The Tech News Blog

September 10, 2014

Farewell Apple iPod classic, We Audiophiles Will Miss You

iPod Classic

It's finally official: After almost 13 years on the market, and four years without changes, Apple has quietly discontinued its iconic iPod classic, removing it from the online store. The first model, introduced on Oct. 23, 2001, was a revelation when it launched, albeit an expensive one ($399!). It was super easy to use and gave you access to a then-unheard-of 5GB of music.

Later editions were less expensive and offered more storage. The iPod line eventually spelled doom for not just the millions of cassette and CD-based portable music players that proceeded it, but pretty much all other MP3 players available on the market as well, including the six that were available before the iPod launched. (Anyone remember the Diamond Rio?)

This isn't an obituary for the entire line, since you can still buy iPods. The app-supporting iPod touch will likely be available for some time to come, and the familiar, clip-on iPod Shuffle and larger iPod nano both ride on for now. But in a world where the smartphone does more and more of what used to require separate devices—rendering entire categories of products like camcorders, point-and-shoot cameras, voice recorders, personal digital assistants, and others, obsolete—it's only natural that there eventually wouldn't be enough demand for a dedicated, high-end MP3 player.

September 9, 2014

$349 Apple Watch Coming in 2015

Apple Watch

The device will start at $349, but it won't arrive until early 2015. You can choose from three versions, which have different bands: Apple Watch, Apple Watch Sport, and Apple Watch Edition.

The watch requires that you be connected to an iPhone. Apple Watch will work with the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, but also the iPhone 5, 5c, and 5s. To charge it, a circular, magnetic charger snaps into the back of the watch face.

There's a touch screen like most smartwatches, but Apple added a dial - known as the crown - that can be used to zoom in and out.

Press the digital crown to tap into Siri and ask questions. During an on-stage demo, Apple exec Kevin Lynch asked about movies nearby, and list appeared with film art.

The watch activates the display when you raise your wrist, and apps appear in a sort-of cloud bubble.

Apple Watch includes haptic feedback so you'll feel a slight pulse when you get a notification; like someone tapping you on the wrist, Apple said. But lest you fear that your Apple Watch will be shocking you, Apple said it's subtle enough that the person sitting next to you won't notice it.

September 9, 2014

Apple Goes Big With iPhone 6, 6 Plus

iPhone 6 PlusAs expected, Apple today unveiled two new iPhones, the 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and 5.5-inch iPhone 6 Plus.

Both devices will arrive on Sept. 19, but Apple will start accepting pre-orders this Friday, Sept. 12. They will come in gold, silver, and space gray.

The iPhone 6 will cost $199 for the 16GB device, but Apple has bumped up the storage on the $299 version to 64GB, while you can get a 128GB iPhone 6 for $399. The iPhone 6 Plus, meanwhile, will be $100 more at $299 (16GB), $399 (64GB) or $499 (128GB).

The iPhone 5c will now be free, while the iPhone 5s will be $99.

The iPhone 6 display sports 1 million pixels, while its larger counterpart has 2 million, Apple's Phil Schiller said. That's 38 percent more pixels than the 5s on the iPhone 6 and 185 percent more on the 6 Plus.

Still, both new phones are slimmer than their predecessor at 6.9mm on the iPhone 6 and 7.1mm on the iPhone 6 Plus - down from 7.6mm on the 5s.

September 8, 2014

Amazon Fire Phone Now Only 99 Cents

Amazon Fire Phone

Amazon's Fire Phone didn't quite reach the fever pitch the e-retailer hoped, and now the two-month-old handset is available for a fire-sale price of 99 cents.

That's right: You can go online or walk into an AT&T store with $1, and walk out with a 12-month Prime membership and a new 32GB phone (plus two-year contract).

The deal includes unlimited cloud storage, as well as the exclusive Dynamic Perspective, Firefly, and Mayday features that launched alongside the device in June.

Mayday's live customer support option also exists on the Kindle Fire HDX tablet. Identification service Firefly and 3D component Dynamic Perspective, however, are new to the Fire Phone, which arrived this summer. Amazon launched SDKs for the latter two, hoping to gain developer interest, as well.

But those bells and whistles weren't enough to set Amazon's offering apart from rivals like Apple and Samsung.

September 8, 2014

Twitter Officially Testing ‘Buy’ Button

Twitter 'Buy Now' Twitter today confirmed that it is testing a "Buy Now" button with a "small percentage of U.S. users."

First spotted in July, a larger number of people on iOS and Android will begin seeing tweets with the option to buy products directly from their timeline, some of which are exclusive to Twitter.

Initial partners include Fancy, Gumroad, Musictoday, and Stripe, with more slated to join soon. Twitter's test also includes a handful of artists, brands, and charities peddling their products: Brad Paisley, Burberry, Demi Lovato, DonorsChoose, GLAAD, The Home Depot, Pharrell, (RED), Ryan Adams, 9/11 Day, and more.

"This is an early step in our building functionality into Twitter to make shopping from mobile devices convenient and easy, hopefully even fun," Twitter's group product manager Tarun Jain wrote in a blog post.

September 4, 2014

Microsoft Tips New Version of Windows Phone, Lumia Denim

Lumia 830 BERLIN—Microsoft might license its Windows Phone OS to third-party manufacturers, but it really only wants you to buy Lumia devices. How do I know? Look no further than the new Lumia Denim update for Windows Phone 8.1, which the company announced at IFA on Thursday.

Lumia Denim—a much catchier name than Windows Phone 8.1 Update 2—combines the latest Windows Phone 8.1 update with exclusive enhancements for Lumia smartphones, particularly in the camera department. But I'll get to that in a moment.

Microsoft has introduced a feature called "Hey Cortana," which is a more convenient, hands-free way to activate Cortana, Microsoft's Siri-like voice assistant. All you have to do is say "Hey Cortana" and your phone will automatically be listening for you, even when it's in an idle state. Cortana is rolling out to new markets, too, including China, the U.K., Australia, India, and Canada.

September 4, 2014

HP’s Chromebooks Get a Makeover

HP Envy X2 15 HP is doubling down on 2-in-1 designs and Chromebooks with a handful of new systems that offer portable functionality and colorful designs. That includes three tablets, the HP Envy X2 in 13- and 15-inch flavors, a new 10-inch Pavilion tablet, and fresh designs for HP's 11- and 14-inch Chromebooks.

HP Envy X2 Tablets
The new HP Envy X2 is HP's answer to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, with a tablet design paired with a cloth-covered keyboard cover that attaches with a minimalist magnetic latch. On the back of the tablet is a built-in kickstand, which allows the angle of the tablet to be adjusted. Close the kickstand entirely and fold back the cover for a pure tablet experience.

HP announced two new versions of the HP Envy X2: a 15-inch model and a smaller 13-inch model, called the Envy X2 15 and Envy X2 13, respectively. The two tablets have a sleek fanless design thanks to Intel's new Core M processors. We've seen these CPUs mentioned in several product announcements, but Intel won't be announcing details on the new chips for another day or two. The fanless design keeps the overall design of the tablet fairly seamless.

The 15-inch model boasts a larger display, four built-in speakers, and a 500GB hybrid drive, combining traditional hard drive storage with flash memory for better performance. The smaller Envy X2 13 has a smaller 13.3-inch display, two built-in speakers, and up to 256GB SSD. Both models feature full HD (1,920-by-1,080-pixel) resolution, and front-firing speakers for better sound.

The HP Envy X2 13 will be available in late October, with a starting price of $1,049.99, while the larger 15-inch Envy X2 15 will be available in early November, starting at $949.99.

HP Pavilion X2
Also on the tablet front is the new HP HP Pavilion X2 Pavilion X2, a 10-inch tablet powered by an Intel Atom processor, and promising up to 11.75 hours battery life. Like the Envy X2 13 and 15, the Pavilion X2 has a fabric-backed keyboard, but this design also integrates a flexible stand, which lets you prop up the tablet for a laptop-like experience without the need for an integrated kickstand.

When the keyboard cover is removed, the tablet weighs just 1.2 pounds, and measures only 0.4 inches thick. The tablet boasts a 10-inch IPS display, 5-finger touch capability, and DTS sound. It's outfitted with one full-sized USB port, a mini HDMI port, and microSD card slot. The tablet runs Windows 8.1 and comes with a complimentary one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

The HP Pavilion X2 will be available in late October, with a starting price of $329.99, which includes the keyboard cover.

Leaving behind the 2-in-1 concept, HP also announced two new Chromebooks, updating the popular HP Chromebook 11 and Chromebook 14 with updated designs, new color options, and a slight change in hardware.

HP Chromebook 14 (2014)The Chromebook 11 updates the existing HP Chromebook 11 with an Intel Celeron processor, longer battery life, and a colorful new look. The new 11-inch Chromebook comes in Snow White, Turquoise, and a glittering black called "Twinkle Black Sparkle." The new model measures 0.8 inches thick and weighs only 2.95 pounds.

The Chromebook 14 is an update to last year's Chromebook 14, which we did not review. The Chrome laptop comes in a rainbow of colors, including Smoke Silver, Sorbet Orange, Ocean Turquoise, and Neon Green. The real changes are inside, however, with an Nvidia Tegra K1 processor, which promises better graphics performance as well as improved performance overall. Later this fall, the 14-inch model will also be made available with a touch screen, a feature rarely seen on Chromebooks.

The HP Chromebook 11 will be available starting Oct. 5, and will sell for $279.99, with the HP Chromebook 14 available later that month for $299.99.

September 2, 2014

Apple: No iCloud, Find My iPhone Breach in Celeb Photo Hack

How to Back Up an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch Using iCloud Apple today said that the hack of celebrity photos did not include a breach of iCloud or Find My iPhone.

Instead, "certain celebrity accounts were compromised by a very targeted attack on user names, passwords, and security questions, a practice that has become all too common on the Internet," Apple said in a statement.

"None of the cases we have investigated has resulted from any breach in any of Apple's systems including iCloud or Find my iPhone," according to the company.

Cupertino said it came to this conclusion after "more than 40 hours of investigation," and is working with law enforcement officials to track down the hackers.

"When we learned of the theft, we were outraged and immediately mobilized Apple's engineers to discover the source," Apple said in its statement. "Our customers' privacy and security are of utmost importance to us."

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.