CategoriesReviewsSmart Phones

iPhone 6 and 7 Users: Should you Upgrade?

The iPhone X has everything you’ve been wanting in a phone: The Face ID, the huge screen, and wireless charging. There’s only one problem… price. You may have already determined that you cannot afford a phone that costs $1K, which is what the price tag on the iPhone X is at the time of this writing. So are there any other options that will satisfy your desire for a modern, high-tech smartphone?

The hype over the iPhone X is all the rage right now, but could there be a different option that meets your needs? The iPhone 8 has many upgrades that would be very apparent and palatable to any smartphone enthusiast upgrading from the iPhone 6… but what if you have an iPhone 7? Will you notice much difference then? Let’s compare some of the features between the two phones.

Similarities and Differences between the iPhones 7 and 8.

Presentation. The sleek look of iPhones have always been a selling point for many users. The iPhone 7 and 8 are both very similar in appearance, with one major difference: glass. The iPhone 8 has a glass back, much like the iPhone X does. The user will notice a difference in weight (the iPhone 8 is 7% heavier than the 7), and thickness (a difference of .2mm). Some users might complain of a heavier phone, or more surface area to crack.

Display. There isn’t a great deal of difference between the displays on the iPhone 7 and iPhone 8. The one change is that the iPhone 8 now has the “True Tone” display technology which means your phone will adjust its color temperature based on the lightness or darkness of your surroundings. The purpose of this feature is to make reading text easier on the eyes. There is a lot of manual adjusting you can do in the iPhone 7, however, to achieve a similar effect.

Battery and Charging. If you were excited about the wireless charging option for the iPhone X, then you’ll be very happy to hear that this feature also comes with the iPhone 8! The main setback is that it does not include its own wireless charger with the original packaging, you will have to purchase that separately. It does however, come with a standard USB wall cable charger. You can also use a USB-C connector and power adaptor for a “fast charging” option – but those are a separate purchase also, and can cost upwards of $75.

Performance. Now we’re getting into the main advantage the iPhone 8 has over the 7. The processor in the iPhone 8 has the same processor that is in the iPhone X, the A11 bionic chip, which is Apple’s fastest smartphone processor to date! According to Tom’s Guide, the iPhone 8 and the iPhone X are the fastest phones in the world. Apple says the iPhone 8 will operate 25% faster than its predecessor when performing at high efficency. It can even go as high as 70% faster when multitasking between different applications.

Camera. The iPhone 8 doesn’t have any difference specs in its camera than the iPhone 7 does. The only difference is the A11 bionic chip that we discussed under the performance section. The chip should help the camera produce better quality pictures by adjusting the low light focus and reducing noise levels. If you’re a photographer, these would be helpful features, but the average user might not notice them.

Conclusion

If upgrading from an iPhone 6, the user will see a significant difference if they decide to purchase an iPhone 8 or 8 Plus. The improvements would not only be with faster performance, but there is also an upgraded camera, and display.

However, if you are upgrading from an iPhone 7, there may be good reason to wait until you can afford the iPhone X. The cheapest model of the iPhone 8 plus is nearly $800, so you wouldn’t be seeing substantial savings anyway. The main difference you will see is in the performance speed. As you learned in our review, the camera, appearance and display are not that much different.

Photo Credit: Aaron Yoo

CategoriesNewsPrivacySmart PhonesTechnology

What is Alphonso? Game Apps Use Smartphone Mics to Track Users

Gaming apps are widely used on many smart phones as a way to pass the time. Seemingly innocuous, mini games like bowling and pool can be addictive and fun for a variety of users. If you’re not paying close attention, however – you may be giving these apps more permissions than you bargained for.

A company called Alphonso is a service that provides software to app developers known as Automated Content Recognition or “ACR”. This ACR software, once installed, collects data about TV-viewing habits for advertisers by using the smartphone’s microphone. Yes, Alphonso actually listens to the sounds coming from your tv in order to target more relevant ads to you later.

Gaming app developers are using Alphonso in their apps in order to share data with advertisers. They are able to “listen in” in this way because the user gave permission to the app to use the microphone.

From Alphonso’s Privacy Policy for app Developers:

With your permission provided at the time of downloading the app, the ACR software receives short duration audio samples from the microphone on your device. Access to the microphone is allowed only with your consent, and the audio samples do not leave your device but are instead hashed into digital “audio signatures.” The audio signatures are compared to commercial content that is playing on your television, including content from set-top-boxes, media players, gaming consoles, broadcast, or another video source (e.g., TV shows, streaming programs, advertisements, etc.). If a match is found, Alphonso may use that information to deliver more relevant ads to your mobile device. The ACR software matches only against known, commercial audio content and does not recognize or understand human conversations or other sounds.

A big concern is that kids are being “tricked” into downloading these privacy-invading apps because they don’t always understand what they are agreeing to. There are some apps using Alphonso that are directed specifically toward kids. (Engadget)

According to Engadget, Alphonso says that its software doesn’t record human speech and they are in full compliance with the law. Others say that just because it is legal, doesn’t make it any less creepy and maybe is even unethical.

Over 250 games are currently using the Alphonso software.

For those interested, Alphonso does provide a “Mobile Opt-Out Guide” (found here) that will help explain how you can use your mobile device controls to revoke your consent for them to access your microphone.

Photo credit: Esther Vargas – “Smartphones”

CategoriesSecuritySmart PhonesTechnology

Gesture Analysis: Could your Movements be Hacked?

Smart phone and tablet developers will need to put better security measures in place to keep hackers and governments out of their devices. Many newer generation devices implement fingerprint readers in place of passcodes, which are often promoted as a stronger security feature. However, as we learned in recent news, authorities can force you to use your fingerprint to unlock your phone (but you can still invoke your 5th amendment right to withhold your numeral passcode from them). Gesture analysis could come next.

Free-form gestures have been said to be the next step in passwords. It is very difficult to simulate a complex gesture as opposed to guessing a numerical combination. Jailbroken iPhones got this feature awhile back (called Stride2), you can see how it works here:

In addition to using gestures to set your passwords, your touch-screen device could continuously verify your identity while you’re using it. It would do this by interpreting your gestures with mathematical algorithms. According to Motherboard, “the basic idea is to observe a user’s movements on a touchscreen device for some period of time and to come up with a gestural profile unique to that individual.” Every person makes unique gestures when they use a device and those all add up to make a personal profile. Ideally, if hijackers or authorities have access to your unlocked device, they wouldn’t be able to use it for long. If they did, the device would recognize that the user is not you since the gestures would not fit the profile. Yet as we see from the Motherboard article, robots were able to recreate user biometrics pretty easily.

Phones and tablets could end up having multiple layers of authentication (fingerprint, gesture analysis and codes) but many users would find that to be too much of a hassle. Facial recognition could be another alternative to passwords, but that might not protect you from authorities either. Voice recognition would probably be protected under the 5th amendment, but isn’t a convenient way to work with your phone in quiet places. Research into better security features is at the forefront of developers minds right now. Hopefully we will see better solutions in the near future.

Photo Credit: Jhaymesisviphotography

CategoriesNewsSmart PhonesSocial Media

Facebook Messenger Adds New VoIP Feature

From Gadget Diary: “Facebook Group calling is now available and you can easily do a conference call using the feature.” Here is a sneak peak into the new Facebook Messenger Group Calling app:

Over the next 24 hours, Facebook is going to roll out a new VoIP feature that will allow its users to make group calls to each other. According to TechCrunch, you’ll be able to call up to 12 people simultaneously and it will ring to all of their apps at the same time. If a potential participant misses the call, they will have the option to join up by tapping a phone icon once they’re back at their phone. Video chat is not available yet, so it isn’t really a replacement for Skype or Google Hangouts at this time. However, calls can be made to any Facebook user anywhere in the world free of charge – which may be attractive to users who currently spend a lot of money on long distance calls.

Some people prefer to not have Facebook Messenger installed on their phones because it’s known to violate their privacy by tracking all kinds of phone data and is also a huge drain on both iPhone and Android phone batteries. Could this be a way for the company to get more people to install the app? Would you be willing to reinstall the app to save money on phone charges, or would you utilize one of the many other free VoIP services available? Do you think it’s a good idea to be able to call so many people at once with Facebook messenger? It could take ‘drunk-dialing‘ to a whole new level.

CategoriesNewsSmart PhonesSocial Media

Another Reason to Delete Facebook from your Phone

Reports are surfacing that the Facebook app is responsible for major battery drain on both iOS and Android.

What’s the best way to fix this problem? Delete the app entirely and only use the web-browser version of Facebook. Deleting the app altogether can save up to 20% of a phone’s battery.

“Tests have revealed that iPhones with the Facebook app installed are using 15 per cent more power – that’s compared to users who access Facebook via Apple’s Safari web browser.” -Express.co.uk

It is unclear why Facebook needs to use so much of your phone’s resources in order to run. It even drains the battery when the app is closed and not being used. Many people who have made the switch to the browser-version are already reporting more battery life. You can even delete the messenger extension app now, because the messaging function still works in browser mode.