pattern for years, and there's no reason it would change.
ios  android  apps  purchase 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Fortnite Android beta roundup: disappointing, frustrating, Samsung-only • ExtremeTech
Joel Hruska has the roundup:
<p>Samsung and Epic announced that the game would be distributed via an APK and would initially only be available on certain Samsung models. While this is only a beta launch, keeping the device profile restricted so narrowly should have made it simpler for Epic to deliver an early game version with robust performance and graphics. Unfortunately, that’s not what happened here.

According to <a href="https://arstechnica.com/gaming/2018/08/fortnite-on-android-gets-off-to-a-bumpy-samsung-only-start-lags-behind-pubg/">Ars Technica’s</a> Sam Machkovech, limiting itself to just Samsung devices “hasn’t made the game run smoothly in the slightest.” <a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/fortnite-android-review">Android Central</a> declares “I’ve been playing it almost non-stop from the moment it was made available in the Samsung Galaxy App Store, and this is my early review of the game having played it on a Samsung Galaxy S8” before noting: “Fortnite is fun, but not on Android.” <a href="https://www.androidcentral.com/fortnite-android-review">Android Police</a> states that the game is currently limited to those owning a Galaxy S7, S8, S9, Note 8, Note 9, Tab S3, or Tab S4, and that despite this restriction, the game’s frame rate simply cannot hold a steady 30fps, even on a device as new as the Galaxy Note 8+.

Resolution isn’t native — it looks to be barely 480p — and texture quality isn’t great, either. The Android Police author claims his device is stuck on Epic, but I’m not sure that’s true. Rather, it’s true that his device claims to be stuck on “Epic” quality, but it’s not clear that level of image quality is actually being applied. According to Ars, low quality (which is what this looks like): “drops the resolution to somewhere around 480p, removes all traces of anti-aliasing, drops texture resolution, simplifies all in-game geometry, and removes all shadows.”

Meanwhile, certain decisions the game makes have drawn scorn from almost everyone. By default, the game has aim assist enabled and recommends using Auto Shoot, which means you’ll basically be letting Bixby play the game for you. That might be for the best, however, since the game apparently isn’t all that much fun in the first place, thanks to the constant performance drops.</p>


Sounds like there's a problem for Android, rather than Samsung. Also recommended, if you need to educate someone about Fortnight: <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bf56s5">this BBC Radio 4 programme</a> about it, which aired on Wednesday.
fortnite  android 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
Google is making Wear OS app quality guidelines mandatory • Android Police
Ryan Whitwam:
<p>According to Google, it will begin enforcing the Wear OS app quality guidelines for new apps on October 1st of this year. Existing apps will have until March 4, 2019 to get things together. That means developers will need to take into account both functional and visual criteria. There are <a href="https://developer.android.com/docs/quality-guidelines/wear-app-quality">detailed guidelines on the Android Dev site</a>, but the blog post notes which issues Google sees most often.

Apparently, Wear developers often don't test their apps on different screen shapes, which causes interface issues. They also fail to provide Wear OS screenshots in app listings. If these issues aren't fixed by the above dates, the offending apps won't show up on the Wear OS Play Store. Importantly, this is separate from the main app review process. Google won't completely block an app or update if it fails the Wear OS review.</p>


Not sure that it's going to change the trajectory for Wear OS - or Android smartwatches generally - but it's nice to know that they've noticed that app quality matters too.
wearos  wearable  android 
august 2018 by charlesarthur
The story behind Google's secret offer to settle EU’s Android probe • Bloomberg
Aoife White and Stephanie Bodoni:
<p>Vestager indicated in the interview that any settlement offer should have been made in 2016, after the company received the EU’s statement of objections, which detailed the antitrust problems with Android. The EU said the company might breach competition rules by unfairly pushing search and browser apps onto Android phones.

That might have been the narrow window to settle the case, but Google’s legal team were spinning dozens of plates in 2016. They had deadlines to respond to the Android charges, the shopping probe was still a major priority and there were new complaints filed to the EU by News Corp. and other rivals.

After the rebuff, the EU stepped up its probe, sending a formal "letter of facts" in November 2017, adding new evidence, two people said. There was little substantive contact between the two sides until Google representatives talked with EU officials in April during a so-called state of play meeting about the case, which was well on the way to the record fine.</p>


Pretty thin gruel, this story; it's clear that Google misread the timings and overestimated its chances of winning.

However the EC's solution is no good. It should have obliged Google to offer Google Play separately. But even then, it's far too late.
google  android  economics 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
The EU fining Google over Android is too little, too late, say experts • The Guardian
Samuel Gibbs:
<p>[The EC's demands are] a similar strategy to that employed by the EC in 2004, when it forced Microsoft to release a version of Windows without Windows Media Player and later offer a browser choice screen, which allowed users to select a web browser other than Internet Explorer.

But as with the Media Player-free version of Windows, Windows XP N, for which there was no demand, consumers are unlikely to buy a version of Android without Google’s services.

“The EU’s stance is arguably six to eight years too late,” said [Geoff] Blaber [of CCS Insight]. “Android has already helped establish Google apps and services as essentials for consumers in the western world.

“While the separation of apps from the operating system may help foster competition over the longer term, manufacturers will continue to need to offer Google services to be competitive and address consumer demand.”

Richard Windsor from research company Radio Free Mobile said that because users in the EU are so accustomed to using Google services and have come to prefer them “separating Google Play from the rest of Google’s Digital Life services would have very little impact as users would simply download and install them from the store”.

The EC also ordered Google to stop paying smartphone manufacturers and mobile network operators through revenue sharing for exclusively including Google Search on their phones. Finally, Google is also ordered to stop blocking manufacturers from using so-called forked or modified versions of Android, such as Amazon’s Fire OS, if they want to use Google services on their other devices.</p>


Android was 40% of sales share (the first indicator of market dominance) in 2Q 2011, according to IDC. It had 40% of the installed base of smartphones by 2012. Even allowing then for the possibility that Windows Phone might have blown the bloody doors off, the EC is five years too late in this: market dominance was established long before Margrethe Vestager even pulled back her chair. Her predecessor, Almunia, was a failure. That's evident now.

Nokia did try an Android-without-Google phone in 2014 - the Nokia X. It sank without trace. The game had finished by then.
ec  google  android 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Europe tries to shut the Google stable door • CCS Insight
Geoff Blaber is an analyst at CCS; the EC is expected to announce on Wednesday a fine and "action" on Google's tying of Google apps to Android:
<p>The size and scale of the Android ecosystem, coupled with the business model interdependencies of Google, manufacturers, operators and app developers, mean the case is decidedly more complex than that of Microsoft's Internet Explorer bundling. There's a substantial risk that despite the commission's best intentions, its action results in unintended consequences that ultimately penalize the consumer.

The strength of Google's position has invited increased scrutiny by the European Commission. In the wake of the 2017 verdict on Google Shopping results, Android was a natural next target. With more than 2 billion active devices and stringent requirements for manufacturers about how Android is used when coupled with Google apps and services, it is unsurprising the commission has sought to take action.

Although an open-source operating system, Android was introduced as a vehicle for Google's licensable apps and services and to extend Google's business model as engagement shifted to mobile devices. In this context, Android has been incredibly successful.

And yet Europe's stance is arguably six to eight years too late. The commission is shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted. A related problem is that there is no clear alternative to Android. Apple's iOS is an alternative from a consumer perspective, but Google has definitively beaten any licensable alternatives. Had the commission's determination been made even five years ago, it would have opened a door of opportunity for others such as Microsoft. Today most contenders are themselves built on an Android code base.

Although a move to separate apps from the operating system may help foster competition over the longer term, Android has served its purpose in cementing Google services in consumers' minds. At least in the West, manufacturers will still have to offer Google services to be competitive and meet consumer demand.</p>


As he says: it's years too late if it's really to make a difference. I've never felt that the Android case is anywhere near as egregious as the Google Shopping case, where Google suppressed search results from other sites to favour its own.
google  android 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
I used an Android Go phone for a month, and it was terrible • Android Police
Ryne Hager tried the low-end Android option, at $100:
<p>Who are these phones for?

This question consumed me in the lead-up to my time with the Alcatel 1X, and long before the review process started, I knew there wouldn't be time to fully answer it. So, against my own better judgment and the repeated pleas of my coworkers here at Android Police, I decided before I started that I would exclusively use the Alcatel 1X as my only personal phone for an entire month. Of course, covering software updates and apps might require that I occasionally grab a work phone to pull screens or fact check, but when I was off duty, on vacation, or out on the town, it would be the Alcatel 1X in my pocket—with no backup.

Android Go and a mere 1 GB of RAM would be responsible for my entire mobile-centric life for a whole month. I expected the worst from the experience, and I wasn't entirely disappointed.

I didn't suffer any major catastrophes in the period I spent using it exclusively, but it was my only phone on two personal trips, and its shortcomings repeatedly drove me to apoplexy. It was explicitly incompatible with Android Auto, which meant more extensive planning and care had to go into my beer run to Burlington (a ~4-hour drive from Boston). The full version of Maps required for step-by-step directions eats quite a lot of the little free RAM left on a 1 GB device, and I was also concerned Spotify might be pushed out of memory mid-drive—as it once did while I had the app open on the subway. Thankfully, both were able to stay running the entire time.

It was a functional phone, but it wasn't good, and in a lot of ways it felt like stepping back in time to 2008-2010: That era when smartphones were only just starting to proliferate.</p>


Spotify? The full version of Google Maps? Isn't this expecting a lot? I'd expect if you go from a flagship (of any of the past two years) to a $100 phone you'd find it hard. That doesn't make it worthless.
android  go 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Who will steal Android from Google? • Medium
Steve Yegge on the challenge to Google's Android frameworks from React Native, built by Facebook:
<p>[Google is] doubling down on “native” (traditional) Android programming, with official support for the Kotlin language, which was a big step up for native Android programmers. I love Kotlin; it’s the future of Java. But let’s face it: It’s not where the mobile market is headed. People are writing cross-platform frameworks for two big reasons: First, because they want their company’s app to work on two platforms without doing 2x the work. And second, because Android native programming is still so painful, even with Kotlin, many companies feel (justifiably) that they should just throw it all out and start from scratch with something easier.

If you are an Android or iOS developer, and you take some time to try React Native (which Facebook created to help address these problems), you’ll realize within about 30 seconds that it’s WAY better, assuming you’re not writing a game, in which case you’d probably use Unity anyway. For business and productivity apps, React Native offers reasonable performance, cross-platform compatibility, incredible tools (the best being from Microsoft. Hello, relevance! Welcome back!), and vastly improved development speed. Remember I said it could take 20 minutes to see a 1-line code change in the regular Android stack? That can happen in the biggest apps like Nest or Facebook, but even for medium-size apps it can be 2 or 3 minutes. Whereas with React Native it’s instantaneous. You make a change, you see the change.

And that, folks, means you get to launch features 10x faster, which means faster time to market, which means first-mover advantage, which means you win win win.</p>
google  mobile  android  development 
july 2018 by charlesarthur
Google invests $22m in the OS powering Nokia feature phones • The Verge
Tom Warren:
<p>Google is investing $22m into KaiOS, the feature phone operating system that has risen from the ashes of Mozilla’s Firefox OS. While Google rules the smartphone world with Android, KaiOS is slowly emerging as a popular choice for feature phones, particularly in emerging markets. KaiOS started last year as a forked version of Firefox OS, and the operating system ships on some Nokia-branded feature phones like the Nokia 8110. Devices from TCL and Micromax are also powered by KaiOS.

Google’s investment might seem odd given its Android dominance, and its efforts with Android Go, but it’s clearly strategic. “Google and KaiOS have also agreed to work together to make the Google Assistant, Google Maps, YouTube, and Google Search available to KaiOS users,” says KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville. KaiOS itself is web-based, designed for developers to use HTML5, Javascript, and CSS for apps. That makes it easy for Google to get these apps running on KaiOS, and strategically ensure feature phones are using Google’s services and not competitors.</p>


It's aimed at making sure Google services are available on low-end devices. Strategic, just as Android was strategic - making sure that Google not Microsoft could dominate search on the emerging space of smartphones in 2005.
google  kaios  android 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
60,000 Android devices hit by battery-saving app attack • Tripwire
Graham Cluley on a scam that "warns" you that your (Android) device - which it names, by some HTML-grabbing functionality - has a problem and recommends the app (and the only way to stop it is to kill the web page):
<p>So what happens if you do go to the Google Play store and install the battery-saving app being touted by the fake warning?

The first thing that should ring alarm bells in you is that the app demands access to a disturbing array of permissions including:

• Read sensitive log data
• Receive text messages (SMS)
• Receive data from Internet
• Pair with Bluetooth devices
• Full network access
• Modify system settings
I can’t think of any legitimate reason why a genuine battery-saving app would ever need such invasive abilities, which in combination with the app’s other functionality allows it to steal a user’s phone number, location, and details about their device including its IMEI number.

And so it comes as something of a surprise to discover that the Advanced Battery Saver app actually does live up to its advertising – monitoring a device’s battery status, killing unwanted background processes that consume significant resources, and making other attempts to keep batteries running for longer.

And it’s this strange dichotomy – the good and the bad behavior – which leads the researchers to speculate that the battery-saving app was perhaps originally designed to perform its intended advertised function (and to fulfill only that purpose) before being extended by its creators into underhand methods of income generation.</p>


There's no money in standard apps at that level now, if there ever was.

Chief among those is the app’s request for access to a user’s SMS text messages. One installed, the battery-saving app recruits devices into an ad-clicking scam, with the app “clicking” on advertising links it is sent via SMS to earn more income for the fraudsters behind the scheme.
android  malware 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Android users: beware these popularity-faking tricks on Google Play • We Live Security
Lukas Stefanko:
<p>The trick takes advantage of the fact that apart from the app icon and name, there is one more element the user sees when browsing apps – the developer name, displayed just below the app name. And since unknown developer names are no use for popularity-boosting purposes anyway, some app authors have been setting fictitious, high numbers of installs as their developer names, in an effort to look like established developers with vast userbases.

We have discovered hundreds of apps using this and similar tricks to deceive users. The apps we’ve analyzed were either misleading users about their functionality or had no functionality at all, yet most display many advertisements.

<img src="https://www.welivesecurity.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Figure1.png" width="100%" /><br /><em>Figure 1 – Apps uploaded to Google Play under the developer name “Installs 1,000,000,000 – 5,000,000,000”</em>

The freedom to set any number of choice as developer name has inspired some remarkably ambitious claims – one game developer, for instance, would like users to believe his games have been installed more than five billion times. (Note: the highest-ranking apps in terms of number of installs fall into the category “1,000,000,000 ” at the time of writing; this category includes Google Play itself, Gmail, Facebook, WhatsApp, Skype, etc.)

In one particular case, we saw a developer change his name from a fake installation number to an actual developer name over time, which might indicate the trick is used as a temporary measure aimed at boosting the popularity of newly uploaded apps.</p>

Wonder how easy will be for Google to block this? Searching for "install" as a developer name, or for figures, would probably catch it. How long before this trick is squashed?
Google  fake  android  apps 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Fake Fortnite APKs are out there, don't be tricked into downloading one • Android Police
Richard Gao:
<p>Given Fortnite's current hotness, we understand if you've been scouring the webs for an APK to download onto your phone. After all, <a href="https://www.androidpolice.com/2018/05/18/epic-games-third-person-shooter-fortnite-battle-royale-coming-android-next-months/">Epic Games said that Fortnite would be making its way to Android this summer</a>, and it's basically summer at this point. But be forewarned: Fortnite is not out on Android yet, and anything you see claiming to be a Fortnite APK is a scam.

<img src="https://www.androidpolice.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Screen-Shot-2018-06-03-at-6.23.35-PM-728x403.png" width="100%" />

A Google search will reveal more than a few Fortnite Android scams out there, and they're all over YouTube as well. Some, like the one you see above, have actually purchased advertisement space on YouTube to further deceive people. Most of them can be easily spotted from their broken English and generally crappy web design, but it wouldn't be difficult for anyone who isn't a complete idiot to make something more convincing.</p>


The fake apps steal Fortnite accounts. Well, of course. The fake games are a side effect of the delay between the iOS release and the Android release, and that of course is because of the difference in the number of devices to be supported. (Side note: one of the kids won a round of 1 v 99 and so has been elected this household's tribute. May the odds be ever in their favour.)
fortnite  android 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Google unceremoniously removes the tablet section from official Android website • Android Police
Ryan Whitwam:
<p>Google has been doing an impressive job of pretending Android tablets don't exist for the last few years, and now it's done pretending. Google has updated the Android website to remove the tablet section entirely. You can now use that site to learn all about Android on Phones, Wear, TV, Auto, and Enterprise. That's it. RIP Android tablets.

As of yesterday [May 31], the tablet section still existed. You can see the <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20180531184255/http://www.android.com/tablets/">last version of the page in the Internet Archive</a>. It talked about hot new tablets like the Shield and Galaxy Tab S2. So, yeah. It wasn't getting much attention even before Google killed it. Now, if you try to visit the URL for the <a href="http://www.android.com/tablets/">tablet page</a>, it kicks you back to the main Android site.</p>


Wow, that is quite a statement - even in passive-aggressive form. Whitwam also points out that there are no Android P dev tablets. Though there might be ChromeOS tablets that run Android.

Even with this, Android tablets come in dead last on developers' to-do list, which generally runs iPhone, Android phones, iPad, Android tablets. Though possibly ChromeOS comes ahead of Android tablets now.
google  tablets  android 
june 2018 by charlesarthur
Morgan Stanley: Apple's App Store clobbers Google Play • Philip Elmer‑DeWitt
Analyst Katy Huberty put together a presentation about "The Emerging Power of Apple Services". The telling graphics are these two, I think:

<img src="https://i0.wp.com/www.ped30.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Screen-Shot-2018-05-28-at-7.03.38-AM.png?w=597&ssl=1" width="100%" />

and

<img src="https://i0.wp.com/www.ped30.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/Screen-Shot-2018-05-28-at-7.03.46-AM.png?w=600&ssl=1" width="100%" />

That widening delta between the App Store and Google Play is not what had been expected. Possibly it understates advertising revenue because those figures are hard to extract, but most of the revenue will come from games, and those can be easily estimated. (Note too that Google hasn't said much about Google Play revenue.)

But it's clear that iOS customers are really valuable. Android has conquered the world in terms of penetration; Apple has conquered it in terms of getting wallets open.
apple  android  google  apps 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Free app brings iPhone X gesture navigation to Android phones without Android P • BGR
Zach Epstein:
<p>Google announced during its Google I/O 2018 keynote presentation that gesture controls will be coming to the Android platform later this year when Android P is released. There’s already a public beta of Android P available for people with certain smartphones, but everyone else will have to wait until sometime later this year or in 2019 when Android P updates finally start rolling out to phones. Some smartphone makers don’t want to wait for Android P, so they’re adding their own take on the iPhone X’s gesture navigation. OnePlus is a good example, though gesture navigation on the OnePlus 6 is kind of terrible.

There are already a few different apps out there that let you add gesture-based navigation to an Android phone. The problem with these apps is they require you to root your Android device. Not everyone wants to bother rooting their phones, and there are also security implications that many people aren’t comfortable with. Don’t worry though, because we have some good news: There’s a new free app that brings the iPhone X’s gestures to Android without the need for root access.

The app is called <a href="https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.xda.nobar">Navigation Gestures</a>, and it was <a href="https://www.xda-developers.com/navigation-gestures-iphone-x-app-xda/">built by an admin from xda-developers</a>. It’s currently available for free in the Play store. The app can be installed on any modern Android phone, and it doesn’t require users to first root their devices. There is one small caveat though. Navigation Gestures uses an API that is only accessible by granting a special permission, and you’ll need to connect your Android device to a Windows or Mac computer in order to grant that permission. It’s quite easy, and XDA provides a video that walks you through the process.</p>


Seems fairly clear that in four years or so, the majority of phones will be working on gestures and have no bezels.
app  gestures  iphonex  android 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
There's a ⚫ emoji message that crashes any Android app, but it's no big deal • Android Police
Martim Lobao:
<p>There's a message that's making the rounds on WhatsApp that mysteriously causes the app to crash if you dare to tap on the black dot within. You may have already come across it and wondered how just tapping on a single emoji can cause an app to freeze and become unresponsive. The answer, unsurprisingly, is that it can't.

The message, which is shown below, is actually made up of more than what meets the eye. You might have even suspected as much if you already noticed that tapping anywhere on the message — and not only on the black dot — triggers the bug. The fact is that there are hundreds (around two thousand, actually) of invisible characters in the message that end up causing Android's text rendering engine to go haywire and ultimately crash, particularly on older devices. (Some newer phones like the Pixel 2 seem to recover after freezing up and don't force close the app.)

…the invisible part of the message is comprised of special characters which Unicode uses to specify whether a given text should be laid out right-to-left or left-to-right. These characters are necessary to properly display text in several languages that are written right-to-left, such as Hebrew and Arabic.

There's nothing wrong with these characters per se. Modern devices have been able to handle LTR and RTL text for decades, even within the same sentence. The issue only shows up when a strange combination of characters triggers some obscure bug in the rendering engine — which is precisely what is happening here. The sequence of two thousand characters switches the text's orientation back and forth repeatedly, and when the engine can't handle this string of characters, it locks up and crashes the app. The curious part is that Android is able to display the characters without any issue, but locks up when a user tries to tap the message.</p>


Not seeing how this is different from the rendering bugs on iOS that cause people to write OMG IPHONE IS BROKEN APPLE CAN'T CODE IT IS DOOMED stories. Those aren't a big deal either, of course, but the contrast is weird.
android  rendering  crash 
may 2018 by charlesarthur
Former operator of Android app pirate site Applanet gets three years' probation • Android Police
Jason Hahn:
<p>Aaron Buckley, who was an enterprising 15-year-old when he launched Applanet from his parents' home in Mississippi, pleaded guilty to two counts of his indictment: conspiracy to commit copyright infringement and criminal copyright infringement. The Northern District Court of Georgia announced on April 11th that Buckley, now in his mid-20s, will be placed under three years' probation and will also be put into a home-incarceration program for 365 days. He will also have to complete 20 hours of community service, work toward his GED, pay a $200 "special assessment" fee, and refrain from owning a firearm or possessing a controlled substance.

Buckley's attorney pushed for a lenient sentence from US District Judge Timothy Batten, framing Buckley's life since launching the site for pirated Android apps as one of community work and taking a leadership role in a support community for LGBT teenagers. He also spoke of unspecified difficulties in Buckley's personal life.

"I really respect the government and the judge in their sentencing and am extremely grateful that they took into account all concerns of my health and life situation in regards to possible sentences," Buckley told TorrentFreak.</p>


The tiny bit that struck my eye was the "refrain from owning a firearm". I don't see why operating an app pirating site would make you unsafe to own a gun. Would it?
android  app  piracy 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
How Android phones hide missed security updates from you • WIRED
Andy Greenberg:
<p>Security Research Labs (SRL) tested the firmware of 1,200 phones, from more than a dozen phone manufacturers, for every Android patch released in 2017. The devices were made by Google itself as well as major Android phone makers like Samsung, Motorola, and HTC, and lesser-known Chinese-owned companies like ZTE and TCL. Their testing found that other than Google's own flagship phones like the Pixel and Pixel 2, even top-tier phone vendors sometimes claimed to have patches installed that they actually lacked. And the lower-tier collection of manufacturers had a far messier record.

The problem, Nohl points out, is worse than vendors merely neglecting to patch older devices, a common phenomenon. Instead, it's that they tell users they install patches that they in fact don't, creating a false sense of security. "We found several vendors that didn’t install a single patch but changed the patch date forward by several months," Nohl says. "That’s deliberate deception, and it's not very common."

More often, Nohl believes, companies like Sony or Samsung would miss a patch or two by accident. But in other cases, the results were harder to explain: SRL found that one Samsung phone, the 2016 J5, was perfectly honest about telling the user which patches it had installed and which it still lacked, while Samsung's 2016 J3 claimed to have every Android patch issued in 2017 but lacked 12 of them—two considered as "critical" for the phone's security.</p>


Chinese companies (including Lenovo's Motorola), and HTC and LG figure badly here. How big a problem is this, though? Are these hacks exploitable? The rest of the article suggests not. But it's poor customer relations to do this.
android  security  hacking 
april 2018 by charlesarthur
Facebook scraped call, text message data for years from Android phones • Ars Technica
Sean Gallagher:
<p>If you granted permission to read contacts during Facebook's installation on Android a few versions ago—specifically before Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)—that permission also granted Facebook access to call and message logs by default. The permission structure was changed in the Android API in version 16. But Android applications could bypass this change if they were written to earlier versions of the API, so Facebook API could continue to gain access to call and SMS data by specifying an earlier Android SDK version. Google deprecated version 4.0 of the Android API in October 2017—the point at which the latest call metadata in Facebook users' data was found. Apple iOS has never allowed silent access to call data.

Facebook provides a way for users to purge collected contact data from their accounts, but it's not clear if this deletes just contacts or if it also purges call and SMS metadata. After purging my contact data, my contacts and calls were still in the archive I downloaded the next day—though this may be because the archive was still the same cache I had requested on Friday.

As always, if you're really concerned about privacy, you should not share address book and call-log data with any mobile application. And you may want to examine the rest of what can be found in the downloadable Facebook archive, as it includes all the advertisers that Facebook has shared your contact information with, among other things.</p>


Jelly Bean was released in September 2012, but it took until October 2013 for that version (or later) to be on more than 50% of Android phones.
facebook  android  privacy  ethics 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Google gives up on tablets: Android P marks an end to its ambitious efforts to take on Apple's iPad • Apple Insider
Daniel Eran Dilger:
<p>Google's upcoming Android P release drops support for Pixel C, the company's last effort at building an Android tablet. While it once appeared that Google wanted to ditch Android and move to its web browser based ChromeOS, the termination of its last Android tablet follows Google's discontinuation last summer of Chromebook Pixel, the premium-priced laptop running ChromeOS.Google failed to make a dent in Apple's iPad business despite trying longer and harder than Microsoft's Zune attempt to rival iPods

Android P also drops support for all remaining Nexus branded devices. In fact, the next Android release only supports Google's last two batches of Pixel phones – which themselves did not sell well – indicating a rather dramatic scaling back of what was once supposed to be a vast array of hardware expanding into new directions to tackle Apple at every turn.

While things like Chromebooks and Nexus Player TV boxes were launched as experiments, Google's efforts to build a self-branded tablet (both to rival Apple's iPad and to show its own Android licensees how to build a good tablet) was always presented as a serious, strategic effort to conquer Apple's second largest iOS franchise.

Here's a look at why Google failed to make a dent in Apple's iPad business despite trying longer and harder than Microsoft's Zune attempt to rival iPods.</p>


Android tablets as a class have fared really poorly. Amazon is now the biggest-selling in that group, and it doesn't even run Google Play. Chinese vendors are exiting the market. And the Pixel C.. who's got one?
android  google  tablet 
march 2018 by charlesarthur
Say goodbye to Android Pay and hello to Google Pay • Techcrunch
Frederic Lardinois:
<p>At first glance, the new Google Pay app is basically a redesign of Android Pay, with a look and feel that adheres closer to Google’s own Material Design guidelines than the original. In terms of functionality, there isn’t all that much here that’s new. One notable change, though, is that the Google Pay home screen now shows you relevant stores around you where you can pay with Google Pay. That list is personalized, based on previous stores where you used the service, as well as your location. In addition, the home screen shows you all of your recent purchases and you can still add all of your loyalty cards to the app.

As Google’s VP of Product Management for Payments, Pali Bhat, told me, the team really wanted to make it extremely easy to get started with Google Pay.</p>

Personalising the list is a neat touch.
Android  googlepay 
february 2018 by charlesarthur
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