Facebook fixes its most prominent issue with memorialized profiles, Verizon fixes issues with millions of routers, Google’s laptop and tablet team isn’t dead yet, Roku finally bets on itself, and a whole lot more.
Exodus Finds a Home on iOS
Last week, a story broke about a new type of government malware found in the Google Play Store. The malware, called Exodus, completely hijacks an infected phone. And now it’s also on iOS.
Before you start to lose confidence in Apple’s normally-tight security practices, it’s worth highlighting that Exodus has only been found in third-party app stores (for now, at least). It did so by leveraging Apple’s Developer Enterprise program, which allows companies to distribute apps outside of the App Store. This is generally not a practice commonly associated with malware distribution, though it has been used for it in the past.
The app was found by the research team at Lookout Security and is said to be a lighter version of its Android counterpart, as it can’t take total control of a device. Still, it was able to pull contacts, audio recording, photos, videos, GPS location, and other device information. It was also capable of remotely capturing audio. That should still be enough to make you squirm in your chair a little bit.
Lookout shared its findings with Apple, which then revoked the affected certificates, thus stopping the spread of the malware. While malware isn’t something we commonly talk about on iOS, this serves as a good reminder that, while it’s less common than on Android, it can still be an issue.
The biggest takeaway here is that you should always be careful with what you download, especially if it’s coming from outside of your device’s official app store.
Apple News: The iPhone’s NFC Chip Unlocked for UK Users
Plus, Apple stops charging $99 to transfer data to a new Mac.
- Apple reached a deal with the UK government to open the NFC tech found in the iPhone to allow EU residents to scan their passports to apply for residency in the UK post-Brexit. [9to5Mac]
- Previously, if you bought a new Mac, Apple would charge $99 to transfer your data from the old machine to the new one. Now they do it for free. Yay. [Engadget]
- Apple hired Jaunt VR’s founder Arthur van Hoff to a Senior Architect Position. It’s still too early to speculate on what this hire means for Apple, but there’s a good chance it’s something to do with an AR headset. A good chance. [Variety]
- Macworld took the 21.5-inch Core i5 iMac for a spin and said it “makes a compelling case as an affordable pro-level machine.” Check it out if you’re on the fence about picking one up. [Macworld]
While the hope is that Apple will eventually open the iPhone’s NFC chip for more uses outside of just Apple Pay (and now residency applications in the UK), that’s still probably unlikely. Before now, the NFC chip was used exclusively for Apple Pay.
But NFC has a lot of uses outside of contactless payment, which is highlighted in Apple’s new deal with the UK government. It seems like such a simple thing, but in this situation, it’s a pretty big move and a highly useful tool.
The UK government released an app that allows UE citizens to apply for residency in which they fill out of a form, snap a selfie, and scan their passport. That last bit is where NFC comes in—with the deal between Apple and the UK government, users will be able to scan their passports using their iPhone quickly.
As pointed out by 9to5Mac, however, this is likely (and unfortunately) and one-off situation and not something that we’ll see again. Certainly not regularly, anyway.
Google and Android News: The Pixelbook Team Has Something New Coming
Plus new before: and after: date search tags, the new Galaxy A80 is official, and more.
- It was recently reported that Google told members of its laptop and tablet division to find new departments to work in. Now, however, the company says it has new laptops and tablets on the way. Pixelbook 2, anyone? [The Verge]
- Samsung officially announced the Galaxy A80, with a sliding, flippable camera for a truly edge-to-edge display with no notch or hole punch. We have all the details over at Review Geek. [Samsung Mobile Press]
- Google is testing “before” and “after” commands in search to allow users to find things before or after a certain date. Like other search commands, the format is “<term> before: <date>”. [9to5Google]
- G Suite users will soon be able to work with Google Docs, Sheets, and Slides directly in Dropbox. [VentureBeat]
- YouTube wants in on this “plan your own adventure” thing that Netflix did with Bandersnatch last year, so it’s planning its own content. [The Verge]
- A new study shows that 51% of Pixel 3 owners came from Samsung devices, while 37% of previous Samsung owners chose the OnePlus 6T instead. 18% and 16% respectively switched from iPhone. Nothing groundbreaking here, but interesting nonetheless. [Counterpoint Research]
- About Chromebook uncovered a new Chrome OS reference board called “Zork” that is the first to use AMD’s power Ryzen chips. Ooooooooooh. [About Chromebooks]
While Google confirmed to The Verge that it indeed has new laptop and tablet hardware in the works, the most interesting aspect here was uncovered by 9to5Google, which found a session at Cloud Next 2019 called “Google Hardware for Business.”
Google took this opportunity to talk about the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate, but what came next was curious indeed: there was talk of a new device for “leaders” to “be productive on-the-go.” This is a fascinating type of announcement because it’s completely unclear what any of that means. Google Pixelbook Group Lead Product Manager Steve Jacobs threw some numbers out about the Google team itself, but also make an interesting comparison to the current Pixelbook and Pixel Slate:
Help the employees that are constantly on the go that have a working paradigm where 60% of them — and this is all of our [Google] employees — are working outside of their desk. And 43% of them are working remotely at least part of the time.
The tools they have aren’t really conducive to the lifestyle and work style that makes them maximally productive and excited about going to work every day. And we think there’s some unique things we can do differently than the Pixelbook and Pixel Slate that are going to really help give them what they’re looking for when they’re working in this new modern cloud-first era.
The standout phrasing that last bit—what sort of things are they planning to do differently? The Pixelbook is a folding convertible and the Pixel Slate is a detachable tablet. Is there some sort of middle ground being planned for the Pixlebook 2? Or is this a totally new device. Either way, it’s pretty exciting. I’m a huge fan of my Pixelbook, so I look forward to seeing what the company has been working on.
Other News: Roku Bets on Itself, and Amazon’s 2019 Kindle Reviews Are Out
Plus Facebook fixes the issues with memorialized profiles, Qualcomm announced some new Snapdragon chips, Verizon is fixing vulnerabilities in its modems, and a whole lot more. Let’s get to it.
- Roku has long been thought of as a “neutral platform” that offered fair ground for all streaming options, but with the 9.1 update, it’s going all-in on itself and its own content. [TechCrunch]
- Facebook will soon stop reminding you to say “happy birthday” to friends and family are deceased. It’s also introducing a “Tribute Tab” on tribute profiles where users can share memories of the deceased. [Engadget]
- Facebook also wants to use AI to map population around the world. As pointed out, this is a “humanitarian” effort, but also “benefit’s Facebook commercial interests.” Because of course it does. [The Verge]
- In news that comes as no surprise, pirates are using Facebook Watch Parties to host pirated content. Shocker. [Business Insider]
- Verizon is getting around to patching a bunch of vulnerabilities that affect “millions of routers” in its Fios Quantum Gateway line. Good. [Security Weekly]
- Netflix wants to buy a theatre, which would actually be pretty neat. [Deadline Hollywood]
- Qualcomm unveiled its new Snapdragon 665, 730, and 730G chips, the latter of which is the company’s first “gaming” chip for upper-midrange smartphones. This mobile gaming thing is becoming huge. [Liliputing]
- Good news: AT&T announced more 5G markets! Bad news: it still only has one 5G device that you can’t buy. Neat. [Android Police]
- Firefox is testing a feature that will block “fingerprinting,” a practice that allows sites to continue tracking you even after cookies are cleared. Cyptomining scripts are also blocked. [The Verge]
- Two-thirds of hotel sites “leak” guest information to third-parties. Not surprising, but still disgusting. [Bleeping Computer]
- Slack now integrates with Office 365 for easier document collaboration. [The Verge]
- In a bit of non-tech news, it turns out that teeth-whitening products might actually be bad for your teeth. Because that’s how it always works, right? [Gizmodo]
- Distracted driving is up 10% compared to last year. Seriously guys, stop looking at your phone when you’re driving. Like, just stop. Stop. [CNET]
- In what might be my favorite story of the day, a woman called police on her Roomba because she thought it was an intruder. I love this story so much. [CNET]
- Alexa can now provide long-form news briefings in the US. More details are always better, right? [The Verge]
- The 2019 Kindle reviews are rolling out, and they’re by and large…not great: Digital Trends, Engadget, The Verge, Wired.
- In other interest Amazon news, its cashless Go stores are gearing up to…accept cash. Alright then. [Gizmodo]
- The first ever images of a black hole have been captured, and it’s fascinating. [CNET]
It’s interesting to see Roku transition into its own. After years as one of the most loved streaming platforms that served as a neutral ground for all streaming services—it’s the only one to offer access to Google Play Movies outside of Google’s own services, for example—the introduction of The Roku Channel is starting to show the company’s direction moving forward: it’s going to focus on content.
With the arrival of the 9.1 update, it is highlighting The Roku Channel in search results. It also adds the option to automatically play The Roku Channel movies and TV shows within voice search results (which seems like it could be annoying?), though it’s noted that if the specific show or movie isn’t available on The Roku Channel, customers will continue to get “unbiased search results.”
This is the first time that Roku has ever prioritized its own content over everything else available on the platform, but it’s a shift that makes perfect sense. Everyone else does this, and with the CEO’s recent comments that the company is “in the ad business, not the hardware business” it’s clear that this is a directional shift for the company moving forward.