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Smartphone | One Herald https://oneherald.com.au Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:30:46 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.7.5 85715709 Tech Fix: Google Pixel Review: Assessing the New Smartphone https://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-google-pixel-review-assessing-the-new-smartphone/ https://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-google-pixel-review-assessing-the-new-smartphone/#respond Wed, 19 Oct 2016 10:30:46 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-google-pixel-review-assessing-the-new-smartphone/ Google said that it had optimized Pixel to be speedy, with real-world applications that consumers could perceive, like making the touch screen feel very responsive. It also said that it would improve its virtual assistant over time and that photos taken with the Pixel look more natural. In the United States, Google’s Pixel will initially ...

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Google said that it had optimized Pixel to be speedy, with real-world applications that consumers could perceive, like making the touch screen feel very responsive. It also said that it would improve its virtual assistant over time and that photos taken with the Pixel look more natural.

In the United States, Google’s Pixel will initially be available for Verizon Wireless or Project Fi, Google’s cheaper phone service. Like other high-end phones, Pixel’s starting price is about $ 650. Pixel comes in two different screen sizes: five diagonal inches and 5.5 diagonal inches. Google provided the 5.5-inch model, Pixel XL, for testing.

After testing Pixel for five days, I concluded that although the device’s features are underwhelming, this is a good smartphone for Android fans. It does a great job doing what Google designed it to do: Running Android in its purest form, untainted by slipshod third-party apps. Better yet, this is an opportune time to consider breaking up with your carrier and switching to Project Fi, Google’s phone service that costs as little as $ 30 a month.

Here’s what stood out in my tests of Pixel:

Google’s Still-Annoying Assistant

In a comparison of voice-controlled virtual assistants offered by Google, Apple, Amazon and Microsoft last January, I determined that none were great, though Google’s was slightly ahead of the pack. Nine months later, the situation remains largely the same: Artificially intelligent assistants still aren’t that smart.

And so it was with Google’s supposedly new-and-improved virtual assistant, called Assistant, on the Pixel. The search giant says the difference with Assistant is that it is capable of “two-way conversations.” In plain English, what Google means is you can make requests to Assistant and ask follow-up questions, and Assistant might understand the context to respond appropriately.

Google offers this example: You can ask, “Where is the Taj Mahal?” and then ask, “How old is it?”

While that sounds compelling in theory, Assistant failed at responding fully to many requests made with natural language. When I asked, “What time is ‘Westworld’ on TV?” Assistant displayed a web search result containing the synopsis for the new sci-fi show. When I followed up with, “So what time is it on?” Assistant told me the current time, which was 9:35 p.m.

From there on, Assistant continued to hit foul balls. When I said, “book me a table nearby,” Assistant would try to book a table only at a restaurant called Rich Table, and didn’t list other options.

On the plus side, Assistant can handle a conversation about the weather. When I asked for the weather and it said it was raining, I asked whether it would stop raining this week. “Rain is not expected this week in San Francisco,” it said. Better.

In its current state, attempting to accomplish complex tasks with Assistant on Pixel will waste more time than it saves.

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Photo A was taken with a Samsung Galaxy S7 phone, photo B with Google’s Pixel, and photo C with an Apple iPhone 7. Out of 30 votes, 19 voted for the iPhone, eight voted for the Pixel, and three voted for the Samsung phone. Credit Nikki Nolan

A Mediocre Camera

Like pretty much every handset maker, Google proclaims Pixel’s camera to be the best on the market. Its rear camera has a 12.3-megapixel sensor, similar to the iPhone 7’s 12-megapixel sensor. So I took photos with the Pixel and compared them with shots taken with the iPhone 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy S7.

All the cameras took clear, visually appealing photographs with rich details, but there were major differences in color, even without any filters applied. The photos taken with the Pixel looked colder — they appeared to exaggerate cyans and magentas. The ones taken with the iPhone looked more vivid, though they appeared to slightly bump up yellows to make photos look warmer. The color in pictures taken with the Samsung phone looked oversaturated and unnatural.

I decided to let a blind jury weigh in. My partner, a professional photographer, took photos with each camera of a plant in a colorful vase in natural lighting. She labeled each photograph A, B and C, and I sent the photos out to 30 people and, without revealing which phone each letter corresponded with, asked them to vote for their favorite. (Before reading the results below, take a look and make your own vote.)

Photo A was taken with the Samsung phone, photo B with Google’s Pixel, and photo C with an iPhone 7. Out of 30 votes, 19 voted for the iPhone, eight voted for the Pixel, and three voted for the Samsung phone. People seemed to gravitate toward the warmer color profiles produced by the iPhone.

Comparisons With the Competition

Based on features alone, the Pixel is decent compared with Apple’s iPhone 7 and Samsung’s Galaxy S7. Here are some highlights:

■ What sets Pixel apart is its compatibility with Project Fi, Google’s experimental wireless service. You pay at least $ 30 a month for a package that includes unlimited minutes and messages and 1 gigabyte of cellular data. You can pay $ 10 more for each extra gigabyte of data or get reimbursed for the cellular data you don’t use.

The best part: In the United States, Project Fi relies on cell networks from Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular; Project Fi also works in more than 135 countries, and you pay the same rate no matter where you travel. In my review of Project Fi this year, I found the service to be reliable and the overall package to be a good, frugal option.

■ The Pixel’s fingerprint sensor, for unlocking the phone, is annoyingly on the back of the device rather than on the face. So when you’re on the go, you will probably be using two hands — one to hold the phone and the other to place your fingerprint on the back — to unlock the Pixel.

■ In speed tests run with the mobile app Geekbench, the Pixel was about 20 percent slower than both the iPhone 7 and the Galaxy S7.

■ The Pixel wasn’t designed to be water-resistant though Google says it is resistant to water sprays. The Galaxy S7 and the iPhone 7 survived a dive into a pitcher of water.

■ It’s worth noting that the Pixel still has a headphone jack, which Apple eliminated from its iPhones this year (though it turns out the iPhone’s omission of the jack was not a big deal).

The Bottom Line

Largely because Samsung, the king of Android phones, is in the penalty box, now is a good time to consider trying something new, be it a different phone service or a different operating system altogether.

Using Pixel with Project Fi may also end up saving you money: If you picked, for example, a plan with two gigabytes of data, you’d pay $ 40 a month for cellphone and data service that works all over the world. In contrast, Verizon charges $ 55 a month for a similar plan that doesn’t include free international roaming.

If you are uninterested in Project Fi and are not deeply invested in Google’s ecosystem, there is another route: Try an iPhone. Apple’s iPhone 7 and 7 Plus outperformed the Pixel in every way in terms of hardware features.

And so far, to my knowledge, Apple phones haven’t blown up.

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Google Introduces the Pixel, Its Own Smartphone https://oneherald.com.au/google-introduces-the-pixel-its-own-smartphone/ https://oneherald.com.au/google-introduces-the-pixel-its-own-smartphone/#respond Wed, 05 Oct 2016 00:15:53 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/google-introduces-the-pixel-its-own-smartphone/ Photo Google presented an array of new products, including the Pixel smartphone, in San Francisco on Tuesday. Credit Beck Diefenbach/Reuters SAN FRANCISCO — For all the bells and whistles of Google’s new smartphone, the biggest point of emphasis is tucked away in small type on the back of the device: “Phone by Google.” Today, most ...

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Google presented an array of new products, including the Pixel smartphone, in San Francisco on Tuesday. Credit Beck Diefenbach/Reuters

SAN FRANCISCO — For all the bells and whistles of Google’s new smartphone, the biggest point of emphasis is tucked away in small type on the back of the device: “Phone by Google.”

Today, most of Google’s smartphone software runs on devices manufactured by companies like Samsung, LG Electronics and Lenovo, with Google’s presence often relegated to the background. But with its new Pixel smartphone, introduced Tuesday at a press event, Google is front and center and selling a phone that it created from the industrial design to the components.

Google’s new strategy of controlling both hardware and software for its devices puts the company more directly in competition with Apple and many of its own Android partners. It’s a necessity, Google says, because of the advent of artificial intelligence.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, said devices with artificial intelligence — where computers can understand what people are saying and respond conversationally with the right information at the right moment — present a seminal moment in computing on par with the creation of the personal computer, the World Wide Web and smartphones.

For Google, artificial intelligence takes form in the Google Assistant. Google demonstrated how the Assistant, through a series of questions, can be used to plan a night out — from finding out about upcoming concerts at a certain venue to booking a reservation at a restaurant or researching how long the drive from the restaurant to the show will take.

“The goal is to build a personal Google for each and every individual,” Mr. Pichai said.

Pixel is the first smartphone with the Google Assistant built into the device. It was part of a new-product barrage including a Wi-Fi router, a virtual reality headset and a Chromecast device for streaming high-resolution video.

The Assistant is also a key part of another product the company introduced on Tuesday, Google Home. As the company’s answer to the Amazon Echo, Google Home is a speaker that listens for questions or commands to play music or control internet-connected devices. The Echo, which relies on A.I. software created by Amazon called Alexa, has been a surprise hit and has been on the market for two years.

The Echo’s success informed an important part of Google’s strategy: hardware products that provide a vessel to get the Google Assistant into the hands of consumers.

Its competitors are taking a similar path with their A.I. technology. Amazon is now building Alexa into its other hardware products like Fire tablets and Fire TV set-top boxes. Apple is considering expanding the reach of its virtual assistant from the iPhone and iPad into the home with an Echo-like device.

“If you really want to make a step-change difference, you really have to design the software and hardware together,” said Rick Osterloh, who returned to Google in April to be its senior vice president of hardware. He was the president of Motorola when it was owned by Google and moved with the company when it was sold to Lenovo in 2014.

Part of Mr. Osterloh’s mandate is to make sense of Google’s fragmented hardware efforts, which span a wide range of devices, from Chromebook computers to Wi-Fi routers. He said he planned to focus Google’s hardware resources in areas that highlight the company’s software, while also creating a unified look and feel to the devices.

Creating a uniform experience, especially in the world of smartphones, has been a challenge for Google. Hardware manufacturers often modify Google’s software to make what they sell a little different from that of their competitors.

For the last six years, Google worked with other hardware manufacturers such as Samsung and LG Electronics to develop the Nexus line of smartphones. Those phones provided a showcase for the best of Google’s software, but much of the design and production process was handled by the company’s hardware partners.

With Pixel, Mr. Osterloh said, “we wanted to build things as Google intended.”

But becoming a hardware manufacturer is not easy. Google is now exposed to new risks associated with a hardware business, such as managing inventory, providing customer service and procuring components.

With the Pixel, Google clearly has Apple’s iPhone in its sights. During an onstage presentation, Mr. Osterloh said the Pixel doesn’t have an “unsightly camera bump” — a reference to the protruding nub that sticks out from the iPhone’s rear camera.

In a commercial for the Pixel, Google also said its phone is all-new while noting that the Pixel comes with a “satisfyingly not new” headphone jack. Apple’s latest iPhones come without a headphone jack, a design decision that has sparked furious debate in the technology news media.

The Pixel, which is available for order, will come with a very iPhone-like price, starting at $ 649. Google said Google Home will sell for $ 129 and be available starting next month. The Pixel is available at Verizon and Best Buy stores. For people who want to use the phone with a different carrier, Google will sell the phone unlocked at its online store.

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Alphabet Ends Effort to Create Modular Smartphone https://oneherald.com.au/alphabet-ends-effort-to-create-modular-smartphone/ https://oneherald.com.au/alphabet-ends-effort-to-create-modular-smartphone/#respond Mon, 05 Sep 2016 09:17:20 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/alphabet-ends-effort-to-create-modular-smartphone/ Photo A Google Chromecast among Nexus phones in San Francisco. The idea of a customizable phone proved difficult to move beyond prototypes. Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images SAN FRANCISCO — Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is dropping plans to create a customizable, or modular, smartphone with interchangeable parts, two people briefed on the matter said ...

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A Google Chromecast among Nexus phones in San Francisco. The idea of a customizable phone proved difficult to move beyond prototypes. Credit Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN FRANCISCO — Alphabet, the parent company of Google, is dropping plans to create a customizable, or modular, smartphone with interchangeable parts, two people briefed on the matter said Thursday.

The decision to shelve the effort known as Project Ara comes after the company announced plans in May to release an early version of the product for developers in the fall. Google told partner companies on the project that senior management decided to rethink the initiative as part of a consolidation of its hardware operations, said one of the people.

A Google spokeswoman declined to comment. Reuters earlier reported the move to shutter the project.

It’s the latest sign of Google’s attempts to bring more financial discipline to a company that had long encouraged ambitious projects without much thought to profitability. Last year, the company moved to a holding company structure, separating the profitable advertising business from the money-losing “moonshots.” By forcing those projects to report losses publicly, the thinking was that it would help to rein in never-ending investment.

The idea of a customizable phone generated a lot of excitement, because it offered the promise of extending a product’s life with replaceable parts such as a new screen or battery. But it proved difficult to execute and move beyond prototypes. Google had planned to begin offering the phone in a test program in Puerto Rico last year, but it canceled the rollout.

The project also suffered from some organizational upheaval. It was part of Google Advanced Technology and Projects, known internally as ATAP, a group headed by Regina Dugan, the former director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Ms. Dugan left Google to spearhead a similar group at Facebook.

This led many observers to speculate that Project Ara was dead, but Google said at its developers conference in May that it was moving forward with plans to get the customizable phone in the hands of customers by 2017.

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How Spy Tech Firms Let Governments See Everything on a Smartphone https://oneherald.com.au/how-spy-tech-firms-let-governments-see-everything-on-a-smartphone/ https://oneherald.com.au/how-spy-tech-firms-let-governments-see-everything-on-a-smartphone/#respond Sun, 04 Sep 2016 05:36:18 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/how-spy-tech-firms-let-governments-see-everything-on-a-smartphone/ “There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making ...

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“There’s no check on this,” said Bill Marczak, a senior fellow at the Citizen Lab at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs. “Once NSO’s systems are sold, governments can essentially use them however they want. NSO can say they’re trying to make the world a safer place, but they are also making the world a more surveilled place.”

The NSO Group’s capabilities are in higher demand now that companies like Apple, Facebook and Google are using stronger encryption to protect data in their systems, in the process making it harder for government agencies to track suspects.

The NSO Group’s spyware finds ways around encryption by baiting targets to click unwittingly on texts containing malicious links or by exploiting previously undiscovered software flaws. It was taking advantage of three such flaws in Apple software — since fixed — when it was discovered by researchers last month.

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The founders of NSO Group, Omri Lavie, left, and Shalev Hulio. Credit NSO Group

The cyberarms industry typified by the NSO Group operates in a legal gray area, and it is often left to the companies to decide how far they are willing to dig into a target’s personal life and what governments they will do business with. Israel has strict export controls for cyberarms, but the country has never barred the sale of NSO Group technology.

Since it is privately held, not much is known about the NSO Group’s finances, but its business is clearly growing. Two years ago, the NSO Group sold a controlling stake in its business to Francisco Partners, a private equity firm based in San Francisco, for $ 120 million. Nearly a year later, Francisco Partners was exploring a sale of the company for 10 times that amount, according to two people approached by the firm but forbidden to speak about the discussions.

The company’s internal documents detail pitches to countries throughout Europe and multimillion-dollar-contracts with Mexico, which paid the NSO Group more than $ 15 million for three projects over three years, according to internal NSO Group emails dated in 2013. Calls and emails to Mexico’s embassies in San Francisco and Washington were not returned.

Zamir Dahbash, an NSO Group spokesman, said the sale of its spyware was restricted to authorized governments and it was used solely for criminal and terrorist investigations. He declined to comment on whether it would cease selling to the U.A.E. and Mexico after last week’s disclosures.

For the last six years, the NSO Group’s main product, a tracking system called Pegasus, has been used by a growing number of government agencies to target a range of smartphones — including iPhones, Androids, and BlackBerry and Symbian systems — without leaving a trace.

Among the Pegasus system’s capabilities, NSO Group contracts assert, are the abilities to extract text messages, contact lists, calendar records, emails, instant messages and GPS locations. One capability that the NSO Group calls “room tap” can gather sounds in and around the room, using the phone’s own microphone.

Pegasus can use the camera to take snapshots or screen grabs. It can deny the phone access to certain websites and applications, and it can grab search histories or anything viewed with the phone’s web browser. And all of the data can be sent back to the attacker’s server in real time.

In its commercial proposals, the NSO Group claims that its tracking software and hardware can install itself in any number of ways, including “over the air stealth installation,” tailored text messages and emails, through public Wi-Fi hot spots rigged to secretly install NSO Group software, or the old-fashioned way, by spies in person.

Much like a traditional software company, the NSO Group prices its surveillance tools by the number of targets, starting with a flat $ 500,000 installation fee. To spy on 10 iPhone users, NSO charges government agencies $ 650,000; $ 650,000 for 10 Android users; $ 500,000 for five Blackberry users; or $ 300,000 for five Symbian users — on top of the setup fee, according to one commercial proposal.

You can pay for more targets. One hundred additional targets will cost $ 800,000, 50 extra targets cost $ 500,000, 20 extra will cost $ 250,000 and 10 extra costs $ 150,000, according to an NSO Group commercial proposal. There is an annual system maintenance fee of 17 percent of the total price every year thereafter.

What that gets you, NSO Group documents say, is “unlimited access to a target’s mobile devices.” In short, the company says: You can “remotely and covertly collect information about your target’s relationships, location, phone calls, plans and activities — whenever and wherever they are.”

And, its proposal adds, “It leaves no traces whatsoever.”

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New Weapon in Day Laborers’ Fight Against Wage Theft: A Smartphone App https://oneherald.com.au/new-weapon-in-day-laborers-fight-against-wage-theft-a-smartphone-app/ https://oneherald.com.au/new-weapon-in-day-laborers-fight-against-wage-theft-a-smartphone-app/#respond Tue, 01 Mar 2016 13:06:23 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/new-weapon-in-day-laborers-fight-against-wage-theft-a-smartphone-app/ Photo Day laborers waiting for employers at 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times Just past sunrise on 69th Street, near the No. 7 subway station in Jackson Heights, Queens, men in backpacks and work boots gather in groups, many on their cellphones. They are workers at ...

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Day laborers waiting for employers at 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

Just past sunrise on 69th Street, near the No. 7 subway station in Jackson Heights, Queens, men in backpacks and work boots gather in groups, many on their cellphones.

They are workers at one of the largest day laborer stops in New York City, hoping to be hired. Most are undocumented immigrants who have reported being cheated by employers. In the fight against wage theft, their phones could soon become their biggest allies.

After three years of planning, an immigrant rights group in Jackson Heights is set to start a smartphone app for day laborers, a new digital tool with many uses: Workers will be able to rate employers (think Yelp or Uber), log their hours and wages, take pictures of job sites and help identify, down to the color and make of a car, employers with a history of withholding wages. They will also be able to send instant alerts to other workers. The advocacy group will safeguard the information and work with lawyers to negotiate payment.

“It will change my life and my colleagues’ lives a good deal,” Omar Trinidad, a Mexican immigrant, said in Spanish through an interpreter. Mr. Trinidad is the lead organizer who helped develop the app. “Presently, there is a lot of wage theft,” he said. “There has always been wage theft, and the truth is we’re going to put a stop to that.”

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Omar Trinidad, a construction worker, is the lead organizer who helped to develop the Jornalero app. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

The app has its soft launch on Tuesday night, with beta testing to be held later this month at the Jackson Heights day laborer stop that stretches for a mile along 69th Street. Day laborer centers in Brooklyn and on Staten Island will also be testing the product, which is available in Spanish and English.

Mr. Trinidad, 35, suggested the name for the app — Jornalero, which means day laborer in Spanish.

The plan is for the app to spread to all 70 of the city’s day laborer stops, and then to workers in all kinds of jobs across the country.

The Jornalero app began as a project of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, known as NICE, in Jackson Heights, and then expanded in scope when the group’s parent organization, the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, based in Los Angeles, secured more funding.

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Day laborers talking with a potential employer at 69th Street and Roosevelt Avenue in Queens. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

“It’s going to be a gift that the day laborers are going to give to the working class in America,” said Pablo Alvarado, the executive director of the national day laborer group.

The project has been a collaboration of workers, artists, organizers, lawyers, unions and academics. Sol Aramendi, a photographer based in Queens and an activist with NICE, first joined Hana Georg, a local electrician, to propose the idea to construction laborers, who were immediately enthusiastic. The Worker Institute, a program within the School of Industrial and Labor Relations at Cornell University, ran forums for workers across New York City to see what they most needed in an app.

The workers wanted an easy way to track payments, record details about unsafe work sites and share pictures to identify employers. Most of all, they wanted to do it all anonymously.

Alyx Baldwin, a designer who had established a mesh network that kept the Red Hook section of Brooklyn connected to the Internet after Hurricane Sandy, began the design work with those priorities in mind.

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Sol Aramendi, a photographer based in Queens and an activist with New Immigrant Community Empowerment, was one of the first to suggest creating an app for day laborers. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

A San Francisco group, Rebel Idealist, took over the design at the beginning of this year, after the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades pledged $ 25,000 to support the app. Mr. Alvarado said his organization also received $ 15,000 from the Ford Foundation.

Previously, when workers were robbed of their wages, Mr. Trinidad said, they were unable to respond; because of their immigration status, they were often afraid to report the theft or did not know how.

The app has workers record their hours and wages, which are then saved in a profile. That profile, which lists a phone number but no name, is linked to the organization’s database. If a worker reports not being paid or being underpaid, NICE will contact the employer. If necessary, lawyers from the Urban Justice Center, who conduct monthly clinics at NICE, will help recover lost wages.

“The app is not just reactionary,” Manuel Castro, the executive director of NICE, said. By keeping records, he said, workers will be prepared to prove they have not been paid. “Just in case something happens, they have it stored,” Mr. Castro said.

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Manuel Castro, the executive director of New Immigrant Community Empowerment. Credit Danny Ghitis for The New York Times

He added: “We’re launching this as a way to learn more about how to use technology.”

Mr. Trinidad will be leading training sessions on the app. He is supporting two children back in Mexico, and after three years of guiding this app, he is eagerly awaiting its arrival. “It’s like a new baby,” he said.

In New York, the rights of day laborers have gained traction in the City Council, which granted $ 500,000 in August to expand workers’ centers throughout the boroughs.

Pepe Soto, 40, a construction worker from Peru, said day laborers could be easily duped by contractors or subcontractors when asking for payment.

“They’ll say, ‘Wait for me, I’ll be right back.’ And we’re naïvely standing around,” Mr. Soto said on Monday on 69th Street, three blocks from NICE’s day laborer center. “This way we can be more alert. If he leaves, we can take a picture of his car.”

As one of the leaders on the street, Mr. Soto will be spreading the word about the new app and reassuring fellow workers that it is safe to use. “We’re here all day, so our phones are our best friends,” he said.

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]]> https://oneherald.com.au/new-weapon-in-day-laborers-fight-against-wage-theft-a-smartphone-app/feed/ 0 27003 Tech Fix: Tips and Myths About Extending Smartphone Battery Life https://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-tips-and-myths-about-extending-smartphone-battery-life/ https://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-tips-and-myths-about-extending-smartphone-battery-life/#respond Wed, 24 Feb 2016 23:15:08 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/tech-fix-tips-and-myths-about-extending-smartphone-battery-life/ Photo Credit Minh Uong/The New York Times Ashlei Temeña’s family trip to Disneyland last Thanksgiving break turned into a nightmare when her smartphone battery hit empty. Ms. Temeña, a San Francisco support technician, had gotten separated from her family and realized she had no way to find anyone. Instead of riding roller coasters, she wandered ...

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Credit Minh Uong/The New York Times

Ashlei Temeña’s family trip to Disneyland last Thanksgiving break turned into a nightmare when her smartphone battery hit empty.

Ms. Temeña, a San Francisco support technician, had gotten separated from her family and realized she had no way to find anyone. Instead of riding roller coasters, she wandered around searching for the group — eventually locating them four hours later watching fireworks.

“It sucked really bad,” Ms. Temeña said. “I wanted to throw my phone on the ground by the end of the day.”

Many consumers can relate. Despite the leaps forward in mobile phone technology with crisp, clear screens and faster chips, batteries have made only sluggish progress. That has propelled a desire for longer battery life to the top of the list of factors considered by consumers when they purchase smartphones, according to a 2014 survey by the research firm IDC.

So why is battery technology still underwhelming? Plenty of companies have been developing smarter battery technology for years, including methods to increase battery capacity tenfold or charge devices by pulling energy from the air. But lithium ion, the technology that most mainstream batteries are based on, is low cost and easily reproducible while being safe — so we’ll be stuck with it for the foreseeable future, said Charlie Quong, an executive at Mophie, a battery accessory maker, in an interview.

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The Wirecutter

This article is part of a series of creative collaborations with The Wirecutter, a buyer’s guide to the best technology products.

“There’s a lot of investments on all fronts for improving the technology above and beyond that, but I don’t think we’re going to see that hitting any kind of mass market for several years out,” Mr. Quong said. In general, lithium ion improves about 10 percent a year in terms of the amount of energy that can be stored in a given space, which is partly why consumers perceive batteries as being far behind other technologies.

With that backdrop in mind, we teamed up with the Wirecutter, a product recommendations website, to run an array of tests to determine best and worst practices for preserving battery life on smartphones. For those who still need extra juice, the Wirecutter also picked some external battery products.

The results showed that some conventional beliefs about extending battery life — like turning off Wi-Fi or shutting down all your phone’s apps — produced negligible or even harmful results. The Wirecutter also found plenty of helpful practices to get more use out of your battery, like playing music stored directly on the device (instead of streaming it) or tweaking email configurations.

The Wirecutter tested a range of recent Apple and Android smartphones with the latest operating systems in tightly controlled environments. Your phone’s results will vary depending on the phone model, cellular carrier, location and other factors, but the general results should hold. Here are eight tips and seven myths busted by our findings:

1. Use auto-brightness for the screen.

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A smartphone’s screen consumes more energy than any other component, so the easiest way to cut down battery drain is to reduce your screen brightness. In an hourlong test, an iPhone 6s used 54 percent less battery power with the screen brightness at minimum as compared with maximum brightness. An Android test phone used 30 percent less.

But it’s tough to use a dim screen in bright environments, so most phones offer an auto-brightness mode that automatically adjusts the screen’s brightness based on ambient light. The Wirecutter found that enabling auto-brightness saved a good amount of battery life.

2. Block power-sucking ads.

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When browsing the web, your smartphone also burns through power when it downloads mobile ads on websites. Installing an ad blocker will greatly extend battery life.

The Wirecutter ran a test that cycled through a list of websites for two hours over a Wi-Fi connection. Safari on an iPhone 6s used 18 percent of a full battery; Chrome on a Moto X Pure Android phone used 22 percent. Installing the 1Blocker ad blocker on the iPhone reduced battery usage for the same test to only 9 percent of a full battery; on an Android phone, using the Ghostery Privacy Browser, which blocks ads, used only 8 percent of the battery.

3. Tweak your email settings.

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Email can have a major impact on battery life if you have multiple email accounts and receive lots of email. Your smartphone can update your email automatically using a technology called push, which brings new messages to your phone the instant they are transmitted. Push can be a power hog because it requires your phone to constantly listen for new messages, so if you get a lot of email, there’s a good chance your phone is using lots of energy.

The Wirecutter tested an iPhone 6s Plus configured with three email accounts, receiving a total of 20 to 30 messages an hour. In these tests, having push active over the course of a day caused Mail to account for 5 to 10 percent of the phone’s overall battery use.

To save energy, most phones can be configured to instead check for (or “fetch”) emails on a schedule — say, every 30 minutes — or only when you manually tell your email app to refresh.

4. Play downloaded music instead of streaming.

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The next tip may come as unwelcome news. Nowadays, online streaming is the most popular way to listen to music, with services like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music — but this method guzzles lots of battery power. In the Wirecutter’s tests, streaming music over a Wi-Fi connection for two hours used 10 percent of an iPhone’s battery reserves; streaming the same music stored directly on a device over two hours consumed only 5 percent.

Fortunately, streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music still let you listen to songs the old-school way: by storing the music right on your device.

5. Turn off wireless when reception is poor.

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You may have noticed that when you’re in a place without good Wi-Fi or cellular coverage, your phone’s battery seems to drain much more quickly. That’s because the phone uses energy searching for a good signal and, if the signal is very weak, trying to get a better connection.

To conserve battery life, disable the phone’s wireless circuitry. Airplane Mode, an option that will turn off all wireless features, is a quick and easy solution in areas with poor reception.

Alternatively, you can disable (in your phone’s settings) a single wireless feature. For example, if you have terrible wireless carrier coverage in your office, but Wi-Fi is great, disabling cellular connectivity while there will keep the phone from wasting energy trying to get a cellular connection while still letting you connect to the Internet over Wi-Fi.

6. Check the battery usage lists.

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Consumers can get even better results with a bit of sleuthing. Both the iPhone and Android systems provide a simple way to see which apps are using a lot of battery power. For iPhones and Android phones, open the Settings app and in the Battery menu, there are sorted lists of apps that are using the most energy.

On the Phone’s battery usage screen, tap the clock button to reveal information about how much of your battery life each app is consuming when you’re actively using the app (“screen”) compared with when you’re not (“backgd”). On Android, the most useful information are the timers for “CPU total” and “CPU foreground.” Foreground is how much time you had the app open; subtract “foreground” from “total,” and you’ll know how much time the app has been busy in the background.

Be on the lookout for apps that are active for extended periods in the background and are using a lot of battery power. Examples include an email app that spends lots of time checking for new messages even when your phone is asleep, a news reader that updates articles in the background or a fitness app that constantly monitors your location.

If you find apps using up lots of energy in the background, disable their background activities. On an iPhone, go to the Settings app, tap General and then Background App Refresh and disable the background activities for any apps. On Android, go inside the Settings app, tap Data Usage, choose an app, then select “Restrict Background Data” for background data usage.

7. Disable unnecessary location tracking.

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Watch out for apps that track your location. Your phone’s GPS circuitry, which determines your geographic location for mapping and fitness features, consumes a lot of battery power. A run-tracking program that monitors your precise location for the duration of an hourlong run will lower your battery level.

If a location-based app is using a lot of power, especially in the background, there’s a good chance the app is using GPS, Wi-Fi and the phone’s sensors frequently. You can decide whether to disable location features for it (either via your phone’s Location Services settings, or by changing settings in the app itself). On an iPhone, you can disable the app’s ability to track your location by going to Privacy menu and Location Services.

To disable location tracking on Android, go inside the Settings app, tap Apps, choose an app and select “Permissions,” then tap to disable Location permission.

8. Shut off unnecessary push notifications.

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Both Apple and Google recommend disabling push notifications, which are essentially app alerts, to conserve battery life. Notifications require regular communication with notification servers, and each notification causes your phone to wake up for a few seconds, including turning on the screen, to show you a message and give you a chance to act on it.

In the Wirecutter’s testing, receiving a few dozen notifications over the course of an hour didn’t noticeably affect battery usage. But if you get a lot of notifications each day, that energy use can add up. If a particular app or service (say, Twitter or your email client) is constantly producing notifications, consider disabling notifications for that app.

On an iPhone, open the Settings app, tap Notifications, tap the app name and disable Allow Notifications. On Android, disable notification in an app’s settings menu, or long-press the notification itself and select the “i” icon. This will send you to that app’s App Notifications settings, where you can block all notifications.

Beware battery-saving myths.

1. Closing unused apps.

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There is plenty of inaccurate conventional wisdom about methods to prolong battery life. Let’s start with one of the worst “tips”: Closing (or force-quitting, as it’s commonly called) apps you are not currently using. The theory is that apps running in the background are using your phone’s components, so quitting them will save energy.

While that may be true on a computer, smartphones are designed differently: Once an app is no longer in the foreground — meaning you are not actively using it — most or all of its processes are frozen. In other words, while an app may still be loaded in a phone’s memory, it probably is not doing much in the background to drain your battery.

Finally, quitting apps actually has drawbacks: When you force-quit an app, all of its code can be purged from your phone’s RAM, which means that the next time you open the app, the phone has to reload all of that code. That, of course, requires energy.

2. Don’t assume turning off Wi-Fi will always help.

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A common suggestion for extending battery life is to disable Wi-Fi. However, if you’re in range of a strong Wi-Fi signal, your phone uses less energy to connect to the Internet with a Wi-Fi connection than a cellular one. If you regularly use apps that rely on your location, having Wi-Fi enabled helps your phone determine its location without having to rely solely on power-hungry GPS features, so it actually helps a battery last longer.

An exception is when you’re at the edges of a Wi-Fi network, where your phone is struggling to get a good connection, and you have a good cellular data connection. But in most cases, you’re usually better off keeping Wi-Fi enabled.

3. Avoid disabling all location services.

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Many apps that use your location do so only intermittently. Even using the Maps app for short navigation sessions doesn’t use more than a few percent of your battery’s capacity — and having the phone’s screen continually on is a big part of why navigation uses a lot of power.

In other words, don’t disable all of your phone’s location-based features just to extend your battery life. You won’t see a big jump in use time, but you may end up disabling — and subsequently missing — useful features. Instead, check (using the tips above) to see if any of apps consuming the most battery life also track your location. If so, and if you don’t need that location tracking, consider disabling it for those apps.

4. Don’t always choose Wi-Fi over cellular.

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Many people, and even smartphone vendors such as Apple, claim that using Wi-Fi for wireless data consumes less power than using a cellular signal, so you should use Wi-Fi whenever you can. However, the Wirecutter’s testing found this isn’t always the case.

In testing in a location where both Wi-Fi and cellular LTE signals were strong, an hour of browsing over Wi-Fi used roughly the same amount of battery power as an hour using LTE on an iPhone. On a Motorola Android phone, LTE used only 2 to 3 percent more power than Wi-Fi.

In other words, as long as you have a good signal, you probably won’t see a huge difference between Wi-Fi and cellular data, and it’s probably not worth the hassle of switching between the two.

5. Let Siri and Google listen for your commands.

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Both iPhones and Android phones include a hands-free feature for summoning their virtual assistants by speaking voice commands. You can just say “Hey Siri” to the iPhone or “O.K. Google” and then speak your request or command. While convenient, this feature requires your phone to constantly listen for that special phrase, which uses some power.

Yet if you have one of the phones that supports this feature, disabling it won’t conserve much battery life. In the Wirecutter’s testing with an iPhone 6s Plus and a Nexus 6P, there was a negligible difference in battery usage between having the always-on virtual assistant enabled or disabled over a two-hour period.

Using Siri or O.K. Google uses some energy, so if your phone’s battery is getting low, you should probably stop asking the phone question after question during your commute. But just having the feature enabled isn’t worth worrying about — and it can be quite convenient.

6. Don’t forgo third-party chargers made by reputable vendors.

A common warning around the Internet is that you should use only the charger that came with your phone, otherwise you could damage your phone’s battery. In reality, the phone itself contains all the circuitry responsible for charging its battery. The AC adapter (as it’s more accurately known) simply converts the AC current from a wall outlet into low-voltage, low-amperage DC current that it provides via a USB port. This is why you can also charge your phone using the USB port on a computer, a USB battery pack or a charger in your car — the phone is designed to allow it to charge from a variety of power sources that can produce a wide range of current.

Finally, you may see warnings that a cheap third-party charger could damage your phone. There’s some truth here: Many chargers — especially budget models sold online, or even at your local shopping mall kiosk — are poorly made, or use low-quality components. A poorly made charger can not only damage your phone, but could also hurt you by exposing you to dangerous currents. So if you’re replacing your phone’s AC adapter, or buying an extra, stick with a reputable vendor.

7. Calibrate only occasionally.

For many years, devices that used rechargeable batteries required “conditioning” or “calibrating,” a procedure that prevented the battery from forgetting how much capacity it actually had. Today’s smartphone batteries no longer suffer from this issue.

What can happen, however, is that the phone itself loses track of how much capacity its battery has: Every battery gradually loses capacity over time as you use and recharge it, and the phone’s software isn’t always good at accounting for this capacity change. By periodically (once every couple of months) fully charging the phone and then using it until it dies, your phone’s software will determine the battery’s current capacity and thus let the phone better estimate how long it will last on a charge. In other words, the battery won’t last any longer, but the phone’s battery meter will be more accurate. If you find that your phone claims you have 80 percent of a charge left, but it dies a few hours later, you should try this procedure.

If all else fails …

If you have tried all the above and still struggle to get through the day with your battery, consider buying an external battery. These accessories — which can take the form of a bulky case with a built-in battery that you wear on the phone, or a separate battery pack that connects to your phone with a cable — can provide power to last an additional few hours at the end of the day, or even to fully charge your phone’s battery.

The Wirecutter tested more than 100 external batteries for dozens of hours to pick a few favorites. Its favorite battery case for the iPhone 6 and 6s is Anker’s Ultra Slim Extended Battery Case, which has enough power to fully charge a dead iPhone and then some, more than doubling the phone’s battery life. For larger iPhones — the 6 Plus and 6s Plus — the Wirecutter prefers Tylt’s Energi Sliding Power Case because the case’s two-piece design makes it appealing.

For Android phones, an external battery pack is a good option. The AmazonBasics Portable Power Bank with Micro USB Cable 2,000 mAh is the best pack the Wirecutter tested that will fit in your pocket with your phone, and it’s less than $ 10. A great battery pack for the iPhone is the $ 29 TravelCard, which is almost thin enough to fit in a wallet — with a built-in Lightning-connector cable to charge your phone.

For days of smartphone power, the Anker PowerCore 15600 is the Wirecutter’s pick if you need to charge a phone repeatedly or keep a full-size tablet and phone topped up through a busy week. It has enough available power to charge a typical smartphone five times or to fill a large tablet such as an iPad Air almost twice — for under $ 40.

After her stressful day at Disneyland, Ms. Temeña bought an external Amazon battery pack. She said the pack could fully charge her phone six times, but it wasn’t ideal because of its bulk. Ultimately, she wishes her iPhone had a better battery.

“I don’t understand why a battery wouldn’t be able to keep up with all the other advances they’re putting into phones now,” she said.

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App Smart: Filters That Add a Dash of Dazzle to Smartphone Photos https://oneherald.com.au/app-smart-filters-that-add-a-dash-of-dazzle-to-smartphone-photos/ https://oneherald.com.au/app-smart-filters-that-add-a-dash-of-dazzle-to-smartphone-photos/#respond Thu, 11 Feb 2016 09:45:07 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/app-smart-filters-that-add-a-dash-of-dazzle-to-smartphone-photos/ Photo The Colorburn app, $ 1 on iOS, includes more than 1,000 filters and effects. When I learned about photography years ago, one of my favorite tricks with the camera was to use a filter — perhaps a color gel or a diffuser — to add a special effect to the final photograph. Now I ...

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The Colorburn app, $ 1 on iOS, includes more than 1,000 filters and effects.

When I learned about photography years ago, one of my favorite tricks with the camera was to use a filter — perhaps a color gel or a diffuser — to add a special effect to the final photograph.

Now I can do the same thing on my smartphone, thanks to photo filter apps. Many of the apps are badly made, but we have sorted through some that are worth trying.

The Colorburn app, which is $ 1 on iOS, is my favorite photo filter app because of its professional design and comprehensiveness. The app provides more than 1,000 filters and effects, including different color filters that can add purple, red, green and other tones to images. It also lets you add stripes or segments of different tones in different patterns, so your photos can go Warhol, 1970s, vintage or sci-fi.

Colorburn works best when you use the camera system in the app to take your photos, because doing so offers a chance to see the effect live on your camera screen and tweak it or select a different effect. The app also works on photos you’ve already snapped, either with your phone’s built-in camera or a different photography app.

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Filterloop, a free iOS app, has a large array of color and effect filters that you can layer on top of one another for extreme effects.

Among my favorite Colorburn features are image editing for contrast and cutout filters that let you frame your photo in a square, a heart or another shape. Extra filters and effects are available via in-app purchase for $ 1 or more. Controlling the individual effects is easy thanks to the app’s clear editing controls.

Colorburn’s downside? There is so much choice in filters and effects that mastering its many menus and controls and deciding which of the 1,000-plus image options you want to use can be difficult.

Infltr is another iOS image filtering app with a huge number of effects. But this app works differently from Colorburn: Instead of dialing through a menu that offers a choice of filter colors and effects, you swipe your finger over the screen, and where you tap and swipe determines the effect you see. The app has a live-shooting mode so you see the filters as you take the photo, or you can edit previous snaps.

Infltr’s quirky filter interface really influences how you use it. Because it reacts to swipes so quickly and you can’t fine-tune each effect, it forces you to swipe to find a great look and to snap your photo quickly. This means you may end up trying filters that you would normally not choose in a photo app like Instagram.

Some reviewers lament the lack of fine control over each special effect in Infltr. The app also specializes mainly in colored filters instead of more eye-catching ones like vignetting and color inversion. It costs $ 3.

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The Pixlr app, free on iOS and Android, has filters and comprehensive photo editing features like red-eye removal and text overlay.

If you’re the kind of phone photographer who wants more control over image edits, check out the Pixlr app, which is free on iOS and Android.

This app has an interface with bold, clear icons and controls. Its filters are organized into sections like “artmodern,” “color” and more, and each filter is previewed with a little on-screen icon. The preview helps you choose how bold the final result is with a simple slider. Unlike some rival apps, Pixlr also allow you to apply the filter over the whole image or only to particular regions that you indicate by drawing on-screen.

Pixlr also has comprehensive photo editing features like red-eye removal, text overlay and more. The app is supported by ads, but if you’re annoyed by e pop-ups, they can be removed by paying $ 2.

Filterloop, a free iOS app, is another fabulous option. It has a huge array of color and effect filters that you can layer on top of one another for extreme effects. Those effects include fake light leaks and grain for some really retro images. Filterloop comes with a reasonable number of built-in filters and has its own store that sells many filter bundles for $ 1 or $ 2.

Android users have a strong filter app option in the form of Cymera. This app has a professional-looking interface that is similar to Pixlr’s, and has 130 different filter effects, as well as other special image adjustments to make it look as if your photos were taken on a Lomo camera or through a fish-eye lens. Cymera has many other features to help edit your photos, including adding fake makeup effects. It’s free and also available on iOS.

Quick Call

Microsoft’s personal assistant, Cortana, has been available on iOS for a while, but the app has just had a big upgrade. Cortana, which is free, now is more stable, loads faster, supports the 3-D touch option on newer iPhone 6s devices and has a new monthly reminder feature. Microsoft has also upgraded its Bing search apps for iOS and Android to add a few extra features, including a bar code scanner for price comparisons on Android.

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As More Pay by Smartphone, Banks Scramble to Keep Up https://oneherald.com.au/as-more-pay-by-smartphone-banks-scramble-to-keep-up/ https://oneherald.com.au/as-more-pay-by-smartphone-banks-scramble-to-keep-up/#respond Tue, 19 Jan 2016 05:27:38 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/as-more-pay-by-smartphone-banks-scramble-to-keep-up/ Photo For young Americans, most relationships with the financial system are electronic. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times Ryan Craine hates carrying cash and finds writing checks to be a headache. He doesn’t do much of either anymore — he mostly uses his smartphone to pay for things. Mr. Craine, a 28-year-old tech support worker ...

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For young Americans, most relationships with the financial system are electronic. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

Ryan Craine hates carrying cash and finds writing checks to be a headache. He doesn’t do much of either anymore — he mostly uses his smartphone to pay for things.

Mr. Craine, a 28-year-old tech support worker in Washington, D.C., uses Apple Pay at the stores and restaurants that accept it. About 20 times a month, he turns to Venmo, a digital wallet for transferring money from one person to another, to pay his share of rent, meals, groceries and utility bills. To refinance his student loans last year, he went to an online lending start-up, Earnest.

Mr. Craine’s money choices point to the millennial-led shift toward new digital financial services, a change in behavior that threatens to upend the consumer banking industry. The popularity of the services has left the major banks rushing to adapt, even as they have regained their footing after the financial crisis.

If the banks fail to meet the challenge, Brian Moynihan, the chief executive of Bank of America, warned in November, “it may allow part of our industry to be forever taken away from us.”

Americans in their 20s and early 30s, analysts say, offer a glimpse of tomorrow’s banking market. “Their relationship with the financial system is very different — it’s an electronic one, on their smartphones,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics. “That can and will be very disruptive to the banking system.”

Money is pouring into so-called fintech start-ups. And major technology companies — Apple, Google, Amazon, Facebook and Samsung — are all entering consumer banking, typically starting with digital payment apps.

Investment worldwide in start-ups focused on retail banking markets rose to nearly $ 6.8 billion in 2015, according to CB Insights, a research firm. That is more than triple the $ 2.2 billion in 2014.

The major banks have all taken steps to address the new reality. Citigroup, for example, has teamed up with Lending Club, an online lender. In October, the bank set up a separate unit, Citi FinTech. In a memo to the staff, Stephen Bird, the new chief executive of global consumer banking, said the bank had reached a “pivotal point,” when “technological change is intensifying” and “competitors are everywhere.”

In an interview, Mr. Bird called the new unit the “spearhead” of the bank’s move into the future. The long-range goal, he said, is to provide an array of banking and money management services that are as effortless to use as ordering and paying for a ride on Uber.

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Vanessa Montes de Oca, 20, a fashion design student, has a variety of cases for her iPhone 6s, including one lined in pink fur. Credit Monica Almeida/The New York Times

“It’s a big opportunity for us if we can move fast enough,” Mr. Bird said. “It’s both an opportunity and a threat.”

While the fintech insurgents are moving and growing quickly, they must overcome big challenges of their own before reshaping the industry. They are still relatively small and niche players in the sprawling retail banking business. They are not deposit-taking institutions, where consumer savings are insured by the government.

They also lack the legal and regulatory apparatus that traditional banks have built over many decades. Already, some of the new services are facing regulatory scrutiny. In November, Apple, Google, Amazon, PayPal and Intuit formed a Washington-based advocacy group, Financial Innovation Now, to promote policies to “foster greater innovation in financial services.”

Still, some banking habits are changing across the population. In 2010, 40 percent of Americans with bank accounts visited a physical branch once a week, while only 9 percent made a mobile transaction weekly, according to survey research by Javelin Strategy and Research. By 2014, the percentage reporting weekly visits to bank branches fell to 28 percent, while the weekly mobile banking share tripled, to 27 percent.

Vanessa Montes de Oca, 20, lives in Covina, Calif., and she combines being a college student with part-time work at a nearby Sam’s Club. She has an account at Chase Bank, but uses it only to receive her direct-deposit paychecks and to make debit payments. She has no credit cards, viewing them a path to overspending and financial peril.

So Ms. Montes de Oca chose a new credit card alternative, Affirm, to make purchases at an online clothing retailer, UNIF. In the last year, she has made five purchases, ranging up to $ 460. She pays Affirm in installments over three to 12 months.

The information she gave Affirm, typing into her smartphone, was her name, address, cellphone number and the last four digits of her Social Security number. Her credit and purchase approval came back in a few seconds.

She used the Affirm smartphone app without qualms. It seemed, she said, a “solid service” — smooth and fast, with the payment amounts and terms clearly stated. That screen in her hand, she added, is where she pays bills, communicates and seeks answers. “Most of the business of my life is on my phone,” said Ms. Montes de Oca, who is also a Venmo user.

The migration to mobile computing may well work to the advantage of the digital-only entrants as people of all ages become more comfortable using a smartphone as the remote control for their finances.

Wealth management services, for example, skew toward an older demographic. At SigFig, a San Francisco start-up that offers an online investment advisory service, the average user is 47 years old. Still, the share of SigFig users tapping in from mobile devices has increased steadily, to 50 percent.

“People have such a daily relationship with their smartphones now, almost no matter what their age,” said Mike Sha, chief executive of SigFig.

Venmo is riding a surge of popularity, mostly among millennials. The volume of payments through Venmo, a unit of PayPal, more than tripled in the most recently reported quarter, to $ 2.1 billion.

Venmo, according to William Ready, senior vice president for products and engineering at PayPal, is beginning to cross generations, as younger adults persuade their parents to use the smartphone app for sending money and splitting payments.

Yet the cross-generational embrace seems to be going slowly. Mr. Craine, the tech support worker, urged his parents, who are in their mid-50s, to use Venmo. But they are not yet converts.

“I tried,” Mr. Craine recalled, “but they are reluctant to deal with money that way on a smartphone.”

Madeleine Fleming, 25, an online product manager who lives in Brooklyn, ran into the same obstacle when she tried to persuade her mother, who is in her late 50s. “She’s a lot less tied to her phone than I am,” Ms. Fleming said.

Ms. Fleming frequently sends small, monetary gifts to friends and relatives with get-well or cheer-up messages. For example, she says, a cousin who is a teacher in New Orleans had a tough week recently. Ms. Fleming sent her $ 10 via Venmo, with a note of encouragement that urged her to buy herself a drink.

“It’s a small thinking-of-you gesture,” Ms. Fleming said. “I think it’s the next level of thoughtfulness.”

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]]> https://oneherald.com.au/as-more-pay-by-smartphone-banks-scramble-to-keep-up/feed/ 0 24285 Well: Five Ways Your Smartphone Can Help Your Health https://oneherald.com.au/well-five-ways-your-smartphone-can-help-your-health/ https://oneherald.com.au/well-five-ways-your-smartphone-can-help-your-health/#respond Mon, 16 Nov 2015 22:34:17 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/well-five-ways-your-smartphone-can-help-your-health/ Photo Credit Tucker Nichols Wired Well A special report on personal technology for health, family and fitness. A doctor friend once told me the best thing I could do for my health was to turn off my cellphone. But that was before smartphone makers began building health and safety features into their phones. Here are ...

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Credit Tucker Nichols

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Wired Well

A special report on personal technology for health, family and fitness.

A doctor friend once told me the best thing I could do for my health was to turn off my cellphone. But that was before smartphone makers began building health and safety features into their phones. Here are five healthful tricks your phone can do.

Medical ID: Apple’s Medical ID turns any iPhone 4s or newer model into an mobile medical alert bracelet. Tap on your phone’s Health app icon (it’s the white square with a red heart) to find it. Setting up your phone’s medical ID allows doctors or emergency workers to tap and hold the Emergency button on your home screen — even when it’s locked — to access medical conditions, allergies, emergency contacts, blood type and other potentially lifesaving information. (Make sure you enable the “show when locked” switch.)

Fitness Tracking: Most smartphones now come equipped with motion sensors that measure steps, distance traveled and even stairs climbed. To find this feature on an iPhone, head back to the Health app. Click on the dashboard and panes open up showing steps, walking and running distance, and flights climbed. It shows your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly totals. No setup is required, but to get the most accurate count, it helps to carry your phone in your hand, jacket, or jeans pocket.

Samsung Galaxy S3 phones and newer come with the option to use a preloaded health app called S Health, which performs a similar tracking of steps and movement as well as calories burned, but you’ll have to take a few minutes to set it up the first time you use it.

Heart Rate Monitors: Samsung’s S Health app also has a place to measure your heart rate. Tap the orange heart with an EKG-like line running through it, then edit your profile with your name, gender, birthday, height, weight and activity level. Tap “save” and it takes you back to an orange screen. Touch “measure” at the bottom the pane, then place your finger on the infrared sensor next to the camera on the back of the device. When it’s done getting a reading (mine is 80 beats per minute as I stand at my desk and type this), it shows whether you’re within a healthy range for your current status of “resting.” Over time you can use this to measure and track trends as well.

Samsung makes no medical claims as to the accuracy of the device, but when I’ve used it used it side-by-side with other wrist-worn trackers, such as an Apple Watch, a Fitbit Surge or a Basis Peak, the results are similar. Using the same sensor on the back of the Samsung device, you can also get a rough reading of oxygen saturation, which is especially helpful for athletes or people with asthma. In fact, Samsung’s S Health app is the most feature-rich and wellness-packed of all that I’ve tried. It includes a section for nutrition tracking as well that rivals third-party apps such as Lose It! or MyFitnessPal.

Track Your Family: Some might call it spying, but I like to think of it more as making sure everyone is safely where they should be. Find My iPhone automatically comes on any iPhone model running iOS 9, as long as you enable location services on that device. To do that, snag your teenagers phone and tap the Settings icon, scroll down to Privacy and turn on Location Services. To find someone, tap your Find My iPhone app (a green radar beacon) on your own device or log in to iCloud to see connected devices on a map with their location. If you don’t share an iCloud account with your kids, you’ll need their passwords in order to see where they are.

Apple phones also come with Family Sharing or Find My Friends features that you can use to keep tabs on your brood as well. (Go to settings and iCloud to find it.) I don’t use these as much because with Family Sharing, a few racy texts between my husband and I showed up on an iPad that the whole family uses (awkward). And with Find My Friends, my daughter has too much control to lock me out when it’s convenient for her.

Voice-Activated 911: When Sam Ray, 18, was trapped beneath the two-ton pickup truck he was working on this past August in Tennessee, the pressure pinning his body activated Siri on the iPhone he had tucked in his back pocket. Mr. Ray yelled for the digital assistant to dial 911. It worked. After being rescued, airlifted, and treated for several broken ribs, a bruised kidney, cuts, a concussion and burns to his left arm, the lifesaving butt-dial made headlines around the world. “I’ve never heard of a story where you can figure out a way to use Siri to call 911 and get yourself rescued,” said Rick Miller, the chief of trauma and surgical care at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, where Mr. Ray was treated.

No matter what smartphone brand you favor, there’s now a way to get most new mobile devices to call 911 for help just by yelling at the device — but you have to set up voice activation first. With iPhone, find it under Settings, General and Siri. Then just say “Hey Siri,” and tell her to dial 911. Newer Android phones have Google Now voice activation. Saying “O.K. Google,” turns it on so that you can ask your phone to dial 911 or any other emergency contact completely touch-free. The Samsung S6 edge+ has a similar feature called SOS that is not voice-activated, but still pretty cool. After setup, trigger SOS by pressing the Power key three times quickly. It automatically snaps a picture from the front and back camera, records a quick audio clip, and sends a Google Maps link of your exact location to any contact that you’ve programmed it to.

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BlackBerry to Sell Android-Based Smartphone https://oneherald.com.au/blackberry-to-sell-android-based-smartphone/ https://oneherald.com.au/blackberry-to-sell-android-based-smartphone/#respond Sat, 26 Sep 2015 00:09:59 +0000 http://oneherald.com.au/blackberry-to-sell-android-based-smartphone/ Photo John S. Chen, BlackBerry’s chief executive, wants the company to be more focused on selling software than phones. Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters OTTAWA — BlackBerry said on Friday that it would offer a smartphone based on Google’s Android operating system rather than its own software. While the decision appeared to be an admission of defeat ...

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John S. Chen, BlackBerry’s chief executive, wants the company to be more focused on selling software than phones. Credit Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

OTTAWA — BlackBerry said on Friday that it would offer a smartphone based on Google’s Android operating system rather than its own software. While the decision appeared to be an admission of defeat for the BlackBerry 10, the company said it was still proceeding with an update for its own software as well.

The announcement came as the company released a larger-than-expected loss of $ 66 million, excluding accounting adjustments, or 13 cents a share for its second quarter. Analysts had been expecting a loss of 9 cents a share.

Revenue was $ 490 million compared with $ 916 million during the same period a year ago.

A lack of apps created for BlackBerry 10 phones has often been cited as a reason for their general lack of success.

The new Android phone will be called the Priv, an allusion to “privacy.”

“Priv combines the best of BlackBerry security and productivity with the expansive mobile application ecosystem available on the Android platform,” John S. Chen, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement.

While Mr. Chen said he hoped to make the company more focused on selling software instead of phones, that point appeared to remain some way off. During the quarter, software and related services accounted for just 15 percent of revenue while hardware contributed 41 percent. The remaining 43 percent came from monthly fees generated by older generations of BlackBerry phones for services on the company’s proprietary network.

Mr. Chen said the company expected “modest sequential revenue growth in each of the remaining quarters of fiscal 2016.”

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