The United States Consumer Product Safety Commission collects data from around a hundred hospitals across America, specifically visits to the emergency room, and then collates all that information into the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System (NEISS). For the year 2014 (the most recent year in which information is made available), it turned out that more than 500 injury reports have been filed, all caused by (or blamed on) smartphones. To be clear about it, NEISS’ data does not specify particular makes or models of devices, but it should give an overall picture of how much people attribute certain injuries to their mobile devices.
Over 40 cases of the injury reports involved people hurting themselves while busy doing something on their smartphones while inside an automobile. Incidents of calling or text messaging inside a car are fairly expected, but intriguingly, some of the cases also involve injuries for mobile users who were walking, running, or riding a bicycle on the street. But while drivers (or riders) injured while they were distracted with their smartphones while inside the car are more prevalent (and as a result, more often reported), distracted walkers/runners/cyclers do not enjoy the same attention.
To be fair, there have studies regarding pedestrians too busy with their smartphones to mind their own safety on the streets. Back in 2013 for instance, the Ohio State University conducted a study, and actually found that the number of injuries among pedestrians busy with their mobile devices have increased two fold between the years of 2005 up to 2010. The injuries range from those resulting from stumbles, falls, and even worse, like being hit a moving vehicle. Intriguingly, some of the cases involved people who were not even moving when they got injured. One mobile user was busy browsing his smartphone, got very excited over something, and then fell on the pavement on his own, resulting to a knee injury, albeit just a minor one.
Surprisingly, some of the injuries that were reported involved mobile users getting hurt by glass shards in their eyes, when their devices got shattered when falling on the floor. On top of that, over a dozen cases detailed how some people sustained cuts and abrasions from the damaged glass on their smartphones. Amazingly, a certain case involved a user who sustained a corneal abrasion due to broken glass (from a shattered handset) and went through an entire week with his injury untreated. Yet another user sustained a cut on her thumb when she fell and broke her smartphone.
There are even cases involving people getting shocked or electrocuted while using smartphones. Cases such as being hit by lightning while making a call inside the house are rather rare and extreme, but not so with incidents that involve charging one’s smartphone.
Smartphone incidents involving kids are rampant, too. When playing (or in the midst of a tantrum), kids often throw things, resulting to injuries to themselves (when the thing thrown bounces off the floor or the wall) or to other kids. In the age of phablets, a kid hit with a 5.5 inch smartphone is no laughing matter.
Even smartphone chargers are seen as culprits. Tripping over a charging smartphone does not seem like a big deal, but when you hit a table’s edge on your way down, or tumble down the stairs, it is a completely different story.
Some might say that the smartphones should not be blamed — people are just careless. Any useful tool can become harmful when it is not used properly. The same could be said for mobile devices. There is no need to make them safer, we just need to be more mindful, that’s all. So while you are reading this article on your mobile, please do mind your step.
During its March 21 event, not only did Apple introduce a new smaller iPhone (the iPhone SE), it also announced to the world a fresh take on the iPad Pro tablet device it debuted last year. Indeed, the new 9.7 inch iPad Pro was a worthy follow up to its bigger sibling in more ways than one, but there was something about it that got mobile users’ interests piqued — the embedded Apple SIM card.
For a bit of a background, back in October of 2014, Apple formally unveiled the Apple SIM together with its iPad Air 2 tablet offering. The Apple SIM works just like any other SIM card, but is programmable and lets mobile users select between scores of wireless carriers around the world in an on-device interface. Basically, the Apple SIM made it easier for the iPhone maker to ship a particular handset that is compatible with mobile service network providers worldwide, especially when paired with a cellular radio that can take all of the existing wireless technologies available today in one convenient package.
However, those Apple SIM cards were designed to removable, just like any standard SIM card, and a number of wireless carriers actually configure those SIM cards permanently, effectively locking them to that particular service provider. But what about the embedded Apple SIM card on the 9.7 inch iPad Pro? What will happen if this SIM card is reprogrammed?
On Verizon Wireless
The Big Red has deactivated the embedded SIM card on its version of the iPad Pro. Mobile users who travel with their Verizon Wireless iPad Pro tablet will have to replace the physical SIM card with one from an international or local wireless carrier.
AT&T has chosen to lock the Apple SIM card embedded in the iPad Pro units it sells, for both domestic and international use. But mobile users are free to purchase an iPad Pro from other sources and then choose AT&T from the embedded SIM card, and that SIM will be unlocked for both domestic and international use.To recap: an iPad Pro bought from AT&T will have its SIM locked, and mobile users will have to roam internationally on AT&T’s plans; but if the iPad Pro is purchased from other channels and AT&T is manually selected as the carrier, it is unlocked and can be used on other wireless carriers.
Note that no other wireless carriers are locked (T-Mobile should not pose any problem). In Japan though, iPad Pro units bought from any of the separate Japanese carrier outlets are locked.
As for those who want to use AT&T and T-Mobile, they can utilize the embedded SIM card, then slot in a T-Mobile SIM card, and that will have the effect of overriding the internal. Every 9.7 inch iPad Pro come with a SIM card slot on the exterior, and mobile users can choose to insert another wireless carrier’s SIM card in that slot even if the tablet’s embedded Apple SIM card has been locked to AT&T. This means that even if the internal SIM card is locked, you can still switch to another wireless carrier by means of another physical SIM card from that other carrier, because after all, the device itself is technically not locked.
To bring new and exclusive video content to its Go90 mobile video streaming service, the biggest wireless carrier in the United States is planning to take an estimated 24.5 percent stake in AwesomenessTV, a video company owned by Dreamworks. Such a move will also result to Verizon Wireless and AwesomenessTV launch a short form mobile video service that carry its own, separate branding, and be rolled out as part of the Big Red’s Go90 feature. The wireless carrier has stated that it will be financing this service by way of a multi-year contract with AwesomenessTV, who in turn will supply the talent both in front and behind the cameras.
It was three years ago back in 2013 when Dreamworks completed its acquisition of AwesomenessTV, a YouTube network geared towards audiences belonging to the general teenager demographic, to the tune of $33 million. It was a move designed to allow Dreamworks to gain traction in the original content production arena. Back then, AwesomenessTV had 14 million subscribers and 800 million views across more than 50,000 channels. By the time Hearst invested in the network in 2014, it had ballooned to more than 114 million subscribers, and to date, now includes 90,000 producers of video content and more than 16 billion views, thanks to 170 million subscribers as of last count (increasing from about 143 million subscribers in fall of last year).
Even though Verizon Wireless has a stake in AwesomenessTV, Dreamworks remains the majority shareholder with more than 50 percent stake, with Hearst owning the rest (24.5 percent). With regards to leadership, Brian Robbins, the founder and chief executive officer of AwesomenessTV, and Brett Bouttier, the president, will stay on as the head honchos.
Prior to taking a stake in AwesomenessTV, Verizon Wireless actually already had a working relationship with the network. When the Big Red launched its Go90 feature, AwesomenessTV was one of the video content providers, delivering shows such as “Top Five Live” and “Guidance.” This time around, AwesomenessTV will now proceed to producing exclusive videos for the wireless carrier. Specifically, the video content will be made available only in the US through Verizon’s Go90 service, and a number of platforms where the Big Red may choose to distribute the videos. Still, AwesomenessTV holds all rights to resell the video content it produces elsewhere across the globe. The new content should debut on Go90 either before the end of this year, or by early 2017.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has publicly declared that right after retrieving data from a particular iPhone 5c owned by terrorist Syed Farook who is being investigated in connection with the San Bernardino attacks that happened in December of last year, it is now putting it to use, as reported by the New York Times. But some are now wondering if the obtained data really was critical in the first place. During a privacy conference held this week, James Baker, the general counsel of the FBI, has hinted that the agency is still working it out.
FBI’s effort to hack into Farook’s iPhone 5c unit has caused a feud between the agency and Apple, who refused to modify its iOS software in order to allow the FBI to bypass the iPhone’s security measures. The FBI had a judge order the iPhone maker to comply with the request, but before Apple could do so, the agency joined forces with a third party in order to unlock the iPhone without Apple’s help.
Not only did the feud made its way to a few headlines, it also launched (or relaunched) a debate over the advantages and disadvantages of encrypting data on mobile devices, as well as discussions on the types of encryption methods available today and their role in striking a balance between protecting the individual’s privacy and ensuring the security of the whole nation.
Apple’s argument centered on the dangers of creating a backdoor hack that could be used by criminals in compromising the security of iPhone users everywhere. As for the FBI, it was about getting the bad guys and bringing them to justice. But was the data retrieved from Farook’s iPhone 5c meaningful in that regard? Obviously, because the investigation is still ongoing, nobody knows yet how significant the obtained information was. Baker certainly thinks it was worth it, stating that by doing what the FBI did, it had made sure it had expended every effort in trying to catch the perpetrators of the San Bernardino attacks, and hopefully, prevent similar attacks from happening in the future.
Until now, the FBI has not yet revealed to Apple exactly how Farook’s iPhone 5c was unlocked. Moreover, Baker has not also made clear if the information retrieved from the smartphone will be revealed to the general public, stating only that any data will be disclosed if and when it is deemed appropriate by the agency.
Google has an in-house tool that allows mobile users to test the audio and touch latency commands for Android and Chromebook products, and the tech giant has publicly posted it recently, with the hope that by making the tool readily accessible to anyone, the industry as a whole can improve and make way for even better responding mobile devices.
Evolving from Quickstep, the WALT Latency Timer was originally designed to evaluate the responsiveness speed on track pads. Now, it makes use of an external timer, together with the time stamps of events retrieved from the internal timer of the device, in order to generate a more accurate evaluation of the time it takes for the device to respond to input and output.
Google has gamely provided instructions for developers via its Android Developers Blog regarding how to download the source code of the WALT Latency Timer, plus instructions on building the tool. As far as costs are concerned, building the device may not cost more than $50, including securing necessary parts such as a microcontroller board, photo diodes, and accelerometers and lasers to be used for evaluating the latency. Developers can even build a version that measures audio latency only, or touch latency only.
We pretty much take it for granted nowadays, how our mobile device automatically respond to every tap, swipe, or even voice command. The logical assumption is that the faster a mobile device responds to a user’s every move, the better and more powerful (or more useful) it is. Over the years, people have been trying to come up with ways of accurately measuring response time. Naturally, there are many ways in which mobile users can input information into devices, and each input method comes with its own evaluation method. Tap responsiveness can be evaluated with the use of pen like tool that comes with accelerometer, measuring the time it takes for a tap and the response from the device. Scroll or drag responsives can be measure by way of a laser mounted above a touch screen or track pad. As for screen draw latency, photo diodes are used. In evaluating audio latency, this is done by detecting the time when the device outputs a tone until the audio line voltage crosses a certain limit.
For other resources, interested parties can head to the GitHub project page. There they can find instructions on how build the tool, with suggestions for modifications also included in the mix. The Google Play Store also has the WALT Latency Timer mobile app.
Where can you find a smartphone plan that gives you ample voice call minutes, unlimited text messaging, and fast data while also taking care of your philanthropic urges? Look no further than The People’s Operator, a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) that uses the network of major US wireless carrier Sprint (in the United Kingdom, The People’s Operator leases network capacity from mobile service provider Everything Everywhere).
As far as MVNOs go, The People’s Operator is rather unique. It may be the only wireless carrier that donates one tenth of a customer’s monthly payment to the cause or charity of his preference. The really cool thing about this is that The People’s Operator goes about its philanthropy without any cost to the mobile user.
The People’s Operator currently has ties to organizations that include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Save The Children, WaterAid, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Habitat for Humanity, and Action Against Hunger, among many others. Apart from donating 10 percent of its customers’ monthly payments to nonprofit groups, the wireless carrier also funnels 25 percent of its profits to its own TPO Foundation, which was established to financially assist various charity groups based in the United Kingdom.
So what plans are being offered by The People’s Operator? Here they are:
- Kind Plan ($14 a month with Auto Pay, $19 a month without Auto Pay) — With 1,000 minutes of voice calls, unlimited text messaging, and 500 megabytes of data
- Noble Plan ($25 a month with Auto Pay, $30 a month without Auto Pay) — With unlimited voice call minutes, unlimited text messaging, and 2 gigabytes of data
- Caring Plan ($35 a month with Auto Pay, $40 a month without Auto Pay) — With unlimited voice call minutes, unlimited text messaging, and 3 gigabytes of data
- Hero Plan ($40 a month with Auto Pay, $45 a month without Auto Pay) — With unlimited voice call minutes, unlimited text messaging, and 5 gigabytes of data
- Gracious Plan ($60 a month with Auto Pay, $65 a month without Auto Pay) — With unlimited voice call minutes, unlimited text messaging, and 7 gigabytes of data
The People’s Operator also offers international calling services, which are typically charged on a per minute rate, starting from $0.10 a minute depending on which territory. When mobile users do go over their high speed data allotments every month, there are no overages. What happens instead is that the data service will be slowed down to 64 kbps until the next billing cycle begins.
With the help of a third party, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Department of Justice were able to access information on a particular iPhone device owned by a terrorist in the San Bernardino attack that happened in December of last year. The feds were successful in unlocking the iPhone 5c unit used by Syed Farook, and they are now requesting US Magistrate Judge Sheri Pym to vacate her previous order to have Apple help the authorities by providing a backdoor hack for the iPhone device.
With this latest development, industry watchers and mobile users following the Apple-FBI feud now have reason to believe that the court battle between the two parties has come to an end. However, the battle between national security and personal privacy will likely continue. There are still hundreds of other iPhone devices that law enforcement agencies across the US are looking to access, which means that Apple may still be embroiled in future cases.
As for the fact that the authorities were able to hack into the iPhone all along without Apple’s help raises a new set of questions. For the record, the FBI did not choose to reveal the identity of the third party or the means in which it was able to gain access to the device. Some reports have cited Cellebrite, an Israel based firm that offers data extraction and transfer solutions for mobile, as the third party commissioned by the feds, but neither Cellebrite nor the FBI has commented on the subject. Moreover, it has not been made clear at all if the method used in accessing Farook’s iPhone 5c unit can work on other iPhone models.
Essentially, this is one of the things that Apple (and advocates of privacy) are worrying about. Despite Apple’s refusal to provide assistance to the FBI in hacking iPhone devices, it turns out the feds can still find a way to access information from an iPhone anyway.
Furthermore, it suggests that despite Apple’s best efforts, a third party can still technically hack into its devices. The tricky thing is that the feds are not obligated to share to Apple how it managed to get backdoor access, or more accurately, how its third party managed to do the deed. Still, it is not like Apple is completely helpless regarding the whole thing. Apple can still try to detect the flaw in its security, and come up with a way to fortify it. Yup, the battle is not over, indeed.