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Android O is O-fficially launching August 21


Google has revealed the launch date for the final version of Android O: August 21. Google will be livestreaming an unveiling event live from New York City at 2:40pm ET to coincide with the solar eclipse. There's a new teaser site up at, which counts down the time until the event. "Android O is touching down to Earth with the total solar eclipse," the site promises, "bringing some super (sweet) new powers!"

Android O (which we know will be version 8.0) is currently on its fourth developer preview, having originally launched in March. At the event we're expecting Google to unveil the traditional snack-themed codename for the OS, finally revealing what the "O" in "Android O" stands for. It should also start pushing out OTA updates for at least the Pixel and Pixel XL, with updates for older Google devices happening the day of the event or shortly after.

Android O is not a mystery at this point. The OS brings a big revamp of the notification panel with a new layout, colors, and features like snoozing. Google is clamping down on background apps for more consistent performance and better battery life. There are new, updatable emoji, a faster startup time, an all new settings app, and lots of security enhancements, including the new "Google Play Protect" anti-malware branding. Most importantly, Android 8.0 brings Project Treble to new devices, a modularization of the OS away from the hardware. That initiative should make it easier to develop and roll out new Android updates.

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“Bing is bigger than you think,” Microsoft boasts, at 33% of US searches

We've known from Microsoft's financial reports that Bing has been growing. The search engine became profitable in the third calendar quarter of 2015, and Microsoft says it has continued to grow both the market share and revenue-per-search since then.

But how big is Bing? Via OnMSFT, Microsoft tweeted yesterday that it's "bigger than you think" and provided some numbers that will probably be a surprise to many. The company claims that fully one-third of searches in the US are powered by Bing, either directly or through Yahoo or AOL (both of which provide results generated by Microsoft). Other strong markets include Taiwan, at 24 or 26 percent, and the UK, at either 23 or 25 percent (depending on which tweet you read).

Globally, the company is claiming a 9-percent market share. Google is still the runaway winner, of course, but Microsoft's numbers (using data from comScore) suggest that in at least some parts of the world, Bing is big enough to take note of. The real target for this kind of data is, of course, advertisers; by showing that Bing is actually being used by large numbers of people, Microsoft hopes that it will become more appealing to those wanting to advertise alongside search results.

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Secret chips in replacement parts can completely hijack your phone’s security

Enlarge (credit: Omer Shwartz et al.)

People with cracked touch screens or similar smartphone maladies have a new headache to consider: the possibility the replacement parts installed by repair shops contain secret hardware that completely hijacks the security of the device.

The concern arises from research that shows how replacement screens—one put into a Huawei Nexus 6P and the other into an LG G Pad 7.0—can be used to surreptitiously log keyboard input and patterns, install malicious apps, and take pictures and e-mail them to the attacker. The booby-trapped screens also exploited operating system vulnerabilities that bypassed key security protections built into the phones. The malicious parts cost less than $10 and could easily be mass-produced. Most chilling of all, to most people, the booby-trapped parts could be indistinguishable from legitimate ones, a trait that could leave many service technicians unaware of the maliciousness. There would be no sign of tampering unless someone with a background in hardware disassembled the repaired phone and inspected it.

The research, in a paper presented this week at the 2017 Usenix Workshop on Offensive Technologies, highlights an often overlooked disparity in smartphone security. The software drivers included in both the iOS and Android operating systems are closely guarded by the device manufacturers, and therefore exist within a "trust boundary." The factory-installed hardware that communicates with the drivers is similarly assumed to be trustworthy, as long as the manufacturer safeguards its supply chain. The security model breaks down as soon as a phone is serviced in a third-party repair shop, where there's no reliable way to certify replacement parts haven't been modified.

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New feature in iOS 11 quickly and temporarily disables Touch ID

Enlarge (credit: Andrew Cunningham)

Apple is slated to release iOS 11 to all users this fall, but with the public beta available for anyone to try, some previously unannounced features have been discovered. According to a report from The Verge, a feature in the updated operating system allows users to easily change settings so your fingers can't unlock your iPhone using Touch ID. Pressing the power button on an iPhone rapidly five times will bring up an emergency screen, allowing you to either call 911 services or enter a passcode to enable Touch ID. Until you enter that passcode, Touch ID won't unlock your device.

This appears to be an easy way to disable Touch ID on the fly or when you're in a situation in which you may be forced to unlock your smartphone. There has been a lot of controversy surrounding border control agents searching electronic devices, often without an explanation. In February 2017, reportedly 5,000 devices were searched by Customs and Border Patrol, more than the number of devices searched in all of 2016.

Back in May, Ars spoke with Aaron Gach, an artist and college lecturer, who was stopped by border agents at San Francisco International Airport who asked him to hand over his iPhone so they could search it. When asked why the agents needed to check his smartphone, Gach wasn't given a straight answer. The agents only said they were looking for "information pertinent to our investigation."

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Major revamp of the Google app starts rolling out to Android users

The Google Feed, Google's revamp and rebrand of its "Google Now" card feed inside of the Google app, is rolling out to Android users. The Feed is mostly a new coat of paint for features that already existed, but let's cover what's here.

The first is the new tabbed-Feed interface. Open the Google app and at the bottom you'll see three sets of tabs: "Home," "Upcoming," and "Recent." "Home" is the news feed, showing suggested articles based on your search history. The "Upcoming" tab contains cards based on your calendar, e-mails, reminders, and suggested travel times. Finally there's the "Recents" tab, which is basically your search history designed to look like the iOS recent app screen.

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