Rumor: BlackBerry Prepping Android Phone for AT&T

While BlackBerry would like you to think everything’s fine and there’s nothing to see, the former smartphone powerhouse is attempting to stay relevant by embracing Google’s little green droid. Amazon’s Android Appstore apps currently run on the Canadian company’s devices, but it intends to take it a step further with the imminent release of an actual Android phone.

The device was hinted at in March during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but tech leaker Evan Blass (@evleaks), posted high resolution devices of the device. The phone will have curved edges, much like the Samsung Galaxy Edge S5, and keeping to BlackBerry’s DNA, it will feature a slide-out physical keyboard.

The phone is rumored to be an AT&T exclusive, at least in launch. The reports of the BlackBerry’s Android phone comes amid a Reuters article that mentions the company will be going with be switching to the Google mobile operating system.

Via The Verge. Photo by Evan Blass (@evleaks).

New iOS Developer Guidelines Point to Ad Blockers on Apple’s iPhones and iPads

Apple’s unveiled the possibility that ad blockers would be coming to mobile Safari, iOS’ browser, keeping with their WWDC keynote theme of advocating for consumer privacy.

While ad-blockers are now fixtures on the browsers of power users, they’re not as widely used on mobile device — and until this year’s WWDC, they were unheard of on iPhones and iPad that weren’t jail broken. The new “content blocker” extensions laid out to developers at the conference can define what sort of images and scripts will not load.

9to5Mac speculates that the ad blockers could be a play to turn the screws on Google, now that Apple’s plans to break away from the Mountain View’s company services are coming together. Apple now develops and maintains its own map application and the upcoming “Proactive” additions to iOS’ search functions and Siri compete directly with Google Now. (Ad Blockers have been available on Android devices, however.)

Ensuring the blockers play nicely with Apple’s policies regarding apps, however, might also have played a role with regards to how long they’ve taken to get onto Apple’s mobile devices.

Via 9to5Mac. Photo by Yutaka Tsutano/flickr.

Interesting things that weren’t — and were — at the WWDC Keynote

As experienced Apple watchers know, the WWDC gives hints as to what to expect from the company for the coming year. After any Apple event, there’s all sorts of breakdowns as to what was announced and analysis into what it could mean.

OS X El Capitan (10.11), iOS 9, multitasking on the iPad (finally!), WatchOS and Apple Music were all interesting and were all predicted by the rumor mill. No real surprises for anyone who actively follows the company (though judging from the quality of guidance from Wall Street analysts, a lot of them could benefit from shutting up and following some of those rumor sites).

What was interesting this year, though, was what was between the WWDC keynote’s lines and what they left out entirely.

No Apple TV SDK — Last minute rumors pointed to no new Apple TV this year. Maybe it was because putting together an a la carte, app-driven replacement for cable isn’t as easy as everyone thinks. Maybe it wasn’t ready for mass production. Maybe it just didn’t exist.

What was expected by everyone, though, was a developer kit for the Apple TV. The biggest complaint about the Apple TV by the people who own the device is that you take what Apple gives you, in terms of apps, and that’s that. Without the kit or new hardware, the use of Apple TV is dwindling and even diehard Apple users are looking elsewhere for their VOD needs.

Apple hearts privacy — In the last few weeks, Apple’s ramped up its PR machine to push the talking point that the company cares about your privacy.

It was hard not to notice how hard Apple’s been pushing the issue in the last few weeks, with Tim Cook’s public declaration to the government that it has no plans to make its encryption work with the whims of law enforcement and that calling out the business practices of Google (and, by extension, Android) and Facebook.Apple’s positioning itself as the anti-Google/Facebook and pointing out that it doesn’t collect your data and that it has no interest in selling you anything (other than, you know, iPhones, iPads and anything else the company makes).

No Dre today — No matter what you you think of the Beats deal, it was hard to get away from those corporate images of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre together with Tim Cook and the company’s executive team. Yeah, Trent Reznor had something to do with the company, but the only people who had a “laying on of hands” in Cupertino was the Interscope Records founder and the good doctor.

Fast forward to today. Jimmy Iovine took to the stage. Reznor filled the role of Jony Ive in the company’s Apple Music video presentation and ad. But except for a few shots on Dre doing…something…he was absent from the launch of Apple Music (formerly Beats). Maybe he was working on another PhD. Or another medical speciality.

…One More Thing —  Apple’s trying to get into the social media game. Again.

Remember Ping? You probably don’t. It was the company’s attempt, back when people bought music from the iTunes Store instead of streaming it, to be social. Fans could post what they’re listening to and musicians could reach out to those fans. It was supposed to be a huge, virtual Woodstock  but instead, no one came and the company shut it down and never spoke of it again, like some deformed child in the attic of a bad horror movie.

Without mentioning Ping, Apple’s rolling out a way for musicians to reach out to their audiences through Apple Music. I suppose it’s because if there’s anything that there’s a dearth of, it’s social media platforms for musicians, aside from Twitter, Facebook, Soundcloud, Band Camp and, while we’re at it, MySpace.

Photo via Scott Schiller/flickr.

Apple Watch Dev Kit a Go at WWDC, but No New Apple TV According to Rumors

Unlike the iPhone introduction, Apple got the message that what people really want for their Apple Watches are native apps. It about a year for the company to get the message about what its smartphone customers really wanted, with Steve Jobs initially giving advice to would-be developers to write web apps for the device.

However, Tim Cook is expected to announce a developer kit for the Apple Watch when he takes the stage at the World Wide Developer Conference on Monday. In addition, the company’s been dropping hints that it would allow deeper access to the device than it currently allows.

However, what was expected to be a slam-dunk is turning out to be not such a sure thing. Hopes were riding high that Apple would introduce a new Apple TV to replace the current version that it rolled out back in March 2012. Rumors are now surfacing that a revised device may not make an appearance.

In any case, Apple will unveil what’s new for their operating systems on Monday, June 8.

Via The New York Times. Photo by Ted Eytan/flickr

Google I/O Roundup: Google Photos, Android Pay, Android M and More

Google previewed what next year’s devices are going to bring at its annual developer get-together, Google I/O. Though the company’s plate is full of projects like Chrome and the Chrome operating system, the keynote announcements concentrated on its most visible ecosystem — Android.

Google Photos — Available now on Android, iOS and the web, Google Photos offers unlimited free storage for photos up to 16MP and videos up to 1080p. (Free storage for photos and videos. Do you hear that Apple?) It automagically sorts and groups photos and videos and suggests things like timelines to arrange vacation photos. Google is emphasizing that the data is kept private, but also says sharing is easy, even to friends and family that aren’t on social networks.

Android M — It’s not a new version of the operating system, but its a developer preview. While it’s not ready for primetime, it is a glimpse into what to look for in Android Mars Bar, Marzipan,  Milkshake or whatever Mountain View winds up naming the next iteration of the mobile OS. Apps now have granular controls over permissions, rather than being an all-or-nothing proposition. Links can be opened in Chrome. Google On Tap will prepare contextual information culled from your communications.

Brillo and Weave — Google’s getting into the “internet of things”, or at least the internet of household things, with Brillo (built into the “lower levels of Android”) and Weave, which allows devices to talk to each other. All of this connectivity to is create a smart home where your lights, appliances and locks can all talk to each other, like the castle in Beauty and the Beast, only with the addition of an Android smartphone.

Android Pay — Ditching Google Wallet, Android Pay is your new NFC overlord (if you’re of that persuasion). But this isn’t just a simple rebranding — Google bought SoftCard, the mobile carriers’ attempt at a cellphone-based payment scheme (renamed from Isis, which proved to be a problematic appellation). Android Pay is rumored to work with Android M’s fingerprint API and, in a one-up to Apple, SoftCard also is supposedly far along on a loyalty program. (Apple is rumored to introduce its own Apple Pay loyalty program in a few weeks.)

Virtual Reality — Tech companies seem to continue to want to make VR a thing — probably because they’re staffed by 20-somethings who don’t remember the letdown from the first time around — and Google rolled out new versions of Project Cardboard (the cardboard housing that turns smartphones into VR goggles; not kidding) for larger phablet-sized Android phones, as well as iPhones. It also partnered with GoPro to introduce the Jump, a circular 16-camera device to capture images for use in VR devices.  (GoPro introduced a six-camera “sphere” the other day.) The images are stitched together for use by Google’s assembler, which according to the company requires “thousands” of computers.

If anything, Google has to be commended for bringing iOS to its party when it can (Google Photos, Project Cardboard). However, there’s something to be said about the revenues iDevices bring to the company’s table. Speaking of Apple, users will be able to see what they’re planning with the curtain on their developer conference going up on June 8.

Via Google: Official Blog, The Verge and Ars Technica. Photo by Jurriaan Persyn/flickr.

iOS 9, OS X 10.11 Rumors: iCloud Rising, Security Beefed Up, Apple Roots Out Jailbreaking

With Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference around the corner (June 8 to 12 to be exact), rumors about new features and changes to the company’s OS X and iOS operating systems are working their way to the press.

The introduction of OS X 10.11 will more than likely happen, as will be threads in comments by users who seem confused that point releases don’t work the same as decimals, as will iOS 9. The rumors point to OS X looking more like iOS with the speculated addition of a Control Center for the desktop OS and both OSes getting a font makeover with the adoption of San Francisco, which was developed for the Apple Watch.

iCloud drive is also supposed to be beefed up because Apple will be transitioning many syncing services from IMAP to its own cloud. The pluses will be increased security by stronger end-to-end encryption. Wi-Fi connections to unknown routers will also be hardened, unless the user specifies it’s on a “trusted network”. The new OS versions are expected to work on iDevices with A5 processors; no word as to the processors/desktops/laptops OS X 10.11 will work with.

Power users will have particular interest in “rootless security”. Root directory access gives OS X and iOS users the ability to install software and make changes at the system level. If you know what you’re doing, this can be convenient. But if you’re a regular user, it’s probably something you’re not aware of.

However, root access is something malware seeks. It can monitor what you’re doing, hijack your computer and does all kinds of things that are not a good thing if it has access to the root directory. Rootless security will be a boon for most users.

iPhone, iPads and all of Apple’s mobile devices all run iOS or variants of iOS, which doesn’t grant root access to anyone. However, some users “jailbreak” their phones — that is, they use exploits Apple hasn’t patched to get root access. It allows for functionality that hasn’t been blessed by Cupertino, but it also opens devices to malware and exploits. In fact, the only reported malware and exploits that have taken hold on the iPhone were because the device was jailbroken.

Apple’s had no love for jailbreaking and has not made it a secret. Take a jailbroken iPhone into an Apple Store and they’ll refuse to see it at the Genius Bar. But to be fair, iOS has steadily included features that users have had to jailbreak for.

Eliminating the root will be huge from a security point of view. Apple’s also been steadily plugging the holes in iOS that developers have used to jailbreak iOS. By eliminating the root entirely, the company may also put a stake through the jailbreaking community’s heart.

Via 9 to 5 Mac. Photo by Tim Conner/flickr

No New Windows after Windows 10, According to Microsoft

Microsoft executive Jerry Nixon dropped a bombshell of an announcement during the company’s ignite conference in Chicago.

Windows 10 would the last version of the operating system.

If you’re thinking it’s some kind of marketing trick or that Microsoft is “ending” Windows in the same way DC “killed” Superman (as in, bringing it/him back in a few months), Nixon’s word on the subject is final…and slightly existential.

“Right now we’re releasing Windows 10, and because Windows 10 is the last version of Windows, we’re all still working on Windows 10.”

Slated for release later this summer, Windows 10 will be refined by future updates and incremental updates. The company also doesn’t plan on releasing a different operating system any time soon. But there will be no Windows 11.

Also interesting: the company is killing off Patch Tuesday. Microsoft will move to a 24/7, release-it-when-it’s-ready update schedule.

The move toward “Just Windows” points to the brand being a true umbrella term for the all the devices that run its various flavors of mobile and desktop operating systems. One window to rule them all, if you will.

“We aren’t speaking to future branding at this time, but customers can be confident Windows 10 will remain up-to-date and power a variety of devices from PCs to phones to Surface Hub to HoloLens and Xbox,” a spokesperson told PC Magazine, tellingly. “We look forward to a long future of Windows innovations.”

Via BBC and PC Magazine. Photo by James Marvin Phelps/flickr.

Rootpipe: Still a Headache for OS X Yosemite Users

Apple’s latest update to Yosemite, 10.10.3, supposedly closed off Rootpipe, an exploit that — as the name implies — opens up root access to users and programs that shouldn’t have it.

However Patrick Wardle, a former NSA employee who now heads up the the security firm Synack, found out it wasn’t the case. He discovered he was still able to use Rootpipe. It is “a novel, yet trivial way for any local user to re-abuse Rootpipe”, he wrote in his blog. Wardle passed along information about the hack to Apple.

The company’s security policies as a whole are also being criticized by security experts; Apple was made aware of Rootpipe in October 2014 and originally planned on releasing a patch in January 2015 but didn’t implement and distribute a fix until April 8. Machines that are running versions of OS X older than Yosemite were never patched.

Via Forbes. Photo by RV1864/flickr.

iPhone vs. Android: Fight! (Literally)

Discussions about religion, politics and operating systems never end well. Case in point: a recent altercation in Tulsa, Oklahoma in which roommates took their fanboyism to the street to decide whether Apple’s iPhone or Samsung’s new Galaxy S6 was best.

According to police, the melee turned bloody when the pair stabbed each other with broken beer bottles. They also “believe” alcohol was involved. (Shocking, I know.) No word as to whether the smartphones were actually used as weapons.

Kudos to Tulsa’s ABC Channel 8 for asking the question everyone really wanted answered: “Police did not respond when our photographer asked which phone is better.”

Tulsa’s ABC Channel 8 via Ars Technica. Photo by scribbletaylor/flickr.

EU Preparing to Begin Anti-Trust Proceedings Against Google Tomorrow; Android Also a Target

April 15 a particularly lousy day if you’re American, but for Google it’s going to suck especially hard. The European Union is expected to begin an anti-trust investigation against the company.

At stake may be a fine as large as $6.4 billion, or a tenth of the company’s annual revenue. But when it rains, it pours and in this case the EU is also expected to open a formal investigation into Android.

Re/code obtained a memo from the company’s management to its employees that confirms the reports. The Mountain View, Calif.-based company said the EU is putting out its arguments so Google can respond and that it sees this as an “opportunity” for it to tell its side of the story. It also argues that with Bing, DuckDuckGo, Yahoo and Quora, there is real competition in the  search engine space.

The company is also hopeful that the EU won’t proceed against Android and pointed to a similar investigation against iTunes that was closed without incident. Google urged its employees not to comment if asked and to focus on their wprl at hand.

Via re/code. Photo by Carlos Luna.