Google Partners With 27 Carriers, Device Makers to Roll Out RCS Messaging on Android Globally

Google has announced that the company has partnered with 27 carriers and device manufacturers available worldwide, who have now launched RCS (Rich Communications Services) for Android users with the search giant. Apart from the already existing partners (including Sprint, Rogers, and Telenor), the new names include Orange, Deutsche Telekom, and Globe. Mobile manufacturers who have also partnered with Google include Micromax and Lava.

Google Partners With 27 Carriers, Device Makers to Roll Out RCS Messaging on Android Globally

With this partnership in place, the carriers will now support RCS messaging powered by the Jibe RCS cloud from Google and will be preloading Android Messages (formerly called Messenger for Android) as the standard native messaging app for their subscribers. “We’re also announcing that the Vodafone Group RCS service is supporting Android Messages and has already launched across 10 markets for Vodafone subscribers globally,” the company said in its blog post.

To recall, RCS or Rich Communication Services is essentially a new standard for carrier-based messaging that would allow high-res photo sharing ability, group chats, and other capabilities that were not offered by the previous communication standard.

Google says that its partners have also committed to interconnecting through the Jibe RCS hub in order to ensure that RCS messages are delivered to subscribers across carrier networks. The company claims that it is now partnering with carriers representing more than 1 billion subscribers worldwide.

 The company says it is working with more mobile device manufacturers to make Android Messages the default messaging app for Android devices. “Mobile device brands LG, Motorola, Sony, HTC, ZTE, Micromax, HMD Global – Home of Nokia Phones, Archos, BQ, Cherry Mobile, Condor, Fly, General Mobile, Lanix, LeEco, Lava, Kyocera, MyPhone, QMobile, Symphony and Wiko, along with Pixel and Android One devices, will preload Android Messages as the default messaging app on their devices,” the search giant said in its post.

Even though RCS is not limited to Android in terms of technicality, if it does remain limited to Android, it will not be possible for it to successfully succeed SMS as conventional messaging standard, as pointed out in a report by Venture Beat.

Earlier this month, Google announced that it partnered with Telenor ASA to roll out RCS to the Norwegian telecoms company’s subscribers in Asia (including India) and Europe. Google acquired Jibe Mobile in October 2015 with the aim of deploying RCS for Android.

BlackBerry KEYone, the ‘Last Smartphone Designed by BlackBerry’, Launched at MWC 2017 for $549

 Ahead of the official commencement of MWC 2017, the BlackBerry KEYone – the “last phone designed and engineered in-house by BlackBerry” – was launched by the Canadian company. The new BlackBerry KEYone sports the physical keyboard that once made the company an icon, albeit with several major upgrades. BlackBerry’s latest smartphone becomes available beginning April 2017 and will be priced at $549 (roughly Rs. 38,600) in the US, GBP 499 (roughly Rs. 41,400) in the UK, and EUR 599 (roughly Rs. 42,100) in Europe. 

BlackBerry KEYone Keyboard

BlackBerry is touting KEYone’s Smart Keyboard, which has a fingerprint sensor on the spacebar as well as capacitive touch on the entire keyboard for scrolling. You can ‘Flick’ predictions using the BlackBerry KEYone keyboard, and also assign shortcuts to keys (such as press B for browser) for use with a press or a long-press.

BlackBerry KEYone Software Features

The new BlackBerry KEYone runs Android 7.1 Nougat software with the company’s numerous productivity and security optimisations on top, such as the BlackBerry Hub and DTEK security monitoring app.

 blackberry mercury ces 1485327102390 blackberry

BlackBerry KEYone Hardware Specifications

Coming to BlackBerry KEYone specifications, the smartphone sports a 4.5-inch full-HD (1620×1080 pixels) IPS display with a pixel density of 433ppi and Corning Gorilla Glass 4. The phone gets additional durability with its aluminium frame. The all-new BlackBerry KEYone is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 octa-core SoC clocked at 2GHz, coupled with 3GB of RAM and an Adreno 506 GPU.

As for the camera, BlackBerry KEYone bears a 12-megapixel rear camera with a Sony IMX378 sensor – the same acclaimed sensor as the one on the Google Pixel – that has 1.55-micron pixels. For imaging, this smartphone also bears an 8-megapixel front facing camera with a wide-angle lens and a flash module.

BlackBerry KEYone offers 32GB of inbuilt storage that is expandable via microSD card (up to 2TB). The new KEYone comes with standard set of connectivity options, including 4G LTE, Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth v4.2, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack, and a USB Type-C port. It runs on a 3505mAh battery that’s said to give all-day battery life and support QuickCharge 3.0 with a ‘Boost’ charging feature that gives 50 percent charge in “roughly 36 minutes.”

Announcing the KEYone, BlackBerry on its blog said, “KEYone pairs the best of BlackBerry software and security with TCL’s commitment to delivering high-quality, reliable smartphones to markets around the world. And we are very enthusiastic about how our long-term partnerships with TCL and our other partners, BB Merah Putih in Indonesia and Optiemus for the Indian sub-continent, will ensure availability of BlackBerry-branded smartphones to every corner of the world.”

Asus rolls out VoLTE support for Zenfone 3 series smartphones

Asus has announced the availability of VoLTE support for its Zenfone 3 Series smartphones. In a press release from the company, it is said that the update will be rolled out via a firmware OTA which is already available to users.

Read: Asus Zenfone 3s Max Review

The list of devices receiving the VoLTE updates has almost every Zenfone 3 series smartphone launched in 2016. The devices include:

Zenfone 3 Deluxe 5.7″ ZS570KL
Zenfone 3 5.2” ZE520KL
Zenfone 3 5.5” ZE552KL
Zenfone 3 Laser ZC551KL
Zenfone 3 Max 5.2″ ZC520TL
Zenfone 3 Max 5.5” ZC553KL
Zenfone 3S Max 5.2″ ZC521TL

Apart from these smartphone, Asus has also included some older Zenfones in the list. These include Zenfone Max ZC550KL, Zenfone 2 Laser ZE550KL, and Zenfone Go 5.0 LTE ZB500KL.

Asus has also confirmed that VoLTE update for Zenfone Selfie (ZD551KL) and Zenfone 3 Ultra (ZU680KL) will be available soon.

Latest Zenfone 3 series smartphone

Asus recently added Zenfone 3s Max to its line-up which comes with a 5000mAh in a compact form factor. The phone runs on Android 7.0 Nougat based ZenUI 3.0. It sports a 5.2-inch HD (720×1280 pixels) display and has 2.5D contoured edge. The smartphone runs on an MediaTek MT6750 octa-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz, stacked with 3GB of RAM and 32GB inbuilt storage.

Meet the huge 4K curved monitors that cost far less than you’d think

Do you fancy a big monitor? And we mean a really big monitor, because JapanNext has unleashed a pair of monster curved 4K displays aimed (partly) at being hooked up to PCs for productivity use – and they don’t cost the earth, either.

The JN-VC490UHD and JN-VC550UHD are 49-inch and 55-inch monitors respectively, which are being pitched from multiple angles: living room use, gamers, as well as productivity. If you need a copious amount of screen real-estate for multi-tasking and professional/industrial use, then obviously this is a neater alternative to having multiple monitors.

As mentioned, gamers might also be tempted by these curved 4K screens, as they’re obviously going to give you a pretty breath-taking experience when playing the latest shooter (or whatever’s your gaming poison). Particularly given that these displays have AMD’s FreeSync on board to combat stuttering and tearing.

The monitors offer a resolution of 3840 x 2160 with a 60Hz refresh rate and a 3ms response time (4ms for the larger screen – again, that’s still pretty tidy for gaming). These are 10-bit SVA panels with 99% coverage of the sRGB colour gamut.

Easy on the eyes

As Ars Technica reports, the monitors use ELED backlighting which means they are flicker-free to be easy on the eyes when used for long periods of work.

You get full picture-in-picture and picture-by-picture support, and connectivity includes a DisplayPort 1.2, HDMI 2.0, and a pair of HDMI 1.4 ports, alongside a legacy VGA connector. In total, you could hook up four PCs to the display with a Full HD picture for each.

There’s also a built-in USB hub and integrated 6W stereo speakers.

Both these monitors are currently only available in Japan, and as mentioned, they don’t carry wallet-destroying prices. The larger 55-inch screen is priced at around $870 (around £700, AU$1,135), and the 49-inch display runs to $725 (around £585, AU$945).

JapanNext does sell products in Europe, so fingers crossed we’ll see a launch of these giant screens over here.

Logitech’s Brio is a luxurious 4K HDR webcam with Windows Hello biometric support

Logitech says it just rolled out its “best webcam ever,” and judging by the specs you’d be hard-pressed to say that wasn’t the case—all apologies to the Logitech C922.logitech brio 4k webcam

The Logitech Brio 4K Pro Webcam ($200 on Amazon) is a veritable treasure trove of features. This webcam’s signature selling point is 4K resolution image capture at 30 frames per second, but the goodies don’t end there. The new webcam also offers high-dynamic range support to deliver more vivid and accurate colors, as well as deeper blacks. HDR on the Brio comes via Logitech’s RightLight 3 technology, which works to provide a quality image in low- and bright-light environments.

As if that wasn’t enough, Logitech’s Brio comes with an infrared sensor to support Windows Hello biometric authentication in Windows 10. The Brio also offers 5x digital zoom and an adjustable field of view that includes options for 65, 78, and 90 degrees.

If you don’t mind dropping the resolution down from 4K, you can achieve higher frame rates for smoother streams. You’ll hit up to 60fps at 1080p, or 90fps at 720p.

For home users, the Brio’s main features will be a little bit limited at first. While you’ll find no shortage of 4K monitors, showing off the webcam’s HDR support is a little trickier right now.

We only spotted the first PC display with 4K HDR in December when LG tipped its 32-inch HDR display leading up to CES. Then at the trade show in January we saw HDR monitors from Acer, Asus, and Dell. These displays aren’t out yet, but they’re arriving in the coming months. Just don’t expect to get them at a cheap price. Dell’s 27-inch S2718D Ultrathin Monitor is expected to retail for $700, while Acer and Asus’ gaming-focused displays will likely go for much, much more. But the output from the Brio should show up just fine on HDR-compatible television sets, which have been out for a while now.

Polish banks on alert after mystery malware found on computers

The discovery of malware on computers and servers of several Polish banks has put the country’s financial sector on alert over potential compromises.Mystery malware has been found on computers at several Polish banks.

Polish media reported last week that the IT security teams at many Polish banks have been busy recently searching their systems for a particular strain of malware after several unnamed banks found it on their computers.

It’s not clear what the malware’s end goal is, but in at least one case it was used to exfiltrate data from a bank’s computer to an external server. The nature of the stolen information could not be immediately determined because it was encrypted, Polish IT news blog Zaufana Trzecia Strona reported Friday.

To make things worse, it’s believed that the likely point of infection was the website of the Polish Financial Supervision Authority, a government watchdog for the banking sector. Independent cybersecurity outfit BadCyber found evidence that the agency’s website has had malicious JavaScript code injected into it since October until a few days ago, when the entire website was taken offline.

After the malware program is downloaded and executed on a computer, it connects to remote servers and can be used to perform network reconnaissance, lateral movement and data exfiltration, the BadCyber researchers said in a blog post.

The malware is similar to other crimeware tools, but has not been documented before. According to BadCyber, it has multiple stages and obfuscation layers and is not detected by most antivirus solutions. The final payload exhibits remote access Trojan (RAT) functionality.

The cybersecurity outfit has shared file hashes and command-and-control IP addresses associated with the threat in their blog post.

The Polish Financial Supervision Authority did not immediately respond to a request for comment and neither did the Polish Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT Polska).

The www.knf.gov.pl website, which is suspected to be the source of the malware infection, currently displays a temporary page informing visitors that access to the website is blocked.

If this scenario is true, it would be a classic watering hole attack, where hackers compromise and host malicious code on websites that are of interest to their intended victims.

There is no indication at this time that funds have been stolen or that customers’ accounts have been put at risk. However, the number of attacks against banks and other financial institutions has increased over the past two years.

There are now cybercriminal groups that specialize in hacking into banks’ computer networks. Some of them wait for months inside the compromised networks before they start stealing money. During this time they carefully observe and gather information about the target’s internal procedures, money moving processes, and key employees.

“We should expect that cybercriminals will find more creative and reliable ways to compromise their victims,” said Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of cybersecurity firm High-Tech Bridge. “Trustworthy websites, such as governmental ones, represent great value for cybercriminals, even if they don’t host any sensitive or confidential data.”

Facebook debuts vertical video format and confirms forthcoming TV apps

Facebook wants be in your TV screen in 2017.facebook video app

On Tuesday, the network launched new ways to watch videos on your iOS and Android device. You can now watch vertical videos in full-screen, autoplay videos with sound, and watch picture-in-picture while scrolling down your News Feed. In addition, Facebook confirmed the forthcoming launch of TV apps for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV.

Previously, all videos on Facebook’s News Feed autoplayed on silent, and you had to tap on the picture to hear sound. Now, Facebook is giving you the option to autoplay videos with sound that fades in and out as you scroll through the video on your feed.

“As people watch more video on phones, they’ve come to expect sound when the volume on their device is turned on,” Facebook wrote on its company blog.

If your phone is on silent, the videos will autoplay silently, however, and you can disable sound completely by unchecking the “Videos in News Feed Start with Sound” option in your Settings.

When watching vertical videos on your News Feed, you can now tap on it to watch full-screen. Facebook started testing this feature last year, and the company’s begun rolling it out more broadly after receiving positive response.

facebook picture in picture

Facebook has also taken a page from YouTube and Vimeo by incorporating a “picture-in-picture” video-watching experience. If you’re playing a video and continue to scroll down your News Feed, the video screen will minimize and be fixed permanently on the lower-right corner of the display. This way you can continue watching while browsing other posts on your News Feed.

You can even drag the minimized player to any corner, and Android users will get to finish the video even if they exit out of the Facebook app and go open another app.

Lastly, Facebook confirmed that it has developed a video app for Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Samsung Smart TV, with more platforms to come, according to the blog post. This Facebook video app for TVs will let you watch videos shared by your friends, as well as watch live videos, saved videos, and videos you’ve uploaded on the big screen. A release date has not been announced.

“A lot of people when they’re watching video on News Feed during the day will save it for later because they don’t have time to watch that 3-minute video,” Dan Rose, Facebook’s VP of Partnerships, said during the Code Media conference. “Now it’s easy to go on your TV if you want to do that at night.”

Facebook’s new video features on mobile and the launch of TV apps are all part of Mark Zuckerberg’s plan to make Facebook a “video-first” company. Recently, Facebook has been pushing its live video feature, as well as incorporating video-sharing into both the Facebook mobile apps and Instagram.

This story, “Facebook debuts vertical video format and confirms forthcoming TV apps” was originally published by Macworld.

Humble’s software bundle for PC lovers is brimming with power tools, for a bargain

Ah, benchmarking. It’s the time-honored way of proving your new PC is a world wonder, a legend of much renown. Or perfectly average, as the case may be.Humble Software Bundle

If you’ve been looking to pick up some reputable benchmarking software at a bargain price, Humble Bundle’s got you covered. We just wrote about Humble’s 30-for-$30 indie game bundle yesterday, but today the company put up another package, known as the Humble Software Bundle for PC Lovers.

Hey, that’s us!

The stars of the attraction are 3DMark and PCMark, the same benchmarking software we use for our own hardware reviews. Both are useful for relative placement tests, spitting out a number to tell you where your PC stands in comparison to other hardware, with the former focusing on graphics power and the latter on general-purpose PC use. 3DMark is included in the beat-the-average tier, which currently sits at a little over $5. PCMark is in the highest $12-or-more tier.

Considering 3DMark lists for $30 on Steam and PCMark for $50, either tier is a pretty great deal. The rest? A grab-bag of software, some good, some meh, including Daemon Tools Pro, VRMark, EaseUS Partition Master, and more. Six months of BackBlaze Online Backup is nothing to sneeze at, either, though the benchmarking suite is probably the main draw for PC gamers.

Whether you’re looking to do some serious testing or just hoping to get an idea where you stand, it’s not a bad way to nab some cheap tools. The bundle runs for the next two weeks, and if it functions like a standard Humble Bundle we might also see more software added next week. We’ll keep you updated.

Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option

Microsoft today officially launched a premium-grade Outlook.com email service in the U.S. that omits ads, provides five inboxes and supports personalized addresses.outlook.com preview page

The service, labeled “Outlook.com Premium,” had been branded “Preview” until today, according to the Thurrott.com blog, which had been tracking its progress for almost a year.

Outlook.com Premium appeared to target both small businesses and families with the five user accounts and the personalized address. The domain name for the latter will be free for the first year, Microsoft said, and those who already own a domain could use it with the email service free of charge.

As with the consumer-oriented “Ad-free Outlook.com,” a $20 per year deal that scrubs advertisements from the service, Outlook.com Premium also erases ads from the five inboxes.

According to the small print on the Premium website, 12 months of the service will cost $20 until the end of March, at which time it will climb to $50, its regular price.

Renewals for those who get in under the discount wire will run up to $30 — $20 for the Outlook.com service, $10 for the domain name, if there is one — apparently until Microsoft decides to raise the price. “You will be notified if the price changes,” the website said.

Microsoft has aggressively promoted subscriptions for several years, but with the launch of Windows 10 — and that operating system’s “software-as-a-service” model — the company accelerated efforts with new enterprise-grade subscriptions to Windows as well as programs targeting consumers, such as the Groove music streaming service and now Outlook.com Premium.

The firm has made no secret of the subscription campaigns’ goals. In July, CEO Satya Nadella told Wall Street that Microsoft would use three ways to track progress of its operating system business. The second of the trio, Nadella said, was to “grow new monetization through services across our unified Windows platform.”

This story, “Microsoft makes Outlook.com official with a $50/year Premium option” was originally published by Computerworld.

IBM’s hub for wearables could have you out of the hospital faster

Researchers at IBM have developed a hub for wearables that can gather information from multiple wearable devices and share it with a doctor, potentially cutting down on the time patients need to spend in a hospital.img 0514

The gadget, which IBM has dubbed a ‘cognitive hypervisor,’ funnels data from devices such as smart watches and fitness bands into the IBM Cloud. There, it’s analyzed and the results are shared with the user and their doctor.

The idea is that patients can be monitored reliably through the device so they can be sent home to recover from illnesses a day or two earlier than they might otherwise have been allowed. It also means that should a problem develop, a doctor can be alerted immediately and an ambulance dispatched if it’s serious enough.

IBM demonstrated a prototype of the device in San Francisco on Tuesday.

“I am Chiyo, your new companion. During this time, please touch me to start,” it said after powering up. “Every time you touch me, I will tell you about your status.”

img 0572

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Magdalena Petrova

IBM’s Chiyo health device as seen during a demonstration in San Francisco on February 14, 2017.

Fed with simulated data, the prototype alerted to a low blood oxygen level and a high temperature after it was tapped.

The device will react to voice commands and interact through a text-to-speech engine. One of the jobs facing researchers is to make the digital speech more realistic and more conversational.

Doing that will encourage users to interact with the device, said Rahel Strässle, a researcher working on the technology at IBM Research in Switzerland.

In developing the system, IBM isn’t planning to get into the wearables business. Instead, it plans to offer the service as a platform on which other companies can build their own health services.

“They can use this technology to build their own wearable devices,” said Bruno Michel, manager of smart system integration at the same IBM Research office.

The prototype is about the size of a grapefruit and is built with off-the-shelf components such as a Raspberry Pi and Arduino boards, but Michel thinks it can be made much smaller.

“I think in about five years, we will be able to have that fit into the ear canal,” he said.