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4
May

Apple Seeds Fifth Beta of tvOS 10.2.1 to Developers


Apple today seeded the fifth beta of an upcoming tvOS 10.2.1 update to developers for testing purposes, one and a half weeks after seeding the fourth 10.2.1 beta and more than one month after releasing tvOS 10.2, an update that included improved scrolling and iPad support for the Apple TV Remote app.

The tvOS 10.2.1 beta is designed for the fourth-generation Apple TV. It can be downloaded by connecting the Apple TV to a computer with a USB-C cable and installing the beta software from a registered developer account using iTunes.

Because of the installation requirements, tvOS betas are limited to developers. tvOS 10.2.1 will not be available to the public until the final version of the software launches.

Apple does not typically provide detailed beta release notes, so we don’t yet know what’s included in tvOS 10.2.1. It’s likely to focus primarily on bug fixes, security enhancements, and performance improvements, but we may not know what’s new until the software sees an official release.

No notable changes were found in the first four tvOS 10.2.1 betas, but should anything new popup in the fifth beta, we’ll update this post.

Related Roundups: Apple TV, tvOS 10
Buyer’s Guide: Apple TV (Don’t Buy)
Discuss this article in our forums

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4
May

BlackBerry KEYone review: Getting stuff done


See it at BlackBerry

BlackBerry has taken many different forms over the years, the most recent being an Android smartphone manufacturer. First came the BlackBerry PRIV, then the DTEK50 and DTEK60 later on in 2016. Now in 2017, the company is bringing something completely different to the table.

Originally known as the BlackBerry ‘Mercury’, the KEYone is a new productivity-focused smartphone that aims to be different on both the outside and inside. Sporting a physical keyboard, solid design, and a slew of BlackBerry’s built-in security features, is KEYone right for you?

This is our full BlackBerry KEYone review.

About this review:

Both Joshua Vergara and I, Jimmy Westenberg, have been testing the BlackBerry KEYone with model number BBB100-1 on build number AAK831 running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, with the April 5, 2017 security update. We’ve been testing pre-production software, so some of the software and performance issues may be fixed by the time the phone comes to market. We will update this review if anything changes.

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Design

BlackBerry returns to its roots with a design that doesn’t shy away from its signature keyboard — compared to the more recent and fully-touchscreen DTEK devices and the BlackBerry Priv, the keyboard is the key feature of the KEYone. (I had to get the pun out the way).

See also:

BlackBerry Priv review

November 23, 2015

Many of the features of this new BlackBerry forego subtlety, showing proudly their capabilities. The camera packages on the front and back are large and obvious, while the thicker aluminum body all around rocks the side buttons prominently. An array of capacitive keys sit plainly in view between the screen and the keyboard, as the backing of the device helps handling via a rubberized plastic material.

We found ourselves enamored with the unique look and feel of the brick-like KEYone

The end result is a phone that can fit under some particular descriptors — industrial, business-oriented — and, when compared to its totally touchscreen competitors, we found ourselves very enamored with the unique look and feel of the brick-like KEYone.

The rear material and the thicker body make this phone fairly comfortable to handle in one hand, but such usage is definitely not a focus of a phone rocking a physical keyboard. We will talk more extensively about the keyboard later, but just know that typing with one hand using the physical keys is about the only part of the phone that is stuck in the past.

Indeed, the pinky balancing act is basically encouraged and will be the main way of interacting with this latest BlackBerry. However, keyboard gestures help to bridge the gap, as swipes up and down or left and right can help with navigation throughout the UI and within applications. It is really nice to have one’s finger out of the way when reading a web page or scrolling through apps like Instagram.

Capacitive keys are the preferred method of UI navigation for BlackBerry, its middle-path choice between hardware keys and the more common softkeys of current Android Nougat devices. While they are reliable, it took a bit to get used to because the key target doesn’t seem to be squarely on the white icons. Instead, they felt a little bit lower of the designated area, closer to the keyboard.

These keys function the same as they would across any typical Android device, and there is no changing their behavior. It would have been nice to program the capacitive keys, gesture keyboard swipes, or even the Convenience Key to the notification dropdown, which is the only tough part of the handling experience.

The Convenience Key is, you know, convenient

TCL’s influence is plainly seen in the inclusion of the Convenience Key, a facet of its more recent Alcatel smartphones. Though keyboard shortcuts may become the main way of opening applications, the Convenience Key allows for access to one app or shortcut from anywhere in the phone, including from standby. Josh had a little trouble trying to figure out what to program to it, since the camera shortcut of pressing power twice is already available. In my case, I found Google Voice Search to be the best way to use the button, which is sitting just below the volume rocker.

And finally, there is the fingerprint reader embedded in a place that makes an incredible amount of sense for a BlackBerry — the spacebar. A couple of LEDs even pulse to show when it can be used, and unlocking the device is as easy as resting one’s thumb on the sensor, since pressing down the spacebar while in standby doesn’t do anything.

So, despite a slight learning curve and muscle memory reprogramming, the KEYone eventually becomes a very comfortable device to handle on the daily. BlackBerry basically updated their Classic and Bold devices for the current Android era, and to great effect — the KEYone is the only device of its kind in the flagship space, managing to find the best middle ground for every feature splayed on its body. We applaud BlackBerry for putting some real thought into the KEYone without going too far with certain aspects like the phone’s thickness or the screen’s smaller size to make room for the keyboard.

Display

Smartphone displays have been changing in recent months, and not just in terms of resolution. While most of us are probably used to the standard 16:9 aspect ratios found in most smartphones, the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8/Plus sport taller and thinner 18:9 and 18.5:9 aspect ratios, respectively.

  • Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus review
  • LG G6 review

The KEYone goes in the other direction, largely due to the physical keyboard taking up space on the front of the phone. It comes with a 4.5-inch IPS LCD display with a 3:2 aspect ratio. That might seem pretty small by today’s standards, but the extra width makes it feel much less cramped than it would if it had a 16:9 display.

And because of that 3:2 aspect ratio, that also means watching 16:9 YouTube videos will cause letterboxing. That’s not a make or break observation by any means, but is still worth pointing out.

The display packs a 1620 x 1080 resolution, with a pixel density of 433 ppi. No, it’s not as pixel-dense as a Quad HD screen, but it’s certainly sharp enough for enjoying YouTube videos and playing games.

Of course, given that this is an LCD display, it’s not going to be as saturated as most AMOLED panels out there, though it’s not particularly lacking in any sense, either. It’s sharp and vibrant, and should be good enough for most users.

BlackBerry did throw in a Screen mode option in the settings menu if you need to make the display cooler or warmer. That’s usually an overlooked feature, but really convenient if you’re particular about your smartphone’s display.



The KEYone’s Ambient Display and double tap to wake features really come in handy

The KEYone also comes with an Ambient Display feature, similar to the one found on Nexus and Pixel devices. It only shows the time, date, and your notifications when they show up, and is otherwise off at all times. You can’t raise the phone to bring back the Ambient Display, nor can you press a button on the keyboard to wake it. We don’t want to call this an underbaked feature, solely because it’s simple. Rather, it’s just a set-it-and-forget-it feature that you turn on once in the settings menu.

BlackBerry did, however, include a double tap to wake feature for the KEYone’s display, which is really handy if you need to wake the device’s display when it’s sitting on a desk or table.

Performance

It’s important to remember what kind of user most benefits from this new BlackBerry

The spec sheet makes this phone seem far from the flagships it might be compared to — the Snapdragon 625, Adreno 506, and 3 GB of RAM are all at least one step back from basically any high profile and high-end phone we’ve seen recently. It should come as no surprise, then, that this phone won’t be the biggest powerhouse. That doesn’t mean that the KEYone is incapable of getting things done — it’s important to remember what kind of user most benefits from this new BlackBerry.

Loading graphics-intensive apps was the main issue, with higher-end games and emulators hanging for a bit before actually launching after a tap. Once in the game, however, the experience was smooth without much slowdown. However, on plenty of occasions both Josh and myself experienced slowdowns when opening up other applications when these games continued running or were pushed to the background (read: in the RAM).

So, the hardcore media consumer or gamer won’t have the best time with the KEYone. And while the combination of lower-end specifications are to blame for this, we feel that the 3 GB of RAM is the most noticeable issue. The settings screen will pretty much always say that the 2.8 GB of usable RAM is maybe 2.3 or 2.5 GB full, so it was easy to point at that as an issue.

As such, Josh found himself doing what he called ‘Clear All Maintenance,’ a practice in which he went to the recent apps screen and hit Clear All both randomly and before loading certain apps like emulators. This turned into a subconscious habit — one that Josh felt improved the general daily usage — but one situation constantly frustrated him: Android Auto. About half of the time, the plugged in KEYone would hang for a noticeable amount of time before loading the Android Auto interface in his Volkswagen GTI infotainment system. It never crashed once loaded, but the pause was hard to brush off.

Just don’t expect this phone to be able to do everything all at once, all the time

While it’s easy to view the performance as the worst part, we have to remind users that the KEYone is geared toward productivity and enterprise. And in that specific scope, the phone performs swimmingly. Workflows will differ between users, but we didn’t feel slowed down in any productivity-centric situation. We were messaging colleagues on Slack while jumping between the Hub for e-mails, sliding over the Productivity Tab to view upcoming tasks or calendar entries, and popping back to the home screen to quickly load any application via keyboard shortcuts — lather, rinse, repeat. Even dual window multitasking is possible, as Josh played YouTube while responding to emails on multiple occasions. Just don’t expect this phone to be able to do everything all at once, all the time.

Hardware

32 GB is the only built-in storage option available here, but if that isn’t enough for you, expandable storage via microSD is possible for up to an additional 2 TB. There’s no second SIM card slot, though.

Additional connectivity features include Bluetooth 4.2 (LE), NFC, and even an FM radio.

On the bottom of the device there are two speaker grills, though only the right one is a speaker. Speaker quality is pretty poor for the most part; it doesn’t get very loud when listening to music or podcasts, though it should be good enough to use during speakerphone calls in most cases.

Normally when we talk about single bottom-firing speakers, we also gripe about how easy they are to cover up when playing games. That’s actually not the case here, as sound tends to bleed through the physical keyboard on the front of the device. So even if you do cover up the speaker grill by accident, it’s not the end of the world.

One area in which the KEYone excels is in battery life, and that’s thanks to the non-removable 3,505 mAh unit. We’ve both been able to achieve about 4.5 hours of screen-on time on a regular basis, with average use. But that’s just for everyday use. In some cases, both Josh and I have achieved 6+ hours of screen-on time, and that includes browsing through social media and watching the occasional YouTube video.

The KEYone’s battery just won’t quit

When you do run low on battery, BlackBerry says you’ll be able to achieve a 50 percent charge in just 36 minutes, and we can absolutely vouch for that claim. When you plug the device in, you’re presented with two different charging options: Charge Only mode, or Boost mode. Charge Only mode is just your standard way of charging the phone with Quick Charge 3.0. Boost mode, however, puts the phone into a sort of power saving mode and shuts down background processes to maximize the charging efficiency of the device. This isn’t really something you’re going to need to use every time you plug in, but it should come in handy if you only have a few minutes to charge up.




And in case you were wondering, the KEYone doesn’t support any form of wireless charging. Womp womp.

Related:

Android smartphones with the best battery life

March 13, 2017

Physical keyboard

Some might view a physical keyboard as a frivolous addition to a touchscreen world, but the key feature (the last one, I swear) of this BlackBerry easily gave us some of our favorite experiences in Android this year.

BlackBerry veterans (especially users of the old Bold phones and the more recent BlackBerry Classic) will feel at home with this form factor that is the only one of its kind in today’s Android landscape. Others, however, may need a little bit of time to get used to the KEYone’s learning curve.

The physical keyboard takes a while to get used to

Pressing down with force on the different keys for  typing took a bit of getting used to for our team members who are used to swipes and light touch typing on virtual keyboards. Josh, a resident Fleksy and NINtype typist, felt this as the slower typing speed on the KEYone somewhat deflated his enthusiasm. But after some time, muscle memory and repetition led to more comfort and speed, even if one handed typing was done less. It seems that the general workflow for the KEYone hinges on typing with two hands and then resorting to voice input when necessary. Even the currency key that has a speaker icon on it only has one function aside from designating monetary denominations — it simply toggles the loudspeaker during calls.

“Oh, let me look that up real quick.”

*click, then tap tap tap*

“Yelp says that this restaurant has 4 stars. Great, so I’ll see you there!”

This example also shows how the physical keyboard keeps the screen from getting cluttered. Without a virtual keyboard to take up close to half of the available screen real estate, the important bits are unhindered. Think YouTube and then Facebook Messenger in multiwindow mode, where your keyboard typing is simply out of the way.

I bet that many users are looking forward to setting up their keyboard shortcuts — be forewarned, however, that the shortcuts require the BlackBerry Launcher to be in use. The home screens monitor for short or long presses in order to trigger any of the programmed apps or shortcuts, which means tapping home and then the desired shortcut key whenever necessary. Any third party launcher will break this functionality. While that is a bummer, we explain later on how we love the BlackBerry software and find that we didn’t really feel the need to change launchers. In other launchers, however, any presses on the keyboard will instantly trigger Device Search, which easily brings up shortcuts to the same apps and shortcuts.

We felt it would be nice for us to share our top 5 most used keyboard shortcuts, so many you can get an idea of what you would choose: 

Josh

  • I for Instagram
  • K for KeePass
  • V for Voice
  • Y for YouTube
  • S for SlingTV

Jimmy

  • A for Allo
  • C for Camera
  • G for Google
  • L for LastPass
  • S for Slack

The number of shortcuts you can program into the physical keyboard can get overwhelming

With some imagination, there are many possibilities provided by the KEYone’s physical keyboard. As you may have surmised from earlier statements about the BlackBerry Launcher and shortcuts, the only thing limiting this keyboard is the company’s own oversight. It would be nice for a swipe down on the keyboard to reveal the notification dropdown, for example. And if long presses on the keys could still do shortcuts no matter what launcher is in use, that would please many users who prefer their third party launchers. But there is definitely a ton to fun to be had with a physical keyboard, so many Josh wasn’t so crazy to be such an advocate for it in past Android Authority Podcast episodes.

By far, the most enjoyable part about the keyboard is every moment that either Josh or I found out a new function. Josh found a rather deep setting that could convert one of the shift buttons into a sort of ‘Ctrl’ key, allowing for copy and paste shortcuts like ‘Control+A’ for selecting all characters and ‘Control+V’ for pasting from the clipboard. For those who use password managers, this is an incredibly useful tool.

Another use for the physical keyboard that Josh has used extensively deals with gaming – with a bevy of buttons at his disposal, Josh went a little old-school and started playing some of his favorite old games via emulators, programming the keys for controller input. The KEYone, then, was like a makeshift Game Boy Advance or a PSP with many of the on-screen controls shifted over to the keyboard.

I, on the other hand, have had daily discoveries. My latest pleasant surprise was in the camera, where the spacebar can be used as the shutter button and swiping up and down it easily changes the exposure compensation. That keeps fingers off the screen and the whole screen/viewfinder in plain sight.

Camera

BlackBerry takes cues from some reputable smartphone cameras to make one that is on par with typical needs. While the KEYone is not a particularly amazing shooter, it keeps from being below average. 12MP at 1.55µ sizes help this f/2.0 aperture lens capture pictures that are still pleasing enough to the eye despite lacking mainly in sharpness. Details in pretty much any photo are soft and are not as crisp as other shooters in this year’s competition.

Video modes include 1080p at 60 fps or 4K video recording. A Pro mode is available but it does not provide as much freedom as the Galaxy S8 or the LG G6. And as we mentioned before, the keyboard provides a few different convenient gestures.

Where we do enjoy the camera experience is in self portraits. The front facing camera gets a nice bump up to 8MP, which is actually above the norm in the flagship space. As a result, selfies in good lighting come out looking pretty nice, with an expected sharpness bump compared to the common 5MP shooters.

We reiterate the focus of this phone — getting things done — and the camera is another example of that mentality. Even BlackBerry know this — while the company touts the rear camera for its capabilities (on paper), it clearly makes the point of mentioning video conference calls using the front facing 8MP camera.

In good lighting conditions, it isn’t hard to get a good photo for sharing on social media or otherwise — in low light, however, the camera suffers from a lack of optical image stabilization, meaning slower shutter speeds will cause motion blur and hurt the overall picture. We don’t think that the camera is terrible in any particular regard, it just doesn’t offer as much as pretty much any other high-end device that we’ve seen in 2017.

BlackBerry KEYone camera samples

Software

One of the biggest reasons to buy a BlackBerry phone is for the software. Not only is the software on the KEYone refined and a joy to use, the extra security benefits will help keep your information safe and secure. Before we get into that, though, let’s talk about the basics.

The KEYone is running Android 7.1.1 Nougat, which comes with a fair amount of BlackBerry’s own customizations on top. You wouldn’t necessarily know it though, as BlackBerry doesn’t really stray too far from what we know as “vanilla” Android.

See also:

Android Nougat review

3 weeks ago

The stock BlackBerry launcher comes with a ton of useful features that we have grown very fond of. The most convenient feature present are pop-up widgets, which are denoted on each application icon with three small white dots. Swiping up or down on an app icon will bring up your widget of choice, which is a super easy way to access information without opening the app. We’d like to give credit to BlackBerry for implementing this feature in their launcher, but it’s a shameless ripoff of Action Launcher 3’s Shutters. At any rate, they work super well, and we’re happy the feature is there.

Opening up the app drawer reveals a list of all your applications in alphabetical order, with two rows of recently-used apps on the top. Above that, you’ll find three tabs, which allow you to swipe between your apps, widgets, and shortcuts. We know some users are big fans of this app drawer layout, but on the KEYone, things are cluttered enough as is due to the shorter, wider display. We wish BlackBerry would do away with this tabbed layout and instead embrace Google’s method of accessing apps and shortcuts – by long-pressing on the home screen.

Aside from the awkwardly designed app drawer, most of the other menus on the KEYone are pretty stock. The notification shade, quick settings menu, and even the settings menu (for the most part) are just like you’d find on a Nexus device. Even the recent apps menu can be changed from the default Masonry view to the standard Rolodex view you usually see in Android phones.

DTEK is a must-have for people who want to keep better tabs on their security

As we mentioned, there are a handful of other additions to the software that really make the KEYone stand out. For starters, we have DTEK, which is a preloaded security app that keeps an eye on your OS and apps to make sure nothing is fishy. Once you open the app, you’ll see a rating at the top that tells you how secure your device is. Below that, you’ll find all of the things DTEK keeps an eye on, including app permissions, factory reset protection, operating system integrity, data encryption, and much more. This is certainly a useful tool for people who want to keep better tabs on their security.

There’s also the classic BlackBerry Hub, which is a catch-all app for all the communication apps installed on your phone (well, most of them). Whether you’re using Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Slack, or pretty much any other messaging app you can think of, the BlackBerry Hub lets you see all of your messages in chronological order. If that’s too overwhelming for you, you can also switch between your list of accounts and filter between them.

What makes it most convenient, at least when setting up the phone for the first time, is the fact that all of your services will be added to the Hub and logged in automatically.

One other popular feature that’s been available on BlackBerry devices for some time is the productivity tab, which you can access by swiping in from the left or right sides of the screen. It works in a similar fashion to the Edge features on Galaxy devices. The productivity tab gives you quick access to your current calendar events, emails, tasks, and your favorite contacts.

Perhaps one of the only software features that are missing from the KEYone is a blue light filter, which has become an increasingly popular feature in Android phones lately.

Overall, we’re really happy with the KEYone’s software. It’s not perfect, but it certainly helps you get things done quickly. And it looks good while doing it, too.












Specifications

Display 4.5-inch IPS LCD display
3:2 aspect ratio
1620 x 1080 resolution
434 ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 4
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 625
2.0 GHz
64-bit
GPU Adreno 506
RAM 3 GB
Storage 32 GB
microSD expansion up to 2 TB
Cameras Rear: 12 MP large pixel camera with f/2.0 aperture, 1.55 µm pixel size, electronic image stabilization, phase detect autofocus, fast focus lock, 4x digital zoom, 4K video recording at 30 fps

Front: 8 MP fixed-focus camera with f/2.2 aperture, 1.125 µm pixel size, 84˚ wide-angle lens, image & video stabilization, 1080p HD video recording at 30 fps, light-up LCD flash

Battery 3,505 mAh
Non-removable
Quick Charge 3.0
Ports USB Type-C (USB 3.1)
3.5 mm headphone jack
Water resistance No
Connectivity Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n 2.4 GHz
802.11 a/n 5GHz
802.11 ac 5GHz
Bluetooth 4.2 Low Energy and EDR
NFC
Sensors Accelerometer
Magnetometer
Gyroscope
Proximity
Ambient light
Hall Effect
Software Android 7.1.1 Nougat
Dimensions and weight 149.3 x 72.5 x 9.4 mm
180 g

Gallery

Pricing and final thoughts

The BlackBerry KEYone is coming to the US on May 31 for the price of $549. It’ll also make its way to additional carriers, including Sprint, later in the summer, though exact availability details have yet to be revealed. Canada availability is also slated for May 31, while the phone is already on sale in the UK (at just one store, though).

This is a smartphone that gets stuff done. It may not be a phone for heavy gamers or media users, but it’s perfect for those constantly in communication with friends and coworkers, or for productivity-focused users who rely on their phones to keep their lives balanced. The addition of a physical keyboard only makes this point even more true, as the endless amount of keyboard shortcuts and ease of use makes multitasking and sending quick messages that much easier.

This is a smartphone for people who like different. BlackBerry really thought out of the box with the KEYone, and in doing so, produced a well-built, productivity-focused smartphone that not only looks different, but isn’t anything like the other phones on the market.

That’s not to say this is a perfect smartphone; performance is lacking in some areas, and the camera could be much better. Still, it’s a completely different experience from what we normally get with Android smartphones, and BlackBerry definitely deserves credit for that.

See it at BlackBerry

What are your thoughts on the BlackBerry KEYone? Is this going to be your next Android device? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

Next:

The best Android phones

3 days ago

4
May

Best app deals of the day! 6 paid iPhone apps for free for a limited time


Everyone likes apps, but sometimes the best ones are a bit expensive. Now and then, developers make paid apps free for a limited time, but you have to snatch them up while you have the chance. Here are the latest and greatest apps on sale in the iOS App Store.

These apps normally cost money, and this sale lasts for a limited time only. If you go to the App Store and it says the app costs money, that means the deal has expired and you will be charged. 

More: 200 Awesome iPhone Apps | The best Android apps for almost any occasion

Smart Merge Pro

Your contacts are the most important data in your phone. Smart Merge Pro easily helps you detect and merge duplicate contacts.

Available on:

iOS

Lucid Dreaming

Control your dreams and discover a new awareness with “Lucid Dreaming Hypnosis” from Rachael Meddows.

Available on:

iOS

PhotoZonic

Make your pictures come alive. Simply touch anywhere within a picture, and start recording as many as you want. Multiple sounds will be recorded at each touched location.

Available on:

iOS

Zones

Zones is the simplest way to convert time zones between cities around the world. Recently rewritten and updated to version 2.0, Zones is the best way to deal with time zones on iOS.

Available on:

iOS

Week Calendar

Whether you use iCloud, Exchange, or Google calendar, Week Calendar is the most user friendly and the all-round calendar app worldwide for everyone that needs to get the most out of their calendar app.

Available on:

iOS

Adrian James 6 Pack Abs

Adrian James 6 Pack Abs Workout has become an international sensation. Download the chart-topping app to transform your body and gain a newfound lust for life.

Available on:

iOS




4
May

Keep those touchscreens squeaky clean with these simple methods


On a daily basis, smartphone screens attract scads of dust, dirt, fingerprints, and other matter, routinely leaving your screen a grimy mess. Although wiping down your device with the edge of your shirt — or smudging the screen with your fingers — certainly helps tidy up the display on your smartphone or tablet, there are far better methods for cleaning your device thoroughly.

To help you take proper care of your precious device’s screen, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide outlining the best ways to clean a touchscreen display.

Things to try

Microfiber cloth

The easiest way to clean your device’s screen is with a microfiber cloth. Unlike paper-based towels, microfiber cloths can gently clean the sensitive glass on your smartphone or tablet without running the risk of scratching it. Microfiber products attract and removed unwanted oils and dust, whereas other product simply spread them around.

Clean phone

Intel/Flickr

We recommend stocking up on plenty of these, as they work wonders for cleaning and buffing literally any surface — lenses, computer screens, TVs, etc. Some items, like eyeglasses, even come with a microfiber cloth, so you might already have one in your possession.

To clean your display, turn off the device — this allows you to see the dirt and grime better, but is also mandatory if using water (see below) — and move the cloth in a horizontal or vertical direction repeatedly. Once you finish an area of the screen, move on to the next dirty area, and continue to wipe until the surface is completely clean.

For dirtier jobs, or those that require more than a microfiber cloth and a little elbow grease, consider using a minimal amount of water. First, turn off your smartphone and remove the battery (if possible). Next, wet one corner of the cloth with water — do not use soap of any kind while doing this — and clean the surface of the screen in a similar fashion to the method outlined above. Once done, use a dry part of the cloth to remove some of the water (you can also let the screen air dry).

Additionally, we recommend keeping the microfiber cloth clean so that you avoid rubbing the dust and grime you’ve already picked up back on the display. To clean the cloth, simply soak it in a mixture of warm water and soap, rinse the cloth completely, then air dry it fully before using again.

Scotch Tape

When a microfiber cloth is out of the question — and you need to clean your screen quickly — a strip of Scotch Tape (or another type of adhesive tape) can work wonders. Just stick the tape to the surface of the screen and peel it off to remove any unwanted dirt and grime. Then, repeat the previous step as often as necessary to clean the entire screen.

Liquid screen protector and cleaner

how to clean lcd screen

Over the years, we have seen some liquid solutions that are designed to clean and protect screens. Shark Proof is one such example, one that you can apply to your screen in a few easy steps. You can think of it as liquid glass for your smartphone or tablet. The good thing about this nano-coating solution is that, once applied, it hardens and can repel both liquids and fingerprints. Shark Proof is scratch-resistant and anti-microbial, too, and the company guarantees that this coating will protect your device from scratches and germs for up to two years. It’s also safe to use on fingerprint scanners, as well as the iris scanner on the Galaxy S8.

UV light

Obviously, if you’re looking to sanitize your phone, water will only get you so far. Since alcohol-based cleaners may damage your phone, they’re out of the question, but UV lamps can get the job done when necessary. PhoneSoap’s UV charger ($50), for instance, can clean your phone in a jiffy using UV light.

The PhoneSoap Charger has two UV-C lamps that produce a specific wavelength of light, which penetrates the cell walls of bacteria and viruses, allowing you to destroy them. Since it’s a charger, you can clean your phone while you wait. It’s unclear how well the charger works, but it remains a decent option for true germaphobes.

Things to avoid

Alcohol-based cleaners

No matter how appealing or appropriate it might seem to use a product like Windex or some other form of cleaning solvent, never resort to using these to clean the screen on your smartphone or tablet. Cleaners such as these have a tendency to damage the protective coating found on most devices, and have the potential to ruin your phone.

However, a simple Google search yields thousands of specialty solvents or cleaners which are capable of properly cleaning your device’s screen. Still, more often than not, these are just glorified versions of alcohol and water. There’s no sense in spending $60 or $70 dollars on a “smartphone screen cleaner,” when using a little water and a microfiber cloth works just as well (if not better).

Of course, if you’re worried about germs and want to sanitize your device, some suggest mixing a touch of alcohol with water to clean your screen. The diluted mixture may still harm your phone, however.

Paper-based wipes

Never wipe or clean your smartphone screen with paper towels, facial tissues, or coarse cloths, as these have a high risk of scratching the surface. These scratches can build up over time and may render your touchscreen non-responsive or useless down the line. Again, a microfiber cloth is the only type of wipe you need to clean a smartphone’s screen the correct way.

Updated on 5-01-2017 by Carlos Vega to include Shark Proof’s liquid solution.




4
May

BlackBerry KeyOne review


blackberry-keyone-product-90x90-c.jpg

Research Center:
Blackberry KeyOne

BlackBerry and TCL generated plenty of intrigue when they announced the KeyOne at Mobile World Congress in February. It’s always refreshing to see alternatives to the traditional all-screen smartphone design, and not many phones in this price range are still willing to offer a physical keyboard. There’s certainly a market of people longing for physical keyboards, even if it’s small, and the Android-powered KeyOne is a great choice.

TCL is manufacturing the phone, but BlackBerry is in charge of software and updates — it’s all a part of the company’s new mobile strategy. If you’re worried, don’t be — the KeyOne has all the qualities of traditional BlackBerry phones, including excellent battery life, and a priority on security. But the key selling point here is the keyboard, because there’s no other reason to buy the KeyOne with its $550 price tag.

Let’s take a closer look.

Brick-like build, unique design

The BlackBerry KeyOne runs against the current grain of wafer-thin phones with oversized screens. It’s thick, bulky, and has a smaller 4.5-inch display. We wouldn’t call it ugly, but the top edge that houses the front-facing camera and LED indicator looks a little dated, the backlit keyboard is too glossy for our tastes, and the two-tone front isn’t to our taste. Still, the phone is clearly designed for enterprise, and it just looks as though it’s meant to be a productivity workhorse. TCL has done a sound job in retaining the familiar look of previous BlackBerry-made flagships.

Still, it’s something different. We like how the top is flat with sharp corners, but the bottom is more rounded. We haven’t seen a design like this before in a smartphone. The back is minimal, elegant, and the rubbery texture offers extra grip when handling the phone.

blackberry keyone review dsc

blackberry keyone review dsc

blackberry keyone review dsc

blackberry keyone review dsc

You’ll find the power button on the top left edge of the KeyOne, and the volume rocker on the right. Below the volume rocker, a Convenience Key acts like a handy trigger for your favorite app or shortcut. We wish Samsung would let us use the Galaxy S8’s useless Bixby button like this.

A USB Type-C port on the bottom is surrounded by two speaker cut outs, but you wouldn’t know there’s more than one. Sound quality is only OK, and it doesn’t get loud enough for blasting music.

Typing with a physical keyboard feels more satisfying.

The capacitive navigation buttons above the keyboard are more nuisance than convenience. They’re easy to accidentally press when typing, and hardly offer any haptic feedback. They should have been placed below the keyboard, or TCL should have just opted for on-screen keys.

The exceptionally well built KeyOne feels like a brick — in a good way — as though it will be able to survive accidental drops easily. But fair warning: The keyboard seems to collect dirt between the key rows, and so does the bezel around the rear camera, so you’ll need to clean them often.

Solid display, mixed performance

By packing 1,620 x 1,080-pixel resolution into merely 4.5 inches, the KeyOne’s sharp LCD display hits an impressive 433 pixels-per-inch. It doesn’t seem to get as bright as we’d like, but we didn’t have too much trouble reading the screen in broad daylight.

The weird resolution and screen size mean that videos play with giant black borders around them, making the content look really small. It’s watchable, but big-screen phones like the Galaxy S8 and LG G6 are much better devices for TV and movie fans. Playing games is a little awkward as well, because you’re ignoring a quarter of the phone. Heavy mobile gamers will want to look at the same alternatives.

Performance is acceptable on the KeyOne, but we experienced the occasional stutter, and random app freezes. BlackBerry pushed an update late yesterday that’s meant to bring software “performance enhancements and refinements,” so we’re hoping the kinks will be ironed out.

Switching between the KeyOne and the Google Pixel, we also noticed moving through the Android 7.1.1 operating system is not as fast or smooth on the KeyOne. That’s most definitely due to the less powerful Qualcomm Snapdragon 625 processor powering the KeyOne, as opposed to the Snapdragon 821 on the Pixel.

As a reference, here are a few benchmark scores.

  • 3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme: 457
  • AnTuTu: 61,947

The Moto G5 Plus, which uses the same processor, scored a 463 in the 3D Mark test, and 63,190 in AnTuTu. The KeyOne scores negligibly lower, but you should expect comparable performance.

We managed to play games like Tiny Archers, and Alto’s Adventure with no problems — and the device hardly got warm. We would have still liked to see a better processor, considering the Moto G5 Plus has the same chipset and costs under $300. There’s 3GB of RAM in the KeyOne, which is on par with many devices in its price range and it should be enough to handle multitasking. You also get 32GB of internal storage, and there’s a MicroSD card slot in case you want to add more.

Stock Android, extra security

The KeyOne runs the latest version of the Android operating system, 7.1.1 Nougat, and it’s fairly close to stock. Like a Motorola phone, there are some design changes, but you’re overall getting a look that’s close to what Google established on its Nexus devices.

One improvement is a Recents button that brings up a grid-layout of recent apps, rather than Rolodex-styled vertical cards (you can change this to whichever you prefer). You can even install icon packs from the Google Play Store with the default launcher.

KeyOne feels like it’s built to withstand the apocalypse.

The KeyOne is all about choice. You can choose what to trigger with the Convenience Key, you can use the LED notification if you want, and best of all, you can customize shortcuts for every key on the keyboard to open any app — there’s hardly a need for the app drawer. These are intuitive, simple to configure, and one of our favorite features of the KeyOne.

Long-press the G key to open Gmail, for example, and you can set a short-press to open Google. There are even more specific shortcuts, like “write a note,” but these seem to only work with BlackBerry-specific apps.

Speaking of which, there are a lot of pre-installed BlackBerry apps, like WorkSpaces, a Google Drive alternative; the famous BlackBerry Messenger; BlackBerry Hub, which shows all your notifications in one place; Password Keeper, which stores your passwords in one secure location; and more. Some of these apps are genuinely useful, and it’ll come down to preference if you want to use these over your traditional favorites. You can disable these apps if you don’t want them, but you can’t uninstall them.

Similar to Samsung’s Edge panel, BlackBerry has a Productivity tab you can drag out from the right edge of the screen, and it offers quick access to your calendar, Blackberry Hub, Tasks, and contacts. It mostly relies on you to use BlackBerry’s apps, but it’s still useful.

blackberry keyone review screen ( )

blackberry keyone review screen ( )

blackberry keyone review screen ( )

blackberry keyone review screen ( )

blackberry keyone review screen ( )

There’s also the DTEK By BlackBerry app, which monitors your device security by continually performing a safety check. It scans every app you install for malware, and recommends certain steps to keep your device safe, such as using a screen lock. You can even see detailed information on what permissions apps are using, and when. Best of all, BlackBerry is promising to deliver on Google’s monthly security updates, and it’s one of the few Android manufacturers following through.

The KeyOne presents an excellent, thoughtful Android experience for BlackBerry fans that are reluctant to hop on the company’s latest smartphone, or just anyone seeking an Android smartphone with a physical keyboard.

A nifty keyboard

The keyboard is the reason you’re buying the KeyOne, and it’s excellent. Typing will take longer than a day or two to get used to, but we found ourselves typing more accurately, especially since the built-in autocorrect is reliable.

We experienced the occasional stutter, and random app freezes.

In most apps, a predictive bar pops up above the capacitive buttons with useful suggestions that make typing quicker. Pro tip: You can swipe up on the left, center, or right side of the keyboard to choose the predicted word, saving you an extra step.

You also don’t need to rely on emoticons over emojis — tap and hold the button left of the spacebar to activate keyboard settings. A bar will pop up above the predictive words, allowing you to choose Android emojis, paste from your clipboard, access the keyboard settings, and trigger voice typing.

Tap Alt to use numbers and symbols, and double tap it to continually use them. The same applies to the Shift key and Caps Lock. You can also use the keyboard to swipe and scroll through screens — it works pretty well, but we prefer the touchscreen.

The spacebar doubles as a fingerprint sensor — you don’t need to press it down, just place your fingerprint over it and it unlocks your device quickly. We prefer fingerprint sensors on the rear, but had no issues with the KeyOne’s placement.

You’ll most certainly need a few days to get used to the keyboard, so don’t dismiss it if you’re first impressions are mixed. After a week, our opinion was far more positive — typing with a physical keyboard feels more satisfying. Does it mean we’ll stick to physical keyboards from here on out? No, touchscreens are definitely faster, but it doesn’t mean the keyboard shouldn’t have a place.

A surprising camera

The 12-megapixel rear camera is surprisingly good. Our photos captured fine detail, and colors were fairly accurate, though the latter suffered in low-light. There’s no optical image stabilization, so you have to be very still when taking photos in low-light environments if you want to avoid blurry shots. Shutter lag is minimal.

The standard camera app offers options for filters, HDR, and slow-motion video. There’s even a manual mode you can trigger in the settings, if you want more granular controls.

The KeyOne’s camera’s only fault is autofocus; it seems take too long trying to focus on certain objects. We hope it’s fixed in an update, but regardless we’re pleasantly surprised by the camera. It’s no Google Pixel or Galaxy S8, but we believe most people will be more than satisfied with the outcome.

The front-facing 8-megapixel camera is capable, best in broad daylight, but not noteworthy.

Long-lasting battery

The KeyOne’s battery will last longer than a Galaxy S8, and far longer than a Google Pixel, making it another standout feature. It’s all thanks to the 3,505mAh battery, the smaller screen, and the Snapdragon 625, which has excellent battery optimization, allowing for more than a day of battery life.

With medium to heavy usage, we started with a fully charged KeyOne around 8 a.m., and consistently ended with 40 percent remaining by midnight. Most flagships smartphones end up around 30 or 20 percent by 7 or 8 p.m., but not the KeyOne — it’s a trooper. You most definitely can get a full day and a half with heavy to medium use, which includes watching a few videos, streaming music, browsing social media and news, and playing a few games.

Blackberry KeyOne Compared To

blackberry keyone review priv

BlackBerry Priv

blackberry keyone review motorola photon q  g lte press

Motorola Photon Q 4G LTE

blackberry keyone review htc rezound front

HTC Rezound

blackberry keyone review htc amaze  g front screen android

HTC Amaze 4G

blackberry keyone review t mobile sidekick  g screen vertical

T-Mobile Sidekick 4G

blackberry keyone review t mobile mytouch slide front vertical

T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide

blackberry keyone review motorola droid  front screen

Motorola Droid 3

blackberry keyone review samsung infuse  g front display

Samsung Infuse 4G

blackberry keyone review htc inspire  g front

HTC Inspire 4G

blackberry keyone review motorola atrix  g

Motorola Atrix 4G

blackberry keyone review samsung epic  g

Samsung Epic 4G

blackberry keyone review motorola devour

Motorola Devour

Samsung Moment

Motorola Cliq

T-Mobile G1

The KeyOne also supports fast charging through a specific mode that pops up whenever you plug in a charger. You can choose to charge the device like normal, but Boost Mode will essentially put your phone on airplane mode so it can charge faster.

Warranty information, pricing, and availability

The BlackBerry KeyOne comes with a standard one-year limited warranty that covers manufacturing defects. Accidental drops and water damage are not included.

It’s priced at $550 unlocked in the U.S., and will be available May 31 on GSM and CDMA networks. You’ll be able to buy it from carriers later this summer, and so far Sprint has been confirmed.

Our Take

BlackBerry’s KeyOne offers an excellent keyboard, where every key can act like shortcuts for apps and actions. It has more than a day of battery capacity, and is equipped with a capable rear camera. Our only issues are the KeyOne’s occasional performance hiccups, as well as its high price tag for its specs.

Is there a better alternative?

Yes, there are devices with similar specs and lower price-tags — such as the Moto G5 Plus, or the Moto Z Play. But the reason BlackBerry and TCL can get away with the KeyOne’s $550 price tag is because there are hardly any smartphones with good keyboards.

The DT Accessory Pack

SanDisk 32GB microSDHC card

$13.40

Universal Screen Cleaner

$6.99

Anker Astro E1 5200mAh Portable Charger

$16.99

How long will it last?

If you’re worried about durability, the KeyOne feels like it’s built to withstand the apocalypse. BlackBerry is also promising monthly security updates, and we hope that extends to Android version updates. We expect this phone to last two to three years in terms of updates, and longer for durability.

It’s not water-resistant though, so be careful to leave it behind before going for a swim.

Should you buy it?

Yes. Want a physical keyboard? The KeyOne is one of few options, but it’s great. The keyboard is chock full of handy features, the phone will last you more than a day, it has a relatively clean software experience, and it’s secure thanks to the company’s promise of monthly security updates.

4
May

GoDaddy brings SMS notifications and new payment methods to GoCentral


Why it matters to you

The latest updates to GoDaddy’s easy-to-use GoCentral tool make it even easier for ecommerce novices to build professional-looking websites.

GoDaddy, the website host perhaps best known by for its controversial commercials, is taking the the wraps off something a little less controversial: New website design tools. On Thursday, the Scottsdale, Arizona-based company rolled out tools and integrations to GoCentral, a website design platform it launched in February.

GoCentral, for the uninitiated, is a web store designer for novices (think Wix, WordPress, or Squarespace). GoDaddy claims it lets anyone build a fully functioning, responsive ecommerce website in under an hour — even on a mobile phone. In fact, GoDaddy said that 20 percent of GoCentral websites were started, edited, or published on a mobile device — more than double the rate from its previous website-building tool.

It’s a smash hit with smartphone-wielding clients, too, according to GoDaddy. More than 65 percent of GoCentral customers complete a purchase using Apple Pay, PayPal, or a stored credit card from a mobile device. And 53 percent of all visitor traffic to GoCentral websites is from phones and tablets.

That’s in line with the broader trend. According to BI Intelligence, mobile commerce will reach $284 billion — or 45 percent of the total U.S. ecommerce market — by 2020.

It’s no coincidence then that GoCentral’s new features focus on mobile. Starting Thursday, webmasters can switch on SMS messaging, which will notify customers of new orders via text message. New payment methods are in tow as well, including PayPal One Touch, which saves customers’ credit and debit card preferences, and Apple Pay, which enables purchasing without the checkout process.

Along with the new ecommerce features, a new blogging will allow GoCentral webmasters to import feeds from other websites.

GoDaddy made much ado about GoCentral’s ease of use when the tool launched — and for good reason. An impressive combination of integrated marketing tools, smart algorithms, and machine learning help to expedite the web design process. When you type in things like “hairstylist” or “plumber,” for example, GoCentral pulls from a list of more than 1,500 images and “pre-filled” sections to put together a web page before your eyes.

GoDaddy offers four GoCentral tiers, all of which come with a one-month trial — one for personal sites, two for business sites, and one for commerce. The Personal tier starts $6 a month, and jumps to $72 annually after the first year. The enterprise-oriented Business plan costs $10 a month; the Business Plus plan starts at $15 a month; and the premium ecommerce tier costs $30 a month.

GoCentral isn’t the only mobile overture GoDaddy’s made in recent months. In May 2016, it launched Flare, a smartphone journal for “product ideas” and “quick concepts.” It’s a pitching platform, too — you can solicit feedback from a community of entrepreneurs. And if more than 10 people approve of your idea in a 24-hour period, you get to ask a broader community questions that would further improve your idea.




4
May

NASA and Cassini discover ‘the big empty’ between Saturn and its rings


Why it matters to you

After the first of Cassini’s 22 dives, the spacecraft has already beamed back surprising data about Saturn.

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft embarked on its grand finale last week, diving through the 1,200-mile-wide gap between Saturn and its rings in a maneuver that brought the spacecraft closer to the ringed planet than any man-made object had been before. The spacecraft sent back a bunch of striking images along the way (see the gallery above). Scientists knew they’d also get some unique data from the dive but they weren’t sure what exactly would be beamed back. And they were surprised by what they discovered — essentially nothing.

“The region between the rings and Saturn is ‘the big empty,’ apparently,” Earl Maize, project manager for the Cassini mission, said in a statement. In other words, there was hardly anything floating around out there. “Cassini will stay the course, while the scientists work on the mystery of why the dust level is much lower than expected.”

The discovery has puzzled scientists who specialize in planetary rings but it relieved a lot of stress for Cassini engineers, who were preparing for the spacecraft’s 21 subsequent dives. Since the region had so little dust, the engineers won’t have to reposition Cassini’s main antenna as a shield as they did during the first dive. This will make it easier for the spacecraft to communicate with Earth without compromising the safety of its instruments.

Ring scientists were confident that the region would not have dangerously large particles but were unsure whether it would still contain smaller pieces of debris. Though the spacecraft’s Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument detected hundreds of particles per second in the ring plane, it only detected a few while crossing the planet-ring gap. The video below shows what that barren landscape sounds like.

“It was a bit disorienting — we weren’t hearing what we expected to hear,” said RPWS team lead, William Kurth. “I’ve listened to our data from the first dive several times and I can probably count on my hands the number of dust-particle impacts I hear.”

Cassini took its second dive through the ring plane on May 2, during which time the engineers pointed its camera at the rings while rotating the spacecraft to calibrate its magnetometer.




4
May

Algorithm can outdo the experts in predicting Supreme Court outcomes


Why it matters to you

Trained legal experts can predict Supreme Court case outcomes just 66 percent of the time. This machine-learning algorithm can do better.

There’s an entire industry made up of experts who claim to have insight into the way judges will decide cases in the Supreme Court. But could it be that all that’s really needed is a smart machine learning algorithm, equipped with the right data?

Quite possibly, suggests just such an algorithm developed by researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and South Texas College of Law. Drawing on the Supreme Court Database, which boasts outcome data going back to 1791, the researchers’ algorithm can correctly predict 70.2 percent of the court’s 28,000 decisions — and 71.9 percent of the justices’ 240,000 votes — between 1816 and 2015.

The work is written up in the journal Plos One, under the title “A general approach for predicting the behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Accuracy in the 70-percent range may not sound much compared to, say, the 90-percent-plus accuracy found in a field like facial recognition, but it’s higher than the 66-percent accuracy with which (human) legal experts have been found to correctly predict Supreme Court outcomes.

“There is significant public interest in trying to predict the behavior of the Supreme Court, as well as a range of other courts,” lead author Daniel Katz, a law professor and “legal futurist” at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, told Digital Trends. “Historically, this prediction task was exclusively centered around human experts. In the end, whether in medicine, finance, or law, the age of the expert is giving way to a new paradigm: blended streams of intelligence. The proper question is how to optimally blend expertise with statistical models. This paper represents a step in that direction.”

Katz points out that there’s more work to be done in this area, both in terms of honing the algorithm, and applying it to real-world cases.

“This can be used to help inform certain contemporary or historical academic debates surrounding the Court’s behavior,” he continued. “There are commercial uses for these ideas including trading, as some of these decisions impact publicly traded companies. It could also perhaps be used to help lawyers frame their arguments. Finally, the machine-learning methods we highlight herein can be applied to help predict the behavior of many other actors in the legal system.”

As with so many other areas of life, when it comes to Supreme Court cases, it pays to have the bots on your side!




4
May

Algorithm can outdo the experts in predicting Supreme Court outcomes


Why it matters to you

Trained legal experts can predict Supreme Court case outcomes just 66 percent of the time. This machine-learning algorithm can do better.

There’s an entire industry made up of experts who claim to have insight into the way judges will decide cases in the Supreme Court. But could it be that all that’s really needed is a smart machine learning algorithm, equipped with the right data?

Quite possibly, suggests just such an algorithm developed by researchers at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago and South Texas College of Law. Drawing on the Supreme Court Database, which boasts outcome data going back to 1791, the researchers’ algorithm can correctly predict 70.2 percent of the court’s 28,000 decisions — and 71.9 percent of the justices’ 240,000 votes — between 1816 and 2015.

The work is written up in the journal Plos One, under the title “A general approach for predicting the behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States.”

Accuracy in the 70-percent range may not sound much compared to, say, the 90-percent-plus accuracy found in a field like facial recognition, but it’s higher than the 66-percent accuracy with which (human) legal experts have been found to correctly predict Supreme Court outcomes.

“There is significant public interest in trying to predict the behavior of the Supreme Court, as well as a range of other courts,” lead author Daniel Katz, a law professor and “legal futurist” at Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, told Digital Trends. “Historically, this prediction task was exclusively centered around human experts. In the end, whether in medicine, finance, or law, the age of the expert is giving way to a new paradigm: blended streams of intelligence. The proper question is how to optimally blend expertise with statistical models. This paper represents a step in that direction.”

Katz points out that there’s more work to be done in this area, both in terms of honing the algorithm, and applying it to real-world cases.

“This can be used to help inform certain contemporary or historical academic debates surrounding the Court’s behavior,” he continued. “There are commercial uses for these ideas including trading, as some of these decisions impact publicly traded companies. It could also perhaps be used to help lawyers frame their arguments. Finally, the machine-learning methods we highlight herein can be applied to help predict the behavior of many other actors in the legal system.”

As with so many other areas of life, when it comes to Supreme Court cases, it pays to have the bots on your side!




4
May

U.K. Digital Economy Act now lets police shut down phones used in drug crimes


Why it matters to you

U.K. police need only suspect a phone is being used in a crime to restrict it or shut it down.

Amendments to the U.K.’s Digital Economy Act let authorities disable smartphones if they’re suspected of being involved in illegal activity. That’s according to International Business Times, which reports that changes enacted this month give U.K. police the power to restrict the communications of drug suspects — even when there’s no conclusive proof they’ve committed a crime.

“This is an entirely unprecedented and potentially draconian power allowing police to prevent the use of phone and other communications devices, whether or not an offense is committed,” Myles Jackman, legal director at Open Rights Group, told IB Times UK.

Amendments to section 80 of the Digital Economy Act, which came into effect on April 27, authorize U.K. law enforcement to impose a “drug dealing telecommunications restriction order” on smartphone users suspected of “facilitating the commission by the user or another person of a drug-dealing offence” or “likely to facilitate the commission by the use of another person of a drug-dealing offence, whether or not an offence is committed.”

The U.K.’s National Crime Agency confirmed to Motherboard that it has the ability to enforce restrictions on — or completely disable — phone communications since the passing of the new law.

“Having a power like this for one purpose could open the door to similar powers for other purposes,” Paul Bernal, a UAE Law School lecturer, told the IB Times U.K. “We should be very careful to watch for other powers being brought in.”

The amendments are in fact on firm legal footing. They’re meant to buttress two of the U.K.’s existing criminal statutes: The Misuse on Drugs Act of 1971, and section 5 of the Psychoactive Substances Act of 2016. But they may also represent a slippery slope.

“Remote switch-off of mobile phones can be done via the service provider, but they may be looking at other means of doing this — effectively, looking at hacks to do so,” Bernal told IB Times U.K. “That should disturb all of us.”

New law enforcement tools aren’t the only controversial change in April’s Digital Economy Bill. Webpages hosting pornography and other adult content now must verify the age of visitors, and face a stiff fine and a block at the Internet Service Provider (ISP) level if they don’t. Digital piracy — i.e., illegally distribution of movies, music, and other media — is punishable by up to ten years in prison instead of the previous two. And public service broadcasters like the BBC are now allowed to charge re-transmission fees.

The new laws contain quite a few more notable provisions. Mobile phone contracts are now capped, and carriers have to warn customers when they enter a per-month contract. Ticket resellers and scalpers who use automated bots to buy tickets are subject to a stiff fine. And government departments can now share basic personal information for “research,” “statistical purposes,” and “fraud detection.”




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