2017 Will Be the Year Tesla Reigns Supreme—Or Finally Flops

iPhone 7 was a top holiday gift, but Apple Watch is fading

More iPhone 7 devices were unwrapped over the 2016 holidays compared with Google Pixel smartphones, according to new data released by analytics service Mixpanel. Specifically, in the first few days after Christmas, the number of unique iPhone 7’s increased by 12.7 percent, compared with an 8.5 percent increase for Google’s newest flagship. And when comparing iOS to Android devices in general – including phones, tablets, and iPods – more new Apple devices were switched on in the first three days after Christmas, than Android devices.

The number of unique Apple mobile devices (excluding Apple Watches) increased by 12.8 percent during this time, down from 15.8 percent last year. Meanwhile, the number of unique Android devices increased only by 2.6 percent, down from 10.6 percent in 2015.

These figures confirm an earlier report from Flurry Analytics which found that Apple devices had the most activations throughout the week leading up to Christmas Day and the start of Hanukkah, with 44 percent of activations globally.

Samsung came in second place with 21 percent – an indication that the Note 7 scandal didn’t turn off potential Samsung customers in significant numbers.

However, neither Apple nor Samsung capitalized on their new smartphones, according to a recent Wall St. Journal report, citing a lack of a dramatic rise for either tech company. Apple may have led activations with its 44 percent share, but that was down from 49.1 percent the year before, it pointed out.

In the new report from Mixpanel, the firm additionally looked into the numbers associated with the Apple Watch, and found declines on that front in terms of usage.

In what appears to be a reflection of consumers’ overall waninginterest in smartwatches, Apple Watch usage in the month of December 2016 is now below where it was during the same time last year, following a steady drop since peak usage this May.

This doesn’t mean that people weren’t being gifted new Apple Watch devices over the holidays – in fact, the number of unique Apple Watches increased by 8.9 percent this year, during the first three days after Christmas. However, that’s down from 18.6 percent during the same time last year, said Mixpanel.

Cyanogen failed to kill Android, now it is shuttering its services and OS as part of a pivot

It’s been a rocky few months for Cyanogen, the ambitious startup that aimed to build a better version of Android than Google. It has laid off staff, let go of its CEO and parted ways with another co-founder — now it is shutting down its services and nightly software builds on December 31.

The news was announced in a brief blog post released late on Friday:

As part of the ongoing consolidation of Cyanogen, all services and Cyanogen-supported nightly builds will be discontinued no later than 12/31/16. The open source project and source code will remain available for anyone who wants to build CyanogenMod personally.

This update means owners of a device that runs the Cyanogen OS — such as the OnePlus One — must now transition over to the CyanogenMod ROM, which is not a commercial product and is managed by a community of developers led by former co-founder Steve Klondik.

This essentially marks the end of Cyanogen’s grand ambition. Outspoken former CEO Kirt McMaster once claimed his company was “putting a bullet through Google’s head,” but now it is transitioning to a different approach that new CEO Lior Tal believes will be more attractive to OEMs.

Tal, who was previously Cyanogen COO, described the new Cyanogen Modular OS program as “designed to achieve the original objective of an open and smarter Android without the limitations of requiring the full Cyanogen OS stack and individual device bring-ups.”

Essentially, Cyanogen has given up on killing Google and will instead adapt to live in Google’s world.

Its software was always a hard sell because it required handset makers to ditch Android and Google services entirely in favor of Cyanogen’s own alternatives. Then there was the politics. OnePlus was Cyanogen’s largest partner, but the relationship was strained and it ended on a sour note after just one device.

Now that these Cyanogen services are dying, Tal’s strategy is to unbundle what the Cyanogen OS did offer so that it can work in conjunction with regular Android builds and the stock services that Google provides with it.

“The new partnership program offers smartphone manufacturers greater freedom and opportunity to introduce intelligent, customizable Android smartphones using different parts of the Cyanogen OS via dynamic modules and MODs, with the ROM of their choice, whether stock Android or their own variant,” Tal said in a statement in October when he took his new role.

Cyanogen has raised $115 million to date from investors that include Andreessen Horowitz and Benchmark, according to Crunchbase. Tal said in late November that the company is “well funded,” yet it has spent half of the year in cost-cutting mode. It made made layoffs over the summer and recently shuttered its Seattle office in order to “consolidate” its workforce into one team based out of its base in Palo Alto. The closure of its services is a further cost-saving move that fits with its pivot to make it more accessible and less of commitment for prospective partners. The question now is whether it can offer anything that partners actually want and will pay for.

Hat tip @ow

Featured Image: Flickr UNDER A CC BY 2.0 LICENSE

The new Barnes & Noble Nooks come with free malware

Barnes & Noble began outsourcing its Nook e-readers a few years ago after a partnership with Samsung and their latest $50 Nook 7 android tablet, announced last month, shows us how that has worked out for them. Their latest e-reader includes ADUPS, a firmware that sends user data back to the manufacturer or an interested hacker. This is the same malware that researchers found on cheap Blu tablets and phones last month.

The manufacturer claims to have patched the malware in current products but it seems the new B&N Nooks are still running the old software. ADUPS allows for full data access on the device and command and control privileges including remote software installation and automatic updates without use permission.

How bad is it?

These devices actively transmitted user and device information including the full-body of text messages, contact lists, call history with full telephone numbers, unique device identifiers including the International Mobile Subscriber Identity (IMSI) and the International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). The firmware could target specific users and text messages matching remotely defined keywords. The firmware also collected and transmitted information about the use of applications installed on the monitored device, bypassed the Android permission model, executed remote commands with escalated (system) privileges, and was able to remotely reprogram the devices… The firmware that shipped with the mobile devices and subsequent updates allowed for the remote installation of applications without the users’ consent and, in some versions of the software, the transmission of fine-grained device location information.

The Digital Reader is recommending that users return their Nooks and notes that B&N has a holiday return policy that lets you send items back until January 31.

UPDATE – B&N Writes:

NOOK Tablet 7” went on sale on November 26. By that time, the device automatically updated to a newer version of ADUPS (5.5), which has been certified as complying with Google’s security requirements, when first connected to Wi-Fi. ADUPS has confirmed to Barnes & Noble that it never collected any personally identifiable information or location data from NOOK Tablet 7” devices, nor will it do so in the future.

Finally, we are working on a software update to remove ADUPS completely from the NOOK Tablet 7”. That update will be made available to download within the next few weeks, but in the meantime customers can rest assured that the device is safe to use.

Fred Argir, Chief Digital Officer

Google Drive can now help you move to Android from iOS

Getting people to leave behind their iPhones and move to Android is something Google has focused on more heavily in recent months. For example, its new Pixel smartphones ship with a “Quick Switch” adapter that let you easily transfer data between your iPhone and your new Pixel phone. For everyone else, Google has just released a tool that turns Google Drive into a useful utility for backing up data to Google’s cloud before switching devices.

The feature was spotted by The Verge on Android’s “Switch” page, which is where you’ll find instructions on how to transfer your digital life from iOS to Android. A section on that page describes how to use Google Drive on iOS to back up your data, including your Contacts, Calendar, Photos and Videos.

The data from these services are backed up to Google Contacts, Google Calendar, and Google Photos, respectively.

The service warns that a backup of this size could take “several hours” so it’s something you would want to do when you have time, access to power, and a Wi-Fi connection. The app also must stay open and on the screen during the process.

While a handy addition, the backup process misses some of the content that people are hesitant to leave behind, like their music collection as well as their iMessage and SMS text messages. Those items, however, are handled by the Pixel’s Quick Switch adapter, which makes that phone the better choice for newcomers who are making their first move to Android from an iPhone.

Google isn’t the only company trying to smooth the transition between devices, of course. Apple, too, released an Android utility called “Move to iOS” which performs this same process in reverse.

Google launches fourth developer preview of Android Wear 2.0

Google first announced Android Wear 2.0 at its I/O developer conference in May, with a promise to roll it out to all users later this year. It has now delayed those release plans in favor of more developer previews; today it launched the fourth of these.

Just like before, there is no way to get an over-the-air update to Android Wear 2.0 for your watch, so this release is still squarely aimed at developers. Unlike some earlier previews, this update does include some major new features, though. Apps — which can run natively on Wear 2.0 without the need for a companion app on the phone — can now include in-app billing, for example. Users will be able to authorize these on-watch in-app purchases by entering a four-digit PIN code on the watch. I don’t expect to buy a lot of stuff from my watch, but at least it does give developers more opportunities to come up with ways to tempt me to do so.

Just because apps can now run natively on the watch doesn’t mean they can’t benefit from having a companion app installed on a phone, too. To help developers cross-promote their watch and phone apps, Google is introducing a new API that helps them send watch users to the Google Play store on their phones to install apps there.

If you haven’t used Wear 2.0 yet (and chances are you haven’t), then it may come as a surprise that the standard swipe-to-dismiss gesture from Wear 1.x wasn’t available in earlier versions of Wear 2.0. With this fourth developer version, it’s thankfully coming back. The hardware button on the watch is now also mapped to “power” and doesn’t work as a “back” button anymore.

Google also included a number of other minor updates in this release. You can find a full rundown of these changes here. Don’t expect the final release anytime soon, though. The company has already said that we’ll see a fifth developer preview, too.

Google launches first developer preview of Android Things, its new IoT platform

Google today announcedAndroid Things, its new comprehensive IoT platform for building smart devices on top of Android APIs and Google’s own services. Android Things is now available as a developer preview.

Essentially, this is Android for IoT. It combines Google’s earlier efforts around Brillo (which was also Android-based, but never saw any major uptake from developers) with its Android developer tools like Android Studio, the Android SDK, Google Play Services and Google’s cloud computing services. Support for Weave, Google’s IoT communications platform that (together with Brillo) makes up Google’s answer to Apple’s HomeKit, is on the roadmap and will come in a later developer preview.

As a Google spokesperson told me, the company sees Android Things as an evolution of Brillo that builds on what Google learned from this earlier project. Google will work with all early access Brillo users to migrate their projects to Android Things.

Google has partnered with a number of hardware manufacturers to offer solutions based on Intel Edison, NXP Pico and the Raspberry Pi 3. One interesting twist here is that Google will also soon enable all the necessary infrastructure to push Google’s operating system updates and security fixes to these devices.

In addition, Google also today announced that a number of new smart device makers are putting their weight behind Weave. Belkin WeMo, LiFX, Honeywell, Wink, TP-Link and First Alert will adopt the protocol to allow their devices to connect to the Google Assistant and other devices, for example. The Weave platform is also getting an update and a new Device SDK with built-in support for light bulbs, smart plugs, switches and thermostats, with support for more device types coming soon. Weave is also getting a management console and easier access to the Google Assistant.

Google’s IoT platforms have long been a jumble of different ideas and protocols that didn’t always catch on (remember Android@Home from 2011?). It looks like the company is now ready to settle on a single, consolidated approach. Nest Weave, a format that was developed by Nest for Nest, is now being folded into the overall Weave platform, too. So instead of lots of competing and overlapping products, there is now one consolidated approach to IoT from Google — at least for the time being.