More Android apps from dangerous Ztorg family sneak into Google Play

 

For the second time this month, Google has removed Android apps from its Google Play marketplace. Google did so after a security researcher found the apps contained code that laid the groundwork for attackers to take administrative “root” control of infected devices.

“Magic Browser,” as one app was called, was uploaded to Google’s official Android App bazaar on May 15 and gained more than 50,000 downloads by the time it was removed, Kaspersky Lab Senior Research Analyst Roman Unuchek said in a blog post published Tuesday. Magic Browser was disguised as a knock-off to the Chrome browser. The other app, “Noise Detector,” purported to measure the decibel level of sounds, and it had been downloaded more than 10,000 times. Both apps belong to a family of Android malware known as Ztorg, which has managed to sneak past Google’s automated malware checks almost 100 times since last September.

Most Ztorg apps are notable for their ability to use well-known exploits to root infected phones. This status allows the apps to have finer-grain control and makes them harder to be removed. Ztorg apps are also concerning for their large number of downloads. A Ztorg app known as Privacy Lock, for instance, received one million installations before Google removed it last month, while an infected Pokémon Go guide racked up 500,000 downloads before its removal in September.

Earlier this month, Google removed a game called colourblock after Kaspersky Lab’s Unuchek found it contained code dubbed DVmap that attempted to gain root. To evade detection by Google, DVmap developers initially uploaded a clean version of the game to Play and later updated it to add malicious functions. Unuchek has warned that the rooting processes used by malicious rooting apps can often harm the phones because the apps can overwrite crucial files and folders.

Magic Browser and Noise Detector didn’t actually root the phones, but the Ztorg digital fingerprints in both apps led Unuchek to theorize that the app developers were in the process of adding the capability to one or both of the apps gradually in an attempt to evade detection. In the meantime, the researcher said, the developers were using Magic Browser to either test or actively use malicious text-messaging functions. The app had the ability to send premium text messages to attacker-controlled numbers. To keep users in the dark, the app could also delete incoming texts and turn off the device sound.

“So I think that the authors are still testing this malware, because they use some techniques which can break the infected devices,” Unuchek wrote. “But they already have a lot of infected users on whom to test their methods. I hope that by uncovering this malware at such an early stage, we will be able to prevent a massive and dangerous attack when the attackers are ready to actively use their methods.”

Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in India

 

HIGHLIGHTS

  • The range starts at Rs. 72,900 for 43-inch X70E
  • Goes up to Rs. 6,04,900 for 75-inch X94E
  • Most are already available via Sony stores

Sony has launched the 2017 models of its 4K HDR TV line-up in India, starting at Rs. 72,900 for the 43-inch model. A total of 17 models are being launched across six different series: X95E, X94E/ X93E, X90E, X82E, X75E, and X70E. While most of them go on sale this week in Sony stores across India, some will be releasing in the near future. There’s no mention of Sony’s OLED 4K TV, which stole the show at CES 2017.

The biggest and most expensive of the lot is the 75-inch X94E, which costs a whopping Rs. 6,04,900. The X95E is Sony’s new top of the line 4K HDR TV, priced at Rs. 3,04,900 for the 55-inch model, and Rs. 4,04,900 for the 65-inch one. The X93E comes after that, coming in at Rs. 2,64,900 for 55-inch, and Rs. 3,64,900 for the 65-inch.

Stepping down further, you get the X90E series, which starts at a slightly more reasonable Rs. 1,54,900 for the 49-inch model. The 55-inch and 65-inch X90E models cost Rs. 2,04,900 and Rs. 2,84,900 respectively. Further down the line you’ve the X82E, costing Rs. 87,900 for 43-inch, Rs. 1,24,900 for the 49-inch, and Rs. 1,54,900 for the 55-inch.

In the X70E line-up, you can choose from the aforementioned 43-inch model, at Rs. 72,900. If you need something bigger, the 49-inch X70E costs Rs. 94,900. That leaves the X75E – in 43-, 49-, 55- and 65-inch variants – which don’t have prices or a release date yet.

The reason the X94E is so expensive isn’t just for its size (75-inch), but also because it has direct LED technology in its panel, as opposed to edge LED on the rest of the 2017 Sony line-up. That means the LEDs are behind the panel, which provides better contrast and brightness, at the expense of thickness and a premium. The X90E models also have direct LED.Sony Launches 2017 Lineup of Its 4K HDR TVs in India

To compensate on the X95E and X93E (which have edge LED), Sony is touting “Slim Backlight Drive+” for more brightness, which it says brings more accurate local dimming control. From X90E upwards, the Sony 4K HDR TVs also have better systems for picture processing, and clarity, and contrast enhancement.

In terms of connectivity, you get four HDMI inputs on X82E onwards. While the X82E has two on the side and the back, X90E has three on the side and one on the back. There is one on the side and three at the bottom in the X93E, X94E, and X95E. The X70E has three in total, two on the side and one in the back.

The entire Sony X-series runs Android TV 7.0 Nougat by default, with Sony’s own interface running on top of it. The Android aspect is stressed on the remote as well, with dedicated buttons for Netflix, Google Play Store, and YouTube. All of Sony’s 2017 Android TVs are part of Netflix’s recommended programme, if that’s a checkbox for you.

 

Sony Xperia X, Xperia X Compact gets Android 7.1.1 Nougat and June security patch update

 

Sony starts rolling out the latest Android 7.1.1 Nougat for Xperia X and Xperia X Compact. Both the smartphones were originally announced with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, however, in November last year, Sony started pushing out Android 7.0 Nougat update for the handsets. And now with Android 7.1.1 Nougat OS onboard, both Xperia X and Xperia X Compact users will get a range of new features and updates.

Well, along with the Android 7.1.1 Nougat update, the Xperia X and Xperia X Compact  devices will also receive June Android security patch update. This is confirmed by Xperia blog. The blog post mentions, “Sony Mobile is rolling a new Nougat update for Xperia X and Xperia X Compact owners that moves them from Android 7.0 to 7.1.1.”Sony Xperia X

Also Read: Sony to focus on flagship Xperia phones, Xperia X and X Compact to be axed

Furthermore, according to Xperia Blog, the new Android Nougat update for Sony Xperia X and Xperia X Compact will come via a new build number 34.3.A.0.194. However, there is no mention if the software update will be rolled out globally, or only to select markets. With the new Android Nougat OS update, Sony will bring a number of features to both Sony Xperia X and Xperia X Compact device.

Picture Courtesy: Xperia Blog

App shortcut, support for circular app icons, fingerprint swipe down gesture, keyboard image insertion, night light, new emojis, split screen mode, quick notification, doze mode and a lot more feature will come to the Xperia devices with Android 7.1.1 Nougat update. Sony is probably rolling out the Nougat update eventually. While some users who have already received the software upgrade have complained about a few features being missing. One user said, “7.1.1’s best feature is app shortcuts and Xperia home doesn’t even support it”, while the another one said, “The Cons: After updating it, I found out that Sony doesn’t even provide the new clock widget for the lock screen! This is so called ‘their pathetic marketing”.

Also Read: Sony Xperia XZ Premium 4K HDR phone with Motion Eye camera launched at Rs 59,990

Some users also said that with the new update, Sony brings New Smart Stamina Mode and Xperia Actions features on the Xperia devices.

Sony recently launched the Xperia XZ Premium with 4K HDR phone with Motion Eye camera. This premium smartphone is launched at Rs 59,990. Xperia XZ Premium is the follow-up to last year’s Xperia X Performance, and succeeds 2015’s Xperia Z5 Premium. The smartphone comes with 19-megapixel Motion Eye camera system on the rear which is further coupled with phase detection and laser autofocus features. The Xperia device sports a 5.5-inch IPS LCD display and runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat-based Xperia UI. The device is further powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 processor coupled with 4GB RAM and 64GB of internal storage, which is further expandable by up to 256GB via a microSD card and is backed by a 3,230mAh battery and supports Qualcomm’s Quick Charge 3.0.

 

Sony Mobile to discontinue mid-range Xperia line up

 

Telecommunications company Sony Mobile has confirmed plans to discontinue the mid-range Xperia line-up of smartphones and will only focus on flagship devices going forward.

The dropped line up which the company considers “premium standard” includes models like the Xperia XZ Premium and XZs at the top end and mid-rangers like the Xperia XA1 and XA1 Ultra.sony-xperia-XA1-Ultra-launched-mwc-2017

“Sony is seeking to try and recover market share in 2017 and hopes to differentiate its products with technologies that only Sony can deliver,” the company said in a blog post. ALSO READ: Sony DPT-RP1 digital paper tablet with Bluetooth support, 16GB storage launched: Price, specifications and feature

The company will also only focus on markets, where it can leverage its brand strength including territories such as East Asia, APAC, Middle East and Europe.

 

Sony consolidating its flagships is probably for the best

 

Despite not performing as well as many of the other big brands in the smartphone business, Sony has made it clear that it will stick it out in the handset market. The latest reports suggest that the company has two more flagship models heading our way this year.

While still unconfirmed, it appears that Sony is looking to consolidate its premium tier of smartphones with its upcoming releases. A move that I believe not only makes financial sense, but is likely to help the company’s struggling brand awareness too. Even if this means that a few consumer favourites, such as the Compact range, may be sacrificed.

Xperia XYZ

Sony has long been criticized for releasing too many smartphones, and this goes right back to the days of the Z1, Z3, and Z3+, etc. Arguably, the situation has become even more confusing in the past year or so, following Sony’s adoption of its Premium and Performance branding.

400 quatloos to whoever can detail the differences between the Xperia XZ, XZs, XZ Premium, X Compact, X Performance, and the regular X model off the top of their head.

400 quatloos to whoever can detail the differences between the Xperia XZ, XZs, XZ Premium, X Compact, X Performance, and the regular X model off the top of their head. Remember, that’s just over one year’s worth of premium tier releases from Sony. While we enthusiasts have the benefit of breaking down spec sheets for fun, imagine how bewildering this range would look stacked up on a physical store display. How would you pick?

It’s no wonder that marketing seems completely absent for so many of Sony’s phones, yet a clear cut message and notable differentiation is essential when trying to market premium tier products to consumers. By cutting out its “Premium Standard” models – which includes the Xperia X and X Compact – Sony will almost certainly see an improvement to consumer understanding of its product range. This instantly helps with marketing and will importantly make its product range easier to breakdown and compare to other flagship models.

That being said, releasing four premium tier products a year is still probably a couple too many. Although if there’s a notable differentiation between some of them, such as a Compact or Phablet model released part way through the year ala LG’s V series or Samsung’s Note, then this might just fly.

It’s time to cut costs

Furthermore, eliminating the diversity of its top-tier products could be a sensible cost cutting measure for a company whose mobile division pulls in considerably less revenue than the likes of Apple and Samsung. We know that Sony Mobile has been underperforming financially for a while now, so this is a much needed move.

Even if Sony doesn’t actually cut down the number of high-end products it releases each year, it’s still looking like four, manufacturing phones with more components in common saves hugely on costs. Component stock can be shared between models, meaning that Sony won’t get caught out holding a lot of mid-tier processors if a phone doesn’t sell. Similarly, software development and support costs and times are lowered, as chip and hardware feature implementations can be shared.

Currently, across Sony’s Premium Standard and Flagship models you’ll find a Snapdragon 650, 820, and 835, combined with a selection of 4K, 1080p, and 720p panels and various Quick Charge implementations. Distilling this down to a single core specification but packaged in different sized units, as Samsung is does with the S8 and S8 Plus, would be more cost effective. But we’ll have to wait and see if that’s actually what Sony has planned.

The drawbacks

Of course, such a move makes it inevitable that some of Sony’s more interesting products will disappear. The Compact range remains a favourite of those who want a powerful phone in a small form factor, but it’s always been a more niche product than more profitable phablets. It’s likely that the Compact range will be a casualty if Sony follows through with this plan, unless the company makes an unlikely move and releases a sub 5-inch flagship as one of its two releases reportedly planned for later in the year.

The Compact range remains a favourite of those who want a powerful phone in a small form factor, but it’s likely to be a casualty of Sony’s reshuffle.

Similarly, the value proposition of the Xperia X also looks set to disappear. While this diversity is part of Sony’s problem, there’s something to be said about offering a cost competitive alternative to the big players in order to gain market share. I don’t know how well this would work out for Sony as a Plan A, but the overshadowed Xperia X didn’t exactly seem like a solid commitment that we could use to gauge consumer appetite from. Sony would clearly rather view itself competing at the premium tier rather than fighting it out in the bargain bin.

These and other interesting products, such as the Z Ultra, have previously helped Sony stand out, and there is a risk that simply copying the a formula used by others could cause Sony’s Xperia handsets to become further lost in the crowd, especially if the hardware isn’t all that different between generations.

Could Sony consolidate further?

Perhaps then, simply reshuffling its flagship models doesn’t go far enough to revamp the company’s image and portfolio in a way that will make a meaningful difference. In reality, it looks like Sony is essentially going back to its previous method of two major announcements a year, which will probably be just as infuriating as it was with the Xperia Z series.

Instead, I think Sony could do with being bolder, releasing yet fewer products but with a clearer purpose to each. Really, only one major flagship per year is required, with perhaps a secondary product released to maintain momentum. Apple, Samsung, LG, and to a lesser extent Huawei have done quite well using this model.

I would quite happily take a bells and whistles flagship Xperia launch at the start of the year, followed up by a compelling aggressively priced S or Compact model part way through the year to cater to those who didn’t fancy splashing the cash on one of the year’s flagships. Two meaningful handsets that don’t cannibalize each other and that could be marketed with a suitable budget to finally give the brand some much needed recognition. But what do I know?

 

The 10 best Android apps for Chromebooks

 

Running Android apps on Chromebooks is still a dream—a dream in extended beta, that is. After promising the feature earlier this year, Google has pushed out the release date.

While a select number of Chromebooks can access Google Play right out of the box, more adventurous Chromebook users will need to run the developer beta of Chrome OS to experience Android apps. After spending time with a number of Android apps that have become Chrome-friendly, I actually prefer some Android versions on Chrome over the web-based versions, as mobile apps can be refreshingly simple and uncluttered.chromebook chrome os

To get into the beta channel, go to your Chromebook’s Settings page and click About Chrome OS. Next, click Detailed build information, then click Change Channel. There, you can switch from the stable channel to the beta channel. You should steer clear of the developer channel, however, as that will definitely be unstable.

The 10 Android apps below represent how good it could be on Chrome once everything becomes official. Just remember, this is beta software, so tread carefully. If things go awry, you can always go back to stable channel or Powerwash your Chromebook and start over.

Microsoft Outlook

android apps chromebook outlook

Derek Walter/IDG

Sure, Gmail is great and all, but like many you might have an Office 365 email address assigned by your company. If that’s the case, you’ll want to grab the Microsoft Outlook Android application for your Chromebook. Unlike the web app, you can use Outlook to manage multiple accounts and access your messages offline. It even handles Gmail accounts if you want to use Outlook as your all-in-one email application.

Newton Mail

android apps chromebook newton mail

Derek Walter/IDG

Perhaps you want to extend the capabilities of your email app by connecting it to your favorite services. Newton Mail (formerly CloudMagic) has several built-in plugins for common services like Trello, Todoist, OneNote, and Salesforce. You can quickly zap emails over to those apps with just a couple of taps.

Newton Mail is clean and works well, but don’t get too attached unless you want to pay the $50-per-year fee for full access.

Xiaomi Mi 6 to be available outside China starting today

Officially unveiled back in April this year, the Xiaomi Mi 6 has only been available in China so far. Well, that changes now, as the device will also be available in Hong Kong starting today. The Taiwan launch is set for tomorrow.

The Mi Max 2, which was unveiled last month and is already available in a few markets, will also land in these countries in the same order – Hong Kong today, Taiwan tomorrow. Pricing information for these markets (for either of the phones) isn’t currently known.

 

Nokia 3 online sale debuts in India; listed on Croma at Rs. 9,499

A few days back, HMD launched the Nokia Android smartphones in India. At the time of the launch, it was announced that the Nokia 3 will go on sale starting from June 16 and that it will be exclusive only to the offline stores.

As mentioned by HMD, the Nokia 3 priced at Rs. 9,499 went on sale via the offline stores on June 16. The company did not reveal anything about the possibility of this smartphone to be made available online. Now, the Nokia 3 has been listed on the online retailer website Croma for the same price of Rs. 9,499. Though this move was not announced by the company, many Nokia fans will welcome it.

From the listing on Croma, it looks like the entry-level Nokia 3 smartphone will be available with the cash on delivery payment mode. Also, there is EMI option for those who would like to purchase it with convenient payment options.

We can expect the Nokia 3 to be listed by a few other retailers too in the coming days. Being an entry-level smartphone, the Nokia 3 has a polycarbonate body. It is fitted with a 5-inch HD 720p IPS LCD display.

The hardware aspects of the Nokia 3 include a quad-core MediaTek MT6737 SoC that is coupled with 2GB RAM and 16GB storage. Notably, the storage capacity can be expanded up to 128GB with the help of a microSD card.

The camera department of the device comprises of an 8MP camera at the back and another 8MP camera sensor at the front. The other goodies on board the Nokia 3 are Android Nougat, OTG support, 4G LTE and a 2650mAh battery.

 

Xiaomi sold 1 million Redmi 4 phones in India in just 30 days

The Xiaomi Redmi 4-8608.php#redmi-4) has sold over 1 million units in India, the company just announced. It took 30 days, two weeks less than the Redmi Note 4 needed to reach the same milestone.

So, India now has a new record for fastest phone to reach a million sales. The Redmi 4 got to a solid start, selling a quarter of a million in the first 8 minutes of sale alone. It had to take a break after as Mi.com ran out of units, but availability issues have been cleared up now.

Congrats to the Xiaomi team! If you feel like joining the million Redmi fans, head to Mi.com and grab one – the Redmi 4 starts at CNY 7,000 (2GB+16GB) and goes up to the recently released CNY 11,000 (4GB+64GB).

 

Location and context advances in Android

 

Google’s annual developers conference in May, Google I/O, featured many announcements, accomplishments and 2017 plans. Of particular interest, the Android Location and Context Team’s talk “Android Sensors & Location: What’s New and Best Practices,” is available online.

This followed a keynote by CEO Sundar Pichai on solving problems at scale with deep neural networks, machine learning algorithms and artificial intelligence (AI). He also spoke about a shift from a mobile-first model to AI-first. Google is doing this across every product area, applying AI and machine learning. Other keynotes updated Assistant, Photos, YouTube, Superchat, Android and VR (virtual reality).

The Android Location and Context team — Marc Stogaitis, Wei Wang, Souvik Sen and myself — spoke about background location, location accuracy, activity recognition, Android sensor hub, Android sensors and the future of location and context.

Discussing why battery life is so important, we showed detailed graphs on the costs of accessing different parts of the phone subsystems like WiFi, GNSS and making data connections.

Then we introduced Background Location Limitations (at the 4:30 point in the posted video) coming with Android’s latest operating system in Android O. These limits will prevent applications from misusing Android’s APIs in the background, thus saving its user’s battery. There were examples on how to make your app background ready for these upcoming changes.

We showed plans for location accuracy improvements (12:50) coming later this year and comparisons of existing vs. upcoming solutions for the positioning algorithm.

We covered the tools to help analyze GNSS measurements. How strong are the individual measurements? How accurate are the range measurements? With these tools, developers now have direct insight into the lowest layers of a GNSS receiver. Then came activity recognition algorithms (15:40) and how deep neural networks will improve the precision of these algorithms and help advance the field in activity recognition.

I spoke spoke about the Android Sensor Hub (20:27), how Google is leveraging the capabilities of an always-on low-power processor in Android phones. The sensor hub allows Google to port algorithms such as Activity Recognition, Geofencing and Gestures from the main application processor into the low-power sensor hub. We then went into detail around the new sensor features (25;55) and improvements around the compass (28:34).

Finally, we looked into the future (33:28). I covered Project Elevation, Accurate Indoor Location, and dual-frequency GNSS. Closing thoughts were around how more signals are going to be added into the low-power always-on compute domains so that the phone is more aware and intelligent, simplifying users’ interactions, augmenting human memory and knowledge, and assisting users understanding of themselves and the world around them.

Access to Raw GNSS Measurements

In related news, our new web page is up and operational!  This site provides all the details around GNSS Raw measurements in Android along with our analysis tools for anyone to download. Our previous site was accessible to people who signed up as a partner with Google, but now we have opened up this site to everyone.

Android GNSS Analysis Tool: Shows how you can select and run the analysis on a per satellite basis. This tool now supports multi-constellation and dual frequency (L1+L5) by default

Android apps typically access GNSS chipsets through a filter, which improves the GNSS location output for the majority of use cases. Filters use additional sensors, such as motion sensors, to improve the end user experience. However, filtering is not appropriate for some applications used by professionals such as researchers and original equipment manufacturer (OEM) developers. The Android Framework provides access to raw GNSS measurements on some Android devices. The page lists Android devices that support raw GNSS measurements as well as tools that help you log and analyze GNSS data.