Google backtracks from Android Lollipop encryption

Ars Technica reported on Google backtracking from compulsory encryption for Android Lollipop devices.

Last year, Google made headlines when it revealed that its next version of Android would require full-disk encryption on all new phones. Older versions of Android had supported optional disk encryption, but Android 5.0 Lollipop would make it a standard feature.

But we’re starting to see new Lollipop phones from Google’s partners, and they aren’t encrypted by default, contradicting Google’s previous statements. At some point between the original announcement in September of 2014 and the publication of the Android 5.0 hardware requirements in January of 2015, Google apparently decided to relax the requirement, pushing it off to some future version of Android. Here’s the timeline of events.

So why the change of heart after the fanfare in announcing the feature?

Here’s what we think is most likely. Lollipop’s encryption requirement made headlines again in November, this time because it had a huge impact on the new Nexus 6’s performance. Our review of the Nexus 6 showed that the new phone could be slower than the old Nexus 5 in certain tasks, and AnandTech supplied additional numbers that showed just how severe the performance impact was.

Meanwhile, iOS users continue enjoy encryption with no impact on their phone performance.

How secure is Samsung Pay?

Mashable raised questions about the security of Samsung Pay.

Samsung copied Apple Pay but needed a differentiating factor.

Samsung Pay incorporates LoopPay technology to allow its phones to work at magstrip readers. These are the types of credit card readers seen at most U.S. retailers — but Apple Pay doesn’t work with them. Apple’s mobile payments require NFC (or near-field communication) for transactions, which is still an up-and-coming technology.

This is perceived as an advantage over Apple Pay when rolling out Samsung Pay.

Some have already proclaimed that this gives Samsung an advantage in mobile payments. The U.S. has been slow in adopting more-secure chip or EMV payment technology. The idea is that people will be more prone to adopt Samsung Pay because it is more widely accepted by merchants.

But the use of magnetic stripe readers is a questionable move.

Even though the magstrip (or magstripe) compatibility could lead to wider adoption of Samsung Pay by both retailers and smartphone users, the problem with magnetic-strip cards is that they are very insecure.

“The data on the magstripe is the most dangerous data out there,” Gartner’s Litan said.

Magstripe transactions directly transmit your credit card’s information — card number, expiration date, etc. — to the sale terminal.

Samsung claims that the transaction would be tokenised, but refused to explain how it works. It is presumably integrating with Loop Pay, which it has acquired.

According to CNET, LoopPay uses the actual credit card number during transactions.

Is it a good idea to use legacy technology? Moreover, the industry is moving to update to the more secure microchip-cards. That would have an impact on the roll out of Samsung Pay, especially when credit cards with magnetic stripes will be phased out in October 2015.

WSJ’s false claim of Apple Pay fraud

Rurik Bradbury wrote on Trustev about Wall Street Journal’s misleading headline.

A hot and heavy headline at the Wall Street Journal, “Fraud Comes to Apple Pay,” gives the impression of some kind of security weakness in Apple’s new payment system, but it’s not justified.

What has happened is that Apple Pay itself is basically fraud-proof, so fraudsters have turned their attention to the next weakest link: credit cards before they’re added to an Apple Pay wallet.

This is classic fraud via social engineering. Criminals use stolen credit card details (which can easily and cheaply be bought for on sites like and then trick banks into allowing them to be loaded onto an iPhone. Once loaded onto a phone, they can make purchases until the card is canceled.

Shameful click-baiting headline to get the views.

Ex-GM CEO says building cars may not be worth it for Apple

Bloomberg reported on ex-GM CEO Dan Akerson saying building cars may not be worth it for Apple.

“I think somebody is kind of trying to cough up a hairball here,” Akerson said in a telephone interview. “If I were an Apple shareholder, I wouldn’t be very happy. I would be highly suspect of the long-term prospect of getting into a low-margin, heavy-manufacturing” business.
The car industry, with regulatory and safety requirements, is harder than people realize, Akerson said.
“A lot of people who don’t ever operate in it don’t understand and have a tendency to underestimate,” he said.

As John Gruber pointed out, this sounds familiar.

Back when rumours of Apple entering the phone market, then Palm CEO Ed Colligan scoffed at the idea:

Responding to questions from New York Times correspondent John Markoff at a Churchill Club breakfast gathering Thursday morning, Colligan laughed off the idea that any company — including the wildly popular Apple Computer — could easily win customers in the finicky smart-phone sector.

“We’ve learned and struggled for a few years here figuring out how to make a decent phone,” he said. “PC guys are not going to just figure this out. They’re not going to just walk in.”

Motorola boss counters criticism from Apple’s Jony Ive

BBC reported on Motorola boss countering criticism from Apple’s Jony Ive.

Sir Jonathan specifically asked the New Yorker magazine not to name the company he had been “scathing about”, but a campaign launched by Motorola in late 2013 matches the description he gave.

“Their value proposition was, ‘Make it whatever you want. You can choose whatever colour you want,’” Sir Jonathan is quoted as saying.

“And I believe that’s abdicating your responsibility as a designer.”

Rick Osterloh, president of Motorola:

“Our belief is that the end user should be directly involved in the process of designing products.

“We’re making the entire product line accessible.

“And frankly, we’re taking a directly opposite approach to them [Apple].”

He added that he believed this difference in strategy went wider than design.

“We do see a real dichotomy in this marketplace, where you’ve got people like Apple making so much money and charging such outrageous prices. We think that’s not the future,” he said.

“We believe the future is in offering similar experiences and great consumer choice at accessible prices.

We only need to look at the revenue and profit figures to know which philosophy is the successful one.

CEOs of Facebook, Google and Yahoo to skip Obama’s cybersecurity summit

Bloomberg reported on three of tech’s top CEOs planning to skip President Obama’s cybersecurity summit.

Facebook Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, and Google’s Larry Page and Eric Schmidt all were invited but won’t attend the public conference at Stanford University, according to the companies. Apple Inc. CEO Tim Cook is planning to be at the event, where Obama is scheduled to give the keynote speech and have a private lunch with a select group of attendees.

You would think that the CEOs would be actively involved to show their commitment to information security and take an active role in fighting for the privacy rights of their users.

Difference in how Microsoft and Apple announce new products

Gus Muller wrote about how Microsoft and Apple handle expectations.

You know deep down that the HoloLens isn’t going to be what they say it is, because it never is with Microsoft. For a great example of this, read Ben Kuchera’s “Skeptical of HoloLens? It’s time to rewatch how Microsoft sold us on the Kinect”.

So we’re not really disappointed, because we know what to expect.

But for some reason, the HoloLens announcement has really been upsetting me over the last 12 hours or so. Why is MS selling people promises that they know they won’t deliver? Or at least can’t deliver for another five years? Why are you getting people excited? It’s a wonderful future you’ve got painted here, but we’ve seen this show before. You need to stop this behavior Microsoft, because isn’t helping, and I know it sounds odd coming from me, but I really do want your products to kick ass.

So when we watch the Microsoft keynote, we don’t get excited because we know what to expect. We’ve learned from past behavior not to competely believe what Microsoft is selling.

And this is why so many people love what Apple delivers. When Apple gives demos of their new product, they aren’t throwing in CG showing how they hope things will happen some day in the future. Instead they show the real deal. How it’s being used yesterday. And it’s those possibilities that get us excited. And Apple frames it so well. The product demos never show us at work (because who wants to get excited about work?), instead the demos show us how the product will be used in our life. How it can make the things we enjoy even better.

And that is probably the biggest difference between Apple and Microsoft. Apple knows when it’s time to show a new product. Apple knows when something is ready for real world use, and Apple won’t rush something out the door because of market pressures.

Something competitors need to learn to get consumers excited when they announce new products.

The work of Jeff Williams

John Gruber wrote about Jeff Williams, Apple’s senior vice president of operations.

First, in terms of iPhone operations and considering nothing else, Jeff Williams has clearly done an amazing job. Apple sold a record 74 million iPhones last quarter, and though the company doesn’t break that down by models for competitive reasons, everyone knows that a huge chunk of those were the brand-new iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. They were supply-constrained on both models, particularly the 6 Plus, but only by a few weeks. Operationally Apple did an incredible job meeting demand for iPhones — they sold more than ever but were less supply-constrained than in the last few launch quarters. For context, in 2008, Apple sold a total 10 million iPhones for the entire year. All credit to the hardware, software, and product marketing teams for the fact that 74 million people wanted to buy an iPhone last quarter. But the credit goes to Williams’s operations team that there were 74 million units available to sell.

Second, iPhone manufacturing is not Williams’s only responsibility. He’s in charge of all operations, and company-wide, operations seems to be going as well or even better than they did while Tim Cook was COO alongside Steve Jobs. And, Williams is overseeing the team creating Apple Watch. No pressure there.

Siri is getting faster

John Gruber wrote about Siri’s improvements.

I’ve noticed over the past year that Siri is getting faster — both at parsing spoken input and returning results. I use iOS’s voice-to-text dictation feature on a near-daily basis, and it’s especially noticeable there. I’ve been using a Moto X running Android 5.0 the past few weeks, so today I did a side-by-side comparison between Siri and Android’s Google Voice Search, asking both the simple question, “What temperature is it outside?” Both phones were on the same Wi-Fi network. Siri was consistently as fast or faster. I made a video that shows them in pretty much a dead heat.

As Gruber rightly pointed out, it is not so much about whether Siri or Google Voice Search is faster, but rather a testimony of how Apple is catching up in terms of web services.

Samsung warns customers over listening TV

BBC reported on Samsung’s listening TV.

Samsung is warning customers about discussing personal information in front of their smart television set.

The warning applies to TV viewers who control their Samsung Smart TV using its voice activation feature.

When the feature is active, such TV sets “listen” to what is said and may share what they hear with Samsung or third parties, it said.

So what does Samsung do with the information it gathers?

The policy explains that the TV set will be listening to people in the same room to try to spot when commands or queries are issued via the remote. It goes on to say: “If your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party.”