Google Fiber Phone Service Launched With Unlimited Domestic Calling

Google Fiber Phone Service Launched With Unlimited Domestic Calling

Many people can already buy TV and Internet service from Google Fiber. Now, the company that brought gigabit speeds to Austin and Kansas City is moving deeper into the telecom industry by offering its own bundled telephone service.

For $10 (roughly Rs. 660) a month, Google Fiber customers soon will be able to buy an add-on known as Fiber Phone – a service that, according to a company blog post, appears to mimic much of the functionality of Google Voice. Voicemail on Fiber Phone can be automatically transcribed and sent to your email. You’ll get unlimited domestic calling, as well as international calls at Google Voice’s rates. And you’ll have access to one phone number that can be set up to ring all of your phones – whether landline or mobile.

A series of leaked emails in January first uncovered Google Fiber’s plans to move into phone service. But now the decision is official: Fiber Phone will roll out gradually across all of the company’s existing markets. The company declined to name the initial launch markets, saying those details will come later.

The service comes with a little black box that sits beside your home phone. It has both ethernet and phone jacks, and will work with most handsets except for old rotary phones, according to Kelly Mason, a company spokesperson.

Google Fiber’s effort to draw in phone customers highlights how the company is becoming more like traditional service providers even as many telecom companies are looking to become more like Internet content firms. Even providers of cellphone service have been shifting their focus away from voice and toward the more lucrative provision of mobile data. Reports this week suggest T-Mobile may soon unveil new phone plan options that eliminate voice service entirely to give you a bigger bucket of data.

Fiber Phone fits within these trends in that it would help customers add some cloud-based functionality to their home phones. But it’s not immediately clear why consumers would pick Fiber Phone over Google Voice. The two services share many of the same features, but Fiber Phone carries a subscription cost and requires an at-home installation that you don’t need with Google Voice. In this respect, Google Voice might be considered a “better” service.

Fiber Phone could be appealing to those who currently buy their Internet and television from Google Fiber, but still have their landline phone tied to another provider, such as Verizon. Signing up for Fiber Phone would allow those Americans to eliminate one more bill from their lives and consolidate their services into a double- or triple-play deal with Google Fiber.

But federal statistics show Americans are largely moving away from landline service anyway, embracing a cellphone-only approach. Forty percent of US adults now use their cellphones exclusively.

Fiber Phone is more than a simple landline substitute, of course. But to really make the most of it, it seems like you would A) need to be already subscribed to a landline service with another provider and B) want to continue having landline service.

Apple Remains in Dark on How FBI Hacked iPhone Without Help

Apple Remains in Dark on How FBI Hacked iPhone Without Help

The FBI’s announcement that it mysteriously hacked into an iPhone is a public setback for Apple Inc., as consumers suddenly discover they can’t keep their most personal information safe. Meanwhile, Apple remains in the dark about how to restore the security of its flagship product.

The government said it was able to break into an iPhone used by a gunman in a mass shooting in California, but it didn’t say how. That puzzled Apple software engineers – and outside experts – about how the FBI broke the digital locks on the phone without Apple’s help. It also complicated Apple’s job repairing flaws that jeopardize its software.

The Justice Department’s announcement that it was dropping a legal fight to compel Apple to help it access the phone also took away any obvious legal avenues Apple might have used to learn how the FBI did it.

Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym vacated her Feb. 16 order, which compelled Apple to help the FBI hack their phone, on Tuesday.

The Justice Department declined through a spokeswoman to comment Tuesday.

A few clues have emerged. A senior law enforcement official told The Associated Press that the FBI managed to defeat an Apple security feature that threatened to delete the phone’s contents if the FBI failed to enter the correct passcode combination after 10 tries. That allowed the government to repeatedly and continuously test passcodes in what’s known as a brute-force attack until the right code is entered and the phone is unlocked.

It wasn’t clear how the FBI dealt with a related Apple security feature that introduces increasing time delays between guesses. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because this person was not authorized to discuss the technique publicly.

FBI Director James Comey has said with those features removed, the FBI could break into the phone in 26 minutes.

The FBI hacked into the iPhone used by gunman Syed Farook, who died with his wife in a gun battle with police after they killed 14 people in December in San Bernardino. The iPhone, issued to Farook by his employer, the county health department, was found in a vehicle the day after the shooting.

The FBI is reviewing information from the iPhone, and it is unclear whether anything useful can be found.

Apple said in a statement Monday that the legal case to force its cooperation “should never have been brought,” and it promised to increase the security of its products. CEO Tim Cook has said the Cupertino-based company is constantly trying to improve security for its users.

The FBI’s announcement – even without revealing precise details – that it had hacked the iPhone was at odds with the government’s firm recommendations for nearly two decades that security researchers always work cooperatively and confidentially with software manufacturers before revealing that a product might be susceptible to hackers.

The aim is to ensure that American consumers stay as safe online as possible and prevent premature disclosures that might damage a US company or the economy.

As far back as 2002, the Homeland Security Department ran a working group that included leading industry technology industry executives to advise the president on how to keep confidential discoveries by independent researchers that a company’s software could be hacked until it was already fixed. Even now, the Commerce Department has been trying to fine-tune those rules. The next meeting of a conference on the subject is April 8 in Chicago and it’s unclear how the FBI’s behavior in the current case might influence the government’s fragile relationship with technology companies or researchers.

The industry’s rules are not legally binding, but the government’s top intelligence agency said in 2014 that such vulnerabilities should be reported to companies.

“When federal agencies discover a new vulnerability in commercial and open source software – a so-called ‘zero day’ vulnerability because the developers of the vulnerable software have had zero days to fix it – it is in the national interest to responsibly disclose the vulnerability rather than to hold it for an investigative or intelligence purpose,” the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said in a statement in April 2014.

The statement recommended generally divulging such flaws to manufacturers “unless there is a clear national security or law enforcement need.”

Last week a team from Johns Hopkins University said they had found a security bug in Apple’s iMessage service that would allow hackers under certain circumstances to decrypt some text messages. The team reported its findings to Apple in November and published an academic paper after Apple fixed it.

“That’s the way the research community handles the situation. And that’s appropriate,” said Susan Landau, professor of cyber-security policy at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She said it was acceptable for the government to find a way to unlock the phone but said it should reveal its method to Apple.

Mobile phones are frequently used to improve cyber-security, for example, as a place to send a backup code to access a website or authenticate a user.

The chief technologist at the Center for Democracy and Technology, Joseph Lorenzo Hall, said keeping details secret about a flaw affecting millions of iPhone users “is exactly opposite the disclosure practices of the security research community. The FBI and Apple have a common goal here: to keep people safe and secure. This is the FBI prioritizing an investigation over the interests of hundreds of millions of people worldwide.”

Jay-Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service Hits 3 Million Subscribers

Jay-Z's Tidal Music Streaming Service Hits 3 Million Subscribers

Tidal, the streaming service led by Jay-Z that launched to a mixed reception a year ago, said Tuesday it has climbed up to three million subscribers.

Tidal, which last revealed its subscription base at one million in September, said in a statement marking its one-year anniversary that it now has three million members in 46 countries.

Aimed at taking a slice of the booming market for streaming, which offers unlimited, on-demand music, Tidal has sought to differentiate itself from rivals led by Spotify by offering exclusives, higher-quality audio files and video content.

Among its successes, Tidal exclusively released the latest album by rap superstar Kanye West and has become the primary online home for Prince, who has delighted in the newfound artistic control.

But Tidal was widely derided for the optics of the March 30, 2015 press conference that announced the relaunch of the service, which Jay-Z bought for $56 million (roughly Rs. 372 crores) from Swedish-listed company Aspiro.

Tidal vowed to change streaming to benefit artists, although the press conference was led by some of the richest names in music such as Madonna, West and Jay-Z’s wife Beyonce.

Whatever the public relations struggle, Tidal insisted it has made good on its promises and that it has featured 1,000 tracks by unsigned artists.

Tidal offers music on more advanced Flac files, but at $19.99 a month in the United States, the subscription for the high-end tier is twice the cost of most streaming sites.

Spotify, based in Sweden, is by far the largest streaming site and last week said it had reached 30 million paying subscribers worldwide.

Spotify has previously said it has more than 75 million users when including its advertising-backed free tier, which is controversial among artists.

Apple Music, launched in June by the tech giant, has quickly become the second leading force in streaming, and said last month it had 11 million subscribers.

Paris-based Deezer, which is strong in continental Europe, says it has six million paying subscribers while Rhapsody, the streaming pioneer established in 2001, had 3.5 million as of December.

Gionee W909 Flip Phone With Dual Touchscreens, Fingerprint Sensor Launched

Gionee W909 Flip Phone With Dual Touchscreens, Fingerprint Sensor Launched

As expected, Gionee on Tuesday launched its W909 clamshell Android smartphone in China. Priced at CNY 3,999 (roughly Rs. 41,000), the handset is already up for pre-orders in the country. Its availability details outside China have not yet been mentioned.

It is worth mentioning that the Gionee W909 is also arguably one of the first flip phones in the market to come with a fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C port, and dual touchscreens as well. It sports a metal build and houses some high-end specifications under-the-hood.

The Gionee W909 runs Android 5.1 Lollipop and supports dual-SIM functionality. It includes two 4.2-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) resolution IPS display, with the outer display featuring a 2.5D glass. The smartphone is powered by an octa-core MediaTek MT6755M processor, clubbed with 4GB of LPDDR3 RAM.

The smartphone bears 64GB of inbuilt storage, of which 52GB is user-accessible. The built-in storage can be expanded via microSD card (up to 128GB). The Gionee W909 bears a 16-megapixel rear camera with phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and LED flash, along with a 5-megapixel front-facing camera.

gionee_w909_front_back_open.jpgOn the connectivity front, the flip phone supports 4G LTE networks, along with Bluetooth v4.0, GPS, Wi-Fi, and USB Type-C connectivity. Backed by a 2530mAh battery, the W909 on paper can deliver up to 29.7 hours of talk time and 408 hours of standby time. It measures 124.1×62.8×16.5mm, weighs 207 grams, and features a fingerprint sensor at the back that can unlock the handset in 0.38 seconds.

Since the Gionee W909 carries a flip phone design, it also has T9 keypad with physical buttons to navigate, launch the camera and more, besides having an on-screen keyboard. It is only available in Rose Gold colour variant.

The last flip phone by a popular tech brand was seen by Samsung in November last year as it launchedthe W2016 smartphone in China. The Android-based dual-SIM smartphone features two 3.9-inch Super Amoled touchscreens, both with WXGA (768×1280 pixels) resolution. Although it sports nearly the same innards as the Gionee W909, it lags behind in terms of battery and RAM. It also misses out on a fingerprint sensor and USB Type-C connectivity.

LG too last year launched its flip phone, the Wine Smart but with less-powerful specifications.

Foxconn Ready to Seal Deal With Sharp

Foxconn Ready to Seal Deal With Sharp: Reports

Taiwan’s tech giant Hon Hai applied Tuesday for a halt in share trading, suggesting it is ready to finalise its multi-billion-dollar takeover of Japan’s electronics maker Sharp.

The Taiwan Stock Exchange said trading in shares of Hon Hai Precision and its affiliate Foxconn Technology would be suspended due to a “major announcement”.

A Hon Hai spokeswoman was not available for comment but local media said the two companies would hold board meetings Wednesday to discuss the huge deal.

Hon Hai was fined early this month after the Taiwan Stock Exchange said it violated trading rules by failing fully to explain the deal it has been negotiating with Sharp.

Local media said Hon Hai was likely to sign an agreement with the Japanese firm Thursday to seal the takeover.

It would be the first foreign acquisition of a major Japanese electronics firm.

Sharp has teetered on the edge of bankruptcy for years and Foxconn’s colourful billionaire owner Terry Gou has long been pushing for a takeover.

The two firms have worked together for years on large-screen technology, including for televisions, and jointly operate a liquid crystal display (LCD) panel plant in Japan.

Still, the Japanese government had reportedly been concerned about Sharp’s key technologies falling into the hands of a foreign firm.

Sharp is still a leader in LCD technology and remains one of Japan’s best-known corporate brands overseas.

But the century-old company piled up eye-watering losses after the 2008 global financial crisis and a restructuring plan has yet to pull it out of the red.

Xiaomi Launches Mi Water Purifier 2, Mi Router 3, and New Bluetooth Speaker

Xiaomi Launches Mi Water Purifier 2, Mi Router 3, and New Bluetooth Speaker

At a media event on Tuesday, Xiaomi announced its Mi Ecosystem sub-brand. The company also took the opportunity to unveil the first product in that lineup, the Mi Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker. At the event, the Chinese technology conglomerate also announced refresh of many of its existing product categories, unveiling the Mi Water Purifier 2, a new Bluetooth Speaker, and Mi Router 3.

The Xiaomi Water Purifier 2 utilises reverse osmosis to remove impurities from water, at a rate of one litre per minute. The company says the advanced filtration technology in the purifier allows it to detect particles as small as 0.0001 microns. It’s smart too as it connects to your Wi-Fi network, allowing you to check the quality of water from your Android and iOS devices. The Xiaomi Water Purifier 2, weighing 11.8kg, is priced at CNY 2,000 (roughly $310, or Rs. 20,500).

The Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker is getting some attention too. The speaker now boasts of a 1200mAh battery, which according company’s claim, can last for up to 7 hours of continuous music playback. Measuring 60x60x93.3mm, the refreshed Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker offers 5W output. There are small LED indicators in the front that offer more aesthetic value before anything else, and the Bluetooth Speaker which also has a built-in microphone, supports up to 10 metres of distance. The Xiaomi Bluetooth Speaker is priced at CNY 129 (roughly $20, or Rs. 1,320).

At the event, Xiaomi also announced the Mi Router 3. The new router sports four-antenna design, which according to claims, enhances the signal strength. The Mi Router 3 features support for 802.11ac Wi-Fi connectivity. It is priced at CNY 149 (roughly $23, or Rs. 1,530).

Apple Could Use Brooklyn Case to Pursue Details About FBI iPhone

Apple Could Use Brooklyn Case to Pursue Details About FBI iPhone Hack: Report

If the US Department of Justice asks a New York court to force Apple Inc to unlock an iPhone, the technology company could push the government to reveal how it accessed the phone which belonged to a shooter in San Bernardino, a source familiar with the situation said.

The Justice Department will disclose over the next two weeks whether it will continue with its bid to compel Apple to help access an iPhone in a Brooklyn drug case, according to a court filing on Tuesday.

The Justice Department this week withdrew a similar request in California, saying it had succeeded in unlocking an iPhone used by one of the shooters involved in a rampage in San Bernardino in December without Apple’s help.

(Also see:  Apple Remains in Dark on How FBI Hacked iPhone)

The legal dispute between the US government and Apple has been a high-profile test of whether law enforcement should have access to encrypted phone data.

Apple, supported by most of the technology industry, says anything that helps authorities bypass security features will undermine security for all users. Government officials say that all kinds of criminal investigations will be crippled without access to phone data.

Prosecutors have not said whether the San Bernardino technique would work for other seized iPhones, including the one at issue in Brooklyn. Should the Brooklyn case continue, Apple could pursue legal discovery that would potentially force the FBI to reveal what technique it used on the San Bernardino phone, the source said.

A Justice Department representative did not have immediate comment.

In a statement, Apple said “we don’t know” the FBI’s technical solution, which vendor developed it or “what it allegedly achieves.”

A federal magistrate in Brooklyn last month ruled that he did not have authority to order Apple to disable the security of an iPhone seized during a drug investigation. The Justice Department then appealed to a district court judge.

After filing that appeal, US prosecutors notified the magistrate in the San Bernardino case that a third party had demonstrated a new technique which could access the iPhone in question.

The Justice Department disclosed the new technique to the judge one day after the demonstration, and then confirmed its success on Monday, according to court filings, though it did not reveal how its solution works.

The US government did not disclose any details in a letter to the Brooklyn judge on Tuesday. Instead, prosecutors only agreed with a request by Apple to delay briefing deadlines in the case, and said it would update the court by April 11 as to whether it would “modify” its own request for Apple’s assistance.

Law enforcement officials across the country have said they regularly encounter Apple devices they cannot access.

Hillar Moore III, the district attorney in East Baton Rouge, said he has asked the FBI whether its new technique would access an iPhone to help solve a murder case he is overseeing. Moore has not yet received an answer.

“Eventually we would like to know: Is this technology available to us, or is the third party going to sell it, and how much would it cost?” he said.

SoundCloud Expands Into Mainstream With Ad-Free Music Subscription Service

SoundCloud Expands Into Mainstream With Ad-Free Music Subscription Service

SoundCloud is entering paid music streaming, hoping to turn its huge community of cover singers, dubstep remixers and wannabe stars into a bigger source of revenue.

Since its launch in 2007, the Berlin-based online music service has allowed pretty much any audio to be uploaded to its cloud – from Kanye West outtakes to teenagers singing over canned music. It has slowly introduced tools to earn revenue, introducing paid services for artists in 2008 and ad revenue sharing for invited musicians in 2014.

But after signing deals with major labels, including holdout Sony Music this month, SoundCloud is adding a subscription plan for consumers, giving them ad-free listening and a whole range of music from mainstream artists that had shunned the service because it only gave tracks away for free, including top acts like Taylor Swift.

SoundCloud, privately held and with tech investors like Union Square Ventures and Kleiner Perkins, will have a staggering 125 million tracks available when the paid tier, SoundCloud Go, launches Tuesday. That’s about four times other paid services.

The fast-growing field of paid music subscription services is already crowded, led by companies likeSpotify, with 30 million paying subscribers, and Apple, which jumped to 10 million after launching last year.

SoundCloud hopes to distinguish itself with its massive variety and huge audience of 175 million monthly listeners.

“We’re at the very early days of streaming,” said Eric Wahlforss, the co-founder and chief technology officer, in an interview. “The pie is going to be very large over time.”

SoundCloud Go will cost $10 (roughly Rs. 660) a month and offer ad-free offline playback on mobile devices. It’ll also allow artists to choose whether to give away tracks for free or reserve them for paying customers – an option not allowed by Spotify, which depends on having quality free music to draw in prospective paying customers.

Wahlforss said a key selling point for consumers is the many tracks on SoundCloud you won’t find elsewhere.

“You’re going to be able to listen to a Rihanna next to an emerging artist, next to a DJ set, next to a mashup in the same playlist,” said Wahlforss. “It’s new for us, it’s new for the world.”

For example, on SoundCloud you can find gems like a John Legend’s cover of the Adele hit, “Rolling in the Deep.” Or a 4-minute version of “30 Hours,” a shortened take of one of the songs from Kanye West’s latest album, “The Life of Pablo.” The album version is exclusively streaming on competing music service Tidal.

SoundCloud’s reputation for hosting music that is off the beaten path is what drew DJ Kaskade to the platform. Without saying whether he’ll put music behind the pay wall, Kaskade’s manager Stephanie LaFera said it has long been a place for the DJ to connect with fans looking to dig deeper than a standard release.

“We feel like we’re speaking to an audience that’s already with us, fans that are open to experimentation, sub-genres and all the quirks that come with the world of electronic music,” she said.

Soccer Legend Pele Sues Samsung Over Image in Newspaper Ad

Soccer Legend Pele Sues Samsung Over Image in Newspaper Ad

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé has sued Samsung Electronics Co for at least $30 million (roughly Rs. 199 crores), alleging the Korean company improperly used a look-alike in an advertisement that ran in the New York Times without permission.

According to the complaint filed this month in federal court in Chicago, Samsung placed the October ad for ultra high-definition televisions after breaking off negotiations in 2013 to use Pelé’s identity to promote its products.

Pelé, 75, whose given name is Edson Arantes do Nascimento, is widely regarded as the greatest soccer player ever and among the world’s most famous athletes.

Although the ad does not mention Pelé, it includes a portrait-sized image of a man who “very closely resembles” him, and a small photo of a soccer player making a “modified bicycle or scissors-kick, perfected and famously used by Pelé,” the complaint said.

Pelé relies on endorsements for much of his income, and the ad will hurt the value of his endorsement rights and confuse consumers into believing he endorses Samsung products, the complaint added.

“The goal is to obtain fair compensation for the unauthorized use of Pele’s identity, and to prevent future unauthorized uses,” Pelé’s lawyer, Frederick Sperling, said in a phone interview.

Samsung spokeswoman Danielle Meister Cohen declined to comment.

The lawsuit was filed by Pele IP Ownership LLC, which owns Pelé’s trademark and publicity rights. It is dated March 16.

Sperling has also represented former Chicago Bulls star Michael Jordan, and helped him win a $8.9 million jury verdict last August against the former Dominick’s Finer Foods over the grocer’s unauthorized use of the basketball Hall of Famer’s identity in an ad in Sports Illustrated.

Jordan later settled for an undisclosed amount.

The case is Pele IP Ownership LLC v. Samsung Electronics Co Ltd et al, US District Court, Northern District of Illinois, No. 16-03354.

Amaya's CEO Takes Leave Amid Insider Trading Probe

Amaya's CEO Takes Leave Amid Insider Trading Probe

The chair and chief executive of the world’s largest online gaming company has stepped back from the company after being charged with insider trading and stock manipulation, Amaya announced Tuesday.

David Baazov, 35, “is taking an indefinite paid leave of absence from the company,” it said in a statement.

He was charged last week along with two others with using privileged information and attempting to influence stock market prices in the months prior to Amaya’s 2014 takeover of Oldford Group, the owner and operator of sites PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, for $4.9 billion (roughly Rs. 32,520 crores).

The two sites have nearly 100 million registered players on desktop and mobile devices, according to Amaya.

Thirteen people linked to the insider trades, including Baazov’s brother Josh, have also been ordered to cease trading while authorities investigate their involvement in the case.

Quebec’s Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF) alleges Baazov’s family, friends and associates pocketed nearly CAD 1.5 million using insider information. The securities watchdog claims Baazov was the “main source” of the information about Amaya acquisitions, including the purchase of Oldford Group in June 2014 that turned the Montreal-based company into the world’s largest online poker firm.

According to AMF, they purchased shares in Amaya or its takeover targets, which were identified to them in advance, and realized large profits by selling their stock after the deals were announced and the share price spiked.

Baazov, who is seeking to buy back Amaya shares and take it private, has denied the accusations.

He said in a statement, “I believe that stepping down in the short term will help to avoid distraction for the company and its management while I vigorously contest all allegations made against me and pursue my bid to acquire the company.”

Director Dave Gadhia has been appointed as interim chairman, and Rafi Ashkenazi, who currently runs Amaya’s website operations, was named interim chief executive.