X-rays aren’t just for investigating artworks or photographing black holes. NASA scientists just used them to demonstrate a new technique: Navigating the stars. In an experiment, equipment mounted on the International Space Station measured radiation beamed out from distant neutron stars in millisecond pulses — and by timing their arrival, future spacecraft could find their location from deep space.
We hope you weren’t depending on Project Fi to stay in touch while abroad this weekend. Subscribers to Google’s wireless carrier have reported that international data hasn’t been working in many places around the world, including Canada, Germany, Hong Kong, India and Japan. Some users have reported temporary success by switching into and out of airplane mode or rebooting their phones, but it hasn’t lasted for longer than 2 minutes.
We’ve asked Google for comment, although its team is already aware of the problem. The outage has lasted for roughly a day as of this writing.
This kind of downtime would be frustrating for anyone, but it’s particularly irksome for Project Fi subscribers. One of the perks of the service is its straightforward, affordable approach to data: you pay the same $10 per 1GB as you do in the US, so you’re not shelling out a small fortune just to share your winter vacation on Instagram. Outages on this scale appear to be few and far between, but that’s not much comfort if you’re traveling and have few options for getting online when you’re away from WiFi.
Let’s face it, getting up in the morning is a challenge. If you’re like most people, you’ve already mastered the fine art of hitting the snooze button in your sleep, only to find yourself rushing out the door when you finally do manage to wake up. Luckily, there is no shortage of alarm clock apps for you to try out.
If you have been having trouble waking up to get the day started, here is our selection of the best alarm clock apps available for iPhone and Android devices.
If you’re looking for an app that both tracks your sleep and wakes you up in the morning, Sleep Cycle may be the perfect alarm for you. Sleep Cycle uses your phone’s microphone and accelerometer to track your sleep patterns and uses this data in conjunction with your alarm to gently wake you up in the morning. While awareness of your sleep patterns can help you wake up refreshed in the morning, don’t obsess over it if you oversleep or wake up too early; researchers believe that people who use sleep trackers sometimes have less restful sleep because they worry too much about their sleep patterns.
Sleep Cycle can be a little persnickety; you will need to test placing it in different areas to get the best results. Sleep Cycle does seem to work a little better for solo sleepers because pets and partners can confuse the app. If you like Sleep Cycle, there are many more advanced sleep trackers that you can check out.
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Alarmy has the honor of being voted “world’s most annoying alarm” by users and publications around the world. If you’re the type of person who can wake up to turn off the alarm and immediately fall back asleep, Alarmy may be the perfect alarm clock app for you. Alarmy requires you to complete a certain task to turn off your morning alarm. You can choose from shaking your phone or solving a math problem. If you really need a jolt out of bed, Alarmy also has a mode that requires you to take a picture of a certain room in your house to disable the alarm.
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Alarm Clock Xtreme
While you’ll find that Alarm Clock Xtreme offers many of the same features as other alarm clock apps, it’s one of the few apps that manages to do them all really well. Alarm Clock Xtreme offers options to gently wake you up with an alarm that becomes increasingly louder. The app also has a math problem feature for those who need a little brain teaser to get out of bed.
The snooze features on Alarm Clock Xtreme, however, are its biggest strengths. Alarm Clock Xtreme offers a choice of snooze methods, including an extra large snooze button, pressing the side buttons, or shaking the device. If you do choose to snooze, however, you can set the app up to decrease the duration of time between snooze taps, so you will be woken up more frequently.
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It’s a shame that FreakyAlarm is only available for iPhone because it offers so many awesome features. FreakyAlarm has a relentless notification system with a large catalog of annoying, yet effective alarms. There is also the option that requires you to solve a puzzle to turn off your alarm. And for the truly hard to wake up, you can turn on a FreakyAlarm that will require you to scan the barcodes of certain products if you want to disable the alarm.
Walk Me Up!
Sometimes waking up requires more than a jarring alarm. With Walk Me Up! you have to get out of bed and actually walk 15 steps in order to turn off your morning alarm. For those of you who think you’ll be able to fool the app by shaking your phone, Walk Me Up! uses your accelerometer to detect phone shaking and will automatically reset your step count.
While 15 steps may not seem like much, it should be just enough to keep you from hopping back into bed once you turn off the alarm.
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Maingear F131 (2018)
PC gamers like to show off. That’s why multicolored LEDs, tempered glass windows, and full-loop liquid coolers exist. None of that’s technically required to enjoy games, just as 21-inch chrome rims and a body kit aren’t technically required to motor down the highway. That’s missing the point. Among fans, form itself becomes the function, proving to all the world how much each rig’s owner loves PC hardware and gaming.
That’s why the F131 is sure to turn heads. I saw its press release, reading the long list of predictably incredible specifications — the latest Intel or AMD processors, up to dual Nvidia Titan Xp graphics, and so on. I raised an eyebrow in interest. Then I saw it in person, and I was floored.
Matt Smith/Digital Trends
The first thing I noticed was the F131’s Apex liquid cooling solution. It consists of all the usual pipes, pumps, and radiators, but throws in a massive, transparent reservoir that’s as tall as the PC, and about half a foot wide. Backlit and filled with various dyed liquids – buyers can customize these – it looked gorgeous. Full-loop liquid cooling is always brilliant, but Maingear’s reservoir steals the show. It’s the kind of thing only a serious boutique builder can offer.
That’s not the only way you can trick out your rig. Maingear also came ready to tout its custom, automotive-quality paint. Such extravagance isn’t unusual for a custom gaming rig, but the detail Maingear offers is special. This treatment, called Marc II, lets you pick whatever logo, design, or artwork you’d like, and have it applied as paint to your computer.
The company had a side panel done up with PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds art at the show, and I was giddy. I’ve seen plenty of custom paint before, but the fine detail displayed by the Marc II paint couldn’t be ignored. I wanted to sneak the panel home, but it unfortunately wouldn’t fit in my bag.
I should also note the F131 is a fully custom chassis. Origin also debuted a new custom chassis at CES 2018 with its revised Millennium, and Digital Storm showed off its Spark. Admittedly, I like the Millennium best, but the F131 delivers similar hardware in a svelte design, and Maingear’s liquid cooling undeniably looks betters.
Whether it’s easier to service is arguable. The F131 has a smart, clean chassis that, despite its thin size, does little to obstruct the internals. The full-liquid-cooled setup will complicate matters, but that’s true for any PC. The only real complication is Maingear’s decision to turn the video card sideways, placing it on the same plane as the motherboard, just below the motherboard. That might make removing the card more difficult.
You can customize and buy the Maingear F131 now, starting at $1,600 for a Ryzen configuration, or $1,785 for an Intel setup.
For travelers on the go and people with hectic schedules, it’s often next to impossible to find a gym. You’d be lucky to find a working treadmill and some weights in even the better hotels, let alone yoga classes, boxing equipment, or a decent lap pool. Now a new and growing startup called Zeamo wants to fix that problem with an app that allows users to access more than 25,000 gyms on the fly and buy a day pass with the click of a button.
The Zeamo app is the largest search directory of its kind and continues to grow in American cities and urban corridors, as well as in Canada, Europe, and Australia. The app allows users to filter gyms according to their amenity preferences, meaning users can drill down into gyms with pools, saunas, child care, massage, physiotherapy, and even air conditioning. The app then allows users to buy a day pass that is good until midnight of the day it’s activated, and offers the option of buying weekly and monthly passes as well.
The app has come to prominence with the emergence of boutique fitness studios, which don’t require cumbersome memberships, long-term commitments or administrative fees. Zeamo has partnership agreements with more than 500 of these types of gyms including the brands HealthSPORT, Balance, Fitness SF, Active Sports Clubs and Club Metro USA.
The company’s most recent expansion was announced in October 2017, when Zeamo added Boston Sports Clubs and Healthworks. Currently, the New York City-based startup is paired with more than 500 gyms in the United States, and over 100 in international destinations like Dublin, Montreal, London, Munich, and Sydney.
Day passes are understandably diverse, ranging from a base price of $7.50 up to $90 for the exclusive Chuan Spa and Health Club at Chicago’s Langham Hotel. While Zeamo hasn’t negotiated discounted rates for its users, Zeamo enthusiasts can potentially save hundreds of dollars on long-term gym membership fees.
The model smartly targets a number of demographics that have eagerly adopted the new modality. It’s perfect for business travelers, tourists, and seasonal exercisers. The app has also drawn a surprising amount of attention from millennials, a demographic that has widely adopted the so-called “gig economy,” preferring to make lifestyle choices on the fly, rather than plunging into a long-term commitment.
The company turns a year old this month, following a soft release in October 2016. Zeamo is the brainchild of founder and CEO Paul O’Reilly-Hyland, an avid sports enthusiast with deep knowledge of the venture capital market and the technology sector. The founder conceptualized the app when he was training for a triathlon and found it challenging to find a gym with a pool quickly and easily.
Zeamo got another significant boost in May 2017 when the company managed to lure longtime fitness industry executive Mark Smith to not only invest in the company but join as the company’s executive director and member of the board of directors. Smith, hot off a stretch as CEO of 24 Hour Fitness following engagements at Town Sports International and City Fitness in New Zealand, brings a significant network and expertise to the role.
“His knowledge and contacts will help bring us to the next level,” O’Reilly-Hyland said. “He is a proven industry expert and has already demonstrated his commitment and passion.”
Smith also expressed his appreciation for Zeamo’s innovative model and global expansion.
“The digitization of the fitness industry is long overdue, and Zeamo is bringing a smart, succinct user experience to the business which gym owners and consumers are going to appreciate and which our corporate partners are in dire need of,” Smith said.
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Dell went big at CES 2018, announcing a new version of its XPS 13, as well as its first XPS 15 2-in-1. Both are shaping up to be excellent laptops, and they achieve the goal of combining performance with portability through use of advanced design and materials, including Gore fabric. We spoke with Dell’s Justin Lyles, vice president of consumer design, who guided us through the company’s decision-making process. That includes the release of a white chassis that is not only a different color, but also built from different materials than the black, carbon-fiber model.
New hardware was definitely the focus for Dell at this year’s show, but it wasn’t the company’s only new product or feature. It also wants to improve how your computer works alongside your phone. To do that, it introduced Dell Mobile Connect, an application that can display contacts and apps from your Android or iOS device. It can even receive text messages or phone calls from your device, routing them through the laptop’s microphone.
It’s a new level of integration for a Windows PC, one that came as a surprise. Orin Inditzky, Dell’s director of product management for software innovation, walked us through how the feature works, and explained the company’s thought process when putting it together.
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NASA wants to use X-ray navigation to guide robotic ships through outer space. In a first, the agency demonstrated its breakthrough technology in November of last year, paving the way for autonomous spacecraft in deep space.
“This demonstration is a breakthrough for future deep space exploration,” said Jason Mitchell, a NASA aerospace technologist working on the project. “As the first to demonstrate X-ray navigation fully autonomously and in real-time in space, we are now leading the way.”
In the experiment testing the system, known as Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT), Mitchell and his team used millisecond pulsars to pinpoint an object traveling through space at thousands of miles per hour. That’s comparable to how GPS uses its 24 satellites to give positioning and navigation information to people on Earth.
Demonstration of the SEXTANT technology was conducted using 52 X-ray telescopes and X-ray radiation detectors on NASA’s Neutron-star Interior Composition Explore (NICER), a washing machine-sized spacecraft that the agency launched in June 2017 to study neutron stars. NICER has since attached an X-ray timing instrument to the International Space Station, from where the study is being conducted.
“We’re doing very cool science and using the space station as a platform to execute that science, which in turn enables X-ray navigation,” said Keith Gendreau, the principal investigator for NICER. “The technology will help humanity navigate and explore the galaxy.”
The pulsars are so stable and precise that their arrival from one point to another can be predicted to microsecond years into the future. The goal of the experiment was to demonstrate that the system could locate NICER within a 10-mile radius as the space station orbited Earth at over 17,500 mph. After eight hours, the SEXTANT system could locate NICER within the target range, and reached an accuracy of three miles for much of the study.
The SEXTANT technology will allow spacecraft to determine their locations autonomously, without relying on Earth-based global navigation networks, since pulsars are accessible from low-Earth to deep space. However, the navigation system still likely has a few years in development before it can be practically applied to deep space travel.
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The Vive Pro was announced just yesterday here at CES 2018, bringing higher resolution and a revamped design. We already went hands-on with it — and even though it’s an iterative update, it brings a few highly-desired specs to the table that enthusiasts should love.
We got a chance to sit down with Dan O’Brien, the General Manger of Vive, to talk Vive Pro, the future of Vive Focus, and how close VR is from reaching mass adoption.
Digital Trends: At the rest of CES, the trend seems to be more shifted toward mainstream products, designed for first-time VR users. Why did HTC decide now to instead go in the opposite direction?
Dan O’Brien: Two reasons: One, our existing product, which is going to stay in market through 2018. It’s the best premium VR, consumer product. We’ve done the right things in that space of improving it, making it lighter, making the cables better, and pricing it down a bit. But it was really time for premium VR to step up another layer. It was time for us to keep moving innovation and what you can do in VR. Reading text in VR is really important. We can make the changes in visual quality. We can make the changes in audio quality. We can make the changes for the ergonomics and overall comfort and fit. Those are things that we knew we could do really, really well — and it was the time to do it.
A lot of them were asking us for a 50 percent jump in resolution, we gave them 78 percent.
We’ve also been listening since year one at launch of the first product, to the professional market. Whether that’s automotive or medical — they all needed higher resolution. A lot of them were asking us for a 50 percent jump in resolution, we gave them 78 percent. It’s really important for medical training use cases, automotive use cases, design use cases, and gaming use cases for richer environments. It’s something we could do and to differentiate and move premium VR forward and bring some innovation there. It’s not just always about costing things down and trying to open the market that way. We have a very large, professional enterprise market that wanted us to bring more innovation for them. They also wanted larger tracking area — all of them are asking for that.
In the SimforHealth application, you have an ultrasound in your left hand, a stint in your right hand, and you’re looking at a monitor on your right to look at what your hands on doing. That’s how doctors work in an operating room. You need a higher resolution to do that.
There have been a number of reports about the headphones on the Vive Pro. Are they detachable or removable?
You can remove them. We put them on there with intention for people to use those headphones. Users will be able to remove them, but it’s not a snap off, simple thing — you’ll actually have to unscrew it and take it off. But we did design it so that you could remove it. There’s instructions in the box that’ll tell people how to do it.
We put really premium headphones on the Vive Pro.
A lot of people gave us challenging feedback on why we didn’t launch the current Vive with the audio head-strap as an accessory. It’s actually because we did a lot of studies and we built smartphones — we know what an early adopter is like. When we were thinking about that early gamer — and we knew they had their headphones they were likely going to want to use and we didn’t want to control that for them. That was actually very specific on the original product.
But to be honest with you, we put really premium headphones on the Vive Pro with in-line amplifiers, volume controls, and a mute button. We really stepped it up for that audio experience, and we think that people are really going to enjoy using them.
The Vive Focus was launched in China earlier this year. Why has that been left only to that region and not brought to the US yet?
We decided as a company to bring that product into the China market first. It’s a whole new product. It was like introducing the Vive for the first time. We learned a lot about developer needs, consumer needs, channel needs — and we made an active decision as a company to launch in the China market. We wanted to learn — from developer success, store success, usage, and content in that market — and then we’ll consider how we bring all-in-ones to Western markets.
So it sounds like that’s not the end of that?
No, not at all. But nothing new to announce.
All these mobile and stand-alone headsets on the market are all wireless. Is the wireless adapter a way to solve that problem for premium headsets?
We surveyed prospective buyers, intenders, and current users. It’s a top-three purchase decision. People want the tether gone. They want to have a wireless solution, whether it’s at premium or lower, they don’t want to have to deal with the tether.
People want the tether gone. They want to have a wireless solution.
Arcades don’t want to have to deal with the tether. Professional customers that want to do multi-user experiences in an office environment — they don’t want to deal with the tether. It’s one of the top reasons people may not actually have gone into premium VR yet. We felt very strongly that this was something else we could solve. We worked with Intel on the WiGig 60Ghz band for this solution. I run around in DoomVR, and I can’t tell the difference between my wired and wireless experience.
Is there a reason why it’s an adapter instead of something that was built-in?
One, you’re bringing yourself additional cost. You want to be able to give people the option to get into the optimal experience that you intended to provide them. You know you can 100% do that with the tether. Having the wireless option there for them whether they want that or not is great, but always forcing people to have it is maybe not the best way to go to market initially. But maybe in the future. You can always make it a soft-bundle.
Is there anything new to say about the new controllers? What about the knuckle controller prototype?
The new Wands are updated with new sensor and new color — same form factor.
When the knuckle controllers were introduced — all of that’s been done for feedback sessions to learn. Valve gave out a ton of controllers to the developer community and has been taking feedback. This is the best way to redesign and rebuild new input methods for consumers and developers. We put out those prototypes and we’ve been listening to developers and their feedback on this solution that they would like to develop for.
We have nothing to report on about the knuckle controllers, but we learned a lot from developers.
What needs to happen to push VR adoption over the edge to make it a mainstream thing? Is it a ‘build it and they will come’ scenario?
You gotta be patient. You can’t expect it to be an overnight success. We were the originals of making Windows Mobile smartphones. We were the first to make an Android smartphone. We saw the progression of when it started to cross the chasm and get into mass adoption. Those are all things we’ve gone through before. We feel like we are going in the right direction.
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While great laptops and 2-in-1s come out every year, we don’t see significant innovation taking place in computing on an annual basis. But this year at CES, we saw some upending of the standard quo on a number of levels.
The trends we saw from the show floor have us both curious and excited about the future of computing. Some will undoubtedly end up in dead ends — and others will probably become the new status quo in just a few years.
Intel and AMD call a truce
Matt Smith/Digital Trends
We’ve been talking about the unprecedented partnership between Intel and AMD since it was announced toward the end of 2017. It marks a fairly large departure from the companies’ storied rivalry — and introduces some much-needed competition to the discrete GPU market. In particular, these chips are new Intel H-series 8th-gen CPUs, paired with a Radeon RX Vega M graphics chip from AMD.
We saw two products at the show with the new components: The Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the HP Spectre x360 15. Both are thin 2-in-1s, meaning they fold around 360 degrees to be used as tablets. The Vega graphics chip means we should be able to expect some decent gaming performance from both of these computers, as well as enough power to support virtual reality. We haven’t been able to benchmark these machines yet, but Intel is promising that performance rivals what you get from an Nvidia GTX 1050 or GTX 1060, depending on the chip you have.
We also got to see the chip in action in the Intel’s Hades Canyon NUC (Next Unit of Computing). These aren’t mainstream devices like the others, but they’re a new breed of PCs that are a dream come true for DIYers. These small computers can be customized and powered up — and now feature a capable graphics cards to boot.
High-resolution VR headsets
Luke Larsen/Digital Trends
We weren’t expecting it, but HTC gave us a surprise with the introduction of the Vive Pro at its press conference on Tuesday. The new headset is a redesign of the original Vive, with upgraded resolution (2,880 x 1,600 ) and a redesigned head-strap. The result is a 78 percent increase in resolution, making everything much crisper and text easier to read. The difference really was noticeable.
We also got to try out the Pimax 8K VR headset, which comes from a small company that made its splash through a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter last year. The new iteration of the headset includes two 3,840 x 2,160 LCD displays. You’ll notice right away that even though it’s not technically 8K, it’s still a significant jump in resolution from even the Vive Pro. Even more importantly, the headset has a super-wide 200 degree FOV (field of view) over the 110 degree perspective of the Vive Pro. More than the resolution, the larger FOV had a huge impact on the overall feeling of immersion.
Just when it felt like premium VR headsets were taking backseat to the more accessible ones, these two companies pushed the envelope, proving that things like increased resolution and FOV are important in the overall experience of VR.
Qualcomm’s 2-in-1 laptops
Matt Smith/Digital Trends
You might have a bad taste in your mouth when it comes to ARM-based 2-in-1s. But recently, the future has become a little brighter for affordable, long-lasting, PCs. We now have three 2-in-1s that use a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 as its CPU — that’s right, a smartphone chip powering a Windows 10 PC. We got try the three options out there: The more affordable Asus NovaGo and Lenovo Miix 630 — and the sleek HP Envy X2.
Not only do these machines all claim at least 20 hours of battery life, you also get an additional 20 hours of standby and built-in 4G LTE. The idea is to make 2-in-1s that feel more like smartphones and less like traditional laptops. There’s potential for this innovation to completely change how we use 2-in-1s — and the desire to own one.
So are Snapdragon-powered 2-in-1s the future of computing? Maybe, but there devil is in the details. We still don’t know how much the Envy X2 will cost (and it’s our favorite, so far), nor do we know how carriers will treat these devices, which could really put a damper on the connectivity. We might not all be using PCs by Qualcomm in five years, but we’d be surprised if built-in LTE didn’t become standard by then.
Big Format Gaming Displays make their debut
While OLED monitors were disappointedly absent once again, a different kind of monitor reared its head that could have a huge impact on the future of gaming displays. The BFGD (Big Format Gaming Display) from Nvidia feels like the ultimate gaming monitor — or is it a TV? It comes in at 65 inches, has a true 120Hz refresh rate, supports HDR and G-Sync, and comes in at a 4K resolution. The monitor’s LED display will burn holes in your eyes with its 1,000 nits of brightness, which is completely unheard of in a monitor, at any size.
While it looks like a TV in terms of its shape and size, the BFGD doesn’t have a built-in TV tuner — this thing is the cord-cutting, gaming monitor of the future. It even has an Nvidia Shield built right in, making in that much easier to access 4K HDR streaming content, voice assistant, and other Android TV features.
We’re expecting to see BFGDs from Acer, Asus, and HP, so it’s a trend we’ll be following well into the future. Don’t hope for them to replace conventional TVs or gaming monitors anytime soon, but in a few years, who knows?
The future of computer processing gets real
CPUs and GPUs are becoming essential to new areas. One of the clearest examples is autonomous vehicles, which demands a mind-boggling amount of processing power to function. We saw the debut of an incredible solution at CES this year in the form Xavier, a new chip by Nvidia specifically for self-driving cars. We were so impressed with potential of Xavier that we awarded it the overall Top Tech winner of the show.
But just as Nvidia is attempting to become the Intel of autonomous cars, Intel itself had its own forward-looking processors to talk about. At its keynote presentation, the focus was all about data — what we do with it, and how we’ll process it in the future. In particular, Intel talked about two experimental methods of processing that it’s developing: quantum chips and neuromorphic computing. While the latter feels a bit more nebulous, the former was made tangible with Intel’s 49-qubit superconducting quantum chip, dubbed “Tangle Lake.” Intel debuted at its show-floor booth for the first time, insisting that as the amount of data that’s collected exponentially increases, so will the capability of our chips.
Going even further in the world of quantum computing, IBM had its own 50-qubit quantum computer on display at CES. The computer itself requires 105 square feet when properly running and has to be protected from any kind of thermal, electrical, or magnetic noise. What IBM actually had on display was a quantum computer I/O subsystem — which just happened to be one of the coolest-looking thing at CES. Thanks to machine learning and AI, we’re on the cusp of a new revolution in processing — and this is just the beginning.
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Google has removed 60 games from the Play Store after security firm Checkpoint discovered a bug that displayed ads for porn within the games. Many of the games were aimed at young children.
Checkpoint identified three main ways in which this malware, named Adult Swine, could cause trouble for users. The first is in the nature of the ads themselves. These ads are often pornographic in nature, which many would find inappropriate in any game, let alone those aimed at children. The ads come from the pages of mainstream ad providers that forbid their content from being used in this manner. The second source of ads is the malware’s own ad libraries, which are where the porn ads come from.
Finding ads for porn in children’s games would be bad enough, but there are bigger problems with Adult Swine than that. One such problem is the practice of using deceptive ads in order to trick users. Users will get a pop-up saying that their device has been infected with a virus. Upon clicking the prompt, they will be taken to an app in the Play Store. The apps themselves are not anti-virus software, and may even be harmful in and of themselves.
The final, and perhaps most dangerous feature of Adult Swine, are the premium service pop-ups. Users will be prompted that they will win a free iPhone or other such device if they can answer four questions. After answering those questions, the users will be asked to enter their phone number. Upon doing so, they will be registered and charged for a premium service that they did not want or need.
Adult Swine isn’t particularly new or clever, and most adults will likely see right through it. Young children, on the other hand, may be more trusting and thus unwittingly expose themselves or their parents’ personal information to risk.
Once Checkpoint reported Adult Swine to Google, the company removed the affected games from the Play Store. We recently reported on Google’s efforts to keep the Play Store clear of malware, but despite this, some do still slip through the cracks.
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