5 Samsung Galaxy S8 features Apple should steal for iPhone 8

Samsung just took the wraps off its new Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones in a bid to make people forget about last year’s exploding Note 7 disaster. While the Galaxy S8 has a few things working against it—namely that it runs Android—Samsung gave its new flagship an impressively slick redesign. We wouldn’t mind if Apple lifted a few of the S8’s features for its 10th anniversary iPhone.

Samsung's Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones

In fact, Apple is reportedly working on a few of these features already. We’re not saying that Samsung looks at Apple product rumors to define its own roadmap, but…anything’s possible.

Here are five Galaxy S8 features we’d like to see in the next iPhone:

Bye, bezels

Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphonesAdam Patrick Murray, IDG Worldwide

 Look at that edge-to-edge display.
 Samsung’s basically bezel-less “infinity display” on the Galaxy S8 is bananas, to put it mildly. The new phone has an 83 percent screen-to-body ratio, which means this thing is basically all display—a Super AMOLED display, at that.

Apple is reportedly working on an edge-to-edge display of its own, which is a good thing. At this point, the iPhone’s thick bezel and LCD screen feel a bit dated, although the iPhone 7 LCD display’s quality has been rated as comparable to its competitors’ OLED versions. But we would love if the iPhone 8 featured an expansive screen with hair’s-width side bezels and a super slim “forehead” and “chin.”

Samsung has also gone all-in with curved OLED screens, which Apple is also reportedly considering, though it’s unclear if the company has found high-quality suppliers that can produce enough curved OLED panels for all those iPhones.

Home button, be gone

galaxy s8 fingerprintMichael Simon

 Samsung put the Galaxy S8’s fingerprint sensor on the back, which we hope Apple doesn’t do.
 With its vast screen, Samsung banished the phone’s physical home button. The S8’s home button is now beneath the display, so you can press the screen and the button will respond with haptic feedback (though our Greenbot colleagues report that the S8’s vibrations are nothing like the iPhone’s).

Samsung kept its flagship’s fingerprint sensor, but moved it to the back—right next to the camera lens. This is a bad move, and one we hope Apple doesn’t follow.

Rumor has it Apple is planning to embed Touch ID right into the iPhone’s display, which makes much more sense than sticking it on the back.

Use your face to unlock your phone

The Galaxy S8 turns your face into the password you use to unlock your phone, with an iris scanner to recognize your “eyeprint” instead of a fingerprint. The S8 also uses biometric facial recognition, so you hold your phone in front of your face and the S8 will immediately slide into your home screen. Given that Samsung put its fingerprint sensor in such an awkward spot, this is a necessary design decision. But it’s also an insanely cool advance for smartphone technology, and something we hope Apple is exploring for the iPhone.

A useful voice assistant

Last year, Samsung acquired Viv, an AI-powered voice assistant created by the founders of Siri. Viv become the foundation of Bixby, the voice-activated assistant baked into the Galaxy S8.

Bixby is contextually aware with the ability to answer follow-up questions. This is something Siri can’t do. At all. If you’re looking at a map on your screen, Bixby knows what it is and what you mean when you say, “Bixby, capture this.” Siri doesn’t know what you’re looking at on your screen, and saying, “Siri, capture this,” would likely take you to a list of Bing search results for “this.”

To be fair, the early word on Bixby is that it’s incredibly limited and not as cool as it sounds, though Samsung didn’t let anyone try it out before unveiling the S8.

Apple is slowly improving its assistant’s capabilities, but its glacial pace of progress is due to privacy concerns. Apple doesn’t want Siri to store information about you or what you’re doing on your phone. Anyone who cares about protecting their data appreciates Apple’s premium on privacy, but there must be some middle ground that would make Siri smarter.

Augmented reality comes to the camera

galaxy s8 cameraMichael Simon

 Samsung redesigned the Galaxy S8 camera to include augmented reality.
 Samsung also introduced a new feature called Bixby Vision, which lets you use your camera to scan items. Bixby Vision will then overlay details about the item, such as a book, and give you a link to buy it.

Apple is reportedly working on augmented reality, too—CEO Tim Cook has hinted as much in a series of comments over the last year. And rumor has it Apple is still considering the best AR applications for the iPhone camera, though it’s unclear whether the company’s ideal use cases are product scanning and shopping. (Our guess is no.)

Samsung still has to prove that Galaxy S8’s new safety-checked battery won’t set the phone on fire, which is a pretty low bar to clear. But the S8’s new features are ones we hope Apple is already working to perfect for the iPhone 8, which we expect to launch this September.

Airbnb adopts new brand name Aibiying in China

Airbnb will rebrand its short-term home rental service in China as “Aibiying” and triple the size of its workforce in the country as it tries to woo a large but complex market for foreign tech companies.

airbnb stock logo office

Aibiying translates as ‘welcome each other with love,’ which is the kind of reception that Airbnb may require to compete with local platforms such as Tujia and Xiaozhu.

A number of tech companies targeting the Chinese market have had to make adjustments to their traditional business models, including by setting up joint ventures with local partners to gain market access.

Qualcomm said last year it was setting up a server chipset design and sales unit with the investment arm of the Guizhou provincial government. Hewlett Packard Enterprise sold a majority stake in its server, technology services and storage business in China to a Tsinghua Holdings subsidiary to boost sales of HPE’s enterprise products in the country, while Intel said in 2014 it was planning to invest in local chip companies for the design of mobile phone chips.

Ride-hailing company Uber decided the best way in China was to cooperate rather than compete with a large local player Didi Chuxing. It said in August that it had struck a deal with Didi Chuxing, which would acquire all assets of Uber China, including its brand, business operations and data. Didi Chuxing would also acquire a minority equity interest in Uber.

In 2015, two investors – China Broadband Capital (CBC) and Sequoia China – were brought in by Airbnb to help it continue to navigate the Chinese market and create a localized presence for the company. That plan is being continued now with a brand name that locals can relate to, and which sounds similar to its global brand.

The company, which recently received a fresh infusion of US$1 billion of funds, also announced the expansion of its Trips and Experiences service in China, which tries to go beyond the usual tourist experience by offering app users access to a list of interesting activities such as local handicrafts and cuisine. It also said it was increasing the number of engineers at its engineering center in the country, which is the only one outside the U.S.

Airbnb has also worked on the integration of local payment methods such as Alipay and sign up options such as WeChat, besides providing 24 X 7 customer support in Mandarin. It has also sought partnerships with cities, having signed memoranda of understanding with Shanghai, Shenzhen, Chongqing and Guangzhou.

Airbnb has about 80,000 listings in China and has seen nearly 1.6 million guest arrivals at these listings. The company has more than 3 million listings in more than 190 countries around the world. The company had so far focused largely on outbound Chinese tourists.

Google will now let you share your location with friends in Maps

Google is on a Maps mission in 2017. Since the beginning of the year, it has added some pretty great features to make it easier to get where you’re going, including Uber integration, parking availability, and saved places. Now it wants to help your friends know where you are.

google maps share location

In an update coming to the Android and iOS Maps apps, you’ll be able to broadcast your location without needing to leave the app. It’ll be on a need-to-know basis, of course, but when you’re running late or just want to let someone know where you are, you’ll only be a tap away from sending the information along.

To use the new feature is simple. You can either open the side menu or tap the blue dot on the map to find the new Share location option. Once it opens, you’ll be able to select who to share with and how long you want them to have access to your location. You can share your location with anyone in your contacts or generate a link that can be sent to another social app.

google maps shareGoogle
It’s easy to share your location in the upcoming Maps update.

On the other end, the people you’ve selected to share with will see your location in Maps once they tap the link, and you will see an icon above the compass on your own map letting you know that you’re being watched. And even if you have a time limit set, you’ll be able to stop sharing your location at any time.

Additionally, you’ll also be able to send information about the current trip you’re taking, so people know when you’re about to arrive. Just tap on the arrow to the right of the route instructions at the bottom of the screen and select the Share trip progress option. Once you select the recipients, they’ll be able to see where you are, when you’re expected to arrive, and track your progress. Sharing will automatically end when you arrive at your destination.

Google says the update will be rolling out “soon” to apps and the Maps site to users worldwide.

Moving forward: While all of the recent Maps updates have been great, we’re particularly looking forward to this one. It might seem creepy to have your family and friends spy on your location, but Google is handling it well, with expiration times, automatic shut-off, and trip tracking that ends when you arrive. It’s a bit like Apple’s Find My Friends app, but we think it’ll be way more useful built into Maps rather than needing to remember to open a second app.

Microsoft delays tools for third-party Cortana integrations

Microsoft has delayed the release of its tools for connecting other services to the Cortana virtual assistant, a decision that could cause it to lose ground in a crowded industry.

Microsoft's Cortana virtual assistant runs on a Windows Phone handset.

The tech titan announced the Cortana Skills Kit in December of last year, saying at the time that it would be released to the public in February. As Microsoft watcher Brad Sams noted on Twitter, Microsoft missed that deadline, and the Skills Kit remains locked in a private beta with a select group of partners. Microsoft didn’t offer an explanation for the delay, saying in a statement that the kit will be coming soon.

The Skills Kit is important for Microsoft in the virtual assistant market, since Cortana is competing with the likes of Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa. Both of those are integrated with external services, with Alexa boasting more than 10,000 integrations.

Delaying the availability of the Cortana Skills Kit isn’t a disaster, according to IDC Research Manager Jonathan Gaw. While third-party integrations are a key part of Cortana’s future, he doesn’t think a brief delay will sink Microsoft’s virtual assistant.

“The difficulty is, with every passing day, they kind of fall behind Amazon a little bit more,” Gaw said.

According to Microsoft, it’s easy for developers to port the Alexa skills that they’ve built for Amazon’s virtual assistant over to Cortana. If that’s the case, Amazon’s early integration lead may not be as massive, assuming developers want to port their skills.

In December, Microsoft said a handful of partners were developing for the Cortana Skills Kit, including Capital One, Expedia, Knowmail and TalkLocal. It’s not clear whether any other companies have joined the program since then.

The delay may be partly due to the Windows 10 Creators Update, a major update to Microsoft’s most recent operating system, which the company appears to be finishing. Cortana has been updated independent of Windows in the past, but it’s possible the team working on the virtual assistant is more dedicated to ensuring the quality of the forthcoming OS update.

Apple: Macs and iPhones are safe from newly revealed CIA exploits

The Mac and iPhone exploits described in new documents attributed to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency were patched years ago, according to Apple.

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WikiLeaks released a new set of files Thursday that supposedly came from the CIA. They contain details about the agency’s alleged malware and attack capabilities against iPhones and Mac computers.

The documents, dated 2012 and earlier, describe several “implants” that the CIA can install in the low-level extensible firmware interface (EFI) of Mac laptop and desktop computers. These EFI rootkits allow the agency’s macOS spying malware to persist even after the OS is reinstalled.

According to WikiLeaks, the documents also describe an implant that the CIA can load onto factory-fresh iPhones through “interdiction” — the interception and manipulation of electronics shipments on their way to the final buyer.

Based on Apple’s preliminary analysis of the new WikiLeaks disclosures, the iPhone vulnerability described in the files affected only the iPhone 3G and was fixed in 2009 with the release of the iPhone 3GS, an Apple representative said in an emailed statement.

The Mac-related vulnerabilities were fixed in all Mac computers released after 2013, the representative said.

WikiLeaks said it would share unpublished details about vulnerabilities from the CIA’s arsenal with technology vendors whose products were affected. However, it wants vendors to agree to certain terms first, including a 90-day patch deadline.

Apple appears unwilling to negotiate and claims that so far it has not received any information aside from what WikiLeaks has already published.

“We have not negotiated with Wikileaks for any information,” the Apple representative said. “We have given them instructions to submit any information they wish through our normal process under our standard terms. We are tireless defenders of our users’ security and privacy, but we do not condone theft or coordinate with those that threaten to harm our users.”

Skype for Business admins get tool to diagnose call problems

IT administrators managing fleets of Skype for Business users could have an easier time diagnosing and fixing problems. Microsoft unveiled the beta of a new Call Analytics Dashboard on Monday, which is supposed to provide admins with a diagnosis of issues that users are having on a call.

skype for business desktop sharing

There are several different issues that could arise and cause a degradation in call quality, which is why these analytics are helpful. If a user complains about a call only working intermittently, it can be hard to diagnose whether that’s an issue with their network connection, headset, Microsoft’s infrastructure, or something else.

Companies may be more likely to migrate from their legacy communications infrastructure to Skype for Business with the existence of the new dashboard, since understanding issues that crop up can help with the transition.

That dashboard is one of a handful of Skype for Business features Microsoft announced Monday, as part of the Enterprise Connect unified communications conference.

The company also added two new capabilities aimed at serving call centers. Auto Attendant lets businesses set up a system of menus that callers can navigate using their phone keypad. (Think: “For warranty claims, press 1.”)

Call Queues are built for environments like customer service hotlines where there are groups of Skype for Business users who could all answer the same incoming call. Callers are placed into a queue based on when they dialed in, and are automatically routed to the next available employee.

Both of those features are only available for companies using Skype for Business’s Cloud PBX feature, which is included in Microsoft’s premium Office 365 E5 subscription.

Lawsuit alleges Microsoft’s Windows 10 upgrade destroyed data and damaged PCs

Three people from Illinois last week sued Microsoft, claiming that the free Windows 10 upgrade they had installed on their PCs caused “data loss and damage to their computers.”

gavel to show justice

Lawyers for the trio asked a Chicago federal court Thursday to grant the case class-action status, which would allow other Americans to join the litigation.

“Many consumers have had their hard drives fail because of the Windows 10 installation,” alleged the complaint. “Many consumers have had their existing software and data rendered inoperable by the Windows 10 installation.”

 All three of the plaintiffs asserted that after accepting the free Windows 10 upgrade — a one-year deal that ran from 2015 to 2016 — some data on their Windows PCs had been destroyed. One said that she had had to purchase a new personal computer after the one upgraded to Windows 10 was crippled.

Howard Goldberg of Highland Park, Ill. — a suburb north of Chicago — had a particularly tough time with the Windows 10 upgrade. “After three attempts to download Windows 10, each of which tied up his computer for extended periods of time, Goldberg’s computer was damaged, and Windows 10 was not actually downloaded and functional,” the complaint read. “Goldberg contacted Microsoft about the problems, and was told his computer was out of warranty, and that he would have to pay them for any assistance with the problems. Goldberg therefore had to have somebody repair the computer to make it functional.”

Many of the plaintiffs’ complaints resembled the general malaise widely reported during the one-year upgrade plan. For example, the lawsuit cited the insistent on-screen upgrade nag notices Microsoft placed on consumers’ Windows 7 and 8.1 desktops, the limited-time window when the PC could be rolled back to its previous operating system, and the shifty reversal of the close-window operation in a critical dialog box.

“We believe the plaintiffs’ claims are without merit,” a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement. Microsoft also pointed out that “customers had the option not to upgrade to Windows 10” and added that users also could contact the company’s free technical support.

Others have taken Microsoft to court over Windows 10. In July, three Florida men alleged that the company “coerced” them into upgrading to Windows 10 and that the “unintentional” upgrades damaged their PCs. That case was dismissed last month.

Also in 2016, a California woman took Microsoft to small claims court, where she was awarded $10,000 after she convinced a judge that an unauthorized upgrade to Windows 10 had crippled her work PC.

The lawsuit filed last week asked that Microsoft pay both actual and punitive damages.

If Google Assistant isn’t your thing, you can now talk to Cortana on the Android lock screen

The AI battle on our Android phones is getting serious. After Google added Assistant to millions of handsets running Marshmallow and Nougat, Amazon followed by adding Alexa to the Mate 9. And now Microsoft is looking to enhance its new position on the lock screen.

cortana-ios-quick-actions

Microsoft added Cortana to the Android lock screen earlier this month, but it was little more than a feed of information with news, calendar appointments, and weather. With the latest update, Cortana on the lock screen has been enhanced to allow lock-screen interactions, giving Google Assistant a serious run for its money.

The feature, which can be enabled inside the Cortana app, adds a familiar circle to your lock screen that can be swiped to the right to see your Google Now-style series of cards. At the bottom of that screen you’ll also see a new microphone icon. Tap it and it’ll take you to a new screen where you’ll be able to ask Cortana questions just like you would in the app.

cortana lock screenGreenbot
You can now talk to Cortana right on the lock screen of your Android phone.

In addition to the new lock screen functionality, Microsoft has also updated the Cortana feed on Android to provide information about your upcoming schedule, commute, and reminders, as well as the ability to quickly add reminders and new calendar items to your day. Lists are also easier to access now so you can quickly manage your tasks.

Cortana also plays nicer with Windows 10, syncing your reminders and letting you respond to calls and texts on your PC. The update is rolling out to the Google Play Store, but if you’re not seeing it, you can get it early by side-loading the APK from APKMirror.

AI vs. AI: Suddenly our phones are getting very crowded. With Assistant and Cortana both accessible from the lock screen, and now Alexa beginning to cross over to Android, it’s going to be interesting to see how Google can fend off the infiltrators. No AI assistant is perfect, but they all have their strengths, so Google is going to need to keep teaching Assistant new tricks if it wants to keep winning the battle over our phones.

Congress dismantles Internet privacy rules, allowing ISPs to sell your web history

The U.S. House of Representatives has followed the Senate in voting to repeal privacy rules that can prevent broadband providers from selling customers’ internet-browsing histories and other data without their permission.

US Capitol

On Tuesday, the House voted 215-205 to do away with the privacy rules that the U.S. Federal Communications Commission passed last year. The rules had yet to come into effect.

They require broadband carriers to first obtain opt-in approval from customers before using and sharing their sensitive personal information, such as web browsing history, geo-location data and what applications they’ve used.

 [ Further reading: How the new age of antivirus software will protect your PC ]

However, the new Trump administration and Republicans have opposed the rules, claiming they go too far to regulate the internet industry. The Senate’s vote happened last week.

On Tuesday, House Republicans said the privacy rules were unfair to the market, subjugating broadband providers to stricter standards, while allowing internet companies such as Google and Facebook to continue collecting users’ data without their expressed consent.

“Internet users were stuck with a two-sided approach that causes confusion and dampens competition,” said Rep. Bill Johnson, a Republican from Ohio, during a debate before the vote.

Other Republicans like Rep. Leonard Lance, Republican for New Jersey, said the inconsistent rules were actually harming consumers, by creating a false sense of privacy. “In reality, the FCC’s rules arbitrarily treat ISP’s differently,” he said.

However, House Democrats accused Republicans of essentially throwing U.S. consumers’ privacy rights under the bus.

“They no longer have the freedom to decide how to control their own information,” said Rep. Mike Doyle, a Democrat from Pennsylvania. “You have given that freedom away to big corporations.”

Democrats also pointed out the privacy rules ask that broadband providers take reasonable measures to protect customer’s data, including issuing notifications when a breach occurs.

“Consumers want more privacy protection, not less,” Rep. Frank Pallone, Democrat for New Jersey said.

On the same day, the White House said that the Trump administration was in favor of repealing the privacy rules. That means the regulations will almost certainly be rolled back, when the resolution is sent to the President for signing into law.

Tuesday’s vote was a blow for privacy advocates, who fear that broadband providers will be able to sell customers’ internet-browsing history to the highest bidder.

“Companies like Cox, Comcast, Time Warner, AT&T, and Verizon will have free rein to hijack your searches, sell your data, and hammer you with unwanted advertisements,” said the Electronic Frontier Foundation in a blog post.

The American Civil Liberties Union said, “it is extremely disappointing that Congress is sacrificing the privacy rights of Americans in the interest of protecting the profits of major internet companies including Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon.”

Windows 10’s next major update arrives April 11

After months of waiting, beta tests, and trickles of information about new features, the next major update for Windows 10 will arrive on April 11. Microsoft announced Wednesday that the Creators Update, as it’s known, will start rolling out to users of the company’s latest operating system in roughly two weeks.

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The update includes a slew of new features, including changes to the Microsoft Edge browser, improvements to gaming on Windows 10 and more features for devices with touch screens. As the name implies, the Creators Update includes new tools for people who make and consume media on their PCs, including a new Paint3D app that updates Microsoft’s classic drawing tool to create three-dimensional models.

When it’s released, the Creators Update will be Microsoft’s second major update for Windows 10, which was released in July 2015.

 [ Further reading: Our best Windows 10 tricks, tips and tweaks ]

It’s important to note that April 11 is just the start of the Creators Update rollout. Microsoft makes the update available to different users at different times, and will withhold the update from people if the company is unsure that it will work with their hardware.

Unlike past major feature updates, Windows 10 users will also have greater control over when the update is applied. Users will be able to schedule a specific time for the update to be applied, and “snooze” the update for as many as three days when they need to use their computers without going through a massive patching process.

Microsoft has also expanded a device’s possible “active hours,” so the updates don’t try to install themselves when users are still working.

The internet is littered with user reports of updates that arrived at inopportune times, shutting users’ computers down while they were still in use. These changes are supposed to help alleviate some of those complaints.

The changes users are most likely to notice have to do with Microsoft’s Edge browser. New functionality will let users open up a tab preview bar that will show them thumbnail images of the content on each tab they have open, so it’s easier to remember what they were looking for.

tabfeatureMicrosoft
A screenshot shows the set aside tabs feature in Microsoft Edge.

 To help cut down on tab clutter, Microsoft will allow users to set tabs aside, then come back to the pages they were on at a later time. Setting tabs aside is meant to be used for pages that users don’t want to bookmark, but don’t need immediate access to.

All of a user’s tabs will be stored in a list that’s sorted by when they were set aside. Clicking on tabs will return to those pages.

Starting with the Creators Update, users will also see a new dialog box whenever they use the share button in an app built on the Universal Windows Platform such as Microsoft Edge. In the past, pressing the share button would bring in a sidebar that would allow users to send content to other people and applications. Now, that sidebar has been replaced by a floating box.

Gamers have a few new features at their disposal, too. Microsoft introduced a new Game Mode that’s designed to help maintain consistent game performance when people are deep into a session. It works by relegating all of the applications that aren’t an active game to a subset of a computer’s processor cores.

windows10 beamscreen us rgbMicrosoft
A screenshot shows the Windows 10 Creators Update’s built-in support for streaming games using Microsoft’s Beam service.

 In addition, the Creators Update will allow users to live stream the games that they’re playing to Beam, a service Microsoft acquired last year. It’s a competitor to Twitch (owned by Amazon) and YouTube (owned by Google). Unlike those other services, Beam streaming is baked into Microsoft’s operating system, so users don’t have to set up special software in order to start broadcasting their games.
acer windows mixed reality development edition headsetMicrosoft
A rendering of the Acer Mixed Reality Developer Edition headset.

 There’s also an aspect of the Creators Update that isn’t useful for most people just yet: it has the software foundation necessary to support Windows Mixed Reality headsets. The Mixed Reality support that Microsoft introduced is designed to drive a variety of augmented and virtual reality headsets.

Right now, that only works with the Acer Mixed Reality Development Edition VR headset, which Microsoft is keeping locked to a handpicked group of developers. However, consumers are supposed to get access to Windows Mixed Reality headsets around the holidays. Microsoft expects that its manufacturing partners will have headsets that are ready for the public by that point.

This run-down only scratches the surface of the major features being introduced with the Creators Update.