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Hackers release a new jailbreak that unlocks every iPhone

A renowned iPhone hacking team has released a new “jailbreak” tool that unlocks every iPhone, even the most recent models running the latest iOS 13.5.

For as long as Apple has kept up its “walled garden” approach to iPhones by only allowing apps and customizations that it approves, hackers have tried to break free from what they call the “jail,” hence the name “jailbreak.” Hackers do this by finding a previously undisclosed vulnerability in iOS that break through some of the many restrictions that Apple puts in place to prevent access to the underlying software. Apple says it does this for security. But jailbreakers say breaking through those restrictions allows them to customize their iPhones more than they would otherwise, in a way that most Android users are already accustomed to.

The jailbreak, released by the unc0ver team, supports all iPhones that run iOS 11 and above, including up to iOS 13.5, which Apple released this week.

Details of the vulnerability that the hackers used to build the jailbreak aren’t known, but it’s not expected to last forever. Just as jailbreakers work to find a way in, Apple works fast to patch the flaws and close the jailbreak.

Security experts typically advise iPhone users against jailbreaking, because breaking out of the “walled garden” vastly increases the surface area for new vulnerabilities to exist and to be found.

The jailbreak comes at a time where the shine is wearing off of Apple’s typically strong security image. Last week, Zerodium, a broker for exploits, said it would no longer buy certain iPhone vulnerabilities because there were too many of them. Motherboard reported this week that hackers got their hands on a pre-release version of the upcoming iOS 14 release several months ago.

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COVID-19 exposure notification settings begin to go live for iOS users with new update

Apple has released iOS 13.5, which includes support for the Exposure Notification API that it co-created with Google to support public health authorities in their contact tracing efforts to combat COVID-19. The API requires third-party apps developed by public health authorities for use, and none have yet been released, but iOS device users already have access to COVID-19 Exposure Logging global settings.

As previewed in the beta release, you can access the Exposure Logging settings under the Settings app, then navigating to the ‘Privacy’ subsection. From there, you can select the ‘Health’ submenu and find the COVID-19 Exposure Logging setting, which will be off be default. It can’t be turned on at all until you actually get an authorized app to enable them, at which point you’ll receive a pop-up asking you to authorize Exposure Notifications access. Once you do, you can return here to toggle notifications off, and also manually delete your device’s exposure log should you choose to opt out.

Apple and Google both have emphasized that they want as much user control and visibility into the Exposure Notification API as possible. They’re using randomized, temporary identifiers that are not centrally stored to do the exposure notification, and are also forbidding the simultaneous use of geolocation services and the Exposure Notification API within the same app. This manual control is another step to ensure that users have full control over what info they share to participate in the system, and when.

Contact tracing is a time-tested strategy for combating the spread of infectious disease, and has traditionally worked by attempting to trace potential exposure by interviewing infected individuals and leaning as much about their movements during their infectious period as possible. Modern connected devices mean that we can potentially make this far more efficient and accurate, but Google and Apple have worked with privacy experts to try to determine a way to make this happen without exposing users to privacy risks. Matching also happens locally on a user’s device, not in any centralized database.

Apple and Google are currently working with public health authorities who are building apps based on this API, and the companies also have noted that this is a temporary measure that has been designed from the beginning to be disabled once the threat of COVID-19 has passed.

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China’s Oppo partners with Vodafone for bigger European push

Huawei is facing an uphill challenge in the overseas market as its upcoming devices lack the full set of Google apps and services. That leaves ample room for its Chinese rivals to chase after foreign consumers.

That includes Oppo, the sister brand of Vivo under Dongguan-based electronics holding company BBK. In an announcement on Monday, the Chinese firm announced a partnership with Vodafone to bring its smartphones to the mobile carrier’s European markets. The deal kicks off in May and will sell Oppo’s portfolio of advanced 5G handsets as well as value-for-money models into the U.K, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Turkey.

While Vodafone pulled Huawei phones from its U.K. 5G network last year following the U.S. export ban that stripped Huawei models of certain Android services, the British operator can now tap Oppo’s wide range of mobile products in a heated race to sign up 5G customers. The partners will jointly explore online sales channels as many parts of Europe’s physical premises remain closed due to the COVID-19.

Oppo, currently the second-largest smartphone vendor in its home country after Huawei, has seen a spike in sales across Europe since entering the market in mid-2018. The company was one of the first to launch commercially available 5G phones in Europe last year and now ranks fifth on the continent with a 2% share, according to a survey from research firm Canalys.

“Oppo has a product range that can hit many of the same segments as Huawei, enabling it to gain market share at the expense of Huawei,” Peter Richardson, research director at Counterpoint Research, explained to TechCrunch. “Oppo has always used quite a European flavour in its product design. This extends to things like colour choice, packaging, and advertising materials. This makes it acceptable to European consumers.”

Interestingly, Richardson pointed out that Oppo, which has a less “Chinese sounding” name than its domestic rivals Xiaomi and Huawei, will help it circumvent some of the “negative media surrounding China just now – first Huawei’s difficulties around security threats and more recently the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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General Atlantic to invest $870M in India’s Reliance Jio Platforms

Mukesh Ambani’s Jio Platforms has agreed to sell its 1.34% stake to General Atlantic, the latest in a series of deals the top Indian telecom operator has secured in recent weeks.

On Sunday, New York-headquartered private equity firm General Atlantic said it would invest $870 million in the Indian telecom operator, a subsidiary of India’s most valued firm (Reliance Industries), joining fellow American investors Facebook, Silver Lake, and Vista Equity Partners that have also made sizeable bets on the three-and-a-half-year old Indian firm.

General Atlantic’s investment values Jio Platforms at $65 billion — the same valuation implied by the Silver Lake and Vista deals and a 12.5% premium over Facebook’s deal, the Indian firm said.

Sunday’s announcement further illustrates the growing appeal of Jio Platforms, which has raised $8.85 billion in the past one month by selling about 14.7% of its stake, to foreign investors that are looking for a slice of the fast-growing world’s second largest internet market.

General Atlantic, a high profile investor in consumer tech space that has invested in dozens of firms such as Airbnb, Alibaba, Ant Financial, Box, ByteDance, Facebook, Slack, Snapchat, and Uber, has been a key investor in India for more than a decade though it has avoided bets in consumer tech space in the country.

It has cut checks to several Indian startups including NoBroker, a Bangalore-based startup that helps those looking to rent or buy an apartment connect directly with property owners, edtech giants Unacademy and Byju’s, payments processor BillDesk, and National Stock Exchange of India. The PE firm, which has invested about $3 billion in India, said last week that it was looking to invest an additional $1.5 billion in Indian firms by next year — this time focusing on the players operating in consumer tech category.

Reliance Industries chairman Ambani, who has poured more than $30 billion to build Jio Platforms, said the telecom network would “leverage General Atlantic’s proven global expertise and strategic insights across 40 years of technology investing.”

“General Atlantic shares our vision of a digital society for India and strongly believes in the transformative power of digitization in enriching the lives of 1.3 billion Indians,” he added.

Prepaid SIM cards of Reliance Jio at a retail store. (Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Launched in the second half of 2016, Reliance Jio upended India’s telecommunications industry with cut-rate data plans and free voice calls. Jio Platforms, a subsidiary of Reliance Industries, operates the telecom venture, called Jio Infocomm, that has amassed 388 million subscribers since its launch to become the nation’s top telecom operator.

Reliance Jio Platforms also owns a suite of services including music streaming service JioSaavn (which it says it will take public), smartphones, broadband business, on-demand live television service and payments service.

“In just three and a half years, Jio has had a transformational impact in democratizing data and digital services, propelling India to be positioned as a leading global digital economy,” said Sandeep Naik, MD and Head of India & Southeast Asia at General Atlantic, in a statement.

The new capital would help Ambani, India’s richest man, further solidify his last year’s commitment to investors when he said he aimed to cut Reliance’s net debt of about $21 billion to zero by early 2021. Its core business — oil refining and petrochemicals — has been hard hit amid the coronavirus outbreak. Its net profit in the quarter that ended on March 31 fell by 37%.

In the company’s earnings call last month, Ambani said several firms had expressed interest in buying stakes in Jio Platforms in the wake of the deal with Facebook . Bloomberg reported last week that Saudi Wealth Fund was also in talks with Ambani for a stake in Jio Platforms.

Facebook said that other than offering capital to Jio Platforms for a 9.99% stake in the firm, it would work with the Indian giant on a number of areas starting with e-commerce. Days later, JioMart, an e-commerce venture run by India’s most valued firm, began testing an “ordering system” on WhatsApp, the most popular smartphone app in India with over 400 million active users in the country.

29-year-old Akash Ambani, the oldest son of Mukesh, said in a statement, “Jio is committed to make a digitally inclusive India that will provide immense opportunities to every Indian citizen especially to our highly talented youth.”

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Google delays Android 11 by a month

Google today announced that it is extending the preview period of Android 11 by about a month. So instead of launching a beta this month, as it had previously planned, it’ll release a fourth developer preview today instead. The first beta will officially launch on June 3, during an Android-centric online event it’ll hold in lieu of its I/O developer conference.

“When we started planning Android 11, we didn’t expect the kinds of changes that would find their way to all of us, across nearly every region in the world,” Google’s Android team writes today. “These have challenged us to stay flexible and find new ways to work together, especially with our developer community. To help us meet those challenges we’re announcing an update to our release timeline.”

Google notes that it wants to meet the needs of the Android ecosystem, which has obviously started work on early app testing for Android 11 based on the company’s guidance, with the current environment during the coronavirus pandemic and the other priorities that come with that. Delaying the release by a month seems like a reasonable approach in this context.

Google says developers should target the Beta 1 release date of June 3 for releasing a compatible app to gather feedback from the larger group of Android Beta users. And that group will be larger because, like with previous releases, Google will make over-the-air updates available to users who opt in to the beta and have a compatible device. The list of compatible devices for the beta remains to be seen, but it’ll likely include all recent Pixel phones, starting with the Pixel 2.

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Smartphone shipments dropped 13% globally, and COVID-19 is to blame

We knew it was going to be bad — but not necessarily “lowest level since 2013” bad. As Apple was busy reporting its earnings, Canalys just dropped some of its own figures — and they’re not pretty. After two quarters of much-needed growing, the global smartphone market just took a big hit. And you no doubt already know who the culprit is.

The mobile industry joins countless others that have taken a massive hit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with shipments dropping 13% from this time last year. Here’s a graph for those of you who are visual learners:

Analyst Ben Stanton used the word “crushed” to describe the novel coronavirus’s impact on the mobile market. “In February, when the coronavirus was centered on China, vendors were mainly concerned about how to build enough smartphones to meet global demand,” he writes. “But in March, the situation flipped on its head. Smartphone manufacturing has now recovered, but as half the world entered lockdown, sales plummeted.”

First it was impact on the global supply chain, which is centered in Asia, along with a drop in demand among consumers in China. As Europe, the U.S. and other locations continue to live under shelter in place orders, demand in those markets has taken a significant hit. People are stuck inside and many have lost jobs — it’s not really the ideal time to consider shelling out $1,000+ for what still seems a luxury for many.

Samsung regained the top spot, while still losing significant numbers. Both it and the number two company, Huawei, were down 17% for the quarter. Apple, at number three, dropped 8%. Chinese manufacturers Xiaomi and Vivo saw some gains, at 9% and 3%, respectively.

There are bound to be rough times ahead as well. Per Stanton, “Most smartphone companies expect Q2 to represent the peak of the coronavirus’ impact.” Apple noted the uncertainty of its own earnings by opting not to issue guidance for next quarter.

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The Virus Revealed Our Essential Tech (and Weeded Out the Excess)

It has been weeks since the coronavirus brought our lives to a halt, shutting down our schools, offices and gyms. Stuck at home, we have had nothing but time to reflect on the things that matter.

Consumer technology — most of it, anyway — is low on the list.

That’s right. I’m admitting that many of the high-tech innovations that I regularly cover in this column — from foldable smartphones to doorbell cameras — are excessive, even if they are kind of neat. For years, tech companies have pushed ultrafast 5G networks, artificially intelligent speakers that talk to us, and other whiz-bang gadgets and features, but most of us aren’t using those bells and whistles now.

In a crisis, our most important tech — what we have turned to again and again — has boiled down to just a few basic items and services:

  • Computing devices with access to work tools and a browser.

  • Communication tools to stay connected with our loved ones and colleagues.

  • Entertainment to keep us from losing our minds.

  • An internet connection to let us do all of the above.

When you think about it, that’s all the tech we truly need even when there is no pandemic. That’s actually a nice revelation.

This short list can guide our priorities in tech consumption even after we come out of this uncertain period. It also means that we don’t have to spend much money to maximize our happiness with tech.

A few weeks ago, a neighbor texted me with questions about internet speeds. We use the same internet provider, Monkeybrains, but his connection was much slower than mine.

So I asked him what router he owned. It turned out to be a seven-year-old model that used outdated wireless technology. I encouraged him to replace it, and after some hesitation he bought a new one. His internet connection became blazing fast.

This experience underscored what I had always suspected: Everyone wants a fast, stable internet connection, but many people hate investing in the infrastructure to get it. Networking gear is among the most important hardware to keep up to date; an outdated router could be a bottleneck to all your internet-connected devices.

The lesson: Put time and money into maintaining your internet infrastructure. Ask your internet provider about sluggish speeds, and if that doesn’t help, check your router and consider upgrading.

I generally recommend so-called mesh Wi-Fi systems, such as Google Wifi and Amazon’s Eero, which let you connect multiple wireless access points together to blanket your home with a strong internet connection.

Zoom, the easy-to-use videoconferencing service, surged in popularity in the pandemic for an obvious reason: We are all desperate to see and talk to one another while stuck at home.

But our sudden adoption of Zoom led to discoveries of the product’s weak security, which could have allowed attackers to hijack our web cameras, among other privacy snafus. It also revealed that many of us were unprepared and hadn’t picked a set of robust communication tools.

The lesson: Now is a good time to work with our families, friends and colleagues to decide what communication tools fulfill our needs while respecting our privacy. Try to choose messaging and video-chat apps from respected brands.

For me, they’re Signal and FaceTime for messaging and video chats with my friends and family, and Slack and Google Hangouts for collaboration with my colleagues. Some of these apps take extra security measures to encrypt our communications, while others have strong track records of protecting our data from hackers.

So many people are streaming video in the pandemic that in Europe, Netflix and YouTube were pushed to temporarily stream videos in lower-quality formats to prevent breaking the internet. Nintendo’s Switch games console is also practically impossible to find, because the game Animal Crossing: New Horizons, a Nintendo exclusive, has offered us a sweet escape from reality.

We all obviously care about entertainment: We are spending hundreds of dollars a year on digital subscriptions, including video and music streaming services.

The lesson: This is a good excuse to treat ourselves. Buy a device that is good at delivering your entertainment, like a $350 to $1,000 TV from TCL or Sony, or a $92 Bluetooth speaker from Ultimate Ears.

This item is last on the list because it’s the most obvious. The pandemic has highlighted the importance of the devices we use for work: our smartphones and computers.

The lesson: Because these are the tools that make us productive, we should invest in high-quality devices. The good news is that there is such a vast selection of smartphones and computers that you can buy great devices without spending extraordinary amounts of money. Roughly $400 will buy you a good Android device or iPhone, and a decent computer costs as little as $500.

I’m a fan of Google’s $400 Pixel 3A smartphone and Apple’s $330 entry-level iPad, which can be turned into a great budget laptop by attaching a keyboard.

This list of basic tech needs also serves as a guide to the innovations we don’t really need.

That smart speaker from Amazon or Google? It sure does a good job turning off the bedroom lights. That phone with the foldable screen? It sure looks cool. But if they don’t help you do work, stay connected and feel entertained, you might find other ways to spend your money.

Whatever setup you choose, keep it minimal. The more tech you own, the more devices you will have to troubleshoot.

And keep in mind that the tech you choose can be simple. This pandemic has brought a resurgence of the humble phone call, which is as good a communication tool as ever.

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Apple opens access to mobility data, offering insight into how COVID-19 is changing cities

Apple is providing a data set derived from aggregated, anonymized information taken from users of its Maps navigational app, the company announced today. The data is collected as a set of “Mobility Trends Reports,” which are updated daily and provide a look at the change in the number of routing requests made within the Maps app, which is the default routing app on iPhones, for three modes of transportation, including driving, walking and transit.

Apple is quick to note that this information isn’t tied to any individuals, as Maps does not associate any mobility data with a user’s Apple ID, nor does it maintain any history of where people have been. In fact, Apple notes that all data collected by maps, including search terms and specific routing, is only ever tied to random rotating identifying numbers that are reset on a rolling basis. This anonymized, aggregated data is collected only to provide a city, country or region-level view, representing the change over time in the number of pedestrians, drivers and transit-takers in an area based on the number of times they open the app and ask for directions.

As far as signals go for measuring the decrease in outdoor activity in a given city, this is a pretty good one, considering Apple’s install base and the fact that most users probably don’t bother installing or using a third-party app like Google Maps for their daily commuting or transportation needs.

The data is available to all directly from Apple’s website, and can be downloaded in a broadly compatible CSV format. You also can use the web-based version to search a particular location and see the overall trend for that area.

For an individual, this is more or less a curiosity, but the release of this info could be very useful for municipal, state and federal policy makers looking to study the impact of COVID-19, as well as the effect of strategies put in place to mitigate its spread, including social distancing, shelter-in-place and quarantining measures.

Apple has also announced that it’s working with Google on a new system-level, anonymized contact tracing system that both companies will first release as APIs for use by developers before making them native built-in features that are supplemented by public health agency applications and guidance. Apple seems particularly eager to do what it can to assist with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, while still striving to ensure that these measures respect the privacy of their individual users. That’s a hard balance to strike in terms of taking effective action at a population level, but Apple’s reach is a powerful potential advantage to any tools it provides.

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Apple and Google are launching a joint COVID-19 tracing tool for iOS and Android

Apple and Google’s engineering teams have banded together to create a decentralized contact tracing tool that will help individuals determine whether they have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
Contact tracing is a useful tool that helps public health authorities track the spread of the disease and inform the potentially exposed so that they can get tested. It does this by identifying and “following up with” people who have come into contact with a COVID-19-affected person.
The first phase of the project is an API that public health agencies can integrate into their own apps. The next phase …

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Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman Gamble $1.8 Billion on Quibi

LOS ANGELES — They had to cancel the premiere party. But Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman have stuck with the April 6 start date of Quibi, the short-form video app for smartphones that they hope will attract millions of subscribers.After having led some of the nation’s top companies for decades, the two veteran executives have spent the last two years in start-up mode, prodding investors to kick in nearly $1.8 billion while courting producers and stars like Jennifer Lopez, LeBron James, Chance the Rapper, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, Steven Spielberg and Chrissy Teigen. Now Mr. Katzenberg and Ms. Whitman are ready …

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