Google Search just got some handy new voice-control features — for those with a device running Android Lollipop at least.
As Android Police first discovered, you can now enable or disable Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and the flashlight with just your voice. For instance, just say "OK Google, turn on Bluetooth," and voila. This feature only works on the latest version of Google Search on Lollipop, meaning those with KitKat and older versions of Android are left out of the party for now.
The change comes after Google last year first added support for settings toggles through voice commands. Until now, however, the option has only opened up a shortcut to the corresponding settings panel, meaning you still needed to manually make the change with your finger — not very helpful. The latest update finally makes things work as they should.
The counterattack announced Monday is just the latest example of how the competition between Google Inc. and Apple Inc. is extending beyond the technology industry's traditional boundaries. Besides payments, Silicon Valley's two richest companies are expanding into fields such as home appliances and cars to increase their power and profits.
Google's latest volley calls for its payment service to be built into Android smartphones sold by AT&T Inc., Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile USA later this year. Smartphone owners currently have to download the service, called Google Wallet, and install the app on their phone if they want to use it to buy something instead of pulling out cash or a credit card.
Apple's rival service, Apple Pay, already comes embedded in the latest versions of the company's mobile software.
Besides trying to make it more convenient to use Wallet, Google also is hoping to improve the nearly 4-year-old service. Toward that end, Google Inc. is buying some mobile payment technology and patents from Softcard, a 5-year-old venture owned by the wireless carriers. Financial terms weren't disclosed.
Although Google and the wireless carriers got a head start with their digital wallets, the concept hadn't gained much traction until Apple Pay debuted last fall.
The service has become more popular than Apple expected, according to a recent presentation by CEO Tim Cook.
Just three months after Apple Pay's November debut, Cook said the service accounted for two out of every three dollars spent across the three major U.S. card networks, when no card was used. About 2,000 banks and credit unions have agreed to offer Apple Pay to its customers. Apple hasn't said how many merchants are set up to handle its mobile payment services.
If Apple builds on that early momentum, the Cupertino, California, company could become the leader in what is expected to be a booming market. Nearly 16 million U.S. consumers spent about $3.5 billion on tap-and-pay services last year, according to the research firm eMarketer. By 2018, eMarketer predicts those figures will rise to 57 million U.S. consumers spending about $118 billion.
Companies that provide mobile wallets make money by collecting processing fees from merchants and banks.
Samsung Electronics, another major smartphone maker, may be ready to join the fray after buying a mobile payment startup called LoopPay. That deal, announced last week, fueled speculation that Samsung will include a digital wallet on its next phone.
Apple Pay's popularity probably helped forge the unlikely alliance between Google and the wireless carriers. Google traditionally has had a prickly relationship with the carriers, largely because it doesn't believe enough has been done to upgrade wireless networks and make them cheaper so more people can spend more time online. Media reports say Google is considering selling its own wireless plans to consumers.
The pre-installation of the Wallet app is similar to what Google already does with its search engine, Gmail and YouTube on millions of other phones running on Android — an operating system that Google has been giving away for years to ensure people keep using its products on mobile devices. Google profits from the traffic by showing ads.
The Korean Electronics giant, LG announces the evolution of LG Flex on Sprint in US. The Sprint reported that LG Flex 2 will go on sale on March 13, and the company is welcoming the pre-orders on its official web portal. There are two payment modes available, one is the EMI option with the monthly installment of $12 for two years, while the other one is the full payment option of $504 (nearly Rs. 30,000). The device is listed in Platinum Silver and a Sprint exclusive Volcano Red color variants.
The users of its successor, LG Flex that was launched last year, reported that the devices doesn’t provide a flawless high-end device experience. By taking these reports in the account, LG has improved a lot and removed the weakness in its new LG Flex 2 smartphone.
The device has comparatively smaller screen size, as it boasts 5.5-inch curved full-HD 1080p display with Gorilla Glass 3 and 403 ppi of pixel density. It is also featured with a 13-megapixel of primary image snapper with Optical Image Stabilization+, a dual-LED flash, Knock Code, Glance View, and various more features that helps in capturing decent quality images as it was previously seen in LG Flex. Meanwhile, the smartphone has a 2.1-megapixel for selfies.
Furthermore, it runs on the latest flavor of Android, 5.0 Lollipop supported by a 2.0GHz Octa-Core 64-Bit Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor with Adreno 430 graphics that is coupled with a 2GB of RAM. As Far storage is concerned the firm has provided 16 GB of internal storage with an expandability option via a microSD card. However, a variant is also available with 3 GB of RAM and 32 GB of internal storage.
Under the hood, the smartphone is packed with a 3000 mAh of gigantic battery that could juice up the “world’s fastest smartphone” for a whole day on standard usage, after getting it fully charged.
The killer curved smartphone measures 149.1 x 75.3 x 7.1-9.4 mm in dimensions. The company has provided various connectivity options in the phone like HSPA+, WiFi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1 (with apt-X audio), NFC, and USB 2.0.
Tech Specs of LG Flex 2
Samsung is buying mobile-payment startup LoopPay as the Korean phone maker steps up to challenge Apple and its payment system on iPhones.
The deal strengthens speculation that Samsung Electronics Co. plans to include mobile-payment technology in its next major phone, which is expected to be announced March 1 at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.
Launched a year ago, LoopPay works by reproducing the signals from a credit card's magnetic swipe as users tap a LoopPay device next to a retailer's card reader. That means LoopPay should work with most retailers' existing payment terminals.
Most other mobile-payment systems, including Apple Inc.'s Apple Pay, require newer terminals with wireless chips called near-field communication, or NFC. That limits the number of retailers that can accept such payments.
But LoopPay has had trouble with some older readers; restaurants and bars often couldn't process LoopPay transactions due to a variety of hardware and software issues. It also doesn't work with transit fares, parking meters and other machines that require the customer to fully insert a card, like a bank ATM.
Plus, it's not clear what will happen when merchants hit an October deadline for accepting cards with stronger security known as EMV, as LoopPay offers only the basic magnetic signals. NFC and Apple Pay equipment is newer and enabled for EMV. LoopPay is more of a retrofit — for a system being phased out.
Nonetheless, Samsung sees enough potential to buy the company. LoopPay estimates that its system works with 90 percent of merchants. Although there are more than 200,000 payment terminals in the U.S. that can accept NFC, that's out of several million.
"Our goal has always been to build the smartest, most secure, user-friendly mobile wallet experience, and we are delighted to welcome LoopPay to take us closer to this goal," said JK Shin, head of Samsung's mobile division.
David Eun, executive vice president at Samsung's Global Innovation Center, said the deal will help Samsung "significantly accelerate our mobile commerce efforts."
The companies didn't disclose financial terms or say when the transaction will close. LoopPay will continue to operate in Boston as a wholly owned subsidiary of Samsung.
So far, LoopPay has been available as accessories for iPhones and Android devices. Ownership by Samsung raises the prospect of shipping phones with LoopPay built in, a move that would expand the service's reach. The companies didn't say whether they will continue making the LoopPay accessories for non-Samsung devices.
Is our cybersecurity as a populace in the United States safe?
According to the Moscow-based security software maker, Kaspersky Lab, Americans may have another reason to not trust their government. The company recently revealed that the U.S. National Security Agency, or NSA, has developed a method to disguise and hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, IBM, Samsung, and other top manufacturers. With this, the agency can now eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers according to The Huffington Post.
One or more of the NSA spying programs infect personal computers in about 30 countries. Infections are diagnosed as taking place in Algeria, Yemen, Mali, Syria, China, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Russia, with the most originating out of Iran. According to Kaspersky, targets are mostly Islamic activists, media, government and military institutions, energy companies, nuclear researchers and banks.
Kaspersky has gone on record saying that the NSA could "conduct surveillance on the majority of the world's computers." Kaspersky also reports that it found a series of different backdoors and detected the variants throughout different countries around the globe. Although the Moscow-based firm does not explicitly name the NSA, the software used is linked to Stuxnet — a worm developed by the NSA. A former NSA employee confirmed to Reuters that it "had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives."
A collective known as The Equation Group has been called the authors of the backdoors utilized in hard drives. Meanwhile, the NSA has refused to comment on its alleged activities. To break down just how The Equation Group's backdoors work, consider this: Backdoors rely on malicious software in the firmware of hard drives, which prompt every time a computer boots. Kaspersky claims that the software represents a "technological breakthrough" which allows it to "infect the computer over and over again" and would have required access to proprietary source code to develop.
The firm has published its research, which you can read for yourself here, and the infected institutions are hoping to use this information to discover the malignant spyware on their networks. The secret project is said to have been going on since 2001, so you can imagine how many hard drives have been affected. With that said, researchers are claiming that those operating the backdoors have been highly selective and "only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets."
So, that means unless you're a top scientist with premium access to launch codes or a radical activist, you're probably not on anyone's radar...for now.
If you've struggled with getting your carrier to unlock your phone so that you can easily travel abroad -- or, gasp, switch providers -- today is an important day. As promised, seven US networks (AT&T, Bluegrass Cellular, Cellcom, Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular and Verizon) are now honoring a voluntary code of conduct that, among other things, lets you get your phone unlocked without a big fight. As a rule, carriers will agree to derestrict your phone after you've paid off your device or service contract. You'll have to ask most of them to do it, which could take up to two days. It's easier on a couple of carriers, however. Sprint will automatically unlock SIM-based cellular service on phones bought from today onward, while T-Mobile bundles an app with newer phones that lets you start the process yourself.
Just be aware that there are plenty of asterisks (the code is the carriers' idea, after all). If you're the customer of a prepaid brand like Cricket or Virgin Mobile, you may have to wait up to a year and keep service active to a "reasonable" degree. Also, Sprint will only unlock your phone for domestic use if it's a model released after February 11th; anything earlier is limited to international access. You're bound by the limits of cellular technology, too. Verizon unlocks GSM service on its phones as a matter of course, but you can't switch from GSM to CDMA unless the phone has supporting CDMA hardware (like the iPhone 6 or Nexus 6). And with few LTE frequences shared between American telecoms, you'll likely lose fast data.
It's important to note that you don't have to go through your telco to get this done. Thanks to last year's cellphone unlocking law, you're allowed to get your phone unlocked without your carrier's explicit say-so. The catches? You'll almost certainly have to pay, and there won't be much consistency in their policies. The big advantage of the code of conduct is that you now have an easily accessible and reliable (if not always trouble-free) way to jump ship with your existing handset.
Facebook has tied up with Reliance Communications to provide basic Internet services on mobile phones for free, making India the first country in Asia to get Facebook's Internet.org service.
The companies will first offer the app in seven of India's 22 regions, or zones and it will then go nationwide in the next 90 days, Gurdeep Singh, chief executive of Reliance's consumer business told reporters.
The service is run by Internet.org, the non-profit organisation whose backers also include Ericsson , Nokia, Samsung, Qualcomm and Opera Software, which has the declared aim of making basic Internet services available to the two-thirds of the world's population which is not yet connected.
The app, aimed at low income and rural users, will offer free access via mobile phone to more than 30 pared-down web services, focused on job listings, agricultural information, healthcare and education sites in seven regional languages -- as well as Facebook's own social network and messaging services.
It will be available to all of Reliance's 106.3 million subscribers who have handsets capable of handling internet traffic.
Singh declined to comment on who will bear the cost of carrying this data traffic for free.
Mobile phones sales have been booming in India, the world's second-biggest mobile market, with smartphone sales surging 90% in the October-December quarter. But less than 20% of the country's population can access the Internet -- leaving over a billion people offline.
Facebook said it had worked with Reliance Communications since last October to address barriers to connectivity.
Both Reliance and Facebook said they also expected to benefit from the venture over the longer term. India has the world's third-largest population of Internet users, and could take the number two spot this year.
"It gives us a great lever in terms of our proposition differentiation at the point of sale ... which will help us accelerate our acquisition journey of good quality, sticky customers," Singh said.
Singh said the company has beefed up infrastructure to meet the anticipated increase in data traffic, but did not give details on the amount it had spent.
"We address the affordability of data by having beneficial services and then we'll make it scalable for our partners so that once these users want to use more, they just buy the regular (data) plan," Markku Makelainen, Facebook's director of Global Operator Partnerships, told Reuters.
"One of our goals is to have a profitable partnership."
Facebook has partnered with more than 150 wireless providers over the past four years to offer free or discounted access to its social network, but the new Internet.org app is the first time the company has added services beyond its own website.
The service comes to India following similar launches in Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya,Ghana and Colombia.
Now that it’s possible to make phone calls over Wi-Fi on smartphones–which is free–you might be starting to wonder why you are paying for phone service. This is especially true if you live in an urban area, where Starbucks and Panera shops are on every corner and offer free Wi-Fi.
Well, Cablevision seems to agree. The company announced a new service called Freewheel, which is a Wi-Fi-only phone service with unlimited talk, text and data. The best part? The company isn’t requiring an annual contract.
If you already have Cablevision for your cable, Internet or land-line service, then it will only cost $9.95 per month. If you’re not a Cablevision customer don’t fret; it’s still pretty cheap at only $29.95 per month, according to The New York Times.
The only catch–besides that you need to be in a place with a Wi-Fi connection to use your phone–is that Cablevision is only offering the service to work on a Moto G, which costs $99.95, according to Engadget.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the service launches in February, and is the first of its kind.