Category: Mobile

Samsung will sell refurbished Note 7s

Samsung plans to sell refurbished versions of the incredible flaming Galaxy Note 7 smartphones.

Samsung’s Note 7s were permanently scrapped in October following a global recall, roughly two months from the launch of the near-$900 devices, after some phones caught fire. A subsequent probe found manufacturing problems in batteries supplied by two different companies – Samsung SDI and Amperex Technology.

Analysis from Samsung and independent researchers found no other problems in the Note 7 devices except the batteries, raising speculation that Samsung will recoup some of its losses by selling refurbished Note 7s.

Samsung’s announcement that revamped Note 7s will go back on sale, however, surprised some with the timing – just days before it launches its new S8 smartphone in the United States, its first new premium phone since the debacle last year.

Samsung, under huge pressure to turn its image around after the burning battery scandal, had previously not commented on its plans for recovered phones.

“Regarding the Galaxy Note 7 devices as refurbished phones or rental phones, applicability is dependent upon consultations with regulatory authorities and carriers as well as due consideration of local demand,” Samsung said in a statement, adding the firm will pick the markets and release dates for refurbished Note 7s accordingly.

The company estimated it took a $5.5 billion profit hit over three quarters from the Note 7’s troubles. It had sold more than 3 million Note 7s before taking the phones off the market.

 

Apple may have knifed Andy Rubin in his Essentials

Earlier this year, Andy Rubin, creator of the Android operating system, was happily building a new company called Essential and working on a “high-end smartphone with a large edge-to-edge screen that lacks a surrounding bezel.”

Much was riding on a $100 million investment from Softbank. Rubin’s company, Essential Products, was to release a new high-end smartphone this spring, and SoftBank planned to market the phone in Japan

However suddenly it appears that Softbank has withdrawn the investment and no longer wants to market the phone on its home turf. The reason appears to be that the fruity cargo cult Apple has suddenly developed an interest in working with Softbank.

Apple has written a $1 billion cheque to SoftBank’s Vision Fund, and according to the Wall Street Journal that deal “complicated” SoftBank’s investment in Essential Products.

Jobs’ Mob did not directly block the deal but the Journal claims but Rubin’s premium phone would be released ahead of the 10th anniversary iPhone and it would have been happy to see it not in the shops.

Don’t make the Samsung S8 angry it will have Bixby

Samsung has confirmed that it is Bixby digital assistant will be part of the Galaxy S8 that’ll be unveiled later this month.

The S8 will have a dedicated Bixby button on its side to make it easier to access the assistant.

It will have three key features to sort itself out from the herd. The first is that a Bixby-enabled app will allow the assistant to perform every task that the app normally supports using touch.

It will also have context awareness, which means that when Bixby is activated, it’ll can understand the current context and the state of the app that you’re in without interrupting the work that you’re doing.

Samsung says that Bixby is smart enough to understand commands with incomplete commands, meaning that you do not have to remember the exact phrase that you have to say to perform a task with an assistant. Bixby will ask you for more information when performing a task and then execute it.

Several apps on the Galaxy S8 will be Bixby-enabled at launch, and Samsung plans to add more over time. The company will release an SDK so that third-party app developers can add Bixby support.

Samsung said that the assistant will first appear on Samsung smartphones and then expand to all Samsung appliances.

“Since Bixby will be implemented in the cloud, if a device has an internet connection and simple circuitry to receive voice inputs, it can connect with Bixby,” the company said.

Samsung bribery case getting tacky

A South Korean court has reassigned the Samsung Group chief Jay Lee’s bribery trial to another judge.

Apparently, the judge had a connection to a woman Lee is accused of bribing.

To be fair to the judge, Lee Young-hoon, who presided over the March 9 pre-trial hearing for Jay Lee and four former and current Samsung Group executives alerted the authorities about his own connection.

But the decision comes a day after an opposition lawmaker accused Lee Young-hoon’s father-in-law of being a financial sponsor for Choi Soon-sil, a confidant of former president Park Geun-hye and a central figure in the graft scandal that led to Park’s removal from office and the Samsung chief’s indictment.

For those who came in late, Park was dismissed as president by the Constitutional Court on Friday last week and has been summoned by prosecution for questioning as a suspect in the bribery investigation.

The special prosecution team that indicted the Samsung chief accused Park of colluding with Choi to pressure big businesses to contribute to non-profit foundations backing her administration’s initiatives.

The court said in a statement that Lee Young-hoon’s father-in-law had denied the allegations and had not met or contacted Choi or her family since the assassination of Park’s father, former president Park Chung-hee, in 1979.

But the case is starting to look even messier than it was when Jay Lee was indicted by a special prosecution team on several charges including pledging $38.03 million in bribes to a company and foundations backed by Choi.

 

North Korea turns to robbing banks

When he is not lobbing missiles into the Sea of Japan, shooting his rivals with anti-aircraft guns or having his brother poisoned, North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is taking time out to rob Western banks.

Cyber security outfit Symantec said that a North Korean hacking group known as Lazarus was likely behind a recent cyber campaign targeting organizations in 31 countries, following high-profile attacks on Bangladesh Bank, Sony and South Korea.

Writing in its corporate bog Symantec said researchers have uncovered four pieces of digital evidence suggesting the Lazarus group was behind the campaign that sought to infect victims with “loader” software used to stage attacks by installing other malicious programs.

Symantec researcher Eric Chien said that it was reasonably certain Lazarus was responsible.

The North Korean government has denied allegations it was involved in the hacks, and said its glorious leader was at a wine and cheese evening when the attacks happened and there were nearly a dozen generals who can give him an alibi.

Symantec said it did not know if any money had been stolen. Nonetheless, Symantec said the claim was significant because the group used a more sophisticated targeting approach than in previous campaigns.

Lazarus has already been blamed for a string of hacks dating back to at least 2009, including last year’s $81 million heist from Bangladesh’s central bank, the 2014 hack of Sony Pictures Entertainment that crippled its network for weeks and a long-running campaign against organizations in South Korea.

Symantec has one of the world’s largest teams of malware researchers, regularly analyses emerging cyber threats to help can defend businesses, governments and consumers that use its security products.

The firm analyzed the hacking campaign last month when news surfaced that Polish banks had been infected with malware. At the time, Symantec said it had “weak evidence” to blame Lazarus.

Symantec said the latest campaign was launched by infecting websites that intended victims were likely to visit, which is known as a “watering hole” attack.

ZTE pays $900 million fine

 

Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE has agreed to plead guilty and pay up in a US sanctions case, drawing a line under a damaging scandal that had threatened its cut off its supply chain.

While the fine was larger than expected, ZTE, also a major smartphone maker, reported robust underlying earnings for 2016 and was upbeat in estimates for the first quarter.

A five-year investigation found ZTE conspired to evade US embargoes by buying US components, incorporating them into ZTE equipment and illegally shipping them to Iran.

It also made 283 shipments of telecommunications equipment to North Korea.

US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a statement that ZTE Corporation not only violated export controls that keep sensitive American technology out of the hands of hostile regimes like Iran’s, they lied … about their illegal acts,”

But ZTE relies on US suppliers for 25 percent to 30 percent of its components, many of which are key to its goods. It buys about $2.6 billion worth of components a year from US firms. This includes  Qualcomm, Microsoft and Intel.

ZTE Chief Executive Zhao Xianming said in a statement that his outfit acknowledges the mistakes it made, takes responsibility for them, and remains committed to positive change in the company.

The company agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if there are further violations, as well as three years of probation, a compliance and ethics program, and a corporate monitor.

It also agreed to an additional penalty of $300 million that will be suspended during the seven-year term on the condition the company complies with requirements in the agreement.

ZTE has replaced executives allegedly involved, including naming a new president.

The company said it slid to a preliminary net loss of $342 million in 2016, its first loss in four years, due to the settlement.

Jim Mackey leaves Blackberry

Blackberry head of corporate development and strategy,Jim Mackey has quietly cleaned out his desk and snuck out of the building without anyone noticing.

Mackey left the company in the middle of February and it appears that no-one has thought to alert the media. The move does dump Blackberry in it somewhat as it lacks leadership as it tried to move from smartphone hardware to software.

Mackey, who was executive vice president, executive operations, made his own announcement on social notworking site Linkedin. He did not give a reason and became unavailable for comment.

Blackberry, which in late 2013 issued a press release on the hiring of Mackey, did not announce his exit. Chief Operating Officer Marty Beard refused to answer any questions either.

Mackey worked directly with Blackberry Chief Executive John Chen, navigating the purchase and integration of a string of acquisitions and the signing of major partnership agreements.

Beard said in the interview that the company had largely completed its software portfolio and needed to push hard to win more customers, including by adding partners.

“The biggest issue we have is not getting invited to the table because the customer doesn’t know that BlackBerry is doing that. That’s the challenge.”

New drivers using smartphones could lose their licence

Under tough new rules in England, Scotland and Wales, drivers caught using a phone within two years of passing their test will have their licence revoked.

The tough new penalties for using a phone at the wheel double from March 1 to six points and a £200 fine. New drivers who get six points or more must retake their practical and theory.

More experienced drivers can be banned if they get 12 points in three years. This means that checking your social media or texts when queuing in traffic or stopped at traffic lights could cost you your licence.

This is only the tip of the iceberg for what you can be charged with too. In the UK coppers could charge people with shedloads of other offences if they are seen being on their mobile phones.

You can use your phones sat nav as long as the phone is mounted in a hands-free holder.

It appears that Blighty coppers have had enough of accidents caused by people using their mobile phones. Cognitive testing shows that smartphone use when driving is about the same as being over the drinking and driving limit. Goodness knows what would happen if you are drink driving and checking your emails.

Trump’s FCC boss calls Net Neutrality a mistake

FCC chairman Ajit Pai said today that net neutrality was “a mistake” and the Commission was taking steps to turn it into a telco’s wet dream.

Pai said that net neutrality injected tremendous uncertainty into the broadband market and uncertainty was the enemy of growth.

To be fair Pai has always been opposed to net neutrality and voted against the proposal when it came up in 2015. He had been widely expected to dismantle net neutrality to allow telos to charge people what they like. Basically, Pai’s thinks that internet providers were doing just fine under the old rules and that the new ones have hurt investment.

Both of those points have been discounted. There’s little competition in the wired broadband market, and Consumerist investigated the investment claims in early 2016 and found that internet providers were estimated to spend more in the coming year.

“Today, the torch at the FCC has been passed to a new generation, dedicated to renewal as well as change. We are confident in the decades-long, cross-party consensus on light-touch internet regulation … and we are on track to returning to that successful approach,” Pai said.

He cites the commission’s approval of zero-rating schemes — this, he says, is exactly why all four carriers are now offering unlimited data plans.

This is also rubbish as zero rating isn’t involved in these plans at all. Telcos offer highly competitive unlimited data plans because the last FCC chairman kept them in a competitive environment, leaving four nationwide wireless providers and a clear set of rules for them to follow.

Pai seems to think that the FCC should do nothing unless there’s a huge market failure and that competition can preserve an open internet even without rules.

The fact that the US telcos are hardly in competition and well just use their quasi-monopoly powers to double charge heavy web users is no part of Pai’s reality.

Apple tries to appease Trump with some strange numbers

The fruity tax-dodging cargo-cult Apple has told the world that it spent roughly $50 billion last year using US-based suppliers.

The move is an attempt to suggest to the US president Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump that Apple does not really make all its gear in foreign parts.  Apple has previously not mentioned this figure before.

Speaking at an annual shareholder meeting, Cook gave the previously undisclosed data at a time when Apple has come under pressure from President Donald Trump for building its iPhones in China.

“We’re always looking for more ways to help our country. We know that Apple can only exist in the US,” Cook told shareholders.

Cook named 3M and Corning as US companies which Apple buys its stuff from.  But the figures look rather strange and fly in the face of similar announcements a few years ago. In 2013 Apple said it spent Apple Spent Over $3 billion with 7,000 US business suppliers.  That announcement was touted as proof that Jobs Mob was building out its US supply chain.

Named by Cook were US companies 3M and Corning Glass.  The figure sounds quite high but given that an iPhone costs $200 to make and Apple sold 290 million of them in 2016 that means that the total cost was $58 billion. So Cook expects the world to believe that most of Apple’s manufacturing dollar was spent in the US?  Even if Cook’s figure does not just cover the iPhone, it strikes us a trifle high.

The good side about announcing a figure like that is that no one can check it.