Tag Archives: smartphones

First was the genome. Now, it’s time for the screenome

All of us have a human genome, which is basically a composite of our genes. But we also have a “screenome,” a composite of our digital lives, according to a group of researchers from the United States. Their goal is to make sense of how the screens in our lives are affecting us.

Credit Wikipedia Commons

A decade ago, the Human Genome Project worked to identify and map all of the genes of the human genome. In a nod to their research, academics Byron Reeves, Thomas Robinson and Nilam Ram created the concept of the ‘screenome’ to describe the entity formed by all the digital activity individuals subject themselves to.

The three argued that everything we know about the effects of media use on individuals and societies could be incomplete, irrelevant or wrong. We are all doing more online and as this expanding form of behavior is digitalized, it is open to all forms of manipulation, they said.

In a comment article in the latest edition of the journal Nature, the authors argued that a large-scale analysis of detailed recordings of digital life could provide far greater insights than simply measuring screen time. Americans now spend over half of their day interacting with digital media.

The academics said most of the thousands of studies investigating the effects of media over the past decade used people’s estimates of the amount of time they spend engaging with technologies or broadly categorized platforms such as ‘smartphone’, ‘social media’ or ‘entertainment media’.

Nevertheless, the range of content has become “too broad, patterns of consumption too fragmented, information diets too idiosyncratic, experiences too interactive, and devices too mobile,” for such simplistic characterization. Technologies now available can “allow researchers to record digital life in exquisite detail,” they said.

“Digital life is life these days. As we spend more of our life on our devices, so more of our life is expressed through these screens. This gives us a tremendous opportunity to learn about all aspects of human behaviour,” said Robinson to the Australian Financial Review.

Screenomics – the new tech

Tracking our digital life has become much easier. Instead of using a range of devices for different things, applications have been consolidated into smartphones and other mobile devices. At the same time, there are now tools available to see what people are doing on their screens.

The researchers are using so-called screenomics technologies to observe and understand our digital lives, minute by minute. The result of their initial work is a call for the Human Screenome Project, a collection of large-scale data that will inform knowledge of and solutions to a wide variety of social issues.

“Screenomics emerges from the development of systems for capturing and recording the details of individuals’ digital experiences,” said Ram to Penn News. “The system includes software that collects screenshots every five seconds on smartphones and laptop computers, extracts text and images, and allows analysis of the timing, content, function and context of digital life.”

In their article in Nature, the researchers outlined the possibilities of the technology. Over 600 participants have so far consented to use screenomics software on laptops and Android smartphones that were linked to the researchers’ secure computational infrastructure.

Participants then went about their daily lives while the system unobtrusively recorded their device use. In their initial analyses of these data, the researchers found that participants quickly changed tasks, approximately every 19 seconds on a laptop, and every 10 seconds on a smartphone.

All the information collected includes indicators of health and well-being and can be shared with larger interdisciplinary projects. Reeves, Robinson and Ram suggested that researchers wishing to study digital life could even create a repository that everyone can contribute to and use.

That type of large interdisciplinary project they call for would have far-reaching benefits for all areas of life touched by digital technology. “In the future, it might be possible for various apps to ‘interact’ with an individual’s screenome and to deliver interventions that alter how people think, learn, feel and behave,” said Ram.

Microchip.

Google, Intel, Qualcomm, and others stop supplying Huawei after Gov’t ban

Google announced that it is beginning to cut ties with China’s Huawei, as per the US Government’s instructions, according to Bloomberg. Google will stop selling Huawei parts it needs to manufacture smartphones and other electronics.

Microchip.

Image via Pixabay.

Washington considers Huawei Technologies Co., a Chinese state-run telecommunications equipment and consumer electronics manufacturer, as a threat to national security. As such, the Trump Administration moved on Wednesday to bar Chinese tech companies from selling their products in the US and blacklisting Huawei, especially, from buying US components.

Whether this burgeoning trade war is needed or even if it will work, time will tell — but in the meantime, Google announced that it is complying with the Government’s decision and beginning to cut ties with the Chinese company. Although Huawei is believed to have some stockpiles of parts and components, this development could severely hamstring it in the long run. Moreover, it could have meaningful effects for users themselves, as Huawei will no longer have access to Google’s proprietary services — such as Gmail and Google Maps apps — reports AFP citing a ‘source close to the matter’. Other companies are also moving to comply with the ban.

Smartfights

This all stems from growing rivalries between the US and China over the past few years. Given the company’s CEO Ren Zhengfei’s army background and Huawei’s opaque culture, suspicions are mounting that the firm has links with the Chinese military and intelligence services. On Friday, this culminated in the Trump Administration blacklisting Huawei under suspicions of engaging in espionage for Beijing.

The trade ban imposed by the administration extends to U.S. software and semiconductor materials that are essential to Huawei. Although not unexpected, the ban inflicted a terrible blow to the company, which is the world’s largest provider of networking gear and second largest smartphone vendor. Huawei has been listed by the US Commerce Department among firms that American companies can only trade with if authorities grant permission.

Google, who owns the Android mobile operating system (OS), the most widely-used mobile OS out there, is already taking steps to comply with the ban. Like all tech companies, Google collaborates directly with smartphone manufacturers to ensure its systems are compatible with their devices — and amid concerns of espionage, that has to stop.

While this will definitely be felt by Huawei, other companies in the US — such as Intel, Qualcomm, Xilinx, and Broadcom — might follow. All of them cutting trade with Huawei is undoubtedly a scary prospect of the Chinese company, as it directly relies on these other suppliers to function. “Intel is the main supplier of server chips to Huawei, Qualcomm provides it with processors and modems for many of its smartphones, Xilinx sells programmable chips used in networking, and Broadcom is a supplier of switching chips, another key component in some types of networking machinery”, according to Bloomberg.

“We are complying with the order and reviewing the implications,” a Google spokesperson told AFP.

On their official @Android Twitter, the comany further stated that “while we are complying with all US gov’t requirements, services like Google Play & security from Google Play Protect will keep functioning on your existing Huawei device.”

So, what does this mean for consumers? In the long run, probably nothing good, but we’ll see how the situation develops. In the short term, it does mean that Google software and technical services that are not publicly available might stop working on Huawei devices. The Chinese company will only have access to the open source version of Android. Furthermore, it will need to manually access any updates or software patches from the Android Open Source Project, and also distribute the updates to users themselves. A company statement held that Huawei will “continue to provide security updates and after-sales services” to all existing smartphones and tablets globally, including those not yet sold.

“At the same time, the Chinese side supports Chinese enterprises in taking up legal weapons and defending their legitimate rights,” said Lu Kang, a spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry, adding that the organization is actively following developments on the ban.

This isn’t a one-sided battle, however. Huawei does have some influence in the device market that it can throw around. The company is working on establishing itself as a leader in 5G technology, currently offering the most advanced and cheapest 5G capability in the world. It also outsold Apple in smartphones in the first quarter of this year, seizing its second place globally (after Samsung).

The ban could stop Huawei’s ascent, with Ryan Koontz, a Rosenblatt Securities analyst, saying that it could “cause China to delay its 5G network build until the ban is lifted, having an impact on many global component suppliers,” as the company is “is heavily dependent on US semiconductor products and would be seriously crippled without supply of key US components.” The US has also “pressured both allies and foes to avoid using Huawei for 5G networks that will form the backbone of the modern economy,” Bloomberg adds.

So on a macro, geopolitical level, things are definitely heating up. On the micro, consumer level, however, things aren’t that bad right now. Some of you may have to re-think your device purchases, and those who do own Huawei devices right now might find it impossible to use certain apps. The development and implementation of 5G technology as a whole, however, will undoubtedly come bruised and battered out of the trenches of this trade war.

The 2013 Samsung Smartphone: It Will Bend

Squish it, fold it, bend it. It looks like this is how it’s going to roll with Samsung for 2013.  Researchers from Samsung are now working on these flexible handsets, which will hopefully see a release sometime next year.  This flexibility is made possible by Organic Light Emitting Diode(OLED)  technology.

BBC reports that Samsung is confident that OLED smartphones will be “very popular among consumers worldwide.”  Says a Samsung spokesperson, the screens will be “foldable, rollable, wearable and more, [and] will allow for a high degree of durability through their use of a plastic substrate that is thinner, lighter and more flexible than… conventional LCD technology.”

Samsung is not the first company working on bendable and wearable smartphone technology. Says BBC, the concept for assembling flexible electronics has been around since the 1960s with the first foldable solar cell arrays. In January 2004, Philips announced that it was preparing to mass produce foldable displays.  In February 2004, the company unveiled its first prototype for a flexible, ultra-thin, ultra-light QVGA active matrix 5-inch display with 320 X 420 resolution.   The Nokia Research Center (NRC) in collaboration with the Cambridge Nanoscience Centre (United Kingdom) also has been researching flexible and transparent materials for their Nokia Morph Concept.  The nanotechnology will make flexible yet remarkable strong Morph devices possible. Another player in this field is Sony, which first commercialized the OLED TV with its XEL-1 11” TV model. Early this year, rumors had it that Sony shelved its OLED TV production. But hopes for a rollable TV resurfaced after Sony and Panasonic announced a partnership to mass-produce OLED panels.

Flexible screens actually hit the mainstream a few years back with the Amazon Kindle e-reader that used a non-rigid optical frontplane display.  However, most displays today cannot be bendy because of the costs of production. To make devices fully flexible, both optical backplane and frontplane, batteries, and other components have to be bendable.  LG Electronics, a South Korean conglomerate, is the first to produce the fully flexible plastic e-ink displays which are cheap to produce and more power-efficient than flexible OLED displays.

In CES 2011, Samsung demoed flexible AMOLED screens. However, rumors of a 2012 release of a flexible Samsung smartphone dubbed the Samsung Galaxy Skin remained a fantasy. Samsung tells UK magazine T3 that the Skin was just a concept phone by design students and that Samsung was not involved in the project.  Now the grapevine is churning out that Samsung will be the first to deliver smartphones with shatter-proof screens.

It seems as if consumers and the mainstream media have been too excited for fully bendable gadgets and that excitement went too far ahead of the companies actually researching the innovation. Let’s hope that 2013 will be the year we can truly say ‘it will bend.’

Privacy Protection on your Android Device

Meta description: Smartphones mostly contain private information and details. Therefore, we must always check if we’re protecting them against security and privacy threats well enough.

Android smartphones and tablets are our best friends when it comes to doing business, playing games, or simply hanging out. These gadgets are usually stuffed with too many applications, photos, messages, and account details that may be too private for us to share, if ever the devices get lost or stolen.

Unavoidable situations can make your Android device land in the hands of some stranger who might use your private information to hack your social media accounts or take advantage of credit card information that you might have stored on your Android phone.

With this, you have to check the security measures for your Android-powered tablet or phone. Here are some tips to prevent or lessen the chance of being victimized by people who want to steal private information from your Android device:

Set a Password, PIN, or Pattern Lock

Thankfully, Android hosts a number of ways to protect your home screen from being opened by others. You have the option to set a password with the character length you want, type a four-digit PIN (personal identification number) if you want an easy-to-recall sequence, or swipe your fingers to form patterns that only you can decipher. But this is just a “first aid” remedy in case your phone gets stolen. Some people can hack the passwords or deactivate them; but at least you’ve made it a bit harder for them to unlock it.

 

Set up a SIM card lock

 

This feature may be available on other devices, but Android OS has a more detailed approach to protecting your phone number and SIM (subscriber identity module) content. Your phone can prompt you for a SIM PIN every time you turn your phone on in order to send a text message, view your inbox or call someone. If you are keen on SMS privacy, this function will be of great help.

 

Install Privacy Apps from Google Play

 

With over 600,000 applications, Google Play is home to a great number of apps dedicated to ensuring your phone’s security. You can install apps that can store all your passwords safely without having to save them on the Notes or Calendar app on your device. Some apps can hide photos that you want to be private, or restrict people from reading your SMS. If you’re using an Android device as your business phone, there are other third-party apps dedicated to saving business transactions, Excel files, and other essential files and folders neatly – they can only be viewed by providing the correct password.

Clear your Browsing History, Cookies and Cache

 

Sometimes, mobile browsing becomes so easy that we tend to neglect our browser settings. You might have set your browser to remember passwords for frequently visited sites, but this can spell danger for your Android device. Make sure to clear your browsing history every so often so that your personal details won’t get compromised.

These are but a few suggestions on how you can protect your Android device(s) from being hacked and to prevent you from being a victim of identity theft. You can customize your security settings according to your preference, but don’t neglect the task of protecting your gadgets’ stored files and information. Android already offers great security features, and users must take advantage of the said features to ensure security and privacy for devices.

Google Nexus 4

Why Lack of LTE Can’t Keep the Nexus 4 Down

Initial impressions and full-fledged reviews of the fresh LG-made Google Nexus 4 smartphone have been pretty harsh, considering the only “fatal flaw” the reviewers see with the latest Nexus phone is that it doesn’t come with LTE support. Is the omission of 4G connectivity really all that bad? We say no.

Google Nexus 4

LTE isn’t as Essential as Some People Think

From the time people have been dissing the iPhone for getting LTE connectivity so late to the condemnation of the Nexus 4 for not having this same feature, it’s like 4G is the end-all and be-all of mobile technology. News flash, guys—it’s not. While having the “blazing-fast” speeds offered by this new network is certainly a great thing to have, right now it’s just not as ubiquitous as people make it out to be. Sure, telcos are rolling out LTE across more locations at a rapid rate, but it’s still not available everywhere.

In addition, the LTE data plans we have right now, with all their bandwidth caps, don’t really let consumers make the most out of the technology. It’s such a waste, but it would probably take a couple or more years before LTE becomes mainstream the way HSPA is at the moment. Speaking of HSPA, would you rather have an uber-fast but capped LTE plan or a fast-enough but unlimited 3G plan? With the way people consume content these days—video and music streaming, downloads, video calls, et cetera—it’s all too easy to go through that LTE cap.

LTE is Expensive

As stated previously, unlimited Internet is still king; until LTE becomes cheap enough or loses the bandwidth caps, people will likely still prefer their HSDPA connections—plus, they don’t have to worry about where there are LTE zones. Besides, with practically every corner restaurant or café offering Wi-Fi access, people won’t get to maximize LTE nor justify the cost of getting the service.

Then you have to consider that the Nexus 4 will be much cheaper compared to other flagships. Unlocked off the Google Play Store, the phone is set to cost $299 for the 8GB verison, while the 16GB unit will set you back $349. Is that a good deal? Of course it is. Part of what makes the latest and greatest Nexus so affordable is that it doesn’t have to have an LTE radio.

The Nexus 4 is an All-Around Powerhouse

LTE or not, it’s plain to see that the Nexus 4 is a powerhouse. LG put together a superb mix of specs and gave it a fairly decent body. People will always have issue with build quality and materials used, but we suggest you actually spend some time with the handset to get a good feel for the frame. Besides, you’ll be using a protective case anyway. The Nexus 4 has a 4.7-inch IPS screen with Gorilla Glass 2 and a 1280×768 resolution, good for 320 ppi. It packs an 8MP camera at the back for some high-quality stills and HD video recording, and a 1.3MP front cam for video calls for your preferred personal or Business VoIP service like RingCentral. There’s 2GB of RAM onboard, along with the aforementioned internal memory setups. Standard connectivity options are included, from BlueTooth to Wi-Fi to HSPA+. Of course, there’s no LTE.

There’s a reason the Nexus 4 is on sold-out status right now—the device is simply that good. It’s pretty capable in practically every aspect, affordable, and comes with the stock Android 4.2 Jelly Bean experience. If you’ve been very reliant on LTE since you got your plan, then by all means, stay away from the Nexus 4. The rest of us will be happy to get our hands on it.