Improved Security Or Less Freedom? APK Updates

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Improved Security Or Less Freedom? APK Updates

Earlier this week a small change rolled out to the Google Play Store.  It’s one that you likely won’t even notice, but for those who have it’s tough to decide whether the shift is good or bad.  What change?  Just a small string of metadata for apps.

Google is adding a security string of metadata to all Android APKs (the file format android apps are stored in).  This string will come along with the usual app and be used to verify that apps are distributed through the Play Store or another approved channel.

But why?

The reasoning is (of course) for security purposes.  Users will be able to verify that the apps their downloading aren’t malicious apps seeking to wreak havoc on your system.  There are plenty of apps that have posed as secure looking every-day apps when in reality they were doing other things under the hood (such as mining bitcoin).  This new metadata will supposedly help catch apps like this and ensure that any apps users are downloading are coming from a safe place.

We’ve talked before about how android apps are pretty secure through their information silos.  Apps must use a content provider/resolver to access information from one another, and in order to get access to your serious information (contacts, messages, pictures) apps are required to request permissions that must be explicitly granted by the phone’s owner.  That being said it’s still not a good idea to go around downloading every app you can just for the heck of it.  Security should not encourage reckless behavior.

So what’s the issue?

So why the controversy?  If this new string of data will help keep our phones more secure why could people be opposed to it?  Well the new string is essentially DRM (Digital Rights Management).  As with media services, there’s potential for companies to abuse DRM to choose how and when you use their product.

Let’s say for example you download an app and like it how it is.  A new update comes out and you hear horrendous things about it like it makes an ad pop up every 5 seconds (a terrible marketing strategy).  Naturally you would try to hold off on updating to this new version as long as possible.  Well with DRM it might be difficult/impossible to tinker with the app to remove ads, and a developer could potentially force you to update to the new version by altering the metadata.  It’s a win for mobile app security, but it also invites misuse.

It’s not easy to say if this is a big deal or simply a step in the right direction for security, but it also hasn’t been in the limelight for long.  What are your thoughts on this change to coming apps?  Let us know in the comments below!

 

 

The Pixel 3 Leaks Just Keep Coming!

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The Pixel 3 Leaks Just Keep Coming!

 

If you’re a phone junky then you’ve probably been following all the buzz surrounding the upcoming Pixel 3.  And if you haven’t been but are interested in catching up, then you’ve come to the right place.  Rumors and leaks galore have been floating around this week and late discussing what the Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL have in store for users.  Let’s discuss:

It’s Huge:

I’m not just talking about the hype.  The Pixel 3 and Pixel 3 XL are going to be larger than their predecessors (is anyone surprised?).  Measuring in at 5.3’’ and 6.2’’ respectively these phones will be giving the iPhone X a run for its money in terms of screen real estate.  And also much like the iPhone…yep you guess it, there’s a notch thrown into the mix.

Just like almost every other android phone since the iPhone X’s reveal the notch seems to be playing a big role in design practices.  A few images were images have been posted on the XDADeveloper’s forum showing a Pixel 3 rocking a notched display, dual front cameras, and a back that appears to be made of glass.

New features:

Why glass on the back?  Well this has led to speculation that wireless charging may be coming back into play.  This feature was discontinued a few years back in the Nexus series after Google’s acquisition of HTC.  The argument was…not the strongest.  Google argued that Nexus phones had too much z (thickness) with the wireless charging, and that USB Type-C charging was a much simpler solution.  Maybe more efficient, but its definitely not as cool!

Of course we have to take these leaks with a grain of salt.  The Pixel’s camera is a good demonstration of this.  There’s been a lot of back and forth about whether one or two cameras are in store for the new device.  Leaked images have confirmed both cases, so its hard to know what’s really true and what is just a wannabe, but a series of images leaked by 9to5Google show a single rear camera on a Pixel 3 prototype.  This leak matters as the phone was sporting a mystery Google logo, so it gains another ounce of credibility.

Whatever the case, Pixel’s are known for their phenomenal cameras, and when the Pixel 2 came out its camera blew us away.  Since then quite a few other phones have scored higher on DxOMark (a image quality rating site), but at the time the Pixel 2 was the leader.  So odds are the Pixel 3 is going to exceed expectations again and top the charts in this manner.

New Software:

The Pixel 3 is also expected to be the first official phone rocking Android P software.  So new features like RTT-Wi-Fi and auto-adjusting batteries will open new possibilities for both users and developers.  Android P is currently available for beta use if you’re interested in exploring it early, but if you’re planning on purchasing a Pixel 3, you’ll have it in your hands before you know it.  There’s no official release date set right now, but the popular opinion is this October.  So close and yet so far.

What are you hoping the Pixel 3 will have that other phones are lacking?  Do you think it will be a let down or a leader in the industry?  Let us know in the comments below!

Android One.  Two Different Strategies

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Android One.  Two Different Strategies

Rumors have been spreading about the new Motorola One Power.  This week we got a glance at what’s coming to the market, and you may not be surprised to see that a notch is involved in the desgin.  A lot of Android phones this year have been mimicking the iPhone X’s newest feature, but there’s a lot more to the One Power than just how it looks.  It’s the head of a movement.

The One Power is sure to be a quality phone for its users.  At least a lot depends on it being that way since it will be the newest phone to carry on the Google One movement.  That movement began in 2014 as an attempt to capture the “next billion Android users” in developing countries.  It aimed to provide smartphones with current software at sub-100 dollar prices.

But How?

Typically this was possible by severly limiting specs like storage and RAM.  Users don’t have to spend much, but they can still experience all the cool new features versions like Android P have to offer.  Meanwhile Google gains a hold on smartphone marketspace that might otherwise not be filled due to price restrictions.  It’s a win win.  

At least that was the plan back then.  4 years later and the Android One movement didn’t take off exactly as the marketing team planned.  Sales faltered for the lower end phones due to their lack of being positively distinguished from their more expensive counterparts.  Appearing somewhat clunky, budget phones didn’t sell well, and there’s still a large population out there that is waiting to be capitalized on.  Android Go rose to take Android One’s place as the budget movement recently, and it looks like this new burst of marketing may have a better outlook.

Down But Not Out

That being said, Android One didn’t fade into oblivion, but instead decided to change its strategy.  It’s risen its price range to the $250-400 mark and in turn is producing sleeker more “high-end” looking phones that run on the newest softwares.  These phones are still more affordable than some, and this is thanks to the movement’s slogan “Everything you want.  Nothing you don’t.”  The phones don’t have a bunch of manufacturer customizations, but instead function similarly to Nexus and Pixel phones today.  They have Google’s apps built in, and run the latest Google software, but that’s just about it.  This is great if you’re not looking to spend a fortune and you also don’t feel the need for the extra add ons.

The One Power Up Close

The Motorola Power One will be prominently displaying a notch on its front along with a vertical dual carmera placement on its back.  Couple this with curved edges and a fingerprint sensor and we’re looking at a pretty stylish phone.  Whether you like the iPhone X or not, its undeniable that it’s style has set a trend that others a following.  How the software on the inside runs is a whole nother store though!

Do you have any thoughts on the new Motorola Power One?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

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