Amazon Working on New ‘Ice’ Smartphone

Two years ago Amazon put a nail in the coffin and effectively killed off its Fire smartphone. One of the biggest tech companies is working on a new lineup of smartphones codenamed Ice, the reports suggest.

Saying that the Amazon Fire phone was a big flop is an understatement. The device used Fire OS, which was a weird flavor of Android lacking Google Mobile Services, and riddled with little Amazon features. It was also very expensive taking its hardware specification as a merit, though subsequent price drops and sales made it a decent value. Users were also reporting software issues that should not really happen in a top tier device, though.

Fire Phone was a disaster for Amazon


The Fire Phone carrying Amazon’s logo quickly flamed out. AT&T dropped the price from $200 to $0.99 in just two months after release. Three months after the launch, Amazon took a $170 million charge to wipe out the lost value of its unsold Fire Phones, adding that it still had $83 million in inventory at the end of that period.

Unlike the Fire Phone, which had been aimed at Western markets, Amazon plans to release its Ice smartphone in India. Considering how many cheap Chinese devices are already available in India, Amazon faces quite a bit of competition, given these OEMs operate on razor-thin margins and sport cheaper Mediatek SoCs in their devices.

We still don’t know much about the phone that is internally called the Ice. One person close to Amazon has seen the device and gave some details about its specifications. The smartphone will have a display between 5.2-inches and 5.5-inches diagonal. Other specifications of the phone include a 13-megapixel rear camera, 2GB of RAM, and 16GB of internal storage. The unimpressive setup is completed with octa-core Snapdragon 435 SoC and a fingerprint scanner on the back. Surprisingly, the Amazon’s phone will not come with Fire OS, but Android 7.1.1 with Google AI Assistant and the set of Google services. The phone didn’t have Alexa on it, but this might change before the announcement. Amazon didn’t have a chance to launch its voice-activated personal assistant in India before.

The Amazon Ice, or whatever it will be called, will be announced this year, according to the report. The device is likely to be priced at around Rs6,000 (~$93). Will Amazon succeed this time? Time will tell.

Do you think that Amazon has a chance attract customers in emerging markets? Let us know in the comments.

Source: Gadgets 360°

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Android Security Bulletin Released for June 2017; Update Starts Rolling out to Pixels and Supported Nexus Devices

Right on schedule, Google has released Android monthly security bulletin for the month of June along with updated security patches for recently discovered vulnerabilities. This month’s security bulletin includes fixes for a wide range of vulnerabilities ranging from critical to low levels.
Google has again provided two security patch strings to make it easier for OEMs to fix common vulnerabilities across the Android platform. Security patch level 2017-06-01 is a partial string that ensures all vulnerabilities up to the date 2017-06-01 have been addressed while security patch level 2017-06-05 (full) indicates that all vulnerabilities associated with security string level 2017-06-05 including all previous patch levels have been addressed. Google notes the most severe of all patched vulnerabilities is a critical vulnerability in Media Framework that could allow a remote attacker using a malicious file to cause memory corruption during media file and data processing. Luckily, Google has had no reports of active customer exploitation or abuse of any of these patched vulnerabilities.

Apart from addressing security flaws, this month’s security update also contains a fix for freezing issues that many Pixel owners were experiencing:

There is a fix included in the June security update that should address many of the freezing issues that have been reported. The update is starting to roll out via OTA today and will continue to roll out over the coming weeks. Freezing and general device performance issues can be caused my many different things, so please continue to update this post with your individual experiences after accepting the June security OTA.

As usual, security updates will be rolled out to the Pixel devices and supported Nexus devices in the coming weeks via an OTA update. In case you don’t want to wait for automatic roll-out, Google has also provided the factory images and full OTAs for manually flashing.

Links for the factory images and full OTAs for the Pixels and supported Nexus devices can be found below.

Device Build Version Factory Image Full OTA Image
Pixel XL NJH47B Link Link
Pixel XL – Verizon NHG47N Link Link
Pixel XL – Deutsche Telekom NJH34C Link Link
Pixel XL – T-Mobile, Fi carriers, and Rogers NKG47L Link Link
Pixel (sailfish) NJH47B Link Link
Pixel – Verizon NHG47N Link Link
Pixel – Deutsche Telekom NJH34C Link Link
Pixel – T-Mobile, Fi carriers, and Rogers NKG47L Link Link
Pixel C (ryu) N2G47W Link Link
Nexus 6P (angler) N2G47W Link Link
Nexus 5X (bullhead) N2G47W Link Link
Nexus 6 (shamu) N6F27E Link Link
Nexus (fugu) N2G47X Link Link
Nexus 9 LTE (volantisg) N4F27E Link Link
Nexus 9 WiFI (volantisg) N9F27C Link Link


Source: Android Security Bulletin [1] Source: Pixel User Community [2]

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Kodi 18 Finally Available As 64-bit App for Windows

We don’t often feature Kodi on the Portal, but it has a place in our hearts. The XBMC successor is the most feature-rich media player application available on almost every platform. Now, Martijn Kaijser from the team announced a next milestone of the project.

Kodi is a free and open-source project, which grew into a huge multi-platform media center. The upcoming version will be available as a full 64-bit application. Right now, the 64-bit Kodi is available for Windows only, but the XBMC/Kodi Foundation is working really hard to port the necessary libraries to other platforms, including Android.

Kodi v18 is codenamed Leia, as a tribute to actress Carrie Fisher who portrayed Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. Similar to Android, every version codename starts with a different letter. The project carried the names of Atlantis, Babylon, Camelot, Dharma, Eden, Frodo, Gotham, Helix, Isengard, Jarvis, Krypton, and finally Leia.

Users were asking for the 64-bit version of the app for a very long time. It has been a while since desktop operating systems adopted 64-bit and Kodi, being multi-platform, had to adapt. It was a huge challenge, but the team managed to release a first 64-bit nightly for Windows.

Originally, XBMC was available on XBOX but evolved greatly since 2003. The team needed to clean up the build system and the core code to slowly move over towards a 64-bit version. While many libraries already offer a 64-bit version, some needed to be ported from 32-bit. The team ported 31 external libraries to 64-bit. Kodi is still in a very early stage of development, but should perform the most basic tasks.

Martijn Kaijser has also shed some light on the current UWP situation. The team is steadily working on bringing Kodi to this platform. and adding 64-bit version to the roster is a huge step towards making the app compatible with the XBOX One. The team needed to change or remove over 800 function calls and now needs to find the solution to make a fully functional application. Nevertheless, Kodi is one step closer to becoming an XBOX One app.

Over the years, Kodi has attracted negative attention for its use to facilitate unauthorized access to copyrighted content, through third-party add-ons. Additionally, some companies are selling Android TV boxes with modified builds. Those versions allow watching copyrighted content via add-ons. These products are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Kodi project or the XBMC Foundation. The Foundation has taken steps to disassociate the Kodi project from these illegal products, including threatening legal action against those using its trademarks to promote them. The latest stable release of the project, v17 Krypton, can’t be distributed as a modified build.

Kodi v18 Leia is still an alpha. You can download the latest build for your device from the project’s website available below. The 64-bit Windows version can be installed on top of the current nightly. FInally, you can also download the version for Android to test the new features of this media-center.

Source: Kodi Get Kodi nightly (master branch)

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Disconnect: Lifetime Premium Subscription

The internet is crawling with trackers designed to harvest your personal information – sometimes for things as innocent as understanding what ads to display on the web for you, sometimes for far more nefarious purposes. Regardless, web tracking ranges from innocuous to deeply serious, and it’s more important than ever to take precautions to ensure your internet security. Disconnect blocks trackers and malware across your entire device, allowing you to browse up to 44% faster, using up to 39% less bandwidth, and greatly improve battery life.

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We researched and tested four tracker blockers and found their results varied widely. In the end, the app Disconnect became our anti-tracking tool of choice

New York Times
  • Blocks tracking requests from connecting to your devices, making the internet faster & extending battery life
  • Keeps your data safe from companies, cybercriminals, & government entities
  • VPN tech encrypts your internet connection
  • Masks your location so you can access content as if you’re in a different country
  • Allows you to use blocked services, sites, & apps

Block trackers & malware across your entire device. Up to 44% faster, 39% less bandwidth, and better battery life.

Thousands of companies, cybercriminals, and governments invisibly track your online activity in ways you wouldn’t expect. Our tools make it simple to protect yourself.

Get this deal!

Purchases made through XDA Depot benefit XDA. Our sponsors help us pay for the many costs associated with running XDA, including server costs, full time developers, news writers, and much more. While you might see sponsored content (which will always be labeled as such) alongside Portal content, the Portal team is in no way responsible for these posts. Sponsored content, advertising and XDA Depot are managed by a separate team entirely. XDA will never compromise its journalistic integrity by accepting money to write favorably about a company, or alter our opinions or views in any way. Our opinion cannot be bought.

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Google Updates Play Store Developer Program Policy to Combat Incentivized Ratings and Reviews

The Google Play Store serves as the primary means of app discovery for a very large section of Android users. Plenty of end users rely on the Play Store to find new and interesting apps. Whether it be casually surfing through the Top categories for something interesting, or chancing upon a gem while searching for something else entirely — we’ve all relied on the Play Store to highlight good and interesting apps.

But it is no secret that several developers try to game the system in order to fluff their apps popularity. Fake ratings and reviews are commonplace on malafide apps that serve nothing but adware, and spam installs are used to artificially boost an apps popularity. To combat these, Google has taken a few measures, including today’s update to the Developer Program Policies on incentivized ratings, reviews and installs.

Developers must not attempt to manipulate the placement of any apps in the Store. This includes, but is not limited to, inflating product ratings, reviews, or install counts by illegitimate means, such as fraudulent or incentivized installs, reviews and ratings.

Incentivized actions are those actions where a user is offered money, goods or other equivalents in exchange for a rating, review or install.

A few examples of common violations are noted as follows:

  1. Asking users to rate your app while offering an incentive
  2. Repeatedly submitting ratings to influence the app’s placement on Google Play
  3. Submitting or encouraging users to submit reviews containing inappropriate content, which includes affiliates, coupons, game codes, links to websites and other apps etc

Such actions affect the integrity of the Play Store as they do not truly reflect the working potential of the app and actual user feedback, thereby manipulating other users into installing an otherwise low quality app. Installs which are done with the intent to manipulate the placement of an app in Google Play will be detected and filtered by Google.

However, Google realizes that not all incentivized actions are manipulating the placement of apps in the Play Store. Incentivized installs can also be a legitimate means of user acquisition for some developers, and Google recognizes this as a distinct use case and has hence adopted the following approach:

  • Apps will not be automatically removed simply because they utilize incentivized installs as one of their user acquisition channels, But, Google will monitor for behaviour that compromises the integrity of the store and take actions against such activities.
  • For apps that are deemed to manipulate their placements on the Play Store, Google will monitor and filter incentivized installs in their systems, and will go ahead and remove the app from Top Charts. If needed and warranted, identified apps may also be removed from the Store.

Google is advising against utilizing actions as a general rule. In an internal analysis, the Google Research team found that incentivized users generally have lower retention rates and make fewer in-app purchases when compared to users that come through organic acquisition channels.

Google hopes that these measures will help ensure that Top Charts and other discovery mechanisms on the Play Store reflect the true popularity of an app.

What are your thoughts on these measures? Will Google be successful in cleaning up the Play Store to truly reflect an app’s true potential? Let us know in the comments below!

Source: Android Developers Blog

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How to Get the Google Assistant on Android 5 Lollipop (No Root)

TK is at it again with another useful tip, this time its getting the Google Assistant to work on Android Lollipop. The kicker – no root is required for this setup. Even though it still has a few improvements to sort out, it has definitely come a long way since its initial release. The only issue we still find is that it’s not available on most devices. Luckily apps like Nova and Action Launcher now make this possible. All credits go to XDA Member Nikhilkumar038, so we now have a way to use Google Assistant on any Android tablet running Lollipop, Marshmallow, or Nougat without needing root!


Google Assistant on Android Smartphones


How to Set Up Google Assistant

Watch the video above or click the link here to find out how to set it up.

Why use it?

Once you have it all ready, you can try out some useful options. Just tap on the icon or say “OK Google” to get info like:

  • What’s my confirmation number for my London flight?
  • Take me to Museu Picasso.
  • Show my photos of sunsets in Tahoe.
  • Do I need an umbrella today?
  • Turn on the living room lights.

With a whole lot more coming soon, this feature could be quite a useful feature to have on your device. Are you using Google Assistant? We’d like to hear your thoughts on this feature in the comments section below!

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HTC Asks its Fan Community to Combat Online Criticism, Offers Merchandise in Return

HTC’s latest U11 has been received with mixed reactions by the Android community. With good audio but no headphone jack and a new-ish design that scraps years of HTC’s expertise with metal, many fans and spectators threw quite a bit of skepticism its way.

There are many arguments one could make to discredit or devalue HTC’s new product, from its hardware decisions to its gimmicky “squeezing” features — and HTC knows this, so it found a way to at least combat it on online boards, comments sections and other social battlefields. According to information from their VIP community, presented in a reddit post, HTC has taken to ask its community of fans to duke it out online against dissenters of the phone in what we can only describe as literal shilling.

Image Credit: u/ShadowCodeGaming

Elevate is HTC’s private online community, members-only, for the company’s “top fans” and supporters. To join Elevate, you must request access by emailing HTC, and telling them why you are “HTC’s most passionate fan”. With admission requirements like those, you’d expect HTC Elevate members to be quite dedicated indeed. After all, they are the ones getting the latest product news, opportunities to access exclusive events or partner with HTC, and have direct access to HTC team members. But now, they are asking their users to “mobilize and combat some of the negative things out there about the U11”. As seen in the screenshot above, provided by reddit user u/ShadowCodeGaming, HTC wants users to post regularly in comments sections of blogs and social media, and then report back to Elevate so that they can keep track of the shilling.

Of course, HTC is actually rewarding people who go through that trouble (though, to be honest, if you are in a VIP HTC community, you’d probably do it for free), as they’ll be sending out “swag goodies” here and there to people who participate. The company doesn’t shy away from the implication that it encourages a network of shills, by saying that such actions are “what [elevate members] do best”, and calls it “sharing the good word about all things HTC — fanboy preaching, essentially.

We hope that this operation is limited in scope, and we’ll certainly keep an eye out for Elevate members in our comments sections from now on.

What do you think about HTC’s attempts to combat online dissent? Sound off below

Source: Reddit

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