Stealthy Google Play apps recorded calls and stole e-mails and texts

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Google has expelled 20 Android apps from its Play marketplace after finding they contained code for monitoring and extracting users’ e-mail, text messages, locations, voice calls, and other sensitive data.

The apps, which made their way onto about 100 phones, exploited known vulnerabilities to “root” devices running older versions of Android. Root status allowed the apps to bypass security protections built into the mobile operating system. As a result, the apps were capable of surreptitiously accessing sensitive data stored, sent, or received by at least a dozen other apps, including Gmail, Hangouts, LinkedIn, and Messenger. The now-ejected apps also collected messages sent and received by Whatsapp, Telegram, and Viber, which all encrypt data in an attempt to make it harder for attackers to intercept messages while in transit.

The apps also contained functions allowing for:

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Apple discontinues iPod nano and shuffle, updates iPod Touch models

(credit: Chris Foresman)

You’ll see no mention of the iPod nano or iPod shuffle on Apple’s website anymore. Today, the company removed the two media players from its website, and reports suggest the company is discontinuing both devices. A report from Business Insider includes a statement from an Apple spokesperson citing the “simplifying” of the iPod lineup.

“Today, we are simplifying our iPod lineup with two models of iPod touch now with double the capacity starting at just $199 and we are discontinuing the iPod shuffle and iPod nano,” reads the statement from an Apple spokesperson.

Some of the most affordable products in Apple’s lineup, the iPod nano started at $149 and the iPod shuffle started at $49. Both devices have been sitting on the back burner for a while: Apple hasn’t introduced a meaningful update to either device since 2012, only adding new colors options for both in 2015.

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LG disappointed by sales of flagship smartphone

Enlarge / The LG G6.

Another year, another proclamation from LG that its flagship smartphone isn’t selling as well as expected. Last year it was the LG G5, when the company blamed a bad quarter on “weak sales of [the] G5.” The year before that, it was the LG G4, which had sales that “fell short of expectations.” This year it’s the LG G6—in its latest earnings report, LG blamed the “challenging” quarter on “weaker than expected premium smartphone sales and increase in component costs.”

A a whole, LG is doing fine, with the company reporting that “Three of the company’s four main business units reported higher revenues than a year ago.” Home Appliances, Home Entertainment, and Vehicle components are the three seeing improvements, while the mobile division is lagging behind.

LG’s strategy with the G6 never made a ton of sense, seeming like it was

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AMD Ryzen 3 1300X and 1200: True quad-core CPUs for just $130 and $110

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Ryzen 3 1300X and Ryzen 3 1200, AMD’s budget-focused quad-core CPUs, launch today for $130 and $110 respectively. UK pricing is yet to be confirmed, but don’t expect much change from £120 and £100 respectively.

Like the rest of the Ryzen line-up, Ryzen 3 offers more cores compared to a similarly priced Intel chip. The Ryzen 3 1200—which features four cores, four threads, a base clock of 3.1GHz and a boost clock of 3.4GHz—is priced below Intel’s Core i3-7100, a dual-core chip with hyperthreading. The Ryzen 3 1300X—which is also a 4C/4T chip with a base clock of 3.5GHz and a boost clock of 3.7GHz—is cheaper than the 2C/4T Intel Core i3-7300. Both sport a TDP of 65W.

While the Intel chips offer higher out-of-the-box clock speeds along with better IPC performance, Ryzen 3 should perform better in multithreaded tasks. AMD’s own Cinebench results

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iPhone-maker Foxconn to build flat-screen display factory in Wisconsin

Enlarge / The OLED-toting Google Pixel (left) next to the iPhone 7 Plus’ LCD panel. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

Foxconn, one of the electronics manufacturers that makes Apple’s iPhones, is set to reveal plans to build a factory in Wisconsin to product flat-screen displays. Foxconn has been in talks with state governments about investing $7 billion in US manufacturing since Donald Trump took office as President. The announcement will come at an event at the White House today at 4pm CT.

The factory will be located in southeastern Wisconsin in House Speaker Paul Ryan’s congressional district. It’s currently unclear how many jobs this will create in the state—an earlier report from The Chicago Tribune suggests it could create as many as 10,000 jobs, while others state the factory would initially create 3,000 jobs. Back in January, Foxconn Chairman Terry Gou estimated the $7 billion investment, if it went through, could create between 30,000 and 50,000 jobs in the

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USB 3.2 will make your cables twice as fast… once you’ve bought new devices

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If you’ve invested heavily in USB Type-C cables, the USB Promoter Group has some good news for you. The next version of USB, USB 3.2, will double the speed of existing Type-C cables. Cables currently qualified for USB 3.1 generation 1’s 5 Gbps will be able to operate at 10 Gbps; those qualified for generation 2’s 10 Gbps will be able to run at 20 Gbps.

The only small inconvenience is that to use these new speeds you’ll need brand new devices at each end of the cable. But if you’ve managed to find some Type-C cables that actually properly comply with the specification—something rather harder than it should be—then you can rest assured that they’ll continue to work with the new spec, without holding back the performance of your devices.

As for how the cables are able to double in performance, the

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Moto Z2 Force hands on—Motorola bets the farm on Moto Mods, loses

Remember the Moto Z? The Lenovo-controlled redesign of Motorola’s flagship smartphone bet the farm on a modular phone idea, and the modular system kind of sucked. The modules were expensive, only worked with brand-new Motorola smartphones, and didn’t offer anything useful over a non-modular version of the same accessory. To limit the effect the bulky modules would have on the phone, Motorola slimmed the phone down as much as possible, resulting in the removal of the headphone jack. Motorola sacrificed a lot to make the modular phone idea work, but at the end of the day the modular system never delivered a compelling use case.

Motorola committed to the modular “Moto Mod” system for at least “two more generations” after the Moto Z, which doesn’t leave the company much room to course correct. The “backpack” modular design demands an identical back shape to the Moto Z, with the same size camera bump and massive modular connector in

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Elon Musk: Mark Zuckerberg’s understanding of AI is “limited”

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There aren’t many people in the world who can justifiably call Mark Zuckerberg a dumb-ass, but Elon Musk is probably one of them.

Early on Tuesday morning, in the latest salvo of a tussle between the two tech billionaires over the dangers of advanced artificial intelligence, Musk said that Zuckerberg’s “understanding of the subject is limited.”

I won’t rehash the entire argument here, but basically Elon Musk has been warning society for the last few years that we need to be careful of advanced artificial intelligence. Musk is concerned that humans will either become second-class citizens under super-smart AIs, or alternatively that we’ll face a Skynet-like scenario against a robot uprising.

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Android O Preview 4 is out—next stop, final release

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Google has just announced the availability of the fourth and final Android O Developer Preview. As usual, the preview is available for the Pixel, Pixel XL, Pixel C, Nexus 5X, Nexus 6P, Nexus Player, and the Android Emulator.

Like the third preview, we’re not expecting much in the way of UI changes in this release. It will take some time to find out, but hopefully this preview is a little more stable and performant than the third release. Right now, our Pixel XL test device has a super-slow camera, frequent crashes, and lots of bluetooth issues running the third preview.

The Android O APIs have been stable since release 3, so the major news with these release seems to be a stable release of version 26 of the Android Support Library. Despite the name, the Android Support Library is actually a collection of libraries developers can add

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Samsung Foundries plans to triple market share in the next five years

Enlarge / Samsung’s chip manufacturing business goes way beyond Exynos. (credit: Samsung)

A report from Reuters says Samsung Electronics plans to “triple the market share” of its foundry business over the next five years. Samsung plans to “aggressively add new clients,” with E.S. Jung, head of the Samsung foundry division, telling Reuters, “We want to become a strong No. 2 player in the market” behind TSMC.

In May, Samsung officially created a new business unit for its growing foundry operations. The business unit will fight TSMC and Intel for orders from Apple, Qualcomm, and other SoC vendors.

Despite the recent creation of the business unit, Samsung has been doing foundry work since 2005 and is a major player in the high-end SoC space. It exclusively manufactures the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, which goes into nearly every high-end Android phone. Samsung’s foundry has also done business with Apple in the past, but for the A10 SoC,

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Maybe The Americans is quietly a technophile love letter to the 1980s

The Emmy-nominated showrunners of The Americans, Joel Fields (L) and Joe Weisberg (R), sat down with Ars at ATX Television Fest 2017. One of ’em is a regular reader who enjoys our iOS and macOS reviews (but will revert to a flip phone when the show isn’t in production). (video link)

Warning: This post contains mild spoilers from the first five seasons of The Americans.

AUSTIN, Texas—On its surface, FX’s The Americans is a sleeper-cell spy drama set in DC during the Cold War. But fans will quickly tell you the show’s more about relationships and the difficulties of family and marriage; the show’s creators echo this sentiment, too.

“If you really look at the show honestly, the picture it paints of marriage is that there’s a lot of ups, a lot of downs, and it’s not an easy road,” showrunner Joe Weisberg says to fellow showrunner Joel

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Google denies claims of a desktop Google.com revamp

Enlarge / Yahoogle.

Google’s homepage has been a stark white page for basically ever, with little more than a search box and a few buttons to get users to a search results page as fast as possible. Yesterday, a report from The Guardian claimed this would be changing, and Google would be adding a “news feed” to “Google.com.” The Google app on mobile devices has long had a news feed—originally introduced as “Google Now”—and the report claims a similar interface is coming to the desktop.

The crux of The Guardian‘s report says “The feed of personalised information, which has been a mainstay of Google’s mobile apps for Android and iOS since 2012… will become part of the main desktop experience in the near future, the Guardian understands.” But there are a few aspects of the report that make me question its authenticity.

First, the report pulls quotes and images from Google’s July 19 blog

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Microsoft’s most baffling release yet, Surface Laptop is just a laptop

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After several years of building systems that compete with, but aren’t quite, laptops, Microsoft has built a plain old laptop: the Surface Laptop.

I think there’s a good chance that the Surface Laptop will become Microsoft’s best-selling piece of PC hardware. This is such a straightforward proposition: it’s a regular PC laptop. It has no trickery; no tear-off keyboard, no special hinge, no detachable GPU, none of the other things that have made the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio notable or unusual. It can’t be said any plainer: Surface Laptop is just a PC laptop.

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Microsoft’s most baffling release yet, Surface Laptop is just a laptop

(video link)

After several years of building systems that compete with, but aren’t quite, laptops, Microsoft has built a plain old laptop: the Surface Laptop.

I think there’s a good chance that the Surface Laptop will become Microsoft’s best-selling piece of PC hardware. This is such a straightforward proposition: it’s a regular PC laptop. It has no trickery; no tear-off keyboard, no special hinge, no detachable GPU, none of the other things that have made the Surface Pro, Surface Book, and Surface Studio notable or unusual. It can’t be said any plainer: Surface Laptop is just a PC laptop.

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Clover Trail systems won’t get Windows 10 Creators Update, ever

Enlarge / One of the affected Atom processors. (credit: Intel)

Systems using Intel’s Clover Trail Atom processors and running Windows 10 won’t ever receive the Creators Update, or any major Windows 10 updates in future. But in an exception to its normal Windows 10 support policy, Microsoft has said that it will provide security updates to those systems until January 2023.

We wrote earlier this week about the tricky situation of the Clover Trail systems. Those machines shipped with Windows 8 and 8.1 were due to receive software support until 2023. However, the systems were also eligible for the free upgrade to Windows 10. But to receive security fixes on Windows 10, you have to keep pace with the periodic regular major upgrades that Microsoft makes to that operating system. Each of these named releases is only supported for 18 months, after which you have to upgrade, or else

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Intel shuts down group working on wearables and fitness trackers

Enlarge / Intel-powered Tag Heuer smartwatch.

Intel was once moving full-steam ahead into wearables, but that effort has apparently come to an end. Reports at the end of last year claimed the company was looking to step back from wearables, but Intel denied that rumor. Now a report from CNBC cites a source that claims Intel completely shut down its wearable division about two weeks ago.

The report refers to the Basis group, which was made up of employees from the wearable company that Intel bought for about $100 million. The source also claims 80 percent of those in the Basis group were let go in November 2016, but many were given the option to assume other roles within Intel. The company’s New Technologies Group is reportedly focusing on AI now more than ever.

We don’t know what this will mean for Intel’s Curie chip in the long-term, but it’s still being promoted on

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Blue Ella review: Planar magnetic tech sounds great, but costs too much

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Specs at a glance: Blue Ella
Driver Type Planar magnetic
Impedance 50 ohms Passive, 10 ohms Active
Frequency response 20Hz-20kHz
Amplifier Output power: 250mW
THD+N: < 1% (94 dB SPL, from 20 Hz to 20 kHz)
Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz
SNR: >101 dB
Noise: < 20 uV
Battery 1000mAh
Weight 481g (16.97 oz)
Size Outer dimensions (closed): 21cm x 14cm x 12cm
Outer dimensions (open): 18cm x 29cm x 12cm
Other perks Soft carry case
1.2-meter audio cable with Apple iPhone/iPad controls and microphone
3 metre audio cable
3.5mm to 1/4” adaptor
Price £675 / $700

Planar magnetic headphones, which use a thin film suspended between neodymium magnets to deliver sound quite unlike that of typical dynamic and balanced armature headphones, are traditionally the reserve of the well-heeled audiophile. The sound quality is, according to fans, clearer, sharper, and more detailed and only surpassed by electrostatic headphones, which

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Bug fixes abound in macOS Sierra 10.12.6, iOS 10.3.3, and watchOS 3.2.3 updates

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Apple released a slew of software updates today for nearly all of its systems; you can now download macOS Sierra 10.12.6, iOS 10.3.3, watchOS 3.2.3, and tvOS 10.2.2 to any of your compatible devices. The updates appear to be minor, as most of them focus on bug fixes.

MacOS Sierra 10.12.6 is the sixth update to this version of Apple’s operating system, and it may very well be the last before the introduction of macOS High Sierra. As per Apple’s usual refresher schedule, macOS High Sierra should be pushed out to users this fall. According to Apple’s information page, macOS Sierra 10.12.6 improves the “security, stability, and compatibility” of Mac systems and tackles three main issues:

“Autumn Creators Update” was “mistranslation“; “Fall Creators Update” for all

Enlarge (credit: Gordon Plant)

We wrote on Monday that Microsoft was branding the Windows 10 Fall Creators Update as the “Autumn Creators Update” in countries such as the UK and India, where the season between summer and winter isn’t called “fall.” Microsoft was using this British English branding on its English-language sites where British English prevails over American English.

The company has informed us today that this was a “mistranslation”—yes, between English and English—and that the update will, in fact, be called the “Fall Creators Update” everywhere. The use of British English branding for British English speakers was a mistake.

Similarly, the update will retain this branding for those living in the southern hemisphere, where it isn’t fall or autumn, because it’s spring.

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After 3 months, Samsung’s “Bixby” voice assistant finally launches in the US

Enlarge / The hardware Bixby button on the Galaxy S8. (credit: Ron Amadeo)

It has been almost three months since the launch of the Galaxy S8, and Samsung is finally ready to unleash an English-speaking version of Bixby on the world—well, on the US at least. Samsung announced today that its voice assistant can finally speak English, and it’s rolling out to the Galaxy S8 and S8+ now. The UK, Australia, Canada, and other English-speaking nations still don’t have Bixby, however.

When the Galaxy S8 was announced at the end of March, Bixby was a heavily promoted part of the phone. Samsung considered Bixby so core to the Galaxy S8 software package that Samsung actually added a hardware “Bixby” button to the side of the Galaxy S8—it looks just like a second power button and lives below the volume rocker. Bixby launched in Samsung’s home of Korea along with the Galaxy S8,

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