Smartphone speed tests are the latest home to a scandal over unscrupulous performance enhancers. According to AnandTech, Samsung, HTC, LG, and Asus have all altered some of their devices so that they will perform unusually well during popular benchmarks, which are often included alongside in-depth device reviews. Aside from Motorola and Apple, AnandTech writes that "literally every single [device manufacturer]" they work with has shipped or is currently shipping a phone that inflates its scores. Despite the broad statement, AnandTech only lists a few specific names, and it also appears to exclude Nexus and Windows Phone devices.
The performance gains were slight
The revelation shouldn't mean much to consumers: benchmarks are by-and-large an arbitrary measurement of raw performance, and not a measurement of how well a phone actually runs in day-to-day use. But they're nonetheless a tool that reviewers and some shoppers use when assessing a phone's capabilities, and it seems that these manufacturers may be hoping to give themselves an edge. That practice reportedly isn't present across the board, however. While on certain test, such as AnTuTu, AnandTech found that every company listed was inflating its scores, it found that on other tests, such as Geekbench 3, only a single device appeared to be inflating.
Phone manufacturers' methods of doing this appear to be fairly simple: the operating system detects when a specific benchmark is running, and then tells the device's processor to immediately begin performing at its top speed. Overall, AnandTech says that it doesn't even add up to much. It saw a 0 to 5 percent improvement on CPU speed, and for devices that also altered GPU speeds, no higher than a 10 percent improvement on those benchmarks. Benchmark manufacturers are reportedly now looking to outsmart devices — many by simply renaming their apps — but buyers will have to take their scores with an even larger helping of salt than usual until it's clear that these tests can't be bested.
Apple is working to fix another iOS 7 security-related bug. A number of schools across the US are experiencing issues with the latest OS upgrade, with some complaining that iOS 7 removes important supervision profiles that allow administrators to remote control iPads and restrict web access. AllThingsD has obtained a memo sent to parents from Manitou Springs School District 14 noting that iPads running iOS 7 can access the internet unfiltered away from school. The district is collecting iPads at the end of each day to prevent students using them at home.
Manitou has had to collect hundreds of iPads and wipe and reinstall iOS apps and content on the devices. AllThingsD reports that some schools have gone as far as blocking access to Apple's update servers via DNS to stop iPads upgrading to iOS 7. A Los Angeles high school recently halted the use of iPads at home after students bypassed restrictions on web browsing. The school-issued iPads are part of a deal with Apple where 47 campuses across Los Angeles will issue as many as 640,000 iPads by the end of 2014.
Apple will have a fix in place this month
Apple has faced a number of issues with its iOS 7 software. An initial bug logged users out of popular apps like Mailbox and Snapchat, and two security issues with the lockscreen allowed anyone to place calls or bypass the security lock and access photos, email, and Twitter content. Apple has now fixed the lockscreen issue, but another bug affecting iMessage has not yet been addressed. Apple says it's aware of the latest issue affecting iPads in schools and it's working on a fix. "Some business and education users have reported that their supervised devices have reverted to unsupervised when they upgrade to iOS 7," an Apple spokeswoman told AllThingsD. "We are aware of this issue, and will have a fix this month."
Sunrise today announced version 2.0 of its popular calendar app, which includes a gorgeous facelift for iOS 7, as well as one of its users' most requested features: iCloud calendar support. While most apps like Fantastical reference the built-in iOS calendar (and any calendars you've added), Sunrise has always been firmly stationed in the cloud, which means its developers had to find another solution.
"We connect directly to Apple's servers, like the iOS Calendar app would connect to iCloud," says Sunrise founder Pierre Valade. It wasn't as easy as adding Google Calendar, he says, but when you're aiming to be a "one size fits all" calendar app, iCloud support is integral. Next up is Microsoft Exchange — the final piece of the puzzle, says Valade.
Part of the benefit of using Sunrise, after all, is that it doesn't rely on often messy client-side "syncing" to move around your events like the iOS Calendar does. It instead reads your events from a server, and can thus be more dynamic and easily adaptable to different platforms like Android and the web, and perhaps someday, Valade says, the front of your refrigerator.
HTC has announced that the US carrier versions of the One smartphone will be getting updated to Android 4.3 this month. The Sprint model started receiving its update yesterday, while the AT&T and T-Mobile versions will be seeing the update around the middle of October. Verizon's update is due to follow before the end of the month. HTC already pushed the update to developer and Canadian editions late last month. The company had expected to make the update available on US versions of the phone before the end of September, but it says it was held up by certification processes.
For the Sprint, AT&T, and T-Mobile versions of the One, the update brings the devices from Android 4.1 to 4.3, and includes lock screen widgets, numeric battery levels in the status bar, a quick settings panel in the notification bar, options to configure the home button, improvements to the camera, and a easier to manage file format for Zoe clips. Since the Verizon version launched with Android 4.2, it already had many of the user interface improvements that are coming to the other carrier versions.
HTC is the first manufacturer outside of Google to release Android 4.3 updates
Android 4.3 was announced by Google earlier this summer, along with the launch of the new Nexus 7 tablet. Google quickly released updates for its other Nexus devices, as well as for the Google Play editions of the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4. A number of manufacturers have committed to updating their existing devices with the new software, but HTC is the first one to make it available on carrier-locked phones. Google has already revealed the next version of Android, named 4.4 KitKat, is coming soon. Though the company has not detailed exactly what KitKat will offer, it is widely expected to be announced some time this month.
Amazon may not have impressed with its first slate of pilots, but the retail giant's original content arm is continuing its efforts to turn Prime Instant Video into a destination for exclusive television and film programming. Amazon Studios has ordered three more comedy pilots, and these projects have some significant writing talent attached to them.
"Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music."
Perhaps most promising is Mozart in the Jungle, written by Roman Coppola (co-writer of The Darjeeling Limited and Moonrise Kingdom), Jason Schwartzman (best known for his starring role in Rushmore), and Alex Timbers (who has directing and writing credits on theater productions). Schwartzman only has one writing credit to his name — he worked alongside Coppola and Wes Anderson on the script for The Darjeeling Limited — but the project certainly has some notable names. Coppola describes the show as taking place in "two worlds fused together." He says in a press release that "On one side is the high-level skill and sophistication that comes with classical music, and at the same time it’s a story that includes people rising up from the bottom, trying to make it in the big world." It's based on a 2005 book of the same name (subtitled "Sex, Drugs, and Classical Music") that offered a behind-the-scenes look at the classical music business.
Amazon Studios has also greenlit a pilot for The Outlaws, written by Jeremy Garelick (co-writer of The Break-Up) and Jon Weinbach. Former New York Giant Michael Strahan is connected to the show, which is "all about the ins and outs of a professional football team from the perspective of both the players and the back office." Last is Transparent, directed and written by Jill Soloway, who has a number of writing credits for Six Feet Under. It's said to be a "darkly comedic story about an LA family with serious boundary issues," and Jeffrey Tambor of Arrested Development fame is in the pilot.
The pilots come after Amazon encouraged writers to submit scripts for comedy shows last year, and they'll follow the same "crowdsourced" test as the rest of the studio's pilots. When the pilots air on Prime Instant Video and Lovefilm (in the UK) early next year, viewers will get to vote to help choose which shows get developed into a full series. A number of shows have already been selected.
With the introduction of Touch ID on the iPhone 5S, Apple has managed to deliver a seamless fingerprint authentication technology that eclipses many of the clunky attempts seen in previous consumer devices. But others in the industry aren't sitting still. The FIDO Alliance — a stable of 48 companies looking to develop a successor to the notoriously insecure password — says it expects to see similar fingerprint-based security in Android devices within six months or so. Speaking to USA Today, the group's president Michael Barrett said, "The intention of FIDO is absolutely that it will allow consumers to have access to mobile services that they can use with very low friction, while keeping good security."
But the FIDO Alliance's plans extend far beyond biometrics (and Android for that matter). The goal after all is to develop a ubiquitous and open standard that offers a wide variety of authentication methods for maximum convenience. Powerful partners like Google have signed on to help push the cause, but we've yet to see any execution on FIDO's vision. Barrett insists that's coming, claiming consumers can expect the first wave of FIDO-equipped Android devices in early 2014. He's even hopeful that Apple eventually may join the FIDO Alliance itself. "Our view is that it's possible Apple might choose to start using FIDO, but that's probably a couple of years out."
Ross Ulbricht, the man accused of running the underground drug marketplace Silk Road, has been charged with drug trafficking and hiring a hitman to knock off one of his employees. Of course, the hitman was actually an undercover federal agent in Maryland, and no one was actually killed.
Silk Road had a handful of employees, according to court documents, and apparently one of them went astray. This employee, who is not named in the indictment, stole money from users and also managed to get picked up by the police. "I'd like him beat up, then forced to send the bitcoins he stole back," Ulbricht allegedly said, speaking over the internet as Silk Road's pseudonymous captain Dread Pirate Roberts. Later, he changed his mind: "Can you change the order to execute rather than torture?"
"Can you change the order to execute rather than torture?"
The payment was set at a $40,000 down payment, then $40,000 after proof that the murder had been carried out. The undercover agent sent staged photos of the employee being tortured to Dread Pirate Roberts, who expressed some discomfort but maintained that he believed he had done the right thing. The fact that the employee was in police custody suggests he was cooperating with federal agents.
The same undercover agent also sold a kilogram of cocaine through Silk Road with the help of Dread Pirate Roberts, for $27,000 worth of Bitcoin, the semi-anonymous virtual currency used for transactions on Silk Road.
Ulbricht has also been charged in New York with narcotics trafficking conspiracy, computer hacking conspiracy, and money laundering conspiracy. Federal agents say he attempted to take out a second hit in Canada for $150,000, but agents could not find proof that it was carried out and he has not been charged.