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On Silicon Valley Companies' Bet On Boosting Their Userbases in Developing Markets With Dirt-Cheap Phones and Lite Apps

On Silicon Valley Companies' Bet On Boosting Their Userbases in Developing Markets With Dirt-Cheap Phones and Lite Apps

As user growth slows in developed markets, Silicon Valley companies are increasingly looking at developing markets such as India for new customers. The playbook of many of these companies is similar: make services work on low-cost devices that are increasingly popular among new users in these nations. Facebook, Microsoft, Uber, Twitter, Google, and Amazon have all released “lite” apps (they usually have fewer features, but are comparatively less resource intensive) for these markets, with some also offering their services as progressive web app (that mimic app-esque behavior on a website, but don’t require installation of any special app for access). But how do these apps fare on the low-cost devices? And what is it like to live on a low-cost smartphone? A reporter ditched his iPhone for a $60 Android handset to find out: The phone is, well, basic. It comes with a slow-as-molasses processor, so little memory that I kept having to remove and reinstall apps to keep the thing running, a camera that would have been at home on the first iPhone, a two-year-old version of Android, about a dozen pre-installed Google apps that take up hundreds of megabytes, and a single, measly gigabyte of usable storage. Imagine your favorite Android phone, except with a waaay crappier screen, cameras, storage, and battery to get an idea. What I bumped into immediately after turning on the Bharat 2 for the first time was the lack of storage, and this limitation entirely defined what I used my phone for. I had to start off by uninstalling the pre-installed bloatware before I actually installed any apps, because the first thing I got after switching on the phone was a low storage notification. Slack went out the window because it was too bloated; Outlook, my email app of choice, was too big to install; and pretty much everything else — banking apps, shopping apps, games, and more — was a luxury I’d live without. Even Google Maps Go, a lightweight browser version of Google Maps that the company said is “designed to run quickly and smoothly on devices with limited memory,” was crippled, allowing me to look up a location only to prompt me to download the full version of Google Maps when I asked for turn-by-turn directions. So I boiled down to the essentials: staying in touch with people, catching up on news, ordering cabs, and watching videos (which went shockingly well, and supports the huge popularity of video here), pretty much the same as the Next Billion. Further reading: Shitphone: A Love Story (2015).

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Google Invests $22 Million In Feature Phone Operating System KaiOS

Google Invests $22 Million In Feature Phone Operating System KaiOS

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: Google is turning startup investor to further its goal of putting Google services like search, maps, and its voice assistant front and center for the next billion internet users in emerging markets. It has invested $22 million into KaiOS, the company that has built an eponymous operating system for feature phones that packs a range of native apps and other smartphone-like services. As part of the investment, KaiOS will be working on integrating Google services like search, maps, YouTube and its voice assistant into more KaiOS devices, after initially announcing Google apps for KaiOS-powered Nokia phones earlier this year.

KaiOS is a U.S.-based project that started in 2017, built on the ashes of Mozilla’s failed Firefox OS experiment, as a fork of the Linux codebase. Firefox OS was intended to be the basis of a new wave of HTML-5, low-cost smartphones. And while those devices and the wider ecosystem never really took off, KaiOS has fared significantly better. KaiOS powers phones made by OEMs including Nokia (HMD), Micromax and Alcatel, and it works with carriers including Sprint and AT&T — it counts offices in North America, Europe and Asia. But its most significant deployment to date has been with India’s Reliance Jio, the challenger telco that disrupted the Indian market with affordable 4G data packages. “This funding will help us fast-track development and global deployment of KaiOS-enabled smart feature phones, allowing us to connect the vast population that still cannot access the internet, especially in emerging markets,” said KaiOS CEO Sebastien Codeville in a statement.

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
New Snapdragon Chips Bring Dual Cameras To More Mid-Tier Phones

New Snapdragon Chips Bring Dual Cameras To More Mid-Tier Phones

Qualcomm is launching three new chips for mid-tier smartphones — the Snapdragon 632, 439, and 429 — all of which promise to make dual cameras more commonplace. Engadget reports: The octa-core 632 is unsurprisingly the headliner, and can support two 13-megapixel rear cameras for those all-important portrait and telephoto shots. It’s up to 40 percent faster in raw computational power than the Snapdragon 626, and that means enough power for 4K video capture and “FHD+” resolution displays. Its cellular modem can handle LTE Advanced, too. The Adreno 506 graphics are only about 10 percent faster, but you’re still looking at a chip that can handle at least some modern 3D games without flinching.

The octa-core Snapdragon 439 and quad-core 429, meanwhile, are focused more on stepping up the baseline quality for lower-cost devices. They make do with support for dual 8-megapixel cameras and won’t handle 4K, but they should deliver up to 25 percent more CPU performance over their forebears (the 430 and 425) on top of the AI-related functions. The best bang for the buck comes with the 429 — while the Adreno 505 graphics in the 439 are a respectable 20 percent faster, the Adreno 504 inside the 429 is a whopping 50 percent faster. The first phones using these chips will appear sometime in the second half of the year.

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Fake Fortnite Android Apps Spread Across Internet

Fake Fortnite Android Apps Spread Across Internet

Fake Fortnite Android apps are spreading around the internet, even though the game has not been officially released for the platform. From a report: Videos on YouTube with links to scam versions of the popular game have been viewed millions of times, according to security experts. None of the fake apps has made it on to the Google Play Store, but they are easy to find on search engines. According to one security firm, the apps look legitimate. Talking about one particular fake app, Nathan Collier, an analyst from security firm Malwarebytes, said: “It’s so realistic that some may recognise it from the Apple iOS version. By stealing the icon directly from Apple, how could it not look real? In fact the app redirects users to a browser asking them to download a number of other apps in order to play the game. The scammers are paid each time someone downloads an app from the website.

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer

Android Messages Will Now Let You Send Texts From Your Computer

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: Google is beginning to roll out desktop browser support for Android Messages, allowing people to use their PC for sending messages and viewing those that have been received on their Android smartphone. Google says the feature is starting to go out to users today and continuing for the rest of the week. Text, images, and stickers are all supported on the web version.

To get started, the Android Messages website has you scan a QR code using the Android Messages mobile app, which creates a link between the two. In today’s blog post, Google also goes over numerous other recent improvements to Android Messenger including built-in GIF search, support for smart replies on more carriers, inline link previews, and easy copy/paste for two-factor authentication messages.

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Samsung Won't Be Forced To Update Old Smartphones

Samsung Won't Be Forced To Update Old Smartphones

Samsung will not be forced to update the software on its mobile phones for years after their release, after it won a court case in the Netherlands. From a report: A consumer association had argued that Samsung should update its phones for at least four years after they go on sale. Regular software updates can address security problems but older models do not typically receive all the latest updates.
However, the court rejected the association’s claims. Samsung produces some of the world’s best-selling mobile phones running Google’s Android operating system. Google regularly produces software updates that address newly discovered security flaws, and offers these to phone manufacturers such as Samsung. It is often up to the phone manufacturer to distribute the update to its customers. Consumer group Consumentenbond said Samsung was not distributing updates in a “timely” manner. Samsung said it guaranteed consumers in the Netherlands would get software updates for two years after a handset first went on sale in the country. The court ruled in Samsung’s favour and said the claims made by Consumentenbond were “inadmissible” because they related to “future acts.”

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Huawei Will No Longer Allow Bootloader Unlocking On Its Android Handsets

Huawei Will No Longer Allow Bootloader Unlocking On Its Android Handsets

Chinese smartphone maker Huawei has long made it easier for users to unlock the bootloader on its phones. But that is changing now. Android Authority: Earlier this month a support page, which detailed ways to unlock a bootloader, disappeared without any explanation from the company’s websites. In a statement, the company said, “In order to deliver the best user experience and prevent users from experiencing possible issues that could arise from ROM flashing, including system failure, stuttering, worsened battery performance, and risk of data being compromised, Huawei will cease providing bootloader unlock codes for devices launched after May 25, 2018.” It added, “For devices launched prior to the aforementioned date, the termination of the bootloader code application service will come into effect 60 days after today’s announcement. Moving forward, Huawei remains committed to providing quality services and experiences to its customers. Thank you for your continued support.”

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Some Low-Cost Android Phones Shipped With Malware Built In

Some Low-Cost Android Phones Shipped With Malware Built In

More than 100 different low-cost Android models from manufacturers such as ZTE, Archos, and myPhone ship with malware pre-installed, researchers at Avast Threat Labs reported on Thursday. Users in more than 90 countries, including the U.S., are affected by this, the researchers said. From a report: The malware, called called Cosiloon, overlays advertisements over the operating system in order to promote apps or even trick users into downloading apps. The app consists of a dropper and a payload. “The dropper is a small application with no obfuscation, located on the /system partition of affected devices. The app is completely passive, only visible to the user in the list of system applications under ‘settings.’ We have seen the dropper with two different names, ‘CrashService’ and ‘ImeMess,'” wrote Avast. The dropper then connects with a website to grab the payloads that the hackers wish to install on the phone. “The XML manifest contains information about what to download, which services to start and contains a whitelist programmed to potentially exclude specific countries and devices from infection. However, we’ve never seen the country whitelist used, and just a few devices were whitelisted in early versions. Currently, no countries or devices are whitelisted. The entire Cosiloon URL is hardcoded in the APK.”

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Now you can add Suica and WAON to Google Pay in Japan

Now you can add Suica and WAON to Google Pay in Japan

When we brought Android Pay to Japan in 2016, our goal was to create a unique mobile checkout experience that was tailored to Japanese shoppers. Since then, we’ve unified the different ways consumers pay with Google into a single brand: Google Pay. We’ve also updated the app to make paying faster and simpler, promote easy access to offers, and provide one, convenient place to manage e-money and loyalty cards on mobile using your Google Account.

Now, we’re rolling out two new ways to pay that will make checking out online, in stores, and across Japan even easier.

Suica and WAON now available on Google Pay

Starting today, you can add and manage your Suica and WAON cards in Google Pay if you live in Japan and have an Osaifu-Keitai eligible phone. This means four major Japanese prepaid e-money cards—nanaco, Rakuten Edy, Suica and WAON—can all be used with Google Pay. You’ll be able to pay with Google Pay at the hundreds of locations that accept any of these cards, plus pay on transit anywhere Suica is accepted.

New ways to pay JP

The Google Pay app makes organizing and managing all your cards effortless. You can use the app to quickly sign up for e-money cards using the information from your Google Account, check your balances and easily add money with your credit card, and set up low balance alerts so you’re always ready to go. You can also see your recent activity across all of your cards, get customized offers and rewards, and find helpful tips in the app’s Home tab.

And if you use Google Pay for transit, you can check your commuter pass, bullet train, and green ticket details, plus register your Tpoint and dPoint cards and scan them right from the app.

Adding Suica and WAON brings us one step closer to making paying faster and simpler for everyone, everywhere. Keep an eye out for even more features and new ways to pay in the upcoming months, and get the app now to see just how easy paying can be.

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog
Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 710 Platform For Midrange Android Phones

Qualcomm Announces Snapdragon 710 Platform For Midrange Android Phones

An anonymous reader quotes a report from AnandTech: Today Qualcomm announces a new entry to the Snapdragon lineup with the first 700-series SoC platform. The Snapdragon 710 is a direct successor to the Snapdragon 660 but comes with a new branding more worthy of the increased performance characteristics of the SoC. The big IP blocks found on the Snapdragon 710 are very much derivatives of what’s found on the flagship Snapdragon 845. On the CPU side we see the same 2.2GHz maximum clock on the big cores, but the Kryo 360 Cortex A75 based CPUs are microarchitectural upgrade over last year’s A72 based Kryo 260. The little cores are also based on the newer Cortex A55’s and are clocked at up to 1.7GHz. The performance improvements are quoted as an overall 20% uplift in SPECint2000 and 25% faster performance in Octane and Kraken versus the SD660. The SoC now also uses the new system cache first introduced in the Snapdragon 845 — although I’m expecting a smaller, yet unconfirmed 1MB size in the SD710. The 700-series SoC platform sports the new 600 series Adreno GPUs. They have an expected frequency of around 750MHz and up to 35% higher performance versus the Adreno 512 in the SD660. “In terms of connectivity the new SoC implements an X15 modem which is capable of UE Category 15 in the downstream with up to 800Mbps in 4x carrier aggregation and up to UE Category 7 in the upload with up to 2x CA and 256 QAM,” reports AnandTech. “The new chipset now also offers 2×2 802.11ac digital backend for Wi-Fi — however it’ll still need an external discrete analog RF frontend.”

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Posted by amiller in Android, Blog