TIME Smartphones

This Is the Kind of Phone Edward Snowden Might Buy

Blackphone 2
Blackphone 2

The Blackphone 2 is all about privacy over whiz-bang features

Privacy-focused smartphone and software maker on Monday revealed the Blackphone 2, the company’s second shot at making the most secure mobile device on the market.

The Blackphone 2’s hardware is similar enough to other modern phones: A 5.5-inch screen, eight-core processor, 3GB of RAM and expandable memory. But the Blackphone 2’s true raison d’etre lies at the software level. It’s running Silent Circle’s new and improved PrivatOS 1.1 on top of Google’s Android operating system, designed from the ground up to be ultra-secure. The Blackphone 2 also packs the company’s suite of privacy apps, which are essentially more secure versions of phone, text and productivity software.

“While the rest of the market is going one way, with selfie sticks and curved screens, we’re going down another, to the heart of problems, sticking with privacy and security,” Silent Circle Executive Chairman Mike Janke said at the Blackphone 2’s launch at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, Gizmodo reports.

Silent Circle’s clear aim with the second iteration of the Blackphone is to break into the Apple-dominated enterprise market. Another new feature called Spaces, for example, allows users to essentially partition their Blackphone, keeping separate profiles for work and personal use. The work profile can then be administered by employers’ IT departments.

Still, Silent Circle will have to prove just how secure the Blackphone 2 really is before corporate buyers hop on board. Silent Circle attracts plenty of attention from hackers just by advertising its devices as super-secure — security researchers made headlines last year when they were able to hack the Blackphone, though one flaw they exploited was already fixed with a software patch and the others required settings no security-minded user would enable.

The Blackphone 2 should be out by the end of the year.

TIME Gadgets

We Finally Know Who’s Making Valve’s Virtual-Reality Headset

The HTC Vive should be out by the end of the year

Gaming company Valve dropped the news last week that it’s working on a virtual-reality platform akin to the Oculus Rift, but it wasn’t clear who was making the system’s hardware. Now we know: HTC on Sunday announced the HTC Vive, a joint HTC-Valve virtual-reality headset that’s due out by the end of the year.

HTC says the Vive has the “most immersive experience of any VR package,” thanks to a full 360-degree field of vision and 90-frame-per-second video capabilities. The company is also working on wireless controllers for the headset, which, given the Valve partnership, will probably be marketed primarily as a gaming device—games like shooters are a natural fit for the VR experience, and the Vive will be compatible with Valve’s SteamVR virtual-reality platform.

Still, games won’t be the only offering on HTC and Valve’s Vive headset. HTC is partnering with several content providers, including HBO, Lionsgate and Google, for other virtual-reality content like movies.

It still isn’t clear how much the HTC Vive will cost or what content will be available on the platform upon launch. A developer’s edition is due out this spring.

TIME Security

Uber Data Breach Put 50,000 Drivers’ Info at Risk

Berlin's Taxis As German Court Considers Uber Technologies Inc. Ban
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A passenger holds a HTC Corp. smartphone displaying the Uber Technologies Inc. car service application (app) as they sit in a taxi in this arranged photograph in Berlin, Germany, on Monday, Nov. 24, 2014.

But it isn't aware of any foul play as a result

A data breach at Uber last spring put tens of thousands of drivers’ personal information at risk, the company said late Friday.

Uber said it first realized its systems may have been breached by a third party in September of last year. After an investigation, the company found an “unauthorized access” by a “third party” occurred on May 13 of last year, which resulted in the names and license numbers of 50,000 drivers being leaked.

The car-hailing company didn’t specify who the third party was. However, Uber says it has since blocked further access to the database in question as well as alerted affected drivers.

Uber isn’t yet aware of any identify theft or other foul play as a result of the breach. It’s also offering one year of fraud protection to the drivers involved.

“Uber takes seriously our responsibility to safeguard personal information, and we are sorry for any inconvenience this incident may cause,” a blog post from Uber Managing Counsel of Data Privacy Katherine Tassi said. “In addition, today we filed a lawsuit that will enable us to gather information to help identify and prosecute this unauthorized third party.”

TIME Gadgets

This Is Exactly When We’ll Know More About the Apple Watch

Apple has an event March 9

Apple just sent out media invites for a March 9 event most likely involving the upcoming Apple Watch.

 Invite
AppleApple Invite

“Please join us for an invitation-only event at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco on Monday, March 9, at 10:00 a.m.,” the invite reads.

Apple CEO Tim Cook has said the Apple Watch will hit stores in April, making early March the perfect time to unveil new details about the device. The event could also involve other announcements, like a refreshed MacBook Air or Apple TV.

(Read more: Hands-On With the Apple Watch)

TIME Video Games

This Computer Learned How to Totally Devastate You at Pong

Iowa Town Plans To Launch Video Game Hall of Fame And Museum
David Greedy—Getty Images A version of Pong is played on the orignial Magnovox Odyssey 200 during the launch party for the International Video Game Hall of Fame and Museum on August 13, 2009 in Ottumwa, Iowa.

And that's a huge development for artificial intelligence

Need a new gaming buddy? Just call DeepMind.

The artificial intelligence company, owned by Google, has developed an algorithm that can learn how to play almost 50 classic arcade games nearly from scratch, according to a paper published Wednesday in the journal Nature.

The system can learn titles from Pong to Space Invaders after getting the same instructions no matter which game it’s about to learn, a big improvement from computers programmed from the get-go to master single games like chess.

While this research sounds like it’s all fun and games, it has big implications for artificial intelligence. According to Nature, DeepMind uses a combination of AI technologies based on the human brain that let it learn from experience as well as respond to rewards—in this case, high scores in video games—much like people respond to a jolt of dopamine. That means DeepMind could give researchers new insight in how to replicate human brain functions in digital code.

Still, DeepMind’s software isn’t about to destroy all your high scores. Nature points out it has trouble with maze games because it “struggles to link actions with distant consequences,” not unlike most of your buddies in high school. And for now, it can’t take what it learns from one game and apply it to another similar title.

Google bought DeepMind in January of last year for a reported $650 million.

[Nature]

TIME Smartphones

This Is the Best Look Yet at Samsung’s Galaxy S6

Samsung Galaxy S6
Samsung Samsung Galaxy S6

Samsung says it has "six appeal"

Samsung has been teasing its new Galaxy S6 smartphone in bits and chunks ahead of its official reveal next month. But the best look yet just came by way of T-Mobile CEO John Legere.

Sunday night, Legere tweeted a link to a T-Mobile page to sign up for more info about the new Samsung flagship phone’s availability on the carrier. At the top of the page sits a side view of what’s presumably the new phone, along with the caption “Six Appeal.”

The T-Mobile photo gives a pretty good view of the Galaxy S6’s curved display, a feature Samsung first introduced on the Galaxy Note Edge phablet. Unlike the Note Edge, however, the Galaxy S6 is rumored to have curved displays on both sides of the device, not just one.

We’ll know more about the Samsung Galaxy S6 when the company finally unveils it on March 1.

Read next: This Is Microsoft’s New Plan to Invade Your Smartphone

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Drones

Watch This Stunning Drone’s Eye View of Frozen Niagara Falls

It looks real cold

This week’s frigid temperatures have caused Niagara Falls to partially freeze, resulting in a pretty cool-looking formation even as water continues to fall. Canadian videographer Brent Foster took a drone over the falls for NBC Nightly News to get a bird’s eye view of the frozen formation. “I personally have never seen Niagara Falls frozen like that before. It was spectacular to capture,” Foster told Slate.

Read next: The Big Freeze Shatters Records on the East Coast

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Security

Here’s How to Remove Dangerous ‘Superfish’ Software From Your Computer

Inside Lenovo Group Ltd.'s Headquarters And Flagship Store
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images A Lenovo Group Ltd. logo is seen on a laptop computer displayed at the company's flagship store on Qianmen Street in Beijing, China, on Tuesday, Nov. 11,

It could make Lenovo users more vulnerable to hackers

Computer manufacturer Lenovo is in hot water this week after pre-installing software that tracks your Internet activity to show you personalized ads. While that sounds a little shady on its own, it gets even worse: Security experts say the software, called Superfish, can open up a nice big door that lets hackers intercept your data.

Lenovo said in a Thursday statement that it stopped pre-loading Superfish on laptops last month, and it won’t do so again in the future. Now, Lenovo is going a step further: It just posted instructions for Lenovo owners to tell if they have Superfish and, if they do, how to erase it.

That’s a significant backtrack for Lenovo: Earlier Thursday, the company said it could not “find any evidence to substantiate security concerns” over Superfish.

Security experts, however, disagreed. They say the problem with Superfish is that it’s able to scan your Internet activity even when you’re on encrypted sites by spoofing a website’s security certificate. Hackers can take advantage of that fake certificate process to steal your data while it’s in transit.

If you’ve got a Lenovo computer, it’s a good idea to follow these instructions to see if you have Superfish and get rid of it.

TIME Apple

Samsung Just Bought a Company to Help It Compete With Apple Pay

Samsung Presents New Divice at Mobile World Congress 2014
David Ramos—Getty Images CEO and President of Samsung JK Shin walks on the stage to present the new Samsung Gear Fit and the new Samsung Galaxy S5 during the first day of the Mobile World Congress 2013 at Forum Complex on February 24, 2014 in Barcelona, Spain.

The company just acquired a mobile payments startup

Apple has already seen tons of consumer interest in Apple Pay, the mobile payments platform it rolled out with the iPhone 6 and iOS 8. Now, it looks like Apple rival Samsung wants a bigger slice of the mobile payments pie.

Samsung is acquiring mobile payments startup LoopPay, the company announced Wednesday. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

LoopPay is similar to Apple Pay in that it lets you pay for stuff with your mobile phone. However, Apple Pay only works with registers that can accept payment from Near Field Communication (NFC) devices. LoopPay says its technology is compatible with a far wider range of registers, claiming it works at 90% of retailers that accept credit cards.

“With our earliest supporters at our side, we have been at the forefront of contactless payments to create a platform that brings together issuers, merchants and consumers that facilitate a seamless and rewarding digital wallet experience,” LoopPay CEO Will Graylin said in a statement Wednesday.

It isn’t immediately clear if Samsung will put LoopPay’s technology in any of its upcoming phones, but that would be a clear next step. Samsung is expected to introduce a new flagship phone, the Galaxy A6, at an upcoming event in March. Samsung and LoopPay were said to be working together before the acquisition, so there’s a chance Samsung has put some kind of new mobile payment technology in the A6 to compete with the Apple Pay-equipped iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Samsung’s devices have already been compatible with Google Wallet, Google’s NFC-based mobile wallet.

TIME Smartphones

This Brilliant Kid Has Life Totally Figured Out

Holding your smartphone? Ain't nobody got time for that

Watching a movie on your smartphone can be pretty great, but who has the arm strength to keep your phone at face level for two hours? Not this kid, that’s for sure.

One day he’ll be our boss, but for now he’s just boss in general.

(via Reddit)

 

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