Are you interested in the Huawei Mate 9? Yes? Great! It’s not a bad phone! It’s just I don’t expect you to actually buy it. Even at a competitively priced $599, I expect it to sell… just okay. Maybe you, the person reading this article and watching this video, maybe you will buy it. You’re a discerning consumer. You’re prepared to go looking for a phone outside the Galaxy and iPhone consumer market. It’s the normals I’m talking about. And that’s too bad.

I’m Michael Fisher, AKA MrMobile, and despite the doom and gloom, I like the Mate 9. Not as much as I like Huawei’s Honor 8, but I mean it when I say this is a positive review. For a positive review that actually sounds like one, check out Android Central’s review by Alex Dobie.

Stay social, my friends




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ZeniMax versus Facebook ended today with $500 million for the former and a tiny bit of retribution for the latter.

ZeniMax has been awarded half a billion dollars after a judge found that Oculus co-founder, Palmer Luckey, did not comply with a non-disclosure agreement.

According to Polygon, Oculus is paying out $200 million for breaking NDA and $50 million for copyright infringement. Oculus and Luckey each have to pay an extra $50 million for false designation — essentially, when someone falsely claims their origin — while Brendan Iribe, the former CEO of Oculus, will have to pay $150 million.

The ZeniMax versus Facebook (née Oculus) trial started last month and included testimonials from several of the prominent tech figures involved, like id Software co-founder John Carmack, who was questioned about copying code before leaving to work at Facebook, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg himself.

ZeniMax had referred to the incident as a “heist.”

The trial alleged that Luckey, Iribe, and half a dozen ex-ZeniMax employees had built the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset based on research and copyrighted code that was originally conducted by ZeniMax. ZeniMax wanted $4 billion in compensation, half of which would be awarded for punitive damages. But Oculus had managed to argue down the verdict by claiming that the lawsuit was driven by emotions rather than facts, citing that the company had referred to the initial incident as a “heist.” Oculus denied those allegations.

Oculus said it would appeal the briefing, though we’re not entirely sure what will happen to the Oculus Rift, or whether the case will have any impact on sales.




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You can be forced to provide your fingerprint to access the data on your phone. But you don’t have to make it easy.

January 2017: With the current political climate, we feel now is a great time to remind everyone about their right to privacy and where it ends. This post was originally published in May 2016 but it’s just as important now, if not more so, than it was then.

Being able to unlock your phone with your fingerprints is a really good thing. It’s not the most secure method you can use, and there are issues about having only one set of fingerprints if you ever need to change your login credentials, but the convenience factor means more people will keep their phones locked when they’re not using them. That means your privacy is protected, as well as the privacy of everyone in your contacts or people you’re networked with through social media when and if someone else gets their hands on your phone.

We all should thank Motorola for trying it, and Samsung and Apple for making it good. Biometrics used to verify identity isn’t exactly new, but getting everything working on a tiny pocket computer surely wasn’t easy. We’ve also seen Iris scanning on the Alcatel Idol 3 and short-lived Note 7. We’ll probably be going through this same scenario when iris scanning tech takes off, too.

If you’re in the U.S., though, there’s another snag that not everyone knows about — law enforcement can force you to place your finger on your phone and unlock everything. A precedent was set by the Circuit Court of Virginia in October 2014, and recently upheld and reinforced by a federal court in February 2016, that makes it clear that while you can’t be forced to provide a passcode for an electronic device, your fingerprints and using them to unlock the same device is not protected by the fifth amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

You can be forced to incriminate yourself by providing anything and everything on your phone to law enforcement by using your fingerprint as long as a warrant was requested and received. This will almost certainly be challenged as a direct violation of the fifth amendment (and possibly parts of the fourth amendment), but for now, this is the law.

You can be compelled to provide your fingerprint and unlock your phone, under current U.S. law

I want to be clear on a couple things here. Nobody at Android Central is condoning any criminal behavior, nor do we judge anyone for their feelings on how they want to help law enforcement investigate any case. If you want the U.S. government to have access to the data a person involved in an investigation has on their phone, that’s fine. You should realize that not everyone feels the same way, as well as know that you don’t have to be a law-breaker to value your privacy.

If you, or a peace officer in any capacity, would get access to my phone you’ll find nothing that puts me at risk of prosecution, and probably be bored looking at pictures of my family and my dogs, see half-completed documents I’m working on and maybe an expense report or two. But that’s my stuff, and I don’t want anyone rifling through it. It’s OK to feel differently.

But this leads us into ideas of how we can protect that privacy if we’re using our fingers to open the secure container that holds it all. And there are a few things you can do.

You’ll need a backup method to unlock your phone if you are using a fingerprint scanner. A four digit PIN works well here. It’s not too difficult to break, but protections that make your wait between incorrect attempts and a self-destruct feature where data is wiped after a certain number of attempts mean that getting past a PIN will prove to be difficult. Like using a fingerprint in the first place, it’s a nice balance between security and convenience.

The real benefit here is that you can require this PIN to be entered before your phone will start. You’ll see this option when you set up a phone as new, or when you go into the security settings and change the PIN itself. This means that every time your phone is started until the correct PIN is entered, it’s completely dead. No data is decrypted, no calls can come in, and no software outside of the bootloader itself is running.

Because a PIN is either required to start the phone (if you choose to use this feature) or unlock the screen for the first time after it starts up, you can’t unlock it with just your fingerprint — your fifth amendment protected PIN is required. And with all current Android phones and iPhones, a piece of hardware embedded in the system-on-chip that houses the CPU keeps things locked up and inaccessible through standard software hacking.

If you see the blue lights, just hold the power button and shut down your phone.

Now, this isn’t going to help if you’re a fugitive and subject to being detained on sight or caught in the act doing something shady. But if you’re just a regular person who doesn’t want anyone to get information about you or the people you keep company with it’s pretty effective. If you’re able to do this, it means you get to decide if you want to share what is on your phone with “the man.”

If you see the blue lights, just hold the power button and shut down your phone.

Android phones with unlocked bootloaders also pose a risk. Don’t think that even your local constable doesn’t have access to people just as savvy with Android as the folks you find at XDA. If your bootloader is unlocked, anyone can dump the software and all the data from your phone onto a computer without ever having to use the lock screen. With enough incentive, even an encrypted image that has a key to unlock it stored in the protected hardware of the original phone can be cracked. Chances are there’s not much incentive to go through this for a regular middle-aged dude like myself, but what if I had a random Twitter interaction with someone who is worth the trouble?

The internet connects the world, and that funny meme you liked on Facebook could have been posted by anyone. Facebook is obliged (rightfully so, in my opinion) to provide any and all publicly available data (the public part is important) about a user when the right warrant is served. If you liked a post from a person of interest, the people who want to know more about you don’t care that you claim to have a phone filled with texts from your friends and cat pictures — they want to see for themselves. Keeping the bootloader locked means it’s almost impossible for them to have a look, and they likely won’t even try.

I want the police to put people doing horrible crimes in prison where they can be rehabilitated, or at least be kept from doing more harm to society. Most of us aren’t one of those people, and getting arrested or detained for drag racing or having a tiny baggie of weed in your pocket or any other minor offense doesn’t make you Charles Manson or the Zodiac Killer. Neither does peacefully protesting against a government overstepping their bounds. We all have rights and a reasonable expectation of privacy. If the courts won’t decide to uphold our fourth and fifth amendment rights when it comes to what we have on our phones, then we should do everything we can to protect them ourselves.

I just want to share my data on my terms, and want the same for you.




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Is Amazon’s big tablet a worthy alternative to the might of the Apple iPad Air 2?

Both Amazon’s and Apple’s tablets have their own content ecosystems to go along with their hardware, so in some ways are very similar. The biggest difference, of course, is Amazon’s Fire HD 10 uses Android, while Apple remains the default choice for the casual consumer considering a tablet, since iOS has the App Store.

The question is, if you’re looking for a big tablet, is the Amazon Fire HD 10 a good buy, or does it fall short compared to the stalwart iPad Air 2?

Hardware

The Fire HD 10 starts at $229 in 16GB configuration with special offers and is available in white or black plastic or a silver aluminum finish. Other options include 32GB or 64GB of storage, and for an extra $15 you can take away the money-saving lock screen ads.

The iPad Air 2 starts at $399 in its base 32GB WiFi configuration, with all metal finishes and available in silver, gold or Space Gray. Not only does Apple offer a higher base storage but there’s a 128GB model available for $499. Both sizes of the iPad also offer an optional cellular version for an additional $120.

Storage is a more important consideration when buying an iPad versus buying a Fire tablet. While Apple’s tablet is sealed off and you get what you get, Amazon throws a microSD card slot on the Fire for expandable storage. So you can get away with buying a cheaper model and purchasing a low-cost memory card for your apps, games and media content if you wish.

Amazon has the price edge, but when it comes to all-round specs, there’s no denying Apple’s more expensive iPad Air 2has the Fire HD 10 on the ropes.

Amazon has the edge there, but when it comes to all-round specs, there’s no denying Apple’s more expensive iPad Air 2has the Fire HD 10 on the proverbial ropes.

The iPad Air 2 has a gorgeous 2048 x 1536 9.7-inch Retina Display, which is also great to use in portrait thanks to its 4:3 aspect ratio. By comparison, the Fire HD 10 has a rather lowly sounding 1280 x 800 resolution 10.1-inch display in a more common (for Android at least) 16:9 widescreen aspect ratio. This makes it perhaps better for watching videos, but more awkward to use in portrait mode. It’s disappointing, too, that it’s not even a Full HD display in a tablet that costs over $200.

It doesn’t stop at the display, either. Down to the processor, RAM, even the cameras, the iPad Air 2 is a higher-end, more sophisticated tablet. But while Apple wins on the hardware, there’s always more to it than that — otherwise, everyone would always buy an iPad.

Software

At this point in time it’s not worth debating Android vs iOS. If you have a strong preference towards either you’ve probably already made up your mind. The key thing to point out here is that while the Fire HD 10 runs Android, it’s not the same build you’d find on your phone or Samsung tablet. There’s no Google here, only Amazon and its customized Fire OS.

Fire OS is better now than it has ever been, but it’s still a big storefront for Amazon’s products and services. If you use Amazon stuff, that’s probably why you’d even consider a Fire tablet and you’ll probably be OK with it. Fire OS is easy to navigate and isn’t a huge departure from the principles of ‘regular’ Android. But because there’s no Google, there’s no Play Store, which means using the Amazon Appstore for your apps and games.

Amazon lets you add more storage. Apple does not.

That’s not as bad a thing as it used to be, but there are shortcomings in the availability of some apps and how often they’re updated over their Play Store compatriots. By contrast, the iOS App Store has pretty much everything you could want, including Google and Amazon services.

The Amazon Prime Video and Kindle experience on the Fire HD 10 is still best, though, even if you can get it on the iPad. With being able to save offline video from Prime to a microSD card on the Fire HD 10, you’ve got a big advantage over the limited storage on the iPad, unless you stump for the 128GB option.

What’s also better on the Fire HD 10 is the specialized mode for your kids. With Freetime (or Kids Unlimited depending where you are) for a small fee you can create a locked, curated area of the Fire HD 10 for your little ones. It gives them targeted content to enjoy without you worrying about your credit card being used to buy a laptop on Amazon.

Voice Assistants

Finally, we have the voice assistants: Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri. The latter has been around much longer but the former is arguably more refined and more useful. Alexa isn’t just confined to the Fire tablets. You’ll also find it on the Amazon Echo, the Fire TV and even third-party products now such as the Huawei Mate 9 and the Android-based CoWatch. It’s an AI assistant that can play you music, tell you the weather, control your smartphone, hail you an Uber and so much more.

Siri has long felt underwhelming and been the butt of many a joke over the years. Apple hasn’t done nearly as much with Siri as Amazon has with Alexa in a much shorter time, and there’s no surprises which one would get our vote.

The conclusion here is something of an odd one. The iPad Air 2 is a better tablet if you treat it on face value. It’s nicer, more powerful hardware with all the apps you’ll ever want, a gorgeous screen and access to all the Amazon content, too. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy one.

For once, the better tablet isn’t necessarily the one to buy

For starters, it’s $170 more expensive than the cheapest Fire HD 10, and that’s a lot of money. It’s almost a second Fire HD 10. It’s a significant saving, with compromises which aren’t enough to recommend folks stay away from it. The display is disappointing, but not horrible, you’ve got the space for tons of storage and if you’re a heavy media consumer or Amazon user, it’s a no-brainer.

The iPad Air 2 excels in areas that you might not even be bothered about using a tablet for. It’ll be better for playing high-end graphically intense games and many folks use them for light work. But is that enough to make you spend that $170 more? For once, the technically better tablet isn’t really the one to buy.

See Fire HD 10 at Amazon See iPad Air 2 at Apple




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Unable to decide between the OnePlus 3 and the newer OnePlus 3T? We’re here to help.

OnePlus moved away from its usual summer release window last year by unveiling the OnePlus 3T in November — five months after the launch of the OnePlus 3. The OnePlus 3T is a mid-cycle refresh, offering a slightly faster SoC, 128GB storage option, larger battery, and a new front camera, accompanied by a minor price bump to the tune of $40.

OnePlus has since discontinued the older OnePlus 3 in most markets, and is now selling just the 3T. However, that isn’t the case in India, where both the OnePlus 3 and 3T are up for sale on Amazon, OnePlus’ exclusive sales partner in the country.

The OnePlus 3 is available for its launch price of ₹27,999 ($410), with the newer OnePlus 3T debuting for ₹29,999 ($440). The OnePlus 3 is sold in Graphite and Soft Gold color options, and the OnePlus 3T is available in a Gunmetal variant along with the Soft Gold option. Below are the major differences.

Category OnePlus 3T OnePlus 3
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Quad-core 2.35 GHz
Adreno 530 GPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 820
Quad-core 2.2 GHz
Adreno 530 GPU
Storage 64/128GB 64GB
Front Camera 16MP 3P8SP, 1-micron pixels
f/2.0, fixed focus
1080p video
8MP IMX179, 1.4-micron pixels
f/2.0, fixed focus
1080p video
Battery 3400 mAh
Non-removable
3000 mAh
Non-removable
Colors Gunmetal
Soft gold
Silver
Soft gold
Price $439 (64GB)
$479 (128GB)
$399 (64GB)

Newer hardware, same software

Visually, the OnePlus 3T is identical to the OnePlus 3. The OnePlus 3 didn’t break new ground with its minimalist aluminum design, but it set the bar for other mid-range phones thanks to its execution.

The craftsmanship and premium design made the OnePlus 3 stand out in this segment, and the same holds true for the OnePlus 3T. If anything, the gunmetal color option makes the phone look even more gorgeous.

Along with hardware similarities, both phones are on the same update cadence, and run the same version of OxygenOS. Both devices have picked up the Nougat update, and the user interface is clean and devoid of any bloat.

You do get a lot of customizability in the form of gestures, a system-wide dark mode, and other additions, but for the most part, OxygenOS is uncluttered and a lot of fun to use.

Similar camera, larger battery

The back camera is the same on both the OnePlus 3 and 3T, but it’s the front camera where you’ll notice a difference between the two devices. The OnePlus 3T has a 16MP sensor up front, an upgrade from the 8MP unit on the OnePlus 3. Photos from the rear camera are identical on both devices, and although the front camera is of a higher resolution on the OnePlus 3T, it doesn’t lead to better photos.

OnePlus 3 on the left, OnePlus 3T on the right.

The 3400mAh battery on the OnePlus 3T is 13% larger than the 3000mAh unit on the OnePlus 3, and it makes a difference in day-to-day usage. There were times when the battery life on the OnePlus 3 was flaky, but the OnePlus 3T lasted a day consistently without fail.

In situations where you need to top up the phone quickly, you can turn to Dash Charge. OnePlus’s proprietary charging tech is amazing, offering ridiculously-fast charging times. The only drawback is that you need to carry the OnePlus charger to use it.

Dash Charge offloads a bulk of the charging circuitry to the charger, and as a result you won’t get lightning-quick charging speeds without it. That said, you can it to rejuvenate your other devices around the house, since it’s backwards compatible with regular USB charging standards.

Which should you buy? OnePlus 3T

If you’re looking to buy a OnePlus phone, it’s an easy choice: just get the OnePlus 3T. The OnePlus 3 turned out to be one of the best mid-range phones of 2016, and the updates to the OnePlus 3T make it an even more compelling device.

For under ₹30,000, there isn’t a handset available today that offers as much as the OnePlus 3T. The 128GB variant is costlier at ₹34,999, and if you’re one to store a lot of media locally, the higher-storage variant is a better option considering the phone doesn’t have a microSD slot. Either way, you’re buying the best mid-range phone available in the market today.

See at Amazon




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