China ban on Apple services is a challenge for key growth area

People line up outside an Apple store as iPhone SE goes on sale in China, in Hangzhou

The blocking of Apple mobile entertainment services in China poses fresh challenges for the tech company as it prepares to report its first-ever drop in iPhone sales.

The news on Thursday that Apple Inc’s online book and film services had gone dark in China came at a vulnerable moment for the company. Apple executives have said that iPhone sales will fall for the first time in the company’s second quarter, and the results for that quarter will be released on Tuesday. Investors are sensitive to any signs of trouble in Greater China, the company’s second-largest market by revenue.

Apple executives have flagged the growing services business as a potential source of revenue as sales of the company’s flagship devices level off, upping the stakes for success in China, said analyst Bob O’Donnell of TECHnalysis Research.

“It raises questions in an area that we know long-term is going to be very strategically important to Apple,” he said.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that a state regulator demanded Apple halt the service. The move came after Beijing introduced regulations in March imposing strict curbs on online publishing, particularly for foreign firms.

Still, the outage is only troubling if it persists, O’Donnell said. Apple said in a statement on Thursday that it hopes to make the services available to customers in China as soon as possible.

Apple has a strong track record of working with officials in China, where it has launched a series of services including mobile payment Apple Pay, but some analysts questioned whether the company may receive a chillier reception in the future.

“Is this the beginning of more pressure on Apple by the Chinese government?” asked analyst of Frank Gillett of research firm Forrester. “It’s a symbolic turn, and the question is to what extent is it a harbinger.”

The company released its book and movie services in China only late last year, leaving Chinese consumers little time to form a habit.

“People who are buying iPhones in China aren’t buying them for iTunes,” said O’Donnell. “They are buying it for the status and the cachet of owning an Apple product, and that is really more about the hardware.”

Chinese consumers’ appetite for the phones themselves will be critical to quarterly earnings. Apple is expected to post its first-ever quarterly drop in iPhone sales, to about 50 million units, reflecting a saturated global market.

Wall Street expects adjusted earnings per share to drop 14 percent to $2.00 and revenue to drop 10 percent to $52.0 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Source: Reuters

WhatsApp bug opened door to hacking

Fixed: A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information. — AFP

Fixed: A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information. — AFP

SAN FRANCISCO: WhatsApp recently patched a flaw that left 200 million users vulnerable to being hacked using booby-trapped digital cards for contact details, according to a US computer security firm.

Facebook-owned messaging application WhatsApp boasts more than 900 million users, some 200 million of them who access the service on computer browser software that mirrors activity from mobile devices.

A flaw in the Web version of WhatsApp made it possible for hackers to hide malicious code in seemingly innocent “vCards” containing contact information.

Opening tainted cards allowed viruses to infect computers, potentially allowing hackers to steal control or information, according to an online post by Check Point computer security firm.

Hackers would only need a target’s smartphone number and for the person to open the “vCard.”

Check Point said that it disclosed the vulnerability to WhatsApp last month and that an updated version of the application was released. — AFP

Source: The Star Online

Apple launches new iPhone 6s models, iPad Pro and Apple TV

Every Apple event is always preceded by intense speculation on what the company is about to release.

For this year’s event, the Internet rumour mill ground into overtime with a number of obvious and not-so-obvious predictions.

These ranged from the inevitable iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus devices to a new Apple TV and and a larger screen tablet called the iPad Pro.

Also, there were a few sure things which had already been announced, namely iOS 9, watchOS 2 and the next Mac OS X El Capitan.

So now that the event is over and all has been revealed, what did we get?

Same design, new stuff: While the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same design as the iPhone 6, there are a lot of changes under the hood.

Same design, new stuff: While the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same design as the iPhone 6, there are a lot of changes under the hood.

iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus
Based on past experience, the iPhone model following a major new redesign differed little in looks, but got a speed bump and some hardware tweaks.

So after the iPhone 3G you got the iPhone 3GS, after the iPhone 4 you got the iPhone 4S and after the iPhone 5 was the iPhone 5S.

For the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, the Internet predicted that it will have the same design, but will be slightly thicker (to prevent any more “bendgate” incidents) and, most interesting of all, feature a new Force Touch capable screen.

So what did we get?

The Apple event indeed revealed the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus – while they look the same as the current models, CEO Tim Cook says they are very different on the inside.

Chief amongst these changes is the 3D Touch feature (looks like that’s what Apple is calling Force Touch now) and while we expected it, Apple’s implementation will completely change how you interact with iOS.

Using the same feature first seen in the Apple Watch, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus take the whole “press harder” idea to a whole new level by adding new functions.

At its most basic, you can press down an app and bring up a context menu that shows your most-used actions relating to that app.

However, what 3D Touch really enables is a right-click paradigm in iOS – press harder in your summary of email messages and you’ll get to peek at the entire email, while pressing harder you’ll open the email proper.

See a link in iMessages? 3D Touch on it and you can pop-up a quick browser window to see the webpage – lift your finger to go back to your message.

In fact, instead of double-clicking on the Home button to bring up the multitasking menu, on the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus you can do this by pressing down harder while in an app and swiping to switch between open apps.

On the hardware front, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus share the same resolution as before, but internally, many of the hardware features have been upgraded.

The processor is, as expected, a new A9 processor with an M9 motion co-processor, while the Touch ID sensor is now claimed to be even faster than before.

What’s an iPhone without a class-leading camera? The iPhone 6s and 6s Plus don’t disappoint – both come with an upgraded 12-megapixel image sensor which Apple claims not only captures more detail than before, but does this without compromising on detail and colour accuracy.

Apple is also introducing a feature called Live Photos with the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus which captures a short video clip before and after your still photo so you can see your photos in motion when you press down on a photo.

Yes, we’ve seen this feature in another smartphone before.

More importantly, the new sensor also allows for 4K video recording and according to Apple’s Phil Schiller, senior vice president of worldwide marketing, the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus can edit 4K video directly in iMovie on the device itself.

The front-facing camera has also been upgraded to a 5-megapixel FaceTime camera and taking a trick from an old iMac, the LCD screen can be used as a makeshift flash to help illuminate your face when taking a selfie.

Oh yes, the rumours were also correct in that both new models are built on a stronger 7000 series aircraft grade aluminium alloy and cover glass.

While no local prices have been announced, a quick check on the US Apple Store reveals that the contract-free iPhone 6s will go for US$649 (RM2,800) for the 16GB version, US$749 (RM3,200) for 64GB and US$849 (RM3,650) for 128GB.

Meanwhile, the iPhone 6s Plus is priced at US$749 (RM3,200) for 16GB, US$849 (RM3,650) for 64GB and US$949 (RM4,100) for 128GB.

The US pricing is actually the same as before, but at our current exchange rate, the devices are going to be quite hard on the wallet unless Apple decides to charge a bit lower locally.

The new iPhones are slated for launch in the United States and some countries on Sept 12, while countries like Hong Kong and Singapore will get them by Sept 25.

As usual, Malaysia is not specifically listed in any of those launch dates, and we will probably have to wait till the end of the year before we can purchase one.

More TV: The redesigned Apple TV is bigger but offers more storage, an App Store and a new remote control. It ships in late October in the United States.

More TV: The redesigned Apple TV is bigger but offers more storage, an App Store and a new remote control. It ships in late October in the United States.

Revamped Apple TV
Having been left alone and unloved since the last update in 2013, the Apple TV was rumoured for a big update at this Sept 9 event.

Most of the rumours seem to agree that the new Apple TV would be larger, feature a touch-based remote control and a host of new services including an App Store, TV streaming service, Siri integration and more on-board storage than the meagre 1GB on current models.

However, the most exciting rumour was that the App Store would support games that could be played on the TV with a wireless controller.

Indeed, as it turns out, all the rumours were right and a new Apple TV was announced with more powerful hardware and an App Store.

It is physically larger than its predecessor but that’s because it’s sporting new powerful hardware and a lot of cool features.

For one thing, the remote is now touch- and Siri-enabled so you can swipe across the surface of the remote to access the menu options.

The real magic is in Siri – you can specifically ask for particular shows or genres as you’d expect but what makes it powerful is that you can ask specific questions like, “Show me the Modern Family episode with Edward Norton” and get Siri to find it for you.

Even more interesting is that if you missed a bit of conversation in the show, you can ask Siri something like, “What did she say?” and Siri will rewind the show back 15-seconds and temporarily turn on captions to help you catch what you missed.

Of course, with the appearance of the App Store, the new Apple TV can install not just entertainment apps but also games while the remote can be used as the game controller.

Music gaming company Harmonix, showed a very cool music-themed game called Beat Sports which takes advantage of the motion sensor in the Apple TV remote to offer gameplay similar to the Nintendo Wii games of yesteryear.

Also, games can be started on the iPhone or iPad and continued seamlessly on the Apple TV later.

Instead of simply being “based on iOS”, Apple is calling the iOS-based operating system on the Apple TV the tvOS.

The Apple TV is slated to be available in October in 80 countries.

There will be two versions – a 32GB version for US$149 (RM650) and 64GB for US$199 (RM850).

Bigger is better: The iPad Pro's 12.9in screen and more powerful processor allows for easy typing and a more notebook-like experience

Bigger is better: The iPad Pro’s 12.9in screen and more powerful processor allows for easy typing and a more notebook-like experience

iPad goes Pro
The iPad Pro rumour has been floating around for a while now and many agree that Apple has indeed been working on a tablet with a screen of 12in or 13in in size.

Apart from the screen size, the ability to run apps side-by-side and a rumoured stylus, however, very little information was leaked about this new device.

So did we get the iPad Pro? Yes, indeed, and it even has a stylus!

The iPad Pro comes with a 12.9in oxide TFT LCD screen with a 2,732 x 2,048-pixel screen – that’s  a whopping 5.6 megapixels with a pixels-per-inch density of 264 for anyone who’s counting!

The device runs on the new A9X processor which Apple’s Phil Schiller claims is 1.8x faster than the A8X processor it replaces with double the performance when it comes to graphics.

Schiller also showed off how the iPad Pro is actually powerful enough to edit three streams of 4K video simultaneously – that’s impressive considering that many PCs today still struggle with editing 4K video.

For the first time, the iPad Pro comes with a four-speaker system which automatically changes the stereo left and right channels depending on the orientation.

Apparently, all four speakers are used to subtly enhance the stereo soundstaging as well.

The iPad Pro also comes with a new magnetic connector which connects to an optional Smart Cover, a magnetic cover with an integrated keyboard – yes, we’ve seen a similar accessory for Microsoft’s Surface Pro tablet already.

Lightning charge: The back of the Apple Pencil pops open to reveal a Lightning connector which can be plugged right into an iPad Pro to charge the stylus

Lightning charge: The back of the Apple Pencil pops open to reveal a Lightning connector which can be plugged right into an iPad Pro to charge the stylus

Finally, there’s the Apple Pencil – again, it’s similar to powered styli we’ve seen with other tablets and it recognises pressure as well.

What’s interesting, however, is how the Apple Pencil charges – the back of the stylus pops off to reveal a Lightning connector which plugs directly into the bottom of the iPad Pro to charge.

A number of apps compatible with the Apple Pencil were shown off, including one from Adobe called Photoshop Fix.

The iPad Pro starts at US$799 (RM3,450) for a 32GB WiFi-only version, US$949 (RM4,100) for a 128GB WiFi version and finally, a 128GB WiFi plus cellular version which will set you back US$1079 (RM4,650).

The iPad Pro ships in November in the United States, but there is no information yet on when it will be available here.

New storage plans:Apple also announced upgraded iCloud storage plans

New storage plans:Apple also announced upgraded iCloud storage plans

Conclusion
Well, there’s a lot more of “me-too” in this launch, with Apple adding many features to its devices which we’ve seen before in other rival models.

However, the 3D Touch features integrated into the new iPhones promise to be quite revolutionary. We can see many of these features actually being truly useful on a day-to-day basis.

The iPad Pro is an interesting device – again it’s sort of playing catch up to other large tablets out there, most notably the Microsoft Surface 3 Pro with its Type Keyboard and stylus, but it does take the iPad line into a new place.

Source: The Star Online

China shuts 50 websites and social media accounts

A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013. Credit: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

A picture illustration shows a WeChat app icon in Beijing, December 5, 2013.
Credit: Reuters/Petar Kujundzic

China has closed 50 websites and social media accounts for violations ranging from pornography to “publishing political news without a permit”, Beijing’s cyberspace watchdog said on Tuesday.

The government is pursuing a crackdown on unwanted material online. Critics say the increasing restrictions further limit free speech in the one-party Communist state.

Authorities shut 17 public pages on the mobile social messaging app Weixin, also known as WeChat in English, as well as 24 websites and 9 channels or columns on websites, the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) said in a statement on its website (www.cac.gov.cn).

The Weixin accounts were shut down during the past two months, the state-run news agency Xinhua said.

Some of the other offences listed by CAC include publishing fake information under the guise of the government or media, and publishing information related to gambling or fraud.

Jiang Jun, a spokesman for the cyberspace watchdog, said the CAC would regularly publish a “black list” of violators, according to the statement.

Last fall, Xinhua said the cyberspace watchdog had closed nearly 1.8 million accounts on social networking and instant messaging services since launching an anti-pornography campaign earlier in the year.

In 2014, authorities received almost 11 million reports of what was described as harmful information online, Xinhua reported separately on Tuesday.

In November, Chinese officials called for controls on the Internet to preserve stability.

With a population of 1.4 billion and 632 million people online, China is a market no one wants to miss out on. But it also has the world’s most sophisticated online censorship system, known outside the country as the Great Firewall.

It blocks many social media services, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat and Google, along with many rights groups sites and some foreign media agencies.

Source: Reuters

 

Google aiming to go straight into car with next Android

ANDROID IN YOUR AUTOMOBILE: Google will provide details for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. — Reuters

ANDROID IN YOUR AUTOMOBILE: Google will provide details for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. — Reuters

Google Inc is laying the groundwork for a version of Android that would be built directly into cars, sources said, allowing drivers to enjoy all the benefits of the Internet without even plugging in their smartphones.

The move is a major step up from Google’s current Android Auto software, which comes with the latest version of its smartphone operating system and requires a phone to be plugged into a compatible car with a built-in screen to access streaming music, maps and other apps. The first such vehicles will debut in 2015.

Google, however, has never provided details or a timeframe for its long-term plan to put Android Auto directly into cars. The company now plans to do so when it rolls out the next version of its operating system, dubbed Android M, expected in a year or so, two people with knowledge of the matter said.

The sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to discuss the plans publicly.

“It provides a much stronger foothold for Google to really be part of the vehicle rather than being an add-on,” said Thilo Koslowski, vice president and Automotive Practice Leader of industry research firm Gartner, who noted that he was unaware of Google’s latest plans in this area.

If successful, Android would become the standard system powering a car’s entertainment and navigation features, solidifying Google’s position in a new market where it is competing with arch-rival Apple Inc. Google could also potentially access the valuable trove of data collected by a vehicle.

Direct integration into cars ensures that drivers will use Google’s services every time they turn on the ignition, without having to plug in the phone. It could allow Google to make more use of a car’s camera, sensors, fuel gauge, and Internet connections that come with some newer car models.

Analysts said Google’s plan could face various technical and business challenges, including convincing automakers to integrate its services so tightly into their vehicles.

Google declined to comment.

Technology companies are racing to design appliances, wristwatches and other gadgets that connect to the Internet. Automobiles are a particularly attractive prospect because Americans spend nearly 50 minutes per day on average on their commute, according to US Census data.

Apple unveiled its CarPlay software in March and Google has signed on dozens of companies, including Hyundai, General Motors Co and Nissan Motor Co , for its Open Automotive Alliance and its Android Auto product.

Android Auto and CarPlay both “project” their smartphone apps onto the car’s screen. Many of the first compatible cars are expected to be on display at the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas next month.

By building Android into a car, Google’s services would not be at risk of switching off when a smartphone battery runs out of power, for example.

“With embedded it’s always on, always there,” said one of the sources, referring to the built-in version of Android Auto. “You don’t have to depend on your phone being there and on.”

By tapping into the car’s components, Google could also gain valuable information to feed its data-hungry advertising business model. “You can get access to GPS location, where you stop, where you travel everyday, your speed, your fuel level, where you stop for gas,” one of the sources said.

But the source noted that Android would need major improvements in performance and stability for carmakers to adopt it. In particular, Android Auto would need to power-up instantly when the driver turns the car on, instead of having to wait more than 30 seconds, as happens with many smartphones.

Automakers might also be wary of giving Google access to in-car components that could raise safety and liability concerns, and be reluctant to give Google such a prime spot in their vehicles.

“Automakers want to keep their brand appeal and keep their differentiation,” said Mark Boyadjis, an analyst with industry research firm IHS Automotive. “Automakers don’t want to have a state of the industry where you get in any vehicle and it’s just the same experience wherever you go.” — Reuters

Google revealed Android 5.0 ‘Lollipop’

lollipoplead

Google has just revealed that the next major version of Android, 5.0, will be known as Lollipop. After months of teasing the OS, the search giant is finally taking what was previously known as Android “L” into the mainstream, with the first set of the devices expected to arrive early next month. Speaking of which, Android Lollipop will make its debut on the new Nexus 6, a big-screen smartphone from Motorola; the Nexus 9, an 8.9-inch tablet made by HTC; and the Nexus Player, a $99 media-streaming box with Android TV, the first one with Google’s novel home entertainment platform. What’s more, the company confirmed that Lollipop is coming to the Nexus 5, Nexus 7 and Nexus 10, as well as Google Play edition devices, in the coming weeks.

To make things better, Android 5.0 is also headed to a number of Motorola smartphones, such as both generations of the Moto X and Moto G (including the LTE model), Moto E, Droid Maxx, Droid Mini and Droid Ultra. Motorola didn’t say when exactly the upgrade would be available for those devices, but at least it has confirmed its plans to do so. Now that Google’s let the Lollipop out of the bag, we’re sure more manufacturers are due to start coming forward with their own announcement.

The Android 5.0 SDK is going to be available on Friday, October 17th, which means everything is slowly, and sweetly falling into place ahead of next month. In the meantime, stay tuned, because we’ll be updating this post if any additional details come in.

Source: Engadget