The Tech News Blog

December 4, 2014

Apple Poised for ‘Record Quarter’ Thanks to iPhone 6

iPhone 6 Review

The iPhone 6 is a huge seller, obviously. But just how successful might surprise you.

According to new smartphone sales data from Kantar Worldpanel ComTech, Apple is on track for a "record quarter" thanks to strong sales of its iPhone 6. In the three months ending in October 2014, the Cupertino tech giant experienced a "huge jump" in sales across all major markets thanks to the launch of its latest handsets, Dominic Sunnebo, strategic insight director at Kantar, said in a statement.

"In major European economies, the U.S. and Australia, Apple's share of sales has risen," Sunnebo said. "This success is particularly evident in Great Britain, where Apple now has its highest ever share of sales with 39.5 percent. Most of these sales were driven by loyal Apple users. Some 86 percent of British buyers upgraded from an older iPhone model, only 5 percent switched across from Samsung."

December 3, 2014

Apple Patent Could Prevent Cracked iPhones

Apple patentWe all know that feeling of panic when a smartphone - seemingly in slow motion - topples to the ground. Is it cracked? Will I need to spend hundreds of dollars on a replacement, or risk glass scratches until my contract runs out?

These are real concerns for those of us with gorgeous but fragile smartphones, including the iPhone. But Apple might have a solution.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office this week awarded Apple a patent for a "protective mechanism for an electronic device," i.e. a gravity-defying handset with cat-like reflexes.

Thanks to an integrated motion sensor, the phone would detect when it is in freefall, then run rapid calculations to reposition itself in mid-air, landing in the safest way possible.

With an air of science fiction, the patent describes the phone's various sensors, including the accelerometer, GPS, gyroscopes, camera, and an as-yet-unreleased ultrasonic emitter, all working together to determine the iDevice's trajectory, spin, and angle of descent—in real time.

December 3, 2014

Say Farewell to Microsoft Clip Art

Bing Photo Search The days of inserting cartoonish images into PowerPoint presentations or Word documents are over: Microsoft has announced that its Clip Art and image library is closed.

Instead, users will have to use Bing Image Search to liven up reports and other files saved to a smartphone, tablet, or PC. Bing has a copyright filter that taps into Creative Commons licenses so you can make sure you are free to use the images that pop up.

"A link to the source of the image is provided, which you should use to review the source of the image and the applicable license to determine whether your use will comply with the license," Doug Thomas of the Office 365 Team wrote in a blog post.

For more images, the settings can be switched to show all Web results. "However, you are responsible for respecting others' rights, including copyright," Thomas added.

Last summer, Redmond switched on Bing's "Search by License" feature, which allows folks to identify those pictures they are allowed to borrow without fear of being sued. For instance, add some flourish to a birthday party invitation with designs of cakes by narrowing your search results to only those photos available for commercial use.

Previously, consumers had to rummage through image details to verify licensing information. Now Bing delivers only the type of images you want.

There are options to search for photos available for commercial use, or those that you can modify and still use commercially. If you become overwhelmed by the options, just click "Learn More" for details about each licensing filter.

The perk of searching for Bing-based images from any Office application isn't exactly new: Microsoft added it last year to its latest version of Office 2013. Until this week, however, users still had access to Clip Art drawings.

December 2, 2014

Xbox Live Down, Hackers Take Credit

Xbox Live

Hackers belonging to the "Lizard Squad" claimed to have taken down Xbox Live on Monday evening, apparently by means of a DDOS attack.

The hacking group, which Attack of the Fanboy noted has been targeting gaming servers for several months, tweeted a short message at 8:37 p.m. Eastern celebrating their latest exploit: "Xbox Live #offline."

Gamers have confirmed intermittent Xbox Live service outages with numerous tweets complaining about not being able to sign into Microsoft's network and wondering when the issue will be fixed.

PCMag tried logging into Xbox Live from an Xbox 360 in Northern California at around 10 p.m. Eastern and had no success.

Microsoft did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Official Xbox blogger Larry Hyrb, a.k.a. Major Nelson, hadn't weighed in on the issue as of late Monday evening.

The Lizard Squad had previously attacked and taken down Sony's PlayStation Network as well as servers for Destiny and "several EA games," according to Attack of the Fanboy.

The site also reported that the hacking group has made some noise about launching a series of such attacks this holiday season.

"The Lizard Squad taking down Xbox Live was a 'Christmas Present' to Microsoft, the group said. They threatened this is just preparation for more things to come during the lead up to Christmas," Attack of the Fanboy reported.

December 1, 2014

Sony Pictures Hacked by…North Korea?

Sony's The Interview

A hack of the computer network at Sony Pictures may have been retaliation for one of the studio's upcoming films, according to a new report.

As first reported by Re/code, the entertainment group is investigating the possibility that North Korean hackers may be to blame for Sony's company-wide computer outage.

The attack came a month before Sony Pictures is expected to release The Interview—the James Franco-Seth Rogan comedy depicting a CIA plot to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un.

Last week, Sony employees were met with an ominous skeleton image on their PCs, from a group called #GOP (Guardians of Peace), alongside a message threatening to release "top secret" data if undisclosed demands were not met. The group leaked a large ZIP file with two lists, detailing the extent of the doxxing.

November 28, 2014

Best Buy Website Hit by Black Friday Outage

Generic Black Friday-Best Buy

The IT guy at Best Buy is probably not having a very good day.

On Friday morning, went offline and displayed a "We're Sorry, currently unavailable. Check back soon" notice. Website outages do happen, of course, but today is Black Friday, typically one of the busiest shopping days of the year, so any downtime likely means millions down the toilet.

As of press time, the site had been down for at least 30 minutes. On the @BestBuySupport Twitter feed, the account frantically tweeted a message at people discussing the outage: "We are aware of this issue and working to correct it asap. Please check back in a few minutes."

As the outage downtime grew longer, however, Best Buy started urging customers to "check back later" rather than "in a few minutes."

Best Buy Black Friday OutageBest Buy shoppers on Twitter reported being in the process of checking out when the outage hit. Some tried calling customer service, but that is unsurprisingly jammed at the moment.

Last year, Best Buy's holiday revenue was down slightly compared to 2012. In January, Hubert Joly, Best Buy president and CEO, said that those revenues were negatively impacted by aggressive Black Friday campaigns from rivals, supply constraints for key products, a decline in store traffic as the holiday season went on, and a disappointing mobile market.

This is not the first Black Friday gaffe for the company, though. In 2011, the store failed to deliver online orders made in November and December, including some Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday deals, in time for holiday gift-giving.

UPDATE: Best Buy tweeted around 11:30 a.m. ET that its site was back online, after approximately 1.5 hours offline.

November 27, 2014

Report: Yahoo, Bing Vie to Replace Google on Safari

Safari Tips

The term "Google" has become synonymous with search, but Apple users may soon have to readjust and "Yahoo" or "Bing" a query.

While Google serves as the Safari browser's default search engine, the companies' agreement is reportedly set to expire next year, making way for Cupertino to choose a new partner.

And according to The Information (via Ars Technica), Microsoft (maker of Bing) and Yahoo are already in talks with Apple Internet Software and Services Senior Vice President Eddy Cue.

Upstart engine DuckDuckGo is also reportedly on the short list.

Yahoo recently announced that it will replace Google as Mozilla's default search engine for Firefox. And CEO Marissa Mayer has made it clear in the past that she wants to usurp Google as Apple's iOS search default.

Google declined to comment on the reports; Yahoo, Microsoft, and Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

November 25, 2014

iPad Slump Signals ‘Massive Deceleration’ in Tablet Shipments

How We Test Tablets

The worldwide tablet market is poised for a "massive deceleration" in 2014 as iPad shipments continue to decline, according to a new forecast from IDC.

The analyst firm on Tuesday predicted that tablet shipments will increase just 7.2 percent this year to 235.7 million units, compared to 52.5 percent growth last year. The main reason for the decline? A slowdown in iPad demand.

In fact, 2014 is expected to mark the first full year of decline in iPad shipments. However, the iPad and overall market slowdown doesn't come as too much of a surprise as tablet lifecycles have continued to lengthen, IDC said.

"In the early stages of the tablet market, device lifecycles were expected to resemble those of smartphones, with replacement occurring every 2 to 3 years," Ryan Reith, program director with IDC's Worldwide Quarterly Mobile Device Trackers, said in a statement. "What has played out instead is that many tablet owners are holding onto their devices for more than 3 years and in some instances more than 4 years. We believe the two major drivers for longer than expected tablet lifecycles are legacy software support for older products, especially within iOS, and the increased use of smartphones for a variety of computing tasks."

November 22, 2014

Report: Sony Ditches Steve Jobs Movie

Steve JobsIt seems like there's some major change regarding the Sony-backed Steve Jobs bio-pic every week. If it's not someone dropping out of playing the late, iconic Apple co-founder, then it's rumors about who could be Jobs incarnate (or Woz).

In this case, however, the news is that Sony Pictures is dropping the movie entirely. Oops. But it seems as though the film has been kind of a mess ever since Sony bought the rights to Walter Isaacson's best-selling biography in 2011.

According to the rumors, David Fincher was first planning to direct it, with Christian Bale as Jobs. But when Fincher dropped out, so did Bale. Attention then turned to Leonardo DiCaprio, but when he too bowed out, Bale's name re-appeared on the casting shortlist, and the Oscar-winning actor officially signed on. But he apparently had (another) change of heart and left the project.

November 20, 2014

Apple Swaps ‘Free’ for ‘Get’ in App Store

Apple 'Get' Apple is falling in line with the European Commission's request that app sellers do more to stop inadvertent in-app purchases.

Following Google's lead, Cupertino has removed all instances of the word "free" within its iOS and Mac app stores (with the exception of its own apps, like iMovie), and replaced them with the term "Get."

The new label clarifies what users can expect when downloading an app. Apps previously labeled as "Free" will now have a "Get" label. If those apps include in-app purchases, a small gray "In-App Purchase" label will appear below the "Get" button.

The move comes several months after the European Union chastised Apple for not moving quickly enough to stop inadvertent in-app purchases. At the time, the EU said Google had committed to removing the word "Free" from games that include in-app purchases by September, providing targeted guidelines for developers so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions, and requiring a password before every in-app purchase unless the consumer opts out.

"Get" in iOSThat first commitment is now live. Though it was requested by EU officials, Re/code said Apple confirmed the "Get" rollout is happening worldwide.

Google took a similar approach this fall, removing the word "free" from all games that contain in-app purchases. It has also provided targeted guidelines for developers, so they can avoid encouraging children to make micro-transactions.

Both companies require users to enter passwords when making purchases or downloading new apps from their app stores.

The EU, however, called out Apple's 15-minute window once the password is entered, saying that "should not remain the default setting in the future."

In the U.S., Apple in January agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to customers in an FTC settlement over unauthorized in-app purchases made my children.

Google made a similar deal with the FTC in September, agreeing to refund up to $19 million to customers. Google was sued in March by a California woman whose children made about $66 worth of in-app purchases over the course of 30 minutes.

Amazon, meanwhile, was sued by the Federal Trade Commission in July over accidental in-app purchases. The agency also asked that Amazon forfeit any money made from those unauthorized purchases.