From the iWatch to an oversize iPhone to CEO Tim Cook's future with the company -- 2013 has been chock full of Apple rumors. With that in mind, it would almost seem strange not to close out the year with more Apple speculation. The news media is obliging with a leaked memo from Cook to employees at its Cupertino, Calif. headquarters. In the memo, which thanked employees for their hard work in 2013, Cook shares that Apple has "big plans that we think customers are going to love." "This holiday season, tens of millions of people around the world, from all walks of life, are experiencing Apple products for the first time," Cook wrote. "Those moments of surprise and delight are magical, and they're all made possible by your hard work. As many of us prepare to celebrate the holidays with our loved ones, I'd like to take a moment to reflect on what we've achieved together over the past year."
Samsung makes some of the best TVs on the planet. While Smart TVs have been on the rise for years, Samsung really upped the stakes with gestures and voice control in last year's models. For its next act in the Smart TV play, Samsung is fine-tuning its motion controls with a feature it calls "finger gesture.". Current Samsung Smart TVs with built-in gesture controls only support hand recognition. And while Samsung promised Kinect-like controls on its Smart TVs, the reality was the feature just didn't work very well. According to Samsung, 2014 Smart TVs with built-in gestures will work better thanks to the addition of finger gestures. The feature claims to allow TV watchers the ability to "change the channel, adjust volume, find and select what they want they want to watch just by using their fingers." Users will also be able to "motion their finger counterclockwise" to go back to a previous screen and stop the video.
Snapchat is channeling its inner Santa Claus just in time for Christmas. The company has released a new update, giving both iOS and Android users new features including a replay option and Instagram-like filters for photos. The replay feature is more likely to grab Snapchat users' attention. Snapchatters will be able to hold onto a snap for a second viewing before it gets deleted. "You only get one a day, so you've got to use it where it counts," CEO Evan Spiegel told The Verge. In addition to downloading the latest update, users will need to go into their settings and then click the Manage option in the Additional Services section. The photo filters, smart filters, and replay option can all be activated separately. Just don't expect the library of filters that Instagram has. Snapchat currently has a black and white filter and a sepia filter to change how a photo looks. But the team has added three separate "smart filters" that can overlay the time, the weather, or the speed at which a photo was taken.
The latest smartphone from Blu, the Miami-based manufacturer focused on low-cost devices with higher level specs, is one that delivers the best screen that the company has created to date. The Blu Life Pure also has a sub-Nexus 5 price tag to go along with that 1080p HD display, and a few other features. Among the other "best ever" features for the Blu Life Pure is the first ever 13-megapixel camera included in one of the company's devices, and a 5-megapixel front-facing camera for self-portraits. The phone otherwise has a 5-inch 1080p HD display (441 ppi), a 1.5 GHz quad-core Mediatek processor, 2GB of RAM, and 32GB of internal storage. The body of the phone is composed of a single piece of polycarbonate available in matte black or ceramic white. Blu has also broken from its trend of having a user interface that is close to stock-Android. The Life Pure features a custom Android 4.2 Jelly Bean software package that includes gesture and motion sensor technology to provide some unique functions to the device.
The U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) paid US$10 million to vendor RSA in a "secret" deal to incorporate a deliberately flawed encryption algorithm into widely used security software, according to a Reuters report that is reigniting controversy about the government's involvement in setting security standards. The contract was part of an NSA campaign to weaken encryption standards in order to aid the agency's surveillance programs, Reuters reported on Friday. The report, based on two sources that Reuters said were familiar with the contract, has sparked a series of headlines that are stoking the ongoing debate about NSA surveillance tactics. The NSA and RSA, now a part of storage and enterprise software giant EMC, declined to immediately comment on the Reuters story.
T Mobile's uncarrier promotion will soon meet its next phase. According to a couple of unnamed sources as reported by TmoNews, Uncarrier 4.0 (codenamed "Houdini") will consist of an Early Termination Fee (ETF) promotion in which the wireless carrier will essentially pay off your ETF with your current carrier if you switch to T-Mobile. Customers will be eligible for up to $350 in total credit when switching. They will earn instant credit by trading in their existing handset and will be credited the ETF fee when they submit the final bill to T-Mobile. As such, new customers must trade in their old device and purchase a new phone through T-Mobile to qualify.
Last year, on December 25, the day that marks the birth of Jesus Christ as well as the arrival of Santa Claus, people downloaded 328 million apps to smartphones and tablets, according to the analytics firm Flurry. It was the biggest app downloading day in the (very short) history of app downloading. And this year, analysts expect December 25, 2013, to set a new record again. Bloomberg writes up this little factlet with the great addition, "According to a Harris survey commissioned by mobile-app and website-testing company Soasta, 30 percent of Americans plan to download an app on Dec. 25."
Some Chinese government researchers don't appear to think much of the country's 651 million people living in the countryside. In its 2013 annual report on the development of the Internet in rural China, the state-run China Internet Network Information Center (CNNIC), which monitors and analyzes the Chinese web, advised Chinese telecom companies to roll out "idiot-proof" smartphones for rural customers. The report, released Nov. 27, cites the statistic that rural Chinese are underrepresented online: At the end of 2012, Internet penetration in the countryside was 23.7 percent, compared to 59.1 percent in cities. But the number of rural residents who used mobile phones to go online in 2012 increased by 20.9 percent, and rural Internet users surf the web via smartphone at a slightly higher rate than urban netizens (75.3 percent versus 72.3 percent over the past six months). To better serve rural residents, researchers suggestedtelecom companies attempt to shaguahua their products -- that is, make them for "stupid melons," Chinese slang for 'idiots.' Because "most residents of rural villages are not very knowledgeable or cultured," the report argued, they will be less inclined to use cell phones to go online "if the equipment systems are too complicated."
Computer security breaches are consistently in the news, and even your car can fall victim to a hacker. So how can we prevent these attacks? The best answer would be by understanding how they happen in the first place. To that end, a group of researchers made a startling discovery: by doing something as simple as listening to the sounds a computer's CPU makes, the world's toughest encryption can be cracked wide open. 4096-bit RSA is one of the most secure encryption algorithms in the world. However, researchers Daniel Genkin, Adi Shamir (who is a co-creator of the algorithm) and Eran Tromer used a microphone to listen in on the sounds a computer's CPU makes when it's decrypting data. This sound actually comes from the CPU as it regulates its voltage, but each sound represents a certain RSA key. By understanding the RSA system of encryption, the researchers were able to crack the code, giving them full access to the data.
It seems the world is ready for a new light bulb. We've got light bulbs that are also flashlights. We've got light bulbs producing Wi-Fi. We've got light bulbs that can last for 30 years. But none of that will prepare you with what Philips' has coming down the pipeline: a flat light bulb. Called SlimStyle, the bulb isn't just a series of tubes like you might be used to (like the ones that probably adorned the ceiling of your school). Instead, it looks like a classic light bulb that's been run over by a truck, if said light bulb were made of rubber and not glass and squished instead of shattered. By using LED lights arranged in a horseshoe around the indented part (think a thumbprint in the middle of an uncooked burger), it encourages more efficient heat dispersion than traditional LEDs do. This means it removes the need for aluminum heat sinks, which weighed down bulbs of the past. Said heat sinks are also what make most LED bulbs pricy, so their removal is one of the reasons this bulb will be so cheap. We don't know its exact price yet, but we do know it'll be under $10, placing it at just a little more expensive than traditional light bulbs.
email from listeners:
Ken from Portland asks "Now that the Christmas buying season is over, will there be even better prices on technology afterwards?"