The Tech News Blog

September 1, 2014

Celebs Hacked, Nude Pics Posted Online

Security Password Hack Those of you who were perusing the Web on Sunday likely noticed an influx of chatter about Jennifer Lawrence and other young celebrities. The reason? A hacker dropped dozens of nude images of the Oscar-winning actress and other stars online.

The leak appears to have originated on 4chan and quickly made the rounds on Reddit, Twitter, Imgur, and other corners of the Web. Reps for some of the celebs have confirmed their authenticity, while others say the photos are fake.

How did the hacker obtain all these images? There have been reports that a hack of Apple's iCloud is to blame, though Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

As noted by Engadget, a bug within Find My iPhone was revealed just one day before the photo leak. Apparently, the service did not use bruteforce protection, allowing hackers to guess different passwords without being locked out.

"If this was the flaw used, the hackers would have needed email addresses of celebrities," Engadget pointed out. "But, it's possible that only one address is needed, allowing to search inboxes for those of others in a domino effect."

Ultimately, the so-called iBrute bug was patched shortly before the leak.

With iCloud, photos snapped on an iOS device can be backed up to the cloud, other iOS devices, or your PC via Photo Stream.

"When you turn on My Photo Stream on your devices, all new photos you take or import to those devices will automatically push to your photo stream," according to Apple. "New photos that you take automatically upload to your photo stream when you leave the Camera app and connect to Wi-Fi. My Photo Stream doesn't push photos over cellular connections."

To see if you have Photo Stream enabled on your iOS devices, navigate to Settings > iCloud > Photos. There, you can select whether you want My Photo Stream and Photo Sharing to be turned on or off.

If you don't want to shut off Photo Stream, you can activate two-factor authentication, which Apple rolled out last year. The optional feature requires users to verify their identities beyond providing their passwords when: signing in to an Apple ID to manage an account; buying something on iTunes, the App Store, or iBooks; or getting Apple ID-related support from Apple.

Apple Two-Factor

For more, check out Two-Factor Authentication: Who Has It and How to Set It Up.

The individual or group behind the celeb leaks could face some serious time behind bars if uncovered. In 2012, a Florida man was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for hacking into email accounts belonging to actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis, singer Christina Aguilera, and other celebrities.

September 1, 2014

Report: Apple Strikes Deal with American Express for iPhone 6 Mobile Paymens

Credit Cards

The Apple rumor mill continues as we get closer and closer to the company's September 9 event.

According to unnamed sources speaking to Recode, Apple has allegedly finalized a deal with American Express—just one of the partners Apple has to work with in order to launch a rumored new mobile payments platform. The end goal is to allow iPhone 6 owners to pay for goods and services using their phones, eliminating the need for credit cards, debit cards, or cash at certain retailers.

Of course, that does depend on which payment services Apple has signed up. It's also unclear just which retailers have agreed to participate in Apple's plans—we presume they would need some kind of technology to be able to extract the payment information from one's smartphone.

Nevertheless, that's another major partnership that Apple has brought on board. The Information previously reported that Apple has been successful in courting Visa as well. And it's widely rumored, though not confirmed, that Apple will indeed use NFC as the basis for its mobile payments. We can only presume that, somehow, Apple will also make use of a fingerprint verification system built into the phone itself for said payments—assuming Apple is continuing to employ Touch ID in the next iteration of iPhones.

It's certainly possible that Apple might scuttle the entire feature for its big September 9 reveal—or perhaps postpone its announcement until more partners have signed on board.

Still, it's been speculated that Apple has been very interested in somehow getting more use out of the millions of credit card records it currently has stored as a result of its customers' iTunes accounts. Allowing its iPhone owners to make use of that data in new and interesting ways seems like a natural evolution.

More importantly, having both Google and Apple finally playing in the same mobile payments space might bring some much-needed competition and attract the interest of even more retailers. For phone owners, that's a good thing—especially if you dream of a wallet-free future.

September 1, 2014

Report: Apple Pondering $400 Price Point for ‘iWatch’

Apple Sept. 9 Invite So, given the latest reports from 9to5Mac about Apple's aggressive public relations efforts, are the recent reports of the company's potential price for its new wearable true? False? A way to gauge consumer interest and backlash before Apple unveils the real price, if it even plans to do that at its upcoming September 9 event?

We'll leave that for you to decide. Right now, Recode is reporting that Apple is allegedly considering a $400 price for its to-be-revealed wearable (hereafter called the iWatch, even though that might not actually be the device's name). That's not the end-all, be-all price, however. Multiple versions of the device will allegedly cost "a range of prices," with some coming in under the $400 mark—if that ends up being the final price for one iteration of said iWatch.

Does that sound tentative? Yes. According to said sources, the price hasn't been finalized. There's no indication that it will even be finalized for the September 9 event where many presume Apple will be showing off its iWatch for the first time. And, as reports have recently suggested, there's no indication that Apple will even be able to start shipping the iWatch at any point this year. Those looking to get a first crack at the new wearable might have to wait until early 2015 to get their hands on one.

Nevertheless, if the $400 price point is true, that will be quite a bit higher than anything offered within Google's competing Android Wear smartwatches at this point. Will that ultimately matter? It remains to be seen—Apple has never been one to shy away from pricing its devices at what it feels makes the most sense, and its anxious fans aren't always that apprehensive about plunking down for new Apple products.

As for how Apple might differentiate between its various iWatch versions, that's anyone's guess at this point. It's been speculated that Apple might consider offering iWatches with different screen sizes, but there's only so much one can shave (or add to) a smartwatch before it becomes, well, less of a watch. In this case, Apple has to deal with fashion and form—a bit different of a beast than simply deciding to release two different sizes of a tablet, or laptop, or what-have-you.

And, as we mentioned up top, news of Apple pondering a $400 price point for its iWatch could all just be a clever ruse from the company to gauge interest (or hatred) as it works to finalize these details. That's Apple's PR machine for you—just one part of the company that's likely working a bit of overtime from now until early September.

August 30, 2014

Tablet Forecast Sinks Amidst Device Competition

How We Test Tablets

Amidst slower demand, IDC has lowered its tablet forecast for 2014, blaming declining laptop prices, increased interest in wearables and smartphones, and existing tablet owners keeping their devices for longer than usual.

IDC now expects global tablet sales to hit 233.1 million units in 2014, down from the 245.4 million it projected in May and an initial 260.9 estimate earlier this year.

"When we look at the global picture, it would be easy to say that the tablet market is slowing down," Jean Philippe Bouchard, IDC research director for tablets, said in a statement.

But it's not all bad. "When we start digging into the regional dynamics, we realize that there is still a good appetite for this product category," Bouchard said. "While mature markets like North America and Western Europe will combine for flat unit growth in 2014, the remaining regional markets will generate 12 percent unit growth over the same period."

IDC is projecting that tablet and 2-in-1 growth in North America and Western Europe will be up 4 percent by 2018. Tablets sold in the rest of the world, however, will drop from 12 percent to just around 5 percent.

If this sounds like a familiar story, it's because it is: the same kind of an interplay between mature and emerging markets exists in the smartphone space, as well. As IDC noted in Thursday data, mature markets are expected to enjoy a year-to-year growth rate of just under 5 percent for 2014. Emerging markets, by the very nature of their name, are expected to grow just shy of 32.5 percent year to year.

"The smartphone market, which has experienced runaway growth over the last several years, is starting to slow. Mature markets have slowed considerably but still deliver strong revenues with average selling prices (ASPs) over US$400. Meanwhile, many emerging markets are still barreling along, but with ASPs of less than US$250," said Ramon Llamas, IDC Research Manager.

"The key for vendors now is to maintain a presence in the higher-margin mature markets, while establishing a sustainable presence within the fast-growing emerging markets," he said. "To enable this strategy, operating system companies are partnering with OEMs to provide low-cost handsets."

By 2018, IDC projects year-to-year smartphone growth to drop to 8.3 percent for emerging markets and 2.7 percent for mature markets.

August 28, 2014

Apple Sends Invites for Sept. 9 Event

Apple Sept. 9 Invite Apple on Thursday sent out invitations for a Sept. 9 event that is expected to include the launch of new iPhones and possibly the long-rumored iWatch.

"Please join Apple on September 9 for a special event," the invite says. "Wish we could say more."

As that message suggests, few other details were made available. The event information appears atop the traditional silver Apple logo, a bit of a change from last year's colorful invite, which hinted at Apple's multi-color iPhone 5c lineup. Things kick off at 10 a.m. PT in Cupertino.

Apple is widely expected to launch its next-gen iPhones next month. Rumor has it that Cupertino will release a 4.7-inch iPhone, as well as a 5.5-inch phablet for the first time. Though Apple chief Tim Cook has expressed doubts about phablets in the past, there's no question that phones with larger screens are all the rage at the moment. In some cases, they have eaten into small tablet market share as consumers look to save money and purchase just one device.

Whether Apple is finally ready to increase its phone sizes from 3.5 and 4 inches to 4.7 and 5.5 inches will be revealed on Sept. 9.

And while Apple's September events have largely focused on the iPhone in recent years, Re/Code this week reported that the Sept. 9 event will also include the launch of a new wearable - likely the iWatch.

The site, which also correctly predicted that Apple would hold its iPhone event on Sept. 9, said that Apple's wearable will tap into its new HealthKit and HomeKit e-health and home automation efforts.

New iPads are not expected to be revealed at the Sept. 9 event. For the past two years, Apple has held separate events in October to announce refreshes to its tablet lineup.

August 27, 2014

Report: iWatch Expected at Sept. 9 iPhone Event

iWatch Concept Apple is rumored to be hosting a Sept. 9 press event to show off its new iPhones, but a new report says that the iWatch will also makes it debut next month.

According to Re/code, Apple will "unveil a new wearable" at the Sept. 9 event alongside two new iPhones, which many believe will sport 4.7-inch and 5.5-inch displays.

Re/code did not specify that the device is indeed the iWatch, but said that the wearable will tap into Apple HealthKit and HomeKit, the e-health and connected home offerings Apple showed off at WWDC.

Re/code was also the one to report the Sept. 9 date. The staff, which was previously at All Things D, has a good track record when it comes to rumors about Apple events, so it's likely that a wearable is indeed on the agenda.

Of course, invites have yet to go out. They typically arrive about a week ahead of event, though, so be on the lookout next week.

Rumors about the iWatch, meanwhile, have been making the rounds for about two years. Last year, Apple CEO Tim Cook said at the D11 conference that wearables were "incredibly interesting," but didn't divulge Apple's plans, of course.

But the company has been snapping up executives with backgrounds in fashion, fitness gadgets, and watches - from Tag Heuer senior executive Patrick Pruniaux and Nike Fuel Band design director Ben Shaffer to retail chief Angela Ahrendts, who was previously at Burberry.

August 27, 2014

HP Recalls PC Power Cords Over Fire Risk

HP Power Cord Recall Hewlett-Packard is recalling millions of power cords and AC adapters amidst concerns about overheating and fires.

The recall, announced Tuesday, affects certain AC power cords distributed worldwide with HP and Compaq notebook and mini notebook computers, as well as AC adapters provided with accessories like docking stations between September 2010 and June 2012.

"HP believes that certain power cords shipped with notebook PC products and AC adapter accessories may pose a risk of a fire and burn hazard to customers," the company said in a statement. "We are taking this action as part of our commitment to provide the highest quality of service to our notebook customers."

HP Power Cord RecallIf your device is affected, HP will provide a free replacement.

Power cords at risk have "LS-15" on the adapter end of the power cord, though HP said that not all LS-15 power cords are affected. According to Bloomberg, the recall affects 6 million power cords.

Customers can call HP toll-free at (877) 219-6676 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. MT Monday through Friday or fill out their information online to get a replacement.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, HP received 29 reports of power cords overheating and melting or charring. It has also had two claims of minor burns and 13 claims of minor property damage.

The move comes about nine months after the HP Chromebook 11 was recalled over concerns about overheating and melting chargers.

August 27, 2014

Dropbox Offers 1TB Pro Account for Just $10 Per Month

Dropbox Tips

Dropbox is giving Pro users more storage for less money.

The cloud storage company on Wednesday announced it is consolidating its three Pro offerings into one new plan with 1TB of space for $10 a month. Previously, a $10 monthly Dropbox Pro subscription came with just 100GB of storage. Users had to pay $50 a month for 500GB, or half the amount you'll now get for $10.

"Whether you're a professor sending out your lesson plans, a musician creating and sharing your new composition, or a consultant writing and refining a proposal, Dropbox Pro provides a home for your passion and creativity," Dropbox said in a blog post Wednesday.

Current Dropbox Pro users will be upgraded to the new plan automatically in the next couple days, so there's no need to do anything. Those without an account can head to Dropbox's website to sign up. The company also still offers 2GB of space for free, and a $15 monthly Business plan with centralized admin controls.

August 27, 2014

AT&T CEO Pick Shows It’s Looking Beyond Phones

AT&T Logo Building

AT&T Mobility's new CEO, Glenn Lurie, has been ahead of the curve for quite some time.

When Verizon Wireless reportedly balked at Apple's pricing terms, Lurie helped cut a deal: his company Cingular (now AT&T) traded Apple's control of the iPhone experience for a five-year U.S. exclusive on every future iPhone model.

With the iPhone cemented as the foundation of AT&T's smartphone success, Lurie then moved on to head AT&T's "emerging devices" unit - basically, everything except phones. Since his appointment in 2008, AT&T has become the leader in connecting random things to its network - and not just the obvious cars and tablets. Lurie's division has helped bring us connected pill bottles, connected luggage, and connected golf swing monitors.

That makes him perfect to lead a company into the post-smartphone era.

August 27, 2014

Time Warner Cable Hit With Early Morning Internet Outage

Comcast Time Warner CableTime Warner Cable customers looking to get an early jump on the day - or check the Web before bed - were instead met with a nationwide Internet outage.

Customers around the country - from Hawaii to New York - started reporting Internet connectivity issues around 5:30 a.m. ET. By 7 a.m., Time Warner Cable tweeted that it was "working to restore services to all areas as quickly as possible," but did not have an estimate on when service would be restored and said that tweets would be delayed while the problem was fixed.

By 9:30 a.m., the company was tweeting that service had been restored. "During our routine network maintenance, an issue with our Internet backbone created disruption with our Internet and On Demand services," the company said without elaborating.

Some users in Wisconsin, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, however, reported that their Internet was still out. TWC responded with an apology and said it was working to restore service.