Mobile

Close-up image of woman texting and using an iPhone with iOS 11.

Apple’s iOS 11 and More Updates Coming

Close-up image of woman texting and using an iPhone with iOS 11.

What’s new with iOS 11?

Apple announced several updates are coming to their iOS devices this Fall. The company is giving iPhone and iPad users access to new features with iOS 11.

“iOS 11 gives iPad users the powerful app functionality they need to take advantage of everything iPad is capable of, and brings hundreds of new features and incredible updates to the iOS apps iPhone and iPad users enjoy every day,” said Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering.

Apple praises iOS 11 as “A giant step for iPhone. A monumental leap for iPad.” It’s hard not to see why. These long-awaited features are set to give users more options. Let’s walk through what Apple users can expect this Fall.

New iOS 11 Features

  • Customizable Dock – On iPad, iOS 11 gives users more customization options, making it even more powerful. The new customizable dock grants access to frequently used apps and documents. Furthermore, you can customize the dock with your favorite apps. The dock even suggests apps that you have used recently or on other iOS devices.
  • Multitasking Features – Switching between apps is now easier thanks to Split View and Slide Over. The new updates allow you have two apps open at the same time. You simply drag an app from your dock to your main screen.
  • Files – This app is perhaps the biggest feature coming with iOS 11. You can control the file storage on your devices. Not much is known about this feature. However, we do know that the Files app will give users access to stuff stored on iCloud and other storage services.
  • Apple Pencil Support – The update will allow the Apple Pencil more functionality on the iPad. Users are now able to markup PDFs and screenshots, take notes on the lock screen and draw in the notes app.
  • AR Functionality – With the ARKit, developers can easily build new and exciting AR experiences. Using the built-in camera of iOS devices, users can experience what Apple calls “detailed and compelling virtual content on top of real-world scenes for interactive gaming, immersive shopping experiences, industrial design and more.”
  • Updated Siri – Apple’s premier personal assistant Siri is set to become a whole lot smarter. By adding new AI technology, Siri will sound more realistic than ever. Siri can also offer suggestions based on what apps you use, learning about your interest and curating the content you see in apps like News and Safari.
  • Enhanced Do Not Disturb – The updated Do Not Disturb feature can determine when you are driving and prevent calls, text messages, and notifications from reaching you during that time. People who are trying to get in touch with you automatically receive a message that you are on the road.

More Updates

Apple announced a ton of other announcements at their conference. They revealed new products and features like the HomePod, iMac Pro, and updated App Store on iOS devices. In addition to these products, the company also detailed their new macOS operating system. You can check out everything the company has to offer by visiting their website. Keep visiting the Geek Aid blog for more on the future of mobile technology.

A businesswoman looking at her iPhone data in front of her computer.

Hackers Threaten to Wipe iPhone Data

A businesswoman looking at her iPhone data in front of her computer.

Is your iPhone data safe?

With Apple and iPhone being such a recognizable name, the company’s flagship product was bound to draw the unwanted attention of hackers. Hackers are the seedier parts of the digital world. Furthermore, most of them look for opportunities to exploit technology for their own personal gain. It is not uncommon to hear about hackers making demands and using their skills to access private data.

A hacker group called the “Turkish Crime Family” recently gained media attention. The oddly-named group claims to have access to various user accounts and threatens to use that information to wipe user iPhone data unless Apple pays a hefty ransom.

The Ransom and Threat

The hacker group is asking for $75,000 in Bitcoin or $100,000 in iTunes gift cards. However, some are unsure of the number of accounts the group has access to. They claim to have hundreds of millions in their possession. As a show of force, the Turkish Crime Family revealed 54 accounts.

ZDNet was able to confirm that the accounts are indeed real. No one knows exactly how the hacker group was able to obtain these accounts. Unless Apple pays, they plan to use the account information to access iCloud and remotely erase their data.

Apple Claims iPhone Data Is Safe

Despite the hackers’ forceful demands, Apple is unwilling to give in. Their response is that users accounts are safe. Their statement claims that:

“There have not been any breaches in any of Apple’s systems including iCloud and Apple ID. The alleged list of email addresses and passwords appears to have been obtained from previously compromised third-party services.

We’re actively monitoring to prevent unauthorized access to user accounts and are working with law enforcement to identify the criminals involved. To protect against these type of attacks, we always recommend that users always use strong passwords, not use those same passwords across sites and turn on two-factor authentication.”

How Users Can Protect Their Information

In the event of any breach, real or not, users should stay vigilant. The number of accounts that these hackers claim to have is a lot. As a result, users are taking a risk that their private information can be leaked with others or erased entirely by not doing anything.

What users can do is secure their devices. The first step is to change their iCloud password. Remember, a complex password with capitalizations, symbols, and numbers are harder to crack. Next, update your security settings. Old information is how hackers often gain access to passwords.

The last step you should take is enabling two-factor verification. This security method uses a combination of two components to verify a user’s identity. For Apple, users need their password and a six-digit verification code, which is sent to their most trusted devices, to access their account from a new device.

An Android phone with a pattern lock on the screen.

Testing Android’s Pattern Lock: 5 Attempt Hack

An Android phone with a pattern lock on the screen.

Are you using the pattern lock to protect your phone?

Android users are already familiar with the pattern lock. For those who aren’t, the pattern lock is an alternative to a password. In order to access a phone or tablet, users draw a pattern on the screen and the device is unlocked. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it’s intuitive. But, is it safe? Security experts from several universities prove that anyone can crack the pattern in just five attempts.

The 5 Attempt Barrier

With a pattern lock, users draw a pattern on a grid of dots. By connecting one dot to the next, in the right order, they will unlock their device. Like most security methods for phones or computers, there are a certain number of attempts to input the code. For Android phones, it’s five attempts and then the device locks for a certain period of time.

Hacking the Pattern Lock

Security experts at the Lancaster University, Northwest University in China, and the University of Bath proved that new technology allows hackers to successfully infiltrate a user’s device in under 5 attempts. By using video and computer vision algorithm software, they were able to record and track the fingertip movements of an android user relative to their device’s position.

The algorithm was able to quickly generate several possible patterns. At least 95% of the time, the researchers were able to unlock the phone within those 5 attempts. They even note that more complicated patterns were easier for the algorithm to figure out.

Obviously, this is a problem. Around 40% of Android users use the pattern lock as their form of security. Android phone dominate the mobile market, making up 86% of smartphones owned by mobile users. If this algorithm is used by hackers, then the privacy these mobile users are at risk.

In the end, the researchers make several suggestions. For users, they suggest covering their phone when drawing their pattern. For phone manufacturers, they suggest adding extra security measures to the pattern lock system by way of more user input or blocking the phone’s screen from cameras.

How to Reduce Data on Your Phone

A photo of a smartphone with a bunch of graphics coming out of it. All of its features is why it's important to reduce data.

Do you need to reduce data used on your smartphone?

Every smartphone how important it is for them to reduce data. Not keeping tabs on how much data’s being used can lead to a big penalty. You’ll wind up having to spend a lot more on your phone bill than you previously expected.

Obviously, if you’re fortunate enough to have an unlimited data plan, this does not apply. Congratulations to you for being so lucky. But for everyone else, there’s a specific limit that mustn’t be exceeded. And it’s a struggle.

Making sure you don’t go further than your data limit is difficult. After all, you have a smartphone because you want to use all the features it has to offer. But you know how to use them wisely. Here are a few tips that could help you get through each month unscathed by overages.

Tips for How to Reduce Data

  • Connect to WiFi Networks– Staying connected to a WiFi network will limit how much data you’re using. These networks are beneficial, but you need to make sure they’re secure. And when you’re on public WiFi, only use it for casual browsing. Sometimes, a WiFi signal is weak, so some phones have a feature called WiFi Assist. While it helps strengthen the signal, Wifi Assist takes up data. Disable this if your phone has it.
  • Pay Attention to the Apps You Download – Go to the data usage page on your settings. Look at the apps most responsible for the megabytes used. If you don’t want to part ways with them, then make sure to limit how often you go on them. Only use then when connected to WiFi. Also, try using apps that can be used offline.
  • Manage Your Video Settings – Watching videos nonstop will take up all your data very quickly. This doesn’t mean you have to stop watching videos altogether. Just be smarter about how you watch them. Most of the popular social media apps have an auto-play feature for videos. You can easily disable this by going to your account settings.

Paying closer to your daily smartphone usage will reduce data. It can be inconvenient and trivial at times. But it prevents you from having to pay unnecessary fines.

Will Smartphones Have Foldable Screens in the Near Future?

An image of a smartphone. It does not have one of those foldable screens.

Are you excited for smartphones having foldable screens?

Recently, top smartphone designers have been toying with the idea of foldable screens. This is a very exciting development. Because over the past few years, enough progress has been made for it to be a possibility.

The Samsung Galaxy Round proved that a screen could be curved and flexible. And LG’s G Flex went even further with Samsung’s design plan. Its great durability impressed users. Both phones, however, were stepping stones. Not the final result.

A move towards a more flexible design is exciting for a couple of reasons. Many critics say smartphone design has plateaued. They think everything looks the same now. A spark of innovation like this will prove them wrong. Also, for the many clumsy people out there living with cracked screens, this sounds like an awesome idea.

So, how far away are we from having foldable screens? Who’s the closest to making this a reality? Will it be as life-saving and practical as everyone thinks? There aren’t any definitive answers to of those questions yet, but here’s what we’ve found.

The Future of Foldable Screens

In June, Lenovo debuted a prototype for a phone called the CPlus. It’s a very interesting looking phone. Not only is it bendable, but it can also roll up and be worn on a user’s wrist. The phone-watch combo can be a game changer. But the CPlus’ release date is still a few years away. Lenovo says it won’t be out until 2020.

Other top companies are working on their foldable designs, too. Recently, Apple has patented the idea for a flexible iPhone that can clip onto clothing. And reports have shown that they’ve had the idea for a foldable design for a while.

In order to make this a reality, Apple has partnered with LG. Designs have already been drawn up and they plan to start producing them in 2018. Samsung, Google, and Microsoft have also expressed interest in working with LG for screens of their own.

Foldable screens offer a lighter, more durable option for smartphone users. It’s a design that feels more like a futuristic dream than something only a few years away from being released. But companies like Apple, LG and Lenovo are very close to making this dream a reality.

Looking Ahead to 5G Mobile Service

Standardization of mobile Internet service is an important part of the development of the 5G mobile Internet framework. For example, the industry is focusing on goals such as significant improvements in speed during peak data times, as well as resolving latency issues. But these are not the only factors that mobile engineers need to think about.

The complication for 5G is the diversity of mobile needs. Every industry from transportation to health to automotive use mobile Internet. That’s why 5G has taken so long to develop. As the “Internet of Things” continues to expand, we need more cloud storage and more virtualization than ever before. These are the types of technology that provide adaptability. 5G engineers are challenged with bringing it all together, and integrating everything the Internet can do for us.

5G is about so much more than just making a video load faster on your iPhone. The whole architecture is new. In fact, 5G requires short-range frequencies which means more cell sites. But don’t think that pushes things too far into the future. At least eight companies are already testing out 5G services, including Verizon and AT&T.

What Does 5G Mean for the Future of Wi-Fi?

Don’t worry about Wi-Fi losing its significance. As both mediums of wireless Internet progress, they will continue to coexist. 5G is a vital stage in the evolution of wireless because the way we use the Internet has outgrown the limitations of the network that has been in place for the past decade. 5G needs to be a more scalable solution rather than the next patch that ekes a little more speed out of the old architecture.

In the meantime, you can expect the US to see how the 5G rollout goes in other countries, so some of the bugs will get worked out before we see it here. While that may delay the future of mobile for a brief time, we hope it translates into the exciting new service we have all been wishing for each time the infrastructure upgrades. Asia will be taking the reins, with South Korea hoping to have their 5G network in place in time for their hosting of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

Tablet Review: iPad Pro vs. Surface Book

Wondering about which tablet to get between the iPad Pro or Surface Book? Here’s our tablet review to help you decide.

First, why compare a tablet and a laptop? Well, the iPad Pro is a tablet apparently wanting to be a laptop, and the Surface Book is a laptop attempting a crossover into the tablet universe. The best way to see if either accomplishes the task is to analyze them side by side.

Dimension and weight: When you take the Surface Book’s tablet off the keyboard attachment, it’s only slightly taller, wider, and thicker than the Pro. It also only weighs a few grams more. Of course, that’s only without the keyboard.

Appearance: the Surface sports a beautiful magnesium exterior and the Pro has the sleek aluminum we expect from Apple. So far, things are pretty even.

Display: The Surface Book is slightly smaller, with a screen size of 12.3″ (if that’s what you are looking for), whereas the Pro is 12.9″. Both are huge compared to 10” tablets. The Surface also has a minute advantage in resolution with 267 ppi to the 264 ppi of the Pro. Both screens allow you to multi-task by splitting the screen and using two apps alongside each other.

Microsoft Advantages

So what does the Surface have that the Pro doesn’t? Here are a few things:

  • A Trackpad – Apple still won’t commit to making the iPad a “2-in-1” by adding a mouse or trackpad.
  • Desktop Apps – The Surface book can run the same apps as your PC. The iPad Pro still requires that you shop in the App Store.
  • Facial Recognition – When you sit down in front of your device, it unlocks. A simple and elegant solution.
  • More RAM – While the Pro comes with 4 GB, the Surface has 8 and 16 GB options.
  • USB – Two USB ports allow you to easily connect other devices to your Surface.
  • More Storage – Let’s face it. The Surface Book is a laptop. That means storage ranging from 128 GB to a full terabyte vs. just 32 GB and 128 GB options for the Pro.
  • SD Slot – Not enough storage or data transfer options for you yet? Use an SD card.

So is the Surface Book a clear winner? Not so fast.

Apple Advantages

Here are a few things the iPad Pro has that you won’t get from the Surface Book:

  • Touch ID – It’s not just for unlocking your device. Many apps will let you log in with your fingerprint.
  • Cellular Options – The iPad Pro has an LTE version, so you can use it to get connected anywhere you have cell service.
  • Lower Price – Apple rarely wins the price war, but you can get a Pro with the keyboard and stylus for over $400 less than the Surface Book base model (although you lose a little bit of that if you choose the 128 GB model).

The bottom line: Our tablet review just lays out the specs. It’s a matter which is right for you. Between these two, it comes down to size and resolution. The Pro is larger but with less ppi, where as the Surface is slightly smaller but has better ppi.

Which Display Is Better: IPS or AMOLED?

Usually when this question is asked, a person wants to know whether the mobile digital display is better on a Samsung device or an Apple device. That is because Samsung has become well known for using AMOLED technology while Apple uses IPS. Let us consider the pros and cons of each type of mobile display.

IPS Liquid Crystal Displays (LCD)

Pros:

Sharpness is a major benefit of IPS screens. The clarity of an IPS screen results in truer colors. IPS displays also perform much better in bright light situations than AMOLED screens do.

Ultimately, IPS is more of a photographer’hs screen because you get a more accurate picture of what the image genuinely looks like. Unfortunately, it may suffer in quality when you try to read or watch a movie in a dimly lit situation.

Cons:

Backlighting can actually be a negative factor when you need darker blacks in your images. For example, if you are watching a movie like “Interstellar” where much of the action takes place in space, the dark colors can suffer a little. This also affects contrast when you are reading since a little light will always be filtered through the letters.

Viewing angles are not as good on an LCD display too. This can be a negative when you are trying to show a video to a bunch of your friends. It can be a positive when you are trying to send a private text in a crowded room.

NOTE: Apple is not the only brand that favors IPS. LG and HTC make Android devices with IPS displays as well.

AMOLED Displays

Pros:

Theoretically, AMOLED displays are better for battery life (although battery life comparison on iPhones and Galaxy phones would make a stark opposing argument). AMOLED screens also produce darker blacks because every pixel can be turned on and off rather than having the whole screen backlit. Super AMOLED screens provide the brightest colors.

Cons:

AMOLED screens do not always render the truest colors because they have a tendency to oversaturate everything. That may be a negative factor when you take a picture and post it on a social media site thinking it is perfect only to discover that it was dull and undersaturated. Burn in is another issue, although not a very common one.

The Verdict

Both IPS and AMOLED have their strong and weak points. Which one is better for you will likely depend on how you use your mobile device the most. In the end, there will likely be other factors that will determine which phone or other mobile digital display device you decide to get since the battle between IPS and AMOLED is too close to call.

New Tablet, Phone, iOS, and More, Coming from Apple

Some of the highlights of the apple news event for 2015 are updated iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus and the much anticipated iPad Pro with its stylus. Fans wait all year for such news. Let’s consider some of the highlights from this year’s big event.

The New iPad

iPad sales have been down six quarters in a row. The iPad Pro is Apple’s solution. It definitely competes with the Surface Pro, and it can challenge most laptops on the market.

It is far bigger than the iPad Air, and the design is intentional (we’ll get to that with the new iOS 9). The display has more pixels than most laptops, and the processor is more powerful too.

Perhaps the biggest news, however, is that Apple has finally developed a Smart Keyboard with a revolutionary Smart Connector system for exchanging power and data. No more searching for a decent third party keyboard… or a stylus! The Apple Pencil has also arrived to fine tune the digital art side of the iPad.

In short, the iPad Pro is a revolution in the tablet market. The price tag starts at $799 for the 32GB model.

The New iOS

You won’t have to wait until November to upgrade to iOS 9. In fact, the upgrade is supposed to be available on September 25th. What new features can Apple users look forward to?

One of the most exciting will only be available for the iPad Air 2 and the iPad Pro. That is the ability to run two apps side by side (hence the need for tablet that is as tall as the Air is wide). Any tablet newer than the iPad Mini 2 can run two apps side by side, but only one will be active at a time.

One more great new addition is the picture-in-picture feature for FaceTime. Now you can continue to use your tablet, even on a video call. When you press the home key, your call goes into the corner box, allowing you to continue using your apps.

And So Much More

Other releases include the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus. There’s also a new color being added to the lineup, Rose Gold. Apple TV and the Apple Watch are both getting makeovers as well. Let’s just say Apple continues to show why they are at the forefront of mobile technology.

 

The i-FlashDrive: Perfect for Apple Data Transfers

When you think about portable devices, what are two of the most important attributes that you associate with such gadgets? For most of us, the answer will be quick and small. Of course, the device also needs to be functional. The i-FlashDrive from PhotoFast meets all of these expectations in a way that many Apple device users have been searching for as a supplement to their devices.

This flash drive is designed specifically for use with recent generation iPhones and iPads that use the lightning connector for charging and data transfer. On the other side of the device is a USB 3.0 connector for use with your Windows, iOS, or Linux computer system. Extremely efficient, the drive is small enough to tuck into your jean’s 5th pocket and keep on you at all times.

The fact is that many Apple fans struggle with storage space. There is no slot for external memory and few options for fast transferring data on and off the device. While more internal storage is available for purchase time, this comes at great cost on devices that are already not cheap to start with. The i-FlashDrive gives you the opportunity to bridge that gap at an affordable price.

How does it work? First of all, you can use it as an ordinary flash drive, but if that is what you wanted, you would have bought a regular flash drive. However, a free app, available in the Apple App Store, allows you to manage your device’s files, create a backup, transfer data, encrypt files, playback media without using iTunes, and more.

If you want to save a few dollars and are not as concerned with transfer speeds, there is a USB 2.0 flash drive version available for about $20 less. The USB 3.0 version starts at $79.99 for the 16 GB model. Drive sizes go up to 128 GB.

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