Blogs – May 2018

MMR Smartphone Tech Blog – May 2018

5/25/18 – The Next Big Thing: The HTC U12 Plus

It seems like every mobile phone maker on the market has released or is set to release a flagship phone this year. HTC is throwing its hat into the ring with the U12+ (Plus), a smartphone designed to compete with the rest of the heavy hitters of the smartphone wars. It’s got everything a potential smartphone customer could ask for and less.

Two words. No. Notch. The dreaded notch at the top of the latest smartphones has been the source of much contention of late; people either love it or hate it. If you’re all about the notch, don’t kill the messenger. The U12+ compensates for the lack of the all powerful notch with a noticeably slim top and bottom, along with a vivid six inch, 2880 x 1440 pixel LCD display and an 18:9 aspect ratio. The gently curved glass back follows the design of last year’s HTC U11 and U11+ but is slightly taller and a little heavier. Don’t worry if you’re an HTC addict (statistically they have to exist, right?) you didn’t miss a model. HTC opted to jump directly to the Plus model so that consumers would hold purchasing in anticipation of another flagship release later in the year.

The technical specifications are par for the 2018 flagship smartphone course. The Snapdragon 845 chipset makes yet another appearance under the hood of the U12+. This processor is in most of the top selling phones of 2018 and there’s a reason for that. This processor makes everything that runs through it better. It’s faster than any of the Android processors on the market, even if it still gets dusted by Apples A11 chip in terms of single core performance. The Snapdragon 845 makes a difference in camera functionality, connectivity and just about every other aspect of smartphone processor tech. HTC tops that off with 6GBs of RAM, storage options of 64 or 128 GBs, and a microSD slot.

The U12+ sports dual rear cameras, 12 MP (f/1.75) and 16 MP (f/2.6) respectively, with a strong zoom and a little software razzle-dazzle. It features Edge Sense, which allows users to “pinch” and resize the display when taking photos. In terms of camera muscle, this one is pretty much as solid a digital camera as you can find in the U.S. The audio is respectable with Qualcomm aptX HD technology, which is nice but nowhere the top of the food chain when it comes to smartphone sound tech.

The HTC U12 Plus is available for pre-order now for $799.00 USD and comes in Ceramic Black, Flame Red, and Translucent Blue though not all colors may be available.

Mobile Matrix Repair’s locations at Hanes Mall, Winston Salem and Burlington NC are open from 10AM to 9PM Monday – Saturday, and 12PM to 6PM on Sunday.


5/16/18 – One In Five Of The Most Popular Apps On Google Play Are Vulnerable To Hackers

Can’t wait to fill your new Samsung Galaxy S9 with fresh new apps? You might want to think again. According to a report from open source software security and compliance firm Insignary, about twenty percent of the most popular Android apps on Google Play have open source components with known security vulnerabilities. A comprehensive binary code scan of these 700 most popular apps revealed a shocking number that had flaws ranging from moderate to critical.

Insignary CEO Tae-Jin “TJ” Kang and his researchers found the report surprising, given how heavily businesses and consumers rely on their smartphones. The research and development team scanned Android Package Kit files or APKs, for the twenty most popular apps in all 35 Android App categories on Google Play. Of those 700 APK files scanned, 136 contained security flaws that could compromise the device. Noteworthy standouts were the Game category, where 70% of the top 20 apps contained vulnerabilities, and the Sports category, where 30% of the top twenty apps were exposed. The fact that of the 57% of APK files that contained security flaws, those vulnerabilities are considered severe is also sobering. A “severe” rating means that even after software updates the apps remain vulnerable to security threats.

“Software security and data privacy are increasingly at risk due to deficiencies in the development and procurement of software and apps, from the growing sophistication of hackers and their methods,” said Steve Pociask, president of the American Consumer Institute’s Center for Citizen Research, after being briefed on the Insignary report. “It is clear that steps need to be taken to improve the quality of security and data privacy in Android apps and other software that leverage open source software components prior to reaching businesses and consumers,” Pociask went on to remark.

It becomes very clear that the lack of even the most basic of security protections doesn’t speak well of Android app developers. But open developers have, in their own defense, updated and upgraded their components to address these very sizeable issues. This begs the question: “why haven’t these measures been implemented?” As the Insignary report suggests, there are basically two and only two answers. The first, that the Android app developers don’t use a system capable of detecting and/or addressing these vulnerable open source components, is more likely than the second; that the developers are aware of these issues and don’t consider them worth addressing. This is where Insignary hopes to come in.

“With today’s software and development procurement model, it has been almost impossible to know what open source components reside in software. Our tool is the first to be able to catalog all open source components in binary format — the software consumers receive and use — and report which components are known to harbor known security vulnerabilities,” says TJ Kang. He went on to say that the goal of the study was not only highlight and catalogue the issues, but also to find out how prevalent they were.

This doom and gloom report should be taken with a grain of salt, say other industry experts. Google takes its app security with the utmost seriousness, and the Play store is probably safer now than it has ever been. Still, with the countless developers creating apps for the Android platform, it is reasonable to assume that there will always be some sort of vulnerability to be exploited somewhere in the Google Play framework. What Insignary is doing with their scanning technology is a great place for consumers to start being more alert and aware of what it is they are downloading and activating on their phones and tablets. Android users can take advantage of Insignary’s free scanning tool and check the APK file before installing it onto their device. But over and above Insignary’s new testing software, it is generally wise for consumers to really stay on top of updating their systems and their apps and it’s something anybody can do.

Mobile Matrix Repair’s locations at Hanes Mall, Winston Salem and Burlington NC are open from 10AM to 9PM Monday – Saturday, and 12PM to 6PM on Sunday.

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5/3/18: The LG G7 ThinQ Has Arrived, But Can It Compete With The Big 2?

Last month, we told you about the then upcoming release of the LG G7 ThinQ flagship mobile device and what the mobile device was likely to feature. On May 2nd the device was finally unveiled and the comparisons between it, the Apple iPhone and Samsung’s Galaxy S9 have already started flying. The phone’s glass sandwich design is appealing and its moderate water resistance, rated IP-68 is on a par with Apple’s IP-67 rating. The phone has fairly decent specs; a Snapdragon 845 processor that happens to be the same chipset that’s in the S9, 4 GBs of RAM, 64 GBs of storage, a microSD slot, a 3000 mAh battery, and wireless charging capability. These specs place the G7 ThinQ in the competitive WMD arena, if not necessarily in the pole position.

The dual rear 16 megapixel cameras (f/1.6 and f/1.9 respectively) feature UltraPixel technology, which uses something called pixel binning which allows the combining of pixels to allow greater light sensitivity and reduced graininess, as well reducing file size from 16MPs to 4MPs. The tech has been seen before, but this is still a fairly neat feature. The setup uses dual Sony IMX351 sensors and combines them with the much vaunted AI technology to allow for identification of a variety of different subjects and adjust camera aperture settings accordingly.

Speaking of AI technology, the G7 ThinQ will presage a change that a lot of former G series users will cheer enthusiastically; the demise of Bixby, the virtual assistant. The Bixby program was decidedly unpopular from the beginning, and the harder LG tried to dig itself out, the deeper the Bixby sized hole they were in seemed to get. By phasing out the feature in favor of a left side rocker button that brings up the fully voice compliant Google Assistant, who responds to a variety of phrases including: “Take a photo in low light mode” and “Open the AI camera.” It’s a neat feature, and while hardly revolutionary…no Bixby. The SmarThinQ feature is particularly tasty, as it allows for control of other LG smart devices, such as TVs, refrigerators and even washer/dryers from the handset.

In terms of display the G7 ThinQ comes close, but doesn’t quite get there. The 6.1 inch LCD display is capable of fairly vivid colors and brightness settings that should be sufficient to get the job done even on bright, sunny days. The shortfall of the LCD display in relation to the more competitive OLED displays is the richness of the blacks in the display; they seem to be much darker on the OLED screens. It also appears that in terms of brightness, the S9 edges out the G7 ThinQ even with the LG phone’s “super brightness” setting.

The audio of the G7ThinQ is where the wireless mobile device shines the brightest. The 32 bit Hi-Fi Quad DAC uses the body of the phone itself to produce a deep bass under bottom that enhances what is already a rich sound experience. While Apple is eliminating its headphone jack, the G7 ThinQ doubles down on its own with a DTS-X virtual surround sound feature that makes the absolute most of a good set of headphones.

All in all, the LG G7 ThinQ hits all the major bullet points to qualify for flagship status, but there’s really just not enough in the tank to displace Apple and Samsung. This is particularly true given long term smartphone sticker shock settling onto the shoulders of the buying public. There’s nothing revolutionary here; it’s all been done before.

Mobile Matrix Repair’s locations at Winston Salem and Burlington NC are open from 10AM to 9PM Monday – Saturday, and 12PM to 6PM on Sunday.

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